Monday, December 3, 2007

The War on Terror - What It's For, What It's Against

Western Plot Against Islam Thwarted!
Hatemongering British Teacher Flees to England!
Mohammed the Teddy Bear's Fate a Mystery!

British teacher Gillian Gibbons is back in England. I'd like to say "safe in England," but this year's bombings in London and Glasgow show that the United Kingdom has its share of religious nuts. As the news of Gibbons' attack on Islam filters through the Islamic community in England, someone's going to have a shot at carrying out their fellow-Muslims' demands for "No tolerance: Execution," and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad."

Still, it's good that this teacher is out of Sudanese hands, and back in a country where sharia law isn't the law of the land.

Why those borderline-delusional headlines for this post?

I've read and heard that the people who targeted a London nightclub and drove a flaming Jeep Cherokee through the main entrance of Glasgow's Blackpool airport are upset at how western nations - including England - are oppressing Muslims.

Lord Nazir Ahmed and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, British peers who follow Islam, negotiated Gillian Gibbons' release earlier today. How elevating people whose immediate ancestors aren't anywhere near British to the peerage doesn't sound like oppression to me.

On the other hand, being more or less forced into national politics and international affairs isn't exactly a piece of cake. Maybe Lord Ahmed is oppressed, after all.

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir may have gained some diplomatic ground from this incident. Lord Ahmed said "the relations between our two countries will not be damaged by this incident." He also said that Britain respected Islam. He apparently didn't explain why.

Meanwhile, the British teacher, Gillian Gibbons, gave the Sudanese government a written statement to work with. Under the circumstances, I can hardly blame her. Some excerpts:
  • "I have a great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone"
  • She wrote that she was sorry if she caused any "distress."
These statements may be useful to President al-Bashir's regime. He's been using a "mix of anti-colonialism, religious fundamentalism and a sense that the West is besieging Islam."

I think this successful philosophy may help explain why Sudan's genocide in the Darfur region was a non-event that wasn't happening for so long.

Western leaders, at least the self-described best and brightest in America, have a rather clearly-defined model of how the world works:
  • Western imperialism, particularly American Imperialism, is the root of the world's ills
  • The western religion, Christianity, is also the root of the world's ills
    (never mind that Christianity is, arguably, an Oriental mystery religion)
  • Blacks/Africans are victims of
    • Oppression by whites
    • Specifically, oppression by northern Europeans, and people whose ancestors were northern Europeans
    • Oppression by Christians and Christianity
  • Believers in non-Christian religions are oppressed by Christians
This is over-simplified, of course, but I think that this list of assumptions is a fairly accurate description of part of the mental model that those people who believe themselves to be the educated and open-minded segment of American society.

It's a model that works fairly well, at least when looking at parts of the Old South before the sixties.

Then, there's the Darfur region of Sudan. That's where an Arabic, Islamic regime is, at best, hampering efforts to stop a systematic killing of Africans: in a part of Sudan where the (African) locals are rather more likely to be Christian than in the Islamic north.

Christians being oppressed by non-Christians?

Africans being oppressed by people who, although technically Caucasian, most certainly don't come from northern Europe?

This most certainly does not fit the 'America and Christianity is to blame' model.

I may be unfair, writing this, but I think it's at least plausible that Darfur stayed off the radar so long because there wasn't an obvious way to blame either America or Christianity for the killings. At least, without blaming the victims of the genocide. And blame-the-victim isn't very popular right now - thankfully.
"Western Plot Against Islam" and all that:

I'm not making up that "western plot" stuff. Sudanese clerics said that "What has happened was not haphazard or carried out of ignorance, but rather a calculated action and another ring in the circles of plotting against Islam." There's more: "It is part of the campaign of the so-called war against terrorism and the intense media campaign against Islam."

"Hatemongering?" That's not my opinion about what the British teacher did. It's what a Sudanese court, following sharia law, said she was doing. She was found guilty of "Inciting Religious Hatred."

As for the teddy bear, brought to school by one of Gillian Gibbons' students: Mohammed the teddy bear hasn't been heard of since this exercise in lunacy began.
Is Islam a Treatable Mental Illness?

Quite possibly not.

It's easy for non-Muslims to see Islam as a disorder similar to paranoid schizophrenia, based on And that's just cases of Islamic jurisprudence that made international news in the last few weeks.

There seems to be more to Islam than that.

A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, Inayat Bunglawala, said that Gillian Gibbons should never have been arrested - and that the the Muslim Council of Britain welcomed the pardon. "It will be wonderful to see her back in the U.K. I am sure she will be welcomed by both Muslims and non-Muslims after her quite terrible ordeal at the hands of the Sudanese authorities," he said.

On this side of the Atlantic, the American Islamic Congress has issued a series of press releases as the matter of the British teacher, the teddy bear named Mohammed, and sharia law played out:
  1. "American Islamic Congress Slams Sudanese Government over Teddy Bear Case, Demands British Teacher Be Freed Immediately"
  2. "American Islamic Congress Slams Sudan for Jailing Teacher, Launches Letter-Writing Drive"
  3. "American Islamic Congress Calls for Continued Pressure on Sudan Following Teacher's Release"
This case of the British teacher and the teddy bear named Mohammed is not a major event. I doubt that it will be more than a footnote, at most, in any history of this period.

On the other hand, I think it's an excellent example of what the War on Terror is about. Apparently, the 'Arab on the street' shares the opinion of those Sudanese clerics, who believe that the west is out to get Islam.

I can understand how people who fear the end of treasured traditions like honor killings and flogging rape victims would see the War on Terror as an attack on their beliefs. It is.

But it's not an attack on Islam. At least, not according to the likes of the American Islamic Congress and Lord Ahmed.

As I see it, America and several other nations around the world are defending a two-hundred-year-plus-year-old tradition of freedom, self-determination, and a rule of law that doesn't involve draconian decisions based on tribal law.

Posts on "British Teacher Home from Sudan: Gillian Gibbons, Muslim Clerics, and a Teddy Bear named Mohammed"

Related posts, on Islam, Christianity, Religion, Culture and the War on Terror.
Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred.

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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.