Update on Buy The Book: Queen Margrethe and Danish Muslims agree

(File under ” History, Wonders and Fresh Air”)

     Imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen, vice chairman of a Copenhagen Islamic-Christian study centre, said he agreed that his religion needed a response in Denmark. ‘The Queen’s statement is correct,’ he told daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten. ‘We should challenge one another on religious grounds. There is no better way to achieve tolerance than by meeting one another.’

If this works as well as it appears to, there are lessons to be learned here:

The first is that particular people do make a difference in history. In other words, it does matter who is at the top when the crunch comes.

A second lesson is the possibility that small numbers of immigrants are more easily assimilated into a new (new for them) culture. Denmark has deliberately limited immigration in order to accomplish this. In other words, sheer numbers do matter when it comes to managing the polity’s affairs. There is a tipping point beyond which the cultural sink occurs.

Another most heartening lesson is the oxygen in the room created by truth-telling. It does matter that political leaders be willing to state the truth rather than just spout boilerplate that puts people to sleep. Of course, some people are made giddy having so much air to breathe that they start randomly attacking others. Witness the bizarre behavior exhibited by those who fear John Bolton’s truthful tongue – it’s the result of the way-too-much fresh air generated by his veracity. His opponents need to return to whatever passes now for the smoke-filled back room in order to acclimate more slowly. America needs him — this particular him — to proceed to the UN and open the windows. Even if he does so by taking off the top ten floors.

Hail Queen Margrethe. Just when you thought royalty was a sad affair.

Hat tip: fjordman

Peace In Our Time

If you look through a campus coffee-shop bulletin board, in all likelihood you will see notices for more than a dozen militant organizations with the word “peace” in their titles. Or try the internet — while googling up random lefty sites, you will find, for example, a list of local “activist” organizations in Austin Texas. On the progressiveaustin.org page are: Peace In Austin, Austin Center for Peace and Justice, Austin Dialog for Peace and Justice, Austin Peace and Justice Coalition, Austin Taxpayers for Peace, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Dialog for Peace, Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, Peace Action Texas, Peace Works, South Austin Neighbors for Peace, Students United for Peace and Justice, Texans for Peace, and Veterans for Peace. If you relax the rules to include Latin synonyms, you could add Pax Christi.

This last name reminds us that religion is profoundly focused on peace: The peace of Christ, God’s peace, the peace that passeth understanding… Islam, of course, offers peace through submission to Allah.

Peace processes, peace feelers, peace negotiations, peacekeepers, peace monitors… What is this thing called “peace” that everyone seems so preoccupied with?

It is the opposite of “war”, of course. So between 1991 and 2003 Saddam Hussein’s subjects must have been experiencing “peace”. And all through the 1950s the citizens of the Soviet Union lived in “peace”.

In an April 17 post in The Word Unheard, USMC Vet referred to

     …the [Left’s] core belief that to acquiesce and avoid conflict at any cost is peace.

This definition seems to be in accord with the “peace” that reigned in Saddam’s Iraq, or that flourishes now in North Korea.

It was not always thus. For most of human history, “peace” meant being able to plant your crops or herd your sheep without being set upon by marauders and murdered, with your last thought the knowledge that your wife and children were about to be carried off into slavery. It meant building a prosperous community in which people could follow their livelihoods without molestation. It meant being able to travel the roads without being beaten and robbed by brigands. It was greatly prized, and it was very rare.

In Europe during the Dark Ages, peace was attained by being the strongest bully in the neighborhood, or by paying tribute to be protected by him. It was tenuous at best, subject to constant testing by arms, and did not allow room for building what we call civilization.

But the office of strongman became hereditary, and peace was gradually enlarged to enclose more and more groups under his protection. The bands of warring brigands became groups of warring feudal states.

In England, the Magna Carta was signed by King John and his barons to bring order and stability to the relations among the different feudal entities. The barons gained recognition of their rights, the king gained security from rebellion, and the kingdom became more orderly. Notice that the word “peace” appears eight times in the text of the Magna Carta. Obviously the signatories considered peace to be indispensable for the advancement of their separate interests.

The concept of the King’s Peace first appeared during the reign of Richard I in 1195. Peace was henceforth to be seen as the responsibility of the king, and its breach required that the culpable parties be answerable to him. During the reign of Edward III in 1361, Justices of the Peace were appointed for the first time. The Crown, in effect, was claiming a monopoly on violence in the realm, and appointing officials to enforce it.

Through all the centuries that followed, through all the rebellions, insurrections, feuds, and civil wars, through the general brigandage, mayhem, and violence, the King’s Peace was the gold standard for affairs in the kingdom. Though honored more often in the breach than in the observance, it remained the ideal for the civic polity.

As the English-speaking diaspora spread throughout the world, the concept of peace was refined, extended, and more fully realized. The development of a legal system to which all had recourse, the establishment of local officers and then police forces, the creation of responsible and accountable local government — all these tended to enlarge the condition of peace.

Peace is not just when the war is over and the armies are demobilized. Peace is the condition of being secure in one’s property and person, of being able to perform one’s routine activities without fear of violence. The last century and a half has allowed us to forget how rare and precious real peace is. The typical condition of mankind before the nineteenth century was to live in brutality and fear. Men had to be armed and eternally vigilant to attain peace; slaves, serfs, and women could not hope for it without the protection of a rough man ready to do violence on their behalf.

There are still enclaves in America that lack peace — the inner city where gangs rule, for example — but the vast majority of citizens can live the vast majority of their lives in peace. A yeoman in fourteenth-century England would have been on his knees thanking God in unabashed amazement had he the opportunity to experience the peace which is our routine and unearned condition.

In the luxury of our current circumstances, the definition of “peace” that USMC Vet mentioned has evolved. To recap, “to acquiesce and avoid conflict at any cost is peace.” When the bullies, thugs, and brigands emerge to confront us, we are not to take up our cudgels against them. Remain supine before your persecutor, allow his boot to remain firmly on your neck, and then you will have peace. Rely on reason, on discourse and argumentation, to dissuade the assassin from his task. Understand his point of view; look at the historical reasons for his behavior; acknowledge your culpability in creating the conditions that produced him — why, you deserve what you’re getting, you know. Give him everything he wants, and what follows will be called “peace”.

When Saddam burned, gassed, shredded and mutilated his subjects by the hundreds of thousands, that was “peace”. When the United States overthrew him, imposed the rule of law, and arranged elections, that was not “peace”.

The crashing of airliners into the World Trade Center was not war. It was “peace”.

The peace that passes all understanding. Peace in our time.

State Department Tango

Condoleezza Rice gave a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. For the most part, it was a paean to the progress of liberty and democracy across the map of the Middle East.

She described women voting in Afghanistan, Fallujah settling down, the beginnings of rapprochement between India and Pakistan. The usual Secretary of State boilerplate speech, including a mention of every continent and most of the countries she’s been to or is planning to visit shortly. The sheer momentum of the speech shows in the written word.

There followed a question-and-answer session. Here was the one that tripped her up:

     QUESTIONER: When you look at the issues you were describing before in the Balkans, in the former Soviet Union, in Africa, many of the things that unite all these trouble spots is the struggles of Muslim people. And I would like you to describe your thinking about this overall issue and if there is the success that you talk about in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, what effect do you see that having overall on Islam and its issues?
SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, it’s a very good question. I think Islam, the Muslim world, is indeed going through an evolution, and as with any evolution there are both potential negative outcomes and potential positive outcomes. The negative outcome would be the continued rise of extremism and those who would hijack the great world religion to a cause that clearly has nothing to do with Islam. Islam is a peaceful religion…
…So the goal is to, in those places where Muslims are either the majority or in some cases almost without any minority, is to recognize that there is no contradiction between Islam and the Muslim world and democracy…that has to be the hope for the Middle East, that these — that you will get moderate political forces that find the right relationship between Islam and democracy, that find institutions that accommodate both, and therefore in the democratic process can be tolerant of all peoples.

The question is: was that simply more boilerplate or does our Secretary of State believe this? There are postures one has to assume along with the assumption of an office; perhaps that is the case here.

Jihad Watch takes sharp exception to the profound lack of knowledge that could be inferred from her remarks,

     If Condoleeza Rice really believes that Islam “is a peaceful religion” then she has not read the history of Islamic conquest, has not studied the treatment of non-Muslims — all non-Muslims, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Buddhists — living in lands subjugated by Muslims, and has failed to fully grasp the nature of that supposedly benign “protected-people” status of Christians and Jews that, in the full panoply of what it demanded of those “People of the Book” (ahl al-kitab) was onerous, and relentlessly cruel in a way that rhetoric should not be allowed to conceal.
If she meant the quoted remarks, then she is a grave disappointment. And neither she, nor anyone else who thinks in the same vein, is likely to be able to comprehend how much vaster is the problem than anything bringing “democracy to Iraq” will solve.

Mr. Fitzgerald proceeds to fisk the Secretary’s facile remarks about Turkey’s example as a country which has managed democracy and Islam. As he points out, it succeeded only because Ataturk sharply reined in Islam. He abolished the fez (it made praying with one’s hat on an easier accomplishment), had the Koran and hadiths translated into Turkish, gave women the right to vote and forbade the hijab at government offices or functions. He also adopted the Western alphabet and kept a sharp eye on newspapers’ “Islamic” content.

     Note that Ataturk did not try to change the text of Qur’an. Nor did he try to revise Bukhari or Muslim, or to de-authenticate dangerous hadiths. Nor did he try to re-write the life of Muhammad…in order to bring Turkey kicking and screaming into the modern world…he and those who supported him had to force through all these constraints on Islam.
Ataturk was the most successful example of the quasi-enlightened despots who alone have been responsible for whatever constraints on Islam have been put in place in the Islamic world.

The picture Mr. Fitzgerald draws — of Iran, Pakistan, Tunisia, etc. — is grim, and grimly accurate:

     …Islam is a powerful force, and cannot be changed, only constrained, as Kemal Ataturk did. And to the degree that any country becomes more Muslim, to that same degree that country will — no matter how long or close its seemingly heartfelt alliance with the United States has been — pull away from that alliance, forget all that was done for it, and become hostile to the United States, as it would be to any Infidel power practicing muscular self-defense.

Here at Gates of Vienna there is sad accord with Mr. Fitzgerald’s assessment. However, there is room to reasonably hope that the Secretary of State’s extemporaneous remarks were merely filler. It goes beyond imagination to think what would be the consequences should our chief diplomat say the truth in the current political climate — and certainly not to a roomful of newspaper editors.

Incidentally, the text of whomever introduced her to the audience was not included in the report. However, Dr. Rice made a humorous reference to their fact-finding ability. Evidently someone had managed to dig up a piece of her past:

     Well, thank you for that great introduction. You’ve got quite a research department. But I want to assure everybody it’s actually not that hard to be the disco queen of South Bend, Indiana. There’s not that much competition in South Bend, Indiana. (Laughter.)

Disco queen? It appears that the Secretary of State is still dancing as fast as she can.

By The Book

I Could Scream: Examining the plight of women under Islam

Today’s lesson: Islamic law

Stoning in Iran

Shar’ia, Islamic law, is concerned with three ideas: punishment, prevention by example, and retaliation. Rehabilitation is no more a part of the judicial vocabulary than, say, the word “democracy,” unless one considers fear of the consequences a type of rehabilitation.

Penal laws are termed hudud, meaning ‘limits.’ These limits are actually the punishments themselves and their ramifications Thus, the Islamic penal code is can be considered from three dimensions: the criminal, society, and the victim. In the first case, punishment is supposed to ‘purify’ the miscreant; in the second, punishment is considered a preventive measure designed to discourage others from breaking the law; and lastly it serves as a form of revenge for the victim of the crime.

There are hierarchies of crimes. The most serious is hadd, followed by tazir, and last, a separate category termed qisas. More simply put, they are crimes against God, against society, and against individuals.

Let’s take them in ascending order:

Qisas means ‘balanced.’ It is retribution, revenge or compensation, depending on the circumstances. The offenses — murder, injury, manslaughter, etc.,– can result in execution for the more serious offenses or, instead, some form of compensation (diyas) to the victim or his family. Qisas is the more flexibly applied punishment since these are considered crimes directed at individuals rather than society or God. These are not offenses listed in the Koran.

Tazir means ‘deterrence.’ This group of offenses is comparable in some ways to misdemeanors in Western law, though there are exceptions. Espionage, for example, can carry the death penalty. In Shar’ia they are considered crimes against society and thus less serious offenses than the ones listed as hadd. Tazir crimes are not written down; they are freely interpreted by the particular judge and community. Again, these are not Koranic offenses.

Hadd crimes are of a different order. These are offenses against Allah and carry very specific — but always corporal — punishments. The first three — murder, apostasy, and adultery — are punishable by death. Defamation (i.e., false accusation of adultery or fornication), robbery, and alcohol consumption have lesser punishments prescribed for them. There is a long history of conflict among Islamic scholars regarding specific types of punishments. When Tariq Ramadan came out recently with a call for a moratorium on corporal punishment he was roundly condemned by prominent Islamists for starting down the slippery slope that would lead to the end of Islam.

Cutting off a thief’s hand seems extreme by Western standards, but it doesn’t compare to ramj, the sentence for adultery. Ramj means stoning, and Islamic law means it when it says “stoned to death.”

The ritual is specific and ugly; even in this, women have it harder: law prescribes that should a condemned adulterer manage to get away, he or she may go free. Thus, a man is buried up to his waist; a woman’s arms are tied and she is buried up to her chest.

     In stoning to death, the stones should not be so large that the person dies upon being hit by one or two of them, neither should they be so small that they cannot be called a stone.
Stoning is usually carried out in public and in many instances families of the victims have been forced to watch the execution. Although it is codified that a person will be pardoned if s/he manages to escape, the victim is re-captured by the authorities and killed in a number of cases.

This medieval holdover — much of Islam appears to be medieval — should be done away with as soon as yesterday. Every time someone excuses Muslims’ more atrocious behaviors on the basis of multicultural “understanding” they help murder someone else.

In Islam justice by the book has everything to do with the book and nothing to do with justice.

Buy The Book

Queen Margrethe of Denmark

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark displays the moral fortitude so lacking in other world leaders. She calls it like it is — like it so painfully, truly is:

     Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II warned against the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Denmark and the world in a new book out on Thursday, saying people must on occasion “show their opposition to Islam”.
“It is a challenge we have to take seriously. We have let this issue float about for too long because we are tolerant and very lazy,” she said in the authorized biography* “Margrethe” written by journalist Annelise Bistrup.

Here is her forthright analysis of the problem in Denmark and of reactions to their attempts to rein in cultural destruction in at least one European country

     “And when we are tolerant, we must know whether it is because of convenience or conviction,” added the queen, who has reigned since 1972 and celebrates her 65th birthday on Saturday.
Denmark has in recent years been accused of fuelling xenophobic tendencies after implementing a slew of measures aimed at curbing immigration. The government has argued that it wants to focus efforts on improving the assimilation into Danish society of immigrants already in the country.
Queen Margrethe, who professes a knowledge of Islam due to her interest in archaeology, said it was “natural that young Muslims would be attracted” to the faith’s absolute values and seek refuge in religion “as they are cut off from our community because of their lack of (Danish) language skills.”
“It’s not just a matter of speaking and understanding” Danish, she said, but also “understanding the language’s codes, and we have to help them.”

Good thing she has tenure in her present position. She sure wouldn’t be on track in any self-respecting American university. Or any American political seat, either. Imagine “helping” immigrants become Americanized. Berkeley would implode, Columbia would spontaneously combust. Hmmm…

*the book doesn’t appear to be available in English. Too bad; she could give the chattering classes something to actually talk about.

Pope Benedict XVI: The History Behind His Name

You can learn a great deal of a new pontiff’s expectations for himself if you go back to see how his eponymous predecessor experienced the papacy in his particular day and age — and especially how he responded to its challenges.

The last Benedict, XV, was pontiff from 1914-1922. During that time he worked mightily to turn the European powers away from war and toward reason. He did so to no avail. Here is his description of Europe in his first encyclical, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum (1914):

     …On every side the dread phantom of war holds sway: there is scarce room for another thought in the minds of men. The combatants are the greatest and wealthiest nations of the earth; what wonder, then, if, well provided with the most awful weapons modern military science has devised, they strive to destroy one another with refinements of horror. There is no limit to the measure of ruin and of slaughter; day by day the earth is drenched with newly-shed blood, and is covered with the bodies of the wounded and of the slain. Who would imagine as we see them thus filled with hatred of one another, that they are all of one common stock, all of the same nature, all members of the same human society? Who would recognize brothers, whose Father is in Heaven? Yet, while with numberless troops the furious battle is engaged, the sad cohorts of war, sorrow and distress swoop down upon every city and every home; day by day the mighty number of widows and orphans increases, and with the interruption of communications, trade is at a standstill; agriculture is abandoned; the arts are reduced to inactivity; the wealthy are in difficulties; the poor are reduced to abject misery; all are in distress.

We all know too well that his words fell on deaf ears. Or rather, on paranoid ears: each of the combatant nations was convinced that Benedict XV was favoring one or another of them. So great was their suspicion that representatives from Rome were excluded from the ‘peace’ talks in 1919.

Benedict’s words were both true and prophetic. France alone would go on to lose six out of ten of the cohort of young men between the ages of 18 and 28, either through death or maiming. A country cannot lose its manhood without becoming a distortion of itself. One has only to look to France today to see the shadows of that Great War even now darkening her public face.

Ratzinger is nothing if not a historian. He knew the world from which Benedict XV came; he knows the failure he experienced in attempting to turn nations from war. He knows the price Europe paid for its intransigence.

Ratzinger may also be the first Pontiff to have his own fan club in existence long before his ascension to the seat of the See of Rome. There is much speculation that Ratzinger was the ‘secret’ written on his predecessor’s heart. And the gathered cardinals no doubt knew that; thus the brief conclave.

Ten years ago, he shocked the Catholic world with this warning:

     We might have to part with the notion of a popular Church. It is possible that we are on the verge of a new era in the history of the Church, under circumstances very different from those we have faced in the past, when Christianity will resemble the mustard seed [Matthew 13:31-32], that is, will continue only in the form of small and seemingly insignificant groups, which yet will oppose evil with all their strength and bring Good into this world. [1]
He added, “Christianity might diminish into a barely discernable presence,” because modern Europeans “do not want to bear the yoke of Christ”. The Catholic Church, he added, might survive only in cysts resembling the kibbutzim of Israel. He compared these cysts to Jesus’ mustard seed, faith of whose dimensions could move mountains. Ratzinger’s grim forecast provoked a minor scandal, complete with coverage in Der Spiegel, Germany’s leading newsmagazine. The offending sentences did not appear in the English translation, “Salt of the Earth”, and were not discussed further in polite Catholic company.
Cardinal Ratzinger is a Prince of the Church who threatened, as it were, to abandon the capital and conduct guerrilla war from the mountains. Years before Europe’s demographic death-spiral was apparent, Ratzinger had the vision to see and the courage to say that the Catholic Church stood on the brink of a catastrophic decline. This observation is now commonplace. As George Weigel, John Paul II’s biographer, wrote in March, “Europe, and especially Western Europe, is in the midst of a crisis of civilizational morale … Europe is depopulating itself at a rate unseen since the Black Death of the 14th century.”

Gates of Vienna awaits with great interest the first encyclical of Benedict XVI.

Hint: it will not be concerned with homosexual bishops or the ordination of women.

Sticks and Stones

Many of our visitors here at Gates of Vienna find us by searching on “bill gates converts islam”. But today someone made his way here by googling “jihad infidel restored caliphate victory allah war”. Hmmm.

Often I try to stir up sources for this blog by googling keywords very similar to those listed above. So — the same search that leads me to him is leading him to me.

Sauce for the gander.

A Personal Essay on The Perils of Blogging: Be Not Afraid

Note to self: sometimes you have to stare at the truth whether you want to or not. Simply closing the window on whatever dreadful blather is on the screen does not make it go away.

Little Green Footballs has a commentary up on an essay from Media Monitors with a dateline from last Saturday.

The author of this screed, Yamin Zakaria, goes to great length to explain why women are better off in Islam. Here are some of the comparisons used to explain the plight of Western women:

a).The Islamic Veil (Hijab) or the Bikini
b).Polygamy or Sexual Freedom (Promiscuity)
c).Freedom of Choice and Enforcement
d).Gender Equality or Gender Harmony

There is so much untruth, twisted thinking and chasms of logic that it’s hard to get one’s mind around this essay. Each paragraph is a gem of distortion.

Little Green Footballs notes that author of this screed has a PhD in Chemistry. It certainly can’t be in rhetoric; Zakaria presents two extremes of each example and leaves out the entire center — the “excluded middle”– of his/her supposedly logical argument. This moderate center between two extremes is where the truth can be found. That is , if the author were searching for the truth, which does not appear to be the case. For example, the opening sentence below sets up the Western point of view:

     Muslim women are imprisoned, denied choices under the Islamic laws while the emancipated Western women are free, having endless choices.

Here, the straw man has been set up: the “supposedly emancipated” Western woman. Next comes the sad consequences of choice (“endless choices” ):

     But what are those choices and what is the implication for the society if the individuals are given those choices. Choice is not intrinsically a virtue, it can bring chaos, and if incorrect choices are made than it causes more harm than good.

By this reasoning, better to have others make your choices for you just to avoid the consequences of bad ones. Choice that “can bring chaos” is obviously something a woman needs to be protected from. And then comes the West-bashing clincher:

     As an example, from an Islamic perspective the huge flesh industry made up of porn and prostitution is viewed as exploitation and degradation of women. The West would reply by stating that those women decided of their own free will to pursue a career in that industry.

Does the author go on from here to describe the flesh peddled throughout the Middle East? Does he/she mention the girls sold in the streets of Iran every day? Is there any exposition of the daughters sold in marriage in Afghanistan — a ‘choice’ often imposed by poverty and exacerbated by Islamic code? Honor killings? The overtly stated inferiority of women in the Koran?

Noooo. And the reader knows why because the whole point the author wishes to make is laid out in the first paragraph, last sentence:

     The issue (woman’s rights) is predominantly raised to attack Islam and Muslims, even though it may be more applicable to other religions and cultures – indicating the ulterior motive behind the issue is one of making political gains against adversaries and not the furthering of the welfare of womankind.

The whole essay is written in the same spirit of diatribe, of arguments based on extremes, of self-righteous posing behind a cardboard history. Its author delineates what he/she sees as the weaknesses of Western culture while avoiding completely the problems Muslim women face. If you contemplate a Muslim woman’s “choices” this is a painful essay to read, reminiscent of the propaganda the Nazis once wrote about the Jews.

And speaking of Jews, Zakaria’s opinion is as equally predictable about them as it is about Western women:

     After centuries of prospering as Dhimmis…ironically, they {Jews} are now engaged in a campaign to distort history and denigrate the very people who gave them protection. Instead of pogroms, ethnic cleansing and holocausts, the Jews experienced the golden age in Andalusia (Islamic Spain) under the Muslim rule, an era unparalleled in their 5000+ years of history.

How’s that for a breathtaking view of history?

Thus, we circle back to the beginning of this post:

Note to self: sometimes you have to stare at the truth whether you want to or not. Simply closing the window on whatever dreadful blather is on the screen does not make it go away.

So this is what happened on Saturday when I first read Zakaria’s contorted explanations for the cruel treatment of Muslim women: I simply closed the window and went on to something less painful to contemplate. This served no one very well. Didn’t help Muslim women, didn’t make the essay really go away, and it let a disgusting piece of false piety and arrogant self-righteousness stand without protest.

This morning someone sent a hat tip re LGF’s fisking of the essay. My heart sank. My cowardice stood exposed very clearly as I realized I’d done this before — i.e., turned away from something too painful to find the moral energy to fisk. And Zakaria’s willful blindness is painful indeed as one realizes the implications of such thinking.

As LGF points out, this person is well-educated. If education, especially in the sciences, does not bring clarity, what will? If it leaves the educated person in the moral sinkhole this author seems to inhabit, from whence comes our hope?

But that particular belief is our own Western bias; we think that the educated will lead us. We have bought the advertisements of the university conglomerates. At great expense we send our children to them, believing they will learn wisdom and truth. We believe this in spite of our experience with the ‘educated’ elites of this generation. This generation of vipers.

The educated created, planned and carried out 9/11.

Note to self: next time, fisk it.

The Green, Green Trees of Hope

After the Orange Revolution in Ukraine was followed by a variation in Rose for Georgia and purple fingers in Iraq, Gates of Vienna wondered where on the color spectrum the next uprising would appear.

But it has turned out to be more than merely color, something even more elemental: a green cedar — the mythical cedars of Lebanon, beloved for millennia by Jews and Christians everywhere.

Lebanon is infamous for its myriad sectarian and civil wars but actual political protest is not considered in character. Now political destiny is an absolutely necessary focus if Lebanon is to transcend its past religious strife and division.

     I for one, believe that as a Lebanese citizen my relationship with my country should be a direct one, and not through the intermediary of the religious denomination I belong to. My rights and obligations as a Lebanese citizen should be established directly between myself as a simple tax-paying individual and the State as my representative, provider of public services, and the protector of my safety and security. The Lebanon of 1943 was defined as a set of religious communities who divided power and privileges amongst each other, but made no pledge whatsoever of any obligation towards the country as a collective. Consequently, the Lebanon of 1943 did not provide for your or my rights and obligations as individuals, but only as members of our religious communities. As a Lebanese citizen, I have no individual rights and obligations except those that the religious leaders of my community define for me. I have no direct connection to my government or the institutions of my State, and I have to go through the church or the mosque in every aspect of my daily life. That is not the stuff of a modern nation. This is medieval, archaic, anachronistic and, in times of crisis, deadly. When Lebanon needed us in 1975, we turned to our religious communities and we betrayed our country for all these other groups. Today, we have an opportunity to change all that, so that when the next crisis comes about, we stand like you today, united by what makes us one, and not divided by what makes us many.

Written by a Lebanese exile in New England these sentiments encapsulate the driving energy behind the tent city erected next to the crater of Rafik Hariri’s annihilation. His destruction proved to be the tipping point for the young and restive Lebanese, eager to enter the 21st century under their own power rather than under the thumb of Syria.

From here the Cedar Revolution does not seem planned. It’s more organic than that: a gut response to a horrific event, an event which was preceded by years of terror and oppression. Who knows at which point a people will rise up and say “enough”? It is only ever apparent after the fact.

The tent city doesn’t seem planned either. It seems more likely that after the huge demonstrations no one wanted to go home; home was no longer enough to contain all that energy and ambition. The inhabitants are young people; they have to be to stay up all night strategizing:

     The tent-city is Lebanon’s crucible. Here is where the hard work of reconciliation and the forging of national unity is taking place. These kids are the future civic and political leaders of Lebanon. Their countrymen look upon them with the deepest, most profound, admiration. They stay up all night strategizing about what they can do to oust the Syrian agents and clear the way for free elections. But just as importantly they stay up all night getting to know each other for the first time. They are building the bonds of trust that will, or so they hope, last the rest of their lives and lead to a permanent solution to Lebanon’s long-simmering and sometimes explosive fratricidal conflict. The invisible Berlin Wall in their minds is disintegrating.

This is Michael Totten’s view, up close. Having gone to Lebanon to see for himself and to report back to Spirit of America, he finds himself unable to leave. There is a countdown now, an immediate goal on which the factions in Lebanon can agree: the government must announce elections to be held in May. In order to be in compliance with this demand, the announcement would have to happen at least thirty days prior — in this case, April 29th. The tent city leaders have erected a large electric sign with the number of days remaining. It is an electrifying sign, one which galvanizes those who see it. Amazing that government doesn’t dare take it down.

As Totten notes on his own blog,

     the tent-city is ground zero for the Cedar Revolution. These people quit their jobs and dropped out of school to make it happen. They are not making money, but they desperately need it.

Who would’ve anticipated that the green cedars of Lebanon would be the next stop in the spectrum of liberty?


But then again, who would’ve credited the Syrians with enough stupidity to get the parade rolling with the massively brutal assassination of Hariri and his body guards? Why not just hand the keys to the kingdom back to the Lebanese and leave town? It would’ve been cleaner, easier, and much, much smarter. A lot less humiliating, too.

But if the lessons of history teach anything, it is that dictators are tone deaf. They are not adept at reading between the lines, either, or acting in their own self-interest. Like Miss Havisham, they hang on past all possible hope of recovering their former position.

To help make it “faster, please” click on the flag to donate to the inhabitants of tent city.

Who Is Out to Get Whom?

After Saturday’s post, commenter Alex said:

     But surely nothing can hold a candle to all the bizarre right-wing conspiracy theories that are floating around out there. Like the one about the UN being part of some evil plan to undermine the US and create a single world government. Or the one about the liberal-bias of the media. Or the one about how American universities conspire to keep out conservative academics.

No one can deny that the Right has hosted a fever swamp of conspiracy theories, from the Illuminati to the Trilateral Commission.

But the elephant in the room on this issue is the Great Global Zionist Conspiracy, which used to be the exclusive property of the far right. In the synergy of what David Horowitz has called the “Unholy Alliance” between the Left and the Islamists, the extreme anti-Semitic memes have migrated to the Left. Ariel Sharon has George Bush hypnotized; the Jews control the government and manufactured the “War on Terror” to destroy Islam; globalization is a plot by the Jews to control the world. With “neocon” a code word for “Jew”, the Left has taken over the salient features of Jew-hatred and made them their own, and so made common cause with misogynistic, bloodthirsty, totalitarian theocrats and terrorists.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Malevolent Hilarity

For some time now, traffic at Gates of Vienna has featured cascades of referrals from Google searches on some variant of “Bill Gates convert Islam.” It has taken several weeks of diligence and research on the part of the Baron to track this oddity to its source. Was it an urban legend? A joke? A hoax? Who was behind it? Why was this site getting so many hits on the subject?

Finally, the original source reported in: one of the members of a Middle Eastern blog called “Secular Kuwait” had posted Bill Gates’ supposed conversion to Islam as an April Fool’s Day joke. From there it took off into the blogosphere, anxious (surprised? delighted? amused?) Muslims everywhere started googling for information. And, had the founder of Microsoft been Bill Smith, there would’ve been no problem here: These are not the Smiths of Vienna, they are the Gates. So just because of the conjunction of names, most of the hopeful surfers washed up on this beach. Thanks, Bill.

In discussing this phenomenon with a number of people, the most cogent explanation came in an email from the Daily Pundit, Bill Quick. Referring to the “malevolent hilarity” of the situation, he said:

     I still, after watching it for several years now, find the natural bent toward conspiracy and fantasy in the Arab world to be nearly incomprehensible. I presume it to be cultural in some sense, but I haven’t been able to nail it down to my own satisfaction. In some ways it reminds me of the more feverish dreams of the American far left, which may be an indicator that it acts as a substitute for actual power, and/or a balm for that lack.

He’s right. It’s a substitute… in this case for the truth. Islam is a failed project, held up only by a burgeoning birth rate. When prosperity comes and the birth rate falls, Islam will be overtaken by religious beliefs that are better shaped to conform to the inherent human need to be free. Just as the American far left has been overtaken — and slam-dunked — by the reality of how America votes.

So the fantasy of Bill Gates the Muslim will remain just that: a fantasy. A feverish dream.

The Muezzin Did Not Call Mr. Gates

The Bill-Gates-Converts-to-Islam hoax has been put to bed. Commenter “Hoax” at the Museum of Hoaxes (typos and scare quotes in the original) says:

     Sorry to dissapoint all “believers”. But this is just First of Apirl Joke.
It was intended to be a joke for users in secularkuwait.org
One of the members fabricated the the news item as a first of April joke, and of course, the members soon discovered it was just a joke.
Normally, it would just end at that, but some how, someone Muslim apparently copied the faked image somewhere and the hoax started.
And Muslims WANT to believe it, so the hoax spread. They even write about it in newspapers nowadays.
Since people don’t check their references, there is no such newspaper or magazine known as “Anwar Tunis”, it was just made up. The whole thing was intended as a joke, but muslims so helpless psychologically in this time are clinging to anything to might encourage their spirits. I, for one, feel pity for them.
Over and Out.

As a postscript, the next commenter in the thread says:

     thank allah
if bill gates covert to islam cause he get the right way to allah to baradis
to be the best in every things , money, authorty, life, muslim
thaks allah

hope that rommer be right
please reply when confirm that

Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up.

One final note: searchers looking for “bill gates islam” and similar combinations keep arriving at this site, hundreds of them every day. If you are one of them, please tell everyone you know that this is a HOAX.

The Dust on Antique Time

Wretchard’s post yesterday at Belmont Club about the plight of “Old Europe” brought to mind Coriolanus. In Act II, Scene III, Coriolanus stands before the people of Rome, doing a little reluctant electioneering:

Why in this woolvish toge should I stand here,
To beg of Hob and Dick, that do appear,
Their needless vouches! Custom calls me to’t:
What custom wills, in all things should we do’t,
The dust on antique time would lie unswept,
And mountainous error be too highly heap’d
For truth to o’erpeer.

Recall that Coriolanus was a patrician warrior, pushed by a domineering mother into trying for the office of Consul. But this was during the Roman Republic, and Coriolanus was obliged to go through the annoying little formality of an election. Part of the customary ritual required the candidate to dress up in rustic plebeian clothes and meet the electorate. Coriolanus was a proud member of the warrior elite, and he found this task odious and degrading to his aristocratic sensibilities.

Now that the scene is laid, let’s engage in a little anachronistic fisking of Shakespeare, bearing the European Union in mind.

Why in this woolvish toge should I stand here: In the case of the modern European politician, the “woolvish toge” might be represented by the Bavarian candidate in lederhosen, the Frenchman in sabots and beret, the English member of Parliament campaigning for reelection in a humble cloth cap. If you’re going to go slumming among the lumpenproletariat, you’ve got to look like one of them.

To beg of Hob and Dick, that do appear: Ah, dear old Hob and Dick, or Franz, or Jacques, or Pietro… Those delightful rubes, engaged in their usual rustic pastimes in pub, café, and bierkeller. Amusing fellows — elbows up, lads!

Their needless vouches! Now we come to crux of it: those damned useless votes! If only we weren’t required to go through this whole democratic charade! That’s why we’re setting up the mega-state with Brussels as its capital, to keep as far away from those pesky old votes as possible.

Custom calls me to’t:/What custom wills, in all things should we do’t: Those tiresome democratic rituals, in which we vote every so often just because that’s the way we’ve always done it.

The dust on antique time would lie unswept,/And mountainous error be too highly heap’d/For truth to o’erpeer: The downside of democracy is that the masses continually make bad decisions, and their accumulated errors lead them down the road to ruin. For their own good, the chaps in Brussels are going to have to guide them gently to the correct decisions. Taxes, regulation, welfare, and the guiding hand of those who know better: that’s the ticket!

* * * * * * * *

We should all remember how Coriolanus ended up, driven to a tragic end by overweening pride and spitted on the sword of Tullus Aufidius.

Let’s hear it for mountainous error!