Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Archive for September 2011



The way we were

Remember this, Entitled to Their Opinions, Yes. But Their Facts?:

Under “Muslim law as it is universally understood,” Luttwak wrote, Obama was born a Muslim, and his “conversion” to Christianity was an act of apostasy, a capital offense and “the worst of all crimes that a Muslim can commit.” While no Muslim country would be likely to prosecute him, Luttwak said, a state visit to such a nation would present serious security challenges “because the very act of protecting him would be sinful for Islamic security guards.”

Luttwak wrote that given those facts, Obama was a Muslim and his mother’s Christian background was irrelevant. But Sherman A. Jackson, a professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Michigan, cited an ancient Islamic jurist, Ibn al-Qasim, who said, “If you divorce a Christian woman and ignore your child from her to the point that the child grows up to be a Christian, the child is to be left,” meaning left to make his own choice. Jackson said that there was not total agreement among Islamic jurists on the point, but Luttwak’s assertion to the contrary was wrong.

Khaled Abou El Fadl, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law, said the majority opinion among Islamic jurists is that the law of apostasy can apply only to individuals who knowingly decide to be Muslims and later renege. One school of thought, he said, is that an individual must be at least a teenager to make the choice. Obama’s campaign told The Los Angeles Times last year that he “has never been a practicing Muslim.” As a young adult, he chose to be baptized as a Christian.

Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im, a professor of law at Emory University, said that Sharia, or Islamic law, including the law of apostasy, does not apply to an American or anyone outside the Muslim world. Of the more than 40 countries where Muslims are the majority, he said, Sharia is the official legal system only in Saudi Arabia and Iran, and even there apostasy is unevenly prosecuted, and apostates often wind up in prison, not executed.

Several of the scholars agreed that, in classical Sharia, apostasy is a capital crime, but they said that Islamic thinking is evolving. Mahmoud Ayoub, a professor of Islamic studies and comparative religion at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif., said, “Whether (apostasy) is punishable by death or not, there are different opinions.”

Last year, Egypt’s highest Islamic cleric, Sheik Ali Gomaa, the grand mufti, spoke out against killing apostates. He said punishment for those abandoning the religion would come in the afterlife.

All the scholars argued that Luttwak had a rigid, simplistic view of Islam that failed to take into account its many strains and the subtleties of its religious law, which is separate from the secular laws in almost all Islamic nations. The Islamic press and television have reported extensively on the United States presidential election, they said, and Obama’s Muslim roots and his Christian religion are well known, yet there have been no suggestions in the Islamic world that he is an apostate.

Now, Iranian pastor refuses to renounce Christianity, faces execution:

No tags

A strange comment below:

You can disagree with Positive Discrimination policies and disagree with the College Republicans’ stunt. I actually think they are behaving more egregiously that the progressive yahoos; their actions just further bolster the narrative that graduates of color are not real graduates, despite most of them not gaining priority because of positive discrimination policies. At its most simple – the McCain supporter chose his political philosophy and thus the risk of dispute that goes with it. Minority students did not choose to be from minorities and have their achievements undermined by others.

This is a laughable assertion in my opinion. Here’s a comment from a black Stanford law professor:


No tags

I fail to grasp the deep personal insult allegedly sent by the Berkeley bake sale, unlike some commenters on this site.  If you are offended by the idea of someone being offered a benefit based on his race, you should be out there with the Berkeley College Republicans protesting the likely overt reinstatement of preferences at the University of California (as opposed to their covert use through such anti-Prop 209 strategems as “holistic admissions”).

 To me, as I write here, the reaction to the bake sale exemplifies the narcissistic irrationality on the part of today’s students that university bureaucrats only pamper and amplify, thus creating a future cadre of self-engrossed adults who will continue to cry racism and sexism as they go through life:

Student Devonte Jackson told the San Francisco Chronicle that the sale was inappropriate and hurtful, “attacking underrepresented communities by reducing their communities to a cheaply priced good.” The president of Berkeley’s student government, which sponsored the pro-SB 185 phone bank, explained to CNN that the bake sale “humorized and mocked the struggles of people of color on this campus.” Another student government officer professed dismay at such a shocking insult to students of color. “We were really taken aback and, frankly, disgusted,” Joey Freeman informed the Los Angeles Times. Capping off this outpouring of what one can only hope is willful misreading, the student senate passed an emergency resolution on Sunday condemning “the use of discrimination whether it is in satire or in seriousness by any student group.”

Who could take such a reaction seriously?  Berkeley’s $194,000 vice chancellor for equity and diversity, that’s who: 

“A lot of students, especially students of color, read [the bake sale] as placing a higher value on white students,” Gibor Basri told the New York Times. Basri, in other words, obeyed the ironclad script for all such minor perturbations in the otherwise unbroken reign of campus political correctness. That script requires that the massive campus-diversity bureaucracy treat the delusional claims of hyperventilating students with utter seriousness.


At least to some people. A ‘Diversity Bake Sale’ Backfires on Campus:

Student leaders worried that the bake sale would make students uncomfortable and aggravate tensions on campus.

“A number of students have come to me very concerned,” said the student body president, Vishalli Loomba, 20, a fourth-year molecular and cell biology major. “Many feel the differential pricing is offensive and that it makes them feel unwelcome.”

The reality is that Berkeley is filled with a lot of Leftist activism which explicitly intends to make certain people and views feel “unwelcome.” So the issue here is not offense, but who is being offended. I recall watching as a McCain supporter was literally mobbed by a crowd of agitated people on the corner of Vine and Shattuck near the Gourmet Ghetto Peet’s Coffee in 2008 (he admitted to his Republican sympathies when approached by a voter registration worker or something, and it started from that). There wasn’t any intimation of violence from what I could tell, but the lone McCaine supporter wasn’t being engaged in a dialogue. He was being harangued and mocked, and his views were being abused. But it’s the USA, and free speech is free speech, right? Not when that speech offends protected classes.

That’s all fine. This sort of Left hypocrisy is par for the course. The interesting point is that many of those who espouse in these sorts of behaviors in a place like Berkeley literally don’t even understand how they could be hypocrites. Wrong views are not views worthy of respect or some minimal level of engagement.



Would a robot do any worse?

I think America might need a little less heart, guys who you’d want to drink a beer with, and racial messiahs.



Perry & Israel (2)

Here’s Slate’s Will Saletan on Rick Perry’s curious comment that “as a Christian” he had a “clear directive to support Israel”.

Whoa. That’s something George W. Bush never did. Bush never said he had a Christian duty to stand with Israel, because to say such a thing would have been stupid and dangerous. By framing U.S. foreign policy in terms of a religious alliance between Christians and Jews, Perry is validating the propaganda of Islamic extremists. He’s jeopardizing peace, Israel, and the United States.

Bush understood that the terrorists who struck us on 9/11 wanted a religious war. The key to defeating them wasn’t to wage that war, but to refuse it. That’s why Bush constantly praised Islam, emphasized American freedom of religion, and dismissed Osama Bin Laden as a renegade killer of Muslims.

Israel was part of that rhetorical struggle. Bin Laden routinely invoked the plight of Palestinians to rally Muslims to his side. He accused the West of waging a “Zionist-Crusader war” against Islam. He warned Muslims: “Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors. They are but friends and protectors to each other.”

Go back and look at Bush’s comments about Israel. In eight years, he never mentioned his Christianity as a basis for his policies there. He defended Israel as a democracy and an ally. When he mentioned Judaism and Christianity in this context, he always included Islam. “The Middle East is the birthplace of three great religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,” Bush said in a speech to the American Jewish Committee a few months before 9/11. “Lasting peace in the region must respect the rights of believers in all these faiths.” In 2007, Bush told Al Arabiya: “I believe that all the world, whether they be Muslim, Christian, or any other religion, prays to the same God. … I believe that Islam is a great religion that preaches peace.” Again and again, Bush affirmed: “If you’re a Jew or a Christian or a Muslim, you’re equally American.”

Perry has trashed this legacy. By declaring that “as a Christian, I am going to stand with Israel,” he has vindicated Bin Laden’s narrative. Across the Muslim world, Perry’s policies—starting with his declaration that “it was a mistake to call for an Israeli construction freeze” as a precondition for talks with the Palestinians—would be seen as a Christian-Jewish alliance against Islam…

“Vindicated”, of course, goes too far. Nevertheless those few words by Perry look like a rhetorical gift to America’s enemies. Coming from a man who wants to be president, they show a startling naivety and a dismaying irresponsibility. And if he actually believes what he said, well…

As a reminder, Governor, regardless of your own religious beliefs, however sincerely held, under a Perry presidency—or any presidency—America’s foreign policy must be shaped by one thing and one thing only: the national interest of the United States. In this context, “directives” from God ought to be an irrelevance.

And there’s another thing, Governor. Allies, however close, will occasionally disagree. It happens. Resolving those disagreements will be a matter of negotiation. When it comes to negotiating with the Israelis, however, you have already shown your hand. We now know that, thanks to your God, you will be a pushover.

Not smart, not smart at all.




Perry & Israel

These comments by Rick Perry are attracting a certain amount of attention:

QUESTION: To what extent do you view America protecting Israeli as a theological priority?

PERRY: Well obviously Israel is our oldest and most stable democratic ally in the region. That is what this is about. I also as a Christian have a clear directive to support Israel. So from my perspective both as an American and as a Christian, I am going to stand with Israel.

Think Progress somehow managed to omit the crucial first two sentences of Perry’s reply. Nevertheless, that third sentence is, to say the least, striking.




Against a Bookshop

To say that there are huge differences between the three great middle-eastern monotheisms is, of course, an understatement, but it’s interesting to see how their extremists, at least, can sometimes resemble each other.

The Guardian reports:

A bookshop in a strict ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood of Jerusalem has come under attack from religious zealots whose “mafia-like” intimidation tactics have created a climate of fear and resentment among members of the area’s business community. The shop, known as Or Hachaim/Manny’s, has had its windows broken twice, its locks glued shut and has been pelted with fish oil by members of the fringe Sikrikim group, an extremist breakaway faction from the ultra-Orthodox Neturei Karta movement, which opposes the modern state of Israel because it was established by man and not God. Since the shop opened in the neighbourhood of Mea She’arim in March 2010, the Sikrikim have been calling for a boycott in an effort to force its managers to remove all English-language and Zionist books, said Marlene Samuels, one of the shop’s managers. They have also demanded the shop shut down its English-language website and erect a sign requesting that customers dress modestly.

“They’re not happy with the large number of tourists that come in here because they feel they’re not dressed modestly enough,” she explained, pointing out that Israel’s English-speaking community and visitors from the US, the UK and other European countries constitute a large proportion of the shop’s clientele.

David Rotenberg, head of Or Hachaim’s English department, said the Sikrikim had also dumped bags of human excrement beside the religious books on display inside the store – “the bottom line on how disgustingly crazy these people are”.

Established in the 1870s by ultra-Orthodox Jews of eastern European origin, Mea She’arim’s residents have retained the conservative customs and dress of the old eastern European ghettos. Life in the insular, densely populated neighbourhood is strictly governed by Jewish law and its patchwork of religious sub-groupings and factions generally resent state interference in their affairs. According to Samuels, while the Sikrikim have no religious legitimacy in the eyes of Mea She’arim’s ultra-Orthodox community – and reportedly comprise just 60 to 100 members – their reach and impact are widespread.

“Everybody suffers from them; this has been going on with other stores for years,” she said. “If people do not toe the line according to their very extreme, anti-Zionist philosophy, they become very aggressive.”

Several shop owners in the neighbourhood told the Guardian they had been harassed by the Sikrikim, but requested anonymity and would not allow their businesses to be named. An employee at a CD and DVD store that opened in Mea She’arim three years ago told how the Sikrikim had held protests outside the shop, blocked customers from coming in, thrown rocks at him and broken the store owner’s car windows because they consider the CD and DVD formats too modern.


· ·



Next Up: YHWH vs. Godzilla

Hinduism is of course pantheistic. One of the most revered gods is  Ganesh, the elephant-headed “Remover of Obstacles.” (And the god involved in the  Milk Miracle of a few years ago.)

The other part of this story is the swastika symbol, which Hindus have been using as a good-luck charm for millenia. The word “swastika” is  actually of Sanskrit origin.

Now read on.

Ganesh Versus the Third Reich is yet to open at the Melbourne Festival, but news of its storyline has caused consternation among the  Indian community.

In the play, which has been described by its producers as rambunctious fable brimming with humour, the elephant-headed Hindu god rampages through Germany on a quest to reclaim the ancient Hindu symbol of goodwill from the Nazis.

As a long-time fan of the great Barry Humphries, I thought I had a handle on Australian humor. Now I’m not so sure.

No tags

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan provides an almost parodistic version of the  “technology will solve our education problems” meme today that is at once hilarious, depressing, and terrifying—the latter, because it heralds the arrival of another hugely expensive and wasteful taxpayer-funded boondoggle, in this case, the education-industrial complex. 

If we can just pump enough high-tech products into the classroom, America’s students will suddenly become learned, Duncan and co-author Reed Hastings, founder of Netflix, write in the Wall Street Journal

We are optimistic that with the right ideas the U.S. can become a leader in leveraging the power of technology to promote learning. . . . Imagine . . . an online high-school physics course that uses videogame graphics power to teach atomic interactions, or a second-grade online math curriculum that automatically adapts to individual students’ levels of knowledge. 

Reality check:  Students the world over have mastered atomic interactions without “videogame graphics” by hard mental work; if they are not willing to make an effort, no amount of scintillating “videogame graphics” will magically put that knowledge into their head while they are otherwise engaged in Facebook exchanges.  Likewise, if a second-grade student is not paying attention in class or is showing up tired because his parent(s) is loudly partying all night, an individually-tailored math curriculum is not going to overcome those deficits. 

Duncan shows the same boundless faith in technology to overcome student apathy and educational mediocrity as conservatives put into free market panaceas like vouchers.  A government initiative created by Bush II, Digital Promise, is going to feed government contracts to the growing body of ed. tech. suppliers, explain Duncan and Hastings:

Digital Promise can show leadership in areas such as helping build a more efficient market for education technology . . . Digital Promise will also support new investments in research and development . . . To spur more R&D, Digital Promise can promote the rapid testing of new products modeled after Internet companies such as Netflix, which use low-cost experimentation to improve their products.

Education is not like the market for home entertainment systems, however.  It is not a market in any sense of the word.  It is a moral enterprise.  It requires discipline on the part of students and parents, and on the part of teachers, a belief in their own educational and moral authority.  We  have lost the will, however, to speak about the need for individual effort and deferred gratification as the most important aspect of success. 



No tags

Older posts >>

Theme Design by