Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Jihad suicide hotline

For a little humor, try this: an Iraqi suicide hotline for jihadis.

Fort Dix terrorists

Although the story wasn't as riveting as Governor Blagojevich's maneuvers, just before Christmas a federal jury convicted five men of conspiring to kill American soldiers at Fort Dix. They face a maximum term of life imprisonment. This appears to be another victory for the Department of Justice, coming as it does shortly after the convictions in the Holy Land Foundation case in Texas.

So how are American Muslims reacting to this decision? Well, it depends on who you ask. If you ask Zuhdi Jasser, his American Islamic Forum for Democracy gave a clear response: it 'hailed the verdicts which brought the criminals to justice and will hopefully deter others like them from ever contemplating similar plots in the future.'

On the other hand, the New Jersey representative of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), as reported in the New York Times, said that the defendants had been egged on by a government informant; while not innocent, they were not so very guilty.

So who speaks for American Muslims? I suspect that American Muslims have a range of views; some feel represented by one organization, some by the other. The problem is that CAIR gets the lion's share of media attention; it's not easy to hear Jasser's voice.

See for yourself

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) posted some videos on YouTube showing their side of the story. Those videos were blocked, but the most-watched one is still available here, thanks to LittleGreenFootballs. It shows Hamas fighters loading missiles into the back of a truck shortly before being obliterated.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Who to blame: Israel or Hamas?

EU foreign ministers will meet tomorrow to try to reach a common position on the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. So far France, which currently holds the EU presidency, has blamed Israel for the outbreak. Along with Spain, the United Kingdom, and the European Commission, France wants an immediate halt to Israeli bombing of Gaza. The French government has also condemned Israel's 'disproportionate use of force' against Hamas.

The EU's common position will likely be more nuanced, as the Germans have said that Israel has a right to protect itself. But it's highly unlikely that the Europeans will agree with Geert Wilders, who argues that Israel is only taking the brunt of the jihad assault that will sooner or later reach Europe.

Europeans may defend Hamas, but the Egyptian foreign minister does not. Here he is, in a Dec. 27 press conference, laying the blame for the latest hostilities clearly at the feet of Hamas. Most likely other Arab League governments agree, even if they don't want to say so out loud. Incidentally, as for 'disproportionate use of force,' Egyptian border guards have fired on Palestinians seeking to leave Gaza. The Egyptians don't want an increased Palestinian presence that Hamas could exploit to destabilize Egypt.

Obama's outreach to the Muslim world

Several friends and loyal readers have asked for my views on an op-ed by Olivier Roy and Justin Vaisse in the Dec. 21 New York Times. (I apologize, but I don't know how to link to it.)

Roy and Vaisse argue that the Muslim world is not monolithic, and should not be treated as such. Nor do they see Islam as a primary source of conflict in the world. Instead, "There are as many bloody conflicts outside of regions where Islam has a role as inside them." They question who the Islamic 'leaders' are to whom Obama would speak, and argue that linking by Islam and terrorism, Obama would reinforce the potential for alienation among Western Muslims. Rather than convene a meeting, Obama should close down the prison on Guantanamo, withdraw from Iraq, ban torture, and push for peace in the Middle East.

The points Roy and Vaisse raise are mostly true - but irrelevant. Radical Islam has declared war on the United States, Europe, Israel, and many Muslim countries and is doing its very best to destroy them. President Bush has spent 7 years telling anyone who would listen (admittedly a small group) that he does not/not accept the 'clash of civilizations' concept; that the United States is not waging war on Muslims; and that Islam is a religion of peace.

Roy and Vaisse completely ignore Bush's effort, thereby dodging the need to explain why it hasn't worked. Instead, they recommend that Obama satisfy the standard laundry list of European demands, although they fail to say why doing so will reconcile the United States with the Muslim world. (Will the Saudis really be happier if we withdraw completely and immediately from Iraq, to the benefit of Iran? Why will leaning on the Israelis to go easy on Hamas impress Egypt, which is busy shooting Palestinian civilians trying to escape from Gaza into Egypt?)

So, as Nancy asked me, where should Obama give his speech to the Muslim world? I think that's a difficult question, but less important than the question of what it is he wants to say. The governments in most Muslim countries have encouraged hatred and resentment of the United States and Israel as a way of deflecting popular anger from their own regimes. That anger has also benefited radical Islam, which in many places is the most obvious alternative to corrupt local rulers.

In this situation, Obama might as well stand up for American values. He cannot win by denigrating the United States - especially by apologizing to a part of the world that views apologies as weakness. Nor will Obama benefit from whitewashing the threat we face. If it were to become clear that his speech would follow those lines, the question of venue would probably resolve itself into a very short list.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Swedish banks and Bolsheviks

If you want a new look at a critical period in 20th century history, here's a review of what sounds like a fascinating book: Sean McKeekin's History's Greatest Heist: The Looting of Russia by the Bolsheviks. McKeekin charts the fate of all the artistic masterpieces and other articles of value sold by the Bolsheviks to the West from 1917-1922. Since the Bolsheviks had destroyed the Russian economy, these sales were a vital source of income for them.

My title to the contrary, it wasn't just Swedish banks that helped fence these treasures. Most Western governments took part. According to reviewer Adam Kirsch, "...the real value of this book is that it shows just how well the West lived up to Lenin's cynical prophecy: 'The capitalists will sell us the rope with which to hang them.'"

Monday, December 22, 2008

Poor Bosnia

The Islamist influence in Bosnia has been growing slowly but steadily since the war there in the 1990s. The latest evidence: 'Grandfather Frost' (a close cousin of Santa Claus) has been banned in the largely Muslim state-run kindergartens in Sarajevo. This step may seem relatively minor, but when former Bosnian Muslim president Alija Izetbegovic first tried to eliminate Grandfather Frost, the public outcry forced him to back off. This time, reflecting growing polarization in Bosnia, the outcome is different. (Thanks to Dhimmi Watch.)

Jihadi view of US elections

The NEFA Foundation has translated a rather unusual analysis of the US elections contained in a communique issued by the media spokesman of the Islamic Army in Iraq. He contrasted the ability of candidates of the same party to overcome their differences to work for a common victory, and of the losing candidate to concede defeat without demonizing his opponent. Those actions, he argued, contrast sharply with what happens in many Muslim countries.

USG Sharia-compliant insurance instruments

Kevin Murray, a private citizen, has filed a lawsuit in Michigan demanding that the U.S. Treasury Department withhold bailout funds from the American International Group insurance company (AIG) unless it divests itself completely of any branch that deals with Islamic finance. The lawsuit alleges that U.S. government ownership of a sharia-compliant subsidiary represents an unconstitutional government infringement on religion. You can read the text of the complaint here.

An AIG subsidiary, AIG Takaful Enaya headquartered in Bahrain, provides a range of sharia-compliant insurance products for the Islamic world. However, these products are not exotic and remote. On December 1, another AIG subsidiary announced that it was introducing a 'Takaful Homeowners Policy', aimed at the U.S. market, in conjunction with AIG Takaful Enaya.

It's not clear whether this lawsuit will succeed, or whether it will be rejected due to the principle of sovereign immunity, which protects the U.S. government from U.S. taxpayer challenges over how it uses its funds.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Europe and global warming

The Heritage Foundation has a web memo that summarizes recent EU attempts to curb global warming. It describes a meeting in Poznan, Poland, to agree on the next steps after the 2012 goals set under the Kyoto Protocol which President Bush refused to sign (and which the Senate at one point rejected by 95-0).

Let's hope the Obama Administration takes note of Europe's failure to meet its targets under Kyoto. This failure occurred in large part because of the economic pain meeting those targets would cause; if the United States embarks on a similar path, it is likely to face the same prospect. Indeed, the United States has reduced its emissions more in recent years than have a number of EU member states - without Kyoto. Add to that the growing uncertainty over whether the earth is in fact warming or cooling, and it's definitely time to proceed with caution.

Clinton money

As a requirement of Hillary's candidacy for Secretary of State, Bill Clinton has released a list of the major donors to his foundation. Unsurprisingly (at least to me), the list includes a number of unsavory types. Before the mainstream media bury this story, here are a few details, from an article by Jacob Laksin at FrontPage Magazine:

-- Issam Fares, a former deputy prime minister of Lebanon, is an outspoken advocate of Hizbollah. He has denied that Hizbollah was responsible for the 1983 bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Beurut; his pro-Syrian tilt has won him a decoration from the Syrian government.

-- The Saudis have been the biggest donors, contributing between $10 and $25 million. In addition, a pro-Saudi advocacy group, Friends of Saudi Arabia, contributed between $1 and $5 million. Note that the Saudis typically give only to charities for Muslims - not to those that also help non-Muslims.

-- The Dubai Foundation gave between $1 and $5 million; other grants of theirs have gone to pay off the families of Palestinian and Hezbollah suicide bombers.

Laksin concludes: "...given [Clinton's] foundation's declared mission to promote 'racial, ethnic and religious reconciliation,' how can he justify his willing association with governments that routinely abuse himan rights and fuel sectarian violence? Further, in light of the Clinton foundation's dependency on such donors, what assurances will Hillary Clinton provide that her husband's philanthropic interests will not stand in the way of the nation's diplomatic priorities?"

At least we now know details about the funding - details Bill Clinton had refused to divulge.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dutch on Durban II

The Netherlands have announced that they will join Canada and Israel in boycotting the UN's Durban II conference on racism in 2009 unless draft documents disproportionately critical of Israel are amended. The EU (of which the Netherlands is a member state) is considering its position; its own watchdog agency on racism has lobbied against pulling out, arguing that 'much remains to be done to fight racism globally and regionally'. Why attending this conference will fight racism is beyond me.

Meanwhile, 24 prominent Americans signed a statement published as a full-page ad in the Washington Times urging the United States to boycott the meeting as well. In 2001, the Durban I conference in South Africa was such a hate fest that Secretary of State Colin Powell walked out. Let's hope the Obama administration will decide to stay away.

British officials criticize libel tourism

The Free Speech Protection Act of 2008, intended to protect American authors' First Amendment rights from libel suits brought in other countries, appears to have bogged down in Washington. However, there's good news from across the pond.

The UK minister of justice and Members of Parliament have attacked the British libel law which allows people like Khalid Bin Mafouz, who lives in Saudi Arabia, to sue American authors like Rachel Ehrenfeld, to suppress allegations that he finances Islamist terrorism. The current law, according to Labour MP Denis MacShane, 'shames Britain and makes a mockery of the idea that Britain is a protector of core democratic freedoms'. Let's hope he and others can fix the problem.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jewel of Medina panned

After all the hoop-la over Sherry Jones' novel, The Jewel of Medina, it was finally published...and turns out, it's not a very good novel. Robert Spencer notes that it presents a saccharine interpretation of Mohammed and is poorly written. Lorraine Adams was equally offended by its poor prose.

Adams appears to suggest - although I'm not clear on this - that it's a shame to risk offending others with such a low-brow production. She applauds the international writers association PEN for remaining silent on the issue. So if your prose or storytelling abilities fall short you should, to paraphrase French President Jacques Chirac, not lose an opportunity to remain silent? I would argue that such a position is cowardly. Such books should be published; let readers chose what they wish to read.

Enough of radical Islam

That's the title of a recent opinion piece by Ben Shapiro (brought to my attention by Jeff, who doesn't necessarily endorse it). Shapiro argues that we need to 'get real':

-- we're not in a war against terrorism, but in a war against militant Islam.

-- Muslim extremists aren't just a tiny minority of all Muslims: "It's a dominant strain of evil that runs rampant in a population of well over 1 billion."

-- They hate us not because of what we do but because of who we are, and because we don't want to surrender to them.

-- The terrorists will only quit when they are dead: "It is our job to make them so."

I'm curious to know what you think - just for the record, I agree with him.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Just what is the threat?

UK prime minister Gordon Brown, on a trip to India and Pakistan, says that 75% of the UK's most serious terrorist cases are linked to Al Qaeda in Pakistan (hardly surprising, considering how many Muslims in the UK are of Pakistani origin), and proposes a new pact with Pakistan to combat the terrorists. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Meanwhile, Scotland Yard employs as senior advisor on Muslim extremism a Tunisian wanted by Interpol for his links to an alleged terrorist organization. The individual was convicted in absentia in Tunisia and sentenced to 56 years in prison. What's more, looks like Scotland Yard knew all about this when they hired him. Read this article by Melanie Phillips and weep.

The UK authorities will never solve their problem unless and until they figure out who the enemy is.

Islamic divorce and polygamy

A privately-organized Saudi women's conference, the Saudi Divorce Initiative Forum, publicly discussed divorce in the hope of inspiring reform. Here are some of the problems women face:

-- women can be divorced without being either informed or present in the court.

-- judges often won't listen to a woman's pleading in a divorce case unless she is accompanied by a male relative.

-- the Saudi divorce rate is officially quoted as being 30%, but could be as high as 60%. Some women argue that the rate has increased because young men are now raised to believe that they should totally control their wives.

Meanwhile, an article in the Jerusalem Post paints a grim picture of polygamy as practiced by Israel's Bedouins. Even the husbands apparently suffer, according to an expert: 'With all the trouble, the feuds, the envy, the financial responsibilities - a man with more than one wife typically regrets it.' Which begs the question...but I'm clearly projecting my Western views onto another society, so I'll stop there. (Thanks to Dhimmi Watch.)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

How to combat radical Islam

Andrew Bostom offers an excellent suggestion: why doesn't the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), which represents over 50 Muslim governments, take the lead in opposing radical Islam? OIC states have declared their opposition to terrorism. They have money, arms and armies; why are they not sending forces to help Pakistan defeat the Islamists? It is an excellent question.

Geert Wilders in Jerusalem

Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders gave an excellent speech at a conference in Jerusalem in which he argued that the war against Israel is not territorial but ideological. It is in fact jihad; Israel, like Kosovo, Chechnya, South Thailand, and many other hot spots lies on the fault line between Islam and the non-Islamic world.

Wilders is scathing about the failure of the European governments and political elite to understand the threat posed by the Islamicization of Europe, let alone to defend the rights of people like him to exercise rights such as freedom of speech. Read the whole speech here, thanks to Andrew Bostom.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Jihadists arrested in Belgium

Belgian authorities have finally arrested Malika El-Aroud, the famous on-line recruiter for jihad living on the public dole in Belgium. Some 13 others were also arrested in 16 raids in Brussels and Liege. The group may have been planning an attack in conjunction with a meeting in Brussels this week of EU leaders. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

The season of peace and love

Christmas, usually seen as a season of peace and love, sometimes brings out other emotions, as Smooth Stone points out. The Anglican church of St. James in Picadilly arranged an anti-Israel hate fest which apparently has caused subsequent embarrassment. The rector of St. James Picadilly, responding to numerous complaints, said he would 'think twice' before allowing a repeat of the service. Nothing like taking a firm stand against bigotry and hate!

Elsewhere, prominent Islamist Anjem Choudhary warns Muslims that Christmas is the 'pathway to hell' and urges his followers to boycott it. This sounds a bit odd, if one assumes that Muslims by definition don't celebrate Christmas, but perhaps Choudhary is feeling pressure from the competition. I propose a campaign against 'Christianophobia' - after all, anyone making similar accusations against Islam would have been denounced for 'Islamophobia.'

Thursday, December 11, 2008

New and improved website

Just so you know - I haven't forgotten my blog, but I've been working to update my website. The new and improved version is now available at www.leslielebl.com; comments welcome!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia

So is it true, as many people argue, that the Muslims today are the 'new Jews' - that they are underdog and outsiders who face potentially genocidal discrimination (dubbed Islamophobia), particularly in Europe? German scholar Clemens Hani begs to differ, pointing out that modern anti-Semitism assumes that the Jews are responsible for all evil in the world, as well as being out to take over the world:

"No other group has ever been blamed for such a welter of 'evils' - capitalism, communism, liberalism and humanism. None of these anti-Semitic accusations are used against Muslims today. In fact, Islamic terrorists use these very canards in an attempt to justify their anti-Jewish actions...Furthermore, there are some Islamicists who openly advocate the takeover of Europe, the West and the world...[T]he Jews have never had or claimed such a goal."

So what constitutes torture?

Writer John Rosenthal compares two cases in 2002 involving allegations of torture, one in Germany and the other in Guantanamo. If you think the European authorities adhere to a higher standard of protection...well, you need to read this article. It compares the treatment accorded to a young German law student accused of kidnapping a young boy with that given to a key Al Qaeda operative.

Marriage under sharia law

Here's a discussion on Abu Dhabi TV between a Saudi cleric, a Saudi woman activist, and the show's hostess about the types of marriage permitted under sharia law, and women's rights more generally. The discussion demonstrates the result of shoehorning today's existence into categories deduced from the life of Mohammed 1,400 years ago. It should be required viewing for the Archbishop of Canterbury and any other advocates of the partial adoption of sharia law - which part, I wonder? (Thanks to MEMRI.)

Mumbai and Pakistan

For anyone who missed it, here's an excellent op-ed piece by Patrick French, from yesterday's New York Times. It describes, among other things, the mindset of the terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, that appears to have carried out the Mumbai attacks: their hatred, especially hatred for democracy, Jews, and women in bikinis; and the will to power, expressed as the desire for a caliphate, this time in Central Asia.

French also demolishes all the media apologists for the terrorists, the commentators who by blaming the massacres on American foreign policy, India or whatever other excuse was handy are seeking to relieve the terrorists of any personal responsibility for their actions.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The UN, blasphemy and free speech

Late last month, the UN's Third Committee, which handles human rights issues, passed a resolution criminalizing expressions deemed to be 'defamation of religion,' with special concern for Islam. Unsurprisingly, the resolution was submitted by a caucus of Islamic nations, supported by human rights defenders Venezuela and Belarus. The resolution will come to the main body of the UN General Assembly for a vote later this month, where it is expected to pass. Then, in principle, UN member states are supposed to amend their criminal codes accordingly.

It turns out that the resolution is actually watered down from the text that was submitted last year. However, this time it would then be sent to the second World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance - Durban II, the anticipated antisemitic hate fest. (If you want more information on Durban II, go here.)

A growing number of legal scholars argue that the decisions of international conferences like Durban II can be incorporated into international law, which then can be enforced by the International Criminal Court (where the United States is not/not a member). 'Stand-up comics and philosophers might find they're unable to cross international borders for fear of being arrested and remanded for trial in Jordan or Malaysia.' (Dutch parlementarian Geert Wilders is already facing this problem for his film Fitna.)

Will it actually come to this? Optimists argue that the vote in favor of the resolution is weaker than it was last year. It would also be nice if the United States (which has refused to participate in the planning meetings) and other Western countries would follow Canada's example and refuse to attend Durban II, thus for once sending a clear message about support for free speech and freedom of religion, and against incitement to hatred and mayhem.

For a witty, incisive blast in favor of free speech and exposing politically-correct and mind-numbing speech codes from one of the 'stand up comics and philosophers' who has already been put in front of Human Rights Commissions in Canada, see columnist Mark Steyn's latest piece here.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Maternal love

The blog Smooth Stone reports about the fate of a young Moroccan man who converted from Islam to Christianity in Canada. His mother arranged for two young men to throw him off the fourth floor balcony of a mall; he survived but will probably be in a wheelchair the rest of his life.

Who wrote the Koran?

Abdulkarim Soroush, a prominent Iranian religious dissident, argues that the Koran is a 'prophetic experience,' that Mohammed 'was at the same time the receiver and the producer of the Koran.' This is very different from the traditional view that the Koran is literally the word of God.

Mohammed Ayatollahi Tabaar, an adjunct lecturer at George Washington University, argues that '[i]n a deeply religious society, whose leaders have justified their hold on power as a divine duty, it may take a religious counterargument to push the society toward pluralism and democracy. Soroush challenges those who claim to speak for Islam, and does so on their own terms.' Just think: this was actually published in the New York Times Magazine!

More self-promotion

This time, it's a review essay about two books dealing with radical Islam in Bosnia and the Balkans more generally: Chris Deliso's The Coming Balkan Caliphate: The Threat of Radical Islam to Europe and the West, and John Schindler's Unholy Terror: Bosnia, Al-Qa'ida and the Rise of Global Jihad. They both argue that the war in Bosnia was an important way-station in Al Qaeda's development of global jihad, and that radical Islam is becoming ever more influential throughout the Balkans.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Somali pirates 101

Michael Radu, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, has written an excellent essay on the problem of Somali pirates. It analyzes the pirate industry (based plenty of fat ransoms) whose assets give the pirates status in the Somali clan structure; lists the naval assets that could be used against them; identifies the growing links to radical Islam; and explains why Western political correctness makes this problem so much worse than it has to be.

Radu suggests that those countries who want to fight pirates should take the offense, instead of trying to defend ships in the huge Indian Ocean. He recommends a blockade of certain waters, and the destruction of pirates' ships, villas and other ill-gotten gains.

As usual, the French are at least willing to do something to fight the pirates, while the British Navy avoids them because it doesn't want to grant any prisoners all kinds of human rights protections rather than prosecute them. The entire international community, as represented by the United Nations, has as usual fallen down on the job.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Krauthammer on Iraq

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer writes that the recent military and security agreement with Iraq represents a huge victory not just for the United States, but for Iraq and for democracy in the Middle East.

I don't disagree, but I would note that we made a costly error by allowing both Iraq and Afghanistan to base their constitutions on Islamic law. Iraq's Christian community will probably cease to exist; potentially fatal attacks on it have been launched since the U.S. occupation in 2003.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Terrorists and the media

Bret Stephens argues here that Western media are doing an outstanding job of supplying terrorists with excuses for their actions. All too often, what they're 'reporting' are actual lies, such as Newsweek's false allegations about Koran's being flushed down the toilet at Guantanamo, or the alleged death of 12-year-old Mohammed al-Dura.

To quote Stephens: "...it's worth wondering why a media that treats nearly every word uttered by the U.S., British or Israeli governments as inherently suspect has proved so consistently credulous when it comes to every dubious or defamatory claim made against these governments." Good question, to which I'd like to add one of my own: Will the media treat Obama with the same suspicion and contempt, once's he's sworn in?

My unvarnished views

Nancy asked me what I thought of Hillary Clinton's appointment as Secretary of State, and of the impact of the Mumbai massacres on President-elect Obama's future policies towards terrorism.

Hillary: oddly enough, this may be a good appointment (especially if the alternative might have been Dick Holbrooke or Wes Clark - heaven knows they've wanted the job for years). She demonstrated toughness during the campaign, and that's a very good quality in a Secretary of State. The irony, of course, is that her two biggest campaign lies were about Bosnia and Northern Ireland. I would hope that her record of veracity will improve once she's dealing full time with faraway places. She will have 'Bill eruptions' from time to time, just as she did on the campaign trail, leaving the rest of us respond with either embarrassment or sick humor. However, on the bright side, Bill's ability to lobby and accept money from unsavory sources may be hampered by the increased limelight.

Obama and terrorism: oddly enough, there may be a little sliver of silver on the bottom of the very dark cloud in Mumbai. I remember a tape of Obama, early in the campaign, saying that the root cause of terrorism was poverty. The Mumbai attacks certainly do not support that assessment. Also, friends and acquaintances like Rashid Khalili, former PLO spokesman and now Middle East expert at Columbia, have presumably told Obama that the root cause of terrorism is Israel; again, the events in Mumbai should poke a large hole in that theory. Finally, Obama has been forced to take sides; not between Pakistan and India, but between terrorists and everyone else. Hopefully, he understands that U.S. interests lie with helping democrats in India, not excusing terrorist thugs and killers.

Tainted milk in China

If you want a succinct, informative update on why there's a problem with tainted milk in China, here it is. Note the importance of having a free press, with investigative reports, to enforce quality control. And yes, I must make a disclaimer; Joe is a relative.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mumbai-type threat in UK

In 2006, a young Muslim man was convicted of seeking to purchase firearms for what may have been a Mumbai-style terrorist attack, in this case planned for the UK. He belonged to the same group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is being linked to the Mumbai attack. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

The FBI in action

Here are two very different stories, posted the same day on Jihad Watch and Dhimmi Watch, about how the FBI deals with Muslim extremists. The FBI chief in Sacramento believes it's important to reach out to the local community to establish trust; he keeps a prayer rug in his office for the convenience of one of the Muslim community leaders.

Meanwhile, the FBI in Minneapolis kept a local imam and his youth coordinator from boarding a plane to Saudi Arabia. Observers speculate that their inclusion on the 'no-fly' list may be linked to the disappearance of some 20 Somali youths, reportedly to pursue jihad in Somalia. (See here.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

The lone terrorist talks

The UK's Daily Mail has provided details about the lone remaining terrorist captured in Mumbai, 21-year-old Azam Amir Kasav. Born in the disputed region of Kashmir, he apparently received five months of training there, followed by training in 'marine assault.' The tale of how the terrorists arrived in Mumbai, and the string of corpses they left behind them, reads like a bad thriller. The only good news is that they failed to achieve their goal of killing 5,000 people.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Militants in Mumbai?

I find it truly objectionable to read news articles (Agence France Presse, International Herald Tribune, Reuters, Associated Press) about Muslim 'militants' who staged the attacks in Mumbai. They are not 'militants;' they are terrorists. Or you can call them organized thugs. Are all our journalists afraid of reprisals from the terrorists or perhaps condemnation from their friends? Or are they secretly in sympathy with the terrorists' goals or actions? An AFP article talks about an 'audiacious assault' - sounds like the author admires it. How about a little more empathy for the victims?

Plain speaking about the nature of the attackers would be a big improvement.

Something to be thankful for

The Iraqi parliament today agreed to the security pact with the United States that has been the subject of long negotiations. The agreement must still be ratified by the Iraqi president and two vice-presidents, but that is expected to be a formality. Today's action is a big step forward, no matter how you measure it.

Last summer, Obama wanted the Iraqis to postpone any agreement until he was in the White House; on balance, he should be very, very pleased that the Iraqis did not follow his advice. Obama will have plenty of foreign crises to deal with; no need to keep this issue open and festering. Using the Iraq war as a weapon to attack Bush was fine as a campaign tactic, but when you're sitting in the Oval Office, it's nice to have victories to celebrate.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Here comes the harem

Daniel Pipes has compiled a useful list of Western governments (the UK, Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, and Ontario, Canada) where polygamy has made legal advances this year. Ireland is a rare case of a country that has refused to compromise.

While Pipes does not report any legal changes in the United States, he estimates that some 50-100,000 polygamists live here.

For more information on how polygamy degrades family ties, see my earlier entry quoting Nonie Darwish's Now They Call Me Infidel.

The lure of jihad

Jihad Watch reports that young men of Somali descent who have disappeared from the Minneapolis area, most likely to wage jihad in Somalia alongside Al Qaeda. One man, Shirwa Ahmed, apparently blew himself up in a suicide attack in northern Somalia last month.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Negotiating with Tehran

Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute, summarizing several decades of U.S. attempts to negotiate with Iran, doubts that diplomacy will solve our problems. "What Carter, Bush the elder, Clinton, and Bush the younger learned -- but their domestic critics have not -- is that the impediment to engagement lies not in Washington but in Tehran." He cites some recent examples:

-- when Secretary of State Condi Rice offered to negotiate, Iranian President Ahmedinejad dismissed her initiative as a propaganda move;

-- when Undersecretary of State Bill Burns sat down with his Iranian counterpart, a senior Iranian military official remarked that this showed that America had no choice but to leave the Middle East "beaten and humiliated"; and

-- as a former Iranian government spokesman noted, looking back over past negotiations: "We had one overt policy, which was one of negotiation and confidence building, and a covert policy, which was continuation of the [nuclear weapons] activities."

In Rubin's view, Bush's efforts to negotiate with Tehran have been unfairly misrepresented. Most American commentators also fail to note that the Europeans have been negotiating for years with the Iranians, to no avail. Expect to see articles in the next weeks and months pointing out the difficulties of talking to Iran, articles similar to those now appearing about the difficulty of closing the Guantanamo detention center, as the media seeks to provide cover for President-elect Obama.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Holy Land Foundation conviction

A jury today convicted the Holy Land Foundation and five of its top officials on 108 charges connected to channeling at least $12 million to Hamas between 1995, when Hamas was declared a terrorist organization, and 2001, when the Foundation was closed down by the U.S. government. An earlier trial had ended in a hung jury last year; this outcome is a substantial victory for the U.S. government.

The prosecution introduced a number of documents to demonstrate that the Holy Land Foundation was connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, including a 1991 memorandum that states that the Brotherhood's work in America is "a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands ... " For more details on the various documents presented at the first trial, see the NEFA Foundation's website here.

The jury also determined that the Holy Land Foundation should forfeit $12.4 million in defendants' assets because of convictions on several money laundering charges related to the case.

More on UK prisons

The UK Daily Express reports that Islamists appear to have taken Whitemoor top security prison, forcing inmates to convert, holding their own courts and intimidating even hardened rapists and killers. The official in charge of the prison denies the report. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Prisons in Europe and the United States are prime locales for Islamist recruiting and radicalization; if you search this blog for 'prisons' you'll find several earlier entries with more details on this problem.

History of Jerusalem

The veracity of the Bible is a political as well as religious question and, as such, has been caught up in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Palestinians assert that the Jews never lived in Palestine, and that the Bible is fantasy, not history.

Recent archaelogical finds dispute this assertion, in one case uncovering Herod's tomb, in the other what may be King David's palace. Take a look at the evidence and decide for yourself. What I found most intriguing was the discovery of seals belonging to high officials named in the Bible at the time when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Herding cats

European unity is particularly hard to maintain in the face of external pressure. The latest example: French President Nicholas Sarkozy, who is currently in the EU Presidency as well, proposed a moratorium on the installation of the U.S. missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. His proposal, unsurprisingly, emerged during a press conference with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev following an EU-Russia summit meeting.

Presumably Medvedev was pleased; the Czechs and Poles were not. They reminded Sarkozy that (1) the agreement is between them and the United States; neither France nor the EU is a signatory; and (2) as recently as last spring, France had joined a NATO consensus in favor of the system.

In August the Russians threatened to use nuclear weapons against Poland if it deployed the system; later they announced they were installing missiles aimed at Poland in Kaliningrad. The Russian pressure at the Russia-EU summit seems to be aimed at Europe, but it is also directed at President-elect Obama, who in the past has expressed doubts about the technical capabilities of the new missile defense system.

Radical Islam on US campuses

The David Horowitz Freedom Center has made this short video about the Muslim Student Association, which is one of the organizations linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, and its activities on nearly 150 campuses in North America. While posing as a religious or cultural organization, it promotes hatred of America, Israel, Jews, etc. - and for this sometimes receives support from student funds. (Thanks to Smooth Stone.)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Free speech for Muslims

The UK Centre for Social Cohesion has just issued a report entitled "Victims of Intimidation: Freedom of Speech within Europe's Muslim Communities." It's a compendium of 27 European politicians, journalists, activists, writers, academics and artists of Muslim background who have been threatened or attacked by Muslim extremists for exercising their right to freedom of speech or expression. Read it and weep.

Russia in the financial crisis

Russia, with its heavy dependence on oil and gas revenues, its corrupt corporate structure, and its contemptuous treatment of private capital, whether foreign or domestic, was already likely to be hurt by the fall in energy prices and the world financial crisis.

Paul Goble, a veteran Russia-watcher, reports here that the Putin government is making things worse by bailing out the state enterprises, leaving the rest to sink or swim on their own. Nor are the energy companies immune; for decades they have squandered their revenues rather than invest in developing new fields, so that they operate at a loss as soon as prices fall.

Several Russian commentators have warned that this could 'create a revolutionary situation.' While, as Goble points out, apocalyptic turns of speech are common in Russia, the situation is nevertheless quite serious, including even reports of tensions between the government and the military. (Thanks to Ken.)

UK Sharia financing

Melanie Phillips reports that UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown traveled last week to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states to ask them to contribute funds to help the IMF bail out countries at risk in the financial crisis. And what did his interlocutors want in return? A larger say in the IMF and other financial institutions, which only makes sense. And the Saudis, apparently by threatening violence, got UK authorities to call off a bribery investigation involving an arms deal between Saudi Arabia and the British firm BAE Systems.

Nevertheless, British authorities still want to make London the world capital of...sharia financing. As Phillips points out, not only is sharia financing designed to feed required Muslim charitable donations to various jihadi activities, but it is profoundly subversive: "The key point is that sharia law does not recognize the superior authority of the secular law of the land." A breathtaking example of how Islamists can subvert key Western institutions.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Advice for Obama

President-elect Obama is getting lots of advice; here are two different proposals from Middle Eastern sources:

-- Abd al-Bari 'Atwan, editor of the London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, calls Arabs 'the epitome of racism,' saying Saudi Arabia or the Gulf States would never have allowed a black man to become president. He urges Obama to 'impose the American model of equality, rights and opportunities on all Arab countries.' (Thanks to MEMRI.)

-- The Political Council of the Iraqi Resistance issued an open letter to Obama, urging him to withdraw from Iraq. They told him not to make security agreements with other countries in the region, and called on him to release all prisoners in Iraq. These steps, they argue, will constitute the change from Bush's policies that Obama has been saying he wanted. (Thanks to the NEFA Foundation.)

I guess we'll have to wait and see which advice Obama takes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

US Treasury takes to sharia financing

As I explained in an entry last April, sharia financing is a technical tool designed to introduce sharia law into the West via the economy. Last week the Coalition to Stop Shariah held a press conference at the National Press Club to protest the fact that the Treasury Department appears to be not only condoning sharia financing, but giving its employees training courses on it.

As Kyle Schindler of the Endowment for Middle East Truth noted at the press conference: "it is supremely ironic that the Treasury Department, [the] government agency responsible for prosecuting charities which fund Islamic terrorism is now considering a financial system which will mandate banks and investment products [to] donate to those charities."

As Treasury is now directly engaged in much of what Wall Street does, its openness to sharia financing can be extremely harmful.

Terrorist threat in UK

UK security officials are apparently very concerned that secret enclaves of Al Qaeda extremists are planning mass-casualty attacks in Britain and elsewhere. The security services estimate that 'some thousands' of extremists, mostly homegrown, are support violent jihad. This assessment parallels a report in an Arabic-language London newspaper that Osama Bin Laden is planning an attack on the United States that will outdo 9/11 (thanks to Jihad Watch).

According to earlier estimates, some 200 terrorist networks in the UK are now involved in at least 30 plots. According to Patrick Mercer, Tory MP for Newark, "We know that subversion and support for al-Qaeda is taking place in campuses and prisons all over the UK. The fact that we have not been attacked for over two years should not be taken by anyone as evidence that the threat has gone away, in fact it is just the contrary."

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's not just the women

The German news magazine Der Spiegel reports (in English) that young Muslim men as well as women suffer from being forced into unwanted marriages. (Thanks to Ken.)

Spiegel is not the only source to describe this problem. Turkish-German authors Necla Kelek and Ahmet Toprak have written books analyzing the distressing situation of young men forced to submit to the tribal laws of their community. Marrying against their will is only one part of the problem; others end up with criminal careers as they follow the orders of their elders. Kelek, for example, argues that adolescent circumcision, performed as part of a public ceremony, serves to subjugate the teenagers and teach them that violence and pain are an integral part of community life.

Subjugating the individual to the group may be necessary for survival in the remote outposts of the Middle East and Central Asia, but it is in direct opposition to Western concepts of individual rights and equality before the law. And the damage done to the young people involved is undeniable.

Unfortunately, I don't think either Kelek or Toprak has been translated into English.

Eyewitness in Afghanistan

City Journal has an excellent piece written by Andrew Klavan, a writer embedded for five days with a Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in the wilds of Afghanistan. These are the units trying to rebuild Afghanistan without getting killed themselves.

His observations match my recollections of U.S. troops in Bosnia - smart, hard-working, tough, and very focused on the task at hand. But in Afghanistan they are operating at considerable disadvantage, with a resurgent Taliban smarter and quicker at propaganda and more than happy to ambush them.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

US Muslims for Obama

According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), American Muslims turned out in record numbers on election day; 89% voted for Obama and 2% for McCain. This is based on a poll of 600 Muslims. For further details, see their news release. (Thanks to Rachel.)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Michael Crichton

Yes, I know, author Michael Crichton is an unusual topic for this blog. But he was such a clear thinker on environmental policy that you might be interested to read this blog entry from the Heritage Foundation.

If you scroll down, you'll find a video clip of Crichton explaining why he considers environmentalism to be a religion - and why science, rather than religion, is the only way to solve our environmental problems. He died this week and will be sorely missed. (Hint - if you're interested in this topic and haven't yet done so, read his State of Fear.)

Blasphemy in the Netherlands

Dhimmi Watch reports that the Dutch government just voided a blasphemy law dating back to the 1930s - which sounds like good news. It did so at the insistence of the Dutch parliament, after political cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot became the subject of a criminal investigation and was arrested on hate crime charges last spring.

Unfortunately, the government wants to replace the old law with anti-discrimination legislation that is even more likely to stifle freedom of speech and religion. The proposed legislation introduces the concept of 'indirect insult' and expands an existing law which protects people on the basis of race, age, disability and sexual orientation to include protection on the basis of religion or 'conviction.' People could be sentenced for up to 12 months under this proposed law, as opposed to 3 months under the scrapped blasphemy law.

This situation is a perfect demonstration of the danger of 'demopathy": when people twist and abuse Western rights until those rights are completely subverted.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sharia Law in the UK

Islamist Watch provides an update on various official responses to the reports that UK courts are enforcing sharia law court decisions.

-- The UK minister for race relations, a Muslim, sharply criticized the move, saying sharia courts would only exacerbate the unfair treatment of women.

-- Jack Straw, the Secretary of State for Justice, said of course the UK courts would uphold British law...but it turns out that these same courts often just rubber-stamp the decisions submitted to them.

-- Britain's highest court called sharia law 'arbitrary and discriminatory.' Yet it appears that sharia courts are already handling child custody cases.

So will British authorities uphold British law? Let's hope so - but they'd better get a move on.

Equal partners with the EU

EU leaders have greeted Obama's victory, saying they hope this means the end of U.S. unilateralism and that he will see the EU as a partner in confronting global challenges.

I submit that there is one really big condition that must be met for such a partnership: the EU must prove itself. U.S. policy, in my experience, is usually pragmatic if not reactive. We tend to respond to what comes our way. If China becomes more assertive, we respond. If India transforms itself, we respond. (Just for the record, the Bush Administration has done pretty well in both cases.)

If the EU becomes more powerful and speaks more often with one voice, believe me, we'll respond to that too. If it doesn't, the new administration may try to 'make nice', but that will only last until the first major crisis in which the EU lets us down.

Two radically different views

So which is right: are the tensions between the United States and the Muslim world/Middle East due primarily to U.S. foreign policy, or to pressures from the region, especially Muslim extremism?

Iranian-born journalist Amir Taheri provides an excellent overview of what happened in the Middle East during the Bush years. He argues that the concept of democracy has gained a foothold there, although it has a long way to go. However, many serious problems remain throughout the region; he cites Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen and North Africa as places where Islamist power is growing.

A bipartisan report by the Search for Common Ground and the Consensus Building Institute now circulating in Washington makes quite a different argument: They assign primary blame to Bush policies, rather than Muslim religious or cultural beliefs, and argue that, if the policies change, perceptions will change. The group included former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America, among others.

To save you from unbearable tension as you try to devine my opinion, let me quote a passage from Taheri's article:

"...as in the cold war between Western liberal democracy and Soviet totalitarianism, the fight in the Middle East is ultimately an ideological one...No amount of material aid and commercial cooperation can, on its own, defeat that ideology, although both economic aid and trade can be powerful tools in the struggle. It is on the political field of battle that Islamism, like its predecessor Soviet Communism, must eventually experience its strategic defeat."

Taheri argues that, to succeed, America will have to win the battle at home first. "For nothing could so cripple the successful prosecution of the struggle abroad as continued dissention at home..."

I wish I were more optimistic about that outcome.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Russian missiles and money

Russian President Dimitry Medvedev announced today that Russia will deploy short-range missiles in Kaliningrad, which borders on Poland, as a response to the U.S. missile defense installations planned for Poland and the Czech Republic.

The parliaments in those two countries have yet to approve the installations. Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama indicated to him two months ago that he had doubts about the technical capabilities of the system and whether it was directed at Russia.

Sikorski says that Poland expects the new administration to go ahead with the missile shield. If Obama pulls back, U.S. prestige will plummet in Central and Eastern Europe.

I assume that Russia has plenty of missiles that can already target Poland, without any need to station some just over the border in Kaliningrad, so the Russian announcement is probably intended primarily to exert political pressure.

Meanwhile, Russia continues to suffer from its financial crisis which, while linked to international events, was precipitated by the invasion of Georgia. Russians are rushing to exchange rubles for dollars; the government is trying to stem the rush by circulating a false rumor that the United States is planning to remove $50 and $100 banknotes from circulation.

Russia had $600 billion in currency reserves last August, when the crisis began. The reserves have now fallen below $500 billion, which includes a drop of $31 billion last week alone. Indeed, the government may have fueled the rush to dollars by injecting $200 billion worth of rubles into its financial sector without adequate controls - speculators are using these rubles to purchase dollars and other foreign currencies.

Reserves of $500 billion are still quite substantial (imagine if the U.S. government had a war chest like that), but they won't last forever in such an environment. (Thanks to Radio Free Europe.)

Terrorists and UK labs

UK security agencies report that up too 100 individuals, a number of them from Iran and Pakistan, have sought to infiltrate UK laboratories containing dangerous pathogens and weapons technology. Typically posing as graduate students, they seek things that would help to make weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

This isn't a new trend; in the 'good old days' before the first Gulf War, Iraqi scientists infiltrated UK labs prior to the first Gulf War. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Repairing ties with Europe

The EU, in anticipation of a new U.S. administration, has drawn up a list of priorities for rebuilding transatlantic ties. While Europeans say it is intended for either candidate, the list would presumbly fit Obama better than McCain. The highlights:

-- higher profile for the UN;

-- more attention to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict;

-- better civilian-military coordination in Afghanistan; and

-- closer ties with Russia.

A proven cynic, I interpret these goals as follows: the UN, where several EU member states are on the Security Council, two of them (France and the UK) permanent members with veto rights, is of course congenial to the EU. Plus, the United States will usually be outvoted in the General Assembly. In addition, there are two other benefits: (1) like the EU itself, the UN makes collective decisions, so individual countries need shoulder no responsibility; and (2) there's little risk of the UN actually accomplishing anything. Messy moments, as when Russia keeps the Security Council from approving Kosovo's independence, can be airbrushed out of the picture.

Since we've now had at least 30 years of U.S. presidents trying - and failing - to solve the Mideast problem, the only way to interpret the second goal is that it reflects the hope that Obama will force Israel to make concessions. Heaven forbid that the European governments would acknowledge that the real threat is from radical Islam, not Israel.

Better civil-military coordination in Afghanistan is indeed a worthy goal...especially when it diverts attention from the fact that quite a number of European countries don't want their soldiers to actually get shot at.

As for better ties with Russia: France, Germany and Italy will find it easier to squelch the Central and East Europeans, Brits and Scandinavians, in their efforts to curry favor with Putin, if the U.S. government provides cover.

Don't get me wrong; I think transatlantic ties are very important, and need to be cultivated. But when I think of the real problems that both Europe and the United States face, this is pretty thin gruel.

Islam and voting

Several Islamists have called on American Muslims not to vote, since democracy is incompatible with Islam. I know that if I were to say such a thing, I would be pilloried. However, if you want to read what they themselves are saying, here is a link to an article by an American-born cleric in Yemen, and another to a post on an internal website of a chapter of the Muslim Student Association, the most wide-spread Muslim organization on American college campuses. Note the hate-filled argumentation. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

I suspect, however, that most American Muslims will vote.

Missile defense

In case you missed it, the U.S. Navy just conducted another successful test of the new missile defense system designed to counter Iranian or North Korean missiles. Read the details here.

U.S. Lt. Gen. Henry Obering III, testifying before the Czech parliament (which must approve a radar installation as part of the system), estimated tht the Iranians will probably have nuclear missiles within the next five years. Last February the Iranians tested a missile that, when ready, will have a 2,500-mile or more range. With additional boosters, it would be able to reach Western Europe or the United States.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Problems with pigs

The London Daily Mail reports that a Muslim police chef is suing the Metropolitan Police Department for religious discrimination after it asked him to cook sausages and bacon. He said they had agreed that he would not be required to handle pork products. This is a hard one: perhaps the animal rights activists and the health food advocates will join the fray to ensure that police officers are trimmer...if hungrier. Meanwhile, expect more of these suits! (Thanks to Islam in Europe.)

Iraq, Pakistan, and Islamic radicals

There's no doubt that the Taliban is getting stronger, threatening Pakistan as well as Afghanistan. Yesterday's New York Times describes a vigilante attack by a posse from the village of Buner to avenge the murder of police officers killed by the Taliban.

I can't help thinking, when I read accounts like this one, that the difference between Pakistan and Iraq is that, in Iraq, the tribes that wanted to oust Al Qaeda have the benefit of support from the U.S. and Iraqi military. External governmental support is not apparently an attractive option for the villagers of Buner. They claim that the Pakistani military would create even greater havoc if it intervened.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Stoned to death for being raped

Nancy had asked me to report more on women's rights and radical Islam, particularly in the West. This story is about Somalia instead, but I think deserves to be widely known.

A 13-year old girl who said she was raped by three men was stoned to death after being accused of adultery by Islamic militants, according to Dhimmi Watch. Dozens of men killed her in a stadium containing a thousand spectators. The strong of stomach can get a feel for the flavor of such an event by clicking on this earlier entry, which links to a video of a stoning in 2007 in Iraq of a young woman attracted to the wrong man.

I guess bestiality exists to some degree in all human beings. What is wrong is a legal system that encourages it. A crowd of young men enjoying the slow, group murder of a defenseless girl or young woman is a horrible sight.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Iran and the price of oil

The sharp drop in oil prices (from $147 in July to the mid-$60s today, or a drop of more than 50%) may hurt Iran more than would sanctions.

A MEMRI analysis reports that, according to the IMF, the Iranians may need a minimum oil price of $95 per barrel to balance their national budget. While Iran has a stabilization fund to protect against a rainy day, President Ahmedinejad has apparently drawn it down for various reasons to a level of approximately $7 billion. That would just about cover gasoline imports (Iran produces a lot of oil but lacks refineries to produce gasoline) for a year at most.

Ahmedinejad's revenue-raising options are limited. His attempt to get OPEC to reduce production failed to meet his expectations, while domestic fiscal measures are risky. His recent attempt to increase domestic taxes met with such resistance that it had to be abandoned. Other alternatives, such as restricting consumer imports, aren't likely to be popular.

Meanwhile, the Saudis can balance their budget at around $50 per barrel. In addition, they have much heftier funds in reserve. Other Gulf States can live with even lower oil prices. Thus, they are well positioned to push back Iranian influence in the region.

The cloud that accompanies this silver lining: the report cautions that Iranians could seek to provoke a regional crisis as a means of jacking up oil prices.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Obama and apostasy

This is a theoretical question, but it's one that keeps nagging me: Obama was definitely born a Muslim, and definitely converted to Christianity as an adult. Americans, myself included, consider him to be a Christian - but what do Muslims think he is?

In principle the punishment for apostasy, for leaving Islam, is death. This is hardly ancient history. Jihad Watch reports here the recent beheading in Somalia of a Muslim apostate. If Obama is elected President, he'll have a very fine security detail, so the risk of beheading is presumably nil. But will Muslim leaders bring up his apostasy if Obama backs some policy that they don't like?

Monday, October 27, 2008

To swim or not to swim

The Swiss Federal Court has ruled against Muslims plaintiffs who argued that their children should be allowed to attend swimming classes segregated by sex. In so doing, it cited the need for schools not to undermine efforts at integration. As Necla Kelek explains in her book, Die fremde Braut, swimming facilities are one of the battlegrounds for those seeking to carve out Muslim-only or Muslim-dominated areas. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Daniel Pipes summarizes recent similar cases in the United States and Europe. He saves the best for last: a father and son who were excluded from a pool in East London during a male-only session because they were not Muslims. The authorities subsequently apologized, saying they had no right to make assumptions about anyone's religion, and assuring them they wouldn't be denied admitance simply on the basis of a non-Muslim appearance. Guess that solved that problem!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Truth in textbooks

If you're wondering about just what American textbooks say about Judaism, Christianity and Islam, here are a couple of useful links.

The first one is to a study by Gary Tobin and Dennis Ybarra that draws some disturbing conclusions from a survey of the 28 most widely used textbooks in U.S. public schools. Among their findings: "The textbooks tend to be critical of Jews and Israel, and sometimes disrespectful of Christianity. Moreover textbooks tend to glorify Islam rather than represent it in an objective way... the Muslim groups who insisted that their religion be presented in an uncritical fashion seem to have their narrative included without modification."

Robert Spencer provides a specific example of such a presentation in a recent blog entry. Here, Christians are described as those who believe in Jesus, while the Koran is simply described as the word of Allah. This may not seem, in and of itself, to be such a big thing. But when it's linked to other themes, such as denying any historical link between Jews and Israel, you have to wonder what's going on.

Tobin and Ybarra don't argue that the textbook publishers are even aware of these problems. Rather, they describe shortcomings in how textbooks are produced that leave them vulnerable to distortions.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Technical challenges

This has nothing at all to do with foreign policy, but it may amuse
you to watch this video, especially if you're trying to wrestle with
your electronic gadgets. (Thanks to Gail)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Sorry for the silence - I'm away from home and it's harder to blog.
(Whine, excuses, excuses...)

Monday, October 13, 2008


Islamist Watch reports that the British Columbia human rights court has dismissed the case against Canadian news magazine Maclean's for publishing an excerpt from the book America Alone by Mark Steyn. This is the third time that such charges have been brought and dismissed by various human rights courts.

While that is good news, Steyn notes that the court may have been influenced by the fact that he is well-known. Also, had Maclean's lost the case, according to columnist Andrew Coyne, they could have appealed it to a regular court, and sought to change the law.

It is no victory to be told by a shadowy government agency that you will be permitted to publish. This ruling … also prevents Maclean's from appealing the tribunal's decision to an actual court, wherein it might have had the relevant section of the B.C. human rights laws thrown out on constitutional grounds.

(My comment) This may not yet be the end of the story; the Canadian Islamic Congress, which lodged the complaint, may appeal the decision.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Who's a Neo-Nazi?

Last month, an "Anti-Islamization Congress" was blocked in Cologne by violent protesters and a supportive city government. Their actions were greeted by the German and international media as a victory against 'right-wing extremists'.

But is that true - are the right-wing extremists really on the side of opposing the Islamists? Certainly, it was not true in the past, as shown by the links between the Nazis and the Muslim Brotherhood and the Mufti of Jerusalem documented in books like Matthias Kuentzel's Jihad and Jew Hatred.

And it turns out not to be true now, according to a report issued by the domestic intelligence service in Hamburg. The neo-Nazi groups rail against foreigners, apparently, but are careful to avoid criticizing Islam - and they have been openly hostile to the group that sought to organize the Anti-Islamization Congress. For more details about this sordid scene, read John Rosenthal's piece at Pajamas Media.

Next time someone is tarred as a neo-Nazi or right-wing extremist, please ask for details. Could be completely the opposite case - and, if so, why should you fall for the smear?

Self-promotion timeout

Again, what's a blog for if not to blow your own horn!

Here's a short piece I wrote arguing that, if Obama wins, all those who want change in the form of offshore drilling and mortgage financing reform will most surely be disappointed. Please be sure to send it to all your friends, relatives, acquaintances, enemies, etc.!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

EU under pressure

Bill sent me this link to an article detailing how the EU member states have gone their own ways under pressure of the financial crisis. On the one hand, this development reveals the lack of real unity within the EU, disarray already in evidence from the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty to the crisis in the Caucasus. On the other hand, as the article notes: "Without a unionwide banking regulatory system or fiscal policy, any reaction to the crisis was inevitably going to be national in character."

One interesting thing to watch will be the euro-dollar exchange rate. It's been extremely unfavorable toward the dollar for an extended period; with the financial crisis, the euro has weakened. This is probably just a short term response, but time will tell.

Data mining

Data mining, in the counter-terrorist world, refers to various methods used to extract (or try to extract) from a large amount of data key nuggets that can help to track and neutralize terrorists. Sometimes, the data has been collected by government sources; more often, it is personal data collected for commercial reasons - and the individuals giving up that information were unaware that it might be passed on to the government.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funded a study of this practice that has just been published. The study was conducted by a privacy and terrorism committee created in 2005 by the National Research Council. Its findings, according to the press report: "The government should not be building predictive data mining systems that attempt to figure out who among millions is a terrorist...The commission found that the technology would not work and that the inevitable mistakes would be un-American."

Those strong statements made me curious to read the report itself. Unfortunately, it looks as if it's not available on the internet - unless you pay for a hard copy. For something like this, I think at least the executive summary should be widely available. (Thanks to Stefaan.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

You gotta be quick

Guess what: YouTube pulled the video by British comedian Pat Condell asking people to sign a petition against sharia law (mentioned in last Friday's entry). The reason: it was hate speech. But of course! See details here on Dhimmi Watch.

Apparently, in the 24 hours it was posted, the video had 40,000 viewers; more than 4,000 people have signed the petition (for British residents only). Condell has been threatened with losing all his access to YouTube if he commits any more infractions. Meanwhile, his fans are posting the video elsewhere on YouTube.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Achmed the Dead Terrorist

Matthew reminded me of the ups and downs of Achmed the Dead Terrorist, a puppet show by ventriloquist Jeff Dunham. I thought that South Africa had somehow banned the video of his show. However, it turns out that what happened was that the South African Advertising Standards Authority banned a ringtone commercial featuring Dunham and Achmed because it was offensive to Muslims. Here's a news report on the incident which contains a link to the video. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

What Bawer was talking about

Jihad Watch today has three items that reinforce Bruce Bawer's concern that America is asleep at the wheel.

-- The first concerns a conviction for sending hate email which, while laudable, came two years late, apparently because of resistance from, among others, the U.S. Department of Justice.

-- The second shows the strong negative response to the distribution of the film Obsession as an ad insert in many newspapers. Critics say that a film showing the hate-filled statements and actions of Islamists is, in itself, somehow as bad as promoting the Ku Klux Klan.

-- And the third links to a New York Times article about a dispute over whether a Hindu-Muslim family can cremate rather than bury one of its members.

How many more incidents are going unreported?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bruce Bawer on America

Bruce Bawer, author of While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying the West from Within, argues in this piece on Pajamas Media that in some ways, Americans are faster asleep than are Europeans. As he points out, most Americans appear blithely unaware of the challenge of radical Islam; certainly, it figures nowhere in the current electoral debate.

The mainstream media on both sides of the Atlantic ignore or obfuscate the problem of radical Islam, but Europeans are more aware of it "because they can see with their own eyes what's going on around them." The only positive point in Americans' favor is that, when they resist radical Islam, they tend to be "consciously fighting for freedom". In contrast, Europeans on the right are more likely to oppose radical Islam on the grounds of ethnic identity, cultural tradition or religion. Those on the left, he argues, are anyway more interested in the welfare state than individual liberty.

If anyone has any ideas about how to alert Americans to the danger posed by radical Islam, I'd love to hear them.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Central front in the war on terrorism

Vice Presidential candidates Biden and Palin in last night's debate disputed whether Iraq was a central front in the war on terror. Well, here's my candidate for an upcoming central front (Afghanistan/Pakistan being the other, and closely linked): the United Kingdom. I measure the UK's candidacy in term of 'violent' and 'non-violent' jihad.

For 'violent' jihad: UK authorities report that the terror threat is approaching critical levels. They are tracking some 200 networks in the UK. Why just now? Well, there are many links between the British Muslims of Pakistani descent and Pakistan whose territory the United States, Britain's ally, just attacked in hot pursuit of terrorists. Also, there are a number of Somali immigrants who may have links to Al Qaeda.

For 'non-violent' jihad: Here's one UK citizen who has had enough. Pat Condell, in a video on YouTube, condemns the introduction of sharia law in the UK and its acceptance by British courts. He argues that this undercuts the principle of equality before the law, particularly for women, and asks British citizens to sign a petition of protest. He clearly feels that time is running out.

Thanks to Jihad Watch for both items.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Wafa Sultan again

Last June, I posted a video of an interview with Arab-American psychiatrist Wafa Sultan. Vonnie just sent me this link to a 2006 interview on Al-Jazeera, translated by MEMRI, in which Wafa is just as outspoken and articulate. She calls the shots like she sees them, and she doesn't put up with any nonsense from Islamic clerics or anybody else.

Wafa argues that the 'clash of civilizations' began 1,400 years ago when Muslims differentiated between themselves and non-Muslims, not when Samuel Huntingdon wrote his article of that name. She urges Muslims to stop killing people and start working and gaining knowledge.

Islamist recruitment and radicalization

The European Commission has just released a study carried out by King's College London on Islamist recruitment and mobilization in Europe. (Thanks to Rachel.) Based on extensive field work in the UK, France and Spain, it concludes that recruitment efforts have been driven underground; that 'radical imams' play less of a role than 'activists'; that the internet is very important in the process; and that despite a more difficult environment, recruitment appears to be continuing unabated.

One recommendation caught my eye: "Governments need to tackle the problem posed by gateway organizations, and to be clear and consistent in doing so." By 'gateway organizations', they mean 'non-violent' Islamist groups like Hizb-ut-Tahrir that act as a conveyor belt for potential terrorist recruits. That's true, but I predict governments will have to a step beyond that, and 'tackle the problem' - whatever that means - of the entire network of organizations related to the Muslim Brotherhood.

More on prisons

Security officials from France, Germany and Austria, according to this news story, have developed a manual designed to help prison authorities to combat recruitment among the inmates by Muslim extremists. The manual draws on information from other EU member states, as well as from other sources like the New York City police.

In France, there are an estimated 80-100 hard-core extremists among about 64,000 prison inmates. The goal of the authorities is to keep them from influencing others. Needless to say, the manual (whose contents are not being made public), has already drawn fire for potentially stigmatizing Muslim inmates.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Geert Wilders - must read

Here, from Andrew Bostom's blog (thanks to Jeff), is a speech given by Geert Wilders. He's the Dutch parliamentarian whom Islamists love to hate. You can view his controversial (and excellent) film Fitna here. Wilders' description of what's going on in Europe today is chilling; he's afraid the Islamization of Europe will soon leave America as the last man standing in the West.

Note also Wilders' view of Israel: like the Philippines, Southern Thailand and Darfur, it suffers because it is on the 'front line of jihad.' Israel's destruction, he says, will only embolden Islamists to wage jihad more fiercely elsewhere in the world. He wants American support for a new Alliance of European Patriots he is helping to organize to combat the Islamist threat.

What you should know about Obama

British columnist and author of Londonistan Melanie Phillips, like me, is appalled by the refusal of the mainstream media to discuss Senator Obama's long-term professional and personal contacts - a number of which have now been investigated by reputable sources. She links reports by Stanley Kurtz, Kenneth Timmerman and others to provide details on Obama's contacts with people such as Black Muslim and Saudi financier Khalid al-Mansour; unrepentant Weatherman William Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn; and Marxist/Maoist Mike Klonsky.

Her conclusion: "Barack Obama appears to sit on a nexus between Marxist revolutionary activists, unrepentant former terrorists, Black Power racists, Chicago mobsters - oh, and a Saudi who is trying to buy up America...despite all this, virtually no-one in the mainstream media is asking any questions. Has there ever been a more staggering, surreal and scary race to the White House?"

Winning the lottery

Jihad Watch posted this entry yesterday; all I can say is that you should watch the video.

Recruiting in prisons

The British report that Al Qaeda has been seeking to recruit among the 8,000 inmates of eight of their high-security prisons over the past two years. The recruitment drive is being led by about 150 terrorist prisoners; the most likely recruits, aggrieved, young petty criminals in for 2-3 years.

The UK Ministry of Justice efforts to combat Al Qaeda include, according to this report (thanks to Jihad Watch), restricting communal prayers and the reading of the Koran during work breaks, and trying to protect criminals from violent extremists. I'm no expert on prisons, but would note that the U.S. military has dealt with this problem in Iraq by simply separating the two categories of prisoner.

There's also the question of what inmates read in prison. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons has just completed an inventory of books and videos in Muslim chapel libraries in 105 U.S. prisons. The survey found a preponderance of Wahhabi and other fundamentalist materials. See details in this article by Stephen Schwartz.

It's been known for years that prisons are one of the key Islamist recruiting grounds. What's truly amazing is how little is being done to change that.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A burning issue

British police have apprehended several individuals suspected of starting a fire at the home and office of Martin Rynja, who is publishing The Jewel of Medina. Although the Telegraph articles makes no mention of it, why do I think these individuals might be Muslims? See Jihad Watch for more details.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Canadian jihad

Remember the 'Toronto 18', arrested on suspicion of seeking to storm the Canadian parliament and behead the prime minister? Well, the first one has just been convicted; the judge apparently found the evidence of a terrorist group 'overwhelming.' See the report here from Jihad Watch.

Of the original eighteen, seven had their charges withdrawn or stayed. Ten are still scheduled to be tried. Other alleged plots of theirs: truck-bombing nuclear power plants and a building housing Canada's spy service.

On a lighter note

Islamists tend to rant about the indecent, immoral behavior of Western women. UK Islamist firebrand Omar Bakri, however, doesn't need to look far to find problems: his own daughter is reportedly a pole dancer in London. Mind you, the problem isn't as immediate as it sounds; Omar Bakri now lives in Lebanon, having had his visa revoked by the British authorities after the July 2005 London bombings.

According to this article (thanks to sanman in a comment on Jihad Watch), the daughter got her start after Bakri paid for a breast-enhancement operation. Not that the money for the operation came out of his own pocket; he received generous social benefits for years from the British government. (As does his daughter, a single mother.) There is poetic justice in this world!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Yet another low for the UN

Eye on the UN has posted a short video of Iranian President Ahmedinejad speaking to the UN General Assembly, then being hugged by the President of the General Assembly and applauded warmly.

As Ahmedinejad's speech was essentially a reprise of themes from the czarist, anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, this is a disgusting spectacle. It make me wonder why the United States remains a member of the United Nations. Yes, the UN does some good work - but allowing it to become the global center for the spread of anti-Semitism is a high price to pay for that work. U.S. and Israeli representatives boycotted the session, but that really and truly doesn't mean much.

Ahmedinejad came last year to New York and was feted; ditto for this year. I see absolutely no evidence of any improvement in his behavior during this period; rather, the opposite. We should restrict such treatment to rock stars; they do less damage.

Disaster in Cologne

A group of about 1,500 who planned to meet last weekend in Cologne to protest the Islamization of Europe were blocked by huge, violent street demonstrations from doing so. What's worse, the huge, violent street demonstrations were praised by the Cologne city government. Does this sound like a nightmare? Well, it is - but it's true. If you can bear to read the details, here they are as reported by columnist Diana West.

Note her 1998 quote of Turkish prime minister Erdogan: "The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers." Ten years old, you say? Well, earlier this year he told a crowd of Turkish expatriates in Cologne that "assimilation is a crime against humanity." Eurabia, here we come!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Remember Muhammed al-Dura?

He was the young boy allegedly shot by Israelis in 2000, whose 'martydom' helped launch the second Intifada. Last May, a French court protected the right to free speech of a blogger who alleged that the story was fraudulent. The court did not, however, rule directly on the allegation itself.

France2, the television channel that broadcast the story and then sued the blogger, has now agreed to an independent investigation into the Muhammed al-Dura affair. (Thanks to Richard Landes for this update.) If the investigators find that the video of the incident is a fake, their findings probably won't change many minds in the European political elite and the Muslim world. Nevertheless, any honest search for the truth is valuable.

Funding Palestinian terrorism

Since the Palestinian Authority was recognized in 1994, it has received more aid per capita than was given out under the Marshall Plan after World War II. Between 1994 and 2004, the United States gave the Palestinians $1.3 billion; the EU $1.1 billion, and Japan $530 million. Over time, the PLO accumulated a vast war chest, estimated 10 years ago at up to $14 billion.

At the same time, the PLO became a leader in money-laundering, drug running, terrorism and corruption. Very little of the money trickled down to the average Palestinian; rather s/he has remained oppressed and disenfranchised. For details on how the Palestinian authorities have used the funds they received, see this report by Rachel Ehrenfeld, as well as another by the UK TaxPayers' Alliance. The latter points out, despite claims to have reformed their finances, the Palestinian Authority is still using UK monies for such things as hate-filled Palestinian schoolbooks.

Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 and has since spread around the globe, including the United States and Europe. It is a secret organization, hence details about its current policies can be difficult to ascertain. But there are some clues.

In November 2001, the Swiss seized an anonymous document entitled "The Project" during a raid on the villa of Youssef Nada, a banker proud of his long association with the Muslim Brotherhood. "The Project" lists as goals: to establish an Islamic State; to build social, economic, scientific and health institutions as a means of establishing contact with the people, and to work through parliamentary and other mechanisms but not to participate in decision-making contrary to sharia law; to support jihad movements throughout the world, including in Palestine; to push for the total liberation of Palestine; and "to nourish a sentiment of rancor with respect to the Jews and refuse all coexistence." (For the full text, click at the bottom of the page of the link.)

As for the American organization, the FBI found a memorandum dating from 1991 that they believe describes the goals of the U.S. branch. (The first half is in Arabic, the second in English.) It describes the Brotherhood's work as a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within and "'sabotaging' its miserable house."

Needless to say, Muslim Brotherhood representatives either claim that these are outdated documents or otherwise irrelevant.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Drill, baby, drill!

In case you missed it, Congressional Democrats have given up on what is - hopefully - their last effort to prevent offshore drilling and onshore oil shale development. Here's a summary of the latest moves. The next deadline is October 1, when the current prohibition will expire. As the article notes, many more steps will be required after that, but it's still good news.

Senate gets something done

The U.S. Senate on September 23 approved the package of treaties that make up the Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance between the United States and the European Union. Compared to Paris Hilton, this may not sound like much, but in fact it's a very positive step forward.

Once all the EU member states complete their approval procedures (most are done), and the EU, its member states and the United States exchange the instruments of ratification, we will have substantially enhanced capabilities for combating terrorism as well as organized transnational crime. Police and prosecutors on both sides of the Atlantic will have a range of quicker, better tools for pursuing the bad guys.

So now you can go back to contemplating the $700 billion rescue package.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Anti-jihad legislation

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), long a foe of illegal immigration, has responded to reports of UK courts upholding sharia law decisions by introducing the Jihad Prevention Act, H.R. 6975, on September 18. The bill would require foreigners to attest that they would not advocate installing a sharia law system in the United States as a condition for admission, and it would revoke the visa or the naturalization of anyone already in the country who does so advocate.

I doubt the bill has much of a future in this session of Congress, so should be seen as a political statement. I don't like its approach, because I don't think it would 'separate the sheep from the goats.' Rather, I think it would affect most if not all Muslims seeking to enter the United States.

Here's why I think so. An in-depth poll (thanks to Andy Bostom) of over 4,000 people conducted in late 2006-07 in Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan and Egypt, had the following findings: "Most respondents express strong support for expanding the role of Islam in their countries ... but also express an openness to outside cultural influences. Large majorities in most countries support the goals of requiring a strict application of sharia, keeping out Western values, and even unifying all Islamic countries into a single Islamic state. On the other hand, majorities in all countries regard the increasing interconnection of the world through trade and communication as positive and strongly support democracy and religious freedom..."

So according to this poll, in their home countries many Muslims support the goals of extending sharia law and restoring the caliphate while embracing globalization, democracy and religious freedom (whatever that means - turns out, the respondents didn't mean allowing other religions to proselytize). But it doesn't mean that Muslims from those countries emigrate with the intent of subverting Western civilization. Sharia law and a caliphate of all Islamic lands are traditional parts of Islam. An important current of traditional Islam also says, however, that Muslims living in non-Muslim lands should abide by the laws of those countries.

I think the solution lies in Western authorities and citizens standing up for their civilization and their legal system. Then it becomes much clearer who is willing to live according to Western laws and who is not. I think it would also make sense to outlaw organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood who are dedicated to overthrowing Western civilization. That might not have much practical impact, as the Brotherhood is a secret organization, but it would leave no doubt about what a majority of Americans thought of its teachings.