Thursday, August 30, 2007

Six Iraqis, Arabic, and
Someone with Two Kids in Tow

Details are still sketchy, but what I saw in "Airplane Passenger Dispute Involving Six Iraqis Forces Jet Evacuation in California" (August 30, 2007) looks like an American Airlines flight from San Diego to Chicago got delayed because some passengers got into an argument.

This incident made national news because six of the people involved are Iraqis, and were speaking Arabic.

American Airlines spokesman Tim Wagner said that the argument started between someone traveling with two children and six men from Iraq. The Iraqis were in America, training Marines who were on their way to Iraq.

My sympathies are with the passenger with two kids in tow. I've traveled with one of our kids: one of the best-behaved ones, at that, and that was stressful enough.

My sympathies are also with the six Iraqis. It sounds like they've been working hard, and didn't need this sort of incident, either.

Before identifying this as 'racial profiling' or something else along those lines, I'm going to wait until a little more information comes out.

Meanwhile, let's remember that there were about two hundred air rage incidents over America during the late 1990s, and almost 250 last year. Some of those fracases resulted in flights being diverted from their destination.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Beware Hate: From Any Side

There are times when I think that a great many people in this country should be sent to a quiet corner for a time out. Today is one of those times.

Someone named Joe Kaufman, apparently associated with an outfit called "Americans Against Hate / Fighting Hate With Truth," published a press release. The gist of the document was that someone named Affad Shaikh had said bad things about Senator Joe Lieberman, Vice President Dick Cheney, and a number of other people that liberals don't like.

Mr. Kaufman was right, in a way. Affad Shaikh's post, " Let's NUKE Iran!!! / Extremist Right Wing Nut cases over at FOX News" (August 22, 2007) features a wonderful example of propaganda video. Fox News is, of course, no favorite of people who like to be treated with the deference that they've become accustomed to at proper journalistic establishments like the Washington Post.

And, as I said, the video uses a very effective propaganda technique: selective editing. Using a similar process, I should be able to establish, in some minds, at least, that CNN hates Jews, and that Nancy Pelosi is a hard-line extremist anti-feminist. Not that these bizarre claims are true: they're not.

Mr. Kaufman may have a point, but his central statement is dubious, at best: "The atrocious behavior of CAIR’s Affad Shaikh should send a message to the media that CAIR is not a group to be dealt with on a cordial basis. Irregardless of the group’s well-known ties to terrorism, CAIR’s rhetoric should be viewed as unacceptable by any journalistic standards." CAIR is the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Mr. Shaikh's blog is, apparently, run by Mr. Shaikh. He certainly has a very positive relationship with CAIR. He's even written at least one article for CAIR, " CAIR-CA: Muslims Retain Identity, Take a Stand" (September 16, 2005). (UPDATE/CORRECTION, August 29, 2007. The article, on the CAIR website, was written by Sandi Dolbee, of the Union Tribune, 9/15/05. Thanks to Mr. Shaikh, for pointing out this error.)

As far as I can tell, Mr. Shaikh is a a highly-motivated, zealous west coaster. He makes this very clear in his blog post, ANGRY AT LIARS (July 19, 2007), where he writes, "Bush is a liar. Cheney is fat retard of a liar. Gonzales is a liar. Rice is a liar. Karl Rove is a liar. This country is run by liars and crooks and criminals all of them are masquerading as Republicans and WHY ARE THEY NOT IN PRISON? WHY ARE THEY STILL DESTROYING THIS COUNTRY?"

Nothing new here.

What bothers me is the last comment in Mr. Shaikh's blog.

"Anonymous said...

"I am no fan of the Bush clan...but I find the garbage coming out of the mouths of Muslims to be disgusting. I am a liberal Democrat who is HAPPY to see Sami Al-Arian and his ilk rot in prison. Do NOT make the mistake of thinking those who dislike Bush are going to support Muslim causes...too many are supporting the plan to destroy Israel. Take your backward, 7th century culture out of our lives."

My point is this. Mud-slinging, from any position, may feel good. It may score points in your social set. It might even get you elected.

But it doesn't foster good will.

"Anonymous," the "liberal Democrat" wrote, "Take your backward, 7th century culture out of our lives."

I am very much afraid that emotional, straight-from-the-adrenal-gland rants are going to become more common.

I suggest two steps to help calm things down.
  1. Think! This goes for writers and talkers, readers and listeners alike. You can tell what you feel without effort. Think about what's being communicated, too.
  2. Try to understand who the other person is. That's not the same as agreeing with the other person. If you understand the person, the person's statements may become easier to understand. Or, you may realize that they may be ignored.
With elections coming up in a little over a year in America, there's going to be a lot of emotional nonsense spewed. This is a good time to find your cognitive umbrellas.

About that "know about the person" thing: I hadn't heard about Affad Shaikh before today. Before writing this post, I did a little checking.

By a curious coincidence, he's got as many blogs on Blogger as I do: six. I'll let you look through them, and make up your own mind about who he is.Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred

Monday, August 27, 2007

Special Consideration Doesn't Help

Religious Staffers React,
Major Sunday Strip Banned!

I'm pretty sure I know the response that such censorship would get. And, I'm pretty sure that the favored religious group wouldn't win friends by receiving special consideration.

The Washington Post and other newspapers pulled a strip from Sunday's comic section. Religious members of the Post staff, consulted about Sunday's "Opus," declared an emotional reaction to how the strip portrayed their faith. The Post's top brass had "considerable alarm" over the offending strip's content.

This isn't the "Opus" with a Jerry Falwell punchline. That was August 19's strip.

This was yesterday's strip. Lolla Granola, the strip's religious faddist, says that she's a radical Islamist, and wants to be called Fatima Struggle. The strip ends with Fatima and her boyfriend, Steve, sitting on a couch.

That's pretty hot stuff right there, but it gets worse. Granola/Fatima says,
  • "You're not getting a girlfriend obsessed with decadent western crud"
  • "You're not getting a girlfriend blathering about 'American Idol'"
  • "And you're not getting a girlfriend who resists a man's rightful place"
(Warning! ADULT CONTENT!) Steve says, "anything else I won't be getting, Fatima?" She replies, "God Willing."

Writers Group comics editor, Amy Lago, who flagged the offensive strip for subscribing newspapers, gave two reasons for drawing attention to it. First, the jokes about Islam might by "misconstrued." Second, there was that sexual innuendo in the punchline.

What does this have to do with the War on Terror?

Fanatic Muslims have segued from saying "Death to America" to doing it. Quite a few people in this country are understandably nervous about Islam.

Uneven treatment of religious views doesn't help defuse this situation.

I'm a devout Catholic, and have gotten accustomed to the background noise of American culture, including gags about drunk and lecherous priests, nuns gone wild, constitutionally-protected works from Rebecca Reed’s "Six Months in a Convent" to Jack Chick's comics, and sophisticated statements like "As you've probably heard, the Pope has asked all the Cardinals to return to Rome. You know how they got them all to come back? They told them that there was going to be a performance by the Vienna Boys Choir."

I'm not sure that I'd be at all comfortable with a society in which prominent newspapers banned a cartoon which a hypersensitive Catholic might find offensive, and passed a cartoon which poked fun at, say, the Dali Lama. A situation like that would smell of special treatment: something no group should want.

There may be a sort of soft prejudice here. The Post decision can be interpreted as assuming that Christians are sophisticated enough to understand, and tolerate, a joke; while assuming that Muslims, as primitive people, must be given special consideration.

The Post ran Sunday's "Opus" on What, they figure that Muslims and children don't go online?

Whatever the reason for pulling that strip, I don't think that the Washington Post's sensitivity helps establish Islam and Muslims as an acceptable part of mainstream America.

My information is from "Washington Post, Other Newspapers Won't Run 'Opus' Cartoon Mocking Radical Islam," and the Jerry Falwell "Opus" strip and Fatima Struggle strips. They're both pretty funny.

Posts on this general topic:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

"Peace For Our Time," or Peace?

The unclassified part of the National Intelligence Estimate released today is coming out in bits and pieces in the news.

The Jerusalem Post concentrated mostly on what the report had to say about Iran, in "US reports bleak political situation in Iran" (August 23, 2007).

The Associated Press article says that:
  • Iran will keep developing its nuclear program, which may or may not be producing nuclear weapons
  • Iran will continue to "cause problems" in Iraq
  • Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim extremist group, will still be backed by Iranian money and weapons
  • Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will continue to be Iran's Supreme Leader
I haven't been keeping score, but at least four Iranian-Americans have been arrested by Iran for alleged espionage. The U.S. government has warned American citizens against traveling in Iran.

"Intelligence Assessment Suggests Now Is Not Time to Change Mission in Iraq," on, paid more attention to what the report had to say about Iraq.

It's not all bad news, but it's not all good, either:
  • Iraqi military forces are okay, but they still need coalition support for major operations
  • Political and security troubles in Iraq are driven by
    • Shia insecurity about keeping the political power they have
    • A general Sunni unwillingness to accept the post-Saddam Iraq where they aren't the top power
    • Fighting between groups within sectarian communities
    • Extremists trying to make the fighting worse
  • Civilians are still getting hurt
  • Sunni Arab groups and individuals are getting fed up with al Qaeda in Iraq, and are resisting or working against AQI
There's more, of course. Fox News put a .pdf copy of the report online.

The report's authors say that stopping Coalition forces from focusing on fighting terrorists and stabilizing Iraq, and making them a combat support service for the Iraqi forces, "would erode security gains achieved thus far."

I would love to have "peace for our time." The violence in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and everywhere else that al Qaeda and other Islamic fanatics are at work, is terrible. I wish that it would stop.

But wishing doesn't make it so.

Like it or not, there are people who earnestly believe that their god is telling them to conduct a jihad against the people their leaders don't approve of.

And, it's been going on for at least 30 years. The Ayatollahs who run Iran are the same bunch that took over the U.S. Embassy, back in the seventies.

There's no reason to believe that Abu Sayyaf, al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Jemaah Islamiyah, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, or any of the other people who think they're on a sacred mission, will stop because America and other coalition troops stop trying so hard in Iraq.

"We make war that we may live in peace."

To people who grew up in the sixties, or who are still living then, that sounds crazy. But Aristotle was no lunatic, and leaders who don't let terrorists do what they will may not be, either.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Jihad Rehab

Saudi Arabia, home to nearly half the foreign detainees in Iraqi jails, and most of the 9/11 hijackers, is trying something new to combat terrorism: a 12-step program for terrorists.

"Saudi Youth Enter Rehab to Overcome Their Terrorist Ways" tells about a program sanctioned by the Saudi Arabian government, which is giving hundreds of Islamic fighters a second chance.

To live a peaceful life, that is.

It sounds good. Presumably, some of the 'death to America' crowd have already graduated, and are living happy, healthy lives: going to universities, holding down jobs, and having children.

A few quotes from people involved in the program:
  • "I would like to say to the American people that Islam forbids killing innocent people." Ahmed al-Shayea, who blew up a tanker truck outside the Jordanian embassy, killing nine people, al-Shayea escaped, but without a few fingers and with burns over most of his body
  • "We tell them that they should give the right picture of Islam. They should not kill or bomb or do anything against Islam." - Dr. Ahmad Hamad Jilan of the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs
  • "I regret strongly for what I had done because unfortunately I was instead of building Islam, I was destroying Islam," - Saddam Saleh, recovering terrorist
The facility covered in the news article is on the edge of provincial capital Al Janderea, in Saudi Arabia.

It sounds like a pretty nice place to hang out. The half-way house for repentant terrorists includes
  • A pool
  • A library
  • A volleyball court
  • Gardens
I assume that the participants can't leave, which would take some of the shine off its allure.

In addition to getting help with social problems which are assumed to have made them go bad, the recovering terrorists get a re-education in Islam.

"Jilan and other instructors teach the inhabitants that jihad should not be waged against any non-Muslims with whom an Islamic nation has a truce or peace treaty. Jihad must also be approved, he said, by the state and by one's parents," the article says.

That sounds better than "Death to the Jews! Death to the great satan America!" - but I couldn't help notice how jihad is still okay, as long as the right people say so.

I'd like to believe that this program, and ones like it in Egypt and Yemen, are legitimate: that they actually are trying to heal the minds of these terrorists, and turn them into people who can be safely released.

That doesn't mean that I'm not maintaining a robust skepticism about the Saudi program. There's the possibility that it turns out terrorists who are aware that they have to maintain a better cover to be effective, or that it is a public relations gimmick.

At this point, there doesn't seem to be any way to tell.

I'm just glad that Saudi Arabia is making a gesture, at least, toward stopping terrorism.

Posts on this general topic:

Sorry about that!

This blog was unavailable for at least an hour this morning.

Since you're reading this, you've come back to try accessing it again: thank you for your patience!

Google seems to have been doing some maintenance: and about time! My service has been a bit 'iffy' for some time.

I'll be back with a 'real' post as soon as I can.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Reality Check: Religion Counts

After more than a decade's experience inside academia, I'm not really surprised when highly educated experts fail to grasp the obvious.

Everybody (everybody who counts, anyway) knows that complex socio-economic factors, interacting with psychological manifestations of diverse cultural norms, are what make people do what they do: and that religion is dumb.

Except for some really cool religions from exotic places, of course.

Unfair? I hope so. But it's hard not to think that secular psychobabble and refried Marxism, with a dash of multicultural activism, is what passes for thought in the halls of ivy these days.

Especially when something titled "Princeton Economist Says Lack of Civil Liberties, Not Poverty, Breeds Terrorism" shows up in the Wall Street Journal (July 5, 2007).

I'm not making this up. The title says it all. It's become obvious that there isn't a link between terrorism and poverty. Something else must be the cause of all these Muslims (not all Muslims!) coming after western interests. I give the professor credit, that far, for remarkably incisive thinking.

Then, he says that lack of civil liberties causes terrorism. An opposing view is "Princeton economist: Poverty doesn't cause terror, so it must of civil liberties! Yeah, that's it!" (July 6, 2007). I recommend reading it.

If jihadist terrorism isn't caused by poverty, or by insufficient civil liberties, what could possibly be the reason for people committing mass murder with explosive vests, car bombs, and, on occasion, airliners, and getting themselves killed in the process?
  • Dysfunctional, codependent familial support systems?
  • Insufficient empowerment?
  • Porsche Envy?
    (wanting to be more well-to-do than one already is)
  • Racial profiling?
  • Suboptimal toilet training?
I don't think any of these factor significantly into terrorist ideology.

The reason to rise up against the west is both simple and profound. These jihadists are trying to kill those who don't agree with their leaders because they are convinced that Allah told them to.

These terrorists are doing what they do, out of a deeply and sincerely held religious conviction. No wonder most academics don't get it: religious beliefs as a basis for action is an alien concept: at best, understood as the motivation of some funny-sounding, poor, uneducated, and easily-led folks who vote the wrong way.

The Islamic Republic News Agency ran an article recently, "President: Rule of Islam only way for salvation of mankind" (August 14, 2007), in which the President of Iran, no doubt under the wise guidance of the ayatollahs, spelled out what good Muslims should do. At least, according to his masters.

Quoting from the article, "President Ahmadinejad said nations are today distancing themselves from culture of materialism and selfishness and look for a new way for their prosperity, that is the path of Islam.

"He said that the world is on verge of a great upheaval and ulama (1) at this juncture shoulder a heavy responsibility that is introducing genuine Islam as it is.

"'Nations today have no haven but religion,' the Iranian president announced, cautioning Muslim nations against enemies' divisive plots.

"He said, 'All of us have the duty to resist the enemy by closing our ranks.'

"He said that the Iranian nation today feels more than ever the need to stand beside the Afghan nation.

"'The Islamic Republic of Iran has kindly received their Afghan brothers and will continue to do so in future. Minor issues will cannot affect Iran's policies on Afghanistan,' he added.

"The president said Islam belongs to all generations and Muslims should get ready for global mission of Islam."

Not all Muslims are terrorists these days, but there's a reason why practically all terrorists are Muslims.

Religion counts. Outside of a few cultural enclaves here, and in Europe, religion is an openly important aspect of civic life.

And, this is important. The people who are running America and other western countries will not be able to make sensible decisions, unless they understand this simple fact.

Posts on this general topic:(1) ulama (علماء), the legal scholars of Islam and the Sharia, the learned and knowledgeable people in Islam.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Travel Tantrum Highlights News Coverage

The event is minor. A California Congressman, on his way to visit Iraq, had to wait for his luggage at Dulles International Airport, around 6 pm today.

It's all "allegedly," but it seems that Congressman Filner got tired of waiting, and went into an "Employees Only" area. An airline employee had the audacity to confront the congressman. A WJLA ABC-7 reporter "spoke with several witnesses who said they heard Filner yell 'You can't stop me,' before pushing aside the employee and refusing to leave the office.

"Filner disputed the account in a statement issued by his office.

"'Congressman Bob Filner is on his way to Iraq, visiting our troops, and will have a full statement when he returns. Suffice it to say now, that the story that has appeared in the press is factually incorrect - and the charges are ridiculous,' the statement said.", a Washington Post publication, gave an extremely brief account of the situation, and concluded: "Since we don't know much about what happened, we can only guess that Dulles-induced travel stresses might be to blame."

Why bother with an event that is only slightly connected with the war on terror?
  1. Congressman Filner is one of this country's leaders. Although his office said that "the charges are ridiculous," the Class 1 misdemeanor charge of assault and battery was real enough to give the Congressman a court date of October 2, 2007, in Loudoun County General District Court in Virginia. Perhaps I am naive, but it seems to me that lawmakers should not break the law.
  2. The televised ABC-7 report did not identify Congressman Filner's party. The omission of a common bit of information left the initial reports open to the charge of bias. ABC-7 has since added Filner's political affiliation to their online report.
  3. This 'alleged' Congressional temper tantrum raises an uncomfortable question. How many of our leaders find dealing with stress this hard? And, how reasonable can we expect them to be, when faced with situations more serious than late luggage?
The Congressman hasn't had his day in court, of course, so what actually happened at Dulles hasn't been officially determined.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Muslims Are Not All Alike

This is a summary of earlier posts I've done about Islam.

If there's a sound-bite-size statement to summarize this post, it would be, "not all Muslims are alike."

What's the point of bringing up all this old news?
  1. Not all who follow Islam are itching to kill people they don't agree with.
  2. There are Muslims who are willing to say, publicly, that the people who say that they're killing for Allah aren't being good Muslims
Considering how easy it to lose your head over such statements, that takes nerve.

Fiqh Council of North America

I was particularly impressed with the Fiqh Council of North America a couple years ago, when they made a quite definite statement about the place of mass murder in Islam.

The short version is 'terrorism isn't right.'

The long version is still available online (NPR's All Things Considered, July 28, 2005) with a sort of digest in an MSN/NBC article of the same date.

I'm still impressed by this excerpt of the fatwa, taken from the NPR page:

"Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians' life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram – or forbidden - and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not 'martyrs.'

"The Qur'an, Islam's revealed text, states: 'Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.' (Qur'an, 5:32)"

That's about as definite a statement as I could hope for. The statement about "religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives" needs a precise definition of "extremism" and "innocent" to make me completely convinced: but that's nitpicking.

Even more impressive, this was a fatwa, or "scholarly opinion on a matter of Islamic law" - which is about as authoritative as it gets in Islam. With no hierarchical authority, Islam leaves a lot of elbow-room for alternative interpretations.

Now, that keeps things interesting.

Islamic Society of Central Florida

More good news surfaced about a year ago in Florida. U.S. Muslims Warn of Threat From Within headed an article of August 31, 2006. Imam Muhammad Musri, head of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, was quoted as saying "'Here in Central Florida, talking to most people, they are literally upset by the actions of Muslims _ or so-called Muslims _ overseas in Europe and the Middle East, because they say, 'We wish they would come and see how we're doing here,'" Musri said. "'We know who the real enemy is _ someone who might come from the outside and try to infiltrate us. Everybody is on the lookout.'"

Muslims United!

Statements from an outfit in Great Britain called "Muslims United!" They're taking a phrase from Brits who don't like what's happening in Iraq, "not in our name". More surprising, to me anyway, is their use of the Quran (Koran for the less 'inclusive').

"Whoever kills an innocent soul, it is as if he killed the whole of mankind. And whoever saves one, it is as if he saved the whole of mankind." That's what "Muslims United!" has been quoting.

A mosque in Fargo, North Dakota

They're not alone. A mosque in Fargo, North Dakota, gave the "Religion 100" class from Concordia College (across the river, in Moorhead, Minnesota) a positive experience with a Muslim community.

I'm pretty sure that there are more like these.

Salafi Islam, Wahhabi Islam, and the Muwahhidun

Salafi Islam, or Wahhabi fundamentalist Islam. Adherents more often refer to teachings of the reformer Abd Al-Wahhab as Salafi, that is, "following the forefathers of Islam." "Wahhabi" is a common term for the same group, although Salafi Muslims do not generally use it. People who belong to this type of Islam call themselves Muwahhidun (that is, "Unitarians," or "unifiers of Islamic practice"). Wahhabism is one a particular set of beliefs within Salafism. Most Islamic "puritanical" groups are Salafi, but not necessarily Wahhabi.

Everyone Else

Then there's Sunni, Shiite, Kharijitis, Ismailis, Ismaili Druze, Hashshashin (I'm not making this up), Sufi, Baha'ism, Black Muslims (U.S.A.), Nation of Islam, and maybe Green Muslims(1) by now, but enough is enough.

Posts on this general topic:(1) An environmentalist sect? It could happen.

Related posts, on Islam, Christianity, Religion, Culture and the War on Terror.

The Names of Abu Sayyaf: Thinking About Translations

Terrible as it is, the efforts of religious fanatics to convert or kill the rest of the world has been an opportunity for me to learn a little about the Arabic language.

Researching a recent post, I found items about Arabic and Abu Sayyaf that didn't quite relate to the post's topic, but were too interesting to file and forget.

Abu Sayyaf has quite a few names. "Abu Sayyaf," "Jamāʿah Abū Sayyāf," (جماعة أبو سياف written in the Roman alphabet), and "al-Harakat al-Islamiyah." The Wikipedia article says that the name comes from Arabic ابو, abu ("father of") and sayyaf ("Swordsmith").

As usual, translations of the name don't agree. "bearer of the sword" or "Sword of God" or literally "Father of the Sword" in Arabic.

Council on Foreign Relations, renown experts since the Wilson administration, says this about them, "Abu Sayyaf (the phrase means 'bearer of the sword' in Arabic) is a militant organization based in the southern Philippines seeking a separate Islamic state for the country's Muslim minority."

So what? I'm directing the next remarks mostly at American citizens, but the principles apply to many other people.

Unless you read, and speak, Arabic and other languages, you're getting your information about affairs in the Islamic world through a medium that translates statements. And translation involves choosing which word or phrase to use, of many possibilities.

I don't advocate not believing what you read. I do suggest that you think about what can happen in translations as you read.

Related posts:

Abu Sayyaf: What do They Really Want?

A group of Philippine terrorists called Abu Sayyaf is under attack by Philippine troops. Another "Muslim rebel group engaged in peace talks with the government, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front [MILF], admitted its rebels killed 14 marines during the clash in Al-Barka, accusing them of encroaching into a rebel stronghold," according to the Associated Press. The MILF said it didn't behead 10 of the 14 marines.

There are a couple of interesting points in recent news from the Philippines.

Beheading is a fairly common form of execution in Saudi Arabia, the heart of the Islamic world. Saudi clerics say this is okay, since the victims are criminals, but that Islamic groups beheading people for the publicity value aren't doing the Muslim thing.

It looks like terrorist groups are listening. The MILF denial that it was responsible for beheadings seems to indicate that beheading is no longer on the cutting edge of terrorist techniques.

Another point of interest is a video that hasn't been distributed yet.

Abu Sayyaf is distributing a sixty-two-minute video on the Internet, according to SITE, an American-based group of terrorist-watchers. According to SITE, an Abu Sayyaf spokesman gives an eloquent statement of the Islamic organization.

"The mission of the group is patterned after al-Qaeda and other Salafist movements, seeking the creation of a pan-Islam state, and as stated by Abdul Raziq Janjalani, 'Our only goal is to try to establish an Islamic state. We understand that establishing a Muslim State is not limited to Mindanao… We do not have any choice but to start with Mindanao. If we succeed, we will move to Visayas, then to Besoon, Allah willing, until we reach al-Quds [Jerusalem].'" (The Search For International Terrorist Entities (SITE)

It's not not likely that Abu Sayyaf will achieve their goal. They most likely have only a few hundred troops, with the number reduced after recent attacks by Philippine forces.

The importance of this video, assuming that the SITE report is accurate, is that it gives a very clear picture of what Abu Sayyaf, and quite likely other al Qaeda-related groups have as a goal: to establish an Islamic state from Mindanao (or wherever the group in question is) to Jerusalem.

If they succeed, the rest of us had better get used to calling that city "al-Quds." And making sure that we're sufficiently Islamic to keep our heads.

"Quagmire," the Revolutionary Guard, and the News

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami is an Iranian cleric who gives the official Friday sermon once a month.

This time, he told thousands of Muslims at Tehran University, and anyone who would listen on the radio, what they should think about news that the United States may name Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist group.

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said that this would show that the Guards were doing something right.

U.S. officials have said that Iran's Revolutionary Guard has been involved in attacks inside Iraq. Iran's leaders say 'did not!'

In the real world, if the Revolutionary Guard is put on Washington's official list of terrorist groups, it will be the first time a foreign military unit will share the sort of fame that Hamas and al Qaeda have earned.

The significance of putting the Revolutionary Guard on the terror list would be that the U.S. could then legally interfere with the military unit's finances, Reuters pointed out.

In the news, it's been interesting to note differences between the Associated Press and Reuters coverage. The AP says that the cleric "warned the U.S. that confronting the Guard would lead it into a quagmire."

"Quagmire" doesn't appear in the Reuters article. Reuters does, however, identify Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami "a member of the Assembly of Experts, an influential clerical body which has the power to appoint or dismiss Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei."

AP identified him as "a senior Iranian cleric ... who does not hold a government post but once a month delivers the official Friday prayer sermon," giving a somewhat different impression of his position.

I haven't found a transcript of what the "senior cleric" said, and couldn't read it if I did, since I don't know Persian.

Which brings up an interesting question: did the cleric use a term which can reasonably be translated as "quagmire," as in the AP, but not the Reuters, report of his sermon?

One way or another, "quagmire" seems to be a popular word.

Related posts, on Individuals and the War on Terror.

Friday, August 17, 2007

You Didn't See This on the News

Or, We Can Learn So Much from the French.

But, before getting to the unfolding pageant of history's comic relief, here's good news from Afghanistan.

Yes, good news. At least from one point of view, the author of Reporter's Notebook: Afghanistan Is Growing."

America has been mired in Afghanistan longer than it's been caught in the quagmire of Iraq, and the country is showing the effects of a prolonged U.S. occupation.

I'm going to indulge in taking information from the "Reporter's Notebook," putting my own stamp on an account that almost certainly wouldn't qualify as "all the news that's fit to print."

Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, has fixed most of the war's damage, is home to 2.5 million people, and is growing. The growth isn't just in residents: there's more wealth, too.

Much of the economic upturn is due to financial aid that's been pouring into the country, but I can't help but think that help from the U.S. in keeping religious nuts from killing people helped.

Back to Kabul. They've got roads around there now, not the potholed tracks of two years ago. Sure, there's work still to be done, but people can live with that. If you don't believe me, take a look at outstate Minnesota in the spring and early summer, before the annual road repairs.

Afghanistan's President wants to extend those roads to other countries, to boost trade.

If you can believe what President Hamid Karzai said at John Hopkins University, he wants to make Afghanistan a regional trade center.

I realize that there are some, particularly in the better colleges and universities of America, who loath such philistine occupations as trade, and believe wealth to be a bane upon the purity of culture. When they're not upset about the plight of the poor, at least.

For the rest of us, making a living and maybe having more money at the end of the year than at the beginning is worth the risk of seeing movies that aren't critically acclaimed at the local video rental.

Jadde-ye morgh forooshi, called Chicken Street for the convenience of English-speaking tourists with cash, is either a tourist trap, or a wonderful place to shop for someone with power bargaining skills: depending on who you listen to.

It sounds like it's roughly equivalent to midtown Manhattan, with haggling. The price of real estate is close to New York's now, because of the economic boom.

Of course, there are still stretches of ruined homes. They're being pulled down to widen a road.

Seriously, there are still problems: car bombs; widows and orphans; and women in burkas begging on the street to feed their children.

And, there are the not-so-serious problems of traffic jams on the now-repaired roads.

Western soldiers, aware of the threat of car bombs, sometimes try to muscle their way through traffic. Afghans don't like that.

I said "western," not "American."

Here's the comic relief I mentioned.

The reporter who's "notebook" I've been getting some of my information from was sitting in a car with his local "fixer," Akbar, waiting in traffic, when a car hit theirs from behind.

From the Reporter's Notebook:"

"Of course, we looked to see who it was and perhaps sort out between us if there was any damage.

"Instead, we had an irate French soldier running up to our side window in full military fatigues brandishing a metal pole and screaming at us to get out of the way.

"Of course we tried but perhaps we didn’t move quickly enough for these gallic soldiers.

"As we pulled over, the driver of the white suburban drew his pistol and pointed it at us as the other gave us the finger.

"And as the armored suburban cars drew away, another soldier opened the side door and pointed his pistol at us.

"I was more saddened than shocked. These were not young soldiers as you see in the U.S. forces in Iraq but seasoned French troops who obviously couldn’t control themselves in an urban environment.

"Instead of quietly traveling through Kabul without bringing attention to themselves, which would be preferable to them and everyone else, they made themselves a target of potential attackers.

"The funny thing: As we followed them, they went around a roundabout the wrong way into traffic. Our final image was the French soldiers jumping out again screaming at car drivers to get out of the way.

"C‘est la vie and au revoir oh and bon voyage."

We can learn so much from the French!

Politics: Possible, Disastrous, or Unpalatable

Here's a thought, from the Quotes of the Day on iGoogle:

"Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable." - John Kenneth Galbraith

It wouldn't hurt to recall this, when you're thinking about which candidate to support, and vote for.

News Bloopers: Enjoy

This is a change-of-pace for "Another War-on-Terror Blog."

I rely on traditional news reports for most of my information, since they seem to be accurate in matters of fact, for the most part.

While doing research for another blog today, I ran into "Things People Said: News Reports," a sort of blooper log of odd-to-weird slips-ups in the news.

This has very little to do with the subject of this blog, but the entries are funny. And quite British.

My favorites, today, are the headline, "Flawless Take-Off Marred By Hitch," and "Today Lesbian forces, sorry, that should be Lesbianese," from a televised news report. See if you can guess what country the "Lesbianese" forces were from, without seeing the entry.

New York City Counterterrorism Report: Profiling, Stereotyping, or Common Sense

The New York City (NYC) Police Department report on terrorism, mentioned in a Washington Post article yesterday (August 16, 2007), is the sort of long, detailed, official document that generally doesn't make the news. In fact, the paper only said enough about the report to give readers a general impression of its contents:

"The 90-page report, compiled by two police counterterrorism analysts, argues that the danger posed by homegrown radical Islamists is growing, fueled by Internet communications and the growing global popularity of jihadist ideology.

"But the report also concedes that "there is no useful profile . . . to predict who will follow this trajectory of radicalization" because those who end up being radicalized begin as 'unremarkable' individuals 'from various walks of life.'

"...The report by analysts Mitchell D. Silber and Arvin Bhatt outlines a four-step process, from 'pre-radicalization' to 'jihadization,' that it says is undergone by most terrorists before participating in an attack. The transformation is often triggered by a personal crisis and includes common elements, such as a withdrawal from attending a mosque as the person's isolation increases, the report says."

I found more about the Silber-Bhatt report in the New York Post - "THE ROAD TO LOCAL JIHAD" (August 16, 2007). "Excerpted from "Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat," a report prepared by senior NYPD intelligence analysts Mitchell D. Silber and Arvin Bhatt for Police Commissioner Ray Kelly." There's quite a bit more about the report here.


The Silber-Bhatt report identifies four stages on the road to "jihadization," or being a terrorist. I'm going to boil it down even more: I suggest that you read the article, since I'm leaving out quite a bit of detail.
  1. Pre-Radicalization
  2. Self-Identification
  3. Indoctrination
  4. Jihadization
Expanding on that list,
  1. Pre-Radicalization: This is when the terrorist-to-be is an ordinary, run-of-the-mill person, with an ordinary life and job. There's usually no criminal history.
  2. Self-Identification: The person starts moving toward Salafi Islam (1), and away from their old identity. They start associating themselves with people with the same mind-set, and adopt this ideology as their own. What sets this "religious seeking" off is is a cognitive opening, or crisis, which shakes the person's certainty about what they believed before. The person is open to new world-views.
    The trigger can be: losing a job; alienation, discrimination, or racism (real or imagined, as long as the person feels it); political, like "international conflicts involving Muslims" (my own guess is that politics on the regional or local level could be a trigger, too); death in the family, or another personal crisis. Self-identification is basically an individual act. However, being part of a group with similar beliefs is important, especially as the next step gets closer.
  3. Indoctrination: The person "progressively intensifies his (2) beliefs," swallows jihadi-Salafi, ideology and an all, and concludes, no questions asked, that it's time for action. Specifically, militant jihad. The person is helped (and pushed) through this phase by a "spiritual sanctioner." Being with people who are in a similar frame of mind, and with similar beliefs, gets more important: particularly as the person sinks deeper into the group's beliefs. "By the indoctrination phase this self-selecting group becomes increasingly important as radical views are encouraged and reinforced."
  4. Jihadization: This is where members of the little band accept being part of jihad as their individual duty. They call themselves as holy warriors, or mujahedeen. Sooner or later, they get practical and get into "acts in furtherance." These acts include planning, preparation and execution: of people; or the plans; or both. The earlier parts of getting radical can be gradual, covering two or three years or more. Jihadization can happen fast, anywhere from a few months to a few weeks.
A Washington Post article mentioned that this process "includes common elements, such as a withdrawal from attending a mosque as the person's isolation increases." Although dropping out of a mosque is a common part of the jihadization process, the report includes mosques, as well as cafes, cabdriver hangouts, prisons, student associations, nongovernmental organizations and hookah bars, in its list of places where radicals can be hatched.

The Washington Post's "Terror Threat Grows Quietly, Report Warns" article wraps up its description of the NYC Police report with a quote, "'The subtle and non-criminal nature of the behaviors involved in the process of radicalization makes it difficult to identify or even monitor from a law enforcement standpoint,' the report concludes."

That's the report. Here are some reactions to it.

"Making all Muslims suspects is ethnic profiling, and it's unconstitutional," said Christopher Dunn, associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. (from the Washington Post) (NYCLU is the (New York State affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union)

"So while labeling almost every American Muslim as a potential terrorist, the report's authors admit that their findings offer no useful way to identify real terror suspects." (from a Council of Council on American-Islamic Relations press release, "CAIR: NYPD Terror Report Casts Suspicion on All U.S. Muslims," August 15, 2007)

The NYPD report was "unfortunate stereotyping" and at odds with federal law enforcement findings that the threat from homegrown terrorists was minimal, according to an Arab-American civil rights group.. "It [the report] is completely un-American; it goes against everything we stand for," said Kareem Shora, executive director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. "We do not want to alienate any segment of any community, and by using that language you are actually aiding the extremists in their recruiting efforts."

Under the circumstances, I'd say the reaction to this report is fairly mild. Two days after the excitement started, news coverage I've seen has been subdued or non-existent.

It's early days, though.

Major players in the civil-rights game, like CAIR and the ACLU, through its New York State affiliate, as well as relatively unknown groups like the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee started with the predictable accusations of profiling, and stereotyping.

My guess is that, if New York City law enforcement starts acting on this report, there will be more-or-less wild accusations of civil rights violations, profiling, and, of course, racism.

What got relatively little attention in coverage of the NYC Police report was that Muslims in America haven't gotten radicalized the way that Muslims in Europe have. I think that this reflects something that the civil-rights community in general has a great deal of difficulty understanding about this country.

Every identifiable group of immigrants have been viewed by suspicion by some, and occasionally subjected to discrimination (real discrimination: not I-was-arrested because-I'm-Yougarian thing (3)) on an official level, in America. Just the same, this country is much more comfortable about having one more ethnic group living here than European countries seem to be.

I think it's because by now we're accustomed to having corned beef and cabbage, enchiladas, potato curry, and stir-fried bean curd on menus downtown, and the people who eat these dishes at home, living within a few blocks.


(1) Wahhabi fundamentalist Islam. Adherents more often refer to teachings of the reformer Abd Al-Wahhab as Salafi, that is, "following the forefathers of Islam." "Wahhabi" is a common term for the same group, although Salafi Muslims do not generally use it. People who belong to this type of Islam call themselves Muwahhidun (that is, "Unitarians," or "unifiers of Islamic practice"). Wahhabism is one a particular set of beliefs within Salafism. Most Islamic "puritanical" groups are Salafi, but not necessarily Wahhabi.
(2) Although I found no news report which mentioned this gaffe, the NYC Police report seems to be sexist, too. At least, by PC standards.
(3) Yougarian: Of or relating to Yougaria, a fictional country of uncertain location. I use it sometimes, as a generic term: mostly because it's somewhat more adaptable, and much cooler, than "foreigner."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

There's Patriotic, and There's Crazy

This is crazy, in my opinion. It would be interesting to see what the courts are making of it.

I these post-9/11 days, the Department of Homeland Security has said that American Citizens should "Report any suspected criminal or terrorist activity" to the proper authorities.

That makes sense.

Then, there's the inmate who says that Michael Vick, the football player, is in cahoots with al Qaeda, stole his dogs, and bought missiles from Iran.

You can't make this sort of thing up.

Two excerpts from the complaint:

"Plaintiff seeks 63,000,000,000.00 Billion dollars backed by gold and silver delivered via "UPS" United States Parcel Service to the front gates of FCI Williamsburg, Salters S.C., collected from Defendant MICHAEL VICK."

"MR. VICK sold my dogs on EBAy Auction, and used the proceeds to purchase missles from the Iran Government."

There's a copy of the filing in pdf format on the Fox News website, and more about this crossover between sports scandals and national security, in "South Carolina Inmate Hits Michael Vick With '$63,000,000,000 Billion Dollar' Lawsuit Alleging Al Qaeda Ties."

To be serious for a moment: screwball claims like this can take valuable time and attention away from real threats.

One more thing: The person who filed this complaint has, it seems, copyrighted his name.

I'll get back to laughing, now.

UAE, Censorship, Shari'a Law, Freedom: So What?

I learned something about the United Arab Emirates (UAE) today.

An online discussion brought my attention to the UAE, in a roundabout way. A blogger, who apparently lives in the United States, but needs internet connections for the blog, started the discussion with these words:

"anybody noticed today that blogger is down its down for one day and im still waiting any body having the same problem."

Later, after establishing that "blogger" was usable from a couple points in America, Sweden, and the Sultanate of Oman, the blogger wrote this:

"its not opening the website in uae"


"maybey etisalat blocked it"

Still later, the blogger seemed to have found the problem. "ok guys i knew the probem its all about our damn intenet service provider their name is etisalat they are blocking all the damn websites i dont what the hell is wrong with them my brother computer has a kind of software that can bypass any website but this software does not work in my computer so i asked my brother if i coud use his computer daiy so he said yes i will try to emai this damn etisaat because bogger website has nothing illegal."

I took a look at the website, "Make Money Online with a 12-Year Old Kid." Aside from the rather bright color scheme, I could find nothing objectionable. "Get into the world of making money online with a 12 years old kid that will teach you the best seo tutorials for optimizing your blog or website," is how the blogger describes the site.

Etisalat is the UAE's government-owned Internet provider. Their website shows a professional, family-friendly set of services.

Checking around, I found a article, "Don't let your child roam the internet aimlessly" (July 27, 2007), quoting a parent with pre-teen children. "At the moment, the Internet connection we have is the Etisalat one and there are processes in place to stop some sites. They filter all the pornographic sites and the sites that could be harmful to children. I have peace of mind here [in the UAE]. In my home country we don't have this filter."

Sounds very nice. I'm the father of four, and I'm concerned about what my children are exposed to, too.

It's been four hours, so far, since that online discussion started. The blogger still doesn't seem able to get past Etilsalat.

Maybe they've got technical difficulties. It happens.

A little more checking about the UAE showed that it's a small country on the Persian Gulf, relatively wealthy, with a president, and what looks like a good, constitutionally-guaranteed set of human rights. The UAE even has a "moderate foreign policy."

Then, there's what the U.S. Department of State wrote about the UAE, regarding their 2006 human rights behavior.

"Authorities do not commonly screen private correspondence; however, there have been reports of censorship of incoming international mail. The government-owned Internet provider, Etisalat, regularly blocks internet sites that censors determine to be "objectionable" (see section 2.c.)."

"Make Money Online with a 12-Year Old Kid" hardly seems "objectionable," unless a 12-year-old talking about search engine optimization and making money is wrong. Of course, there is that rather loud black-and-yellow design.

More excerpts from the same U.S. State Department page about UAE's human rights practices in 2006:

"The constitution prohibits torture, and there were no reports that government officials employed it; however, courts applying Shari'a (Islamic law) sometimes imposed flogging sentences on both Muslims and non-Muslims as punishment for adultery, prostitution, consensual premarital sex, and for pregnancy outside of marriage. On March 13, a R'as al-Khaimah court sentenced a woman to five years and 150 lashes for adultery, and on June 11 a man was sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery with a maid. The law allows for capital punishment, and, unlike in previous years, capital sentences were carried out." (Emphasis mine.)

"The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press; however, the government restricted these rights in practice. The government drafts all Friday sermons in mosques and censors private association publications (see section 2.c.). The law prohibits criticism of the rulers, and from acts to create [!] or encourage social unrest." (Emphasis mine.)

And, "Internet Freedom

"The government restricted access to some Web sites on the Internet. Internet chat rooms, instant messaging services, and blogs were monitored. Individuals and groups engaged in peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by email, without reports of government prosecution or punishment, although there was self-censorship apparent in many chat rooms and blogs." (Emphasis mine.)

I'm all for being tolerant and open-minded, but I'm not sure I like what I see in the UAE. They seem to have constitutional guarantees of human rights, and think that under Shari'a (Islamic law) it's okay stone a man to death for fooling around with a maid. I don't approve of adultery myself, but that seems a little harsh.

I know: it's not my country, and (following, for a very brief moment the principle of moral equivalence) if I can tolerate someone being forced to cover a provocative T-shirt, how can I possibly criticize monitoring chat rooms, blocking websites that a censor doesn't like, or stoning a guy for making out with a maid?

I may not have any business, criticizing the UAE's human rights scorecard.

But I do believe that there's something important to think about here. There will be terribly important decisions made in the next year or so, and I'm pretty sure that some people will question whether it is important to stop Islamic fanatics who want to impose their beliefs, and their laws, on us.

Given what's been going on in the United Arab Emirates, a "moderate" Islamic state, which would you rather live under: UAE rules, or USA rules?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Raed Jarrar, Just Who Is this Guy, and Why Should We Care?

Raed Jarrar is the man who wanted to fly on a JetBlue airliner, days after a massive terrorist effort to blow up multiple airliners had been stopped, wearing a black T-shirt decorated with bold Arabic writing in white.

Rather dressy, actually.

He finally flew, but with another T-Shirt, one purchased by a JetBlue employee.

Now, he's suing the Department of Homeland Security.

News reports were a trifle vague as to just who this Raed Jarrar is, so I did a little checking: mostly with Google. Mr. Raed Jarrar I hadn't heard of Global Exchange before learning about Mr. Jarrar. GE says that, in contrast to "US companies such as Nike abusing the women who make its shoes, the US government fueling an illegal, unjustified, murderous war in Iraq, or the World Trade Organization (WTO) undercutting consumer and environmental protections, Global Exchange offers itself as a partner for peace and social justice."

Why should we care? Considering the ACLU's involvement in his lawsuit, I don't think we've heard the last of his claim to victimhood. And, this is another instance of someone, intentionally or not, creating a situation which could reasonably discourage people from reporting a terrorist who was intent on carrying out a violent mission.

There's more about Mr. Jarrar and his amazing T-shirt at "T-Shirt Story 1: 'I Got Rights!'" and "T-Shirt Story 2: Civil Rights vs Common Sense."

T-Shirt Story 2: Civil Rights vs Common Sense

My post earlier today, "T-Shirt Story 1: 'I Got Rights!'," tells about Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi living in the United States, who chose to wear a T-shirt with bold Arabic lettering, days after terrorists tried to blow up airliners. Again.

He's suing, of course.

Maybe scaring airline passengers is a constitutional right. The ACLU is backing Mr. Jarrar, the architect who says his civil rights were violated, so I think we can count on this case being taken as far as it will go in the courts.

I'm not going to argue one way or the other about the profound constitutional issues involved. Not in this post, anyway. I don't have expert knowledge in constitutional law.

On the other hand, I think that over a half-century of living in the real world has given me a little knowledge about common sense.

Based on my experience, Mr. Jarrar was not showing common sense. Not if he was serious about wanting to board that JetBlue airliner quietly.

I mean to say: a few days after terrorists tried to blow up airliners, wearing a black shirt with big white letters - in Arabic?!

The sad fact is that there is the people who knocked over the World Trade Center in New York City were from the Arabic-speaking part of the world. The people who have been chanting "Death to Israel! Death to the Great Satan America!" all these years have been doing so in Arabic.

Like it or not, Arabic has been linked with some very anti-social activity. Moreover, many people are not broad-minded enough to risk being part of the next jihadist martyrdom, just to avoid hurting someone's feelings.

I hope that the Flying Imams (I still think that would be a good name for a rock group) and Mr. Jarrar's T-shirt escapade don't represent an increase of false alarms triggered by daft behavior.

I'm very fond of my hypothetical Scandinavian Lutheran terrorists, so I'm going to indulge in another mini-story about them.

If you find that sort of thing annoying, you should stop reading this post now. There won't be anything else after this paragraph.

In case you missed the setup of this very hypothetical situation, here's an excerpt from a previous post.

Let's say that Scandinavian Lutherans had, for decades, been blowing up airplanes, buses, and themselves in what they called a Ragnarokathon. Leaned scholars explained that the Scandinavian Lutherans were doing this because western culture didn't appreciate lutefisk and lefse.

Then, in the fall of 2001, Scandinavian Lutherans, mostly from Sweden, blew up the Sears Tower in Chicago. Thousands of people were killed. The skyscraper was destroyed by crashing two airliners into it.

It's five years later. A few days earlier, Norwegians belonging to Eske Lutefisk og Lefse eller Dø (ELLD) were foiled in their plans to blow up airliners over the Atlantic Ocean.

You're in a New York City airport. You notice that a fellow passenger, six-foot-something (two meters) Kjell Hanssen is wearing a black T-shirt.

The first thing you notice is probably not how well it sets off his pale blond hair and blue eyes. You're more likely to notice the big white letters spelling out "Stillhet er ikke en valgmuligheten." You might even notice the English translation, in small lettering below: "Silence is not an option," a phrase used by those protesting the war in Denmark.

You've got quite a few options, including
  • Ignore Kjell, and hope he's not a terrorist
  • Alert one of the flight crew or a guard of the shirt and its slogan, and your visceral reaction to it
  • Beat Kjell to within an inch of his life, just in case
  • Make a mental note to contribute to the Defense Alliance for Witless Norwegians (DAWN)
I'm sure you can think of other options.

I don't think that the second option would be that far out of line, under the circumstances.

Finally, in case you wondered what the name of that hypothetical Scandinavian terrorist group, "Elske Lutefisk og Lefse eller Dø" (ELLD), means, here's the name in English: "Adore Lutefisk and Lefse or Die." Catchy, isn't it?

T-Shirt Story 1: 'I Got Rights!'

"I grew up and spent all my life living under authoritarian regimes and I know that these things happen.

"But I'm shocked that they happened to me here, in the US."

These were the words of Mr. Raed Jarrar, an architect, who wasn't allowed to board a JetBlue airliner in New York. Just because of his T-shirt!

If fact, he wasn't allowed to board until he got another T-shirt to wear.


And he's gonna sue!

That's not really so shocking, come to think about it.

On the surface, this looks like a clear case of racism, islamophobia, or something scary like that. Mr. Jarrar grew up in Iraq, moving to to the United States in 2005. The T-shirt he was wearing was black, with the words "We Will Not Be Silent" written on it in white.

In Arabic.

These days, "We Will Not Be Silent" is a slogan used by people against the war in Iraq and other conflicts in the Middle East. The BBC article on Mr. Jarrar's troubles says that the phrase comes from the White Rose dissident group in Nazi Germany. "Resistance group" might be a better term, but "dissident" is the more groovily relevant term these days. That's another topic.

The Curious Affair of the Architect's Shirt started August 12, 2007.

"We Will Not Be Silent" was boldly proclaimed on Mr. Jarrar's shirt in Arabic, and, in much smaller lettering, in English.

The black-shirted Iraqi-American boarded the flight "days after British law enforcement officials announced they had disrupted a plot to blow up trans-Atlantic flights," the New York Sun pointed out.

I wouldn't have chosen that day to wear a black T-shirt with Arabic writing in big, bold, white lettering.

Mr Jarrar said that the T-Shirt slogan was protected by his "constitutional rights to free expression."

He finally consented wear another T-shirt, another T-shirt, purchased for him by a JetBlue employee at the airport gift shop. At least, that's what the Mr. Jarrar's complaint says.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has gotten involved with Mr. Jarrar's lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security over the T-shirt affair. This should be interesting.

If Mr. Jarrar's lawyer decides to play Mr. Jarrar as an a-political architect whose just happened to wear a T-shirt with a harmless slogan, I hope that the court will take a few facts in mind: Global Exchange says that, in contrast to "US companies such as Nike abusing the women who make its shoes, the US government fueling an illegal, unjustified, murderous war in Iraq, or the World Trade Organization (WTO) undercutting consumer and environmental protections, Global Exchange offers itself as a partner for peace and social justice."

Mr. Jarrar's bolg is In The Middle / Raed Jarrar's Blog.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

News, Truth, and the Big Picture

One of my history professors, who had family in Russia, said that back in the old country there was a saying, or joke, about the two major news services in the former Soviet Union: Tass (News) and Pravda (Truth). The joke ran, "there's not much Tass in Pravda, or Pravda in Tass."(1)

I don't think that the United States has that sort of problem, but I do think that the news isn't quite the truth.

Yes, what we read in the paper and hear on the news is factual. For example, "Militants Bomb Home of Anti-Al Qaeda Cleric in Iraq" is a headline. One we're quite accustomed to here in the United States. And I'm quite sure it's true. Other news from Iraq includes
  • Police found pieces of people in Dujail, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Baghdad that added up to four men - They'd been abducted a week ago
  • A roadside bomb killing one civilian and wounding another while they were driving on the highway south of Baghdad
  • Another roadside bomb killed the governor of Diwaniyah province in southern Iraq, the provincial police chief, their driver, and a bodyguard
All quite true, and very sad. However, without minimizing the tragedy of these deaths, that's not all that's going on.

The same article that started with the bombing of an anti-al Qaeda cleric mentioned a U.N. Security council resolution. The United States and the United Kingdom co-sponsored a resolution that the Security Council adopted Friday.

The United Nations, at the request of the Iraqi government, will "promote political talks among Iraqis and a regional dialogue on issues including border security, energy and refugees as well as help tackling the country's worsening humanitarian crisis which has spilled into neighboring countries."

The U.S. and the U.K. apparently hope that the image the U.N. has for being neutral will help factions in Iraq talk with each other.

It might work.

The same article quotes Salim Abdullah, spokesman for the biggest Sunni political bloc in parliament, the Iraqi Accordance Front:

"The U.N. is a neutral party that can play a good role in Iraq. They have played good role previously and now, we need them to re-activate that role and expand it, so we welcome this renewed chance for them here in Iraq," and -

"Finding a third party, however, does not lift the responsibility from the shoulders of the American administration," he added. "It should be clear for the political powers inside Iraq that they cannot completely rely on the U.N., which should have a complementary role."

Another article led with news of the U.N. resolution, didn't mention Salim Abdullah, but did quote U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad: "This resolution underscores the widespread belief that what happens in Iraq has strategic implications not only for the region but for the entire world."

This is the sort of thing that I think is headline news: The U.S. and the U.K., major members of the "unilateral" action in Iraq, co-sponsor a resolution in the U.N. Security Council that calls for U.N.-promoted intra-Iraqi political talks. The resolution passes, and can be seen as recognition of the strategic importance of Iraq.

A hundred years from now, that may be at least as important that the tragic loss of life during the same period.

I realize that this is wishful thinking: but I'd appreciate it if the news put the 'big picture' points closer to the top.

(Yes, I know that Tass is a 1920s acronym, "Telegrafnoe Agentsvo Sovietskovo Soyuza," or "Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union." I gather that it became synonymous with "news" in about the same way "Kleenex" became synonymous with "facial tissue.")

Friday, August 10, 2007

Military Draft? Another Word to Watch For

I think we can count on hearing more about this in the next few months. The Pacific Free Press ran an article that's so new, it's dated August 11, 2007, headlined "Is there a Draft in the Air?"

The lead paragraph shows an image labeled "Draft Dodger Safe House," with a woman whose skirt bears the Canadian maple leaf holding the hand of an adorable little boy with a star-spangled banner shirt.

The article recalls that last year "Charles Rangel proposed just such a draft in the belief, he said, that middle class, largely white Americans who support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may be less enthusiastic were it their kids shipping out."

What actually happened was that Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the new "war czar," or "War Adviser," was on Public Radio's "All Things Considered." General Lute stated that reinstating the draft was an option that had been 'on the table' all along, and said that, "I think it makes sense to certainly consider it," which made sense in the context of long tours of duty in the U.S. armed forces.

If the U.S. military were to reject the idea of reinstating the draft, there should be op-ed pieces suggesting incompetence. My understanding is that it is the Pentagon's job, in part, to provide the civilian leadership of America with options.

Another point is that the "All Things Considered" interview also showed General Lute saying, "Today, the current means of the all-volunteer force is serving us exceptionally well."

It is possible that the draft, abolished by President Nixon in 1973, will be brought back. I doubt that this will happen with the current administration. What happens after the 2008 elections is another matter.

Meanwhile, I'm going to keep urging voters to think first, then vote.

Think, not feel.

I contrasted "war czar" and "war adviser" earlier. Both terms were used to describe General Lute. In my opinion, "war czar" was intended to portray the general as part of an autocratic regime, to be feared by the masses. That may be over-stating it, but not by all that much.

As I've said before, watch for emotionally-charged words and phrases: then think!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Watch for Weird Words: Election's Coming Up!

Given Vice President Cheney's statements in 2001 and 2004 that he would never run for president, this will probably be the first presidential election since 1928 without an incumbent running in the primaries for president, and the first since 1952 without an incumbent in the general election.

That may explain why so many ambitious politicos in both major parties are swarming around their party's nomination so early, and so excitedly.

I try to keep this blog as non-political as possible, but until the election is over, I'm likely to bring up issues that I believe are both important, and touch on the war on terror.

With so many passionately-held beliefs in play, odd things are likely to be said, and believed.

It's already happened. America was "going it alone" and being "unilateral" for quite a while, until someone bothered to see how many nations were involved in the coalition involved in Iraq as of August, 2006:
  • Albania
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Bulgaria
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • El Salvador
  • Estonia
  • Fiji (though UNAMI)
  • Georgia
  • Hungary (through NATO or UNAMI, and may never have sent troops before 'withdrawing' them in 2004)
  • Iceland (through NATO, a training mission)
  • Japan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Macedonia
  • Moldova
  • Mongolia
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Singapore
  • Slovenia (through NATO, a training mission)
  • South Korea
  • Turkey (through NATO, a training mission)
  • the Ukraine
  • the United Kingdom
As more Americans became aware of how many nations were involved in America's "unilateral" action, the 'u-word' faded from use.

"Quagmire" was very, very popular a few years ago, and still is in occasional use I was waiting for some politico or pundit to cry out against so many draftees dying in the rice paddies of Iraq. I've used that crack before. Twice before, in fact. Better give it a rest.

I hope that people with think with their brain instead of their endocrine system, and will make decisions based on fact, not on catchwords.

Saudi Arabia: Non-Islamic Religious Items Verboten

You can't make this sort of thing up.

From the Saudi Arabian Airlines Travel Guide:

"Customs Regulations

"A number of items are not allowed to be brought into the Kingdom due to religious reasons and local regulations. These include alcoholic beverages, pork and pork products, prohibited drugs and narcotics, firearms, explosives, edged weapons and pornographic materials.

"Items and articles belonging to religions other than Islam are also prohibited. These may include Bibles, crucifixes, statues, carvings, items with religious symbols such as the Star of David, and others."

The first paragraph, I can understand.

As for the second paragraph, I'm afraid I understand it all too well.

That territory belongs, in effect, to the House of Saud, so I suppose I can't complain too much about what Abdallah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud and his family do with their property.

Just the same, it's hard to argue that Islam can get along with a world that's in the Information Age, when the owners of the religion's birthplace seem unwilling to leap forward into the 18th century.

More about "Yeh Hum Naheen" / "This is Not Us"

There's more about the (now #1 hit) song from Pakistan, "Yeh Hum Naheen." (Urdu for "This is Not Us.") at "Reporter's Notebook: A Different Kind of Terror Tune" (August 08, 2007, By Greg Palkot).

As the article says, the lyrics are the best way to describe the song: "This story that is being spread in our names is a lie. - The name by which you know us we are not."

The sons of a TV and media producer told their father that they were had had enough of fanatic Muslims in Britain who thought they were too secular. And they were "sick of seeing terrorists cloak their activity in religion."

I am very glad to see not only that this small group of Muslims decided to take a bold step and renounce the fanatics around them, but that the song has become so wildly popular in Pakistan, and now around the world.

I'd like to think that this is what happens when people try to communicate with ideas instead of car bombs.

Previous post on this topic: Moderate Muslim Video from Pakistan: Very Good News

Related posts, on Islam, Christianity, Religion, Culture and the War on Terror.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Bottle-Thrower and the Flying Imams

Hate Crime! Chemical Warfare in America! Anti-Muslim Attackers!

Or maybe irresponsible kids with too much time on their hands in August.

The Reuters headline read, Arizona mosque targeted in "acid bomb" attack" - what the article actually said was that a couple of guys in a red car threw a soda pop bottle with "pool cleaner and strips of tin foil" in the general direction of a mosque in Glendale, Arizona.

The soda pop bottle hit a sidewalk (or maybe a street- more of that later) around 20 to 25 feet away (about 7 meters) from one of the "Flying Imams" or "Minnesota Imams" and another man.

Police sergeant Jim Toomey said that there have been five other soda-pop-bottle attacks in or around Glendale over the last three days. This attack on a mosque and/or one of the Flying Imams is the only one with a religious connection.

"The bottle ruptured in front of them and they smelled a strong chemical smell when it went off," sergeant Toomey said in the article. "We are treating it as a hate crime. We are taking it very seriously ... Until we know (the reason), we are going to assume that (the mosque attack) was religiously motivated," he added.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the Flying Imams and their lawyer have had death threats: and that the Glendale police should those threats as part of their investigation.

As usual, I've got quite a few opinions about this event.
  • "The Flying Imams" would be a good name for a rock group
  • The Glendale police deserve commendation for including religious motivation in their investigation
  • With 5 other attacks like this one, except on non-religious targets, in the last 3 days, this "acid bomb" attack might not be religiously motivated
  • Reuters was remarkably, low-key and vague about just what the Flying Imams did to get themselves inconvenienced
  • The Reuters article doesn't mention where the car was, relative to the mosque
azcentral.composted an Arizona Republic article with information that Reuters considered unimportant.
  • The bottle bomb hit the street, not the sidewalk, according to the A.R. article
  • The mosque was a "converted mobile home" with no markings to show that it was a mosque
  • Back in 2004, there was a suspicious fire on the outside of Al Sadiq Mosque in Glendale
  • That mosque had no markings to show the nature of the building
  • The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is "grateful for the attention being given by Glendale police," according to the Arizona news source.
Ibraham Hooper, CAIR national communications director in Washington, D.C., said, "We appreciate the professional response of the local law enforcement authorities and urge the FBI to add its resources to the investigation," quite a different impression than the one left by Reuters.

The no-hate-crime-here statement about the 2004 fire came from Deedra Abboud, a former Arizona CAIR chapter.

If there is a lesson to be learned here, it may be that two reports of the same incident can state only objective facts, and still give two very different impressions of the incident.

Muslims, Non-Muslims, and Understanding

Back when 9/11 woke many Americans up to the dangers of Islamic fanatics, I was disappointed at how few Muslims took advantage of this opportunity to educate non-Muslims about their beliefs.

As a Catholic, I do not want people to convert to Islam, but I do believe that everyone profits from an open exchange of ideas.

I think that the enormous amount of attention that news media and the events of September, 2001, focused on Islam was a largely-wasted opportunity. Muslims in America and around the world had access to the ears of non-Muslims that hadn't existed before. This was an opportunity to let America, a largely-non-Islamic country, know what Islam was all about.

A few Muslims did so, but they were overshadowed by people eager to portray their Islamic communities as victims.

I did not, and do not, believe that was the best approach. I thought that Islam, which I thought was a faith which encourages proselytizing, was squandering a publicity windfall.

That seems to have changed. Although knee-jerk racial-profiling charges seem to be the rule for some, Muslims: how to win hearts and minds (Ajmal Masroor, July 12, 2007, in the Guardian, UK, repeated in a page in the Muslims for America website), shows what I see as a much more realistic understanding of the opportunities and dangers that Muslims and non-Muslims face.

Muslims for America's Muhammad Ali Hasan, Founder and President, describes the organization as "a bi-partisan organization. We are about getting Americans, and Muslims more involved and excited about the American political process!"

I've learned to be very attentive when the phrase "bi-partisan" is used, but a quick glance at their News Room suggests that Muslims for America uses the term in the 'not favoring one party over another' sense. Some of the headline links were:
  • "Racism is the real obstacle we face"
  • "Nancy Pelosi Basks in Historic Day"
  • "Nancy Pelosi Calls for End to Muslim Profiling"
  • "'Islam is a part of us,' Rice says"
  • "Muslim concerns about Jerusalem dig justified: Rice"
One linked headline even read "Archbishop backs Muslim veils" - this group may be bi-partisan in more than the political sense.

Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle Store


Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.