Saturday, September 30, 2006

""We saw them as a danger to security..."

Once again, Somalia's expanding Islamist movement has shut down a radio station:

Islamist gunmen who captured the Somali port of Kismayo have forcibly closed a private broadcaster which they accuse of distorting news about protests against the takeover, journalists said on Friday.

Islamist fighters on battle-wagons turned up at HornAfrik Radio's Kismayo offices late on Thursday, ordering staff to stop operations, the National Union of Somali Journalists said.


HornAfrik's Kismayo station director, Ahmed Mohamed, said three of his reporters had been briefly detained on Friday.

"Three of our reporters were arrested this morning. I had to flee last night to avoid arrest," Mohamed told Reuters by telephone. "They say we reported false information on the recent protests and of having links with the former administration."

But he denied the station had relations with the Juba Valley Alliance, an independent authority which controlled the region around Somalia's third largest city before Islamists took over.

The Islamists claim that HornAfrik will be allowed back on the air once it stops reporting "false" news; i.e., news that reflects poorly on the Islamists. Sadly, this is yet another small but disturbing sign of what they have in store for Somalia.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Censored Books Blog

Stephen Denney has an excellent blog on banned and censored books. Thanks to Stephen and also Greg McClay for bringing it to my attention. When I finally get around to updating my blogroll, it will definitely be added. In the meantime, please check it out for yourself.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Skeptical Thoughts on Banned Books Week

Several other conservative librarian bloggers have had some interesting things to say about Banned Books Week. As someone who supports the ideas behind BBW, I don't agree with all the criticisms they express. Still, they make some arguments well worth considering.

In particular, they express my main source of frustration with ALA's approach to BBW: the obsession with local challenges to books when we live in a world where authors and intellectuals are regularly murdered or imprisoned. There are far worse threats to intellectual freedom out there than parents who don't want their kids to read Heather Has Two Mommies. Just ask Theo Van Gogh.

Anyway, here's a brief roundup, for your reading pleasure:

-Jack Stephens points out a bit of hypocrisy on the part of American Libraries and Library Journal.

-Greg McClay makes the case that "Banned Books Week is the Halloween of American libraries".

-The always provocative and entertaining Annoyed Librarian has been in exceptional form this week. First, she offers a lengthy fisking of ALA's Banned Books Week Proclamation. Then, she takes up the issue of challenges to children's books.

Self-Censorship in Berlin

The Islamist war on intellectual freedom is not only directed against Muslim nations: it is designed to suppress free expression in the West as well. In light of the current "Muslim rage" surrounding Pope Benedict's recent comments, Daniel Pipes points out the following:

The violence by Muslims responding to comments by the pope fit a pattern that has been building and accelerating since 1989. Six times since then, Westerners did or said something that triggered death threats and violence in the Muslim world.

Pipes' count does not include violence directed solely at individuals, such as the November 2004 murder of Theo Van Gogh. Still, he notes the common thread of censorship tying these incidents together:

No conspiracy lies behind these six rounds of inflammation and aggression, but examined in retrospect, they coalesce and form a single, prolonged campaign of intimidation, with surely more to come. The basic message – "You Westerners no longer have the privilege to say what you will about Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur'an, Islamic law rules you too" – will return again and again until Westerners either do submit or Muslims realize their effort has failed.

Unfortunately, radical Islamism's "prolonged campaign of intimidation" has indeed produced results. The latest example comes from Germany:

A leading opera house canceled a 3-year-old production of Mozart's "Idomeneo" that included a scene showing the severed head of the Prophet Muhammad, unleashing a furious debate over free speech.

In a statement late Monday, the Deutsche Oper said it decided "with great regret" to cancel the production after Berlin security officials warned of an "incalculable risk" because of the scene.

After its premiere in 2003, the production by Hans Neuenfels drew widespread criticism over the scene in which King Idomeneo presents the severed heads not only of the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, but also of Muhammad, Jesus and Buddha. The disputed scene is not part of Mozart's original staging of the 225-year-old opera, but was an addition of Neuenfels' production, which was last performed by the company in March 2004.

"We know the consequences of the conflict over the (Muhammad) caricatures," Deutsche Oper said its statement announcing the decision. "We believe that needs to be taken very seriously and hope for your support.

The most disturbing thing about the Deutsche Oper affair is that this was an act of preemptive self-censorship. The opera house's production of "Idomeneo" had yet to attract the attention of Islamist ideologues and professional grievance mongers. However, such is the impact of the previous Islamist campaigns against free expression that one anonymous threat was enough to persuade the Deutsche Oper to cancel its production.

One encouraging sign is that numerous German politicians have rightly condemned this decision as a capitulation. To quote the mayor of Berlin:

"Our ideas about openness, tolerance and freedom must be lived on the offensive. Voluntary self-limitation gives those who fight against our values a confirmation in advance that we will not stand behind them."

Hopefully, this affair will prompt a turning point in Europe's response to the Islamist war against free expression.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A Different Perspective on Banned Books

An interesting read for Banned Books Week is this piece from last April by Amir Taheri. Written for the London-based Arab newspaper Asharq Alawsat, the essay is a review of the reference work 120 Banned Books. It's fascinating and encouraging to read what an exiled Iranian journalist writing for an Arab audience has to say about an issue so central to American librarianship.

Taheri sums up his views in the following passage, and makes a point I found especially interesting in light of last December's "Little Red Hoax":

In most cases the banned books end up by having the last laugh against their censors. Mao Zedong, the Chinese Communist despot, banned Confucius” “The Analects” and ordered all its copies seized and burned. Today, however,” The Analects” is back in virtually every Chinese home while Confucius has regained its place as an all time model for the Chinese people. Mao, however, is fading away and almost no one reads his silly little “Red Book” these days.

Russia’s greatest living writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn provides another case. In 1973 his book “The Gulag Archipelago” was banned and he himself expelled from the Soviet Union. In that same year Leonid Brezhnev, the geriatric dictator, won the Lenin Prize for Literature, the highest accolade for writers in the USSR. Even then everybody knew that Brezhnev was incapable of writing a letter to his mother let alone producing literature. And today no one reads Brezhnev, even in lunatic asylums while Solzhenitsyn has secured a place in the Russian classical cannon.

Those tempted into suppressing works of literature, religion and philosophy should read this informative book. May be it will convince them that censorship never works.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Crushing of Dissent at the ACLU

The ACLU preaches that "dissent is patriotic". However, as critics such as Nat Hentoff have pointed out, the leadership of the ACLU has a somewhat less indulgent view of dissent within their organization. Today, as the New York Times reports, a group of ACLU dissidents has gone public with their concerns:

More than 30 longtime supporters of the American Civil Liberties Union are calling for the ouster of the organization’s leadership, saying it has failed to adhere to the principles it demands of others and thus jeopardized the organization’s effectiveness.

The new group is made up of donors, former board and staff members, and the lawyer who won what was perhaps the A.C.L.U.’s most famous legal battle, its defense of the right of Nazis to march through a predominantly Jewish suburb of Chicago.

“We come together now, reluctantly but resolutely, not to injure the A.C.L.U. but to restore its integrity and its consistency of principle,’’ the group said in a mission statement to be posted on its Web site,, which is to go live today.

It would be easier to take the ACLU's knee-jerk opposition to every effort to defend America against jihadist terror seriously if the organization actually practiced what it preached.

Monday, September 25, 2006

One Year Ago

September 26, 2005 was a momentous day in my life. For one thing, it was the day that I spent 11 fun filled hours at the Military Entrance Processing Station in Raleigh, culminating in the oath to "bear true faith and allegiance" to the Constitution. Thus, I officially became a member of the Army National Guard.

So you can imagine how weird it felt when my recruiting sergeant dropped me off at work that evening, only for me to find out that my 15 seconds of notoriety in the library profession had begun. For that was the same day that my "now infamous article", as Greg McClay called it, appeared on the Chronicle of Higher Education web site. Click on the links below to relive the magic:

-"The Loneliness of a Conservative Librarian" (From the September 30, 2005 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education).

-My September 2005 archives.

-I posted this response to some of the criticisms of my article on October 3rd.

-Finally, the fun isn't complete without a visit to the Chronicle's forum on my article.

Portrait of a Banned Author

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Emily Parker offers a fascinating look at Ha Jin, an award-winning Chinese novelist whose books are essentially banned in his home country:

BOSTON--Ha Jin did not jump at the chance to be interviewed. "I don't know much about most things," he protested when I sent him my request. "If you have a subject of which I am ignorant, I may not be able to do much."

After assuring the writer that we would discuss topics that he knows about, I went to his office at Boston University, where he is currently teaching literature and creative writing. The gray-haired, slightly rumpled Ha Jin came downstairs to meet me. Upon noticing that I was holding two shopping bags, he insisted on carrying them as we walked over to a nearby Cambodian restaurant. Throughout our dinner, Ha Jin responded to allusions to the great success of his novels--"Waiting" won the National Book Award in 1999 and "War Trash" the PEN/Faulkner in 2005--with a detachment that bordered on bewilderment.

Such humility is striking, considering that Ha Jin may very well be the most important Chinese novelist today. His realist portrayals of Chinese history and society tell a story that the outside world doesn't often get to hear. And rarely are accounts of moral depravity and human suffering so elegantly told. It is for these very reasons that Ha Jin is having a hard time getting his books published in China.

With the exception of "Waiting," the saga of one man trapped in a loveless marriage, Ha Jin has not been able to get a single book published on the mainland. While his work has not been explicitly "banned" by authorities, the government has sent out clear signals to publishers that taking on his work would be a very bad idea. Comments in the state media, for example, criticized his work, and mainland publishers got the message.

Who Will Tell the Story of China?

A Very Special Library

The AP has a fascinating article on a very unique library: the one that's part of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility:

A detainee library is housed in a trailer inside the Guantanamo Bay prison complex. Even as U.S. military commanders are tightening controls over detainees to try to prevent attacks on guards, library books are being delivered to all the detention camps, officials said.

Nonfiction particularly philosophy, biographies and Arabic history is most popular, the librarians say. But fiction is also big. Popular authors include Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese-American; Agatha Christie; and J.K. Rowling, who penned the Harry Potter series about an English wizard in training.

The detainees are avid readers, according to the librarians. With detainees largely confined to cramped cells most of the day, reading provides an outlet and can help take their minds off the prospect that they may be jailed for years or even the rest of their lives with no trial.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Trouble in the UK

Courtesy of Norm Geras comes this troubling account of the state of public libraries in the UK:

1) The minister for libraries has no power to administer libraries--this is handled by local authorities; 2) Expenditure on books has fallen from 14.4% to 8.5% of the budget over the past decade; 3) The collection has been reduced in the same period by 20 million books; 4) 100 libraries have been threatened with closure this year; 5) 1,000 library buildings in England are no longer fit for use (30% of the total); 6) The Museums, Libraries & Archives Council has spent £4m on various consultants since it was formed; 7) Libraries are chronically short of books, and those with poor stock fail to attract users; and 8) In spite of words to the contrary, the government and the MLA seem bent on turning libraries into community centres, outreach posts, and IT training camps.

I also learned that the annual UK public library book acquisition budget is £90m, the cost of "selectors" is £45m, the cost of acquisition processes is £200m, and the annual revenue and capital cost of the library service is £1.3bn. During the past decade, overhead costs have risen by 5% p.a.; book purchasing has fallen at the same rate. In short, public libraries are in crisis.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Attention: Arizona Libraries

A public service announcement courtesy of LISNews:

Bookmans (used books and media) in Tucson and other AZ locations have 80,000 popular fiction titles in their warehouse -- more than they can sell. They are willing to donate these books to a Friends group (or, perhaps, more than one), and perhaps even share the cost of shipping.

See the original post for contact information.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Restricting Access to Jihadist Literature

American Libraries reports that an Australian library has restricted access to the works of jihadist ideologist Abdullah Azzam, due to possible legal consequences stemming from the Australian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2005.

American Libraries, in its headline, refers to the books in question as "alleged jihad books". There is nothing "alleged" about the status of Azzam's works in the pantheon of jihadist literature. Azzam was the leader of the foreign jihadists who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980's, and the mentor of Osama bin Laden. Together with bin Laden, he founded the organization that eventually became al Qaeda. As Chris Suellentrop once put it, Azzam was the "Lenin of international jihad". Even today, 17 years after Azzam's death, his books remain highly influential in jihadist circles.

So, is restricting access to Azzam's books the proper course of action? No, frankly it's silly and counterproductive. For one thing, Azzam's works are readily available on the Internet. Even if you deny aspiring jihadists access to hard copies of his writings, they can still easily get to them online. More importantly, such restrictions get in the way of scholars, students, and members of the general public who want to learn more about the adversary we face. We should be making resources about the nature of Salafist-Jihadism easier to get to, not preventing people from using them. Just as anyone who wanted to understand the threat posed by the Third Reich needed to read Mein Kampf, so people in today's world need to examine the writings of Azzam, Qutb, Maududi and Faraj. Nothing makes the threat posed by jihadism clearer than to read the actual writings of its adherents.

Fighting Islamist Censorship in Indonesia

Indonesia is the world's most populous majority Muslim nation. It is also a democracy where a moderate form of Islam has traditionally been practiced. Unfortunately, radical Islamism has made some disturbing inroads in Indonesia in recent years. As Daveed Gartenstein-Ross points out in a recent essay, many of Indonesia's intellectuals and entertainers are fighting back:

INDONESIA is currently embroiled in a high-stakes culture war between forces dedicated to Islamic law and more secular-minded citizens devoted to the freedoms and rights enshrined in the country's constitution. While Islamic conservatives have made significant gains, the entertainment industry is emerging as a major arena of opposition to their highly restrictive vision for society.

This opposition is sometimes subtle, sometimes bold. One entertainer who positively courts political controversy is pop singer Inul Daratista, whose suggestive dancing has gotten her banned from several Muslim-dominated towns and earned her the ire of the Indonesian Ulemas Council. Meanwhile, singer Ahmad Dhani of the popular rock band Dewa has released several hit songs whose lyrics aim to undercut the allure of Islamic militancy among Indonesian youth.

One of the most fascinating figures to watch is filmmaker Joko Anwar, who views Indonesian filmmaking in a political context. "We always try to push the envelope," he says, "either politically or on romantic things." They often succeed.

Movie Stars vs. Islamists

Thankfully, people like Joko Anwar have recognized early on the necessity of resolutely opposing the Islamists if Indonesians are to maintain their freedoms. This is a lesson that many in Europe and elsewhere have sadly failed to learn.

"Prophet Muhammed didn't ban music and dance"

On Sunday, an Italian nun was murdered in Mogadishu, Somalia. This vile act was almost certainly a twisted response to the recent remarks by Pope Benedict XVI. Unfortunately, it is also part of a pattern since an Islamist movement known as the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) seized control of Mogadishu and the surrounding region:

The nun was the latest victim in a wave of slayings of both foreign workers and moderate Somali intellectuals that has coincided with the rise of the Islamic radicals.

Among them were Swedish journalist Martin Adler, who was killed in June during a demonstration in Mogadishu, and a prominent Somali peace activist, Abdulkadir Yahya Ali, who was murdered a month later. BBC journalist Kate Peyton was shot dead last year.

Somehow, I doubt these murders are a coincidence. Since seizing power, the ICU has cracked down brutally on a variety of forms of free expression. The recent censorship of a Somali radio station that dared to play love songs is just one example. This Jamestown Foundation profile of one of the ICU's leaders, Sheikh Abdulkadir Ali Omar, gives a good overview of the crackdown. Keep in mind that the Jamestown analyst considers Omar a "moderate":

It was Omar who also spoke after the courts announced a crackdown on secular entertainment spots, saying that the militias would crack down on halls that defy the order to show Western films and videos, including the 2006 Soccer World Cup. He said, "this was the courts' war against all people who show films that promote pornography, drug dealing and all forms of evil...We shall not even allow the showing of the World Cup because they corrupt the morals of our children whom we endeavor to teach the Islamic way" (The News [Pakistan], September 18). Again, when the courts on August 23 banned the export of rare animals and charcoal, Omar told the press that the decision was reached after the committee was briefed on the dangers posed by the indiscriminate cutting of the country's trees. He further told the journalists that the directive had been sent to all involved in the charcoal trade and would be enforced in all areas under ICU control.

The ICU has even announced plans to use Somalia's high schools as military training camps.

Recently, a Somali journalist named Bashir Goth published a stinging indictment of the ICU. The following passage in particular is worth quoting:

"The warlords used brute force to coerce people and the Islamists use brute religion to dehumanize people. They ban music not because it is against religion but because it is beyond their realm of control. They close cinema houses and theatre not because they spread vice but because they want to keep the people in the dark. They hide women not because Islam orders their mummification but because Islamists suffer from a masculinity problem. They think he who is not a master of his wife cannot be a master of others. Power and tyranny is their ultimate goal and tyranny should first crush and subdue the weak so the strong could tremble. Anyone who wants to see where the Islamists would like to lead Somalia should only see how they treat women, music and ideas. These three elements constitute the beauty, spirit and future of any nation. In a story published by the Islamist Qaadisiya website on the graduation of 140 women who completed a course on cooking and handicrafts at a center called Asma Bint Omair Center, reflects a glimpse of what is in store for women. Only pictures of the Islamist officials who attended the ceremony and row after row of food was shown. It seems as if the photographer tried to accentuate his frustration by showing many food items, as he was not allowed to show the faces of women for whom the ceremony was held."

As with Taliban ruled Afghanistan and Fallujah in 2004, Somalia under the ICU is yet further evidence of the totalitarian vision underlying radical Islamism.

Filling in the Gaps

P.J. O'Rourke has a hilarious takedown of anti-American novelist and Waffen SS veteran Gunter Grass in the September 25th Weekly Standard. Definitely give it a read.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A New Low Dishonest Decade

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

W.H. Auden, September 1, 1939

Auden wrote this poem upon receiving news of the German invasion of Poland that officially started World War II. Sadly, we now find ourselves in the midst of another low dishonest decade. This was brought home by the repugnant spectacle of Hugo Chavez's bizarre, unhinged tirade before the United Nations General Assembly:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez tore into his U.S. counterpart and his U.N. hosts Wednesday, likening President Bush to the devil and telling the General Assembly that its system is "worthless."

"The devil came here yesterday," Chavez said, referring to Bush, who addressed the world body during its annual meeting Tuesday. "And it smells of sulfur still today."

The most depressing thing was not Chavez's rant; this was to be expected from a fascist demagogue. No, the truly telling part was the response from many of the other world leaders in attendance, as recorded by the AP:

Chavez's words drew tentative giggles at times from the audience, but also applause at the end of the speech and when he called Bush the devil a word he used no fewer than eight times.

With every day that passes I am convinced that we're living in a bizarre reenactment of the 1930's.

Islamists vs. Free Expression in Europe

In a piece for the English language edition of Der Spiegel, Claus Christian Malzahn lays out the recent history of Islamist attacks on European critics of Islam. As Malzahn points out, the jihad against Pope Benedict is merely the latest example of a long and depressing trend:

Twenty years ago in the German city of Bremen, Dutch comedian Rudi Carrell's life depended on police protection. His offense? In a satirical program on German television, he let fly with a lewd joke about the then leader of the Iranian revolution Ayatollah Khomeini. Mass demonstrations in Iran -- orchestrated, no doubt, by the government -- were the result. The threats of violence led to an apology by Carrell, and he never again made a joke about any Muslim -- at least not on television.

In February 1989, the Ayatollah then released a fatwa calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie for his novel "The Satanic Verses." The book, he and other Muslim leaders claimed, was a grave misrepresentation of Islam. Rushdie's Japanese translator lost his life as a result of the fatwa and Rushdie himself went into hiding, though the Iranian leadership distanced itself from the fatwa in 1998. There remain, however, a number of fanatical Muslims who yearn to see Rushdie dead.

Feminist and Islam critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Dutch parliamentarian who recently left Holland, also lives under threat of murder. In addition to a number of interesting books about the oppression faced by women in the Muslim world, she also wrote the screenplay for the short film "Submission." In one scene, a verse from the Koran -- demanding that women bend to the will of their husbands -- is projected onto a woman's naked body. The film was provocative, and the filmmaker Theo van Gogh paid for it with his life. He was killed on the streets of Amsterdam by a Muslim fanatic.

And then there's Flemming Rose, the Danish editor who a year ago published a series of Muhammad caricatures in his newspaper. Months after they originally appeared, the Muslim world erupted in protest against the drawings. He too must fear for his life.

Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, the Pope -- Who's Next?

(Link courtesy of Watch)

If Europeans refuse to defend their rights of free speech and expression from the Islamists, they may well end up losing them.

A Different Approach to Banned Books Week

This Saturday marks the beginning of Banned Books Week. While I share the belief in intellectual freedom that inspires BBW, I dissent from ALA on where the main threat to that ideal comes from. Let's just say that I believe there are far greater threats to intellectual freedom in this world than idiots who want the Harry Potter books removed from their local school media center. I'll have more in a few days. In the meantime, Freadom has an excellent post on ways to support those who are struggling for intellectual freedom in other nations.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Recommended Readings

This is a drill weekend, the first one with my actual unit. No more recruit sustainment drills, no more Initial Entry Training. As a result, no posts until Sunday or Monday. In the meantime, here are a few links of interest:

-Mike Palmer has some interesting thoughts on the anti-Papal jihad.

-Harry's Place reminds us that Sunday is the Global Day for Darfur.

-The latest issue of the anti-totalitarian journal Democratiya makes for interesting reading, as usual.

-Finally, if you really have some free time, take a look at Martin Amis' lengthy, thought-provoking essay The Age of Horrorism, from last Sunday's Observer.

The Taha Murder

A group purporting to be a local arm of al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the brutal murder of Sudanese journalist Mohammed Taha. AP has the details:

The claim in the slaying of Mohammed Taha Mohammed Ahmed, whose body was found last week, was issued by a previously unknown group called al-Qaida in Sudan and Africa. The authenticity of the claim, posted on the Web site of Al-Arabiya television, could not be independently confirmed.

Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was based in Sudan until the late 1990s when the government threw him out and he moved to Afghanistan. Since then, members of the group have operated in eastern Africa. But until Tuesday's claim, no group had announced itself as al-Qaida's branch in Sudan, along the lines of those in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.

Ahmed, the editor-in-chief of Al-Wifaq, was snatched from his home in eastern Khartoum on Sept. 5 and his body was found a day later.

"Thanks to God's grace, ... execution was carried out against a dog of the dogs of the ruling party, the atheist journalist Mohammed Taha, who defamed our Prophet Muhammad," the statement said.


Ahmed sparked controversy last year after his paper republished an article from the Internet that questioned the parentage of the Prophet Muhammad. In May 2005, scores of Sudanese gathered in front of the capital's courthouse demanding a death sentence for Ahmed.

The paper was temporarily suspended by the government and was eventually fined more than $3,000. Ahmed apologized in a letter to the press saying he did not intend to insult the prophet. Blasphemy and insulting Islam can bring the death penalty in Sudan, which has been governed by strict Islamic Sharia law since 1983.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"It is useless to air music"

On Sunday, the Islamist regime in Somalia shut down a radio station for the horrific crime of playing love songs. The AP provides the details and some context:

Islamic militants controlling much of southern Somalia shut down a radio station Sunday for playing love songs and other music, the latest step to impose strict religious rule which has sparked fears of an emerging, Taliban-style regime.

Since sweeping to power over much of southern Somalia, including the capital Mogadishu, in June, the Islamists have banned movie viewing, publicly lashed drug users and broke up a wedding celebration because a band was playing and women and men were socializing together.

The group closed Radio Jowhar because the programs were un-Islamic, Islamic official Sheik Mohamed Mohamoud Abdirahman said. It was the only radio station in Jowhar, some 55 miles from Mogadishu.

"It is useless to air music and love songs for the people," Abdirahman said.

The next day, the Islamists allowed the station to go back on the air, provided that it no longer played any music:

Radio Jowhar can only broadcast news bulletins and readings from the Quran and other Islamic lectures, according to Said Hagaa Ahmed, director of Jowhar's only radio station.

Unfortunately, the case of Radio Jowhar is not unique. Islamists possess an almost pathological hatred of any form of expression that doesn't fit within their totalitarian vision of Islam. Here, courtesy of Norm Geras, is what the godfather of Salafist-Jihadism, Sayyid Qutb, thought of jazz:

... a type of music invented by Blacks to please their primitive tendencies - their desire for noise and their appetite for sexual arousal...

Harry's Place points out the disturbing similarity between Qutb's attitude towards jazz and that of some other 20th Century totalitarian ideologues. This is worth keeping in mind whenever someone tries to argue that radical Islamists merely hate our policies.

Debunking the "Squandered Sympathy" Myth

It has become conventional wisdom that the US enjoyed almost universal sympathy and support in the wake of the 9/11 atrocities, only for the Bush Administration to throw it all away by unilaterally invading Iraq. In today's Daily Telegraph, Anne Applebaum provides a valuable corrective to this narrative. Writing of the initial British reaction to the terrorist attacks, Applebaum points out the following:

But it's also true that this initial wave of goodwill hardly outlasted the news cycle. Within a couple of days a Guardian columnist wrote of the "unabashed national egotism and arrogance that drives anti-Americanism among swaths of the world's population". A Daily Mail columnist denounced the "self-sought imperial role" of the United States, which he said had "made it enemies of every sort across the globe".

That week's edition of Question Time featured a sustained attack on Phil Lader, the former US ambassador to Britain – and a man who had lost colleagues in the World Trade Centre – who seemed near to tears as he was asked questions about the "millions and millions of people around the world despising the American nation". At least some Britons, like many other Europeans, were already secretly or openly pleased by the 9/11 attacks.

And all of this was before Afghanistan, before Tony Blair was tainted by his friendship with George Bush, and before anyone knew the word "neo-con", let alone felt the need to claim not to be one.

The dislike of America, the hatred for what it was believed to stand for – capitalism, globalisation, militarism, Zionism, Hollywood or McDonald's, depending on your point of view – was well entrenched. To put it differently, the scorn now widely felt in Britain and across Europe for America's "war on terrorism" actually preceded the "war on terrorism" itself. It was already there on September 12 and 13, right out in the open for everyone to see.

Anti-Americanism preceded the Bush Administration, and it will be around long after January 2009.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Passing the Test

David French writes for National Review Online about his decision to join the Army Reserve at 36. It's pretty obvious why I'm linking to this one, but this passage in particular speaks far more eloquently than I could about why I made a similar decision:

Everywhere I went (especially on campus), the war in Iraq was the hot topic. Casualties mounted and our unity faded into a quaint memory of 9/11 telethons and Congressional singalongs. Whenever someone asked me my opinion, I always said the same thing: “This is a test of our national character. Do we have the courage to engage in a long war against an enemy that seeks not just to kill us but to undermine our will to fight?”

And then last summer I read about the Army’s recruiting shortfalls and thought to myself, we’re failing the test. But as soon as those words crossed my mind, I felt convicted. We are not failing the test. I am failing the test. National will is a reflection of millions of individual choices, and the choice I had made to this point was to simply stand aside and lament others’ decisions. But that was no longer enough. And so then, finally, I joined.

Please read it all:

“Dad, What Did You Do in the War?”

The Terrorist and the Author

On August 30, renowned Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz passed away at the age of 94. Mahfouz had the unique honor of being the only Arab novelist to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, in 1988. Sadly, he also held a far more common status among Middle Eastern authors: victim of Islamist violence as a result of his writings. This article from the Christian Science Monitor explains:

On Oct. 14, 1994, as Mahfouz left his house with a friend to attend his legendary weekly diwan with other writers and thinkers at a Nile-side cafe, a man stabbed him in the neck. At his trial the attacker, later executed, said he was inspired by Rahman's comments.

"He was the number one soft target in Egypt,'' says Raymond Stock, an American translator and writer currently working on a biography of Mahfouz. "To the Islamists, he symbolized unbelief and support for Israel - all the things they hate the government for. They couldn't get to the leaders, so they went after him."

The "Rahman" mentioned above is none other than Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the infamous "Blind Sheikh". One of Egypt's leading clerics and most influential Islamist ideologues, Rahman became the "spiritual leader" of that country's jihadist movement. Both Osama bin Laden and his Egyptian deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, regard Rahman as a mentor.

In 1990, Rahman was allowed to come to the United States, and settled in Jersey City, New Jersey. People in his circle were involved in the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. That same year he was arrested after inciting his followers to attack various New York landmarks. In 1995, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

To this day, the imprisonment of Rahman remains a featured item of al Qaeda when laying out the sins of the infidel West. In his videotaped remarks from Monday, Ayman al-Zawahiri said the following:

"I call on every Muslim to make use of every opportunity afforded him to take revenge on America for its imprisonment of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman".

So why did the Islamist fanatic who tried to murder Naguib Mahfouz think that he was doing Rahman's bidding? In 1989, Rahman was asked by a reporter for his opinion on the Satanic Verses controversy. The Monitor piece summarizes the "Blind Sheikh's" response:

Had Mahfouz been murdered for his allegorical 1959 book "Children of the Alley," in which a poor Cairo father represents God and his sons Jesus, Mohammed, and other prophets, Mr. Rahman said Mr. Rushdie would never have dared to write "The Satanic Verses,'' notwithstanding the fact that Mahfouz's book was banned across the Arab world.

After his conviction in the US, journalist Mary Anne Weaver interviewed the "Blind Sheikh" in prison. Among the topics was Rahman's connection to the attempt on Naguib Mahfouz's life. Even though he denied any involvement, Rahman's response provides a chilling insight into the Islamist attitude towards intellectual freedom:

At first, Rahman said Islamic militants could not be responsible. "Why?" Weaver asked. They knew where the novelist was for decades, he replied. Why stab now? he shrugged. Weaver then asked Rahman if he issued a fatwa declaring Mahfouz an apostate. Rahman said he did not. He elaborated: Before Mahfouz's stabbing, a journalist had interviewed Rahman about another matter entirely, Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. Rahman told Weaver he told the reporter that if "we had punished Naguib Mahfouz for what he wrote in Children of Gebelaawi," Rushdie would "never have dared to write that book."

Weaver asked, "How should Mahfouz have been punished?" Rahman explained that Mahfouz would be brought before a committee of religious scholars who would judge whether his novel had abandoned Islamic beliefs. Mahfouz could have presented a defense. If the scholars judged him guilty, he would be given a chance to repent.

"And if he doesn't?"

"Then he will be executed."

(Emphasis added-DD)

Remember this the next time the same jihadists who admire the "Blind Sheikh" talk about how much they desire freedom.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering the Victims

On this 5th anniversary of 9/11, please remember all those murdered on that horrible day.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Wrong Approach: Part Two

A second book related to Cuba has been challenged in the Miami-Dade County Schools. The objection to the book involves its inclusion of photos showing a "child with a rifle and children saluting the Cuban flag with the caption, “We will be like Che!”". The reaction of a local ACLU official, who speaks of a "growing book-banning cancer", is typically hysterical.

I fully understand why the Cuban-American mother who has brought the challenge wouldn't want her children, or any others, to see photos of children subjected to communist indoctrination. Still, as with the previous case in Miami-Dade, withdrawing the book is the wrong way to address these concerns.

Khatami: A Textual Analysis

Writing for the Weekly Standard web site, Joseph Loconte explains why former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami, currently in the US on a two week visit, isn't quite the "moderate" he is portrayed as:

WHEN MOHAMMAD KHATAMI emerged as president of Iran in 1997, many liberals swooned in delight at the appearance of a self-styled Islamic reformer and moderate. The New York Times announced that Khatami was "dedicated to relaxing or eliminating . . . political and religious repression." Here was a reasonable man, it was argued, who sought to steer a course between "regressive" Islam and absorption by the secular West.

As the former Iranian president concludes his "dialogue" tour of the United States--he is the highest-ranking Iranian official to visit since the 1979 revolution--his cheerleaders should reflect on his book Islam, Liberty and Development. Released just after he came to power, this political tract illustrates why "reformers" in Iran should not be taken at face value.

To be fair, Loconte makes clear that Khatami is not a radical in the mold of his successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Still, he is anything but a democrat:

ALONGSIDE ALL THIS, however, there's another Khatami on display: the revolutionary Shia Muslim determined to fulfill "the utopian vision" of an Islamic kingdom "inside and outside Iran." This Khatami sounds less like a Jeffersonian democrat and more like an al Qaeda operative. The West, he claims, has only one objective: to compel people everywhere "to surrender to its wishes" and to seize the world's resources "to serve the imperialist power." Khatami goes on to describe Iran's struggle against Western values as "central to our survival." Any compromise, he warns, would lead to "nothing but debasement and trampling on our pride." Any attempt at reconciliation would be exploited by an opponent who would "stop at nothing" to subjugate all who stand in his way.

A careful reading of Khatami's book reveals his rejection of the core political-religious creed of Western democracy: the inalienable, God-given rights of the individual against the coercive power of the state.

In his chapter "Religious Belief in Today's World," for example, there is not a hint of the modern concept of freedom of conscience. Khatami insists that true religious experience "flows from the depth of the soul"--but offers no assurance that he would leave the soul unmolested in his quest to construct an Islamic utopia. In his "Observations on the Information World," Khatami regards access to communication technologies as essential to economic development--yet says nothing about freedom of speech, the cultural engine behind such advances.

Khatami may not be a truly radical Islamist, but he is far too wedded to Khomeiniist ideology to be a true reformer. As president of Iran, he did little more than put a moderate face on a brutal Islamist agenda.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Old-Timers in Green

Wednesday's Christian Science Monitor has an article on a topic I'm very familiar with: people over 35 who join the Army. I haven't really blogged about my own military experiences to date, so this is a good chance to start:

In an Army platoon where the average age is 21, they call him the old man.

But when the platoon marched onto Range 18 one day last week in basic training, Pfc. Russell Dilling - at 42, the oldest-ever recruit in the modern Army - delivered. He was among a dozen of 60 recruits who dinged enough targets to qualify for the rifle certificate on his first try - a major psychological hurdle for would-be soldiers.

Damn, he qualified with his weapon on the first try. Let's just say I didn't, and leave it at that.

Private Dilling's success on Range 18 was a quiet affirmation for a graying computer repairman given a second chance when the Army raised its enlistment age limit from 35 to 42 in June. "I told my sons never to have regrets," he says a day after the shooting test as he catches breaths at a team-building challenge course deep in the Fort Jackson woods. "Well, I finally took my own advice."

In an era when professional athletes compete into their 40s, Congress approved the change to help the Army, which came up short in its recruiting effort in the first half of 2005. But some military experts say it's a criticism of the world's most powerful volunteer army that, for the first time, appears unable to rouse enough young men and women to do what has typically been a young person's job.

When I joined last fall, the age limit was 39, and only for National Guard and Army Reserve. The active Army age limit was still 35. Would I have gone active duty if I had the choice? Probably not, just because I still want to keep at least one foot in the library world. I always have the option of switching over to the active Army, and I have thought seriously about it.

As for the statement that the Army is "unable to rouse enough young men and women" to fill the ranks, the author himself belies this assessment just two paragraphs later:

So far, the move has had a minor effect on overall enlistment, with 405 recruits over age 35 and 11 over age 40 joining the Army. Still, the numbers are part of a brighter recruitment picture for the Army that made its quota for 14 straight months, according to Army officials at Fort Knox, Ky.

My own experience reflects these numbers. In my 55 person Basic Training platoon, there was me at 38, two 34 year old men, two 36 year old women, and a 39 year old woman. Out of 205 people in our company, there was a 40 year old and at least one other 38 year old (both men).

At AIT, there was me, a 39 year old, and a 38 year old, out of a 90 person platoon. In both Basic and AIT, the overwhelming number of soldiers fell within the 18-25 age range.

The paragraph that struck me as being most relevant to my Initial Entry Training experience is this one:

But there's a reason recruits are called "fresh-faced." Most have never been exposed to the rigors of reveille and the attitude of perpetual physical and mental readiness that a soldier faces. Spending 20 years of adulthood in the American mainstream - watching "Everybody Loves Raymond" and eating fried chicken - makes for a stark contrast to the Army's mess-hall food and its sweltering barracks. Never mind the 10-mile marches.

In some ways, I did have a harder time adjusting to the Army then my younger comrades. It wasn't in terms of the physical aspects, though. Between Basic and AIT, I passed all four of my PT tests. While I couldn't do things quite as fast as some of the young guys, I could still do them. The other over 35 recruits did just as well if not better.

I had two main sources of difficulty in Basic Training. One was Basic Rifle Marksmanship, which I struggled with before finally qualifying. The other was psychological, and the Monitor article hints at it. This was the culture shock that resulted from going from a fully independent, self-reliant adult to essentially being treated as a child under lockdown. The loss of privacy, the second class status you have as a recruit in Basic, and the total lack of control over my life all bothered me more than any of the physical challenges.

If you are curious why I didn't blog during Basic, it's because I was forbidden any access to computers, as well as books, magazines, newspapers, and a host of other things. This sense of almost complete isolation from the world was the most difficult part of Basic Training for me. In AIT, where we were allowed far more freedom, this ceased to be an issue.

Speaking of things that bothered me, there's this part of the Monitor article:

But critics say adding older recruits is a sign of desperation for the Army - and a condemnation of the war effort from broader American society.

"It's true that people are living longer and people with more experience are needed, but let's face it: This initiative is about people from the normal demographic group not signing up in the midst of an unpopular war," says Loren Thompson, a military expert at the Lexington Institute in Washington.

Of course, just a few paragraphs earlier, the reporter from the Monitor revealed that "people from the normal demographic group" are in fact signing up in the numbers needed. The North Carolina National Guard has already exceeded its recruiting goal for the year, and I can assure you that it's not because of old guys like me.

The implication that over 35 soldiers are merely a poor substitute for younger recruits is particularly insulting. We bring maturity, life experience, work skills, and educational background that most 18-22 year olds simply don't have. Far from being a "sign of desperation", we older recruits are actually a genuine asset to the Army.

Finally, this paragraph illustrates the camaraderie that is the key to making it through Basic:

Dilling has made an impact on Alpha Company's 4th Platoon, 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, his superiors say. Sure, he gets some jive for his age, but when he struggled through his first qualifying run, a gaggle of soldiers joined him on the track, urging him on.

This is exactly what happens in Basic, because I benefited from similar displays of support. In fact, there's almost no way I would have made it through Basic without it. Unless you're a total douchebag, the men and women in your platoon will support you 110%. This camaraderie is what I miss most about the Army.

Overall, I'm glad I decided to join the Guard, and proud that I somehow managed to survive Initial Entry Training. Whatever "hardships" I had to endure pale beside the sacrifices of those who've served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Good luck to PFC Dilling. If I made it, he certainly can.

Murder in Sudan, Revisited

This AP article provides additional background on the murder of Sudanese journalist Mohammed Taha Mohammed Ahmed:

In May 2005, scores of Sudanese gathered in front of the capital's courthouse demanding a death sentence for Ahmed for insulting Islam, by republishing an article from the Internet that questioned the parentage of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Al-Wifaq daily was fined $3,200, and was temporarily suspended by the government for the article, which angered Muslims of different sects.

Ahmed denied the blasphemy charges and apologized in a letter to the press, saying he did not intend to insult the prophet.

This piece of information from the AP is particularly chilling:

Blasphemy and insulting Islam are crimes that can carry a death penalty in Sudan, which has been governed by strict Islamic Shariah law since 1983.

The BBC analyzes the broader impact of this atrocity:

The BBC's Alfred Taban says the killing has shocked Sudan. Although Mr Taha had criticised many different groups, they are all united in mourning him.

Mr Taha's paper angered Islamists last year and some have been arrested.

Our correspondent says journalists in Sudan are scared, fearing they could be next if they do something to annoy the Islamic fundamentalists.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Sadly, the Sudanese journalists have ample reason to be afraid.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Khatami Visit

Iran's former president, Mohammad Khatami, is currently in the midst of a visit to the US. Among other things, Khatami has been giving interviews in which he insists on the peace loving nature of the Iranian regime and blames George W. Bush for the problems of the Middle East.

Khatami has been widely portrayed as a moderate, and it's true that he is certainly less radical than his successor. Yet, as MEMRI helpfully reminds us, Khatami's "moderation" is not quite what some have made it out to be.

National Review Online recently published a symposium on the issue of the Khatami visit. While I don't agree with all the views expressed there, a number of the participants certainly provide some badly needed perspective on just how "moderate" Khatami's Iran really was. In the words of Pooya Dayanim:

During the Khatami era, freedom of press and assembly was relaxed by the Iranian intelligence and security apparatus to lull the reformists and true democrats into a false sense of security; thousands and thousands of students, journalists, women, clerics, and women started to express their opinions freely. For their foolish faith, many of them would pay. Khatami was president during the biggest crackdown on the Iranian media since the beginning of the Iranian revolution. Khatami was president when Jews were sent to prison on charges of espionage. Khatami was president when Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi was killed and Khatami was president when thousands of university students were arrested after the 1999 student rioting. I could go on.

While Khatami gets ready to feast at the banquets being thrown in his honor, Ahmad Batebi, the hero of the 1999 student movement, must prepare himself for another day of torture and beatings in solitary confinement.

In light of Khatami's visit to the National Cathedral, the views of Nina Shea are especially relevant:

It is worth remembering that, Khatami’s insistence on dialogue between cultures notwithstanding, there has been none of it in revolutionary Iran. In addition to being listed as a terrorist state, and one of the triumvirates of the “axis of evil,” Khatami’s Iran was designated by the United States government as a “Country of Particular Concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act — that is, one of the world’s worst religious persecutors. All of Iran’s religious minorities — Bahaiis, Assyrian Christians, Catholics, Anglicans, Armenians, Evangelicals, Mandeans, Jews, and Zoroastrians — have suffered. Their numbers have steadily dwindled as they have fled religious oppression in their homeland; the presence of the ancient Assyrians and Mandeans is approaching statistical insignificance.

The Bahai, who started as a reformist movement within Shiite Islam in Iran in the early 19th century, are seen as heretics. Over 200 of their leaders have been killed by the government, while some ten thousand have been purged from government employment and schools. They have had no rights to property, and can’t officially marry or be buried in their religion. According to law, their blood is “Mobah” — it can be spilled with impunity and no one can be punished for murdering them.

The other Abrahamic faiths, officially “protected” by the state, are forced to abide by Islamic rules and live in great insecurity. Christian and Jewish grocery shop owners have been required to post their religion on their store fronts. Jews, whose numbers have been reduced to about a third of their pre-1979 population, have faced relentless state-sponsored anti-Semitism. Some were arrested and put on trial for spying for Israel under Khatami, until being later freed after international protest. Christians have been vulnerable to apostasy charges, with some imprisoned and others killed by government-linked death squads.

But the persecution that is the hallmark of Iran’s theocratic regime affects not only non-Muslim minorities. Muslims who do not subscribe to Iran’s state doctrine of Jafari (Twelver) Shiism have also been subject to bigotry and persecution. Sunnis and Sufis have regularly been discriminated against and banned from teaching their religion, as well as, on occasion, detained and tortured for their religious beliefs. Those Shiites who dare to dissent from state orthodoxy, too, have been arrested and tried for the capital offense of blasphemy, for the “crime of thinking,” as one Iranian Shiite reformist teacher said at his 2004 trial. Hundreds of newspapers have been shut down and many writers and journalists punished, with some even killed, for their views under Khatami. Shiite women have been harshly restricted and treated as inferiors under state-enforced religious law. Cases of women stoned for adultery surfaced during Khatami’s tenure.

If Khatami is a moderate, it is truly frightening to think of what the radicals will do.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Murder in Sudan

With Sudan's Islamist regime poised to take its genocidal campaign in Darfur to the next level, with the full blessing of China, the Arab League, and others, it might seem unimportant to focus on a single murder in that beleaguered land. Sadly, this particular crime appears to be yet another case study in the murderous Islamist assault on intellectual freedom:

A Sudanese newspaper editor who was kidnapped by unknown armed men was found beheaded on Wednesday, a day after he was reported snatched from outside his home in the capital Khartoum, an Interior Ministry source said.

A photograph showed Mohamed Taha's body bound at the feet and hands with his severed head next to his body, a Reuters witness said.

(Emphasis added-DD)

To be fair, it's not completely clear that Mr. Taha was murdered because of his views. However, this bit of information is certainly suggestive:

Taha was arrested last year and his al-Wifaq paper closed for three months after it published a series of articles questioning the roots of the Prophet Mohammed, which were condemned by Sudan's powerful Islamists.

(Emphasis added-DD)

As this point, I think the infamous words of Mohammed Bouyeri, murderer of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, are worth repeating:

I was motivated by the law that commands me to cut off the head of anyone who insults Allah and his prophet.

It is very likely that Mr. Taha's murder was more than a singular act of barbarism; it was a direct assualt on intellectual freedom in Sudan.

Maoism in Peru: Opposing Perspectives

In his December 2005 missive on Maoism, Mark Rosenzweig wrote the following:

In Latin America (Peru for instance, but elsewhere too) Maoism is an important component of counter-systemic armed opposition to the gross social and economic inequalities and inequities of that continent.

In a piece originally written for New English Review, Theodore Dalrymple describes what this "counter-systemic armed opposition" to "social and economic inequalities" actually looked like in practice. His perspective is just a little bit different from Rosenzweig's:

The worst brutality I ever saw was that committed by Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) in Peru, in the days when it seemed possible that it might come to power. If it had, I think its massacres would have dwarfed those of the Khmer Rouge. As a doctor, I am accustomed to unpleasant sights, but nothing prepared me for what I saw in Ayacucho, where Sendero first developed under the sway of a professor of philosophy, Abimael Guzman. I took photographs of what I saw, but the newspapers deemed them too disturbing to be printed. Human kind at breakfast can bear very little reality. But I also found it difficult to persuade anyone by means of words of the reality of what I had seen: most people nodded and thought I had finally gone mad. On the plane back from Peru, I delighted a worker for Amnesty International when I described to him some of the bad behaviour of the Peruvian Army; but when I described what I had seen Sendero do, incomparably worse, I might as well have talked to him of sea monsters, and of giant squid that could drag nuclear submarines to the depths.

(Belated thanks to Walter Skold, who was the first to let me know about the "Mao missive".)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

9/11 Deniers in Action

Hot Air has a mind boggling video featuring 9/11 deniers expressing some of the most vile and stupid things you will ever hear. If you want to know why I despise the 9/11 denial movement, just play the file.

If that's not bad enough, see also this jihadist video love letter to Michael Moore.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Pot, Please Meet Kettle

RedState's Pejman Yousefzadeh delivers a dead on fisking of Keith Olbermann's hysterical MSNBC rant from last week. The utter logical absurdity and historical illiteracy of Olbermann's remarks are well worth noting. His attempt to claim the mantle of Winston Churchill for latter day appeasers like himself, his praise of respectful dissent while implying that Donald Rumsfeld is a fascist, his condemnation of absolutes while simultaneously using them, were all breathtaking in their chutzpah. It seems never to have occurred to Olbermann that he exhibited the very traits he sought to condemn.

It Started with Book Burning

“Where one burns books, one will, in the end, burn people.” - Heinrich Heine

In a terrific piece for the Foreign Policy web site, James G. Forsyth traces the origins of jihadist terror in the UK to the 1989 campaign waged against the publication of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses. As Forsyth makes clear, the same worldview that inspired radical Islamists to burn books also leads them to bomb trains and airliners:

Jan. 14, 1989, is a date that means little to most Britons. But any attempt to understand Britain’s current predicament—the investigations into 70 homegrown terror plots, the phrase “enemy within” being thrown around with abandon, and Muslim leaders demanding Islamic law for Muslim family matters—must start there.

That Saturday, following the public burning of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses in the northern city of Bradford, the country’s largest bookseller withdrew the book from public view in that city. In the Muslim community, it was shown that those who advocated the rule of the mob—not the rule of law—got results. The British authorities demonstrated that they would abandon liberal values for the false promise of the quiet life. That decision has resulted in a situation where British citizens blow themselves up on buses and subways, plot to take down passenger jets, and young British Muslims believe in surprising numbers (31 percent, according to the most recent poll) that their country’s foreign policy justifies terror attacks.

The mob in Bradford burnt the Satanic Verses because it regarded the book as blasphemous. They had every right to do what they wanted with their purchased copies, but no right to intimidate bookshops into pulling it from their shelves. Nor should the police have helped persuade bookstores to give in to this pressure. The situation became even more disturbing after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini called for Rushdie's head on Feb. 14, 1989. The call was frequently repeated in Britain, despite a British law that makes incitement to murder punishable by a maximum of life imprisonment. (The year prior to the Rushdie protests, there had been more than a thousand prosecutions for incitement.) Demonstrations against the book frequently resulted in chants of “Kill Rushdie, Kill Rushdie.” Perhaps the most egregious case was that of the late British Muslim activist Kalim Siddiqui, who told a public meeting, “I would like every Muslim to raise his hand in agreement with the death sentence on Salman Rushdie. Let the world see that every Muslim agrees that this man should be put away.” Still, the Crown Prosecution Service refused to act, perhaps fearful of a poplar backlash. Polls showed almost a third of British Muslims agreed with Siddiqui and the ayatollah.

The most disgraceful aspect of the Rushdie affair was the unwillingness of UK authorities and political leaders to stand up in defense of their own society's principles:

Meanwhile, British politicians failed spectacularly to understand what was at stake. The deputy leader of the Labour Party said that the paperback edition of the book should be canceled. Conservative parliamentarians groused that the price of freedom was too high, and Rushdie ultimately felt obliged to contribute 100,000 pounds to the cost of protecting his own life.

The ultimate result of this indulgence of hatred and lawlessness was the dramatic growth of radical Islamism among British Muslims, as witnessed by these poll numbers:

After 9/11, the British attitude to these emissaries of hate stiffened, with polls showing 93 percent support for apprehending those who aid and abet terrorists. But the reaction was too late. The poison had already spread. Polls revealed that 57 percent of British Muslims regarded the campaign against the Taliban as a war on Islam, 40 percent thought those Britons who went to fight with the Taliban were justified, and 15 percent viewed the attacks on the Twin Towers as in some way warranted.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Keep in mind that these numbers are in reference to the Afghanistan campaign, and that Iraq was still ruled by Saddam Hussein when this poll was taken.

In short, the Islamist campaign against The Satanic Verses was more than a vile attack on intellectual freedom: it was the first step in a long process of radicalization that now poses a substantial danger to the UK and its allies. By tolerating book burning in the name of multiculturalism, the British authorities paved the way for radical Islamists to move on to terrorism and mass murder.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Answering Cartoons with Bombs

Recently, German authorities discovered an attempt to place bombs on board two trains. Several suspects have been arrested, and this AP article explains the motivations of the terrorists:

The prime suspects in the failed attempt to blow up two German trains were partially motivated by anger over the recent publication of Prophet Muhammad cartoons, a leading investigator said in an interview released Saturday.

The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten first published the 12 cartoons in September 2005, including one showing Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb.

Some of the caricatures were republished in German newspapers and other European media months later, sparking protests across the Muslim world, where many considered the cartoons a violation of traditions prohibiting images of their prophet.

Jihad Hamad told Lebanese interrogators that fellow suspect Youssef Mohamad el Hajdib considered the publications "an attack of the Western world on Islam," Joerg Ziercke, head of Germany's Federal Crime Office, told Focus magazine in an interview released to The Associated Press ahead of publication.

(Emphasis added-DD)

If we really want to appease the jihadists by changing our policies, the "policies" we will have to give up include little things like freedom of expression.

Update: 9-4-06. Lorenzo Vidino has more on the links between the attempted German train bombings and the Danish cartoons in this post at the Counterterrorism Blog.

Debunking 9/11 Denial

Saturday's New York Times had an article describing two new government publications debunking the infantile nonsense of the 9/11 deniers. The reports are available from the following links:

National Institute of Standards and Technology

Department of State: International Information Programs

The State Department resource is especially interesting as it is part of a broader site designed to debunk various myths and conspiracy theories. It's encouraging to see that people are finally recognizing the need to combat the spread of 9/11 denial and other ridiculous theories.

(Times link via LGF)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Unearthing Maoism's Legacy

Last December, in the midst of the Little Red Hoax controversy, Mark Rosenzweig posted this paean to the continuing relevance of Maoism to the ALA Council listserv:

Well, my friends, let me explain. There are, strange though it may seem to some of you, large parts of the world where the experiences
of the Chinese Revolution with which Mao was so centrally involved,
seem peculiarly relevant even today to, for example, landless
peasants who make up a large portion of the world's population, and
where 'Maoism' is a very living movement with mass involvement,.

Of course, in the very next paragraph, Rosenzweig put out the following disclaimer:

I say this without the slightest intention of arguing for the theory and practice of this ideology or thebalance sheet of the results of it in the 20th Century.

Yeah, right. If I was a communist, I'd probably skip over all that Great Leap Forward - Cultural Revolution - Khmer Rouge stuff too.

Among the Maoist groups Rosenzsweig mentioned is the New People's Army, a Maoist insurgent organization located in the Philippines. Rosenzweig expressed his disbelief that the US classifies the NPA and other Maoist groups as Foreign Terrorist Organizations.

Why am I posting about this now? Because it was just reported that mass graves containing up to 300 of the NPA's victims from the 1980s have just been found. I think this discovery more than explains why the US Government and so many others consider the NPA to be terrorists.

Friday, September 01, 2006

D'Artagnan Converts to Islam?

Courtesy of Harry's Place, here's the story of a milder form of Islamist censorship taking place in Turkey. Instead of banning books, the Islamists are merely rewriting them to their liking:

In one translation, Geppetto's little son Pinocchio says "Give me some bread for the sake of Allah," and gives thanks to "Allah" when he becomes an animated marionette.

In Dumas' "Three Musketeers," D'Artagnan while on his way to see Aramis is stopped by an old woman who explains: "You can't see him right now. He is surrounded by men of religion. He converted to Islam after his illness."

Eleanor H. Porter's "Pollyanna" confirms her belief in the Muslim apocalypse, while La Fontaine's fisherman prays using Muslim terminology to catch more fish.

Spyri's Swiss orphan Heidi is told by Ms. Sesasman that "praying is relaxing."

"Invented" phrases employing Muslim terminology were also inserted into classics from masters such as Anton Chekhov and Oscar Wilde.