Category Archives: Current Affairs

Daniel Pipes: Islam’s Inadvertant Patterns

Daniel Pipes is President of the Middle East Forum. His bi-weekly column appears regularly in the Washington Times and in newspapers around the globe, including the Israel Hayom (Israel), La Razón (Spain), Liberal (Italy), National Post (Canada), and the Australian. He has a PhD from Harvard in History and has been an authority on Middle East affairs for years.

I  recently subscribed to his mailing list and am really enjoying his writings. This post came in the other day, having originally appeared in the Washington Times under the title:

Islam’s inadvertent adverse effects on adherents: Strict traditional laws impact modern life”

How does Islam shape the way Muslims live? The religion’s formal requirements are the narrow base for a far wider structure of patterns that extend the formal rules of Islam, stretching them in unexpected and unplanned ways. A few examples:

The Koran strictly bans the consumption of pork, leading to the virtual disappearance of domesticated pigs in Muslim-majority areas, then their replacement by sheep and goats. These latter overgrazed the land which led, as the geographer Xavier de Planhol observes, to “a catastrophic deforestation” that in turn “is one of the basic reasons for the sparse landscape particularly evident in the Mediterranean districts of Islamic countries.” Note the progression from Koranic dietary injunction to the desertification of vast tracts of land. The scriptural command was not intended to cause ecological damage, but it did.

Islam’s unattainably high standards for governmental behavior meant historically that existing leaders, with their many faults, alienated Muslim subjects, who responded by refusing to serve those leaders in administrative and military service, thereby compelling rulers to seek personnel elsewhere. This led to their systematically deploying slaves as soldiers and administrators, thereby creating a key institution that lasted a millennium from the eighth century.

The Ottoman Janissaries were the longest lasting and most important corps of slave soldiers.

Islamic doctrine ingrains a sense of Muslim superiority, a disdain for the faith and civilization of others, which has had two vast implications in modern times: making Muslims the most rebellious subjects against colonial rule and obstructing Muslims from learning from the West to modernize.

Those scriptures also imbue a hostility toward non-Muslims which in turn generates an assumption about non-Muslims harboring a like hostility toward Muslims. In modern times, this projection has created a susceptibility to conspiracy theories which have had many practical consequences: for example, because only Muslims worry that anti-polio vaccinations secretly render their children infertile, polio has effectively become a Muslim-only scourge in 26 countries.

The annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the Islamic hajj, began in the seventh century as a local custom that then became an international meeting that facilitated the transfer of everything from Islamist ideas and political movements (the Idrisis of Libya) to luxury goods (ivory) plants (rubber to Southeast Asia, rice to Europe), and diseases (meningococci, skin infections, infectious diarrheal and blood-borne diseases, and respiratory tract infections, including perhaps the brand-new MERS-CoV).

The hajj grew from a local ceremony into an international event at which many important exchanges took place.

Other Islamic injunctions also have unintended, negative health implications. The imperative for modesty has led some Muslim women to wear full head and body coverings (niqabs and burqas) which cause Vitamin D deficiency, discourage exercise, and are implicated in a host of medical problems, including rashes, respiratory disease, rickets, osteomalacia, and multiple sclerosis.

The daytime fast during Ramadan often leads observant Muslims to exercise less and to “tend to overeat upon breaking their fast, and usually the meal involves heavy, fatty foods that are high in calories,” notes the head of the Emirates Diabetes Society. One survey in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, found 60 percent of respondents reporting excessive weight gain after Ramadan.

Ramadan, ironically, is both a month of fasting and of overeating.

A preference for first-cousin marriages, which harks back to pre-Islamic tribal practices (to keep wealth in the family and to benefit from daughters’ fertility) over approximately fifty generations has led to widespread inbreeding with negative consequences, including about twice the incidence rate of such genetic disorders as thalassemia, sickle-cell anemia, spinal muscular atrophy, diabetes, deafness, muteness, and autism.

With regard to women, injunctions about mahram protection by male relatives, and a vastly lower social and legal status combined to create such inadvertent patterns as physical seclusion, obsession with virginity, honor killings, female genital mutilation, and (Saudi-style) gender apartheid. Polygamy creates permanent anxiety in wives.

Although orphans enjoy an honored status in Islamic law (kafala), that honor is tied to a tribal structure incompatible with modern society, resulting in Muslim orphans today persistently discriminated against, even by Muslims in the West.

Islam’s scriptures have provided the base from which many other patterns evolved, including: the establishment of dynasties through conquest, not by internal overthrow; recurrent problems with dynastic succession; power leading to wealth, not the reverse; the near absence of municipal governments; inadequate regulation of cities; laws arising from ad hoc decisions, not formal legislation, reliance on hawalas for money transfers, and the practice of suicide terrorism.

Inadvertent patterns, sometimes called Islamicate, change over time, with some (slave soldiers) becoming defunct and others (polio) starting only recently. These patterns remain as powerful today as in premodern times and are key to understanding Islam and Muslim life.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2014 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

Related Topics:  Islam, Middle East patterns This text may be reposted or forwarded so long as it is presented as an integral whole with complete and accurate information provided about its author, date, place of publication, and original URL.

Utopia vs Freedom

More thoughts from The Secret Knowledge by David Mamet…

When I did my post on this book last week, I forgot that I’d written down some of my thoughts on it both during and after I’d finished reading it. The other night I found them, and today I’ve decided they might be of interest to at least some of my readers.

One of the things that has been impressing itself upon me with regard to Liberal (or should I say “Progressive”?) thought these days is the element in it of wanting to restore, through the efforts of flawed and sinful men, the Garden of Eden. Of course, they don’t call it that, they call it “Utopia,” a term coined by Sir Thomas More for his book of the same name regarding a fictional island where dwells the “ideal” or perfect society.

David Mamet maintains (from personal experience — remember he was a Liberal until he was 6o years old) that one of the primary differences between Conservative and Liberal thinking is that Liberals believe human beings have “good hearts” — and in particular, that they, themselves, have good hearts. Conservatives, not so much; in fact, not at all, if one considers the content of Liberals’ constant attacks on Conservative character: we only oppose their policies, they say, because they aren’t our policies, or because we just want them to fail so we can win, or because we want kids to go hungry, or old people to be neglected. I suppose the Liberal answer is that we do have good hearts, but are simply denying them for the sake of “partisan politics.” But then,  that wouldn’t be very good-hearted, and so, really — oh, never mind!

Where was I?  Oh, yes — that Liberals believe they have good hearts and thus “good-hearted” ideas and plans for the world.

One such “good-hearted” idea, says Mamet, is that If they “could just make sure everything is fair,” all would be well.  Fair, not before the law, but just, you know, “fair.” Everyone getting an equal amount of the pie, for example, whether they worked for it or not, because, you know, some people just can’t work, don’t know how to work, or can’t find the sorts of jobs that are appropriate for their expectations… It’s not their fault.

Mamet illustrated this with the notion that the street sweeper, who does a valuable job that serves the community, should be paid just as much as the surgeon, who also does a valuable job. Who’s to say which is more valuable? The idea that just about anyone could sweep a street, whereas not everyone could be a surgeon, to say nothing of the years of preparation that goes into becoming a surgeon, doesn’t seem to enter the equation.

Another notion of “fairness” is having an equal number of races and/or genders distributed across the populations of various institutions — colleges, businesses (particularly in the executive suites), grant and college recipients, scientific organizations, prisons… Anything else just wouldn’t be fair.

In order to bring all this fairness about — this wonderful, perfect society where “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” is the order of the day — we’ll need someone to be in charge: a socialist dictator. But have no fear, since he (or she) will be one of “them” (i.e., Liberal) and thus, by definition, will be a “good” dictator.

Conservatives, on the other hand, see the human race as potentially noble and honorable, but flawed. Sinful. Stubborn. Blind. Arrogant. Lazy. Selfish. Greedy. Combative… The idea of flawed human beings trying to make a perfect world is ludicrous. Instead we hope only to devise a government that takes into account the flaws and tries to provide liberty and equality under the law. Iindividuals will be free to make their own decisions — the bad ones that lead to failure and want, or the good ones that lead to success and plenty. It will be the outcome that motivates, not some person in charge of “fairness.”

The law merely ensures the people under it don’t violate each others’ freedom to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” — for example, it’s against the law to steal your neighbor’s stuff, or worse, kill him first and then take his stuff.

If you do, and are caught, you pay the penalty, period. It doesn’t matter what you look like, what your gender or race is, who your parents are, whether you like cats or dogs, how much money you have, what your societal position is…

Laws, of course, will not be perfect, having been devised by imperfect men. Neither will they be perfectly enforced, since imperfect men will be in charge of enforcement. There will never be perfect fairness in all situations. But still, few can deny that the American system of government our Founding Fathers devised has over the last two hundred years or so resulted in more freedom and more prosperity for more people than at any other time in history.

It’s not Utopia, but I think it’s about the closest we’ll ever get to a perfect society this side of Heaven. And a far sight better than the good-hearted view that if every one could just have the same amount of the same things we’d all be forever happy. That one is a system which historically, in every attempt to implement it so far, has failed miserably… You’d think its proponents would see that. That they don’t is another of the subjects Mamet addresses: “magical thinking.”

But that’s a topic for another day.

 

Take a Day Off and Other Articles

stu sleeping

As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve been MIA for the last week or so. I gave up on trying to control myself and gave it over to the Lord to handle. He seems to be giving me a vacation of sorts…

So today, I thought I’d put up a list of some items of interest I’ve come across recently…er, well, mostly today, actually.

First up, appropriately enough is Writers Should Take a Year Off and Give Us All a Break – an essay in The Guardian on the observation that, to borrow from Ecclesiastes, “the writing of many books is endless…”  At the time of Solomon, however, it was nothing compared to today, when the rate of publication has exploded as never before. How ironic that this is occurring at the same time that more and more people lack the attention span or time, to read anything longer than a tweet.

Still, I like the idea of taking a year off from writing… oh, wait… I’ve already sort of been doing that …

Next, I draw your attention to a Muslim Brotherhood Fact Sheet from Stand With Us, an international, nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Israel.  It includes quotes from the Brotherhood’s own charters, writings and guides. Members are not interested in dialog. Nor are they interested in peace (unless you count the peace that results from the entire world being converted to Islam). They are most definitely not interested in democracy, unless — again — it’s the Islamist kind… that is, Sharia Law.

Third is an essay on the misguided Western policy of appeasement during World War 1 that resulted in World War 2 and may well be on its way to setting up World War 3. This one’s written by my favorite blogger and former high level Foreign Service Officer The Diplomad 2.0: Obama and an Edouard Daladier Moment

And finally, the new  “funnel tunnel” in Houston, an unintended metaphor for where our tax dollars/charity donations are going…

Let’s Keep Politics Out of It

empty_chair

What, really, does “Let’s keep politics out of this” mean?

Previous to a recent election, I was going through our information on ballot propositions, one of which involved changing the way judges are selected. Voting on judges has always been a mystery to me. I don’t know any of them, so how am I supposed to know? In the past I just skipped that section, thinking that people in the know, like lawyers or folks who’d recently served on juries should be the ones to vote.

This time, however, I read the amendment and then started in on the arguments in favor of the amendment:  the Republican governor of AZ supported it (who I had voted for) as did various retired judges, and other legislators. Those who opposed the amendment included the League of Women Voters, a bunch of lawyers, a woman pastor of a large local, very liberal Presbyterian?/Methodist? church,  a domestic violence organization, and the Democrat Party of Arizona.

I find the latter most ironic, since almost all the arguments against the amendment cited the need to “keep politics out of the selection of judges.”  And yet… one of the main methods liberals use to change this country, particularly when they can’t do it through the elected legislators is through the courts. The most blatant example that comes to mind is AZ SB 1070 — passed by the legislators, approved by voters and declared invalid by a judge.

Sounds like politics is already very much involved in our judicial system, so why shouldn’t it be involved in the selection of the judges?

Still, that’s not what struck me the most this time. This time, I realized that somehow the phrase “let’s keep politics out of (fill in the blank)” is one that communicates the idea that “politics” is bad, superficial, and irrelevant. Ie, “the only reason you want to do X is because you’re a Republican”  Implying that signing up to be a Republican was something done in a vacuum and afterwards came the criterion for what that meant.  That is, having decided to register as a Republican, I then must go through the party’s positions to figure out what I’m supposed to think.

Really??

I think not.  Rather, it’s that what I think just happens to line up mostly with what Republicans express and support. And, in fact, as I began reading through the arguments, the first thing I checked was who had made the argument and what was their affiliation. Because that way I have some idea of their worldview and where they are coming from. I am learning more and more that we can use the same words and assign them very different meaning.

I have to laugh at the accusations of the detractors of conservatives, especially those of us who enjoy listening to Rush Limbaugh — ie, that we are mind-numbed robots who have to tune in to figure out what to think.

Not at all. More like we — or at least I — tune in because I’m in desperate need of hearing a sane voice.

In fact, many, many years ago, after I’d gotten saved, the more I learned about the Word of God, the more conservative I became and the more interested in politics. (Writing novels helped spur this interest as well) But everything I read in the newspapers, saw on TV, heard on the radio conflicted with what I believed. It was depressing and frustrating.

I remember when Carter was president, which was really depressing… how people thought all the Christians would vote for him because he was a Christian. Aaack!  No way.

He was such a disaster. (I vividly remember the gas lines. In fact my dad and hubby were nearly run over by a distraught elderly woman while they were waiting outside the car in one of them)

Ronald Reagan was amazing; I was so proud to vote for him. What a president! I loved him.

But still, the papers, the radio, the TV… they all had one voice (pretty much as they still do, if you don’t get Fox)…Reagan was a dunce, an actor, a fool, an idiot, what did he know? etc, ad nauseum. Rather like they treated George W Bush.

And then one day I had the radio on and heard Rush Limbaugh for the very first time. And yes, it was probably sometime in 1988 when he first came on the radio. It was amazing. Finally here was someone — on the radio! — expressing the views I already held! I was so jazzed to learn there were others who thought as I did, others outside my little local assembly of fellow believers, and the obscure periodicals I read.

In fact, it’s still like that. I hear or watch or read the news and form my own assessments, which usually are nothing like the assessments of the mainstream media folks. But  afterward I go my favorite conservative sites (Drudge, Power Line, The Diplomad, Rush, VDH ) and aaahhh. I find common sense, actual facts and information, observations or declarations of the obvious which are totally missing from the mainstream media…

The funny thing is, the ones who constantly seem to harp on the notion of “keeping politics out of it” are the ones who put politics into everything. Who tend to do things precisely for “politics” which I’m coming to think is another word for power-grabbing. But that, too, is a post for another day.

de Tocqueville: Soft Despotism

No Trespassing

Recently I came across this quote from Alexis de Tocqueville, the Frenchman sent by the French government in 1831 to study the American prison system, but who was really more interested in studying and writing about American society. He did so in a book entitled Democracy in America, and it is from this that the following quote on soft despotism was taken. (Soft despotism is control over or oppression of the people without their realizing it; hard despotism is the more obvious oppression.)

I’m posting it because I think it sounds eerily apropos of what’s going on in our country today.

“After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom, and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people.”

From Volume II, Book 4, Chapter 6 of his book Democracy in America,.

The above link takes you to  the entire book, which you can also download. I just downloaded it onto my Kindle for PC,  in fact.

The Morning After Election 2012

I am shocked.

Horrified.

Stunned.

Disbelieving.

Grieving the loss of my country,

the downfall of a nation that was once a shining light of truth

in a dark world.

This morning, I’m sick to my stomach.

Dismayed.

Disappointed.

Sobered by the awareness of the disasters to come.

Disasters like…

Obamacare

A nuclear Iran

The fast approaching fiscal cliff of our debt

The Social Security shortfall

Al Qaeda very much NOT on the run, but alive and actively our enemy

Terrorists emboldened by the debacle at Benghazi.

Economic depression

Having to walk everywhere because gas is too expensive

or ride my bike.

Gun Control

Crime Uncontrolled

Streetlights no longer lit because no one can afford to replace burned out lamps

or stolen copper wires

Increasing vandalism and graffiti

Increasing food prices

Higher taxes

China taking over Japan without anyone to stop it

(And thus we have the King of the East)

The gutting of our military through budget cuts

The implosion of our military because of a dishonorable commander-in-chief who who actively disdains and betrays it

Rolling blackouts when caps or excessive taxation are imposed on our electrical energy producers

Mandatory flu shots

People fighting over bread in the streets when there isn’t enough at the free food distribution sites for all the folks who want it

Repression and persecution of true Christianity

Increasing natural disasters

Military defeat

Invasion of enemy forces

(or collusion by the majority with enemy forces they don’t see as enemies)

The fall of the once great United States of America

**

There are some who say we committed suicide as a nation yesterday.

I think we started that quite some time ago,

moving gradually away from Biblical Christianity

and the pure teaching of the Word to become a people

“who would not endure sound doctrine,

but,

wanting to have their ears tickled,

accumulated for themselves teachers  in accordance with their own desires;

and, turning away their ears from the truth,

have been turned aside to myths.”

(my paraphrase of 2 Ti 4:3,4)

**
Repeatedly the Lord says in Scriptures that for the sake of the righteous He will withhold punishment.

If there had been 10 righteous souls (believers) in Sodom, He would have spared it. (Gen 18:32)

 If there had been a single man in Jeremiah’s Jerusalem (aside from Jeremiah himself) who lived rightly and sought truth (ie, God’s word), He would have pardoned the whole. (Jer 5:1)

“O LORD, do not Thine eyes look for truth (and faithfulness to it)?
Thou has smitten them, but they did not weaken;
Thou has consumed them,
But they refused to take correction.
They have made their faces harder than rock;
They have refused to repent.
(Jer 5:3)

*

This is us as a nation.

And sadly, it is many of those who call themselves Christian today:

“rebellious children, who execute a plan, but not His,
who make an alliance (with the world), but not of His Spirit;
who proceed down to Egypt without consulting Him…
…Therefore the safety of Pharaoh will be your shame,
and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt, your humiliation…”
(Is 30:1-3)

Debates, Benghazi, Sandy…

Yes… I’ve been a little distracted of late. I’ve only managed to get around to working on Sky for two days since our White Mountain trip. So much has happened, so much to read about in the news: the debates, the election, the continuing, awful revelations about what happened in Benghazi, now Hurricane Sandy.

And boy have I been reading! You’d think I’d be writing about all that I’ve read, especially considering that I got plenty worked up about a lot of it (what happened in Benghazi torqued me the most — and the way the mainstream media’s just ignoring it — you can be sure that if George W. Bush were still in office something like this would be all over the news. But then, if GWB were in office it wouldn’t have happened at all…but still)…  ahem.

Anyway, while I was plenty worked up, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’d be coherent if I tried to write about it. Especially since I didn’t have a lot of time to devote to it (on account, in part, of all the blogs/news sites I’ve been reading,) and even more, not enough mental energy left when I actually did have the time. It just seemed too hard to sit down and try to describe the event and lay out my thoughts on it when all I wanted to do what howl about it.

Besides all that, I’ve had all the stuff to get caught up from after the trip as well as several social events to take part in and a general chaos around the house as a result of my hubby’s annual deer hunting trip which did not proceed in the normal manner. Usually he goes out, stays there until he gets a deer and returns.

This year he’s had trouble with his hiking boots. First the soles started to come off so he had to come home to get replacements — another, older pair. Those turned out to be too narrow and killed his feet so he had to come home again, for a third set, which also happened to be brand new, but were at least wide enough. This all over a period of several days.

Meanwhile my car’s engine is making funny smells after I drive it, but hubby can’t find anything wrong with it.  And I thought Quigley was coming down with another intestinal infection the other day when he woke me up at 6am to go outside (which he never does) and then, an hour after I brought him back in and went back to bed, he woke me up again, and me being half asleep, decided he just wanted to go bark so I refused, despite his continued whining and putting his head on the bed trying to get my attention. Finally he started throwing up.

Boy, did I fly out of bed then!

Too late. I put him out anyway, but then had the mess to clean up.  😕  Serves me right, I guess. When he deviates from routine, there usually is a good reason and it’s not just to go bark. In fact, he’ll bark just fine in the house; he doesn’t need to go outside to do it.

It’s just that I had been so hoping(determined!) to sleep in that day.

Anyway, his stools were a bit weird that night, but nothing came of it, just another opportunity to decide whether I’d put the matter in the Lord’s hands or try to handle it myself.

There’s been a lot of that lately, but not in ways one can write about in any interesting way.  Still, I did get into the office this afternoon and at least started thinking about Sky again. And I’ve now written this post, such as it is. So that’s a sign that things are finally getting back to normal, too.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll write another…

Latest, Most Detailed Timeline on Events in Benghazi

Well, I was going to talk a bit about our trip to the White Mountains today, but decided to put it off in favor of the accounting I just finished reading on the State Department’s official webpage (“Office of the Spokesperson”) regarding a blow-by-blow  (or “tick-tock” as the State Department official put it)  of the events of  the night of September 11 in Benghazi. This is a transcript of a “Background Conference Call With Senior State Department Officials” given to various invited news reporters back on Oct 9 which  has apparently just been released to the public.

It’s somewhat long, but it’s fascinating and so intense it reads like a Brad Thor novel. I highly recommend taking the time to read it all.

It also makes very clear 1) there was NO protest, unless you can call an all out armed attack on a US diplomatic compound a “protest;” 2) it was definitely preplanned (and it seems very likely, at least to me, that the perpetrators were specifically trying to murder the ambassador); and 3) the president knew exactly what was happening and that it wasn’t a protest about a movie since the security officer in the Tactical Operations Center on the compound had the White House on the phone from the moment the attack began — despite VP Biden’s claims to the contrary in that debate last week.

At the end of the two State Department Senior officials’ recounting, during the Q&A period, one of them, when asked if they should have prepared for such an event, said,

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL NUMBER TWO: It is difficult to answer hypothetical questions, but let me just put it this way. The lethality and the number of armed people is unprecedented. There had been no attacks like that anywhere in Libya – Tripoli, Benghazi, or elsewhere – in the time that we had been there. And so it is unprecedented. In fact, it would be very, very hard to find a precedent for an attack like that in recent diplomatic history.

You can, and should read the entire transcript HERE. It will be very much worth your time.

Update: the Mystery Project continues

Well, my Big Project is nearly done. I believe I will have it finished tomorrow. Pictures to come.

Eventually.

I’ll give you a hint: it’s something for my grand-daughter…

I also again got in my two hours of writing on Sky so I feel pretty happy about that! But now I am very tired, and once again… no continuation of America Lite, though that too is still coming…

Oh, but did you happen to notice? Now ABC has reported the “breaking news” that… THERE WAS NO PROTEST OUTSIDE THE BENGHAZI CONSULATE the night it was attacked.  “We’ve not heard anything like this!” cried Diane Sawyer.

No? I posted that bit of information here on Sept 18… Courtesy of McClatchey and Fox…