TAG | Barack Obama
“But even as this land of my youth has changed in so many ways, those things that I learned to love about Indonesia — that spirit of tolerance that is written into your constitution, symbolized in your mosques and churches and temples standing alongside each other; that spirit that is embodied in your people — that still lives on…”
A mob attacked Alexander Aan even before an Indonesian court in June jailed him for two and a half years for “inciting religious hatred”. His crime was to write “God does not exist” on a Facebook group he had founded for atheists in Minang, a province of the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Like most non-believers in Islamic regions, he was brought up as a Muslim. And like many who profess godlessness openly, he has been punished.
And note that the language of PC/neo-blasphemy legislation (“inciting religious hatred”) is what is used to condemn him.
The Economist continues:
In a handful of majority-Muslim countries atheists can live safely, if quietly; Turkey is one example, Lebanon another. None makes atheism a specific crime. But none gives atheists legal protection or recognition. Indonesia, for example, demands that people declare themselves as one of six religions; atheism and agnosticism do not count.
What was it that Obama was saying about “the spirit of tolerance” written into the Indonesian constitution?
But at least that’s better than what Egypt is contemplating:
Egypt’s draft constitution makes room for only three faiths: Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
Sharia law, which covers only Muslims unless incorporated into national law, assumes people are born into their parents’ religion. Thus ex-Muslim atheists are guilty of apostasy—a hudud crime against God, like adultery and drinking alcohol. Potential sanctions can be severe: eight states, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania and Sudan have the death penalty on their statute books for such offences.
The Economist goes on to note that “such penalties are rarely carried out”. Most atheists are prosecuted for blasphemy or for “inciting hatred”.
There we go again.
Slate’s Daniel Engber sighs over Rubio’s geology problems, but then gives us this extract from a Q&A with then Senator Obama at the Compassion Forum ( know, I know) at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa. on April 13, 2008:
Q: Senator, if one of your daughters asked you—and maybe they already have—“Daddy, did god really create the world in 6 days?,” what would you say?
A: What I’ve said to them is that I believe that God created the universe and that the six days in the Bible may not be six days as we understand it … it may not be 24-hour days, and that’s what I believe. I know there’s always a debate between those who read the Bible literally and those who don’t, and I think it’s a legitimate debate within the Christian community of which I’m a part. My belief is that the story that the Bible tells about God creating this magnificent Earth on which we live—that is essentially true, that is fundamentally true. Now, whether it happened exactly as we might understand it reading the text of the Bible: That, I don’t presume to know.
Look at that last sentence, and shake your head. Candidate Obama did not, he says, “presume to know” whether the creation of the Earth happened “exactly as we might understand it reading the text of the Bible”. Good grief.
Yet another profile in courage.
Some hagiography here:
Unclear how that whole “revenge” thing fits in with this, however.
The Obama Administration has announced the latest desperate twist in the country’s nearly half-century-long evasion regarding the central truth of inner-city dysfunction. Twenty-one social service organizations, schools, and universities have received $10 million to draw up plans for a cradle-to-grave social service network intended to close the achievement, crime, and civility gap between perpetually impoverished communities and the rest of the country. This cradle-to-grave concept is modeled on the Harlem Children’s Zone, a $77 million-a-year enterprise in a 97-block zone in Harlem that tries to surround black children with an inescapable web of social services and educational support that will accompany them all the way into college.
The press release from the U.S. Department of Education announcing the so-called Promise Neighborhoods awards is full of the usual boilerplate about “collaboration among agencies” and “investments in children”:
“As shown in Promise Neighborhoods and HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative, transforming distressed neighborhoods into communities of opportunity means connecting housing and development resources to education and access to economic opportunity,” said Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan.
“Strong communities start with healthy children who have safe places to live and play and high quality educational opportunities that put them on the road to success,” added Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. “Creating these strong communities requires everyone, including the federal government, to work together.”
“Well-coordinated investments and actions at the local level can generate significant change and positively impact opportunities for children,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a written statement. “To build communities of opportunity, residents must feel safe to live, learn and go about their business. We look forward to continuing working with our partners in support of this innovative initiative.
Promise Neighborhoods . . . is closely linked to the White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, which seeks to align federal housing, education, justice, and health programs with the overarching goal of transforming neighborhoods of concentrated poverty into neighborhoods of opportunity.
Blah, blah, blah. Nowhere in the various documents surrounding these initiatives is there a single mention of the only thing that will turn these communities around: marriage. (more…)
Over in the Corner, I take a look at some smart commentary on the Obama-is-a-Muslim poll findings.
The new survey from the Pew Research Center appearing to show that nearly one in-in-five Americans believe that Obama is a Muslim is as depressing as it is (regrettably) unsurprising.
Missing however was any data on how many now think that the president is the antichrist – or is that steady at 666 percent?
When Barack Obama says this, he is, of course, quite right:
But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.
Fair enough. It’s also worth adding that while the decision to build that (intriguingly-named) mosque in that particular place is, to say the least, insensitive, the tattered battered principle that there is no right not to be offended is one worth defending (even if that was not the tack that the president himself seemed prepared to take). It’s not the first time that ideologues have trampled over common courtesy, and it won’t be the last. If the builders of Cordoba House wish to build a mosque on their own property and if they do so in accordance with local rules then they should be allowed to go ahead. If they have taken any funding from countries where the construction of non-Islamic religious building is restricted (and so far there is no indication that they have) their hypocrisy will be revolting, but even that should not disqualify them from the right to put up their mosque.
Unfortunately, Obama being Obama he could not leave it at that. Let’s take a close look at something else the president said in the same speech:
Our enemies respect no freedom of religion. Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam – it is a gross distortion of Islam. These are not religious leaders – these are terrorists who murder innocent men, women and children. In fact, al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion – and that list of victims includes innocent Muslims who were killed on 9/11.
The president is, of course, correct to say that Al Qaeda does not respect religious freedom, and it’s important to make the point (as he does) that Al Qaeda has (so far, I’d add) killed more Muslims than people of any other religion (including those Muslims murdered by the Atta gang on 9/11), but the argument that bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and the rest of them are not “religious” leaders is nonsense, born partly (and perfectly reasonably) out of the needs of propaganda (it’s a useful line to peddle to a Muslim audience), born partly out the intellectual mush of multiculturalism, and born partly out of a very American unwillingness to accept the reality of religious terror, an unwillingness that owes much to this country’s late birth, good system of government and fortunate history.
The philosophy of Al Qaeda is indeed not representative of mainstream Islam, but it is nevertheless an extreme expression of one not insignificant strand of Islamic thought. To argue that Al Qaeda’s commanders are not “religious” leaders is in reality somewhat akin to saying the same, say, about the terrorists who ran the Inquisition. In terms of Realpolitik, Obama’s attempt to deny Al Qaeda the designation of “religious” may have been a sensible thing to say, but intellectually it simply does not stand up.
All that said, while I would like to believe that Realpolitik does indeed explain that particular strand of presidential rhetoric, I also have to look at Obama’s unfortunate record of blinkered ignorance, hopeless naivete, cringing PC piety and, even, (via NRO’s Andy McCarthy) at some of the people invited to hear what Obama had to say and then I begin to wonder….
I should have made clear that the project as a whole has now been given the name Park51. The name “Cordoba House” lives on (according to the Park51 website) “as a center for multifaith dialogue and engagement within Park51′s broader range of programs and activities.”
No matter what President Obama says tonight in his speech on the oil spill, we can be sure that right-wing pundits will blast it for being the wrong thing at the wrong time—even though from the moment the spill occurred, those same pundits criticized him for not saying, doing, or emoting enough. Deep Horizon was Obama’s Katrina, they joyfully proclaimed. To now complain that Obama is over-reacting to the spill by demonizing BP and imposing a moratorium on deep-water drilling is the height of hypocrisy. What did Obama’s critics expect him to do under relentless pressure from the right? If the conservative punditocracy really believes that we need to preserve our prerogatives to drill and not over regulate the oil business, they should have applauded the administration’s initial low-key response, not jump at the opportunity to paint Obama as insufficiently engaged.
Fond as I am of The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby and other such devil movies, I can’t claim any great expertise on the question of who may—or may not—be a likely antichrist. On the whole, I don’t think that Obama is a terribly plausible suspect.
But if those who believe that the current inhabitant of the Oval Office is the antichrist are lost in one myth, those who believe that large numbers of Americans think just that are spreading another. This barely less idiotic legend cropped up during the 2008 election, and I blogged about it over at the Corner at the time. Sadly, it has now risen its horned head again, only to be nicely debunked by ABC’s Gary Langer here:
Whatever profoundly negative things people might think about Barack Obama, a new poll out today demonstrates splendidly how not to measure them.
It nails the negativity, all right; this project purports to tote up responses to a list of harsh criticisms of the president – e.g., that he’s “anti-American,” “a racist,” “wants… an excuse to take dictatorial powers,” “is doing many of the things that Hitler did” and “may be the Antichrist.”
Hot words, those. The survey, done by Harris Interactive, apparently was designed to test the theories in a book claiming the “lunatic fringe is hijacking America.” The purpose seems to have been to see how many people the pollsters could get to agree to pejorative statements about Obama. Quite a few, it turns out – but with what I see as a highly manipulative approach to questionnaire design.
I’ll lay off the sampling, though this survey was done among people who sign up to click through questionnaires via the Internet in exchange for points redeemable for cash and gifts – not a probability sample. Been there before. This time let’s just look at what it asked.
Go and look for yourselves. The results are fascinating.
Walter, that’s an interesting round-up. The Irish blasphemy law merits a separate post of its own (the issues are a touch more complicated than they seem), but for now I’ll just comment on two of the other stories you pass on.
I have no idea whether Obama is right or wrong in thinking that there’s a ‘spark of the divine’ within each of us, but I see no reason for anyone to be ‘offended’ (dread word) by the assertion. Coming from a believer it is, in fact, a compliment.
And then there’s Mitch Daniels. The Indiana governor’s claim that “all” the horrific crimes of the last century were committed by atheists is absurd, even if we assume that he is referring to the major historical atrocities that defiled that unhappy period. In this context, it says something in particular about Daniels’ knowledge of history that he so confidently includes Hitler in the atheist ranks. Hitler was no Christian, certainly, but to work out what his religious beliefs really were is no easy task, not least because many of his own statements on the topic were more a matter of cynical political expediency than serious professions or rejections of faith. So far as one can discern, however, Hitler does appear to have had some belief in God or ‘Providence’, but perhaps Gov. Daniels has a different interpretation of what the word “atheist” actually means.
Or maybe he just doesn’t know what he’s talking about.