Tuesday, July 31, 2007

ALA Council and Dina Carter

Five years ago today, nine people were killed when a bomb exploded in the cafeteria of the Mount Scopus Campus of Hebrew University, Jerusalem. At least three of the dead were Americans. One of them was a woman named Dina Carter, and she was a librarian.

At ALA's 2003 Midwinter meeting, ALA Council passed a resolution honoring the memory of Dina Carter. You can read it for yourself here. That they should pass a memorial resolution for Ms. Carter is entirely appropriate. Unfortunately, the resolution they actually passed is a case study in moral cowardice. If I may quote the following passages:

Whereas, ALA condemns the violence that resulted in the loss of Dina Carter's life; and

Whereas, ALA abhors the loss of all innocent lives, including Dina Carter's, during the recent conflict in the region; now therefore, be it

The "violence that resulted in the loss of Dina Carter's life"? The phrase virtually drips with nauseating equivocation. You would think Ms. Carter had died as a result of some unfortunate act of nature, independent of all human will and action. You would, of course, be wrong. Please allow me to fill in the gaps.

The Hebrew University bomb was the handiwork of a Palestinian terror cell belonging to Hamas. Overall, the cell managed to murder 35 people before being apprehended. Far from expressing any regrets over the loss of life he caused, the cell's leader actually wrote a bomb-making manual called The Engineers of Death, which was smuggled out of prison and is now being sold in Palestinian bookshops.

Of course, the Hebrew University atrocity is just one of many committed by Hamas. According to the MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base, 85% of Hamas' attacks have been against "Private Citizens & Property". An offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas' Islamist agenda is spelled out in its 1988 covenant. The covenant declares that all of Palestine will be made into an Islamist state, governed by Sharia law. The fact that the covenant cites the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a source (see Article 32) should tell you all need to know about the fate of Israeli Jews if Hamas gets its way.

In short, Dina Carter did not die because of nameless, impersonal violence. She was murdered, in an inexcusable act of terrorism perpetrated by an Islamist organization. An organization committed to the destruction of the nation where Ms. Carter lived and worked, that has tried to ban books from libraries, and uses lovable cartoon characters to indoctrinate children with its message of hatred and fanaticism.

Regardless of one's position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is no cause that justifies planting a bomb in a university cafeteria, and no moral or logical way to justify such an act as legitimate resistance. ALA Council has had no problem condemning the actions of the US government, but yet it couldn't bring itself to condemn a terrorist attack on a university campus that claimed the life of a librarian, nor even mention the name of the Islamist terror organization that carried it out. Instead, Council did nothing but issue a resolution that is a textbook example of politically correct nonsense.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Desecration and Double Standards

Courtesy of Hot Air, Christopher Hitchens weighs in on a recent incident at Pace University where a student has been charged with two counts of criminal mischief for leaving two copies of the Quran in toilets. This was a thoroughly imbecilic and disgraceful thing to do, and the misdemeanor charges are completely justified (especially since they were someone else's Qurans). The problem is that the authorities have invoked the state hate crimes statute, meaning that the offenses are treated as felonies and the student could get at least two years in prison if convicted.

This is a textbook example of the problem with "hate crime" laws: they punish people for their beliefs, not their actions. The government has no business doing so, no matter no vile or idiotic the beliefs in question.

In his column, Hitchens provides some badly needed perspective on this case. In particular, he notes the appearance of a disturbing double standard:

Before me is a recent report that a student at Pace University in New York City has been arrested for a hate crime in consequence of an alleged dumping of the Quran. Nothing repels me more than the burning or desecration of books, and if, for example, this was a volume from a public or university library, I would hope that its mistreatment would constitute a misdemeanor at the very least. But if I choose to spit on a copy of the writings of Ayn Rand or Karl Marx or James Joyce, that is entirely my business. When I check into a hotel room and send my free and unsolicited copy of the Gideon Bible or the Book of Mormon spinning out of the window, I infringe no law, except perhaps the one concerning litter. Why do we not make this distinction in the case of the Quran? We do so simply out of fear, and because the fanatical believers in that particular holy book have proved time and again that they mean business when it comes to intimidation. Surely that should be to their discredit rather than their credit. Should not the "moderate" imams of On Faith have been asked in direct terms whether they are, or are not, negotiating with a gun on the table?

The Pace University incident becomes even more ludicrous and sinister when it is recalled that Islamists are the current leaders in the global book-burning competition. After the rumor of a Quran down the toilet in Guantanamo was irresponsibly spread, a mob in Afghanistan burned down an ancient library that (as President Hamid Karzai pointed out dryly) contained several ancient copies of the same book. Not content with igniting copies of The Satanic Verses, Islamist lynch parties demanded the burning of its author as well. Many distinguished authors, Muslim and non-Muslim, are dead or in hiding because of the words they have put on pages concerning the unbelievable claims of Islam. And it is to appease such a spirit of persecution and intolerance that a student in New York City has been arrested for an expression, however vulgar, of an opinion.

This has to stop, and it has to stop right now. There can be no concession to sharia in the United States. When will we see someone detained, or even cautioned, for advocating the burning of books in the name of God? If the police are honestly interested in this sort of "hate crime," I can help them identify those who spent much of last year uttering physical threats against the republication in this country of some Danish cartoons. In default of impartial prosecution, we have to insist that Muslims take their chance of being upset, just as we who do not subscribe to their arrogant certainties are revolted every day by the hideous behavior of the parties of God.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Blogroll Updated

As I like to do every few months, I have reorganized the blogroll. Some links have been added, some deleted. Feel free to peruse and share any thoughts or comments.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Raul's First Anniversary

It has been almost a year since Raul Castro stepped in for his ailing brother Fidel. Unfortunately, according to Reporters Sans Frontieres, the status of free expression in Cuba remains just as dismal:

Since Raúl became acting president, three journalists have been imprisoned and some 40 others and been subjected to searches, summonses for questioning by the political police, physical attacks or threats.

“One dictatorship succeeded another in the 1959 Cuban revolution,” Reporters Without Borders said. “And now, the first year of Raúl Castro’s presidency has not resulted in any significant change either. The repressive methods have evolved slightly, going from massive round-ups and Stalinist trials to everyday brutality against dissidents, but Cuba continues to be the world’s second biggest prison for journalists.”

The press freedom organisation added: “Raúl Castro’s tentative desire for an ‘opening’ has never been translated into action. Under Spain’s aegis, there has been a return to dialogue with the Cuban government, but the international community must clearly raise the issue of free expression. There will be no progress if the taboos remain in place.”


According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (a group that is illegal but tolerated by the government), Cuba currently has a total of 246 prisoners of conscience including 25 dissident journalists.

Twenty of them - including Reporters Without Borders correspondent Ricardo González Alfonso, the founder of the magazine De Cuba - were arrested during the “Black Spring” crackdown of March 2003 and were given sentences ranging from 14 to 27 years in prison. They continue to be mistreated by prison guards and held in cells that are unfit for habitation, and their health has suffered as a result.

Meanwhile, the BBC is reporting that prominent Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya says almost 50 years of repression is enough:

A leading Cuban dissident has called on the island's acting President Raul Castro to free all political prisoners and allow multi-party elections.

Responding to Mr Castro's Revolution Day speech, Oswaldo Paya said the government punished enough people for holding different political opinions.

The BBC notes that "it is the very public nature in which he made the remarks" that makes Mr. Paya's declaration unique. His statement is a welcome sign that, in spite of the continued repression, there may be hope for change after all:

Dissidents like Mr Paya, who have languished in the political wilderness in Cuba for decades, are keen to take advantage of the ongoing political uncertainty that continues to reign on the island since Mr Castro's temporary departure.

In fact, it could be argued that Mr Paya's comments, while officially directed at Raul Castro, also serve as a reminder to the Cuban people and the international community that there is, despite government claims, a real opposition in Cuba which is prepared to enter the political fray if and when the time is right.

Hopefully, the right time will come soon.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Harry Potter and the Zionist Conspiracy

The invaluable MEMRI Blog reports that the new Harry Potter book will be available in Iran. However, not everyone is happy about it:

In an article, the Iranian daily Kayhan, which is identified with Iranian Supreme Leader 'Ali Khamenei, criticized Iran's Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry for approving the distribution of the new book in the "Harry Potter" series.

The paper said that "Harry Potter" was a Zionist project in which billions of dollars had been invested in order to disrupt the minds of young people.

Someone remind me to say "hi" to J.K. Rowling at the next meeting of the Neocon Zionist conspiracy.

Islamic Creationism

One of the dilemmas that is always mentioned in library school during collection development class is what to do with unsolicited gift books. Of particular interest are those items that are donated directly to libraries by advocacy groups or individuals with a strong point of view on a particular topic. As librarians, we have a responsibility to build collections that represent a wide variety of viewpoints. Still, when someone donates a book that represents an extreme, or shall I say reality challenged, position, this can create a difficult decision.

The July 17th New York Times had an interesting article on just such a book. A work that, among other things, offers a new spin on an old controversy:

In the United States, opposition to the teaching of evolution in public schools has largely been fueled by the religious right, particularly Protestant fundamentalism.

Now another voice is entering the debate, in dramatic fashion.

It is the voice of Adnan Oktar of Turkey, who, under the name Harun Yahya, has produced numerous books, videos and DVDs on science and faith, in particular what he calls the “deceit” inherent in the theory of evolution. One of his books, “Atlas of Creation,” is turning up, unsolicited, in mailboxes of scientists around the country and members of Congress, and at science museums in places like Queens and Bemidji, Minn.

At 11 x 17 inches and 12 pounds, with a bright red cover and almost 800 glossy pages, most of them lavishly illustrated, “Atlas of Creation” is probably the largest and most beautiful creationist challenge yet to Darwin’s theory, which Mr. Yahya calls a feeble and perverted ideology contradicted by the Koran.

In bowing to Scripture, Mr. Yahya resembles some fundamentalist creationists in the United States. But he is not among those who assert that Earth is only a few thousand years old. The principal argument of “Atlas of Creation,” advanced in page after page of stunning photographs of fossil plants, insects and animals, is that creatures living today are just like creatures that lived in the fossil past. Ergo, Mr. Yahya writes, evolution must be impossible, illusory, a lie, a deception or “a theory in crisis.”

Mr. Yahya, of course, has every right to produce and disseminate his work. If he started sending it to libraries, however, would we be obligated to accept it? If he sent one to my library, and I was asked to decide whether or not we keep it, I would almost say "yes", just to preserve the book as a curiosity piece if nothing else. I'm interested to hear what others might think about this.

Banning "Hate Speech" in Canada

Tuesday's Washington Times documents an absurd attempt at online censorship in Canada. Apparently, a private individual filed a "hate speech" complaint with the Canadian government after reading a comment on an ultra conservative message board:

The remarks were posted on FreeDominion.ca, a sister site to the conservative U.S. forum FreeRepublic, by FreeDominion member Bill Whatcott, a former homosexual prostitute turned outspoken Christian activist.

“I can't figure out why the homosexuals I ran into are on the side of the Muslims,” Mr. Whatcott wrote on the Web site. “After all, Muslims who practice Sharia law tend to advocate beheading homosexuals.”

He also attributed the worldwide Muslim fury at the Danish Muhammad cartoons to “violence and discrimination inherent in Islamic theology.”

The complaint, which has not been made public, reportedly said the posting “has a discriminatory content against Muslims, and Free Dominion contributes to disseminating hate literature by allowing it to be on its Web site.”

Regardless of the merit of Mr. Whatcott's remarks, the idea of running to the government every time you read something online that offends you is ridiculous. Encountering opinions that offend you is what a society based on free expression is all about. It's what gives you the right to express opinions that might offend others. This is why "hate speech" laws are a bad thing: they are an invitation to censorship.

Hopefully, common sense will prevail, and Canada's Human Rights Commission will refuse the role of politically correct cybernanny.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Darfur Documentary Banned

Courtesy of Dhimmi Watch, the Darfur Awareness Blog tells how Sudanese ruler Omar al-Bashir prevented the Al Arabiya satellite network from broadcasting a documentary about the genocide in Darfur. Unfortunately, this is just one example of the Sudanese regime's concerted efforts to suppress the truth about events in that region.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Cartoon Irony

Courtesy of Tim Blair, the one and only Joe Bob Briggs weighs in on a situation that epitomizes the word "irony":

When you publish a book called Killed Cartoons: Casualties from the War on Free Expression, the whole point would seem to be that you're speaking up for unfettered satire. Apparently not. The publishers of Killed Cartoons ... killed one of the cartoons!

The cartoon in question involved a certain historical religious figure. Unless you've been living under a rock this decade, you can probably guess which one.

Update: 7-24-07. I just found out the tragic news that Doug Marlette, the author of the cartoon in question, was killed in an auto accident two weeks ago.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

(Un)Happy Press Day

Today is National Press Day in Azerbaijan. Azeri journalist Rafiq Tagi, who was convicted in May of the "crime" of writing an article criticizing Islam, is spending it in prison. He and his editor, Samir Sadaqatoglu, are only two of the seven Azeri journalists currently imprisoned by the Azeri regime. In the words of the Committee to Protect Journalists, "Azerbaijan is the region’s leading jailer of journalists and one of the world’s worst backsliders on press freedom".

Letter from a Muslim Freethinker

Speaking of Irshad Manji's web site, her letters page contains this must read from a young woman known as "Dalia":

"Irshad, I'm 21 years old... I live in the West Bank... I think... And I'm honest with myself. A few days ago an online friend from the UK told me about ur book. I did check the web and downloaded the Arabic version e-book and also downloaded ur documentary 'Faith Without Fear' and watched it last night... I was happy because finally someone spoke up and said a true word...

Here in Palestine I'm accused [of] so many different things... very much like what u r accused of... being mossad or zionist and faithless. My dad thinks I'm buddhist too!!!!! Wow wow wow wow...

I was hit and shut up and abused by my own family because I think in a different way... Two years ago I escaped from home trying to get somewhere else where I can have some free space to think and talk to people... My try failed and they brought me back home through their relations with people in our great government and intelligence system...

The house was very much like a volcano at that time... They thought I went out of my mind... Or a "genni" was inside of me... And so my dad wanted to burn my books and threatened to kill me on many occasions... At that point I realized that talking to them was in vain and I decided to keep silent and think on my own...

Please click here to read the rest, as well as thoughts from other freethinking Muslims.

Muslim Refusenik Blocked in the UAE

Irshad Manji's web site Muslim Refusenik is now inaccessible in the United Arab Emirates. The official justification is that Irshad's site is "inconsistent with the religious, cultural, political and moral values of the United Arab Emirates."

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Islamists Greet Harry Potter

In Karachi, Pakistan, radical Islamists "celebrated" the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in their own inimitable fashion. Reuters has the details:

Pakistani police defused a car bomb outside a shopping mall in Karachi overnight, forcing a bookshop to cancel a live telecast from London of the launch of the latest Harry Potter book, police said on Saturday.

Pakistan is in the grip of a terror scare, after Islamist militants launched an offensive, often using suicide attacks, that has so far killed 180 people this month.

The bookshop in Karachi's up-market Park Towers mall had hoped to attract young and old fans of the fictional boy wizard for the launch at 4 a.m. on Saturday (2300 GMT Friday).

Instead, police cordoned off the mall after receiving an anonymous tip-off by telephone.

Two boxes containing between 10 and 12 kg of RDX explosive were found inside a stolen Suzuki car.

"We defused both bombs. These were highly explosive RDX," Mohammad Iqbal, head of bomb disposal squad, said.

To be fair, there are some Islamists who do appreciate Harry Potter.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Cartoon Followup

In response to this post on the latest twist in the Danish Cartoon controversy, Art Deco asks:

On what basis did the plaintiffs in France and Denmark initiate a suit against Jyllands Posten?

Unfortunately, I can't really answer that question in detail. In terms of the Danish lawsuit, the most detailed explanation I've come across is this March 30, 2006 article from CBC:

A group of 27 Muslim organizations has filed a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper that first published the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that led to protests around the world.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday, two weeks after Denmark's top prosecutor declined to press criminal charges, saying the drawings that sparked a firestorm in the Muslim world did not violate laws against racism or blasphemy.

Michael Christiani Havemann, a lawyer representing the Muslim groups, said the lawsuit sought the equivalent of about $18,800 Cdn in damages from Carsten Juste, editor-in-chief of Jyllands-Posten newspaper, and culture editor Flemming Rose, who supervised the cartoon project.

"We're seeking judgment for both the text and the drawings, which were gratuitously defamatory and injurious," Havemann told the Associated Press.

The lawsuit in France was actually not directed against Jyllands Posten, but rather targeted Charlie Hebdo, a French magazine that republished the cartoons. A February 9, 2007 piece from the Christian Science Monitor provides some background:

Now, with feelings still slightly raw in Europe's neighborhoods, the cartoon case is echoing in a Paris court – over a satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, that reprinted the cartoons exactly a year ago. Charlie Hebdo's cover depicted the prophet covering his eyes, next to the line, "Mohammed overwhelmed by extremists," and thinking to himself, "It is hard to be worshiped by idiots."

In the heat of the moment two French Muslim groups filed suit, citing laws forbidding injury caused by religious slander that carry fines and a sentence.

The trial raises larger questions about how far Europe is or should be accommodating values claimed by the Muslim world. But in the current election season here it has turned into a hot platform for French candidates to espouse issues like free speech. Every leading candidate made an appearance, including front-runner Nicolas Sarkozy, who wrote a note saying he'd rather have "an excess of [cartoon] caricatures, than an absence of caricatures."

Lawyers for the Muslims, including a legal aide to French President Jacques Chirac, say Charlie Hebdo ridiculed Islamic clerics, and incited hatred against all Muslims, as part of a "considered plan of provocation."

While both lawsuits were dismissed, the Monitor article points out a troubling trend:

Indeed, while French intellectuals may have adopted an absolute position against abridgement of free speech – Europe's actual approach to the issue has dramatically reversed in the past decade.

Ethnologist Jeanne Favret-Saada of the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris and author of a forthcoming book on the Danish cartoons says, "We Europeans have completely changed positions on secular versus religious issues, and on freedom of expression. During the fatwa on [Salman] Rushdie in 1989 [for his book "The Satanic Verses"], there was unanimity on the question of free expression. It was not debated. But today part of the left has taken the view that the Danish paper was racist."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sharia Coming to "Pleasure Island"

The BBC reports on the latest example of the Talibanization of northern Nigeria:

The Sharia police, or Hisbah, say they will soon commence raids in an enclave in northern Nigeria's ancient Muslim city of Kano - dubbed by locals as "pleasure island".

The Hisbah have given themselves the task of enforcing morals and Islamic law in the city, but so far have largely left Sabon Gari, or New Town, alone, complete with its bars, brothels and night-clubs.

But they say they must stamp out such "sinfulness" in case it "pollutes" the rest of the city.

At first glance, this story sounds absurb. Unfortunately, the implementation of Islamic sharia law in northern Nigeria has been no laughing matter:

Kano is among a dozen states in northern Nigeria practising Sharia law, despite initial strong opposition from the federal government, Christians and human rights groups.

More than a dozen Muslims have been sentenced to death by stoning for sexual offences like adultery and homosexuality since the Sharia legal system was introduced in 2000.

Many others have been sentenced to flogging for drinking alcohol.

Two petty thieves have also had their hands amputated - but no death sentences have so far been carried out.

The article expresses some doubts as to how successful this new campaign will be, and does a wonderful job of illustrating how the radical Islamist vision of sharia flies in the face of human nature. The majority of Muslims, in Nigeria and elsewhere, have no wish to experience the totalitarian "virtue" offered by the Islamists. Unfortunately, Islamist ideology has spread far enough in the Muslim world that, even if Islamism does ultimately collapse from its own absurdities, its adherents can inflict an enormous amount of damage in the process.

RFK Jr. Revisited

Writing at National Review Online, Marlo Lewis discusses Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s recent Live Earth comments. Mr. Lewis begins by quoting Kennedy's now infamous remarks:

The most important thing you can do is to get involved in the political process and get rid of all of these rotten politicians that we have in Washington D.C.—who are nothing more than corporate toadies for companies like Exxon and Southern Company. These villainous companies that consistently put their private financial interest ahead of American interest and ahead of the interest of all of humanity. This is treason and we need to start treating them now as traitors.

Lewis ably points out the absurdity of Kennedy's comments:

The Constitution defines the crime very narrowly: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort” (Art III, Sec. 3, emphasis added).

Kennedy is trying to silence his political adversaries by driving the marketplace (politically incorrect energy companies) out of the marketplace of ideas. That may be disloyal to the spirit of the Constitution, but it is not treason. To be guilty of treason, for example, Kennedy would have to become an “American Taliban,” pledge allegiance to Bin Laden, or give aid and comfort to Al Qaeda.

For the same reason, Kennedy’s charge of treason against ExxonMobil and Southern Company is absurd calumny.

However, it would be a mistake to write off Kennedy’s rant as mere bombast or rhetorical excess. It is more likely a window into his belief system. Calling your political opponents traitors makes perfect sense if you see yourself as a combatant in a war. And many eco-activists do seem to view the global warming crusade as a holy war to save the planet, our democracy, even our very souls. Thus, they naturally regard their opponents as villains and traitors.

In my view, Lewis is dead on in his analysis of Kennedy's worldview. In January 2002, just four months after 9/11, Kennedy proclaimed large hog farms to be a threat "greater than that in Afghanistan". This is just one example among many of Kennedy's willingness to use hysterical rhetoric, gross exaggeration, and highly dubious evidence in support of his radical environmentalist agenda. Like so many true believers, Kennedy seems to think that mere factual accuracy is unimportant when compared to the higher "truth" that he knows to be absolutely correct.

On the other hand, though, you do have to consider Kennedy's occasional willingness to shelve his principles when they conflict with his personal interests, as with his opposition to a Nantucket wind farm project that would have marred his beautiful seaside vistas while on vacation.

To the best of my recollection, Kennedy never used the word "traitor" in his June ALA keynote address, though terms like "criminal", "thugs", and even "fascism" were used quite freely. To my particular ire, he even concluded by trotting out the "Chickenhawk" canard. So progressing to use of the word "treason" was not too much of a stretch for Kennedy.

In short, inflammatory, ad hominem rhetoric is par for the course for Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Danish Cartoon Update

Posting at Pajamas Media, Danish newspaper editor Flemming Rose discusses some new and potentially disturbing developments in the Danish Mohammed Cartoons controversy:

Islamic Society of Copenhagen can’t accept the secular laws of Denmark, and therefore they plan to seek support in the Middle East for a fatwa against Jyllands-Posten, if the newspaper is acquitted in a pending civic case, which a number of Muslim organizations has initiated against the paper, and if the European Human Rights Court also makes a decision that goes against the legal demands of the Muslims.

This is tomorrows top story in Jyllands-Posten.

”Until now nobody has had to answer for insulting our prophet. We have no choice but to ask for a fatwa,” says Kasem Ahmad, spokesman for Islamic Society, referring to the publication of the 12 cartoons of Mohammed in Jyllands-Posten September 30, 2005.

In November and December 2005 Islamic Society sent delegations to the Middle East deliberately giving false information about the situation for Muslims in Denmark, and bringing along offensive cartoons that were never published in any newspaper. Angry and violent demonstrations followed, 140-200 people were killed, most in Nigeria, Danish embassies were attacked and set on fire, and a region wide boycott of Danish product was initiated.

Jyllands-Posten was acquitted in the city court of Aarhus last year, but the Muslims have appealed the decision to a higher court.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Please read the rest.

It is vital that Denmark continue to stand up for free expression in the face of Islamist threats and intimidation.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Real Climate of McCarthyism

One of my main priorities last weekend was to pay as little attention as possible to the Live Earth series of concerts. For the most part, I was successful in this endeavor. Nothing against the music, I just wanted to avoid the sanctimony. I am indebted to Allahpundit at Hot Air, however, for bringing the one worthwhile part of this event to my attention.

Among the news articles and blog posts about Live Earth that I happened to come across after the fact, a familiar name caught my interest. Allow me to quote Newsday:

However, Etheridge aside, it was nonmusicians at this concert who made the most passionate pleas about demanding action for the environment. "Get rid of all these rotten politicians that we have in Washington, who are nothing more than corporate toadies," said Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the environmentalist author, president of Waterkeeper Alliance and Robert F. Kennedy's son, who grew hoarse from shouting. "This is treason. And we need to start treating them as traitors."

(Emphasis added-DD)

Yes, the American Library Association, in its infinite commitment to intellectual freedom, recently hosted a keynote speaker who likes to call his domestic political opponents "traitors". To be fair, I don't remember him using the actual word in his ALA keynote speech, but he might as well have. The rest, even the part about his voice sounding hoarse, is all too painfully familiar.

In 2003, American Libraries reported that James Neal, head librarian at Columbia University, "compared the current political climate in the U.S. to the McCarthy era". Four years later, he has been proven correct, though perhaps not in the way he envisioned.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Barbarism in Iran

One question that came up during Irshad Manji's talk at ALA Annual is whether or not Iran still uses stoning as a form of execution. Unfortunately, according to the BBC, that debate can now be put to rest:

The Iranian judiciary says a man has been stoned to death for adultery - the first time it has confirmed such an execution in five years.

Jafar Kiani was executed last week in a village in north-west Qazvin province.

Amnesty International said Mr Kiani and Mokarrameh Ebrahimi, 43, were convicted of adultery more than a decade ago.

The human rights group has appealed for Ms Ebrahimi to be spared. Adultery is a capital offence, punishable by stoning, under Iran's Islamic law.

In 2002, the judiciary suspended the practice.

This description from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) gives a sense of just how barbarous execution by stoning is:

It is also a gory spectacle. Condemned men are buried up to their waists, and women up to their chests, with their hands tied behind their backs before they are pelted with rocks until they die. Islamic code prescribes that the stone used for stoning "should not be so big as to kill the offender with one or two stones" and "nor should it be as small as pebbles."

In addition to death by stoning, Iran's legal code includes provisions for crucifixion, amputation, and flogging.

Unfortunately, there is evidence to suggest that Iran's 2002 moratorium on stoning has been honored in the breach. As Soheila Vahdati of the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign tells RFE/RL, Ms. Ebrahimi is in danger of meeting a similarly horrific fate:

"Unfortunately we don't have exact reports. Even her lawyer, Said Eghbali, who has been representing her for eight months, has been unable to see her [court] file," Vahdati said. "We don't have enough information about her situation. We know that she has two children who are with her in prison -- we don't know the exact age or sex of the children. But activists from the campaign in Iran are going to investigate and go to Takestan to find firsthand information. They want to do their best to prevent another stoning being carried out secretly."


Reports in late 2006 suggested that at least two people had been stoned to death earlier in the year and at least eight women faced stoning sentences.

In addition to judicially ordered stonings possibly being conducted in secret, there have been reports of Islamist vigilantes taking it upon themselves to murder "immoral" individuals by stoning. In April, Iran's Supreme Court confirmed the acquittal of 6 militiamen who committed several such murders in 2002 and 2003.

A number of news outlets have noted that the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is engaged in nothing less than a "cultural revolution" designed to turn back the clock to the despotic barbarism of the Khomeini era. The open return to execution by stoning, even if it does turn out to be limited, is another manifestation of this profoundly disturbing trend.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Stress Watch

The BBC has an interesting counterpoint to Sunday's New York Times article on librarian hipness. According to the Beeb, UK librarians are the polar opposite of the happy young hipsters taking over the field here in the US:

Fighting fires may sound taxing, chasing criminals demanding, but a new study says that working in a library is the most stressful job of all.

Librarians are the most unhappy with their workplace, often finding their job repetitive and unchallenging, according to psychologist Saqib Saddiq.

He will tell the British Psychological Society that one in three workers suffer from poor psychological health.

The study surveyed nearly 300 people drawn from five occupations.

They were firefighters, police officers, train operators, teachers and librarians and were intended to cover the spectrum, with the librarians first-thought to be the least stressful occupation.

Basically, the study defines librarians as "stressed" because they're underpaid, hate their jobs, and have high absenteeism. I'm sorry, that situation sucks, but it's not real stress. Dealing with IEDs and sniper attacks is stressful; having two BI sessions in a day isn't. Even during the new, toned-down Basic Training, I found myself pining for the days when my big worry was being swamped at the reference desk by students working on some of our least favorite assignments. Unfortunately, most of us in the West live such spoiled, sheltered lives, that we have little idea what real hardship looks like.

Update (7-11-07): Thanks to The Library Guy for pointing out that this item dates from January 2006, and to the other commenters for some good points. Somehow, I just happened to come across it a couple days ago. Still, an interesting juxtaposition after reading the Times piece.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Persecution of RafiqTagi Continues

Azerbaijani journalist Rafiq Tagi was sentenced in May to 3 years in prison because he wrote an article critical of Islam's impact on his country's development. His editor, Samir Sadaqatoglu, received a 4 year sentence. On Friday, an Azerbaijani appeals court upheld the verdicts. The Committee to Protect Journalists has some background:

Tagi and Sadagotoglu received death threats from Islamic hard-liners in Azerbaijan and neighboring Iran. Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Fazel Lankarani, one of Iran’s most senior clerics, issued a fatwa in November 2006, calling for the deaths of the two journalists, the BBC reported. Islamic radicals also attended the journalists’ trial in April and May. On April 26, a group of 40 activists openly threatened Tagi and Sadagatoglu and harassed several other journalists covering the trial, the Moscow-based media watchdog Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations reported.

Rasul Safarov, the presiding judge in the Court of Appeals, issued Friday’s decision to uphold the trial court verdict. The defendants were not in court on Friday; details of the appellate ruling were not immediately available.

“Rafiq Tagi and Samir Sadagatoglu have already spent eight months in prison simply for expressing an opinion,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “While we recognize some readers may have been offended by that opinion, there is no justification for jailing journalists for what they publish or threatening them with death. We call on Azerbaijani authorities to overturn this conviction and free both journalists immediately.”

The Tagi case is just one example of the brutal censorship and repression confronting Muslim dissidents and reformers. It would make a huge difference if just half the time and effort spent defending the rights of imprisoned terrorists could be dedicated to helping the victims of Islamist persecution. If those of us in the West won't stand with the Tagis and Sadaqatoglus of this world, then who will?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

"Hipster" Librarians

Greg McClay and Annoyed Librarian have already weighed in on today's New York Times librarian article. In case you haven't seen it yet, the piece discusses the "increasing number of librarians who are notable not just for their pink-streaked hair but also for their passion for pop culture, activism and technology." There's so much red meat on offer in this article that snarky comment on my part is mandatory.

Our story begins as follows:

ON a Sunday night last month at Daddy’s, a bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, more than a dozen people in their 20s and 30s gathered at a professional soiree, drinking frozen margaritas and nibbling store-bought cookies. With their thrift-store inspired clothes and abundant tattoos, they looked as if they could be filmmakers, Web designers, coffee shop purveyors or artists.

In other words they look and dress just like the rest of the urban dwelling liberal herd. I, for one, can't really criticize the clothing part, but I am more than happy to comment on the pathetic penchant for self-mutilation as self-expression. I think Theodore Dalrymple put it best:

What is striking about these “tattoo narratives” (as the author calls them) is their vacuous egoism. The interlocutors speak, and appear to think, in pure psychobabble, that debased and vague confessional language that allows people to imagine they are baring their souls when in fact they are exposing their shallowness. This is something the author does not notice because she herself belongs to the psychobabble culture. One cannot but feel sorrow for people who think that by permanently disfiguring themselves they are somehow declaring their independence or expressing their individuality. The tattoo has a profound meaning: the superficiality of modern man’s existence.

Alright, now that I've gotten my loathing for tattoos off my chest, back to the article:

“Did you try the special drinks?” Sarah Gentile, 29, asked Jennifer Yao, 31, referring to the colorfully named cocktails.

“I got the Joy of Sex,” Ms. Yao replied. “I thought for sure it was French Women Don’t Get Fat.”

Ms. Yao could be forgiven for being confused: the drink was numbered and the guests had to guess the name. “613.96 C,” said Ms. Yao, cryptically, then apologized: “Sorry if I talk in Dewey.”

That would be the Dewey Decimal System. The groups’ members were librarians. Or, in some cases, guybrarians.

Yeah, because nothing makes librarians look hip instead of nerdy like assigning Dewey Decimal numbers to drinks. "Guybrarians"? Wow, just wow.

“He hates being called that,” said Sarah Murphy, one of the evening’s organizers and a founder of the Desk Set, a social group for librarians and library students.

Ms. Murphy was speaking of Jeff Buckley, a reference librarian at a law firm, who had a tattoo of the logo from the Federal Depository Library Program peeking out of his black T-shirt sleeve.

An FDLP tattoo??? I am now officially embarrassed to be a government documents librarian.

Since then, however, library organizations have been trying to recruit a more diverse group of students and to mentor younger members of the profession.

“I think we’re getting more progressive and hipper,” said Carrie Ansell, a 28-year-old law librarian in Washington.

Yes, the library profession is trying to become "more diverse", and its efforts are paying off. Soon, the old, graying, dour generation of liberal and leftist librarians will be replaced by a young, hip, creative generation of liberal and leftist librarians. Give it up for diversity, baby!

How did such a nerdy profession become cool — aside from the fact that a certain amount of nerdiness is now cool? Many young librarians and library professors said that the work is no longer just about books but also about organizing and connecting people with information, including music and movies.

And though many librarians say that they, like nurses or priests, are called to the profession, they also say the job is stable, intellectually stimulating and can have reasonable hours — perfect for creative types who want to pursue their passions outside of work and don’t want to finance their pursuits by waiting tables. (The median salary for librarians was about $51,000 in 2006, according to the American Library Association-Allied Professional Organization.)

I think a woman I went to library school with put it best when she said that "librarians are surplus intellectual labor".

Alright, here's the part you've been waiting for:

Michelle Campbell, 26, a librarian in Washington, said that librarianship is a haven for left-wing social engagement, which is particularly appealing to the young librarians she knows. “Especially those of us who graduated around the same time as the Patriot Act,” Ms. Campbell said. “We see what happens when information is restricted.”

Ms. Campbell added that she became a librarian because it “combined a geeky intellectualism” with information technology skills and social activism.

Jessamyn West, 38, an editor of “Revolting Librarians Redux: Radical Librarians Speak Out” a book that promotes social responsibility in librarianship, and the librarian behind the Web site librarian.net (its tagline is “putting the rarin’ back in librarian since 1999”) agreed that many new librarians are attracted to what they call the “Library 2.0” phenomenon. “It’s become a techie profession,” she said.

(Emphasis added-DD)

The cycle perpetuates itself. Librarianship is now so politicized and laden with left-wing group think that it attracts people looking for such an environment. As for "social responsibility in librarianship", what can I say that I haven't already said before? Considering how that term is usually defined, put me in the social irresponsibility category, thank you very much.

To sum things up, the library profession has apparently made itself "hip" and "more diverse" by recruiting people who are indistinguishable in look and thought from the typical young urban ultra liberal. Yeah, sounds awfully hip and diverse to me.

The Broader Context of the Rushdie Affair

In a terrific piece for The Weekly Standard, Paul Marshall addresses the broader issues raised by Rushdie Affair 2.0. In his view, the truly important issue is being overlooked:

Equally worrying is that the way the "insulting Islam" story has been framed--freedom of speech versus insulting a religion--misses the crucial political question: Can there be open debate about Islam, especially among Muslims? This is revealed starkly by recent events in Egypt.

Marshall's article documents the Egyptian government's recent campaign of repression against a group of Muslim reformers called the Quranists. People like the Quranists offer the best hope of a tolerant, pluralist Islam that offers an alternative to Islamist totalitarianism. Unfortunately, the Egyptian government, like many other Muslim regimes, actively seeks to suppress Muslim dissidents and reformers as a way of appeasing the Islamists and burnishing its own Islamic credentials:

These arrests are part of the Egyptian government's double game in which it imprisons members of the Muslim Brotherhood when the latter appear to become too powerful, while simultaneously trying to appear Islamic itself and blunt the Brotherhood's appeal by cracking down on religious reformers, who are very often also democracy activists. A similar strategy was followed in the February 22 arrest of blogger Abdel Kareem Nabil, who was sentenced to four years in prison--one year for insulting President Hosni Mubarak, and three for "insulting Islam."

As Egyptian democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim has noted, reformers in the Arab world are caught between autocratic regimes and theocratic Islamists. While regimes such as Egypt's repress both reformers and Islamists, Ibrahim points out that the latter have one advantage over the former:

Well, the Muslim Brotherhood has an advantage and that is that they have the mosques. One hundred thousand mosques in Egypt, whereas the [Hosni] Mubarak regime has screwed down tightly on civil society, on the secular opposition, and therefore we could not operate. We could not do anything in the public square or in the street.

We could not organize rallies, we could not organize marches or demonstrations because of emergency laws. Emergency laws have been in effect since 1981, since the assassination of President [Anwar] Sadat. So for the last 26 years, these emergency laws have prevented secularists from going out and organizing and mobilizing.

It is particularly ironic that authoritarian regimes like Egypt's justify their repression on the grounds that the Islamists are the only alternative to their rule, when it is those very policies of repression that have prevented a moderate alternative to the Islamists from developing.

Ibrahim is actually optimistic about the long-term prospects for democracy in the Muslim Middle East, and even believes that Islamists can play a constructive role in this process. The recent actions of Hamas, though, seem to have given him some pause.

Marshall, on the other hand, points out that the continued ability of both Muslim regimes and Islamists to deny free expression makes the rise of a reformist alternative highly unlikely:

The Quranists' plight, mirrored in countless other cases in the Muslim world, shows that in defending those accused of "insulting Islam," there is far more at stake than a right to offend. Islamists and authoritarian governments now routinely use such accusations to repress political dissidents, writers, journalists, and, perhaps politically most important, religious reformers.

Such laws and threats are not a marginal religious quirk afflicting only cartoonists, converts, and controversial authors. They are a fundamental barrier to open religious discussion and dissent, and so too to democracy and free societies, within the Muslim world. Hence, removing legal bans on "insulting Islam" is an indispensable first step in creating the necessary space for debate that could lead to other reforms.

If, in the name of false toleration and religious sensitivity, free nations fail to firmly condemn and resist these totalitarian strictures, we will not only silence ourselves, but also abet the isolation and destruction of our greatest need and resource in combating radical Islam--courageous moderate Muslims.

The lack of intellectual freedom in the Islamic world has been one of the major factors in facilitating the spread of radical Islamism. Until this freedom deficit is addressed, the latter movement will continue to grow.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

"This is partisanship, not neutrality."

Congratulations to Norma at Collecting my Thoughts, who earned a Red State link for this post on the Progressive Librarians' Guild's plan to join forces with a new radical left coalition called the United States Social Forum. Courtesy of Norma's post, this link from the USSF site gives a wonderfully jargon-laden description of what "progressive" librarianship is about:

The Progressive Librarians Guild was established in 1990 with the recognition that the development of public libraries was initially spurred by popular sentiment which for one reason or another held that real democracy requires an enlightened citizenry, and that society should provide all people with the means for free intellectual development. Current trends in librarianship, however, assert that the library is merely a neutral institutional mediator in the information marketplace and a facilitator of a value-neutral information society of atomized information consumers. A progressive librarianship demands the recognition of the idea that libraries for the people has been one of the principal anchors of an extended free public sphere which makes an independent democratic civil society possible, something which must be defended and extended. This is partisanship, not neutrality...

(Emphasis added-DD)

Forget the jargon, that last sentence says it all.

The Motives for Islamist Terror

In the wake of last week's attempted car bombings in the UK, the debate over why radical Muslims resort to terrorism has been kindled anew. Considering that these incidents were just a few of the many examples of jihadist terrorism carried out by educated professionals, the idea that this phenomenon results from poverty and marginalization can be safely disregarded. Writing in The Australian, Irshad Manji offers an alternative explanation:

In short, it's not what the material world fails to deliver that drives suicide bombers. It's something else. Time and again, that something else has been articulated by the people committing these acts: their religion.

Consider Mohammad Sidique Khan, the teaching assistant who masterminded the July 7, 2005, transport bombings in London. In a taped testimony, Khan railed against British foreign policy. But before bringing up Tony Blair, he emphasised that "Islam is our religion" and "the prophet is our role model". In short, Khan gave priority to God.

Now take Mohammed Bouyeri, the Dutch-born Moroccan Muslim who murdered Amsterdam filmmaker Theo van Gogh. Bouyeri pumped several bullets into van Gogh's body. Knowing that multiple shots would finish off his victim, why didn't Bouyeri stop there? Why did he pull out a blade to decapitate van Gogh?

Again, we must confront religious symbolism. The blade is an implement associated with 7th-century tribal conflict. Wielding it as a sword becomes a tribute to the founding moment of Islam. Even the note stabbed into van Gogh's corpse, although written in Dutch, had the unmistakable rhythms of Arabic poetry. Let's credit Bouyeri with honesty: at his trial he proudly acknowledged acting from religious conviction.

The alleged ringleader of last week's attacks, a British born Iraqi doctor named Bilal Abdulla, was officially charged earlier today for his role in the attempted bombings. A look at Abdulla's motivations amply comfirms Manji's argument.

While a July 5 New York Times article describes Abdulla as having been radicalized by the Iraq war, other sources paint a different picture. According to the Times of London, Abdulla's radicalization began well before the invasion of his homeland:

A friend who attended the Medical College of Baghdad University with Dr Abdulla told The Times that he was a religious fanatic, and that in 2001 or 2002 he mysteriously abandoned his studies for a year.

“There was some talk that he went outside Iraq to develop his religious culture. I heard that he went to Lebanon or Pakistan,” the friend said.

On his return Dr Abdulla adopted a much more intense demeanour and isolated himself from his former friends. “He became more radical, but not to the degree that he took part in actual actions or clashes. He kept silent and became more isolated. He prayed and he kept himself away from the rest of the group.”


At medical school he fell in with “a group of radicals and extremists”. “They carried extremist thoughts,” said a friend, who also went to the elite college. “They had beards and talked about religion. He was against people wearing Western clothes and asked female doctors to put on a headscarf and gloves.”

(Emphasis added-DD)

Shiraz Maher, a former Islamist who knew Bilal Abdulla, paints an even more vivid portrait of his friend's fanaticism for the magazine New Statesman:

Bilal had grown up in Baghdad. He told me how he hated Saddam Hussein, how even after the American invasion his extended family stayed there. All were of the same ideological persuasion. All believed in Wahhabi ideology. He didn't see himself as being radical: he saw himself as following Islam. He developed a vitriolic hatred for the Shias after one of his closest friends at university in Iraq was killed by a Shia militiaman. He would say they needed to be massacred. He called them kafirs, disbelievers who insulted the Prophet.


I remember one incident well. Bilal lived above a Bengali restaurant. The other guy in his flat used to sing and play guitar, diabolically out of tune. I went round one day to Bilal's and heard this guy singing and wailing. I said, "What's this?" Bilal called him a "waster" and boasted to me that a few days earlier he had brought the guy into his bedroom. He sat him down and told him he needed to pray. He told him: "If you ever play again I'm going to smash the guitar." He then put on a video of al-Zarqawi beheading one of the hostages in Iraq. "If you think I'm messing about, this is what we do. This is what our people do - we slaughter." Bilal laughed when he recounted the story. I laughed with him, although I remember thinking the word slaughter was a bit disproportionate.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Abdulla's choice of targets is also illuminating. As Phyllis Chesler and Nancy Kobrin have noted, the first car bomb was set to go off outside a London nightclub on "ladies' night". While this wouldn't exactly have been a devastating blow against the British government, it would have murdered lots of decadent, immoral, infidels. This was not the first time jihadists have chosen to target such establishments, and it is reflective of, in James Robbins' words, "a basic rejection of the human spirit as expressed in any life-affirming activity."

In short, Abdulla, like most Islamists, was motivated at heart by a deep seated hatred of "immoral" and "un-Islamic" western society that transcends opposition to western political and military actions. The testimony of former Islamists only confirms this interpretation. In this prescient May 3 piece from the Guardian web site, Catherine Bennett quotes one such individual:

Some people do. Ed Husain, author of a revealing and alarming account of his experiences inside radical Islam, said of the "slags" comment: "That was me, man. That's classic Hizb-ut-Tahrir rhetoric." In his new book, The Islamist, Husain identifies a professed horror of western decadence as the next, infinitely promising excuse for Islamist murder. "When the political pretexts of Palestine and Iraq have been dealt with," he writes, "Wahhabi-inspired militants will turn to other social grievances. Drinking alcohol, 'impropriety', gambling, cohabitation, inappropriate dress - these and a host of miscellaneous others will become excuses for jihad, for martyrdom, feeding the tumour of Islamist domination which grows in the Wahhabi and Islamist mind."

(Emphasis added-DD)

Like Ed Husain, Shiraz Maher notes that both he and Abdulla were members of an organization called Hizb-ut-Tahrir:

And so it was through my involvement with Hizb ut-Tahrir and its ideology of extremist political Islam that I came to befriend Bilal, the would-be bomber. That's why I believe it's wrong to distinguish between "extremism" and "violent extremism" as the government has been doing in recent months. The two are inextricably intertwined. Without movements such as Hizb creating the moral imperatives to justify terror, people like Bilal wouldn't have the support of an ideological infrastructure cheering them on. And, I believe, it's a fallacy to suggest that the culpability of agitators and cheerleaders is any less than for those who actually carry out acts of terror.

As Maher notes, even allegedly peaceful Islamists such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir serve as enablers of jihadist terror, as well as conveyor belts for new recruits to the cause. Ultimately it is Muslim dissidents and reformers who will need to speak out against the Islamists and refute their totalitarian interpretation of Islam. In that regard, I'll let Irshad Manji have the last word:

Moderate Muslims denounce violence in the name of Islam but deny that Islam has anything to do with it. By their denial, moderates abandon the ground of theological interpretation to those with malignant intentions, effectively telling would-be terrorists that they can get away with abuses of power because mainstream Muslims won't challenge the fanatics with bold, competing interpretations. To do so would be admit that religion is a factor. Moderate Muslims can't go there.

Reform-minded Muslims say it's time to admit that Islam's scripture and history are being exploited. They argue for reinterpretation precisely to put the would-be terrorists on notice that their monopoly is over.

Reinterpreting doesn't mean rewriting. It means rethinking words and practices that already exist, removing them from a 7th-century tribal time warp and introducing them to a 21st-century pluralistic context. Un-Islamic? God, no. The Koran contains three times as many verses calling on Muslims to think, analyse and reflect than passages that dictate what's absolutely right or wrong. In that sense, reform-minded Muslims are as authentic as moderates and quite possibly more constructive.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Censorship by "Fairness"

One of the main applause lines during Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s keynote address at ALA Annual was his reference to the Fairness Doctrine. The Fairness Doctrine was a policy adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1949. It required stations that broadcast on the public airwaves to present both sides of controversial issues. A product of an era when media options were very limited, the Fairness Doctrine was abandoned by the FCC as an anachronism in 1987.

While the Fairness Doctrine may sound like a good idea in theory, in practice it had a deleterious impact on free expression. As both the conservative Heritage Foundation and the Museum of Broadcast Communications have pointed out, the Fairness Doctrine had the effect of stifling debate, not fostering it. Stations afraid of running afoul of the FCC simply avoided discussion of controversial topics altogether. In fact, it was the end of the Fairness Doctrine that led to the rise of conservative talk radio in the late 1980s.

For that reason alone, some on the left have never abandoned hope that the pre-1987 status quo could somehow be restored. Fueled in part by a recent report from the liberal Center for American Progress arguing that talk radio is overwhelmingly dominated by conservatives, some Democrats have suggested bringing back the Fairness Doctrine. However, as James L. Gattuso has written for National Review Online, it is highly unlikely that any such effort will be successful. Unfortunately, Gattuso notes, it is likely that Democrats will try a different approach to regulating the content of political talk radio, which will include:

Strengthened limits on how many radio stations on firm can own, locally and nationally;

Shortening broadcast license terms;

Requiring radio broadcasters to regularly show they are operating in the “public interest;”

Imposing a fee on broadcasters who fail to meet these “public interest obligations” with the funding to go to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The goal of the reforms is the same as the Fairness Doctrine: to reduce the influence of conservative talk radio. Limiting ownership, the authors believe, will eliminate many of the owners who favor conservative causes. Public interest requirements can be defined almost any way a regulator wants — up to and perhaps even beyond that required by the old Fairness Doctrine. And the proposed fee provides regulators with a quite effective stick to compel compliance — as well as to direct funds to more ideologically compatible public broadcasters.

Whatever form it takes, it is clear that the Democrats' impending assault on talk radio has nothing to do with "fairness" or "diversity" or "media consolidation"; rather, it is a naked attempt to silence conservative talk radio. After all, why is there all this concern about ensuring a fair representation of views on public airwaves, yet no concern about the equally one sided dominance of liberal and leftist viewpoints at public universities? Besides, does anyone really think that liberals would even be making an issue of talk radio if Air America had been a roaring success instead of a bankruptcy ridden failure?

It is ironic that so many of those who complain about the Bush Administration allegedly "crushing dissent" have no problem contemplating methods akin to those of Hugo Chavez to try to force opinions they don't like off the air.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Science in the Islamic World

Discover Magazine has an excellent article in its July 2007 issue looking at the state of science in the Muslim Middle East. The author, Todd Pitock, explains how the lack of intellectual freedom and spread of Islamist dogma have hindered scientific development in that part of the world:

I witness firsthand the overlapping strands of history as I navigate the chaos of Cairo, a city crammed with 20 million people, a quarter of Egypt’s population. In residential neighborhoods, beautiful old buildings crumble, and the people who live in them pile debris onto rooftops because there is no public service to take it away. Downtown, luxury hotels intermingle with casinos, minarets, and even a Pizza Hut. The American University in Cairo is a short distance from Tahrir Square, a wide traffic circle where bruised old vehicles brush pedestrians who make the perilous crossing. At all hours men smoke water pipes in city cafés; any woman in one of these qawas would almost certainly be a foreigner. Most Egyptian women wear a veil, and at the five designated times a day when the muezzins call, commanding the Muslims to pray, the men come, filling the city’s mosques.

The Islamic world looms large in the history of science, and there were long periods when Cairo—in Arabic, El Qahira, meaning “the victorious”—was a leading star in the Arabic universe of learning. Islam is in many ways more tolerant of scientific study than is Christian fundamentalism. It does not, for example, argue that the world is only 6,000 years old. Cloning research that does not involve people is becoming more widely accepted. In recent times, though, knowledge in Egypt has waned. And who is accountable for the decline?

El-Naggar has no doubts. “We are not behind because of Islam,” he says. “We are behind because of what the Americans and the British have done to us.”

The evil West is a common refrain with El-Naggar, who, paradoxically, often appears in a suit and tie, although he is wearing a pale green galabiyya when we meet. He says that he grieves for Western colleagues who spend all their time studying their areas of specialization but neglect their souls; it sets his teeth on edge how the West has “legalized” homosexuality. “You are bringing man far below the level of animals,” he laments. “As a scientist, I see the danger coming from the West, not the East.”

Science and Islam in Conflict

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Book Banning in Malaysia

As I have noted before, Islamists in Malaysia have worked tirelessly in recent years to impose their vision of intolerance on a heretofore moderate Muslim country. Malaysia's willingness to ban books critical of Islam has been one factor contributing to their success.

On June 6, the Malaysian National News Agency, Bernama, reported that:

The Internal Security Ministry has banned 37 book titles and publications on Islam containing twisted facts that can undermine the faith of Muslims.

Secretary of the Publications and Quranic Texts Control Division Che Din Yusoh said today 21 of the publications were in the English language and published in the United States, United Kingdom and Jordan while 16 were in Bahasa Malaysia and published in Malaysia and Indonesia.

All the book titles and publications were banned by a prohibition order under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984, he said in a statement.

He said the prohibition order was imposed on the publications because their contents and text on Islam twisted facts and true Islamic teachings or contained elements that misled the faithful and humiliated the prophets.

"These publications can cause confusion and apprehension among Muslims and eventually jeopardise public order," he added.

Link via Dhimmi Watch; emphasis added-DD)

You can see the entire list of banned books by viewing the article. Unfortunately, these are far from the only such books to be banned in Malaysia on these grounds.

On June 28, the Malaysian newspaper The Sun published an interview with religion scholar Karen Armstrong. Ms. Armstrong has written frequently about Islam, and her books are Islamic-friendly to the point of naivete. Yet, as noted in the interview, three of her books have been banned in Malaysia as being "detrimental to peace and harmony", along with John Esposito's What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam. The ban on Esposito's work and at least one of Armstrong's dates from June 2006.

(Sun link via Jihad Watch)

In December 2006, a blogger named Pedestrian Infidel posted a list of banned books he obtained from the Borders superstore in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital. It includes both Esposito's and Armstrong's books, as well as works by the likes of Robert Spencer and Bernard Lewis. Another blogger, though, has noted that most of Lewis's books are available in Malaysia. Ironically so, since Lewis is much more critical of Islam than either Armstrong or Esposito. Still, Malaysia's restrictions on what ideas can and cannot be published about Islam have undoubtedly helped foster the rise of Islamist intolerance in that nation.