Friday, March 03, 2006

Can Islam reform itself?

Can Islam reform itself? That was the question posed in a debate between Andrew C. McCarthy and Mansoor Ijaz available at National Review Online.

If Islam is defined as the religion described by Andrew McCarthy, a religion based on the Quran that encourages violence towards people who refuse to accept the Islamic faith as their own, then Islam can not be reformed in a way that would make it compatible with liberal democracy. But this leads to the question of how the world's liberal democracies should deal with the world's one billion Muslims.

Liberal democracies have options that do not require a war against one billion people.

Let's first realize that today's Muslim might be tomorrow's ex-Muslim. Iraqi blogger Zeyad renounced Islam years ago. And among those one billion Muslims exist many MINOs (Muslims in name only). Just as during the Cold War there were many people considered "communist" just because they lived in a Communist country even if these people only appeared to believe in communism to avoid persecution, similar people probably exist in the Muslim world.

The same is probably true regarding so-called "moderate Muslims." Imagine someone has lived in Saudi Arabia his entire life and gets the crazy idea (perhaps even the incorrect idea) that Islam is not compatible with the persecution of women and people of other religious beliefs. He believes he is a good Muslim, but he also believes in tolerance and civil liberties for all people. If he shouts his beliefs loudly he isn't going to be shouting very long within the borders of Saudi Arabia or many other countries. Irshad Manji, a self-described lesbian Canadian Muslim, has received many death threats for announcing such views and she lives in Canada!

So, for the most part, Andrew C. McCarthy and Mansoor Ijaz were talking past each other in their debate over Islam. Even if we knew with absolute certainty that Andrew McCarthy has a better understanding of "real" Islam than does Mansoor Ijaz, objective reality is beside the point. The key to defeating "radical Islam" or "Islamism" (or perhaps, if McCarthy is correct, Islam itself) is to change the dynamics with respect to Islam so that neither self-described Muslims nor anyone else are denied basic civil liberties, including the right to question the Quran in part or in its entirety. Bringing civil liberties (including dozens of free media outlets and competitive political parties) to Iraq and Afghanistan is an important strategic accomplishment in the war on "radical" Islam.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Hitchens answers Fukuyama

Francis Fukuyama's "The End of History and the Last Man" is probably the most interesting book I have ever read, as it deals with the nature of man and how man's nature influences the social systems (dictatorship, democracy, etc.) he is forced to live under. But I haven't had the opportunity to agree with Fukuyama for years, now that the famous author has become a naysayer regarding Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Fortunately, Christopher Hitchens has answered back at one of Fukuyama's recent criticisms in his column The End of Fukuyama
The first requirement of anyone engaging in an intellectual or academic debate is that he or she be able to give a proper account of the opposing position(s), and Fukuyama simply fails this test. The term "root causes" was always employed ironically (as the term "political correctness" used to be) as a weapon against those whose naive opinions about the sources of discontent were summarized in that phrase. It wasn't that the Middle East "lacked democracy" so much that one of its keystone states was dominated by an unstable and destabilizing dictatorship led by a psychopath. And it wasn't any illusion about the speed and ease of a transition so much as the conviction that any change would be an improvement. The charge that used to be leveled against the neoconservatives was that they had wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein (pause for significant lowering of voice) even before Sept. 11, 2001. And that "accusation," as Fukuyama well knows, was essentially true—and to their credit.

The three questions that anyone developing second thoughts about the Iraq conflict must answer are these: Was the George H.W. Bush administration right to confirm Saddam Hussein in power after his eviction from Kuwait in 1991? Is it right to say that we had acquired a responsibility for Iraq, given past mistaken interventions and given the great moral question raised by the imposition of sanctions? And is it the case that another confrontation with Saddam was inevitable; those answering "yes" thus being implicitly right in saying that we, not he, should choose the timing of it? Fukuyama does not even mention these considerations. Instead, by his slack use of terms like "magnet," he concedes to the fanatics and beheaders the claim that they are a response to American blunders and excesses.
What is most mystifying about Fukuyama's "conversion" to the realist school of foreign policy is that he explicitly rejected those ideas in a chapter titled "The Unreality of Realism." Hitchens wins this exchange hands down.

Monday, February 27, 2006

What's Going On in Europe?

Consider the following:

1) Ken Livingstone Suspended from Office
London's mayor (Ken Livingstone) has been suspended from office on full pay for four weeks for comparing a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard.

The Adjudication Panel for England ruled Ken Livingstone had brought his office into disrepute when he acted in an "unnecessarily insensitive" manner.

The hearing followed a complaint from the Jewish Board of Deputies, which had not called for the mayor to be suspended over the comment he made to the Evening Standard's Oliver Finegold outside a public-funded party.

The chairman of the panel, David Laverick, said it had decided on a ban because Mr Livingstone had failed to realise the seriousness of his outburst.
2)The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill currently before Parliament

Here's the gist of it
The extraordinary Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, currently before the House, gives ministers power to amend, repeal or replace any legislation simply by making an order and without having to bring a Bill before Parliament. The House of Lords Constitution Committee says the Bill is “of first-class constitutional significance” and fears that it could “markedly alter the respective and long standing roles of minister and Parliament in the legislative process”.

There are a few restrictions — orders can’t be used to introduce new taxes, for instance — but most of the limitations on their use are fuzzy and subjective. One of the “safeguards” in the Bill is that an order can impose a burden only “proportionate to the benefit expected to be gained”. And who gets to judge whether it is proportionate? Why, the minister of course. The early signs are not good. Having undertaken initially not to use orders for controversial laws, the Government has already started talking about abstaining from their use when the matter at hand is “highly” controversial.
3) Holocaust Denier Convicted
Right-wing British historian David Irving was sentenced to three years in prison Monday after admitting to an Austrian court that he denied the Holocaust — a crime in the country where Hitler was born.

Irving, who pleaded guilty and then insisted during his one-day trial that he now acknowledged the Nazis' World War II slaughter of 6 million Jews, had faced up to 10 years behind bars. Before the verdict, Irving conceded he had erred in contending there were no gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp.
4) Lawsuits over "Racism"
In 2002 in Switzerland the Islamic Center and the Somal Association of Geneva, SOS Racisme of Lausanne and a private citizen sued her for the supposedly racist content of The Rage and The Pride. In November 2002 a Swiss judge issued an arrest warrant for violations of article 261 and 261 bis of the Swiss criminal code and requested the Italian government to either try or extradite her. Roberto Castelli, Italian minister of Justice mentioned this fact in an interview broadcasted by Radio Padania affirming that the Italian Constitution protects the Freedom of Speech and thus the extradition request had to be rejected, the episode is mentioned in her book The Force of Reason
I seem to recall that there have been a few more of these suits in the past several years but cannot recall them.

5) Proposed UK Religious Hatred Bill
Controversial plans to make incitement to religious hatred illegal have been unveiled by the government.

The new offence gives equal protection to all faiths. Jews and Sikhs are already covered by race hate laws.

Critics say the reintroduced plans - which cover words or behaviour intended or likely to stir up religious hatred - will stifle free speech.

Ministers insist the new law would not affect "criticism, commentary or ridicule of faiths".

'Preserve tolerance'

The Racial and Religious Hated Bill would create a new offence of incitement to religious hatred and would apply to comments made in public or in the media, as well as through written material.

The aim is to protect people from incitement to hatred against them because of their faith.
(text of bill here)

6) Double Jeopardy Protection Not Absolute
All members of the Council of Europe (which includes nearly all European countries, and all members of the European Union) have signed the European Convention of Human Rights, which protects against double jeopardy. The Seventh Protocol, Article Four, says:
No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again in criminal proceedings under the jurisdiction of the same State for an offence for which he has already been finally acquitted or convicted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of that State.
This specific optional protocol has been ratified by all EU states except six (namely Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom). Those members states may still have the provision in their respective constitutions (if any) providing a prohibition against double jeopardy.

In many European countries the prosecution may appeal an acquittal to a higher court (similar to the provisions of Canadian law) - this is not counted as double jeopardy but as a continuation of the same trial. This is allowed by the European Convention of Human Rights - note the word finally in the above quote.

The Parliament of the United Kingdom passed legislation in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 introduced by then Home Secretary David Blunkett to abolish the previously strict form of prohibition of double jeopardy. Retrials are now allowed if there is 'new and compelling evidence'. All cases must be approved by the Director Of Public Prosecutions and the Court Of Appeal must agree to quash the original acquittal.
7) Gun Rights in Europe


(not really relevant but I thought I'd throw it in)

Help Me Out

The story about London mayor Ken Livingstone was the genesis for this post and is what got me thinking. I saw it the other day on one of my favorite blogs, and almost could not believe what I was reading. How do you "suspend" an elected official over something he said, no matter how offensive or stupid it was?

In the comments section I asked just this, but haven't received a satisfactory answer.

It is simply inconceivable in the United States for an elected official to be removed by some board. My understanding is that in most all jurisdictions elected officials can only be forced to resign if they are convicted of a crime, and usually a felony at that. Obviously the details will vary from place to place, but I think I have it right as a general rule.

Further, the concept that someone could be charged with a crime for denying the holocaust is also inconceivable. But I understand that this is the case in several European countries. What else is it against the law to say over there? Here freedom of speech is pretty absolute (exceptions of course are libel, slander, shouting "fire" when there is none, but those things are different).

All of the other things listed above simply could not happen in the United States, at least as a matter of federal or local law. Universities have been known to pass "speech codes", but that's not quite the same as Congress passing a law making it illegal to criticize another's religion (which is basically what the British bill would do).

The only exception I can think of is a qualifier to double jeopardy. Here in the US they do have civil rights laws, and in the infamous Rodney King case, some Los Angeles cops were found innocent of using excessive force against him, but were later convicted of violating his civil rights. But even this doesn't really violate double jeopardy.

This got me thinking of other things I've read recently. My general perception is that in general Europeans do not have all the rights that we take for granted here in the United States.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not about to go off and label any part of Europe "not free". They're part of the Free World. We're still allies, still share common values (or should), and are all in this fight against Islamic radicalism together, whether all of us know it or not.

But help me out here. Do I have all this right about Europe? My main question is about freedom of speech, as most of the issues above revolve around that.


What is Going on in Europe II is up over at The Redhunter. I'd copy it here but as usual it's long and doesn't change my thesis, but just adds to it. There's an editorial by Tony Blair in which he expresses his contempt for due process, British representatives to the EU called for "regret" over the 12 cartoons, and Douglas Murray writes that "Europe is shuffling into darkness" because of Muslim intimidation.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

What about Saddam's WMD (part 2)

From Power Line.
That's the title of this editorial in Investors Business Daily, which reprises some of the recently discovered evidence. There are Saddam's audio tapes:

On them, Saddam talks openly of programs involving biological, chemical and, yes, nuclear weapons.
[A]s late as 2000, Saddam can be heard in his office talking with Iraqi scientists about his ongoing plans to build a nuclear device. At one point, he discusses Iraq's plasma uranium program — something that was missed entirely by U.N. weapons inspectors combing Iraq for WMD. This is particularly troubling, since it indicates an active, ongoing attempt by Saddam to build an Iraqi nuclear bomb.
Here's more from the Investors Business Daily column
Inconveniently for critics of the war, Saddam made tapes in his version of the Oval Office. These tapes landed in the hands of American intelligence and were recently aired publicly.

The first 12 hours of the tapes — there are hundreds more waiting to be translated — are damning, to say the least. They show conclusively that Bush didn't lie when he cited Saddam's WMD plans as one of the big reasons for taking the dictator out.

Nobody disputes the tapes' authenticity. On them, Saddam talks openly of programs involving biological, chemical and, yes, nuclear weapons.

War foes have long asserted that Saddam halted his WMD programs in the wake of his defeat in the first Gulf War in 1991. Saddam's abandonment of WMD programs was confirmed by subsequent U.N. inspections.

Again, not true. In a tape dating to April 1995, Saddam and several aides discuss the fact that U.N. inspectors had found traces of Iraq's biological weapons program. On the tape, Hussein Kamel, Saddam's son-in-law, is heard gloating about fooling the inspectors.

"We did not reveal all that we have," he says. "Not the type of weapons, not the volume of the materials we imported, not the volume of the production we told them about, not the volume of use. None of this was correct."
Can't the anti-war Left just admit that it was both morally and factually wrong?