Archive for the ‘muslims’ category

Blasphemy ?

May 10, 2017

Recently President Trump issued an executive order apparently in an attempt to give greater freedom to religious organizations allowing them to speak out in the public square and not lose their tax exempt status. Regaining The Center pointed out some of the risks associated with this bogus issue in a posting “Should I Worry About My Freedoms”. Now news of a blasphemy conviction of the former Jakarta Indonesia Governor brings greater focus on a place Americans should not go.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, also known as Ahok, was convicted of blasphemy over charges that Ahok had told some voters that the Koran does not instruct Muslims to only vote for other Muslims. Ahok is a Christian. Hmmm.

There is a reason the US founding fathers were careful to separate church and State. Their fears of State religion was well founded and Indonesia has just demonstrated this clearly.

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Human Rights In A Time Of Popularism

March 13, 2017

Over the past weekend, news headlines featured the reports that Turkey wanted to send diplomates into the Netherlands in order to campaign before Turkish residents living in the Netherlands. The diplomates purpose was said to be aimed at gaining votes for a change in the Turkish Constitution which would increase current Turkey President Erdogan’s power. By US standards, this request seems off base and should be denied. Hmmm.

American’s gut reaction, however, is based more on our sense of isolationism, that is the American public square is off limits to other nations’ political squabbles. Americans do not expect other nations to have an opinion on US politics and for sure, do not want any interference in our internal affairs (for example, the rumored Russian activity in Trump’e election). But what if a foreign country only wish to “spin” their local politics in the US press and attempt to raise favorable sentiments? Who cares?

The Dutch situation, however, is different. The Turkish intervention was aimed at convincing Turkish citizens who were living and working in the Netherlands to vote (absentee) in a Turkish elections. What’s wrong with that?

Popularism is flowering across Europe and in the Netherlands, right leaning politicians are taking every opportunity to remind Dutch citizens that Turkish guest workers are taking Dutch jobs. Post World War II a number of countries, the Netherlands and Germany in particular, invited guest workers from Turkey to come and work. For a complex set of reasons, the guest workers did not assimilate into the greater society. Go along and get along seemed to be the accepted way of life and today there are second and third generation Turkish residents in both Germany and the Netherlands who do not speak their host country’s language. Hmmm.

Popularism, itself, is a bag of many things. Xenophobes, bigots, and religious extremists often live comfortable under this umbrella. Promote discontent, label a minority as the trouble maker, and then promise (without proof) you will fix this mythical problem, and voila, a politician might get elected. Sound familiar?

But in Europe, there is a much more subtle problem under the surface. Turkey wants to become an EU member and gain full entry to the common market. For Turkey this would give their economy a great boost and would enable even larger numbers of Turkish citizens to move freely into other EU countries and compete for jobs. Oh, and by the way, if the Turkish citizens did not find employment right away, they could claim social benefits in their host country. Hmmm.

Most current EU member States have not had much concern when the migrating workers carried Spanish, Italian, Polish or even a Lithuanian passports. A Turkish passport is something else again. Why?

No surprise, most Turks are Muslim.

The Muslim religion presents a different theology, of course, and for religious intolerants, this is sufficient enough. But there’s more.   Muslims bring with them a different sent of customs, including Sharia law, dress codes, and sharply different views on women’s rights (as seen by Europeans).

Most Western people also consider religious freedom to be a core human right. Most modern western people consider woman’s equality and suffrage a human right. So how exactly does one reconcile these two opposing views? How does a country have laws which grant women the right to wear what they wish (within broad standards of decency) and turn an eye the opposite direction when another women is told she must wear a certain religious garb whether she wants to or not?

In times of plenty, a tolerant society would find ways to accommodate Islam. Genital mutilation, stoning, or multiple wives, however, represent a step to far in most tolerant Western societies. While these societies might allow relative free exercise of religious freedom, these practices would be banned.

But, in times of slow growth or decline, the idea of someone from another country coming in a taking work from another citizens is too much to expect. Turkey as an EU/Common Market member has its supporters (those who see gaining access to Turkish customers), but the realities of local country economics when framed in the conflicts of religious customs, it becomes a piece of cake for populists politicians to short circuit any dialog and pitch secular muslims as the same as fundamentalist.

It would be wise not to look down ones nose and say that would not happen in America. Think about the demonization of Mexicans who don’t follow Sharia law, don’t have different rules for women, and dress for the most part indistinguishable from other Americans. And worse, Mexicans are good workers, family oriented, and are church going people. Isn’t that what the idealized American is?

Populist politicians are pickers and choosers. They are also close to rudderless and pick issues which will yield the most votes. And while that might sound great to someone if the issue fits their hot button, one must remember that this populist leader will jump upon a new issue in the future if that serves their purpose better.

Your populist leader may not be your friend for long.  Hmmm.

Trump Whistles

January 30, 2017

A familiar technique amongst hate mongers, and frequently employed in communications is what’s called “dog whistle” language. The term refers to  a high pitched whistle sound which dogs can hear but whose frequency is too high for humans. The dog whistle sound is conditioned into the dog’s behavior so when the whistle is sounded, the dog performs as trained.

We may no be seeing the advent of the “Trump Whistle”. Over the weekend, the Trump Administration issued two executive orders which seemed analogous to dog whistle statements. First, the 3 month ban on US entry from any non-citizen coming from one of nine countries and the second was a statement marking Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The three month ban was sited as a defense against terrorism even though all previous Muslim terrorists came from other countries and there were no recent incidents prompting this type of response.

The Holocaust statement omitted any mention of the 6 million Jews who died during this period. The statement instead talked about all the people who perished as if the Holocaust happened and some Jewish people just happened to get caught up in a bigger problem. Hmmm.

Many individuals, organizations, and news media pundits have reacted to these two orders calling into question whether they are valid. Some argue that Country X should not be on the list, or this type of traveler should not be covered. The Holocaust statement has been denounced as insensitive and out of step with past precedents.

Hmmm, so what, that’s not the point.

Any thinking person knows that since 9/11, there have been no deaths or destruction caused by non-US persons within our borders. While that does not preclude a potential future terrorist event, there is scant evidence that current security measures are insufficient. And why the US Government which is planning to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would omit connecting the Holocaust to Jewish people is unfathomable, unless…

The Trump Whistle is a communication device intended to send a message to certain groups of Americans on one hand, and on the other hand to distract the bulk of Americans, as if they didn’t hear the real message.

Some conservative Christians are only too delighted to see the heathen Muslims called out as different and of course somehow lesser humans. And Holocaust deniers were glad to see President Trump remembered their dislike for Jews.

So while mainstream America was shocked at the two unnecessary executive orders, there is a group of Trump supporters who smiled and said, that’s our man in the White House.

Islamist Terrorist On Obama’s Watch

June 18, 2016

I saw this summary on Facebook.  The summary lists 10 incidents where someone of Muslim faith murdered someone who was not a Muslim.  Sadly there was a total of 91 who lost their lives.  The Facebook implications was that President Obama, in some way, has been complicit in enabling needless American deaths.  Hmmm.

During this same period, hand guns have taken the lives of over 180,000, traffic accidents another 180,000, and deaths from slips and falls accounted for another 180,000 or so.

President Obama has not done much on these preventable deaths either.  I wonder what he has been doing with his time?

It is mind boggling that so many people connect these terrorist inspired random acts with a specific Obama Administration policy (or lack there of) and seem to say, “if only the President had done this or that, these acts would not have taken place”.  I wonder what those anti-terror policies would look like?

One might jump to the conclusion that the policies must be aimed at Muslims.  On the other hand, each of these incidents involved the use of guns.  Hmmm.  I wonder whether these anti-Obama fans who circulate these posts are thinking about a sharp curtailment on the availability of guns?

I think not.

For common sense purposes, one must keep in mind the low number of deaths, the lack of any connectivity between them, and  the lack of prior indicators which might have predicted the incident each provoked.  In comparison to other gun related deaths, traffic deaths and home related accidental deaths, these 91 don’t even make the radar screen.

Oh, and one more point.  If these sad, senseless deaths of 91 Americans justify a political statement, then I wonder what type of statement the 3000 or so Americans who lost their lives on George W Bush’s watch on 9/11?

Belgium – How Could You Have Been So Unprepared?

April 6, 2016

To listen to US Congress members, the GOP Presidential primary leaders, and talk show talking heads, one would think that Europe in general and Belgium in specific, know diddli-squat about national security. Do you know that someone can travel from Germany to France to Spain and then to Portugal and no one needs to verify his “papers”. Hmmm. I wonder whether that like traveling from Boston to Houston and then onto Los Angeles?

Those pointing a finger at Belgium believe that Europe’s lack of border checks between European countries is paramount to an abdication of police duties. Once a terrorist gains entry to any European country, the terrorist has free movement across borders to any other European country. Now that I think about it, it is the same in the US.

Another complaint involves European security services not talking to each other. Hmmm. Does that remind one of 9/11? And critics suggest the number of police jurisdictions found in Belgium and Brussels are too many. But how does that compare to the DEA, DHS, FBI, AFT combined with State, County, and local police units. Life is complicated.

Most Americans hearing these self-serving critique of the European and Belgium security services think these foreigners have something to learn… and none better than the US to teach them. Hmmm.

As in most of life, things are the way they are for reasons. If one thinks things should be different, one must begin by understanding why things are the way they are.

Europeans and Belgians are not mentally challenged nor are they lazy. Rather they carry memories of authoritarianism common through out the histories of these countries and most recently dramatically demonstrated when the NAZIs occupied other countries during World War II. The Nazis were simply good at knowing who you were and where you were suppose to be, and if that wasn’t what they thought best, one paid a heavy price.

The recent rise of muslim terrorists, not withstanding previous colonial bouts with the IRA, Algerians, Moroccans, and Turkish extremists, has undoubtably raised the stakes in keeping track of residents who wish to act on a different agenda. The world has seen a steady increase in criminal, bordering on terrorist, activities for the last 50+ years. Plane hijackings, suitcase bombs, ransom demands, and now suicide bombers have become more frequent and more sophisticated each year.

The socialization of weapons know-how coupled with the availability of physical weapons of all types (if one has the money to afford them) has changed the balance of power. Do it yourself, buy them pre-made, or inherit them from a friend, with guns, explosives, or dare I say, poisons plentiful, is a wonder that anyone who wants to be a killer or a terrorist can obtain the tools of the trade easily.

So, the terrorism threat is not really about ISIS (as fear mongering candidates would like us to think). Separatists, anarchists, and religious zealots have all offered the disconnected a cause to give their lives meaning. And for sure ISIS does attempt to provide that type of meaning but ISIS is just another group in a long list.

We must not overlook, that it takes money, methods (training, communications), and means (guns, explosives, lethal materials) to carry out terrorist activities. Someone is providing money (even if it is someone else’s money), someone is providing weapons and lethal materials. And, of course, someone must be the person willing to give up their life to carry out the terrorist act.

The GOP political spin attempts to assign causality to ISIS (and Europe and Belgium are just too dumb to know this). Get rid of ISIS and the problem vanishes, we are told. Wrong.

The world is awash in weapons and lethal materials. Money seems also to be no obstacle, either to be available or to be delivered to feed, house and cloth terrorist and to pay on-going businesses which manufacture weapons or lethal materials. Why don’t these politicians focus on the tools of the terrorist trade and seek to shut down these operations?

The most likely answer is that the real world is far too complicated for a five second sound bite and not nearly enough of a message to rouse fear in voters. In other words, those criticizing Europe and Belgium appear unable to understand the breath and depth of terrorism and far more interested in leveraging fear to their political advantage.

I suspect Europe and Belgium could teach the US (and certainly the GOP candidates) a thing or two about how the world really operates.

Brussels’ Message

March 23, 2016

Terrorists have performed once more the unthinkable. Suicide bombings were carried out at the Brussels International Airport and at one stop in the Brussels Subway system. Reports list as many as 35 fatalities. Innocent people with no known argument with the attackers. Why do people do this, and what can be done to stop this happening again?

I know Brussels. I never lived in Brussels (unless Sofitel rooms count). I did live nearby in Germany and traveled many times through out Belgium and in particular Brussels for business and for pleasure. By American standards, Brussels and most of Belgium are easy places to visit. Almost everyone speaks english as a second language. The pace of life is very pleasant. Brussels and the Grand Place district are full of tourists, shops, and wonderful places to eat.

The airport is smallish (compared to Amsterdam, Frankfurt, or Charle DeGaulle. It was formerly the home of Sebena Airlines (Belgium National Carrier). Sebena offered some of the poorest customer service in Europe and Belgians never seemed to mind. Maybe that was due to a quirk in the population’s personality. Belgians don’t make trouble for others.

Belgium’s official language is not one but two. Roughly, the north speaks Flemish (Dutch) and the south (Walloons) speak french. Belgium has a split political make up too. National budget expenditures are split roughly 50-50 so if new road is built in the south, then one is also built in the north whether they are needed or not.

The Belgians are outwardly hospitable people. With its central location, Brussels has been selected as the seat of the European Parliament and home for many of the European Commission agencies. Symbolically, Brussels could be seen as the capital of Europe.

Again, why do people do this?

The perpetrators of the recent Paris attacks and the prime suspects in these bombings are Muslims of North African ancestry. One might see this incident as unintended by-product of European colonial days. The civil wars in North Africa generated a lot of refugees, some who held dual citizenship resulted in a lot of North African muslims relocating to Europe. Now their children, a second generation, call Belgium home but have not assimilated very much at all. They stand on the outside while living inside.

What goes on inside their heads is a bit of a mystery. Rationally committing mass murder makes no sense and makes even less sense if it requires someone to lose their own life in the process.  And making this sacrifice based upon the fairy tale that life will be much better in “paradise” is total lunacy. So we must conclude that these acts are not rational ones.

If history is good for anything, it must remind us that these Muslim terrorists do not have an exclusive hold on irrational acts. You can read that just about all other religions, races, and ethnic groups have committed one atrocity after another, on yes, some outside group. Outrageous acts against others is not the exclusive domain of Islam.

My guess is that these Brussels terrorists decided to explode their bombs so that “others” were killed or maimed. “Others” were people whom they did not know. “Others” were everyone not part of their close circle of friends and associates. “Others” were people who did not count.

There remains plenty of future terrorist living in European countries, who live there but are not part of the national social fabric. For them, everyone else looks like “others”. These latent terrorists just sit there waiting for something or someone to turn them loose in order to kill the “others”

Brussels’ message reminds us of the power of assimilation and the dangers that lurk in the hands of those “outsiders”.

Delivering The Mail

April 16, 2015

In an amazing feat of audacity, a Florida postal worker flew his ultralight from Harrisburg, PA to the steps of the Capital in Washington, DC. The pilot landed his craft without incident and was immediately arrested. The pilot explained that he was protesting the obscene amounts of money currently transforming the US political process. I guess this 60 year old individual feels strongly about the corrosive effect of unlimited money.

Listening to the evening news, the postman’s campaign financing protest was lost in their exploration of how anyone could have flown so close to the White House and the Capital. And if that was not enough, the Press reported that the postman had describe his intention about a year ago and had been contacted by local newspapers and Federal investigators. Money in politics, I guess, is both not newsworthy or attention getting for the Feds. Hmmm.

For Russia and China, this was probably a non-event. Would either country be pushed to the point of taking military action against the US, they could employ submarines, long range aircraft, and intercontinental missiles.

But for any of the dysfunction Middle East regimes, this incident may have been a wake up call. Al Qaeda wrote the first chapter in unconventional warfare with the attacks on the World Trade Center. Now their successors have been given a demonstration on how a small, unobtrusive aircraft could deliver a knock out punch to both the White House and the Capital.

Hmmm.

Mutual deterrents kept the cold war powers at bay even though there were conservative war mongers in the capitals of the major powers. With the emergence of Muslim radical groups who apparently possess nothing they wish to protect, the major powers have no mutual deterrent tools to combat them.

One would hope that the light bulb would go on in Washington, Moscow, and Beijing that it is high time to move beyond the cold war, and work together to contain, defang, and ultimately domesticate these radical Muslim threats before they possess weapons of greater mass destruction.