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:

" 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.