Category Archives: Islam

The Scripted Emergency

A week and a half ago Wednesday, three men with rifles shot up a conference room in a center for the developmentally disabled (try saying that ten times fast!) in San Bernadino, California, killing 14 and injuring about 20.  I found out about it at the gym that day: I was annoyed because I wanted to watch Judge Judy while on the treadmill, but all the major networks had been pre-empted.

The reporting came across as less of a news event and more of a manufactured pageant: the announcers regurgitating the same three sentences’ worth of facts while we saw the same shots of the outside of a building and distressed people.  It was, in brief, a scripted emergency.

Later the story changed: there were not three assailants but two: a native-born American citizen and his Pakistani/Saudi wife, conveniently shot dead by police.  One of the shooters just quietly disappeared from the narrative.  And on Friday, the news media were invited to rummage around the couple’s home, with all sorts of documents left behind by the FBI, barely two days after the event.

The story has been leading the network news programs ever since, even though there still isn’t much to tell.  The event has been labeled ‘terrorism,’ as if that declaring the event as such is somehow momentous.

Yes, the event is what we, today, call terrorism.  From what we know about the motives of the killers, we now know that it was an event of Islamic terrorism.  But this type of terrorism only has power to terrify if the people are told about it.  Does this event merit wall-to-wall coverage, when all we really know fits in a couple of paragraphs?

The news media are as much terrorists as the shooters themselves.

Sunday night, President Obama, our Dear Leader, addressed the nation, telling us nothing we didn’t already know.  He ducked out of the Kennedy Center awards to make a 13-minute Oval Office appearance, and then returned to the festivities.  He wants people who are on terror watch lists (‘no-fly lists’) to be denied the right to buy guns.

It’s a charming thought, but it wouldn’t have stopped the San Bernadino shooters, who had squeaky-clean records until last Wednesday.  And it flies in the face of our Fifth Amendment (no person shall be denied life, liberty, or property without due process): the process by which one is added to the terror watch list is a deep dark secret, with no way of finding out about it until you try to fly somewhere.  For all I know, I may be earning myself a spot on the list by writing and posting this essay.

The Dear Leader also wants us to embrace the hundreds of thousands of Islamic refugees that he proposes to bring from the Middle East.  What they are seeking refuge from is not entirely clear, given that the vast majority are Muslims.  We have no moral justification (a story for another day) to bring then here, and even though they may not be associated with ISIS or al-Qaeda or any of those groups, I can’t see how they can bring anything but trouble.

I don’t really know how a young American-born man and his Middle Eastern wife embarked on a path of terrorism.  I’m not sure it really matters.

But it’s clear to me that the government and the media are doing far more to advance the cause of Islamic terrorism than the terrorists themselves.

They should stop.

Je suis Charlie

It would have been very easy to put up a ‘Je suis Charlie’ (I am Charlie) graphic as my entire post in response to the assault on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris last Wednesday.  But that’s almost the same as Twitter hashtag activism: the thought that by posting a hashtag, or a picture, one is changing the world.  (OK, writing a whole post about it isn’t much better.  But at least I’m putting out real thoughts, not just another Internet meme.)

Charlie Hebdo (Charlie Weekly) is a French satiric magazine known for publishing irreverent humor.  In 2011, their offices in Paris were firebombed, and last Wednesday, three men shot up the offices, killing twelve, including most of the staff, to avenge the magazine’s cartoon representations of the prophet Mohammed.

In the US, liability makes cowards of us all: Sony Pictures originally shelved the movie The Interview not because they were hacked, but in response to the large theater chains, who took seriously the notion that the North Koreans might wreak havoc on them for showing the movie, and refused to present it.  As far as I know, there is no American publication analogous to Charlie Hebdo:  there are humor magazines, but they suffer from political correctness.

But Charlie soldiered on.

The news the staff was massacred was initially saddening and shocking.  But on further thought, it shouldn’t be all that surprising: indeed, our President remarked that ‘The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.’  And the publication of images of Mohammed has been greeted with violence in some parts of the world.

But we must stand up for the right to publish such images.

Cordoba House

It’s been a while since I wrote.  I’ve been occupied with other things.  I’ve been able to kick the blogging software in the pants so that others can register and post comments.  If you register and don’t post a comment within three days, your registration will be deleted.

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The big  issue this summer has been the proposed mosque and community center about two blocks north of the World Trade Center site.  An Islamic group bought a distressed building, damaged when the landing gear of one of the planes hijacked on 11 September hit it, and is currently using it for prayer services.  There is now a plan to build a shiny new mosque and community center on the site.  It used to be called ‘Cordoba House,’ but the developers of the plan are now calling it ‘Park51.’  No matter: I’ll stick with the former name, as I believe it’s more honest.

My first thought is if the local Islamic community is pooling their dollars to build this facility, we in the larger community have no rational basis to oppose it.  It’s their building and their land.

And the  First Amendment to the Constitution begins ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;’ which seems fairly straightforward.  We don’t have to like Cordoba House; we don’t have to support it; but we must grant its right to be there.

Opponents of Cordoba House make three points:

  • Funding for the mosque is currently unclear: it may be coming from Saudi Arabia, and not the local community.
  • Islam, in addition to providing moral and spiritual guidance, posits a political and legal system.  Cordoba House, consistent with history, represents the political aspect of Islam ‘planting the flag’ in New York City.
  • Since the 11 September terrorists were followers of Islam, it’s disrespectful to have an Islamic center so close to the death and destruction of the World Trade Center site.

While all these points may be true, none of them represent a valid exception to a basic First Amendment right.  The First Amendment says nothing about what a religion is, or how it may be funded, a requirement to be ‘respectful.’  Islam may have its political aspects, but it would be a major effort (and probably not realistic) to establish that it is not actually a religion.

Still, people seize on the last argument to suggest, ‘perhaps it could be built somewhere else.’  If Islam is really the dark, powerful force that some imagine it to be, such moaning would only make us look weak and stupid.

What really bothers me about Cordoba House, more than its funding or its imagined political intent, is that when it is finished, the World Trade Center site will still be a hole in the ground.