Friday, February 27, 2009

United States pulling out of Durban II

A piece of good news: according to this report, the United States is pulling out of the negotiations for the Durban II conference because anti-Israel and anti-Western tendencies there 'were too deeply entrenched to excise.' Cynics (or is it optimists) like me think that the negative public reaction also helped produce this conclusion. Many thanks to all of you who signed the various petitions - and a great weekend! (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

An international First Amendment

A response to the travails of Geert Wilders and others, the International Free Press Society is launching an initiative for an 'international First Amendment' tomorrow in Washington, DC.

Throughout Europe, hate speech restrictions are being used - not to silence Islamists spewing hatred of Christians, Jews, democracy and anything Western - but to silence people who want to draw attention to what the Islamists are saying. Such a global campaign would push back against the efforts of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to impose Islamic blasphemy laws on the rest of the world. (Thanks to CNS News.) It would also strengthen First Amendment protections in the United States - and, if only in theory, offer an alternative to the many people through the Muslim world who suffer from free speech restrictions.

Lord Ahmed jailed

Maybe there is a little bit of justice in the world! Lord Ahmed, the British peer who threatened to turn out 10,000 violent Muslim demonstrators if the film Fitna were shown in the UK House of Lords has been sent to jail for 12 weeks. No, unfortunately, it's not for incitement to hated and violence, nor for undermining civil liberties.

It's for bad driving which resulted in the death of another man. Ahmed had been text messaging while behind the wheel, although apparently was not doing so at the time of the crash. Wonder who and what he will text message while he's behind bars. (Thanks to Atlas Shrugs.)

Also, for anyone interested, check out this website about Geert Wilders.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Call Senator Kyl

I guess it's hardly surprising, but Senator Kyl is coming under pressure not to hold the Fitna screening tomorrow. If you'd like to let him know that you support his decision to show it, you can call his office at 202.224.4521 or email him at I recommend the latter; when I called it rang and rang, then said the mailbox was full. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The further adventures of Geert

Geert Wilders will attend a screening of his film Fitna at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday - an event similar to the one he was prohibited from attending in the UK House of Lords. Note that the AP account calls him a 'far-right Dutch lawmaker who claims that Islam inspires terror'. He isn't 'far-right' and, in the film, it is Islamists who are using Islam to inspire terror. Wilders is not 'claiming' anything, just taking them at their word.

Meanwhile, here's the text of the remarks Wilders would have delivered in London, had he been given the chance. (Thanks to Jihad Watch and Jeff.)

Sharia in the Swat valley

Several days ago the Pakistani government reached an agreement allowing the Swat valley to come under Taliban rule - an area that had voted overwhelmingly against them. Here's an account of what's it's now like for the women who live there - stories as horrifying as those that came out of Afghanistan when the Taliban took over there.

The Swat valley is less than two hundred miles from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. This development is really, really bad news. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Geert Wilders and the OIC

Scholar Bat Ye'Or, in this op-ed, describes the pressure being brought to bear on Europe by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIG), which includes 57 Muslim countries. The OIC, whose power and influence is on prominent display at the UN, wants European governments to prosecute Geert Wilders, among other steps to stifle dissent.

The OIC, she argues, is the organization that 'seeks to become the reincarnation of the Caliphate'. (Thanks to Jeff.) Please note that an earlier entry reported that President Obama has sent a letter to the OIC, the text of which has not been released, proposing closer ties. Does anyone besides me wonder about the direction of U.S. foreign policy?

A European Durban II petition

A German group recommended by Clemens Heni is circulating a petition urging German, EU or other governments to boycott the Durban II conference in April. This conference is already shaping up as an antisemitic hatefest of the highest order, a worthy successor to the shameful one held in September 2001 in Durban, South Africa.

Some European governments may be considering a boycott, so urging them to do so could help. If you want to sign, click here (just scroll down for the English text). If you look through the list, you'll see a number of American signatures.

This isn't the only petition; last month I posted a link to a U.S. one here. Since then, the Obama Administration has announced that it is returning to the negotiations - while it could still decide to boycott, this is not/not a good sign.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Palestine and Pakistan

Harvey Sicherman, President of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, has analyzed the difficulties facing the Obama Administration in Palestine and Pakistan. If you want a single piece that brings you up to date on these two thorny problem regions, this is the one for you.

The Administration has appointed a special envoy for each region (George Mitchell for the Middle East, Richard Holbrooke for Pakistan and Afghanistan.) Neither man, unfortunately, is likely to find quick solutions, especially since both disputes involve failed or failing states.

The ups and downs of soft power

So how are President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton doing in their bid to reboot America's image abroad? Columnist Charles Krauthammer notes that both Russia and Iran have taken hostile, aggressive moves against U.S. interests at the same time that the United States has called for friendlier ties.

In response to such steps as Russia forcing Kyrgystan to close the U.S. airbase that supports the war in Afghanistan, or the Iranians launching a satellite to prove that they will soon have the ability to launch intercontinental missiles, we have done...apparently nothing.

Any new Administration will need time to get organized, but if this one can declare that the Venezuelan vote making Chavez president-for-life was sufficiently fair, or that it is joining the UN's Durban II negotiations, then it should be able to state its dismay at some of these other developments. At least, let's hope it's dismayed.

Monday, February 16, 2009

More on honor killings

Needless to say, I'm not the only one who noticed the news item about Muzzammil Hassan decapitating his wife. Pamela Geller at Atlas Shrugs has compiled photos of women who died from honor killings, while Phyllis Chesler has an analysis in Middle East Forum that provides some statistics for the United States and Europe.

Chesler also distinguishes between honor killings, 90 percent of which occur in Muslim families (sometimes Hindus and Sikhs are involved), and domestic violence - the category into which U.S. law officials usually put honor killings. As she puts it: "Now is the time for sheikhs in the United States and Canada to state without qualification that killing daughters, sisters, wives and cousins is against Islam. A number of feminist lawyers who work with battered women have credited pro-women sheikhs with helping them enormously."

Obama and Durban II

The State Department, probably using a holiday weekend as the best time to announce scurrilous decisions, has just said it will participate in the preparations for the UN antisemitic hate-fest, Durban II. (Thanks to CNS News).

Technically, the statement said that the United States will decide whether to attend the conference, "depending on the results we see from the negotiating process." New UN ambassador Susan Rice apparently argued strongly for this position. With Libya, Iran, Pakistan and Cuba at the head of the Durban II negotiating process, you'll probably need a microscope to find any improvements she's likely to make.

My last post on Durban II included a link to a petition calling on the United States to boycott the conference. Canada and Israel have already announced that they will not attend; we need to join them.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Iraqi elections

Remember how President Bush was ridiculed for trying to bring democracy to Iraq? Well, the recent elections there suggest he may not have been so crazy after all. Charles Krauthammer describes here how secular parties have defeated Islamist ones; and how prime minister Maliki, who pursued close security relations with the United States, has emerged stronger than before. As Amir Taheri puts it, "All the parties that had 'Islamic' or 'Arab' in their names lost. By contrast, all those that had the words 'Iraq' or 'Iraqi' gained."

Two thoughts about this story, beyond the obvious (that these elections are worth celebrating):

-- Primary credit for the largely peaceful, clean elections goes to the Iraqis. However, the lack of media coverage suggests that they perceive the outcome as also due to Bush's policies - and that they don't want to say anything positive about Bush.

-- President Obama has talked about the need to show respect to the Muslim world. I would argue that we showed respect to the Iraqis by taking them seriously and that they responded in kind.

From the police blotter

Here, thanks to Jihad Watch, are two horrible tales about marital relations in Muslim families, right here in the United States.

-- Muzzammil Hassan, founder and chief executive of the Bridges TV station in Buffalo and an influential leader in the local Muslim community, aimed to use his media outlet to combat negative perceptions of Islam. His wife apparently was the inspiration for that project; subsequently, she filed for a divorce and got an order requiring him to leave their house by February 6. He reportedly decapitated her, then turned himself in to the police.

-- On Valentine's Day an Afghan diplomat, 30-year-old Mohammed Fagirad, reportedly beat his 22-year-old wife from 8:30 am to midnight at their condo in Brooklyn. He told police "his wife was a dog and he was going to treat her like a dog." (How many of you treat your dog this way?)

Now, lest you complain that I am singling out bizarre cases, let me note the following. Both of these men enjoyed a degree of prominence. Had they been evangelical Christians of similar standing, for example, they would probably have made the front page and furnished a prime topic for the chattering classes.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Fighting libel tourism

Legislation aiming to protect American authors and publishers from so-called 'libel tourism' is back in play in the new Congress. The initiative was sparked by Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld's refusal to acknowledge a British libel judgment obtained against her by Saudi financier Khalid bin Mafouz for her 2003 book, Funding Evil, How Terrorism Is Financed and How to Stop It.

New York and Illinois have already passed state laws to protect their writers and publishers against such suits. On February 12, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) chaired a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the subject. Several expert witnesses testified, among them Dr. Ehrenfeld (click here for her oral testimony).

Cohen is expected to re-introduce a bill he first proposed last year. That legislation passed the House but died in the Senate. However, Rep. King and Senators Specter, Schumer and Lieberman have sponsored an alternate, more effective bill, entitled the Free Speech Protection Act.

What is the key difference between the two? The Free Speech Protection Act contain sanctions to counter libel judgments in foreign courts that violate U.S. First Amendment standards of free speech. Of these, the most significant are the ability of a U.S. writer or publisher to countersue, and to obtain damages. Lacking such provisions, American writers and publishers will still be vulnerable to intimidation and silencing by the likes of bin Mahfouz.

Let's hope the Congress chooses the bill with teeth in it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Geert turned away

Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders, refused entry to the UK today, called UK government officials cowards. He has a point.

Look at it another way: now the British can get down to real business - hauling Israeli soldiers before the International Criminal Court in the Hague for war crimes.

When someone writes the history of 21st century England, it ain't gonna be pretty ... at least from the perspective of Western values.

Geert to the UK?

Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders plans to go to London to attend the screening of his movie Fitna at the UK House of Lords - despite the fact that the British government banned his travel because his views 'would threaten community harmony and therefore public security.'

Normally, the Dutch government appears intent on shutting Wilders up. This time, though, it supports his right to freedom of travel within the EU. The Dutch ambassador will apparently be at the airport when Wilders arrives, to render assistance if need be. (Thanks to CNS News.)

The House of Lords' first attempt to screen Fitna was cancelled after Lord Nazir Ahmed threatened to turn out tens of thousands of demonstrators into the streets, and take the sponsors of the screening to court. In case you were wondering what street demonstrations in the heart of London by British Muslims are like, click here to see an alarming video.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ah, true love!

Valentine's Day probably conjures for you an image of greeting cards, chocolate, or maybe a romantic dinner. Well, your life is unbearably dull. If you believe Egyptian Sheikh Hazem Shuman, it's an appalling event that leads good Muslims to act just like Jews and Christians. Horrors! Click here to watch him fulminate, thanks to MEMRI. What an admission of weakness, to have to rage against Valentine's Day.

(Actually, you must first register with MEMRI before you can access the clip. Doesn't cost anything, though, and if you do, you'll be able to see future clips when they're posted as well.)

European antisemitism today

Very bad news out of today's Germany: if you want to demonstrate while screaming 'Death to the Jews,' that's fine. If you want to hang an Israeli flag in your bedroom window on a street where such a demonstration is passing, the police will come in and rip it down - and classify you as 'anti-German' or 'extremist'. As Clemens Heni puts it here:

'Germany witnesses probably the biggest anti-Jewish rallies since 1045 during the Gaza war. Meanwhile research centers keep silent, refusing even to discuss such events with Jewish journalists, focusing instead on "Islamophobia." Why? Are Muslims threatened on German streets by Jewish gangsters screaming, "Death to all Muslims?" The reality is the opposite, yet no one is listening.'

To put German developments in context, more than 240 antisemitic incidents were reported around the world during the Israeli attack on Gaza. The bulk of them occurred in Western Europe and were led by local Muslims, including 100 each in France and Britain, according to a report released by the Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism. As this article in the Jerusalem Post notes, 'During that time, a Vatical official, a Norwegian foreign ministry official and a British MP have all compared Israel's actions to those of the Nazis.'

Good transatlantic relations are important to the United States, but they don't occur in a vacuum. We can't just ignore what's going on in Europe - especially as it begins to pollute our discourse and our streets as well.

U.S. offshore drilling

Remember how a huge majority of Americans wanted new offshore drilling for oil and gas, as well as exploitation of the oil shales? Well, last year both the executive and legislative bans on such drilling were lifted. But the question now is how the federal government will proceed. So far, the hints from both Congress and the Obama Administration are mixed.

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, wants to check with the Obama administration before deciding whether the United States should expand offshore oil and gas exploration. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, weighed in unsurprisingly on the side of opening up more offshore exploration and drilling.

Meanwhile, Obama has warned of dependence on foreign oil - which increased domestic production would reduce. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said he hasn't ruled out more offshore drilling - but it has to be part of a comprehensive energy plan. Meanwhile, stating that 'there are places that are not appropriate' for drilling, Salazar recently cancelled leases on 77 parcels of public land in Utah that had been designated for oil and gas exploration. His reason: they are 'American iconic treasures.'

My guess, for what it's worth: the only way the Obama Administration or the Democratic Congress will budge is if gas prices skyrocket again.

A bad case of whiplash

That's what I got, anyway, when I read this news item (thanks to Smooth Stone). Amnesty International has actually admitted that Hamas security forces and armed militias have killed more than two dozen of their Palestinian opponents since December 27.

The attacks include abductions, shootings, and death threats; scores have been knee-capped, beaten or tortured. The Hamas action began on December 27 - in other words, under cover of the Israeli attack - and has continued after the January 18 ceasefire.

So, does anybody expect mass rallies in European capitals, New York or San Francisco, to protest these deadly attacks? OK, OK, I just felt like making a point...remember, if I'm a little touchy, it's because of pain from the whiplash.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Obama, Muslims and Jews

Andy Bostom, author of The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, argues here that President Obama should give his long-announced speech to the Muslim world in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt is one of the largest recipients of U.S. official assistance; it has the potential to play a key role in limiting the murderous activities of Hamas; and it is the home of the Al Azhar University, the most prestigious university in the Sunni world.

Bostom points out that numerous religious leaders of Al Azhar, starting with Grand Imam Tantawi, routinely demonize and denigrate Jews, and call for their destruction. Indeed, Tantawi's 1968-69 doctoral thesis, Jews in the Koran and the Traditions, consisted of 700 pages rationalizing Muslim Jew hatred.

Bostom notes that this 'sacralized Islamic hatred' is popping up all over the world, and is by no means confined to radical Islamic leaders or their followers. He quotes a January report about the surge in anti-Jewish incidents during the recent Gaza conflict: "The bulk of the antisemitic incidents took place in Western Europe and were led by local Muslim officials, including 100 in France and Britain each..."

There is indeed no time like the present for an American President to show leadership in opposing the global jihad against Jews and Christians. Bostom's proposal: Like George Washington before him, Obama should reassure American Jews that he is committed to their liberty and security - before he gives any speech in a Muslim capital.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Obama and the stimulus bill

If you want my analysis of Obama's handling of the stimulus bill, it's here on the Political Mavens blog.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

More brave people

MEMRI summarizes here a dispute that erupted when liberal Syrian poet Adonis, who lives in Paris, last October gave a lecture at the National Library of Algeria and an interview to an Algerian newspaper. Among other things, Adonis called for the separation of religion and state, and criticized the lack of women's rights.

In the ensuing firestorm, the director of the Library was fired - and prominent intellectuals throughout the Muslim world have protested, including signing a petition supporting Adonis and the Library director. Wouldn't it be nice if this ferment among Muslims about Islamism and the future of Islam got more attention from Western media?

Hamas stealing humanitarian aid

Palestinian Media Watch carries here a number of reports from Palestinian media sources about Hamas hijacking food and medical supplies sent in by the international community. The first story is in fact corrorborated by UNRWA, the UN Palestinian refugee agency. (Thanks to Smooth Stone.)

Given that Hamas is a gang of terrorist, genocidal thugs, these actions aren't surprising. The United States has given some $20 million in humanitarian aid; I wonder if anyone in USAID, the State Department or the White House has read these reports.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The travails of the rich

Here's another entry unrelated to foreign policy, but too much fun to pass up. Rachel sent me an article by David Brooks in which he urges the rich in the financial and business worlds to resign themselves to having their mores and their perks regulated by the denizens of Ward Three, the section of Washington where most 'Democratic staffers, regulators, journalists, lawyers, Obama aides and senior civil servants' reside.

Brooks offers a brilliant description of the interests, quirks and resentments of these individuals, who will influence how the federal bailout funds are administered. He's right - there's no reason under the sun to think they'll do a better job of spending money than did the newly-discredited captains of finance and industry. On the other hand, I have zero sympathy for the captains. They made the mess, now they must live with the consequences. The people I feel sorry for are all the rest of us.

Lulled by Louis the Lip

Like many other credulous souls (including journalists at the BBC and Jerusalem Post), I reported last week that Louis Michel, the EU's commissioner in charge of humanitarian relief, had said Hamas bore 'overwhelming responsibility' for the destruction in Gaza.

Well, as John Rosenthal reports here, it ain't actually so. Agence France Presse (AFP) reported those words, but they do not occur in any of the transcripts. What Michel does say is, "We condemn military operations that target the Palestinian people and their property, all such acts are flagrant violations of international humanitarian law." On another occasion, he concedes that Hamas 'also' bears a 'very high responsibility'. He adds that of course he doesn't 'accept' what Israel has done.

So why did AFP misquote him? Could it be to present the EU in a more 'neutral' light as it seeks to enhance its role as power broker in the Mideast conflict? That would be consistent with current French policy - and the French government has a representative on AFP's board. If so, it is a noble effort worthy of praise, this transformation of an outspoken left-wing Belgian politician known for years as Louis the Lip into a responsible diplomat.

Wilders: next round

The saga of Geert Wilders continues. As Jihad Watch reports, the House of Lords has reconsidered its pusillanimity and will now hear Wilders speak and view his film Fitna later this month. Meanwhile, Melanie Phillips provides more details of just what happened last time:

"But various representatives of the Muslim community protested; and Lord Ahmed issued a threat that he would personally mobilise 10,000 Muslims to prevent Wilders from entering the Upper House and would take the peer organising the event to court. In the face of such threats, the meeting was cancelled." Incredible.

Wilders, facing his own court case in the Netherlands, has asked the Dutch Supreme Court to halt his prosecution on hate-speech charges. Again, as Jihad Watch points out, the Koranic quotes for which he is being attacked were actually made by Islamists. Wilders merely juxtaposed them with images of Muslims responding to the Islamists' incitements.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

An observation

In response to the deteriorating economic conditions, people are rioting in a number of European countries. I reported earlier on troubles in Central Europe and the Balkans, linked in part to the disruptions in Russian natural gas deliveries, but late last month unrest, in the form of a general strike, spread to France. What's interesting is that, so far, nothing comparable has occurred here.

Americans are worried; lots of them are being laid off, while many have seen tremendous losses in their financial portfolios. Nevertheless, a majority are still calm enough to see through the non-stimulus 'stimulus package' and call for a more sensible response. I can think of two reasons why this is so:

-- First, most people don't expect the government to solve all their problems - at least, not yet!

-- Second, the American economy is tremendously resilient, and there are a lot of resourceful and creative people out there thinking as hard as they can about how to climb out of the hole.

Think about it, next time you feel discouraged about what's becoming of America.

To be seen or not to be seen

Last October, an Ontario judge ordered a female defendant in a sexual assault trial to remove the niqab which covers her entire face, except for her eyes. His reasoning: the right to religious freedom was not as important as the right of the defendant to face the accuser in open court.

The judge was also influenced by her explanation that she felt more 'comfortable' in the niqab than without it. Indeed, her driver's license displayed her face. She had argued that it was a question of modesty and honor.

Jihad Watch wonders if the woman's commitment to sharia extends to other elements, such as the standard for testimony under which a woman's testimony is worth only half that of a man. Since there are two male defendants, this would presumably mean her testimony was worth one-fourth of theirs.

The defendant will seek to overturn the judge's ruling at a hearing in March before the Superior Court.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Obama and the OIC

As a companion move to his Al-Arabiya interview, President Obama has sent a letter to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), apparently saying that he has full confidence the United States can work together with the OIC. (Thanks to Jihad Watch.) A few points:

-- The text of the letter has not been released. Why not? What exactly did Obama say?

-- Are we going to cooperate on human rights? The OIC in 1990 issued its version of human rights law, the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam. The Declaration specifies that all rights must be consistent with sharia law. Are we going to accept that caveat?

-- The OIC is leading the charge at the UN against free speech (see Article 22(a) of the Cairo Declaration) and the state of Israel. Are we going to work together with it on these issues? Hint: the OIC wants to impose Islamic blasphemy law worldwide.

I'd love answers to these questions, but doubt I'll get them either from the White House, from Amb. Susan Rice at the UN, or from Hillary Clinton (don't forget, the OIC was established by the Saudis, major contributors to Bill Clinton's foundation).

Sorry to be so glum after a great Superbowl game!

On the street in London

Jihad Watch has here a video and news report of a street demonstration in which some 30 police officers were chased by a crowd of 3,000 Muslim demonstrators shouting 'Allahu Akbar,' 'fatwa' and 'Free Palestine.' They went past St. James Palace and into Picadilly. The crowd had broken away from a larger demonstration against the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

So how many of you (my dozens and dozens of devoted readers) believe the problem would be solved if only the Israelis refrained from attacking Hamas? Or, perhaps, if Israel ceased to exist?