May 12, 2012

The European Revolt Against Reality

The problem with a massive welfare state is not just that the finances don't work, but that it inculcates into a society a culture of entitlement. It infantilizes people into a state of dependency whereby they are not simply unwilling but unable to care for themselves. When the inevitable fiscal crisis hits they are unwilling and unable to give up even the smallest government benefit. No matter what the economics, they demand that the benefit gravy train continue. Even mention that government might have to cut back on anything and they react with anger and outrage, sometimes spilling over into violence.

Such is the situation in parts of Europe, in particular France and Greece. The fiscal crisis is upon them, and rather than face up to it and take their medicine they refuse to believe that anything must change.

If we allow our current situation to continue we will go the way of France and Greece. It is not too late, I think, to recover some sense of fiscal sanity, but every day we allow liberal Democrats or Republicans to hold office brings us one yard closer to the edge of the cliff.

The European Revolt Against Reality
What will it be: "Mitterrand for All" or "Schröder Does Europe"?
Wall Street Journal
May 9, 2012, 4:05 p.m. ET
By Josef Joffe

Forget for a moment François Hollande, who sent Nicolas Sarkozy packing on Sunday. Set aside, too, the triumph of the radical left and the neo-Nazis in Greece who together captured one-third of the vote.

Look instead at Europe's real mess: the sickly state of the EU-15, the core of the Union, most of which today uses the euro: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

In the 1970s, their average growth clocked in at 3.2%, in the 80s at 2.5%, in the '90s at 2.2%--and in the '00s, 1.2%. Yes, the 2008 crash was bad for everybody, but Europe is still heading down. This year, growth is likely to end up at an anemic 1%.

Europe has been falling back for decades, and this is the source of all its trouble. Yesterday's economic wonderland, with its ever growing list of benefits and privileges, is losing it. While the U.S. share of global GDP has held steady at around 26% for two generations, the EU-15's share has dropped to 26% from almost 35% in 1970.

Back to Dark Sunday's elections. You might have thought that the French and Greek parties would have hyped themselves as saviors: Anoint us, and we shall lead ye from debt and decline. Wrong. The winners were those who yelled: "Stop the world, we want to get off!" Cursed be the market, blessed be the all-providing state.

Markets ended Mitterrands agenda within two years. The new Socialist President won't have that long.

This is the message of those 52% who voted for Mr. Hollande in France. In the campaign, he had targeted "financial markets" as the enemy of the French social model, while offering to tax, protect and provide. No talk of the real reason those evil markets and their ratings agencies downgraded France: The national debt has surged to 90% of GDP, from 35% in 1990.

In Greece, the big winner was the Coalition of the Radical Left, or Syriza, which won nearly 17% of votes--almost four times its take in the 2009 elections. Together, the far left and far right have overwhelmed a government that had pledged to slash spending and cut into the bloated state sector. The pro-reform coalition of the moderate right and left has lost its parliamentary majority and may have to go into new elections in a few weeks. Hence, the "Nightmare of Anarchy," as Greek daily Ta Nea headlined its post-mortem on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, unemployment now averages close to 11% in the euro zone. The odd-man-out in this drama of decay is Germany. Joblessness, which stood at five million only a few years ago, has dropped to less than three million. The public budget deficit is heading toward zero. Why this Teutonic miracle? Germany had cleaned house before the crash struck.

Go back nine years, when Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder launched his "Agenda 2010." He declared to the Bundestag: "We shall reduce social benefits, promote individual responsibility and demand more from each and all." True to his word, he loosened up labor markets, cut payroll, personal and corporate taxes, and enacted a "workfare" program that egged the unemployed off the dole. Angela Merkel is now reaping what her predecessor sowed--efforts for which he lost his job.

Today, elsewhere in Europe, leaders' attempts to change their economies' bad old ways have not met with political boons. Since 2008, a dozen euro-zone governments have fallen like the House of Lehman. Yet what is the alternative but to pursue the reforms? Where would the cash come from, when Germany is the last man standing among the large countries? Perhaps Europe is still rich enough to keep Greece on the dole indefinitely. But it does not have the resources to put France, Italy or Spain on euro-welfare.

Which brings us back to the new French president, who in 1981 was a young Elysée staffer when François Mitterrand enacted the very program Mr. Hollande has been hawking: buy now, pay later, tax forever. Two years later Mitterrand's Socialist Party was drubbed in local elections, Saul turned into Paul and Mitterrand started preaching discipline and markets. This time, the Socialist president won't even get his first 100 days.
For one thing, Mrs. Merkel will not relent. She will not allow Mr. Hollande to loosen the debt brakes enshrined in the EU's fiscal pact by inserting the kind of "growth" Mr. Hollande wants--a euphemism for spending Europe into insolvency. She knows that the euro, indeed the EU, is at stake--and that neither will be saved by Keynes-to-the-max.

"Growth" à la Mr. Hollande will not heal but feed Europe's disease. The country needs labor liberalizations, with youth unemployment topping 22%. The French job market tells a simple, sordid tale: high wages and lifetime job security are great for insiders and deadly for newcomers.

If core Europe does not regain competitiveness now, it will sink and fall apart. So what will it be: "Mitterrand for All" or "Schröder Does Europe"?

Watch the new French president in the coming weeks. My bet is that he will take a page out of "Casablanca" and sputter: "I am shocked, shocked to find out about the mess Mr. Sarkozy has left." Then he will blame Mrs. Merkel's brutishness for forcing him to deliver a "blood, toil, tears and sweat" speech in which he breaks all his campaign promises.

And if he doesn't yield to reality? The markets will speak.

Mr. Joffe is editor of Die Zeit in Hamburg, a senior fellow of the Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies and a fellow at the Hoover Institution, both at Stanford University in California.


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May 8, 2012

Over the Cliff for France!

It's Thelma and Louise time for France! Francois Hollande, of the Socialist Party, is to be their next president.

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His platform includes these promises:

* Hiring 60,000 teachers
* Raising taxes on big corporations, banks, the wealthy
* Imposing a 75% tax on income above 1 million euros a year
* Bringing the official retirement age back down to 60 from 62
* Gay marriage/adoption
* Creating subsidized jobs for young people
* Recruitment of 5 000 judges, police officers and gendarmes.
* Construction of 500 000 homes per year
* Less electricity from nuclear plants and more "renewable energy"

And, get this

* Balancing the budget

In short, free ice cream for everyone, and let the good times roll!

sources here and here

John Hinderacker at Powerline observes all this and asks the relevant question:

Is Europe Doomed? May 7, 2012

In France and Greece, voters have rejected "austerity"-the idea that European governments should live within their means. In Italy, too, anti-austerity candidates are currently leading in the polls. French Socialist François Hollande vows to continue running huge deficits so that he can hire more public sector workers; in a burst of stupidity, he announced that "My real enemy is the world of Finance." I suppose there could be a surer way to impoverish your country than to declare war on the flow of capital, but I can't think of one offhand.

What does it all mean? Two things, in my opinion. First, Southern European voters are determined to go over the waterfall in a canoe as long as there are politicians who will promise to keep paddling. One might think it obvious that no country can live beyond its means forever by borrowing money which it can't possibly pay back. But voters in countries like Greece and France apparently think: it has worked so far, why not keep it up?

Realistically, it will work until creditors-Germany, mostly-decide to pull the plug. Then there will be default, some form of bankruptcy, some degree of chaos. That evidently is what many European voters want. In one sense, you can't blame them: why not live on someone else's money as long as you can?

What's amazing, or amusing, is that as this Washington Post article points out, the election of Hollande does not represent "a seismic shift for Europe's second- largest economy."

To move ahead, Hollande favors a little more spending; higher taxes on wealth; a little less austerity; and generally, preserving or expanding, rather than cutting, France's social- safety net. Sarkozy campaigned on a vow to cut taxes for business and continue the reform of entitlements that he had begun by raising the retirement age to 62 from 60 and easing restrictions on the labor market, such as the 35-hour workweek. These are changes around the margins, concessions to their respective political bases.

Maybe. This article in the British paper The Guardian adds that the elections in Greece may be the real problem:

Asian stock markets have been pummelled by election results in France and Greece that have heightened uncertainty about Europe's ability to solve its debt crisis. ...

Election results in Greece sent tremors throughout Europe as voters punished the parties responsible for highly unpopular austerity measures brought in to prevent the country from defaulting on its massive debts. No political party won enough votes to form a government, leaving the political and financial future of the country in serious doubt.
...

Dariusz Kowalczyk, senior economist at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong, said the election results were likely to heighten political instability and market volatility.
...

"The issue is that in Greece the outcome raises the level of uncertainty a lot, because it's not clear who can form the government or in fact how long they will last, and what their attitude to the current agreements that the Greek government had reached would be," said Richard Yetsenga, head of global markets at ANZ Research.

France was already headed in the wrong direction, and Hollande simply accelerates the trend. In other words, their policies are already untenable for the long term, and Hollande is simply speeding up the process, so why get worked up over that?

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November 6, 2011

Goodbye Greece! Hello USA?

How far away from this are we? Not too very far if Obama gets a second term, that's for certain.

Goodbye, Greece
National Review
November 2, 2011 4:00 A.M.
The Editors

How does one say "Goodnight, Irene" in Greek? Or "Show Me the Way to Go Home"? Or, if neither of those classic festivity-enders does the trick, "Hit the Road, Jack"? In any case, the message needs to be sent: The party is over, and it is time for Greece to be shown the door, if the Greeks cannot find it themselves, and exit the eurozone.

A Greek default appears to be imminent. The question is whether it is to be an orderly default or a chaotic one. At the moment, the odds are about even between those two possibilities.

Prime Minister George Papandreou has called a parliamentary vote of confidence and a national referendum on the European bailout conditions to be imposed on Greece. Those conditions include bondholders' taking a 50 percent haircut on Greek liabilities while the Greek government promises to enforce austerity measures to reduce spending and return the country's debt-to-GDP ratio to a more manageable level (though getting Greek debt down to the level legally required by the Treaty of Maastricht is not in the works, a fact that should put the European project in perspective). Athens has made such promises before. Greek unemployment remains high, its economy a shambles. The recent recession has made things worse than they otherwise would have been.

The European Union being the European Union, it had been assumed that these conditions simply would be imposed by Brussels, without the Greek people's having a say. The vote threatens to throw a monkey wrench into European designs, and markets tanked on the news. And what would happen if the Greek electorate rejected Brussels's agenda? It is far from impossible that Brussels and Athens would simply collaborate to impose the terms in the teeth of democratic rejection. The Greeks should keep in mind the experience of those national electorates that rejected membership in the European Union only to have the same referendum voted on again and again until Brussels got its way.

Unhappily, the Europeans aren't much in funds these days, which has them appealing to China for assistance in their bailout scheme. Which is to say, not only would the deal make Athens entirely subordinate to Brussels, it would make Athens entirely subordinate to a Brussels that is partly subordinate to Beijing. That may be too high a price even for the pension-loving, debt-ridden, bailout-begging Greeks to pay.

And we would not blame them. Membership in the European Union as currently constituted is plainly incompatible with national sovereignty. In fact, the European project has quickly proved to be not only incompatible with national sovereignty but positively hostile toward it, its consolidation of transnational power and its running rough-shod over ancient nation-states exhibiting a degree of vigor and energy shocking even to the most suspicious Euro-skeptics. This incompatibility has come to a head now over fiscal questions, but it might have come to a head as easily over questions of national defense or immigration -- questions in which the interests of a France or a Finland are very different from those of a Bulgaria or a Cyprus, but which in any case will be decided in accord with no country's national interest but in accord with the interests of the bureaucratic elite in Brussels.

There is very little reason for Greece, Spain, and Portugal to share a single monetary policy with Germany and France -- their public finances, labor conditions, balance of trade, and other economic fundamentals are radically different, and cannot be brought into harmony without something approaching a soft dictatorship. The business cycles of the members of the European Union are not coordinated, and neither are their economic interests. Less competitive nations such as Greece suffer particularly from sharing a currency with highly productive nations such as Germany, because it takes away the option of using currency depreciation to make one's exports more attractive on world markets. (Germany, a strong exporter, has benefited from this arrangement.) There is some wisdom in human traditions, and it turns out that the Germans and the Greek have separate countries for a reason -- one of them being that they are separate peoples.

The theory of Europe's Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) is that a borderless environment with a single currency would minimize economic friction and produce vast economies of scale, making Europe's economy more competitive. Europe had an example in the United States, roughly comparable in size and population but with a much more dynamic economy, especially when it comes to the work force. There are gains to be had, unquestionably, but there are always tradeoffs, and in this case they produce a net loss for much of Europe. This was a gross miscalculation on the part of the European centralizers, who neglected to account for the fact that important, fundamental cultural differences -- including language, family habits, and religion -- mean that a Bulgarian factory worker or a Latvian financial manager cannot simply relocate to London or Paris the way an American worker can move from anywhere in the country to Houston or New York with relative ease. The formal, legal barriers to European integration are not the only barriers, nor even the most important. As it turns out, there are not many Europeans in Europe, which is mostly populated by French, Germans, Swiss, Italians, Greeks, Poles, etc. Wishful thinking will not make it otherwise.

Such realities can only be ignored for so long. The appetite of the Greek people for further austerity measures is limited, as is the appetite of the German people for expending their own hard-earned capital to prop up their careless, spendthrift neighbors. Nobody in Europe has much appetite for continued economic chaos. The best outcome and less likely outcome would be to have the economically stable northern European countries break away to form their own union. The second-best and more likely outcome is for Greece to leave the eurozone, voluntarily or involuntarily. Either scenario would probably entail a default and would bring about massive economic disruption, and not just for the Europeans. But the alternative is a prolonged, slow-motion crisis and the entrenching of the one-size-fits-all, central-planning approach from Brussels that is a very large part of the present problem and no part of its solution.

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July 13, 2011

NATO Can't Even Beat Libya

NATO has been fighting Libya for almost four months and victory is nowhere in sight. Of course, it's hard to know what exactly victory is, since no coherent, consistent, objective has been given. One day it was to protect civilians, then to get rid of Khadaffy. We're not helping the rebels then we are; they're doctors and lawyers one day but then the next we're not sure. What we are trying to achieve is still unclear.

But whatever we're doing, it's not working: "NATO" is running out of ammunition. This, mind you, is the alliance that was founded to fight the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact in World War III. It is now so feeble it can't even beat a 5th rate power.

Well, not quite. Italy and France could whomp Libya, if they wanted to. And Italy alone could build a military that would make short work of the Libyan armed forces, it it wanted to. But that's just it.

Rope-A-Dope
Belmont Club
July 11, 2011
by Richard Fernandez

Reuters reports that some NATO countries participating in the Libya operation have punched themselves out, although Khadaffy is still standing. "New U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Monday that some NATO allies operating in Libya could see their forces 'exhausted' within 90 days." European forces are wearing out from the beating they are delivering to the Libyan dictator.

"The problem right now, frankly, in Libya is that ... within the next 90 days a lot of these other countries could be exhausted in terms of their capabilities, and so the United States, you know, is going to be looked at to help fill the gap," Panetta said, speaking to troops in Baghdad.

AFP added that the Italians are pulling out their carrier and Norway is pulling out its planes. The Italians have called for a "political solution" in Libya. France is reported to be secretly negotiating with Khadaffy for a settlement, according to Saif Khadaffy, who says talks have been ongoing between a Libyan envoy and the French President. The reality is that Europe's combat power will soon have to be cut back in Libya unless the US takes up the slack.

Among the European countries involved in Libya, Norway has announced it will withdraw its six F-16 fighters on August 1, and Italy is pulling out its Garibaldi aircraft carrier, for a saving of 80 million euros.

Panetta said that Nato's European members must "make efforts to develop their defence capability; they're gonna have to invest in that kind of partnership as well.

"We can't be the ones that carry the financial burden in all of these situations," Panetta said.

Washington bears 75 per cent of Nato's defence budget. Of the 28 Nato countries, only the United States, France, Britain, Greece and Albania meet the Nato threshold of two percent of GDP spent on defence.

The problem facing President Obama is that, by his own account, there isn't even a war on in Libya, or nothing that amounts to one. It will be hard to make the case that he needs to come to the assistance of allies in military need, if that need has by defined into nonexistence by none other than himself.

If France and Italy have negotiate a settlement that leaves Khadaffy in power they will have provided a textbook example of international rope-a-dope, one convincingly demonstrates the limitations of feeble muscles allied to soft-power. It will be the perfect companion to the emerging debacle to financially save Greece. Europe has punched itself out fighting a non-war against a 5th rate country in North Africa. Far from covering themselves in glory enhancing the prestige of the old continent they will have succeeded in making themselves nothing but a laughing stock. The only problem is that there will probably be serious consequences.

Exactly. The Ron Paul types who think that we can pull up the drawbridge and largely ignore the rest of the world are wrong. Europeans who think they can keep their drawbridge down and rely on United Nations resolutions are also wrong. What happens around the world affects our economies and what immigrants come knocking at our door (or more likely sneaking in around it).

But as Fernandez says in a comment to his own post, "the problem isn't power or even money." Any one mid-sized European country could beat Libya, if it wanted to. The problem is that they are paralyzed into inaction. Europeans, and perhaps increasingly Americans, don't care to rouse themselves to face up to the big issues of our day.

Instead it is obsessed with ludicrously small issues. The political system worries endlessly about soap opera problems, sexual politics, racial quotas, "climate change" etc. This littleness promotes people like Herman Von Rompuy or Julia Gillard or Barack Obama -- complete ciphers -- to positions of power for no other reason than that they check all the boxes. A terrible diminuation of mind, an unbelievable poverty of thinking, has descended on the Western world.

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June 29, 2011

Spoiled Brats in Greece

This is what happens when the bill comes due for huge government benefits that you've voted for yourselves:

Greece Riots June 2011

People develop an entitlement mentality. We think we've seen it here in the U.S., but it's just kids stuff compared to the full-blown version. From an AP story in today's Washington Times:

Greece fended off a bankruptcy that threatened to roil global financial markets, approving severe spending cuts and tax increases Wednesday in the face of violent protests by Greeks who say they have suffered enough.

The package of austerity measures would keep bailout money flowing to Greece from the rest of the world. It would free $17 billion in fresh loans, although the money will only be enough to see the nation through September.

Investors around the world cheered the news, but protesters, fighting tear gas, hurled whatever they could find at riot police and tried to blockade the Parliament building.

"This is bad. The country will be sold for a piece of bread," said insurer Dimitris Kostopoulos. "There were many other more appropriate alternatives to this. Parliament has once again betrayed us."

Public sector salaries and pensions have been cut in the past year, and unemployment is above 16 percent. By comparison, it is about 9 percent in the United States.

Parliament approved $40 billion in tax increases and spending cuts, and privatization of public services to raise $71 billion more, all through 2015. Greece's overall economic output is about $330 billion, or roughly the size of Washington state's.

The $17 billion in loans are the latest batch in a $157 billion bailout by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Parliament is expected to pass another bill Thursday to implement the austerity measures.

Without the bailout money, Greece was at risk of default. While no one knows for sure what would have happened next, analysts have said it would have threatened the viability of the euro, the European Union's common currency, and could have done much worse.

Some market experts had predicted a Greek default could have triggered another world financial meltdown, like what happened after the Lehman Brothers investment house collapsed in 2008 in the United States.

The risk is that banks, both in Europe and the U.S., would have had to chalk up billions of dollars in losses because of Greek loans that had gone bad. No one knows which U.S. banks hold what amount of Greek debt.
...

Several banks and storefronts were smashed, while a Socialist dissenter who backed the government at the last minute, Alexandros Athanassiadis, was briefly assaulted by protesters after leaving Parliament on foot.

Violence continued throughout the afternoon, and smoke billowed from a post office beneath the finance ministry before a fire was put out. Rioters set up burning barricades along Syntagma Square, where demonstrators have staged a sit-in for the past month. Nearby streets were littered with chunks of smashed marble and ripped-up paving stones that had been thrown at police.

A general strike that began Tuesday paralyzed the country, grounding planes, leaving ferries docked and stranding tourists during the busy summer season.

By Wednesday night, police said 49 officers had been injured, one seriously when he was hit in the face by a chunk of marble. Forty-three protesters were detained, with 17 of them arrested. Emergency services said they had treated 99 protesters and passers-by for injuries.

Dozens of injured were treated at a first-aid center set up inside the square's metro station. Most were treated for breathing problems, contusions and broken bones, volunteers at the first aid center said, appealing for medical supplies.

Is this a preview of what is to come in other Western countries?

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June 14, 2011

Book Review - The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle over God, Truth, and Power

We all know the madness of our age: People who enjoy the comforts of the West and would live nowhere else yet vilify their own societies. Widespread belief in the most crazy of conspiracy theories. Militant atheist scientists who insist that religion is at odds with reason yet whose own theories are anything but reasonable. A widespread campaign to delegitimize Israel, while excusing or ignoring every Islamic/Arab tyranny and atrocity. The new religion of Global Warming, which by definition cannot be proved wrong and all deniers castigated rather than debated.

Truth is presented as a lie, and lies are presented as the truth. Right and wrong are inverted, those who preach the gospel of tolerance are themselves intolerant, victim and aggressor switch places.

The result is a West unable to defend itself against things like the "creeping sharia" of Islam because it does not believe it itself is worth defending. We have abandoned the successful uniting of religion and reason and traded it for atheism and irrationality.

British journalist Melanie Phillips writes about all this in her must-read book The World Turned Upside Down: The Global Battle over God, Truth, and Power.

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Book Summary

Unlike some books, The World Turned Upside Down is not just a list of leftist outrages sprinkled with commentary. Phillips examines the historical ideas that have led us to where we are today, and grapples seriously with the problem of how we have gone astray by betraying the promise of the Enlightenment.

Cults and Conspiracies

Oddly, the more "advanced" we become the more likely people are to believe the most outlandish things. Cults and conspiracy theories are more popular than ever before. "Wicca," which would have been laughed out of existence a few generations ago, is now the fastest growing religion in America. UFO and Area 51 fanatics, "chemtrails," Truthers and Birthers are prevalent.

The Myth of Environmental Armageddon

Liberals (and most on the right) right laughed when Harold Camping predicted the Rapture would occur on May 21, 2011. When of course it didn't happen, he was rightly ridiculed and/or deemed a false prophet.

Yet leaders in the environmental movement have been predicting the end of the world (or close to it) for decades, their predictions have not come true, and yet they are let completely off the hook. Perhaps the most notorious is Paul Erlich, whose 1968 book The Population Bomb warned of mass starvation in the West in the 1979s and '80s due to overpopulation. But others, too, continually make similar predictions. What is interesting is that no matter how wrong Erlich and others like him are, they are still taken seriously.

In the 1970s we were told that surely an Ice Age was just around the corner, now those same publications insist that global warming will kill us all. This time they've added a new twist; it's our fault, specifically, that of the West. At least the climate scare-mongers of old thought it was good old mother nature.

The evidence for Anthropogenic (man-made) global warming is sketchy, contradictory, and disputed by many. The theory is full of holes, and the University of East Anglia email scandal has shown that at least some prominent scientists are willing to lie to promote their cause. There is no scientific consensus, yet the proponents of AGW insist that governments take drastic action that would have significant effects on the world economy and liberties of people.

Worst of all is the vilification of anyone who disagrees with AGW. Intelligent debate was not to be allowed, skeptics were branded as heretics and dealt with in harsh fashion. Although the tide is perhaps starting to turn, for years any environmental scientist who wanted to publish, or even keep his or her job, had to buy into AGW dogma.

The Iraq War

We know the chant: "Bush Lied, People Died." If only cranks believed this line, we need not pay it any attention. But sad fact is that otherwise intelligent people actually believe that President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair knew that Saddam Hussein's Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction yet told the world he did.

Phillips does not attempt to argue that the invasion of Iraq was the right call, or that it wasn't. Her focus is solely on the charge that "Bush lied."

The amazing thing is that the charge is easily proven wrong. Every study commissioned by the US and British governments, every congressional and parliamentary inquiry, has found that while serious misjudgments were made (of course), no one deliberately deceived anyone.

The fact is that Saddam Hussein had a history of deceit about his WMD program, and there was good reason to think he had not been forthcoming about all of his programs and stockpiles. Time and again the UN teams in Iraq in the years immediately following the Gulf War found the Iraqis lying about their programs, and Saddam completely ceased cooperation in 1998. If he didn't have WMD, he certainly did everything he could to give the appearance of having them.

The Misrepresentation of Israel

Of all the instances where reason, facts, and logic are stood on their head, the worst is directed at Israel. Phillips says that "Israel sits at the epicenter of the West's repudiation of reason," and further, that

There is no other world conflict that is so obsessively falsified. Where Israel is involved, truth and reason and totally suspended. Irrationality and hysteria rule instead.

One's view of the Middle East is a sure guide to their view of the world. If someone believes that Israel, despite her faults, is generally on the side of what is right, good, and true, and that the Palestinians and Arabs are mostly at fault, that person can be counted on to have a rational view of the world. If, on the other hand, they see Israel as the oppressor, equate it's policies with apartheid, and see the Palestinians as victims, they are almost always "moral and cultural and relativists who invert truth and lies, right and wrong over a wide range of issues, and are incapable of seeing that their beliefs do not accord with reality."

Contrary to what so many think, Israel was not created by the West as a way of redeeming their guilt over the Holocaust. Europeans Jews were not transplanted there as foreign invaders, and did not drive out the Arabs. And no, giving the Palestinians their own completely independent state on the West Bank and Gaza would not make them happy.

Phillips goes through each of these and shows why they are false. The Jews have an historic claim to the land of Israel, including of course the ancient ancient kingdom. More, from then until modern times Jews have maintained an unbroken presence there, and this claim was recognized in things such as the Balfour Declaration by Great Britain in 1917 and the Palestine Mandate by the League of Nations in 1922.

If anything, it is the "Palestinian" claim that rests on shaky ground. Until the modern nation of Israel was established, the Arabs in Palestine did not consider themselves "a people" distinct from other Arabs. Before that time local leaders insisted they did not want a separate state.

Israel is not engaged in any "illegal occupation" of the West Bank, nor does it engage in apartheid. The area in question is not and has never been land assigned to any one nation, it is rather an unallocated part of the British Mandate, and, perhaps alone among states, Israel does not have any official borders anywhere. The false allegations go on and on.

Scientific Triumphalism and the Secular Inquisition

Not too long ago I saw a story in The Huffington Post which illustrates almost perfectly the attitude the scientific elite have towards anyone who does not buy into their version of Darwinian evolution. "Deniers" must not simply be shown to be wrong, they must be written out of society.

In the Middle Ages the church stamped out heresy through the death penalty or forced conversion. Liberals achieve the same goal of controlling though by ostracizing dissenters to the point where they cannot publish or get or hold jobs in their profession. Questioning AWG is made to be equal to questioning the Holocaust.

Militant atheist scientists and thinkers such as Richard Dawkins and Francis Crick, Carl Sagan and Peter Atkins are not merely nonbelievers in God, they see religion (especially Christianity, of course) as a positive danger to be stamped out. To make their case, however, they fall back on a series of dogmatic assertions, the proof of which is in the dogma itself. What we end up with is a sort of "scientific triumphalism" of circular reasoning in which "science is what science says it is."

To the militant atheist scientist, reason and religion are incompatible. Phillips shows that not only is this not true, but reason and science are dependent on religion. Indeed, if one wants to argue that several popular scientists such as Hawking, and Sagan say that science led them to atheism, one can counter by pointing to any number of scientists who say that it was precisely their discipline that led them to faith. The more this latter group learn, the more they conclude that there must be a master or guiding intelligence behind existence.

More, there is a reason why the West was the first to pursue and accepted science and other cultures did not, and that reason is our Judeo-Christian heritage. While ancient Greek thinking played a strong role, it would have died had medieval Christian and Jewish thinkers not reconciled it with their faiths. Science is founded on a concept of order and understanding that is found in Judaism and Christianity but not other faiths.

The Islamic Threat

In Phillips' 2006 book Londonistan she wrote about how Muslim immigrant radicals were changing Britain for the worst. "Londonistan" is the name given to the British capital by French security officials outraged at the British refusal to extradite Algerian terrorist Rachid Ramda, claiming he could not get a fair trial in France(!) It took the French 3 requests and 10 years before they finally got their man. During the 80s and 90s, it became well-known among the security forces of Europe that the UK was becoming a terrorist haven. Time and again they warned the British, who did nothing. The inevitable came about in July of 2005 whem Muslim terrorists bombed the London Underground.

There is currently a jihad against Western freedom, and the paradox is that many in the West are going along with it, all in the name of multiculturalism. While of course not all Muslims are radicals or want anything to do with any of this, the fact the ones calling the shots in their community in Britain are the radicals.

There should be a give-and-take between a host people and immigrants. The host nation gains new words, some culture, and cuisine, and the immigrants agree to accept the legal and social mores of the host country. This is not happening with Muslim immigrants, who are trying to bring their sharia into Britain and other European countries and are not accepting Western legal and social mores.

Islamic, Western, and Christian Jew-hatred

Sadly, we still live in a world in which antisemitism is gaining strength. Phillips disputes the notion that it is due to or a by-product of anti-Israeli feelings.

Muslim extremists don't attack Israel in their writings so much as they attack "Jews." Islam has had a problem with Jews from the beginnings of their religion, and it has not let up. They don't want to live side-by-side with Israel, they want to kill all the Jews period.

It is unsurprising that Islam and most Muslims are antisemitic. What is more disturbing is the resurgence of these attitudes among Christians and secularists on the West. Part of this is the result of Muslim immigration to the West, but much of it is also inherent.

Of all countries in the West, Great Britain has the dubious distinction of leading the way in the antisemitic attitudes of it's citizens. Majorities or large pluralities believe the old tripe about Jews being more loyal to Israel than their home country, having inordinate control over the banking and media sectors, and control U.S. foreign policy. Worst of all while it used to be that Israelis were only equated with Nazis in the Arab press, this has now spread to the West as well.

Much of the Antisemitism is defended as simple criticism of Israel. But attacks on Israel go far beyond attacks on any other country, and her actions are scrutinized like that of no other nation on earth. Israel is held to higher standards, and her every action is assigned the worst possible motivation. On the other hand, the terrorists who attack her are held to no standards, and their every claim reported as if it was true.

Perhaps the oddest result of all this is a new "Red-Black-Green-Islamic Axis" in the West. Leftists, fascists, environmental extremists, and Muslims have found common cause against the West in general and the Jews in particular.

That the far right is allied with Islamists is perhaps not surprising. But given that the left presents itself as the home of "tolerance," "multiculturalism," and "secular humanism" it is strange that they would ally with a religion that is opposed to all three of those values. Yet this is just the case. I myself witnessed an instance where I live where a noted gay activist used his sympathy for Islam to attack Christianity.

Finally is the resurgence of Christian antisemitism. It has become de rigueur for "progressive" Christian churches to spill much ink criticizing Israel while ignoring the very Islamic terror and extremism which threaten it. Worse, they engage in a disgusting moral equivalency. Several churches have divested themselves of companies who do business with Israel; again while happily investing in companies who business with the world's dictators and rogues. Other churches have attempted divestiture (Presbyterian Church USA, for example) and only walked back from actually doing it because of outrage from their members.

The Quest for Redemption

"Millenarianism" is the quasi-religious belief that mankind and society can be perfected on earth. Part of this is a secular version of Christian salvation, whereby we can redeem ourselves from past sins if only we do x and such.

The religious version of millenarianism is found today in Islam, which actively seeks to establish itself as the ruler of the earth. While one can say that Christians want all people to follow their religion too, the difference of course is that each uses dramatically different means towards their ends.

Communism and fascism were and are Western secular millenarianist ideologies. Although both are still around, they have mostly been replaced with an earth-worshiping environmentalism, a valueless multiculturalism, an anti-Western post-nationalism, and other similar ideas.

Interestingly, most of these movements are cultural rather than political in nature. To be sure, they do contain concrete policy objectives, but they're quasi-religious in that they incorporate the evangelical, dogmatism, fanaticism, and desire to crush dissent that any medieval religion would be proud of.

They also all share the same concept of secular sin; mankind (personkind?), especially the West, has been criminally wrong and we must return to the true faith. If we would only follow their prescriptions, we can create a world with no war, no racial or ethnic strife, no persecution, tyranny, etc.

The Enlightenment Unraveled, Reason and the Bible

Phillips spends a lot of time discussing the concept of reason and how it relates to religion. She walks the reader through the Enlightenment (A 17th and 18th-century philosophical movement) and shows us what really happened.

The fairly tale version goes like this; during the Dark Ages we were a bunch of ignorant superstitious hillbillies who where kept that way by the Catholic church. Along time a bunch of smart guys who used reason to "enlighten" us and release us from the grip of religion so that we could live happily ever after.

The reality was more complicated. The Enlightenment was not opposed to religion, indeed it could not have taken place without a Judo-Christian foundation. Most enlightenment thinkers were Christian, and more wanted to release the church's grip on government and society than replace it.

Further, although in some countries the Enlightenment produced liberal thinking and institutions, in places like France it took a decidedly authoritarian turn. French philosophers elevated "reason" to the same status as religion, quite in contrast to their colleagues in other countries.

The immediate effect of these new French ideas was the Revolution and Terror, the long term is the rejection of religion by the "enlightened" today.

The cause is that "reason" cannot exist by itself. Religion and reason go hand in hand: Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, let us reason together," is more than just a verse. "Reason" as an abstraction leads to authoritarian or totalitarianism.

The Great War (World War I) and the Holocaust shook European confidence to it's core. Sure, Europe had seen big wars before and had experienced massacres, but nothing on these scales, and never before for seemingly no purpose. These shocks had two effects; the first was that the people lost their traditional values and beliefs, and second they started to believe in all manner of crazy things (see above).

The result is a postmodermism that rejects reason. Truth is not all about perspective, not absolutes. Values became relative to where the "noble savage" is is not primitive or backward but every bit as good if not better than us in the West. Facts are made to serve ideology, not vice versa. Traditional concepts of "tolerance" have been replaced with an intolerant "rights" agenda. "Nature" is pure and holy, and humans are the enemy of the planet.

If individuals wish to be atheists, all fine and good, but when it becomes a mass movement, it's promoters need to face up to the consequences of their philosophy. They want religion to disappear, but want to continue enjoying Western liberties as if the two are not related. They seem not to realize that it is precisely those Judeo-Christian values that have brought us our concepts of morality and liberty. Nietzshe at least understood the risk.

Why Britain is in the Forefront of the Madness

The madness is most concentrated in Great Britain. While continental Europe as a whole has rejected religion, family structures remain strong and social pathologies low.

Unfortunately, the US and UK* share many negative trend rates as compared to continental Europe. Both have the highest rates of single parenthood and the highest crime rates.

The differences between the US and UK are in the culture. Political correctness reigns supreme in the UK. In the US most of us at least acknowledge we have problems, in the UK they seem determined to continue the slide downhill.

But why is this so? Both the continent and the UK suffered the horrors of the Great Was and Holocaust, and the resulting destruction of what seemed a stable 19th century world order. But the UK also lost it's empire, and as such it's sense of self and purpose in the world. Add to this the replacement of traditional religion with all sorts of wild ideologies and belief systems, unassimilated Muslim immigrants, the general unraveling of the culture, and a free-for-all spirituality and you have a recipe for disaster.

* yes I know the UK and Britain are not quite the same thing, but I've used the terms somewhat interchangeably.

My Take

Perhaps it is because Phillips is British that she is so attuned to the madness going on around us. And madness it is. Don't hold me to each and every phrase or idea put forth in the book, but I do find myself in agreement with her almost all of the time.

My liberal readers should note that Phillips has no problem with any specific policy that the left offers. The book is not an attack on ObamaCare, Keynesian economics, Roe v Wade, stem-cell research, or any of the rest of it. It's also not an attack on atheism per se. Nor does she celebrate any particular policy of George W Bush or Tony Blair.

Instead examining micro-policy, the book is about the way a certain type of person, increasing in number, looks at the world. It's not about whether you are religious, agnostic, or atheist, so much as where that leads you in the rest of it. Nor again is it about whether you are politically conservative, or, for the most part, liberal. There are many agnostics and atheists who are quite reasonable. There are many liberals (I know many) who, while I disagree with them on this or that policy, do not hold whacky views. And sadly, there are religious conservatives who do (Birthers, for example).

But it is accurate to say, as she does, that most of the craziness comes from the militant atheist left.

Phillips strength is her ability to dismantle the conventional wisdom of the elites and the fads that pass as serious movements. The quasi-religion of things like global warming, multiculturalism, and Darwinian evolution deserve to be skewered.

Yes the problems Phillips describes in her book are real, and not something we can ignore. But that does not mean all is lost, or that there is not another side to the story. The West is still the strongest fore on the planet, and sets the tone politically, economically, morally, and, of course, militarily.

It was, after all, easy to conclude after reading books such as Witness (1952) by Whittaker Chambers, Suicide of the West (1964) by James Burnham, or How Democracies Perish (1983) by Jean-Francois Revel and conclude that we should not have lasted as long as we have.

But sooner or later all great civilizations decline and fall. The boy who cried wolf may have been wrong or joking a few times, but eventually the wolves did show up. Further, we may yet recover our senses and save ourselves. If we do, Melanie Phillips will be one of those our descendants will thank for sounding a timely warning.

Melanie Phillips blogs at The Spectator

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June 8, 2011

Germany Commits Economic Suicide

Update: Japan follows suit

From Instupundit:

RATHER A LOT, REALLY: What Will A Nuclear-Free Germany Cost? Economic suicide by policy-fad? "Blackouts are a near-term concern because, under Merkel's plan, Germany's eight oldest reactors--seven of which she ordered offline for safety inspections in March, and another undergoing maintenance--would never run again, and ramping up supply from other sources could prove difficult. Germany's Federal Network Agency has determined that southern Germany, which stands to lose five reactors producing 5,200 megawatts, could run short of power this winter. During cold snaps, demand for power is at a peak, and output from Germany's more than 17,000 megawatts' worth of solar capacity is also at a minimum. Electricity imports are also harder to come by during the winter, as neighboring countries confront their own power peaks."

Give the Obama Administration credit for avoiding such flightiness.

UPDATE: Reader Robert L. Crawford writes:

Economic Suicide is exactly it, and the first case I'm aware of by a dynamic western democracy. Communist 5-year plans, starving the kulacs, Great Leaps Forward, etc., can be explained considering the sources, but for Germany in 2011? They are sacrificing their economic future and standard of living for political correctness. Stunning.

Indeed.


Update: From an AP story in The Washington Post:

The disasters have renewed a national debate on nuclear power in Japan, which has few natural resources. Japan relied on nuclear energy for 30 percent of its electricity before the disasters and planned to raise that to 50 percent by 2030, but the government has announced it will abandon that target and promote renewable energy instead.

Some nuclear plants across the country remain shut in the wake of the disaster, leading to fears Tokyo and other areas may not have enough electricity for the peak summer months. Residents of the capital are reducing their use of lights and air conditioning, and some companies are moving crucial operations like computer centers to parts of Japan with more stable power supplies.

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December 18, 2010

Terrorism Promoted in Swedish Mosque?

Do you think I exaggerate when I write about the threat of Islamic jihadism? When I write that although the absolute number of Muslim terrorists may be low, the number of Muslim enablers is disturbingly high? And that problem in Europe is just about out of control? I suspect some of my liberal readers do.

Worse, my guess is that while the average person has heard about problems with Muslim extremism in the UK or France, they don't think about it when it comes to the Scandinavian countries. The truth is just about the opposite; while the problem is bad in places like the UK and France, it is at crisis levels in Sweden. To make matters worse, Sweden is the home of left-wing political correctness in a continent infected with it, so they're basically blind to the problem.

Watch this and shudder (h/t Sister Toldjah). In the wake of the Dec 11 terrorist bombings in Stockholm, a Swedish politician thought it wise to see what the Muslims were up to.


I can't say if this man's charges are true, but the police certainly should conduct their own undercover operations to find out. After all, if such charges were made about any church I'd certainly support a police operation to find out.

But don't worry, I'm sure it'll all be dismissed as right-wing paranoia. Nothing to see here folks, move along....

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December 10, 2010

Let's Be More Like Europe!

It seems a cliche to say it but it's true that Democrats and liberals think we should be more like Europe, with a larger government and more entitlements. And indeed ObamaCare is the culmination of that thinking.

The result of government benefits is that those who receive them start to think of them as something that they have an inviolable right to, which is why I think the liberals termed them "entitlements" in the first place. Once it is established that someone has an absolute right to something, they will not want to give it up no matter what the circumstances.

We're seeing the results of the entitlement mentality most clearly in Europe today. Earlier this year Greeks rioted when their broke government announced salary cuts, pension freezes, a hiring moratorium, and tax hikes. Tough medicine to be sure, but anyone with an ounce of sense should have seen the financial crisis coming a decade ago. France saw a series of urban riots/demonstrations when people took to the streets to protest the announcement to raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62.

And to top it all off, just yesterday student protesters attacked a car carrying Prince Charles and Camilla:


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The London paper The Sun has the story, and follow the link to their site for some pretty awful photos:

THE Duchess of Cornwall was physically attacked through an open car window by a rioting thug in central London, it was claimed today.

Reports say a protester managed to push a stick through an open window of the limousine and jab it into her ribs.

Camilla's frightening experience came as a baying mob surrounded her and Prince Charles as they rode through the protests last night.

And reports today claimed armed officers were just seconds from drawing their guns but the police driver managed to accelerate out of trouble.

Scotland Yard chief Sir Paul Stephenson said this morning that the armed royal protection officers showed "enormous restraint".

Wonderful!

And this AolNews story puts the lie to any claims that the only a few folks were rioting

The premier also shrugged off claims that violence was limited to a small minority of protesters, saying "there were quite a number of people who clearly were there wanting to pursue violence and destroy property."

And what was all the rioting about? A fascist military takeover of the government,? A shutdown of newspapers? And end to trial by jury? Nope:

British Parliament approves tuition hike despite widespread student protests
By Anthony Faiola
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, December 9, 2010; 8:59 PM

LONDON - British lawmakers pushed through a controversial hike in university tuition fees on Thursday, even as tens of thousands of angry students took to the streets of London and across the nation in protest.

The decision ensures that the cap on subsidized university fees will jump from $4,800 to $14,500 a year, infuriating students who have seized on the hikes to launch a wave of protests against the government's historic move to slash the budget deficit through drastic cuts in public spending.

On Thursday, thousands marched in the shadow of Parliament's Big Ben in demonstrations against the measure, chanting slogans aimed in large part against the Liberal Democrats, who, before joining with the Conservatives, had vowed to fight any tuition hikes.

Clusters of protesters set a bonfire and threw pool balls, firecrackers and paint bombs at mounted police, bringing parts of central London to a standstill. At least three protesters were arrested and 19 were injured; eight officers were being treated for injuries.

To be sure, the hikes are steep, no doubt about it. But they're really more the result of having up this off for too many years than anything else. It's like a credit card; you can rack up huge bills each month, only pay the minimum each month, and live fine for awhile. But the longer you put off dealing with that debt the worse it will be when you finally have to face the music.

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

Over the past two years here in the United States we've been protesting over government plans to expand benefits. Here are some of my photos from the Tea Party rally on September 12, 2009 that I attended:


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Here's a crowd shot that I got from a news source, I forget which one

14th and E St NW


I like the United States better. It's an expansion of liberty when government cuts back it's so-called benefits programs, and a reduction of them when government expands.

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October 17, 2010

The Threat from Islamic Intimidation on Freedom of Speech

I've been doing a series of posts in which I summarize the findings in Shariah: The Threat to America, An Exercise in Competitive Analysis, The Report of Team B II, a report by the Center for Security Policy, a conservative think tank. The purpose of the publication was to present an alternative analysis and set of recommendations to the official position, currently of the Obama Administration, but really of the Bush43 Administration as well.

It may be easy for some to dismiss this report and these types of posts because it's hard for some to see the impact on our daily lives. It's like of like terrorism, some will say that the threat was overblown by the Bush Administration because there was n 9-11 Part II. Never mind that the main reason there have not been more attacks was because we stopped them in their infancy, some will not think or investigate that far.

So it is the with threat of a "creeping shariah" by the Muslim Brotherhood and it's associated front groups like CAIR. It's all very fine and important to talk about captured documents and various statements, but in the end people will ask "so is this just a theoretical threat?" and if so turn back to watching the football game.

Two posts today at National Review's The Corner blog will help dispel the notion that there is no very real threat to our Freedom of Speech:

Some Context on the Wilders Case
October 17, 2010 4:30 P.M.
By Nina Shea

Geert Wilders is the latest in a lengthening roster of Europeans who have been criminally prosecuted for criticizing Islam. Under the slogans of stopping "Islamophobia" and banning "defamation" or "insult" of Islam, for two decades a concerted demand has been made for the West to enforce Islamic blasphemy rules, as is customary in certain member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

The Netherlands has been among the many EU states struggling to comply. In the name of liberalism, it has enacted laws criminalizing "hate speech," with grossly illiberal results. A sample of the Dutch cases shows that the desire to protect minorities is a self-deluding piety in these circumstances. What really lies at the root of these vaguely defined and arbitrarily adjudicated cases is fear of Muslim violence.

One of the earliest such Western cases occurred in the Netherlands in 1992, a few years after Iran's fatwa against Salman Rushdie triggered murders of "blasphemers" connected with his book The Satanic Verses. A Muslim cabaret artist of Pakistani background, "Zola F," was found guilty of authoring an unflattering book about Muslim immigration, entitled The Impending Ruin of the Netherlands, Country of Gullible Fools. This created the anomaly of a white court condemning a brown immigrant for "racist hate speech."

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an ex-Muslim of African heritage who became a Dutch parliamentarian, was similarly prosecuted. She was charged for criticizing the Islamic teaching on killing homosexuals. Already known for her role in co-directing Submission (the film on abuses against Muslim women that led to the 2004 murder by a Muslim extremist of her co-director, Theo Van Gogh), she announced plans for a sequel on the treatment of homosexuals in Islam. This prompted the Netherlands' main Muslim lobby to register a complaint that her remarks were "blasphemous and have been received with a great deal of pain by the Muslim community." In 2005, after two years of legal proceedings for "incitement" to hatred, during which time she received numerous death threats and had to go into hiding, a court finally decided that although she had "sought the borders of the acceptable," her speech did not warrant prohibition, and she was let off.

Hate-speech arrests occurred in the aftermath of the Van Gogh murder. When an artist in Rotterdam painted a street mural that included the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" next to the date of Van Gogh's murder, a local mosque leader complained to police that the message was "racist." The police, on orders of the mayor, sandblasted the mural and arrested a television reporter at the scene and destroyed his film. Another Dutch man hung in his window a poster for a far-right movement that stated, "Stop the tumor that is Islam. Theo has died for us. Who will be next?" After being convicted by two lower courts, he finally prevailed on appeal.

Widespread Muslim violence and protest over the Danish cartoons of Mohammed has put Dutch officials on high alert for provocative caricaturists. In 2008, after an Internet monitoring group reported him to authorities for cartoons deemed insulting to Muslims, the edgy Dutch cartoonist Gregorius Nekschot was arrested. Police seized his computer's hard drive and cartoon sketches. The cartoons in question opposed Muslim immigration in various tasteless ways. Nekschot remains under suspicion of "insulting people on the basis of their race or belief, and possibly also of inciting hate," and could face two years in prison or a $25,000 fine if prosecuted. During the course of this case, it was revealed that the Dutch government had established an "Interdepartmental Working Group on Cartoons," apparently to apprise officials of any drawings that Muslims could find insulting.

The Wilders case is not unique, but it is important. It demonstrates the continued willingness of authorities in Europe's most liberal countries to regulate the content of speech on Islam in order to placate Muslim blasphemy demands. Few such cases end in conviction, but their chilling effect on free speech within and on Islam continues to widen.

-- Nina Shea directs the Hudson Institute's Center for Religious Freedom and co-authored the forthcoming book Silenced (Oxford University Press), on contemporary blasphemy rules.

And the second one at NRO:

Dispatches from the Information War
October 16, 2010 12:46 P.M.
By Cliff May

The decisions by Dutch prosecutors to dismiss the charges against parliamentarian Geert Wilders can be seen as a battle won in a war the West is losing - the war for freedom of speech, the freedom without which no other freedoms can be defended.

As I argue in my latest column, influential people are not just avoiding criticism of all things Islamic, they also are legitimizing vile practices -- e.g. gender apartheid -- where these practices are rooted in Islamic practice.

Women's rights groups are silent. Most elite journalists are at least complicit.

The Washington Post recently refused to run a cartoon not of Mohammed but merely containing the words "Where's Mohammed?" (a parody on "Where's Waldo?"). Editors said they were being "prudent." The more accurate word, I think, would be craven. As Andy McCarthy has noted, such political correctness "betrays the core values of a free society" and can only be seen as a form "societal surrender."

Barton Hinkle at the Richmond Times Dispatch observed:

Once upon a time, members of the media could be counted upon to champion free expression even when nobody else would. Where the First Amendment was implicated, newspapers were willing to go to bat for everyone from neo-Nazis to Hustler magazine, and to take on powerful institutions from the Vatican to the Pentagon, often while patting themselves on the back for "speaking truth to power." Yet when it comes to the Islamic question, many in the media will not even stick up for themselves.

Meanwhile, this new development: Norwegian journalist Halvor Tjønn, recently finished a biography of Muhammad only to have his Oslo publisher, decline to publish it. Islamist Watch reports:

"It's an internal matter," said Kagge's director, denying that any threats had been received. Tjønn remarked, "If the publisher had objections to the book's quality, that would have come up much earlier in the process, and not after a year and a half"; he declined to get more specific. Naturally the tight lips bolster suspicion of fear-based self-censorship at work yet again. This case certainly fits the history of books about Islam disappearing as anxiety over violence grows:

And Andy has written about the intellectual surrender in the Fort Hood case. Even the Wall Street Journal, in a news column (the editorial page has not yet waved a white flag), pretends that the massacre has "raised questions" about "mounting stress among soldiers who have been on multiple tours." Really? Oh, is that what this is about? The story contains exactly one mention, near the very end, of Maj. Nidal Hassan's "fervent Islamic beliefs."

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September 22, 2010

Ban the Burqa?

Burqa - also transliterated burkha, burka or burqua from Arabic: برقع‎ burqu' or burqa') is an enveloping outer garment worn by women in some Islamic traditions for the purpose of hiding their body when in public. It is worn over the usual daily clothing (often a long dress or a shalwar kameez) and removed when the woman returns home (see purdah), out of the view of men that are not her family. The burqa is usually understood to be the woman's loose body-covering (Arabic: jilbāb), plus the head-covering (Arabic: ḥijāb, taking the most usual meaning), plus the face-veil (Arabic: niqāb).

Burqa

Should the wearing of the burqa and niqab be banned in public?

Some European countries are moving in that direction. Both the French National Assembly (like our House) and Senate approved a ban on burqa-style dress recently, and the issue is before the Belgium parliament as well. It has been considered in the Netherlands but no action has been taken yet. A ban has been proposed in Britain and polls show it would be hugely popular.

In this post we'll let two conservative authors state their cases: Caire Berlinski in favor of a ban and Andy McCarthy against. Both articles have recently appeared in National Review .

Niqab v Burqa

First up is Clair Berlinski. Following are just enough excerpts to get the gist of her case:

Ban the Burqa
To do so is an offense to liberty; not to do so is a greater one
Claire Berlinski
August 16, 2010
Istanbul

I moved here five years ago. In the beginning, I was sympathetic to the argument that Turkey's ban on headscarves in universities and public institutions was grossly discriminatory. I spoke to many women who described veiling themselves as an uncoerced act of faith. One businesswoman in her mid-30s told me that she began veiling in high school, defying her secular family. Her schoolteacher gasped when she saw her: "If Atatürk could see you now, he would weep!" Her pain at the memory of the opprobrium she had suffered was clearly real.

Why had she decided to cover herself? I asked. As a teenager, she told me, she had experienced a religious revelation. She described this in terms anyone familiar with William James would recognize. She began veiling to affirm her connection with the Ineffable. "Every time I look in the mirror," she said, "I see a religious woman looking back. It reminds me that I've chosen to have a particular kind of relationship with God."

Seen thus, the covering of the head is no more radical than many other religious rituals that demand symbolic acts of renunciation or daily inconvenience....

But that was when I could still visit the neighborhood of Balat without being called a whore. ...

Let's be perfectly frank. These bans (the ones in Europe mentioned at top) are outrages against religious freedom and freedom of expression. They stigmatize Muslims. No modern state should be in the business of dictating what women should wear. The security arguments are spurious; there are a million ways to hide a bomb, and one hardly need wear a burqa to do so. It is not necessarily the case that the burqa is imposed upon women against their will; when it is the case, there are already laws on the books against physical coercion.

The argument that the garment is not a religious obligation under Islam is well-founded but irrelevant; millions of Muslims the world around believe that it is, and the state is not qualified to be in the business of Koranic exegesis. The choice to cover one's face is for many women a genuine expression of the most private kind of religious sentiment. To prevent them from doing so is discriminatory, persecutory, and incompatible with the Enlightenment traditions of the West....

All true. And yet the burqa must be banned. All forms of veiling must be, if not banned, strongly discouraged and stigmatized. The arguments against a ban are coherent and principled. They are also shallow and insufficient. They fail to take something crucial into account, and that thing is this: If Europe does not stand up now against veiling -- and the conception of women and their place in society that it represents -- within a generation there will be many cities in Europe where no unveiled woman will walk comfortably or safely....

The cancerous spread of veiling has been seen throughout the Islamic world since the Iranian Revolution. I have watched it in Turkey. Through migration and demographic shift, neighborhoods that once were mixed have become predominantly veiled. The government has sought to lift prohibitions on the wearing of headscarves, legitimizing and emboldening advocates of the practice. Five years ago, the historically Jewish and Greek neighborhood of Balat, on the Golden Horn, was one in which many unveiled women could be seen. It is not anymore. Recently I visited a friend there who reluctantly suggested that I dress more modestly -- while in his apartment. His windows faced the street. He was concerned that his neighbors would call the police and report a prostitute in their midst.

Veiling cannot be disambiguated from the problem of Islam's conception of women, and this conception is directly tied to gender apartheid and the subjugation and abuse of women throughout the Islamic world, the greatest human-rights problem on the planet, bar none. ...

Banning the burqa is without doubt a terrible assault on the ideal of religious liberty. It is the sign of a desperate society. No one wishes for things to have come so far that it is necessary.

But they have, and it is.

As someone once said (the phrase has been attributed to several people) "The Constitution is not a suicide pact." Put bluntly, there are certain situations where you do what you gotta do.

Berlinski states clearly that such a ban violates our concepts of civil liberties, but the situation is so dire that it is necessary. I won't rehash the situation in Europe now, at this point there is so much information out there that you either understand the danger or you don't.

More, she admits freely that many women voluntarily take up the burqa; depending on your definition of "voluntary," and here is where things get tricky. Where is the line between free will and subtle yet pervasive brainwashing? Between doing something out of religious reverence and an unadmitted and almost unconscious fear of being called a whore?

There is no doubt that fundamentalist Islam is spreading. Egyptian-American author Nonie Darwish wrote about how the people of her home country have gotten much more fundamentalist in her book Now They Call Me Infidel, and how shocked she was by the changes she saw there in her latest visit as opposed to what the country was like when she was a child. This series of photographs of the graduating class of Cairo University in 1959, 1978, 1995, and 2004 are absolutely shocking. In 1959 the graduates all wore modern, Western dress. IN 2004 the style was middle-ages Islamic.

So put your scruples about civil liberties aside, she says. Western Civilization itself is in mortal danger, and if we do not stand up to Islamism now, "within a generation there will be many cities in Europe where no unveiled woman will walk comfortably or safely."

A serious argument to be taken seriously.

Just as serious is Andy McCarthy, who makes the case the burqa-style dress should not be banned. As I suppose everyone knows by now, McCarthy was the lead prosecutor in the trial of Omar Abdel Rahman, otherwise known as "Blind Sheikh," who along with a half-dozen others were the masterminds behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and additional plots to bomb five New York City landmarks: the United Nations building, an FBI office, the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, and the George Washington Bridge. Today McCarthy is a writer and host on many TV and radio shows, speaking mostly on the issue of Islamic radicalism.

Following are enough excerpts from his recent article to make his case:

There Oughtn't Be a Law
The burqa ban won't save France, and preemptive capitulation won't save us September 18, 2010
Andy McCarthy

République française has banned the burqa. Along with the face-covering veil (the niqab), the burqa is the garment with which Muslim women conceal their bodies from head to toe. More accurately, it is the instrument by which their bodies are concealed. In fundamentalist Muslim communities, the burqa is not worn by a woman's free choice. It is imposed, a product of cultural submission that reflects the subordinate status -- in a real sense, the chattel status -- to which women are consigned in Islamist ideology. ...

What about the women who are extorted into cloaking themselves under pressure from a culture characterized by arranged marriages and honor killings? These women are pressured to submit because others have submitted. ...These women and girls are in France, but they are not free. They are "shut out from social life and robbed of any identity," as (French president Nicolas) Sarkozy puts it, and the burqa is their moving prison, enveloping every step. It extends the republic's 750 zones urbaines sensibles, "sensitive urban areas" -- Islamic enclaves over which the French state has effectively ceded sovereignty to sharia authorities.

This is a social problem, not a legal one. Law is the steel by which a body politic reinforces its vibrant, pre-existing mores. It is not a device for creating mores or for bringing to heel those who are at war with the body politic. ...For a dying society, though, a law, like the burqa law, is about as useful as a band-aid.

Islamist ideologues are ascendant because they are moving what they are proud to call their "civilizational jihad" against the West from the battlefield, where they know they cannot win, to our institutions, where the scales tip in the Islamists' favor. They are culturally confident. We, on the other hand, are ambivalent about whether our culture deserves to survive. No law can solve that problem. ...

The ethos of preemptive capitulation is all around us. It ran through last year's refusal by Yale University Press to publish Jytte Klausen's book on Muslim rioting over cartoon depictions of Mohammed until the book was purged of the cartoons. Even such classical representations of the prophet as Gustave Doré's illustration of Dante's Inferno, which portrays Mohammed as a "sower of religious discord," had to be censored out of fear that the religion of peace would go medieval. ... And the ethos is exploited by Imam Feisal Rauf, who now concedes the Ground Zero mosque was a bad idea but insists we must accept it lest "the radicals" explode in murderous rage.

It is the ethos of self-loathing. That is our burqa: our feebleness, our lack of cultural confidence. To shed it, we will have to rediscover why the principles it cloaks are superior and worth fighting for. If we don't, the law won't save us any more than it will save France.

McCarthy is saying bully; you're wasting your time with such a ban. At best it simply won't achieve your objective of stopping the spread of Islamism, at worst it deceives us into thinking that we have achieved something where we have not. We are much better served, he says, by facing the problem head on and telling the Islamists to accept Western values or get out of our countries.

My Take

In this case I think that Berlinksi is right and the European countries are right to ban burqa-style dress. Alone this won't save them, and McCarthy is right in that they still need to get their heads out of the sand and face the problem squarely. The bans might just give them that false sense of security that worries him.

But at the same time the bans might encourage Westerners to resist the spread of Islamism. It might give them hope that yes, we don't have to just sit here and take it from the radicals. And it might give Muslim women the strength to resist their oppression, and to realize that they don't have to take it either.

Further, it may send a signal to the Islamists that no, they may not import their more contemtible and degrading customs into our countries. Our message must be; if you accept Western values you are welcome to stay, otherwise leave.

Even so, of course, McCarthy may prove to be right. His point that the West has a social problem and not a political one is not one to be taken lightly. And most of all, until we realize that they have declared a "civilizational jihad" against us, we shall forever be blind as to the very nature of the enemy.

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October 19, 2009

The Demographics of Islam and the West

This is a short must-watch video

The demographic numbers are spot on as near as I can tell. More Muslims are a problem because by and large they are not assimilating and adopting Western ideas. My only problem with the video is at the end when the solution presented is that we should try and convert them to Christianity. As a Christian I want everyone to accept Christ, but as a practical matter it's not going to happen.

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September 20, 2009

More on the Missile Defense System Obama Canceled

On Thursday I explained how Obama betrayed our allies who had gone out on a limb for us, reduced our ability to defend against Iranian nuclear missiles sure to be developed, and weakened us in the eyes of the world. The system Obama canceled would have put a powerful radar in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in Poland. cancelled

Before we get going today, a reminder from Jim Geraghty about how all promises from Obama come with an expiration date. Here's Obama this past April 5:

So let me be clear: Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile activity poses a real threat, not just to the United States, but to Iran's neighbors and our allies. The Czech Republic and Poland have been courageous in agreeing to host a defense against these missiles. As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven. (Applause.) If the Iranian threat is eliminated, we will have a stronger basis for security, and the driving force for missile defense construction in Europe will be removed. (Applause.)

As I explained in my previous post, Poland and the Czech Republic were under tremendous amounts of pressure not to accept the anti-missile system. n 2004 Poland received 43% of it's natural gas from Russia, and the Czech Republic, 77%. Last winter Russia cut off shipments of gas to Ukraine, allegedly over contract disputes, but most likely it was more just a show of power by Russia.

They therefore went out on a limb for the United States. Now that the system has been canceled, they're without as much protection from Iranian nuclear missiles sure to be developed, and they've still got Russia mad at them.

But that's no big deal, as I'm sure the liberals will say. "Circumstances have changed."

Except that they haven't.

Thomas Joscelyn has the scoop in a post over at The Weekly Standard

First, note that the Obama administration, in its fact sheet on missile defense, does not currently intend to deploy a missile defense system capable of intercepting Iran's long-range missiles until 2020. Phase Four of Obama's plan, which is "in the 2020 timeframe," reads (emphasis added): "After development and testing are complete, deploy the SM-3 Block IIB to help better cope with medium- and intermediate-range missiles and the potential future ICBM (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile) threat to the United States." All three of the previous phases deal with short to intermediate-range interceptors.

That is, Obama's plan does not envision the deployment of a missile defense capable of countering Iran's long-range missiles until the tail end of the current estimate of when the mullahs will have that capability. The current estimate is that Iran will have an ICBM capability between 2015 and 2020. Obama is therefore assuming the best-case scenario (for us) with respect to long-range missiles within that range. So, the current plan does not envision deploying long-range interceptors in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, or 2019, which are all possibilities in the current estimate. The Obama plan says things may change, of course, but for now they've assumed the best-case scenario from the West's perspective.

Second, as I discussed earlier, it is still very likely that the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) does not really have a firm grasp on when Iran will deploy ICBM's. Just as with the 2007 NIE on Iran's nuclear program, the IC has once again modified its views within a relatively short period of time. The previous estimate said that the mullahs "could" have a long-range missile capability by 2015. This estimate was cited as recently as President Obama's inauguration day, January 20 of this year. 2015 is still apparently a possibility, but the IC has now pushed back the tail-end of its range of possibilities. This means that it could be in 2015, or in 2020, some time in between, or whenever.

Of course, Iran continues apace with its satellite program (e.g. Iran launched its first satellite into space in February 2009), which can be used to push along its development of ICBM's. So, it is not clear why the IC now thinks, on average, it will take longer than previously anticipated for Iran to develop a long-range missile capability.

Third, the timing of the news of this revised NIE is certainly inauspicious. An IAEA document reportedly showing that Iran has the capability to make a nuclear bomb and is developing a missile system capable of carrying it has been leaked to the Associated Press. The IAEA responded by issuing a statement saying it "has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapon program in Iran." This is transparently false as the AP's account makes it clear that the IAEA's document says Iran has mostly likely worked on both the ability to detonate a nuclear weapon as well as the capability to deliver it.

Thus, at the precise moment the Obama administration is telling us there is less to worry about with respect to Iran's long-range missiles, a leaked IAEA document is telling us that there is more to worry about with respect to Iran's nuclear program in general. The Obama administration's entire rationale for its missile defense plan rests on the assumption that Iran will not be able to deliver such a weapon with a long-range missile for ten more years.

The Concept of Layers

Our ships in World War II had a multi-layered defense against enemy aircraft. Farthest out were our own fighters. The ship itself had three types of guns; 5 inch with proximity fused shells to fire long distance, Quad-mount 40mm Bofors for medium range, and 20mm Oerlikon as a last ditch defense. Modern aircraft carriers have a similar arrangement but with missiles and the Phalanx gun system for terminal defense.

It's the same with ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) defense. In the ideal system you set up a variety of radars and detection systems, then you have different types of missiles to intercept the threat during boost-stage, mid-course, and terminal phase. We have AEGIS ships, ground-based interceptors, and finally the THAAD system as terminal defense.

The reason for all this is pretty simple; no one layer will get all of the threats.

By canceling the system that would have been set up in Poland and the Czech Republic Obama has removed one layer.

MAD Won't Work

We could deter the Soviets and Chicoms (nice Cold War term there) because they were atheists and as evil as they were and are at the end of the day wanted to live. Communism has no meaning if everyone is dead. Mutual Assured Destruction thus had a perverse logic to it that worked during the Cold War.

Not so with religious fanatics, especially of the Muslim variety. Through dozens if not hundreds of statements it should be pretty clear by now that Ahmadinejad and the mullahs are not at all shy about sacrificing perhaps millions of their countrymen if it means destroying an enemy.

This said, they indeed hesitate before pushing the button when they get nuclear weapons and the means by which to deliver them. Even fanatics will have last minute doubts. But weakness on our part will encourage them to "risk it" and encourage their fanaticism. Osama bin Laden and others saw the Soviet retreat from Afghanistan as a sign from God that He was on their side and that they should continue their jihad. No doubt the mullahs and Ahmadinejad see the same thing from Obama's weakness. .

Same Old Song From the Democrats

I have been observing Democrats for almost 40 years, and they're all the same on National Defense. Their mantra is "develop forever, deploy never." They're always against current weapons systems, but in favor of some future system. President Carter canceled the B-1a in favor of a future stealth bomber (which eventually turned out to be the B-2). President Clinton forever delayed the deployment of anti-missile systems in favor of future ones. Democrats in Congress are just the same.

Folks, I know these Democrats. I know how they think. What's going on now is the latest stanza in the same old song. I guarantee you that when it comes time to deploy the system(s) in and around Turkey that Obama now claims he wants, they'll want to cancel them too. Do not be fooled.

What Have We Learned?

  1. All promises from Obama come with an expiration date
  2. Our allies went out on a limb for us and we sawed it off
  3. Obama will not deploy any system capable of countering ICBMs until 2020, "the tail end of the current estimate" as to when Iran will have ICBMs.
  4. We should not be confident of current estimates on Iranian capabilities.
  5. Anti-missile defenses should be set up in layers
  6. MAD won't work
  7. History tells us that Obama's future system will be opposed anyway by Democrats as their motto is "develop forever, deploy never."

The prudent thing is to have multiple layers of defense against all types of missile threats; short range, IRBM (Intermediate-Range Ballistic Misslies),and ICBMs. These defenses should be deployed well ahead of when we currently think our adversaries might deploy their missiles. To do anything less is to toy with the security of the United States.

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Obama Betrays Our Allies By Canceling Missile Defense Shield

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September 17, 2009

Obama Betrays Our Allies By Canceling Missile Defense Shield

Barack Obama is turning into Jimmy Carter Part II with frightening speed. It's bad enough that he apologizes to foreign offices for perceived U.S. offenses, that he let's Latin American thugs lecture him without response, admonishes Israel while ignoring Palestinian offenses and that he cuts vital weapons systems like the F-22 Raptor, but in his latest act he has both betrayed key allies and left Europe defenseless all at once. All that and we're barely eight months into his presidency. Not even Carter got this bad so fast.

In case you haven't seen it, here's the story as it appeared in today's Washington Times

President Obama on Thursday said he is scrapping current plans for a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic that was intended to protect against the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, but said he is doing so in order to deploy a more flexible system, possibly in those same countries, that his administration said is an "enhancement."

Mr. Obama, in a statement at the White House, said that his "new approach" will "best address the threat posed by Iran's ongoing ballistic missile defense program."

He and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates emphasized that the new system was based on a determination that the Iranian threat has shifted, for now, away from long-range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) delivery systems for potential nuclear weapons and toward short- and medium-range missiles.

We'll deal later with why the explanation is a load of bunk, but for now let's make sure we understand the magnitude of the betrayal of our allies.

Poland is right on the doorstep of Russia. The Czech Republic is father away, of course, but still vulnerable. Poland is most vulnerable to direct military assault, and both to economic pressure. Russia is the world's largest exporter of natural gas. In 2004 Poland received 43% of it's natural gas from Russia, and the Czech Republic, 77%. Last winter Russia cut off shipments of gas to Ukraine, allegedly over contract disputes, but most likely it was more just a show of power by Russia.

A few years ago Russia put a lot of pressure on Poland and the Czech Republic to not accept their parts of the missile defense shield, but they bravely resisted and threw in their lot with the U.S. They did so knowing that they were vulnerable to Russian pressure, but they did it anyway. And now Obama pulls the rug out from under them. They now have the worst of both worlds; no defense against missiles but still having annoyed Russia for having accepted it in the first place.

An Iranian Nuke

For the past few years I've listened to liberals tell us there was no worry because the Iranians had either stopped their nuclear program or were years off. Today we see this from Fox News

A secret report from the United Nations' nuclear watchdog warns that Iran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is developing a missile system to carry it -- an assessment that could call into question the Obama administration's claim on Thursday that the biggest threat from Iran comes from its short- and medium-range missiles....

The report, which says Iran is likely to "overcome problems" on developing a delivery system, appears to be the so-called "secret annex" on Iran's nuclear program that Washington has said is being withheld by the IAEA's chief.

But the IAEA pushed back hard against that allegation, saying the charge is baseless.

"With respect to a recent media report, the IAEA reiterates that it has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapon program in Iran," the IAEA said in a written statement.

An IAEA spokesman told FOX News that the next formal report on Iran's nuclear capabilities is expected in November. He said the evidence suggesting Iran has a nuclear weapons program has not been verified.

I tried to quote enough to be fair.

Ok, so it's not definitive or verified. And my instinct tells me that they won't have a nuke until next year. And it'll be awhile after than before they have more than one or two, and longer still before they can put them atop missiles.

But maybe not. The simple fact is that we don't know, and seems to me that it is only prudent to assume that they are relatively far along in development.

Missiles in Turkey Not Sufficient

The White House put out a "fact sheet"on their alternative to the canceled missile defense system in Europe, which says in part:

Starting around 2011, this missile defense architecture will feature deployments of increasingly-capable sea- and land-based missile interceptors, primarily upgraded versions of the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3), and a range of sensors in Europe to defend against the growing ballistic missile threat from Iran. This phased approach develops the capability to augment our current protection of the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats, and to offer more effective defenses against more near-term ballistic missile threats. The plan provides for the defense of U.S. deployed forces, their families, and our Allies in Europe sooner and more comprehensively than the previous program, and involves more flexible and survivable systems.

But as Michael Goldfarb points out over at TWS:

The White House has put out a "fact sheet" on their policy of Russian appeasement/missile defense surrender. The fact sheet says that the new approach -- focusing on SM-3 and sea-based systems (presumably in Turkey) -- will "augment our current protection of the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats." That is a lie. This system will provide zero, nada, zilch protection to the U.S. homeland, providing only defense against short- and medium-range missiles to Europe.

The fact sheet says this system will protect "our Allies in Europe sooner and more comprehensively than the previous program, and involves more flexible and survivable systems." That is a lie. The system that was being placed in Poland is already operational in Alaska. These new plans will now take years of negotations to implement and will necessarily be less survivable as they will not be underground.

The fact sheet says that "The Czech Republic and Poland, as close, strategic and steadfast Allies of the United States, will be central to our continued consultations with NATO Allies on our defense against the growing ballistic missile threat." That is a lie. The Czechs and Poles get a midnight phone call from the president while Tauscher is already in the air. They were not consulted with and have been given no assurances -- because the president is selling them out.

The fact sheet says, "We also welcome Russian cooperation to bring its missile defense capabilities into a broader defense of our common strategic interests." If that's true, our president is totally clueless about Russian capabilities and intentions -- even Bush, who looked into Putin's soul, was not so delusional as to think U.S. missile defense could be dependent on Russian good will and cooperation. How long til the Russians threaten to throw us out of our "joint" missile defense facilities in order to coerce us into staying out of an attack on Georgia or some other democratic state in their near abroad.

This is a decision based purely on ideology and the good soldiers on the JCS and and at the Pentagon have no choice but to go along for the ride. At least the president ought to be honest about what this means and stop the smears of missile defense.

Yup, what we have here is pure left-wing ideology in action. It is the mindset of Jimmy Carter; screw our friends and talk nice to our enemies. Obama is all set to talk to Iran next month, yet the latter have shown absolutely no inclination that they will even consider giving up their nuclear program. Both Russia and China have said that they are dead set against any more sanctions.

Betraying Friends and Rewarding Enemies and Adversaries

Obama ignored the massive human rights abuses committed by the mullahs in the wake of the last election there, and only spoke out after intense pressure. He's a fool if he thinks that Russia will give us anything in return for this massive U.S. concession. Obama has betrayed Poland and the Czech Republic, two allies, and is being nicey-nice to our enemies and adversaries, Iran and Russia.

So today Iran and Russia are happy, and Poland and the Czech Republic disappointed. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Perhaps the most insightful words, though, were spoken by Mirek Topolanek, who was the Czech prime minister when Prague agreed to co-host the shield, said that Obama's decision to cancel it was

"not good news for the Czech state, for Czech freedom and independence".

Yes, the future of Czech freedom and indepdence are more in question today than they were yesterday

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April 5, 2009

The Coming Entitlements Crunch

We in the West have created a system of old-age entitlements that we're just not going to be able to pay for much longer. Don't get me wrong; I'm not against Social Security type programs. And I do think the government has an obligation to help our citizens as they reach their golden years. It's rather that I don't think the current structure of our programs is going to hold.

Government Social Security type programs worked when the worker to retiree ratio was 16.5 - 1 (figures via ssa.gov), when Social Security was first instituted by FDR. It worked at 10 and even 5 to 1. 3.3 to 1, which is what it is today, is barely sustainable. According to the Social Security Administration website referenced earlier, in 40 years it will be 2 to 1, and they say straight up that "At this ratio there will not be enough workers to pay scheduled benefits at current tax rates."

A piece in the Financial Times (via Mark Steyn at NRO) goes on about our current financial crisis, and how some of the measures the G20 had taken to resolve it. Good so far, but then comes the zinger

As the IMF says, "in spite of the large fiscal costs of the crisis, the major threat to long-term fiscal solvency is still represented, at least in advanced countries, by unfavourable demographic trends".

What's that again?

Until only a few years ago I not read much on demographics. Oh sure, I knew that our Social Security system was in trouble, but who didn't? Beyond that though I didn't really give it much thought as a major force that could change the world. Indeed, upon seeing a book or article on the subject my inclination would have been to cast it aside as horribly boring.

Then I read Mark Steyn's America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It. I looked at the issue further, and discovered that the birthrate figures he cites are correct. Demography may in fact be destiny. But you don't have to buy into all of his conclusions to know that the West is in big trouble.

Back to the Financial Times, and how "unfavorable demographic trends" are

Unfavourable from a treasury's point of view, that is. Increased human longevity is otherwise hardly a bad thing. Fewer people are dying young, in industrial accidents or from disease. If they make it to old age, retirees live ever longer on their pensions. Birth rates are often low, however - leaving fewer children to look after parents in their dotage and a smaller workforce to pay the taxes that also support them.

Officials in many countries are prone to talking about the problem in terms that hide its immediacy: the impact of ageing on the world in four decades' time is more commonly discussed than the weight of the problem in just 10 years. But demographic phenomena can have a significant impact on a society within a short time-span.

Across much of the developed world, the end of the second world war was greeted by a jump in the number of births - the "baby boom". That increase, a working lifetime ago, is suddenly being felt ever more acutely now, as workers drop out of the labour market in large numbers and start to claim pensions.

In the UK, for example, the government expects the extra annual costs imposed by ageing to reach 1.6 per cent of GDP by 2017-18. That is an increase in spending equivalent to the cost of servicing a rise in the national debt burden of about 37 per cent of GDP, according to FT calculations. That outstrips the 29 percentage point rise that the financial crisis and economic downturn are expected to inflict.

France, Germany and the US are among other countries set to see a sudden deterioration in demographic costs in the next decade after a long period of relative placidity. According to the United Nations , the number of working-age adults for each person aged over 65 in advanced economies will decrease in the next 10 years by as much as they have in the previous 30 years. The number of workers per pension claimant will fall from 4.3 to 3.4 in the next decade alone.

Some countries are already much further down this road. It will take another 20 years of greying for Europe to become as elderly as Japan's population is today. The rest of east Asia is in a race to get rich before its people get too old to work. South Korea is currently well placed, with six citizens of working age for every pensioner. Yet thanks to a collapse in its birth rate, it will be one of the greyest countries on earth by 2050.

For societies, even if not always for individuals, it is possible to offset and mitigate many of the problems of ageing. Employment law is changing in order to keep people in work for longer. Nevertheless, the latest explosion in public debt - difficult enough on its own - is exacerbating the impact of an ageing that was always going to be expensive. Together, they promise to make the next decade rather tough for taxpayers.

Yikes. As if this wasn't bad enough, President Obama and his friends in Congress want to increase our debt with their "stimulus" package. I attacked President Bush and the Republicans in Congress for their prolifigate spending (see "Conservatives Gone Bad" under "Categories" at right, or just go here) so I'll do the same to Obama and the Democrats.

The worst thing is I don't know what to do about the problem. You can call me a hypocrite for not having any children of my own, but I don't see how this means I can't bring it up as a problem (see my thoughts on the issue of hypocrisy here if you care).

We're going to have to reform our old-age programs, which in the United States means Social Security. President Bush tried and met a brick wall of political opposition. I don't see it on President Obama's agenda. And from what I see I certainly don't see anyone in Europe addressing it.

As bad as our situation is here we in the United States have it pretty good; we're at 2.1 live births per woman, which keeps our population even (growth is from immigration). Throughout Europe the figure is lower, in some cases dramatically so. The issue, as Steyn concludes, is that

...for Japan, Russia and Europe, we're no longer talking about demographic-economic catastrophe just beyond the horizon - say, mid-century - but within ten years. If you're not talking about this, you're not serious. Which is why the O-man and the G-20 aren't serious.

Indeed.

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January 27, 2009

Geert Wilders and the End of Free Speech in Europe

In the wake of World War II it seemed a good idea to a few governments that no one should be able to deny that the holocaust occurred, because they didn't want another one. So, in certain countries, they they banned it. In 2006 British historian David Irving was sentenced to 3 years in an Austrian prison for holocaust denial.

Now we have Muslim groups demanding that anyone who criticizes Islam be punished.

Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders is the latest person under attack. A critic of Islam for many years, Geert Wilders has lived under constant police protection, such is the danger from Muslims.

Now his own government is going after him:

An appeals court on Wednesday overturned a previous decision by prosecutors not to charge Geert Wilders, and ordered that he stand trial....

Prosecutors initially declined last year to charge the right wing politician after he issued his short film, "Fitna," which juxtaposes Koranic verses over footage of violence committed by Islamic terrorists.

But, the Netherlands allows private citizens to petition the courts to compel prosecution. In Wilders' case, eight parties, including a politician from an opposing party, asked the courts to force prosecutors to bring criminal charges.

A three-judge appeals panel on Wednesday ruled that Wilders' insults to Islam were so egregious that the principle of free speech was not sufficient defense.

"The court considers [Wilders' film] so insulting for Muslims that it is in the public interest to prosecute Wilders," a summary of the court's decision said. The court explained that Wilders' claims in "Fitna" and other media statements were "one-sided generalizations ... which can amount to inciting hatred."

Here's Fitna, the short film that started it all:

(Source)

You can also see it and more on his blog, Fitna the Movie.

"Fitna" is Arabic for "strife" or "conflict"

Shortly after they put it up, LiveLeak received so many threats they took the film down. to their credit, they upgraded their security and put it back up, issuing this statement:

On the 28th of March LiveLeak.com was left with no other choice but to remove the film "fitna" from our servers following serious threats to our staff and their families. Since that time we have worked constantly on upgrading all security measures thus offering better protection for our staff and families. With these measures in place we have decided to once more make this video live on our site. We will not be pressured into censoring material which is legal and within our rules. We apologise for the removal and the delay in getting it back, but when you run a website you don't consider that some people would be insecure enough to threaten our lives simply because they do not like the content of a video we neither produced nor endorsed but merely hosted.

From what I can tell Youtube took it down and won't put it back up.

This Was Not the Beginning

You pretty much have to be living in a cave at this point not to realize that Muslim groups and governments have mounted a major assault on free speech. They've been doing it both at the local levels in Europe and at the International level at the UN.

Robert Spencer and Geert Wilders explain:

The Islamic bloc has been on record for two decades as opposing free speech. In 1990, foreign ministers of the 57 member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), currently the largest voting bloc in the United Nations, adopted the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam. It states clearly that Islamic law--sharia--is the only true source of human rights. Few analysts in 1990 understood that this was tantamount to declaring the legitimacy of institutionalized discrimination against women and non-Muslims, and signing the death warrant of freedom of speech and freedom of conscience as well. And not just in Muslim lands: The OIC and allied organizations have been aggressively pursuing efforts to extend elements of sharia into the West, though few people realize it even today.

Due to the relentless efforts of the OIC, passage of a resolution on combating defamation of religions is now a yearly ritual in the United Nations. First introduced in the General Assembly in 2005, the resolution has been adopted with landslide votes every year since. While this resolution is non-binding, the OIC has declared its intention to seek a binding resolution--one that would require UN member states to criminalize criticism of Islam, as the OIC defines such criticism. This is a clear indication of the progressing Islamization of the United Nations.

On March 28 of last year, the UN hit rock bottom. Its Human Rights Council--whose members include such stalwart defenders of freedom as China, Cuba, Angola, and Saudi Arabia--adopted a resolution that severely modified the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression. Instead of simply reporting on cases in which the right to free expression is being violated, the special rapporteur will now also have to report on cases in which that right is being "abused"--including when individuals use their freedom of speech to criticize Islam, or the particular elements of Islam that jihadists use to justify violence and Islamic supremacism. In essence, this means that the function of the special rapporteur has changed 180 degrees--from safeguarding the rights of individuals who hold unpopular or controversial ideas, to trying to limit the freedom of individuals to express such ideas.

Don't also labor under the belief that it's only a few radicals pushing this stuff. In August of 2006 I reported on polls taken of British Muslims which showed that 30-40% wanted Sharia law introduced into the UK. Sharia, to put it mildly, is antithetical to Western values. Obviously the British educational system is not doing its job.

Unfortunately, the assault on free speech is not limited to those countries across the pond. Canadian writer Mark Steyn was also under assault up north by their so-called Human Rights Commission for offending Islam. Fortunately, they came to their senses and he was cleared.

Another Video

I'm not necessarily a big fan of Pat Condell, as like Ann Coulter at times he goes too far. Like Christopher Hitchens, he hates all religions with equal passion, which perhaps gives him some credibility. Or not. I'll let you decide.

h/t DownEastBlog, the source of much additional information about the Gilders case.

Asleep at the Wheel

The Bush Administration seemed not to recognize the danger, as they remained silent during the various assaults by Muslim groups and countries on our freedoms. I didn't hear a peep from Democrats either.

Yesterday President Obama "reached out" to the Muslim world on on Arab television network Al Arabiya. Read the transcript and judge for yourself, but I'm not encouraged.

What we need to do is tell them plain and simple is something like "here are our values, among them are freedom of speech and tolerance of other religions and lifestyles, and we're not going to compromise on them." We can and must do this in a polite way without being rude or offensive, but talking about "all too often the United States starts by dictating" like the President only sends a message of weakness.

My Position

Fitna is not the issue. Whether you're offended or not is not the issue. I only posted the video so you could see what all the fuss was about.

As a conservative evangelical Christian I do not like to watch or read vicious mean spirited attacks on my religion. I don't like it when Pat Condell attacks us, and I think Christopher Hitchen's book God is Not Great is all wet.

And you don't have to go very far on the Internet to find things much worse.

But we don't have a First Amendment in the United States so we can debate how to fund Social Security. We have it so we can say anything that's not outright slanderous or libelous. We have it so that we can offend each other to our hearts content, even, yes, to the point of "inciting hatred," something that's certainly in the eye of the beholder. We have it so that we can insult each others religion. We should't do many of these things, but that's a different matter.

So I don't want even the most vile attacks on Christianity made illegal. I don't know a single Christian who does. As protestants, our ancestors fled authoritarianism to places like Amsterdam which had a well-deserved reputation for religious tolerance. The irony that they are now persecuting someone for his views is overwhelming.

Maybe Wilders will not be convicted and we can all breath a sigh of relief. This thing could go either way. We might weather this and future storms. Muslims may come to their senses and people in the West may grow backbones. Or not.

Geert Wilders should have absolute freedom to say what he wants (excluding traditional concepts of slander, libel, etc). So should Pat Condell and Christopher Hitchens.

Muslims who think otherwise need to get with the program or get out. They need to adopt traditional Western values or leave our countries. Where they go I do not care.

Posted by Tom at 8:45 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

July 31, 2008

Extremism Among British Muslim Students?

From CNS News

British students are rejecting as biased and unrepresentative a new report that finds large minorities of Muslim students at universities in the country hold extremist views. But a scholar who has been probing radicalism in British universities called the report "extremely significant - and extremely worrying." "Those polled are, by their nature, going to constitute Britain's future Muslim elite," said Prof. Anthony Glees of the Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies at London's Brunel University. The report, released at the weekend, has stoked a long-running debate over the broader issue of the extent to which members of Britain's Muslim community hold opinions at odds with Western norms - and what to do about it. Billed as the most comprehensive of its kind, the report by the conservative Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) is based on campus visits, attendance at meetings and face-to-face interviews. It is built around an opinion poll conducted by leading online polling firm YouGov, which in Glees' view "has an outstanding reputation for reliability." In its most startling finding, almost one in three Muslim students polled said it was justifiable to kill in the name of religion. Of that group, most said this was an acceptable action if their religion was under attack, while a small number said it was okay to kill to promote one's religion. Forty percent of respondents supported the incorporation of Islamic law (shari'a) law into British law, while 33 percent backed the introduction of a worldwide caliphate, based on shari'a. The poll surveyed 600 Muslim and 800 non-Muslim students at 12 prominent universities with active Islamic Societies (ISOCs), organizations claiming to represent the country's 90,000 Muslim students.

Wow. Let's go visit the website of the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) and see what we can find out.

You can download the reports directly from their website. Islam on Campus is 6.3 mb and 126 pages, which is a bit to read, but fortunately they've posted an Executive Summary which is only 3 pages.

Here are some of the key findings as taken from the summary:

Killing in the name of religion:


  • Just under a third of Muslim students polled (32%) said killing in the name of religion can be justified - the majority of these said killing could be justified if the religion was under attack, and 4% of all respondents supported killing in order to promote and preserve that religion.

  • 60% of active members of campus Islamic societies said killing in the name of religion can be justified. By contrast, only 2% of non-Muslims agreed.

  • Apostasy:

  • Half (50%) of Muslim students polled said they would be unsupportive of a friend's decision to leave Islam. A quarter (25%) said they would be supportive.

  • Almost half (45%) of Muslim students polled said that apostates should be encouraged to reconsider their decision by Muslim elders and people that care about them.

  • A minority (6%) said that apostates should be "punished in accordance with Sharia."

Views on women:


  • Almost a quarter (24%) of Muslim student respondents do not feel that men and women are fully equal in the eyes of Allah.

  • Female students (38%) were also more likely than males (27%) to perceive inequitable treatment of men and women in their local communities. While 37% of male Muslim students felt men and women were treated equally, only 26% of females felt the same.

  • The majority (89%) of Muslim students polled said that men and women should be treated equally, 5% said they should not and 6% were unsure.

  • Nearly three fifths (59%) of Muslim students polled felt it was important to Islam that Muslim women wear the hijab.

  • Active members of university Islamic societies (51%) were over twice as likely as non-members (25%) to agree that "women should wear the hijab - female modesty is an important part of Islam."

Support for Sharia law in the UK and a worldwide Caliphate:


  • Two fifths (40%) of Muslim students polled supported the introduction of Sharia into British law for Muslims.

  • A third (33%) of Muslim students polled supported the introduction of a worldwide Caliphate based on Sharia law. A majority (58%) of active members of campus Islamic Societies supported this idea.

  • Islam as a political project:

  • Over a sixth (15%) of respondents said that Islam as a religion and Islamism as a political ideology were part of the same thing, and that politics is a big part of Islam. A quarter of active members of campus Islamic Societies agreed.

  • Over half of Muslim students polled (54%) were supportive of an Islamic political party to represent the views of Muslims at Parliament. By contrast, over half (61%) of non-Muslims polled were unsupportive.

Compatibility of Islam with secularism and democracy:


  • Over two fifths (43%) of Muslim students polled said Islam was compatible with secularism. Almost three in ten (28%) said they were incompatible and a further 29% were unsure.

  • Over two thirds of Muslim students polled (68%) said Islam and the Western notion of democracy were compatible, with older students (age 35-54) being more likely (78%) than younger students (age 18-35) (67%) to agree. Active members of campus Islamic Societies (84%) were more likely (64%) than non-members to support this idea.

  • Over three quarters of respondents (78%) said that it was possible to be both British and Muslim equally. Female Muslim students (81%) were more likely than males (73%) to say it is possible to be both British and Muslim equally.

Some of these are no big deal: "Half (50%) of Muslim students polled said they would be unsupportive of a friend's decision to leave Islam" is the type of thing you'll get if you survey members of any religion.

Other findings seem to be good news: "The majority (89%) of Muslim students polled said that men and women should be treated equally" is only partially tempered by "Almost a quarter (24%) of Muslim student respondents do not feel that men and women are fully equal in the eyes of Allah." The student's view of women is better than one might imagine. Unfortunately, it does seem at odds with most of what else I've read so it's hard to know what is going on.

"Over two thirds of Muslim students polled (68%) said Islam and the Western notion of democracy were compatible" is also generally good, though one wishes the number was still higher.

Much is bad news: "Two fifths (40%) of Muslim students polled supported the introduction of Sharia into British law for Muslims," "A third (33%) of Muslim students polled supported the introduction of a worldwide Caliphate based on Sharia law," "Just under a third of Muslim students polled (32%) said killing in the name of religion can be justified - the majority of these said killing could be justified if the religion was under attack", and "Over half of Muslim students polled (54%) were supportive of an Islamic political party to represent the views of Muslims at Parliament" are the most frightening.

The more involved in Muslim organizations, the worse the views: "A majority (58%) of active members of campus Islamic Societies supported (a worldwide Caliphate based on Sharia law)." This is disturbing because it is those who are active in politics who get their ideas put into practice.

There are several reasons to be wary of polls. The first of course are all the problems associated with bad polls; unrepresentative or insufficiently sized sample, poor questions, and biased researchers.

Second, people often don't want to tell the interviewer bad things, things that they know are overly controversial. Few people in the United States, for example, will tell a pollster that they are not going to vote for Barack Obama because he is black.

We also need to be aware that the fate of movements and ideas are not usually determined by poll numbers. Often in history a determined minority has held a majority hostage, or in extreme cases takes over a nation by revolution.

I don't have time to delve into each of these and other than stories in British newspapers announcing the story I can't find much about this poll on the internet, so take it for what it's worth. If I find more I'll post it.

On the other hand, polls showing this sort of attitude are nothing new. In February of 2006 I posted on a poll by the Sunday Telegraph that showed disturbing attitudes held by British Muslims. I've seen others as well. Read just about any article by American expatriate and gay-rights-activist Bruce Bawer on his website and you'll get the same picture.

Posted by Tom at 4:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 19, 2008

Book Review - The Last Days of Europe

With the enormous influence of Mark Steyn on the right, I suppose it's inevitable that any other books about Europe will be compared to his America Alone: The End of the World As we Know It. Steyn's basic thesis, if you're somehow unaware, is that through the power of demographics, Muslims are taking over Europe, and this-is-not-a-good-thing. Far from assimilating into Europe and adopting Western values, Muslim leaders, and most of their flock, want Europe to assimilate to Islamic law and values.

Historian Walter Laqueur lays out his vision in his 2007 bookThe Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent. Although he definitely has some differences with Steyn's apocalyptic vision, Laqueur largely agrees with his thesis that Islam is the future of Europe. .

There's a whole slew of books out with this theme; in addition to the above I've also read Melanie Phillips Londonistan. Also popular is Bruce Bawer's While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within. I haven't read this last one, but have heard him interviewed on the radio, and he is quite good. Bawer is a prolific editorialist, and his website is worth checking out the the links to his pieces. Lastly, The Force of Reason by the late Oriana Fallaci comes highly recommended by reliable sources, although again this is a book I haven't read.

All of these and other works say the same basic thing; that Europe is on the verge of a historic change, one that if it occurs will not be easily reversible.

There is much immigration to Europe, so much so that it will change the face of the continent forever. Laqueur runs through the demographic statistics that have become so familiar, the bottom line being that in every single European country the population will start to fall precipitously once the "baby boomer" generation passes from the scene. Native Europeans are simply not having enough babies to keep up current population levels, let alone grow. On the other hand, immigrants, especially Muslim ones, have a high birthrate, and their numbers are growing rapidly.

However, not all immigrants are Muslim, and the Muslims are not a monolithic bloc. While it is true that Muslims are resistant to assimilation, it is not clear that this will continue to be the case. So the continent "might be greatly diminished in stature and influence and in deep trouble. But it will not necessarily be predominantly Islamist."

Laqueur doesn't buy the popular notion that the plight of Muslims is because of racism. Other immigrant groups, notably Indians and those of "far eastern" descent, have done much better than Muslims. Further, Muslim girls do noticeably better than Muslim men.

Rather, "young people are told, day in, day out, that they are victims of society and that it is not really their fault." The youth culture of violence, Lacqueur says, has little to do with religion. They may attend Koran schools ("madrassas") regularly, but once out the door show little interest in Islam. He does not, for example, see a religious motive for the Nov 2005 riots in France.

Over the past several decades, Europeans have voted for themselves a vast array of social benefits. Funding these social assistance programs depended on a growing economy and, in the case of retirement benefits, a reasonable ratio of workers to retirees. In recent years economic growth has stagnated, and the number of people receiving benefits exploded. In order to bring in more payees, European governments promoted "temporary worker" programs.

Most of the Muslims immigrants were brought in to fill a need for labor during a time in the 50s and 60s when economies were rapidly growing. But things didn't turn out as expected. While some immigrants did the work that was expected of them, crime in their communities was much higher than among native European neighborhoods, and asocial behavior more commonplace. The problem was worse with second and third generation Muslim immigrants, who also decided that they needed "respect", and decided to get it with aggressive behavior on the streets. Far from adopt European ways and respect existing authority, they wanted to be the new authority, the new masters. All this, while complaining of discrimination, and taking offense at anything that criticized Islam even slightly.

Muslim immigration to Europe was "unplanned and uncontrolled". Initially brought in as "temporary workers", they simply didn't go home and noone made an effort to expel them. Because European economies are not growing as they did in the 1950s and 60s, the rationale for their existence has gone. But they have decided that they like Europe better than the countries of their birth, so see no reason to go home. Couple this with European's guilty attitude towards their colonialist past, and you've got permanent residents. Yet the host populations were never asked if they wanted permanent immigrants, and so never approved the decision.

Some native Europeans are resentful toward the new arrivals. Signs, traditionally in the vernacular, suddenly sprouted up in a multitude of foreign languages, and many of the immigrants showed no inclination to learn the any European language. Government programs, especially in housing, favored immigrants over natives. "Positive discrimination" ("reverse discrimination" or "affirmative action" in the U.S.) in the UK further exacerbated this resentment by natives.

All the while, too many immigrants became dependent on government aid, which not only fosters a culture of dependency, but creates an (attitude) of inferiority. More aid just results the perpetuation of the vicious cycle.

Anyone who dares criticize this massive immigration is typically met with the charge of "racism". Laqueur examines the charge and finds it wanting. Rather than help the newcomers find jobs, immigrants are flooded with offers of government aid, with program after program being made available to them. Indeed social workers have "taught newcomers how to manipulate the social security net." While initially resistant to the idea of taking handouts, they eventually overcame their apprehension to the point where Muslim clerics encourage their flock to take full advantage of government aid. The result is that all too many of the Muslim immigrants have adopted the attitude that they need not work to better themselves because the government will take care of all their needs.

The primary threat to Europe is not terrorism. Rather, the threat is from "Islamist organizations that officially disassociate themselves from al Qaeda-style activities but still believe in jihad, and other forms of violence". They are, Lacquer says, similar to the Nazis and fascists of the 1930s in that their method is "mass violence, (and) dominating the street, rather than in acts of individual violence".

While Russia may be able to create problems now, it's systemic problems are so severe that it poses no long-term threat to anyone. A declining population, high rates of alcoholism and drug use, and an AIDS epidemic will destroy it's potential to retain great-power status.

What does Laqueur see as the future for Europe? Muslims in Europe, he says, are too fractured and diverse be part of any monolithic caliphate. At the same time they show no sign of assimilating or (as a whole) of advancing themselves economically. No Muslim middle or professional classes seem to be emerging. As such, they will likely demand and receive regional autonomy. Sharia law will be introduced, though their be (at least in the short term) exemptions for non-Muslims.

At the same time, he sees Muslim fanaticism as being somewhat overrated. There are "centrifugal trends" in Muslim communities that will prevent monolithic blocs from emerging.

Native Europeans will not, in the end, resist these changes with enough force or in enough numbers from preventing it. Rather, a new form of appeasement will be the order of the day, as they will at all costs wish to avoid the great wars of the early 20th century. "Binational states" will most likely mark the new Europe. Self-censorship will become the order of the day; among native Europeans, at least.

In Laqueur's vision Europe will most likely suffer a slow collapse, rather than a swift, violent one. The decline is probably irreversible, but it will be the death of a thousand cuts, not one cataclysmic one.

Whether Laqueur, Steyn, or any of the others who write about this will be proven to be right is somewhat beside the point. What matters now is that we recognize that Europe has a tremendous problem and hiding behind political correctness will not make it go away. Phillips thinks that we still have a half dozen years or so to get a handle on the problem before the point of no return is reached. Others like Steyn are not even that sanguine. I don't know if Europe is still savable, but do know that it is so important that we have to try. An "America alone" may seem romantic and even attractive to that rugged individualist that fortunately still makes up a great amount of our citizens, but is not really tenable. Saving America will be a lot easier if we have allies, and in order to do that we have to save Europe. And the first step towards solving any problem is recognizing that it exists. As such, I recommend Laqueur's book as a step in that direction.

Posted by Tom at 9:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 8, 2008

Sharia Law is OK by the Archbishop of Canterbury

via today's Washington Times I learn that the Archbishop of Canturbury has "called for applying Islamic Shariah law in Britain in certain instances". The Archbiship, a certain Dr Rowan Williams, said this and more as part of a lecture series. Here are a few tidbits that I picked out this morning

Among the manifold anxieties that haunt the discussion of the place of Muslims in British society, one of the strongest, reinforced from time to time by the sensational reporting of opinion polls, is that Muslim communities in this country seek the freedom to live under sharia law.

He may has well as told us that Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength, and that War is Peace.

But it is important to begin by dispelling one or two myths about sharia; so far from being a monolithic system of detailed enactments, sharia designates primarily – to quote Ramadan again – 'the expression of the universal principles of Islam [and] the framework and the thinking that makes for their actualization in human history'

The "Ramadan" the Archbishop refers to so approvingly is none other than Tariq Ramadan, an apologist for the worst excesses of Islam. Ramadan is the grandson of none other than Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the jihadist groups seeking the restoration of the Caliphate and destruction of the West.

The Archbishop goes on to argue for a "transformative accomodation" of Sharia law into the British legal system, because it seems "unavoidable."

In an interview on BBC Radio 4 the Archbishop repeated many of these themes, if anything even more explicity

It seems unavoidable and indeed as a matter of fact certain provisions of Sharia are already recognised in our society and under our law. So it's not as if we're bringing in an alien and rival system.

In other words, we're not going to ask Muslims to accept Western values, so we'll just accept theirs.

When asked if this would bring stoning to Great Britain, he replied that

There's a lot of internal debate within the Islamic community about the nature of Sharia and its extent; nobody in their right mind I think would want to see in this country a kind of inhumanity that's sometimes been associated with the practice of the law in some Islamic states - the extreme punishments, the attitudes to women as well...

No doubt native Britons don't want these things. But how about some of the Muslims who want the Sharia law? The Archbishop avoids that topic with weasel words, going on about

I think one of the points again that's come up very interestingly in recent discussion between Muslim and other legal theorists is the way in which in the original context of Islamic law, quite often provisions relating to women are more enlightened than others of their day; but you have to translate that into a setting where actually that whole area, the rights and liberties of women has moved on and the principle, the vision, which animates the Islamic legal provision needs broadening because of that.

What jibberish.

Does anyone think that it will end here?

To be sure, as he points out,

We have orthodox Jewish courts operating in this country

Which is something liberal apologists love to bring up. But the last time I checked Western-style civil rights were alive and well in Israel, and yes that includes it's Arab citizens too. No one is afraid of orthadox Jewish law. There is reason to fear Sharia law, and anyone who does not need only look at Islamic countries where it has been implimented, like Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf states.

In the interview the Archbishop insists that Muslims could appeal Sharia court decisions to the regular British court system, and we are supposed to be reassured by this. But Muslims won't put up with this for long. They don't recognize any higher authority than their law, and as the Muslim population increases they would put what would probably become irresistible pressure on the appeal courts to let their decisions stand.

Liberals often roll their eyes when you tell them about Sharia law coming to Europe. They think it's a conservative scare story, the purpose of which is to take away civil liberties, put us under a permanent war footing, etc etc. I've heard and read many say that oh no, Muslims are integrating into European society perfectly well.

If that's true, then why is the Archbishop so willing to grant them their own legal - limited - system within a European country?

Melanie Phillips has more analysis than I have time to write this morning.

Posted by Tom at 8:16 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 15, 2007

Waking Up in the UK?

The British might just be waking up to the danger that surrounds them. A poll published earlier this week in the Evening Standard shows that many Brits are not keen on Muslims who won't adopt Western ways (h/t USS Neverdock).

Methodology being important, the story says that those surveyed were "more than 700 "influentials" - a category including business leaders, innovators, politicians and other prominent individuals - carried out for the Standard by opinion pollsters YouGovStone."

Here are some of the key findings:

Strong opposition to the use of the Muslim veil in schools and face covering in public is revealed today in a new opinion poll for the Evening Standard.

Nearly 90 per cent of respondents say that Muslim teachers should not be allowed to wear a veil when teaching.

And 84 per cent say that Muslim pupils should not be allowed to wear a veil at school.

... Among the most striking findings are that half believe that Islam is a "generally intolerant" faith and that Muslims are "isolated" from the rest of the community.

At the same time, about 40 per cent hold the opposite opinion, while seven out of 10 believe that Muslims make a positive contribution to the economy.

More than 70 per cent also say that they would be happy to vote for a Muslim as London Mayor.

There is strong opposition, however, to the censorship of images or words that might offend Islamic sensibilities and the idea of making Eid a public holiday.

Almost three-quarters of respondents also blame Islam for the 7 July bombings, although nine per cent say it played no role and a further 13 per cent say its influence was minimal.
...

On Islamic attitudes towards others, for example, 49 per cent say they regard the religion as a generally intolerant faith.

Although 44 per cent have the opposite opinion, the survey also reveals that 51 per cent think that the Muslim community is "somewhat isolated" or "mostly isolated" from the rest of society in the capital. Only four per cent of respondents believe that Muslims are "mostly integrated".

Views on the wearing of the niqab or any other full-face covering in public are still firmly against, with 58 per cent describing it as either entirely or somewhat unacceptable.

For example, one respondent states: "I would find it difficult to do business with anyone I could not see." Four out of 10 of those questioned, however, do not oppose the niqab.
...

More than 80 per cent say they oppose the notion of making Eid a public holiday and 54 per cent say they would be concerned if there were plans to build a mosque in their street.

Of these, about half say that they would actively oppose any such proposals.

On the Muslim contribution to society, 20 per cent say that Muslims contribute a "great deal" to the capital's economy, with another 51 per cent saying that they make a "fair amount" of impact on business.

Opinion on the Islamic impact on arts and culture is more divided, with 45 per cent saying that Muslims make "not very much" or no contribution, compared with 42 per cent who take the opposite view.

A more favourable verdict is reached on the Muslim role in academic and intellectual life, with 52 per cent of respondents taking a positive view, far more than the 33 per cent who suggest the impact is small or non-existent.

Half of those questioned think the media should avoid publishing material that would gratuitously offend Muslims but only five per cent favour any formal curbs and 82 per cent are opposed to censorship.

More than a third say there should be total freedom of speech regardless of the damage that this might cause to other people's feelings or to community relations.

Opinion on the introduction of quotas to boost Muslim recruitment to the Metropolitan Police is split, with 41 per cent opposed, 34 per cent in favour and 25 per cent having no view.

More than 70 per cent, however, say that they would back a suitably qualified Muslim candidate who stood for Mayor, compared with 16 per cent who say that they would not.

The majority of respondents also want immigration to be either greatly or slightly reduced, although the 55 per cent taking this view in respect of Muslim migrants is slightly lower than the overall figure of 61 per cent who want cuts to the numbers arriving from elsewhere in the world, regardless of religion or ethnicity.

On terrorism and extremism, 72 per cent of those surveyed say that Islam was to blame for the London bombings.

A total of 29 per cent also want political groups with fundamentalist Islamic agendas to be banned, although a far greater number - 58 per cent - say this should only be the case if a direct link to terrorism can be proved.

This poll is generally good news, I'd say. It means that they've achieved the first goal; recognizing there's a problem. The second is to do something about it.

The first thing to do is to reduce or eliminate Muslim immigration. The second is to demand social integration and acceptance of Western values. The third is that Muslims need to stop playing the role of the "victim". We can go on from there, but these would be a good start.

Posted by Tom at 10:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 30, 2007

Hate in London Mosques: A Warning to the U.S.

If we don't keep our guard up we're going to have this here in the U.S. From the Times of London

Lessons In Hate Found At Leading Mosques

Books calling for the beheading of lapsed Muslims, ordering women to remain indoors and forbidding interfaith marriage are being sold inside some of Britain’s leading mosques, according to research seen by The Times.

Some of the fundamentalist works were found at the bookshop in the London Central mosque in Regent’s Park, which is funded by the Saudi regime and is regularly visited by government ministers. Its director, Ahmad al-Dubayan, is also a Saudi diplomat and was among those greeting King Abdullah when he arrived in Britain last night for his official state visit.

Extremist literature, including passages supporting the stoning of adulterers and waging violent jihad, was also found on sale at many other mosques regarded as mainstream institutions.

More than 80 books and pamphlets were collected during a year-long project in which researchers visited 100 mosques across Britain.

Read the whole thing but I think you get the point.

Melanie Phillips warned about this sort of thing in her 2006 book Londonistan, so no one should say they're really surprised.

Meanwhile, close to where I live we have an Saudi funded school, and some are worried about what they're teaching. From The Washington Times

Fairfax County officials are reviewing Arabic-language textbooks at a private Islamic school after a federal panel's recommendation that the school be closed.

The county does not expect to find problems with the textbooks at the Islamic Saudi Academy, in McLean, but wants to study the issue "to put the matter to rest," county spokeswoman Merni Fitzgerald said yesterday.

Earlier this month, a federal human rights panel recommended the academy be shut down until a review was conducted to ensure the school is not espousing radical Islam. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in a report issued Oct. 17 that it had no direct evidence of a problem at the academy but is concerned that the school closely mimics a typical Saudi education, which some critics say promotes intolerance of Christians, Jews and Shi'ite Muslims.

The academy, subsidized by the Saudi government, has nearly 1,000 students in grades K-12 at two campuses, in Alexandria and Fairfax. The Alexandria site is leased from Fairfax County.

So the county "does not expect to find problems with the textbooks". Apparently they missed former Director of the CIA James Woolsey's November 16, 2005 testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, where he said that

On all points except allegiance to the Saudi state Wahhabi and al Qaeda beliefs are essentially the same.

You can't say it any more plainly than that, can you?

Fortunately some people in the U.S. are trying to spread the alarm. One of them is the invaluable David Horowitz. His Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week ran October 22-26, and he's got a complete report on his website FrontPage Magazine.

The week of October 22-26 witnessed the largest, most successful campus demonstrations by students not associated with the anti-American left in the history of campus protests. 114 college and university campuses participated in “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, which highlighted the threat from the Islamic jihad, and the oppression of Muslim women. It featured speakers such as former Senator Rick Santorum, Ann Coulter, Robert Spencer, Nonie Darwish, Wafa Sultan, Michael Medved, Dennis Prager and Daniel Pipes, and was organized by the David Horowitz Freedom Center with the help of Young America’s Foundation and the Leadership Institute.

Do I have to tell you to read the whole thing?

We had better listen to people like Horowitz and his list of speakers, or it's going to be Washingtonistan DC before long.

Posted by Tom at 8:57 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 23, 2007

"Britain's Terrible Problem"

The invaluable Melanie Phillips has moved her blog (or "diary", as she calls it) to The Spectator. If you haven't already, bookmark it and make it part of your regular reading.

Phillips is best known for exposing the radical Islam that has so deeply permeated into Great Britain in her 2006 book Londonistan.

Her recent post Britain's Terrible Problem struck me as particularly important. We're all supposed to believe something along the lines of "the vast majority of Muslims are nice peaceful people and only a tiny minority are terrorists." Once again Phillips demonstrates that the pc emperor has no clothes:

More very alarming evidence indeed of the attitudes of ‘mainstream’ British Muslims. As the Telegraph reports, the Conservative Muslim Forum, a body set up by David Cameron to advise the Conservatives on Muslim issues and which is headed by Lord Sheikh, has condemned the government’s support for Israel on the grounds that this displeases Muslims and says that Iran has ‘legitimate’ reasons for wanting nuclear weapons. It also argues that preachers who advocate a rejection of democracy and its institutions should not be denied entry into Britain.

In the document, the group says:

Regardless of the foreign policies of the United States, hostility to Iran is not in Britain’s national interest. A constructive engagement with Iran offers many possibilities for progress.

But of course, this inverts the facts. Britain is not hostile to Iran; Iran has declared war upon Britain and the west. There can be no ‘constructive engagement’ with a country that is currently blowing up our soldiers in Iraq. For British citizens to state that although they oppose Iran getting nuclear weapons, it has legitimate reasons for wanting them when it is committed to the destruction of Israel and war against the west, is appalling.

Indeed, Iran declared war against the west some 38 years ago, it's just that many people have refused to recognize that fact. But then, many on the left don't believe that Iran is supplying weapons to the insurgents in Iraq at all. They think it's all an invention of the Patriarchal-Imperialist-Bush-Cheney-Halliburton-War-Machine, or however that one goes these days.

No, I am not saying we should bomb Iran now. We might need to at some point in the near future, but right now our efforts should be focused towards replacing the current regime with a truely democratic, pluralistic one.

Lest you think that it's all in Phillips' mind, and that we on the right are all making up this bit about Jihadist Islam being a threat, I'll just cut the the end of her post

...the MCB (Muslim Council of Britain) itself subscribes to the philosophy of Maulana Maududi, who along with Syed Qutb was one of the founding fathers of modern jihadi Islamism. Its spokesman, Inayat Bungalwala, has said he is committed to the Islamisation of Britain. Furthermore, it shelters under its umbrella many groups which are even more extreme.

Shocking as all this is, nothing in the document, alas, is surprising. These extremist attitudes are mainstream among British Muslims. The fact that they are regarded as ‘moderate’ — by a British political and educated class that in no small measure actually shares the animus expressed here towards Israel and America —is why Britain has such a terrible problem.

This document follows the recent pronouncement by the 138 Muslim religious leaders reported here which, although hailed as an olive branch to the Christian church, was actually a demonstrable threat. It is only when other Muslims come out and denounce these attitudes loud and clear for the treacherous, bigoted and lethal opinions that they are that we will have any hope that Britain’s Muslims will join the struggle against the jihad instead of fanning the flames of religious war.

Unfortunately, given the attitude of left-wing political correctness and multicularism that is so pervasive in the UK (where it's even worse than here in the U.S.) I wouldn't count on many people demanding these Muslim groups change their attitudes.

Update

Via LGF, Nile Gardiner at NRO has more on this Conservative Muslim Forum group. Apparently they were created by the British Conservative Party. Head over there and read all the gory details, such as the CMF's support of the current Iranian regime.

Maybe it really is the end of the world as we know it.

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October 1, 2007

Sarkozy Rocks

The more I read about the new President of France the more impressed I am. Consider this in today's Washington Times

New hints that France may rejoin NATO's military wing after a 41-year absence underscore a stunning foreign-policy shift under new President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Gone are the Iraq war diatribes, the Palestinian sympathies, the close ties with Moscow and the crumbling ones with Washington — all trademarks of French foreign policy under former President Jacques Chirac.

With his penchant for jogging, American movies and summering in New Hampshire, the 51-year-old Mr. Sarkozy has embraced a decidedly pro-U.S. tone, even as his government scores trans-Atlantic points through sharpened rhetoric against Iran and overtures to Iraq.

I know that American conservatives have had quite a bit of fun bashing France these past few years, but as long as he's in power and keeps up like this, you won't read anything bad about France on this blog.

Not only does Sarkozy seek better ties with the U.S. and has stopped his anti-American bashing, he has even made statements about joining us in bombing Iran if it looks like they might get the bomb.

In case you're wondering, yes France does have a navy that would come in quite handy in any showdown with Iran. Their flagship is the Charles de Gaulle (R 91), which at 40,000 tones displacement is a smaller version of one of our Nimitz-class ships. But unlike the British carriers, which can only carry the Harrier, the Charles de Gaulle carries regular fixed-wing aircraft, including E-2c Hawkeyes. At only 40 aircraft it's hardly the equal of one of our carriers, but then again Iran isn't the Soviet Union.

We should be very happy if France would join us in any attack on Iran, and at least while Sarkozy is President stop needless French-bashing.

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July 18, 2007

The End of Great Britain as We Know It

For an appalling display of the ignorance and stupidity of British youth, watch the latest edition of BBC TV’s Question Time.

May as well turn Westminster into a mosque right now and get it over with.

(h/t Melanie Phillips)

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July 9, 2007

As Goes Spain...

Aaron Hanscom just got back from visiting relatives in Spain, and his impression of the outward appearance of the country matches what I saw in Britain, France, and Belgium: "The cathedrals were beautiful and the cheese was great."

Ditto that. Anyone who hasn't been to St Pauls, Westminster, or any of the cathedrals in France is seriously missing out. Alas, it's all a facade.

Alas, my prolonged stays in Spain have taught me that the continent’s impressive outward appearances—massive cathedrals, a strong euro, great cheese—obscure a hollowness at its core. The truth is that Europe’s churches are largely empty; its welfare economies are unsustainable; and—most troublingly— its restive Muslim minorities seem unappeasable.

Spain was under Islamic rule for 800 years, and many Muslims blame Spaniards for the loss of Al-Ándalus. Spanish politician and terrorism expert Gustavo de Arístegui has documented how there is already a policy underway to reconquer land and monuments that were once under the domain of Islam. In an interview with me last year, Arístegui said, “Spanish society today is not willing or ready to accept the threat we face.”

My conversations with Spaniards this month gave me reasons for hope and despair. While most people seem to be coming to the reluctant conclusion that radical Islamists pose a threat to their way of life (the first step in defeating radical Islam), they remain unsure how to fight back.

Consider the conversation I had with my wife’s uncle at my brother-in-law’s wedding. I was prepared to be cornered by Miguel, who always finds time at family reunions to bombard me with political commentary. A supporter of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español – PSOE), he has generally agreed with Prime Minister José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero’s policies of appeasement. You can imagine my surprise when he told me that he had recently joined over a million Spaniards in Madrid to protest the government’s early release from prison of ETA terrorist José Ignacio de Juana Chaos. He also agreed with me when I told him that Muslim immigrants to Europe should be expected to assimilate into their new culture, rather than reject a Western lifestyle.

But Miguel wasn’t prepared to call certain Western values superior to radical Islamic values. When I asked him if we could agree to condemn honor killings (a practice spreading across Europe), he said no. Even when I pointed to his three beautiful daughters and reminded him that forced female genital mutilation was regularly practiced in many Muslim countries, he shrugged as if to say “that’s just the way they do things over there.”

Anecdotal, you say. Perhaps, but anyone who doesn't have his head in some left-wing blog all day knows that Hanscom's story rings true. Via Melanie Philips we have this tidbit from the Daily Mail

Up to eight police officers and civilian staff are suspected of links to extremist groups including Al Qaeda. Some are even believed to have attended terror training camps in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Their names feature on a secret list of alleged radicals said to be working in the Metropolitan and other forces. The dossier was drawn up with the help of MI5 amid fears that individuals linked to Islamic extremism are taking advantage of police attempts to increase the proportion of ethnic staff.

Astonishingly, many of the alleged jihadists have not been sacked because - it is claimed - police do not have the "legal power" to dismiss them. We can also reveal that one suspected jihadist officer working in the South East has been allowed to keep his job despite being caught circulating Internet images of beheadings and roadside bombings in Iraq. He is said to have argued that he was trying to "enhance" debate about the war. Classified intelligence reports raising concerns about police staff's background cannot be used to justify their dismissal, sources said.

Instead, the staff who are under suspicion are unofficially barred from working in sensitive posts and are closely monitored. Political correctness is blamed for the decision not to sack them. It is widely feared that "long-term" Al Qaeda sleepers are trying to infiltrate other public sector organisations in the UK.

Wonderful.


Update

I forgot about this last night, but a much better example of how far Europe has it's collective head in the sand comes from none other than the new British PM himself, Gordon Brown.

Gordon Brown has banned ministers from using the word “Muslim” in ­connection with the ­terrorism crisis.

The Prime Minister has also instructed his team – including new Home Secretary Jacqui Smith – that the phrase “war on ­terror” is to be dropped.

The shake-up is part of a fresh attempt to improve community relations and avoid offending Muslims, adopting a more “consensual” tone than existed under Tony Blair.

How exactly does "war on terror" offend Muslims? The fact is that most terrorist acts are committed by groups that claim to act in the name of Islam. Ignoring the problem won't make it go away. The problem is that too many Muslims refuse to recognize or do anything about the extremism in their midst.

If you won't believe me perhaps you'll believe Safraz Mansoor, writing in the left-wing Guardian (h/t Melanie Philips)

As tempting as it is to say ‘not in my name’ when faced with the terrifying facts of Islamic radicalism, the uncomfortable truth is that those who perpetrate and support such extremism do so in the name of Islam. It is no longer enough for British Muslims to pretend it is someone else’s problem or to retreat into the usual ritual of bashing the media. Denial is no longer an option and British Muslims need to accept that the cancer of extremism affects their entire community. They also must utterly and without equivication denounce the use of violence. One might think this would be a relatively straightforward matter but in the past even a simple denunciation has been difficult to extract from the self-appointed community leaders who seek to speak for Muslims.

Read the rest of Philips' post, because she quotes several other Muslims saying essentialy the same thing in other British papers.

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April 30, 2007

Respect Your Neighbor - Or Else!

In the department of you just can't make this stuff up, I bring you today

The British Respect project. It's an official program of the government of Tony Blair.

From the Respect website

The Respect drive is a cross-Government strategy to tackle bad behaviour and nurture good - and so help create the modern culture of respect.

It is about central government, local agencies, local communities and ultimately every citizen working together to build a society in which we can respect one another – where anti-social behaviour is rare and tackled effectively, and communities can live in peace together.
...

The Respect drive, as laid out in the Respect Action Plan, builds on what has already been achieved in combating anti-social behaviour and goes broader, further and deeper to tackle the causes of anti-social behaviour and prevent the next generation becoming involved. It recognises the importance of early intervention in families, homes and schools to prevent children and young people who are showing signs of problems from getting any worse.

Essentially, it's a "denounce your neighbor" to the authorities program.

What happens to the "unruly neighbors"? They get sent to the "sin bin".

Outcast British families are to be thrown into "sin bins" till they learn how to behave in the community, according to the government.

Fifty-three Family Intervention Projects around the country will provide intensive social care for around 1,500 families a year. Some of them will be removed from their communities and housed in intensive units for round-the-clock-supervision under the government's Respect agenda.

The Communities and Local Government department did not say whether it had plans to tackle the other side of the problem for marginalised families - the communities that marginalise them.

Here's another British government website that explains what they mean by "anti-social behavior". Well, they sort of expain it

Anti-social behaviour has a wide legal definition – to paraphrase the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, it is behaviour which causes or is likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more people who are not in the same household as the perpetrator. Among the forms it can take are:

* graffiti – which can on its own make even the tidiest urban spaces look squalid

* abusive and intimidating language, too often directed at minorities

* excessive noise, particularly late at night

* fouling the street with litter

* drunken behaviour in the streets, and the mess it creates

* dealing drugs, with all the problems to which it gives rise.

I like that "wide legal definition" part.

The whole thing is littered with acronyms, in typical big-government fashion.

There's ASBOS, which stands for "Anti-Social Behaviour Order". There's even two websites dedicted to it, see here and here.

Then there's ABCs, which stands for "Acceptable Behavioral Contracts". ABCs are helpfully described on the relevant government website as being "voluntary agreements made between people involved in anti-social behaviour and the local police, the housing department, the registered social landlord, or the perpetrator's school."

I heard about the Respect program on the Glenn Beck radio program today and decided to do some poking around. He said today that some 9,000 people have been taken from their homes and put into these "Respect Camps" already. I couldn't find that on any sites today, but I didn't have a whole lot of time. Glenn says he'll have more about it on tomorrow's show. Tune in if you can.

Funny how the more gun laws, hate-crime legislation, and now "respect" laws we have, the more violent and vulgar our societies seem to be getting. Some people just never will understand that big government programs aren't going to solve these problems.

As for the British Respect program; George Orwell, call your office.

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April 23, 2007

As Europe Sinks II

From a post on The Corner by Victor Davis Hanson

Something seems to be going very wrong in parts of the British establishment well before the Iranian piracy/confess to non-crimes/sell your story fiasco.

Palestinian gunmen kidnap a British BBC reporter (now rumors swirl that he may have been executed) and sometime later the British National Union of Journalists vote to boycott Israeli goods. At a time of both increased terrorism and rising anti-Semitic incidents in Britain, some schools question whether studying the Holocaust might offend Muslim students.

Now some members of the British government decry the use of the "American" notion of a "war on terror" not because, as some of us have complained, it is an inexact idea of a struggle against a method rather than the perpetrators themselves of such violence—Islamic jihadists—but because of the very opposite concern: We have no real enemy, or in the words of Hilary Benin, a Labor Deputy Secretary, "This isn't one organized enemy with a clear identity and a coherent set of objectives." What will follow then: the non-war on non-terror?

Previous
As Europe Sinks

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April 18, 2007

As Europe Sinks

From a Corner post today by Andrew Stuttaford

Never comfortable with free speech, and increasingly comfortable with reviving the old blasphemy laws, the EU, it seems, is up to its old tricks again. The EU Observer has some of the details:

After six years of heated political debate, EU member states are set to agree on a common anti-racism law, under which offenders will face up to three years in jail for stirring-up racial hatred or denying acts of genocide, such as the Holocaust. One diplomat in Brussels confirmed to EU Observer that the controversial piece of law is in its final-tuning phase and is likely to gain EU blessing at a justice and interior ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Thursday (19 April). The latest draft – cited by the Reuters news agency — foresees an EU-wide jail sentence of at least one to three years for "publicly inciting to violence or hatred, directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin."

Danish cartoonists, beware.

The same rules would also apply to people "publicly condoning, denying, or grossly trivialising crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes" as defined by international crime courts. According to the Financial Times, such wording has been carefully chosen to only include denial of the Holocaust during the second world war, as well as the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, but would not criminalise denying mass killings of Armenians during the Ottoman empire in 1915, something that Turkey strongly opposes labelling as genocide.

Armenians will, doubtless, have to say something about that, and as for the Eastern Europeans, well....

Poland and the Baltic countries...continue to hold on to their demand that "crimes under the Stalin regime in the former Soviet Union" become part of the bill's scope. "We believe Stalinist acts of genocide should be condemned in this document. It would put them on an equal footing with Nazi crimes in an international forum," an Estonian diplomat was cited as saying by the Polish daily Rzeczpospolita.

Holocaust denial is idiotic, it's cruel, and it's malign, but it should not be illegal. If it is to be illegal, however, there can be no possible excuse for banning denial of that slaughter whilst permitting denial of Stalinist genocide (such as that in the Ukraine in the early 1930s, for example), the butchering of the Armenians, or for that matter, some of the other great horrors that litter human history.

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April 2, 2007

The Third Islamic Invasion of Europe

Islam scholar Bernard Lewis gave the Irving Kristol lecture at the American Enterprise Institute March 7 (via Melaine Phillips). Among other things, Lewis talked about "a return among Muslims to what they perceive as the cosmic struggle for world domination between the two main faiths--Christianity and Islam. " He points out that among religions, Christianity and Islam claim to be universal, unlike Hinduism or Judaism. In other words, Christianity and Islam want to spread the word to all people. This perception, he says, led to the centuries long struggle between the two for world domination. He then points out that Christians no longer wish to conquer in the name of their faith, however, while Muslims do.

The Muslim attack on Christendom, he says, has gone through three phases.

The first took place immediately after the death of Muhammed in 632 A.D. when Islam spread throughout Northern Africa, into Spain, and for a brief time, modern France. It challenged Byzantium but was eventually stopped, whereby a stalemate ensued. Through the Crusades Christians managed to temporarily recapture the Holy Lands, but in the end this was reversed.

In phase 2 the Muslim world attacked in Asia and Eastern Europe. This was largely carried out by the Turks, and they defeated the Byzantine Empire and tried, with varying success, to expand their empire. The Europeans were able to eventually reverse much of the gains made by the Ottoman Turks.

This brings us to phase 3, which is ongoing.

Lewis spends some time on Islamic radicalism, but then comes to the issue of Muslims in Europe who have immigrated there

Let me turn to the question of assimilation, which is much discussed nowadays. How far is it possible for Muslim migrants who have settled in Europe, in North America, and elsewhere, to become part of those countries in which they settle, in the way that so many other waves of immigrants have done? I think there are several points which need to be made. ...

I mentioned earlier the important difference in what one means by religion. For Muslims, it covers a whole range of different things--marriage, divorce, and inheritance are the most obvious examples. Since antiquity in the Western world, the Christian world, these have been secular matters. The distinction of church and state, spiritual and temporal, lay and ecclesiastical is a Christian distinction which has no place in Islamic history and therefore is difficult to explain to Muslims, even in the present day. Until very recently they did not even have a vocabulary to express it. They have one now.

Lewis also points the differences between becoming an American citizen and a British or French one. If you get American citizenship you're an American. Gaining the same in Europe does not make you English or French.

But then we get to the heart of the matter

What are the European responses to this situation? In Europe, as in the United States, a frequent response is what is variously known as multiculturalism and political correctness. In the Muslim world there are no such inhibitions. They are very conscious of their identity. They know who they are and what they are and what they want, a quality which we seem to have lost to a very large extent. This is a source of strength in the one, of weakness in the other.


The Islamic radicals have even been able to find some allies in Europe… They have a left-wing appeal to the anti-U.S. elements in Europe, for whom they have so-to-speak replaced the Soviets. They have a right-wing appeal to the anti-Jewish elements in Europe, replacing the Axis. They have been able to win considerable support under both headings. For some in Europe, their hatreds apparently outweigh their loyalties.


Where do we stand now? Is it third time lucky? It is not impossible. They have certain clear advantages. They have fervor and conviction, which in most Western countries are either weak or lacking. They are self-assured of the rightness of their cause, whereas we spend most of our time in self-denigration and self-abasement. They have loyalty and discipline, and perhaps most important of all, they have demography, the combination of natural increase and migration producing major population changes, which could lead within the foreseeable future to significant majorities in at least some European cities or even countries. But we also have some advantages, the most important of which are knowledge and freedom.

Lewis isn't bombastic, and doesn't make his points in the same style as an editorial writer or TV pundit would do. But that doesn't lessen the impact of his words.

We'll see if our advantages overcome theirs. I'm not optimistic, given the plethora of stories like this one that was repoted in a London newspaper on Sunday

Schools are dropping the Holocaust from history lessons to avoid offending Muslim pupils, a Governmentbacked study has revealed.

It found some teachers are reluctant to cover the atrocity for fear of upsetting students whose beliefs include Holocaust denial.
...

It found some teachers are dropping courses covering the Holocaust at the earliest opportunity over fears Muslim pupils might express anti-Semitic and anti-Israel reactions in class.

Who is assimilating whom?

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February 9, 2007

An Escallation by the Jihadists

While we are spending most of our time debating whether to "escallate" the war in Iraq by sending more troops and/or adopting a new strategy, we seem to have missed what the enemy is doing.

They're escallating too.

But I don't mean in Iraq. I'm talking about the jihadists in Europe.

Walid Phares says that the jihadists are changing tactics and that this represents a "new benchmark" in their war against the West. Last week British police arrested nine suspects for what it says was an "Iraq-style kidnapping" plot. The plan was to seize a British soldier, behead him, and show it on the Internet. The target soldier had served in Afghanistan.

Previously, al Qaeda and other jihadists concentrated their efforts on large-style dramatic attacks. They wanted to emulate 9-11 as much as possible. Now, says Phares, we may be witnessing a change in tactics. Following are excerpts from his article

1) “A factory”: The repetitive arrest in this important city, if anything, tells us that a hub is producing successive waves of Jihadists, ready to strike within Great Britain. ...

2) “Urban pocket:” The concentration of Jihadi Terror activities in this one city (along with other possible sites) could mean that the militants have formed an “urban pocket” out of which they can coordinate activities, and in which they have established one or more safe havens.
...

3) “Urban Battlefield”: The decision to conduct a kidnapping operation against a British soldier, to behead him and to post the criminal scene online presumes that the British Jihadists have chosen the option of “Urban battlefield.”
...

4) “Seizing the community”: One of the most dangerous Terrorist tactics is to apply violence within a particular community, so that the Terrorist leadership would break the ties between the group and the general society. A very risky choice, but from a Jihadi thinking process, it is unstoppable....(S)eizing a community through fear and Terror "within" the West will have unique consequences. In the mind of the Jihadists, eliminating moderate Muslims, starting with the ones who work with Government, particularly in defense and security matters, will spread terror in the hearts of the community, further isolating it.
...

Thus, the Birmingham Jihadi plot is not just “another” Terrorist happening. It is a crossing of a line, a benchmark. Somewhere in a British city, a war room has decided to create an enclave of terror. The arrests are certainly important, but what the Terrorists wanted to achieve is even more important. It is one of these signals, that in Britain and probably in many European cities, a new phase has begun.

Make sure to follow the link above and read the whole thing.

Phares' point, I think, is that the kidnapping and murder of the Muslim British soldier was not meant to be just another attack on the West. We need to give the jihadists credit. As he makes clear in his book Future Jihad, the jihadists have a very sophisticated strategy. They don't just sit around and say "how and where can we stage another big attack?" That's part of it, to be sure, but it's all part of a much larger and more complex plan. More on this when I post my review of his book, which I am reading now.

In the "urban battlefied" section Phares believes that the jihadists think that "they have the necessary numbers to wage successive operations" because they have established a "a “feeder,” that is a continuous flow of new recruits." Melanie Phillips' documented how extensive radical Islam is in her book Londonistan, so Phares' conclusion is supported by a lot of evidence.

We'll see whether Phares is right or not in the weeks and months to come. I've often wondered why the jihadists didn't "scale down" their attacks from big-dramatic ones to lots of smaller ones. Now that I'm half-way through Future Jihad I'm starting to understand why. The short answer is that their strategy is a lot more complex and long-term than I'd imagined. But again, more on this when I post the book review.

But either way, it looks like Britain's toleration of radical Islam is beginning to bear fruit; of the rotten variety. Let's encourage them to take action before it's too late.

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December 11, 2006

Waking Up in the UK?

It's just possible that the British are finally getting it. After years of having their capital city lampooned as "Londonistan" for their sheltering of suspected and even known terrorists, some are recognizing the danger in their midst.

Last week Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a speech in which he - finally - seems to recognize that the excesses of multiculturalism have simply got to be reigned in. Here's the money quote

So it is not that we need to dispense with multicultural Britain. On the contrary we should continue celebrating it. But we need - in the face of the challenge to our values - to re-assert also the duty to integrate, to stress what we hold in common and to say: these are the shared boundaries within which we all are obliged to live, precisely in order to preserve our right to our own different faiths, races and creeds.

We must respect both our right to differ and the duty to express any difference in a way fully consistent with the values that bind us together.

So: how do we do this?

Partly we achieve it by talking openly about the problem. The very act of exploring its nature, debating and discussing it doesn't just get people thinking about the type of Britain we want for today's world; but it also eases the anxiety. It dispels any notion that it is forbidden territory. Failure to talk about it is not politically correct; it's just stupid.

Partly the answer lies in precisely defining our common values and making it clear that we expect all our citizens to conform to them. Obedience to the rule of law, to democratic decision-making about who governs us, to freedom from violence and discrimination are not optional for British citizens. They are what being British is about. Being British carries rights. It also carries duties. And those duties take clear precedence over any cultural or religious practice.

Ok, sure, this it tepid stuff. But in fairness, politicians must always tempter their words. If you read between the lines I think you'll agree that this is dynamite.

Of course, it's one thing to give a speech, quite another to put words into actions. We shall see. But it's a start.

There were two events, I believe, that hit Britons hard enough to wake them from their slumber. The first was the subway bombings of almost a year and a half ago. Blair addresses this in his speech

When I decided to make this speech about multiculturalism and integration, some people entirely reasonably said that integration or lack of it was not the problem. The 7/7 bombers were integrated at one level in terms of lifestyle and work. Others in many communities live lives very much separate and set in their own community and own culture, but are no threat to anyone.

But this is, in truth, not what I mean when I talk of integration. Integration, in this context, is not about culture or lifestyle. It is about values. It is about integrating at the point of shared, common unifying British values. It isn't about what defines us as people, but as citizens, the rights and duties that go with being a member of our society.

Bingo.

And what are these "unifying British values"? Blair defines them as "belief in democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, equal treatment for all, respect for this country and its shared heritage."

Again, so far so good. As for multiculturalism, he says that

The whole point is that multicultural Britain was never supposed to be a celebration of division; but of diversity. The purpose was to allow people to live harmoniously together, despite their difference; not to make their difference an encouragement to discord
.

I don't want to get into a big discussion on the whole business of diversity and multiculturalism, and there is some sillyness on these subjects in his speech, but I'll forgive him if he puts words into action.

Andrew Struttaford, writing at National Review, identifies the other incident that prompted this self-examination; the Muslim veil

It was, I feel certain, the first time that an article in the Lancashire Evening Telegraph ever triggered a national debate. In the article, written in October, its author, Jack Straw, the leader of the House of Commons and a former foreign secretary, disclosed that he asked any visitor who came to his office wearing a full Muslim veil to uncover her face when she spoke to him. Naturally, he only made this request if a female member of his staff was present. He’s a gentleman, you know. ...

If this wretched garment, in at least its more stringent forms, has more to do with misogyny than piety, so the hostility it provokes owes less to outraged feminism than to the mounting unease felt by many Europeans at the presence of the increasingly assertive and increasingly extremist Islam rising within their midst. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that there is something about the very appearance of the veil (and I am here referring to the burka and the only marginally less appalling nikab, a get-up that generously allows a clear view of the wearer’s eyes) that is alien, dehumanizing, and, in the context of Europe’s current troubles, thoroughly ominous. Little more than walking shrouds, these women seem like the harbingers both of future theocracy and the slaughter that comes in its wake.

I was cheered when this debate broke out. The full veil is certainly a tool of oppression, and it is among the wonders of the world why the self-styled "womens rights" types don't go ballistic over it.

To be sure, even if Blair is serious, and follows his fine words with action, it's still an uphill battle. The BBC most certainly does not get it. This BBC story is so unbelieveable it led David Frum to joke that Mark Steyn must have hacked their computers and posted a parody.

Sigh.

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November 18, 2006

America Alone II

Earlier this week I reviewed Mark Steyn's book American Alone: The End of the World As We Know It. Steyn's thesis is that the Europe we always knew is almost dead. Declining birthrates among natives, an increasing Muslim minority that refuses to assimilate, and a multiculturalist-surrender mentality are leading the continent into steep decline.

A few recent news stories bear this out. Some Europeans are awaking to their new realities. An article in the Economist claims that multiculturalism is dead, but wonders what will replace it. The "politics of identity" seems to be the answer

...the airwaves and the newspapers have been dominated by what it is fashionable to call the politics of identity. There is still no sign of the debate flagging. Indeed, the government seems to be doing everything it can to keep it going. Last week Ruth Kelly, the communities secretary, announced that the government was undertaking a “fundamental rebalancing” of its relationships with Muslim organisations and that funding would shift towards those which actively tackled extremism and defended “our shared values”.

Ms Kelly was reflecting growing government disillusionment with the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an umbrella body that claims to speak for Britain's 1.6m Muslims. Ms Kelly, a devout Catholic, took particular exception to the MCB's refusal to join in the commemorations of Holocaust Memorial Day. She also criticised both its insistence that British foreign policy was anti-Muslim and its routine denigration of police anti-terrorism operations.

... Since then, the security services have reached alarming conclusions about the number of young British Muslims who have been radicalised and their potential to become terrorists. Increasingly, ministers believe that the willingness of successive governments to tolerate and, in some ways, encourage the separateness of Muslim communities in the name of multiculturalism has been a colossal error.

The result is that the government has started to ask itself some profound questions. How far is a liberal society obliged to go in defending attitudes and behaviour that are hostile to it? Is it reasonable to demand that members of all minority communities integrate, at least to some degree, with the majority?

This has traditionally been difficult territory for many on the left. Partly it is lingering colonial guilt, but mainly it is because the left is uneasy with notions that appear to claim superiority for majority cultural norms or which confuse the duties of citizenship with loyalty to the symbols of nationalism. In the search for a fairer society, the concept of national identity seemed either irrelevant or unhelpful.
...

Ms Kelly has made a stab at defining “non-negotiable” British values—respect for the law, freedom of speech, equality of opportunity, respect for others and responsibility towards others—that every citizen must sign up to. Steps are also under way to introduce an inclusive, narrative account of British history to be taught in schools as part of compulsory citizenship classes.

Both are doubtless worthwhile. But it may be beyond the exhortations of worried, well-meaning politicians to revive an idea of British national citizenship that is relevant and powerful enough to do what is needed. Unless Mr Blair's debate takes place where it matters most, within the Muslim communities themselves, it is likely only to deepen existing prejudices.

The good news, then, is that some in Britain have at least partially woken up to the danger. They have finally realized that their politicies have created what the French security officials once mockingly called "Londonistan".

Tony Blair and his New Labor partisans have been doing their best to "abolish Britain", as Peter Hitchens called it. It is going to be very difficult to reverse the trend.

Thomas Sowell says that the problem in Europe is that they've been insulated from the "reality of the international jungle" for too long, being allowed to live under American protection. Not being responsible for their own defense, they've grown soft. As a result, they "indulge themselves in illusions about brutal realities and dangers." The result, he says, is that Europe is "going quietly". He asks

How can a generation be expected to fight for the survival of a culture or a civilization that has been trashed in its own institutions, taught to tolerate even the intolerance of other cultures brought into its own midst, and conditioned to regard any instinct to fight for its own survival as being a "cowboy"?

Western nations that show any signs of standing up for self-preservation are rare exceptions. The United States and Israel are the only Western nations which have no choice but to rely on self-defense — and both are demonized, not only by our enemies but also by many in other Western nations.

Australia recently told its Muslim population that, if they want to live under Islamic law, then they should leave Australia. That makes three Western nations that have not yet completely succumbed to the corrosive and suicidal trends of our times.

If and when we all succumb, will the epitaph of Western civilization say that we had the power to annihilate our enemies but were so paralyzed by confusion that we ended up being annihilated ourselves?

As usual, Sowell has it just about right.

Heading For The Exits

In the face of all this some native Europeans have decided to call it quits and get out. Rob Liddle, writiing in The Spectator, says that

Apparently almost a million British citizens have left the country since 2000, to live somewhere else. Last year, according to the Office for National Statistics, 380,000 people left Britain, of whom about 200,000 were British citizens. At the same time, though, 565,000 immigrants arrived in Britain, the overwhelming majority from the Indian subcontinent (largely Pakistan and Bangladesh).

Der Spiegel reports that Germans are leaving their country as well.

They are fed up, truly fed up. Fed up with the constant bickering over the costs of wage benefits, social reforms, elimination of subsidies, store closing hours and all the other symbols of a country stuck in bureaucratic and legislative gridlock.

They are tired of living in country where landing a job is like playing the lottery, a country where not even half of citizens live from gainful employment and a country in which even academics in their mid-40s are already considered problem cases when it comes to job placement. In other words, they are fed up with living in a country where all opportunities already seem to be taken: opportunities to succeed in one's career, to own property and to achieve prosperity.
...

Rarely have so many Germans decided to leave it all behind -- their houses and properties, parents and aunts, friends and co-workers. According to the German Federal Office of Statistics, 144,815 Germans left the country last year, a jump of almost 25 percent over 2002. At the same time, fewer and fewer Germans are returning from abroad. The most recent figure is 128,052. For the first time in a generation, more Germans are emigrating than returning. And these are only the official figures.

There are probably just as many who move away without bothering to notify officials in their local municipalities.

Worse, those who are leaving are young, well-educated, and highly skilled. They are just the sort of people that a country can most ill-afford to lose, and whose departure will have the greatest economic impact.

Emigration in and of itself need not be a death knell. After all, Europe lost millions in the 19th century and early 20th. But back then the birthrate was high, and they were able to make it up. Today, birthrates in Western Europe are at 1.5 live births per woman and declining. To maintain a population at a given level, 2.1 live births per woman is required.

To be sure, many of these German emigrants are staying in Europe, so it's not all a net European loss. But overall the population in Germany, like that of the rest of Europe, is declining.

It is ironic that not too long ago schoolchildren were warned that overpopulation was one the world's biggest problems. The issue, of course, is that back when such warnings were a staple of public education, no one thought of the problems of funding old-age retirement. It just seemed a given that there would be enough taxable income-earners around to pay for the ever-increasing benefits packages politicians were voting into place.

Today we know better. The United States will face a financial crisis when the baby boomers reach retirement. The situation in Europe will be much worse, since they have more benefits in place, higher unemployment, and fewer young people.

Add to this in increasingly assertive Muslim population, and you've got a future that doesn't look so good.

Posted by Tom at 11:59 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 15, 2006

Book Review - "America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It"

Just when I think that the future can't be much darker for us in our war on Islamic Jihadism, Mark Steyn comes along to ruin things for me.

Consider our current situation: Iraq is in the throws of massive sectarian violence and may slide into Rwandan-style slaughter, Afghanistan is not-at-all secure, Musharraf has virtually ceded large parts of his country to the Taliban and their allies, most of Somalia, including it's capital Mogadishu, is controlled by the Supreme Islamic Courts Council, an Islamist militia, and Iran appears to be well on the way towards obtaining nuclear weapons. Did I miss anything?

Actually, as Steyn points out in America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, what I missed was the fact that the United States is now virtually alone in the world. Europe, he explains, is well on the road to being completely lost to the Jihadists.

On the surface, of course, it doesn't seem that way. Their leaders still mouth the traditional pieties, lamenting that "with only proper US leadership" and "less arrogance", why, we would all be together against the terrorists. Traditional institutions such as NATO and a European-dominated Security Council still prevail.

Further, it's tempting to think that of course we can't really lose to the likes of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Isn't Europe the rock of Western Civilization? Surely a continent that survived the Nazis, Communists, and other assorted fascists can take on a bunch of backward Islamic fanatics, right? I mean, maybe they'll get lucky with some terrorist acts, maybe even sneak a nuke into a city, but lose, as in foreign occupation? No way.

"Yes way" is Steyn's response.

Here is Steyn's argument in a nutshell; the populations of native Europeans are headed into steep decline. Not only that, but the radio of young to old people is rapidly declining. Over the past several decades they've set up an enormous welfare state which depends on lots of young people for old-age payments. European leaders, seeing that the young people simply won't be around when needed, have been encouraging massive immigration into their countries. These immigrants are overwhelmingly Muslim, and most have no desire to assimilate into European culture. Not only that, but, most or many of them plan on making Europe a Muslim continent, complete with Sharia law. Native Europeans, infected with leftist multiculturalism and a complete lack of a sense of nationhood, have no will to resist.

America, he says, will be alone in the world before we know it. In many ways we already are.

Combine a powerful argument with his world-famous Mark Steyn wit, and you've got a great book. It is at once deeply sobering and laugh-out-loud funny. Put it on your must-read list.

The Inexorable Power of Demography

In order for a population to maintain its existing numbers, there must be 2.1 live births per woman. More and it's numbers increase, less and they decline. The United States is at almost exactly 2.1. That our numbers are slightly increasing is due, of course, to immigration.

Europe as a whole is 1.38, Western Europe, 1.5 or less. A few country numbers: Germany and Austria 1.3, Italy 1.2, Sweden 1.64, Ireland 1.9, Spain and Greece 1.15. Russia has the lowest at 1.15, and France the highest at 1.89. On the other side of the globe, Japan is at 1.32, and while they'll have a benefits crisis, they don't have to contend with immigrants who want to change the very nature of their society.

All this leads to rapidly declining populations. The populations of Spain, Greece and Russia will start to halve every 35 or 40 years starting sometime mid-century. The population of Yemen will exceed that of Russia.

Besides the fact that the welfare-state will simply come crashing to the ground (it's a mathmatical certainty), no one knows what will happen economically when there are lots and lots of retired people relative to younger workers.

On the other hand, here are the birthrates in Islamic countries: Pakistan 5.03, Saudi Arabia 4.53, Iran 2.33 (though Ahmadinejad is trying to get it up), Afghanistan 6.69 and Yemen at 6.58

Calculators Don't Lie

Into all this come Muslim immigrants. Europeans want(ed?) them because of their labor and ability to fund their welfare states, and Muslims wanted to come because Europe is obviously a better place than, oh, say, Pakistan or Algeria.

Exactly how many Muslims are in Europe now is open to question, and the numbers are probably higher than advertised. However, most sources I checked conclude that about 5% of Western Europe is Muslim, with the total number being at around 23 million.

The Muslim birthrate in Europe is somewhere around 3.5 live births per woman.

The bottom line: Sometime towards the end of this century Western Europe will be majority Muslim. Get the picture?

Islam is Not Just a Religion

This is not the place for a full discussion of Islam, the law, and the nature of society. Suffice it to say that you just haven't been paying attention if you think that the difference between Westerners (whether Christian or not) and Muslims is trivial. We're not talking like the differences between Presbyterians and Mormons, or Jews and Hindus, for that matter.

The reality is that all Westerners, and Hindus too for that matter, live in countries that have been through or deeply influenced by the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment. This is why I'm not worried about the impact of Hispanics on American culture or society; fundamentally they're just like us.

Islam is another matter. There has never been an Islamic Martin Luther, much less a St Augustine or St Aquinas. I'd say Islam was stuck in the Middle Ages, but that would be an insult to Medieval Europe. I believe that Islam is reformable, it's just not on that path right now.

Radical Islam has exported itself to Europe. Melanie Phillips documented how bad the situation in the UK, who's capital was been dubbed "Londonistan" by French police officials. Islamism is an imperial project, says Steyn, and it's coming to a town near you.

It's not just the vast potential for terrorism that is the problem. Surveys show that up to 60% of these Muslims want Sharia law implimented in the European countries where they reside. Many or most of them have no wish to conform to Western standards, they want us to conform to them. Steyn, like any number of authors writing on this subject, provides example after example of demands that radical Muslims are making on their new countries; and time after time native Europe surrenders.

The problem is that the Muslim immigrants see the customs and law of Europe, and reject it. They see women who are free, and it offends them. They see that gays are allowed to live without being stoned to death, and it enrages them. They examine our legal system and believe it unjust because it is not based on Islam. They look at our democracy and seek ways to exploit it. They use our tradion of tolerance against us.

All Muslims? No. But enough Muslims? Yes. If there is a large group of "moderate Muslims" in Europe, it is a well-kept secret.

It's the Identity, Stupid

Population decline in and of itself would only be a economic problem; how to pay for all these benefits? A threat from radical Muslims would not be a problem in a culture and country that firmly believed in itself.

Add the two together, however, and you've got a disaster on your hands.

How Europe lost it's way is no great secret; two world wars, coupled with the threat of complete annihilation during the Cold War, prompted many to distrust or hate nationalism and put their faith in integration and international institutions. And it has, in this respect, worked; the idea of two major European countries going to war with each other is more remote than ever.

Sure, if the Islamists somehow cobbled together a traditional army and hit the beaches in Spain or Italy, Europe would rally to their defense. The problem, as Steyn points out, is that "the dragons are no longer on the edge of the map."

The reasons why Europe is not resisting are several. There is the lack of national identity that I mentioned earlier. There is also it's post-Christian state. Most Americans believe in God whether they go to church or synagogue or not. Most Europeans don't even believe in God. This results first of all in a lack of believing in anything, a lack of identity.

On top of that you've got leftist muliculturalism, which seeks to deny that any one culture or society is superior to any other.

All of this has led to a lack of identity. Islam is not only growing in Europe though immigration, but by conversion. Again, numbers are hard to come by, but there are all too-many news articles about the subject.

What Christian churches are left outside of Catholicism are in full-scale retreat. Most are desperate to retain whatever members they can, and believe that the best way to do so is to become like the society around them. This has led to a milquetoast version of their religion that is utterly unable to resist the threat that is all around them.

The funny part about it all is that if you had to invent an ideology that would be complete anathema to the liberal or leftist mindset, you couldn't do better than radical Islam. It's mysogenic, anti-gay, and theocratic. Yet to most leftists and indeed many liberals, the threat's simply not there. They'll tell you that the Islamists are just upset because we haven't solved the Palestinian-Israeli problem.

In the End

"Jihad can win", is Steyn's message. Although it may seem incredible to us to imagine the sort of changes that would forever change Europe, it is stability that is the illusion. Looking at the broad sweep of history, one realizes that not only do countries come and go, but peoples do to. Meet any Visigoths or Byzantines recently?

So yes, Europe as we know it can disappear. Before it does it will likely catch on as to what is happening, and we'll likely see mass riots or outright warfare, coupled with a rise of fascist parties on the right. We'll also see a mass exodus to the United States, which in my opinion would be a good thing. But in the end the tyranny of demography will prevail unless action is taken now.

What Can Be Done

Steyn doesn't spend much time here, prefering to spend most of the book simply laying out the problem. He does, however have some ideas, most of which are good ones.

First, he lays out our options

1. Submit to Islam
2. Destroy Islam
3. Reform Islam

As Steyn puts it, "because most of us don't take number one as a serious possibility, we're equally unserious about being forced to choose between two and three. But submission to Islam is very possible...."

Because "destroying Islam" is both impractical and immoral, our only option is number three. Ultimately, he says, we can't do this; only Muslims can. However, we can create the conditions for reform.

Some of the things he proposes are supporting women's rights in Islamic countries, rolling back Wahhabi "exports", ie Saudi-funded Mosques. In general, supporting liberty and democracy in Muslim countries is necessary, too. We must think more comprehensively about a ideological strategy as well as a military one. Forget the UN and NATO, they're worse than useless. Changing the government in Tehran must be a priority. Military action when necessary is required, though in general this war will not be won with bombs and bullets.

All of this stuff except ending the military parts are the types of things we don't do very well, but it's quite necessary that we learn.

Trends do not necessarily hold. It is possible that native Europeans will see an increase in their birthrates, or will suddenly come to their senses and enact measures to stop or seriously slow down immigration from Muslim countries. They might rediscover a sense of identity, and maybe even their Christianity. But it seems less than likely to me. Steyn's vision is, if anything, more frightening than even the prospects for defeat in Afghanistan or Iraq. The lights may be going out in Europe once more, and this time I'm not sure we can get them back on.

Posted by Tom at 9:30 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

October 27, 2006

The Intifada in France IV

Don't tell me that everything's normal in France. From the AP (hat tip lgf).

Youths forced passengers off three buses and set them on fire overnight in suburban Paris, raising tensions Thursday ahead of the first anniversary of the riots that engulfed France's rundown, heavily immigrant neighborhoods.

Intifada%20in%20France%20IV.jpg

No injuries were reported, but worried bus drivers refused to enter some suburbs after dark, and the prime minister urged a swift, stern response.

The riots in October 2005 raged through housing projects in suburbs nationwide, springing in part from anger over entrenched discrimination against immigrants and their French-born children, many of them Muslims from former French colonies in Africa. Despite an influx of funds and promises, disenchantment still thrives in those communities.

About 10 attackers _ five of them with handguns _ stormed a bus in Montreuil east of Paris early Thursday and forced the passengers off, the RATP transport authority said. They then drove off and set the bus on fire.

Late Wednesday, three attackers forced passengers off another bus in Athis-Mons, south of Paris, and tossed a Molotov cocktail inside, police officials said. The driver managed to put out the fire. Elsewhere, between six and 10 youths herded passengers off a bus in the western suburb of Nanterre late Wednesday and set it alight.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said the events "should lead to an immediate response."

"We cannot accept the unacceptable," he told reporters in the northern suburb of Cergy-Pontoise. "There will be arrests. ... That is our responsibility."

Villepin also said efforts should be directed to "revitalize" troubled neighborhoods, and repeated the government's insistence that authorities rid France of "lawless zones" where youth gangs operate.

The overnight attacks and recent ambushes on police have raised concern about the changing character of suburban violence, which is seemingly more premeditated than last year's spontaneous outcry and no longer restricted to the housing projects. The use of handguns was unusual _ last year's rioters were armed primarily with crowbars, stones, sticks or gasoline bombs.

Regional authorities said the Nanterre bus line, which passes near Paris' financial district, had not been considered at a high risk of attack. Francois Saglier, director of bus service at the RATP, said the attacks happened "without prior warning and not necessarily in neighborhoods considered difficult."

Ah yes, those "youths" again.

Previous
The Intifada in France III
The Intifada in France II
The Intifada in France

Update

They're calling it an Intifada in France. From the New York Sun (hat tip Michelle Malkin)

Only days after the violence in the Paris suburbs erupted onto the world's front pages a year ago, these columns described the battles between the Muslim youths and French police, in a November 4, 2005, editorial,"Intifada in France." We wrote: "If President Chirac thought he was going to gain peace with the Muslim community in France by taking an appeasement line in the Iraq war, it certainly looks like he miscalculated. Today the streets of the French capital are looking more like Ramallah and less like the advanced, sophisticated, gay Paree image Monsieur Chirac likes to portray to the world, and the story, which is just starting to grip the world's attention, is full of ironies. One is tempted to suggest that Prime Minister Sharon send a note cautioning Monsieur Chirac about cycles of violence."

The "Intifada" label was dismissed in many quarters. On November 5, John Lichfield in Britain's Independent wrote "from the centre of the world's most beautiful city" that "despite the inflammatory rubbish written by some right-wing commentators in the French press about a ‘Paris intifada', this is not an Islamic insurrection or a political revolution of any kind." He predicted that the riots "will burn themselves out in a few days, just as they have before." The Washington Post editorialized on November 8 that "… It's not the European version of an intifada: Islamic ideology and leaders play no role in the disturbances." Bernard-Henri Levy wrote on November 9 in the Wall Street Journal that "this is not, thank heaven, a matter of an Intifada wearing French colors."

Well one year later, the riots are still going on, and the French themselves are now calling it an intifada.

Posted by Tom at 9:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 22, 2006

The Intifada in France III

Don't tell me there's not an Intifada going on in France right now with this sort of stuff happening. From the UK paper The Times

The figures are stark. An average of 112 cars a day have been torched across France so far this year and there have been 15 attacks a day on police and emergency services. Nearly 3,000 police officers have been injured in clashes this year. Officers have been badly injured in four ambushes in the Paris outskirts since September. Some police talk of open war with youths who are bent on more than vandalism.

“The thing that has changed over the past month is that they now want to kill us,” said Bruno Beschizza, the leader of Synergie, a union to which 40 per cent of officers belong. Action Police, a hardline union, said: “We are in a civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists.”

It's gotten so bad that this is what a French Police Union official had to say

“The thing that has changed over the past month is that they now want to kill us,” said Bruno Beschizza, the leader of Synergie, a union to which 40 per cent of officers belong. To which Synergie's Deputy Leader Patrice Ribeiro adds: “Tension is rising very dramatically. There is the will to kill.” Action Police, a hardline union, says: “We are in a civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists.” And Joaquin Masanet, Secretary General of the national police syndicate UNSA: "These guys came to kill. They wore balaclavas, and had baseball bats and iron bars."

There's an intifada going on over there.

Fox News has a short story on the violence

National police reported 2,458 cases of violence against officers in the first six months of the year, on pace to top the 4,246 cases recorded for all of 2005 and the 3,842 in 2004. Firefighters and rescue workers have also been targeted — and some now receive police escorts in such areas.

On Sunday, a band of about 30 youths, some wearing masks, forced passengers out of a bus in a southern Paris suburb in broad daylight Sunday, set it on fire, then stoned firefighters who came to the rescue, police said. No one was injured. Two people were arrested, one of them a 13-year-old, according to LCI television.
...

Michel Thooris, head of the small Action Police union, claims that the new violence is taking on an Islamic fundamentalist tinge.

"Many youths, many arsonists, many vandals behind the violence do it to cries of 'Allah Akbar' (God is Great) when our police cars are stoned," he said in an interview.

Larger, more mainstream police unions sharply disagree that the suburban unrest has any religious basis. However, they do say that some youth gangs no longer seem content to throw stones or torch cars and instead appear determined to hurt police officers — or worse.

"First, it was a rock here or there. Then it was rocks by the dozen. Now, they're leading operations of an almost military sort to trap us," said Loic Lecouplier, a police union official in the Seine-Saint-Denis region north of Paris. "These are acts of war."

My option on all this hasn't changed any from my last post on the intifada in France, so I'll just quote myself

Now I realize there's a big debate as to the nature of these riots, both the ones going on now and the ones last year. Some say that the Muslim youths are acting out of frustration from high unemployment and racism, others say that they are more motivated by jihad.

Call this a cop-out, but I think it's a little of both. There is high unemployment in general thoughout Europe, with it being particularly acute in poor communities such as those where the Muslim Algerians live. France brought them, or their parents and grandparents, actually, to France to serve as cheap labor. France did not want to integrate them, but by the same token the Muslims did not wish to be integrated.

So now you have these Muslim "youths", frustrated by their poverty, and as with so many Muslims have bought into the "victim culture". They have bought into the notion that their religion, which they barely understand, is under assault by the West. They've heard about the wonderful Jihad being fought against the "Crusaders" and "Zionists", and wish to join in.

CNN has an AP story on the unrest, but it doesn't add much.

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The Intifada in France II
The Intifada in France

Michael at DownEastBlog has the perspective from Belgium, and it's not pretty.

Posted by Tom at 10:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 12, 2006

The Intifada in France

Five days ago in a book review of Melanie Phillips must-read Londonistan, I mentioned a story in one of the London papers, The Telegraph, in which a French police union official was quoted as saying that the country was "in a state of civil war" with the inhabitants of Muslim neighborhoods.

Today the Washington Times finally got around to reporting on the story, simply reprinting the Telegraph story. The original date on the story was October 5, so it was 2 days old when I wrote about it. Now it is a week old.

I have not done much of a search of US papers, but a quick look at the European section of the Washington Post didn't reveal anything. It is possible they've carried stories on it but I missed it. I also browse other news sites during the day and have not seen anything there either. Again, I might have missed it, but nothing jumped out at me.

Two lessons: Most of the US media is blissfully unaware of how bad the situation has gotten in Europe, and two, without the Internet I'd be blissfully unaware also.

In case you're not up on the situation, here are the essential parts of the story from the Telegraph

Radical Muslims in France's housing estates are waging an undeclared "intifada" against the police, with violent clashes injuring an average of 14 officers each day.
As the interior ministry said that nearly 2,500 officers had been wounded this year, a police union declared that its members were "in a state of civil war" with Muslims in the most depressed "banlieue" estates which are heavily populated by unemployed youths of north African origin.

It said the situation was so grave that it had asked the government to provide police with armoured cars to protect officers in the estates, which are becoming no-go zones.
...
Michel Thoomis, the secretary general of the hardline Action Police trade union, has written to Mr Sarkozy warning of an "intifada" on the estates and demanding that officers be given armoured cars in the most dangerous areas.

He said yesterday: "We are in a state of civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists. This is not a question of urban violence any more, it is an intifada, with stones and Molotov cocktails. You no longer see two or three youths confronting police, you see whole tower blocks emptying into the streets to set their 'comrades' free when they are arrested."

He added: "We need armoured vehicles and water cannon. They are the only things that can disperse crowds of hundreds of people who are trying to kill police and burn their vehicles."

However, Gerard Demarcq, of the largest police unions, Alliance, dismissed talk of an "intifada" as representing the views of only a minority.

Minority view or no, the fact that an average of 14 police officers per day are being hurt, and that they need armored vehicles and water cannon is alarming.

If it weren't for the widespread riots by Muslim "youths" in France last October and November, in which some 10,000 cars were burned and thousands arrested, it might be tempting to think that the Telegraph was exaggerating. As it is, we should take it seriously and be very worried about the future of Europe.

In Denial

As this post at RealClearPolitics makes clear, the foreign policy elite are deeply in denial.

The post cites an article in Foreign Affairs, titled "France and its Muslims", by Stéphanie Giry

According to Giry

Some French and foreign observers have interpreted last November's riots in poor, largely Muslim neighborhoods throughout the country as a skirmish in a broader clash of civilizations. Yet the strife had little to do with yearnings for a worldwide caliphate and much to do with domestic socioeconomic problems. ...

The status of Muslims in France is at once much healthier and more problematic than most recent commentary lets on.

According to RealClearPolitics, Foreign Affairs summarized the article thusly

"The recent panic over the rise of Islamic extremism in Europe has overlooked a key fact: the majority of European Muslims are trying hard to fit in, not opt out. This is especially clear in France, where the picture is much brighter than often acknowledged. Unfortunately, cynical politicians and the clumsy elite are now making matters much worse."

In other words, if we ignore the problem of Muslim extremism it will go away. This is just what Melanie Phillips warns against in Londonistan and on her blog every day.

The author of the post on RealClearPolitics, David Warren, sums up the contradition between the Telegraph and Foreign Affairs articles

There are two ways to reconcile these two articles. One is to assume that the Telegraph dispatch, confirmed by several sources in France, was made up from whole cloth. The other is to assume that the Foreign Affairs writer, even though she has a law degree from Yale, is writing nonsense.

She's writing nonsense.

The Difference with Muslims

There are going to be those, especially in the United States, who will dismiss me as a nativist. "People are always afraid of immigrants", "You just don't like them because they're different", "You're blowing this out of proportion. I'm sure there were disturbances by Italians/Irish/German/Chinese/Japanese immigrants in the United States in the 19th century and early 20th" and of course, the comparison to our problem with illegal aliens ("undocumented immigrants" as the left calls them).

As a student of history I am reasonably well informed about my country's history with immigrants. But there are two big difference with these immigrants and the Muslims

1) The Muslims come from cultures that have not gone through or been influenced by the Renaissance, Reformation, or Enlightenment. The Muslims have a largely Medieval mindset and there is no getting around it.

2) There are far too many Muslim extremists among the immigrants. You simply did not have this with the Italians/Irish/German/Chinese/Japanese immigrants of past. There is no getting around this, either.

Yes I know that in the past some countries in Europe, notably France, have absorbed Muslim immigrants with no problems. But back then everyone expected the immigrants to assimilate to some degree, and you did not have the current problem of extremism that you have today. Leftist multiculturalism has made a bad situation worse.

The problem with Muslim extremism in Europe is serious and getting worse. I hate to sound like an alarmist, but it's true. Ignoring it won't make it go away.

Update

Threatswatch
has more on the French Intifada, which, they conclude, is growing.

Posted by Tom at 10:02 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 14, 2006

Betrayed by NATO

I found this post by Stanley Kurtz at NRO's The Corner particularly interesting


The magnitude of NATO’s failure in Afghanistan is emerging. In retrospect, it’s clear that yesterday’s posts about Norway were preliminary indications of the unraveling scandal. Yes, this failure of the NATO alliance is nothing short of scandalous. American and British troops are stretched to the limit, while the Taliban surges. Behind the scenes, it turns out that our supposed allies in NATO have been shirking their troop obligations in Afghanistan for well over a year. The developing problems in Afghanistan have much to do with this failure. The Telegraph rightly asks, “Has NATO Betrayed Britain on Afghanistan?” In the Independent: “Blair: We need help to stop Afghan failure.” In “Nato nations refuse to commit more troops,” the Telegraph details the minuscule numbers involved.

This is not a matter of military incapacity. It is a deliberate refusal of our so-called allies to fight. Supposedly, Europe was with us on Afghanistan. Who but the most radical leftists and pacifists opposed that action? Yet our NATO allies are plainly unwilling to involve themselves in a fight that they themselves said was justified and necessary. If Afghanistan collapses, it will prove that Europe has entirely lost the will to fight.

Sadly, this is more along the lines of Spain’s capitulation to terrorist blackmail. The same Spanish government that pulled out of Iraq is now among those now refusing to fight in Afghanistan. Fear of internal terrorism by Muslim immigrants likely has much to do with the reluctance of the other Europeans to fight. More broadly, this shows that the West as a whole lacks the troops needed for the war on terror. The failure of will and capacity here is obvious to our enemies, who can only be spectacularly encouraged.

Again, this is Afghanistan, where we’ve been happily multilateral, not Iraq. If NATO cannot fight here, what good is it? Given a chance to help us, in circumstances where we are in agreement, our European allies have simply failed. Can the Europeans seriously hope to bargain Iran into giving up its nuclear weapons when it can’t collectively scrounge up 2,500 troops, all of whom were supposed to have been committed more than a year ago? Bin Laden is laughing. Ahmadinajad is doubled over. And NATO is just plain over.

Here is John Kerry’s response: an utterly unconvincing attempt to blame the United States for the problem (says Kerry, we should goad the Europeans by sending more troops ourselves). And here’s Captain Ed on the issue.

Now that's funny, I thought that we were all supposed to be unified on Afghanistan. I was told that it was only Iraq that set us apart. To be sure, most European armies are pretty small, and they don't have much in the way of logistical support capabilities. But we're not asking for vast numbers here. This isn't Desert Storm, we don't need armored divisions. The truth, I think, is rather simple; most Europeans think that they can avoid terrorist attacks by Muslim fascists if they don't get too involved. In other words, it's a policy of appeasement.

To be fair, Britain and Italy have been pulling their weight, both countries already having troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan (Italy having pledged them to Lebanon as well). The rest of Europe should be ashamed of themselves.

Posted by Tom at 9:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 13, 2006

Following in the Footsteps of Rome?

Western Civilization has woken up to the danger of Islamic terrorists coming to our shores to carry out their nefarious deeds. Obviously we do not catch every one, but we are are at least aware of t he idea that Muslims with evil intentions want to try and make their way into our countries do do us harm.

Most of us are even aware of the fact that many Muslim immigrants are radicallized after they have been in our countries for a time. Most of the 9-11 hijackers, and the recently arrested terrorist suspects in Canada, were turned into terrorists while in the west. The reason is simple, yet seemingly impossible for the left to understand; they are offended by our societies.

The question of assimilation is, or should be, forefront on our minds. We in the United States are having enough trouble absorbing large numbers of Hispanic immigrants. Hispanics, however, at least come from a Western tradition, the societies that they come from have been shaped by the Renaissance, Reformation, and Enlightenment. Muslims have gone though none of this. Whether a significant number of them will accept our norms is an open question.

I suppose I should add the usual qualifier that yes I understand that there are individual differences among peoples, and no I am not lumping all Hispanics or Muslims together. The point, however, is that all it takes is a violent radical minority to cow a larger population into silence or acquiescence.

The danger that large numbers of Muslim immigrants may pose was compared recently by British Rear Admiral Chris Parry to the way the barbarians destroyed Rome; not so much by military conquest as by mass migration. In an article in The Sunday Times of London, Admiral Parry warned that

Europe, including Britain, could be undermined by large immigrant groups with little allegiance to their host countries — a "reverse colonisation" as Parry described it. These groups would stay connected to their homelands by the internet and cheap flights. The idea of assimilation was becoming redundant, he said.

Following are additional excerpts from the article

If a security breakdown occurred, he said, it was likely to be brought on by environmental destruction and a population boom, coupled with technology and radical Islam. The result for Britain and Europe, Parry warned, could be "like the 5th century Roman empire facing the Goths and the Vandals".

Parry pointed to the mass migration which disaster in the Third World could unleash. "The diaspora issue is one of my biggest current concerns," he said. "Globalisation makes assimilation seem redundant and old-fashioned . . . [the process] acts as a sort of reverse colonisation, where groups of people are self-contained, going back and forth between their countries, exploiting sophisticated networks and using instant communication on phones and the internet."

Third World instability would lick at the edges of the West as pirates attacked holidaymakers from fast boats. "At some time in the next 10 years it may not be safe to sail a yacht between Gibraltar and Malta," said the admiral.
...

Parry predicts that as flood or starvation strikes, the most dangerous zones will be Africa, particularly the northern half; most of the Middle East and central Asia as far as northern China; a strip from Nepal to Indonesia; and perhaps eastern China.

He pinpoints 2012 to 2018 as the time when the current global power structure is likely to crumble. Rising nations such as China, India, Brazil and Iran will challenge America’s sole superpower status.

This will come as "irregular activity" such as terrorism, organised crime and "white companies" of mercenaries burgeon in lawless areas.

Not a pretty picture, but hardly an implausible one.

Posted by Tom at 8:32 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 30, 2006

Immigration and Culture

Speaking of immigration, let's step across the pond to Europe and see what's going on there.

So I surf around to MSNBC and this headline jumps out:


Integration questions stir passions in Germany
Experiment seems to have failed; government scrambles to find solutions

One could simply file this in the "where have you been?" category of catch-up journalism. Michael over at DowneastBlog has been talking about this since about forever, and scaring the bejesuts out of anyone who hangs around his site for long.

But that won't do, for the piece in MSNBC is about Germany, and so let's just see what's going on there.

Here are some excerpts

Germany, like the Netherlands, France and Belgium, has a large Muslim population which, by and large, clings to the language and traditions of their home countries.

Unemployment is rampant both among immigrants and native-born Germans, and violence in schools with large immigrant student bodies has caused many teachers to be worried for their safety

The Muslims came as "guest workers", and it was all supposed to be temporary, the article explains. But the companies who employed them got used to the cheap labor, and...well, you know the story. First the worker stays, then his immediate family comes, then grandpa and grandma, the cousins....

The immigrants settled together and neighborhoods slowly began to reflect their new inhabitants. Signs were hung in Turkish, supermarkets sold Turkish products and stands selling kebabs — a traditional meal in a sandwich similar to a gyro — popped up in nearly every German city.

“They came in the sexual revolution and they saw the communes — men, women and children living together. It was a shock for these people, so of course, they put up borders,” said Seyran Ates, a lawyer who works with immigrant women. “It was automatic. They felt, they don’t want us here, and on the other side, we don’t want to be like them; they are immoral,” Ates said.

Predictably, there has been no assimilation. Most of these immigrants don't speak German, and their children do poorly in school. Actually, no, that's not right. The children have proven to be a royal pain in the %$#, the article is just too polite to spell it out in such terms.

But if language were all there was too it, there wouldn't be a problem.

“Being integrated means more than speaking German,” said Angenendt, who says that Germany needs to recruit more skilled workers to survive in the future. “There’s no discussion of how to bring people into the labor market.”

Perhaps provoking the already tense relationship between the government and its immigrants, the German parliament is now debating the implementation of citizenship tests. Germany has one of the lowest citizenship application rates in Western Europe and its laws to become a citizen are much stricter than in the United States, for example.

Yet Germany has no choice but to find a solution to better integrate immigrants and their families. Falling birthrates, along with steady immigration mean that in several decades the country will come to rely more and more on immigrant labor.

Hmmm. So "integration" is all there is to it? That sounds simple enough.

History and Culture

But of course that's not all there is to it. For all the problems we're having here in the states with Hispanic immigration (legal and illegal), our newcomers are from a Western culture. Their forefathers experienced the Renaissance, the Reformation and Enlightenment. The scientific method is not an alien concept to them. And as corrupt as Mexico is, they don't run around cutting people's heads off and planting bombs on airliners.

As if this wasn't enough, Germany, like much of the rest of Western Europe, doesn't have as much experience at absorbing newcomers as we do over here.

Complicating all this furter, we're all infected with unholy trio of multiculturalism, diversity and tolerance, which makes the job much more difficult.

The article passes all this by, which is to be expected. But this is why we have the blogosphere, so that we can discuss the issues that might offend the sensibilities of the MSNBC editor.

Posted by Tom at 9:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 28, 2006

What is Going on In Europe II

Yesterday I wrote that it seemed to me that Europeans in general, and Britons in particular, didn't have many freedoms that we in the United States take for granted.

None other than Tony Blair himself has proven me correct. In an editorial in Sunday's The Observer, he writes that

...the 'rules' are becoming harder to enforce. Antisocial behaviour isn't susceptible to normal court process.

"Anti-social behaviour"? This sounds like something out of Soviet Russia. If George Bush used this sort of language to justify legislation he'd be rightfully flayed.

He goes on

In theory, traditional court processes and attitudes to civil liberties could work. But the modern world is different from the world for which these court processes were designed.

...
People should be prevented from glorifying terrorism. You can say it is a breach of the right to free speech but in the real world, people get hurt when organisations encourage hatred

By themselves I might justifiably be accused of taking them out of context. But given everything else I documented in my last post (link at top), I think the meaning is all too clear.

Back to the "Cartoon Jihad"

From the Cayman Compass

The European Union regrets that the cartoons of Prophet Muhammad were "considered offensive" by Muslims around the world, EU foreign ministers said Monday in their first joint statement on the issue.

Freedom of expression, however, "is a fundamental right and an essential element of a democratic discourse," the EU ministers said.

So far, so good. Kudos to the EU ministers.

But then this from Tony Blair's Britain

Britain had called for the EU to show regret over the publication of the 12 cartoons, which were first published in a Danish newspaper last year. However, both the Dutch and Czech governments were opposed to apologizing for the cartoons’ publication, saying that would be detrimental to media freedoms.

Thanks for standing up for freedom, Tony.

Where Holland Goes...

The situation is even worse in Holland, if this account by Douglas Murray in The Sunday Times of London is at all accurate.

Murray went to Holland recently to speak at a conference on Islam in Europe. Just to give an idea as to the situation, he said that the threat to speakers was so high that they were asked by hotel staff if they wanted to register under false names. The police provided a personal security detail for everyone. Murray had a guard outside his hotelroom door.

The event itself was orderly and debate was conducted in scholarly fashion. But Murray talks about the situation in Holland and the rest of Europe

But the story of Holland — which I have been charting for some years — should be noted by her allies. Where Holland has gone, Britain and the rest of Europe are following. The silencing happens bit by bit. A student paper in Britain that ran the Danish cartoons got pulped. A London magazine withdrew the cartoons from its website after the British police informed the editor they could not protect him, his staff, or his offices from attack. This happened only days before the police provided 500 officers to protect a “peaceful” Muslim protest in Trafalgar Square.

It seems the British police — who regularly provide protection for mosques (as they did after the 7/7 bombs) — were unable to send even one policeman to protect an organ of free speech. At the notorious London protests, Islamists were allowed to incite murder and bloodshed on the streets, but a passer-by objecting to these displays was threatened with detention for making trouble.

Holland — with its disproportionately high Muslim population — is the canary in the mine. Its once open society is closing, and Europe is closing slowly behind it. It looks, from Holland, like the twilight of liberalism — not the “liberalism” that is actually libertarianism, but the liberalism that is freedom. Not least freedom of expression.

All across Europe, debate on Islam is being stopped. Italy’s greatest living writer, Oriana Fallaci, soon comes up for trial in her home country, and in Britain the government seems intent on pushing through laws that would make truths about Islam and the conduct of its followers impossible to voice.

...
Since the assassinations of Fortuyn and, in 2004, the film maker Theo van Gogh, numerous public figures in Holland have received death threats and routine intimidation. The heroic Somali-born Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her equally outspoken colleague Geert Wilders live under constant police protection, often forced to sleep on army bases. Even university professors are under protection.

Europe is shuffling into darkness.

Indeed it may be.

Posted by Tom at 7:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 27, 2006

What Is Going on In Europe?

Consider the following events:

1) Ken Livingstone Suspended from Office

London's mayor (Ken Livingstone) has been suspended from office on full pay for four weeks for comparing a Jewish journalist to a concentration camp guard.

The Adjudication Panel for England ruled Ken Livingstone had brought his office into disrepute when he acted in an "unnecessarily insensitive" manner.

...
The hearing followed a complaint from the Jewish Board of Deputies, which had not called for the mayor to be suspended over the comment he made to the Evening Standard's Oliver Finegold outside a public-funded party.

The chairman of the panel, David Laverick, said it had decided on a ban because Mr Livingstone had failed to realise the seriousness of his outburst.

2)The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill currently before Parliament

Here's the gist of it

The extraordinary Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill, currently before the House, gives ministers power to amend, repeal or replace any legislation simply by making an order and without having to bring a Bill before Parliament. The House of Lords Constitution Committee says the Bill is “of first-class constitutional significance” and fears that it could “markedly alter the respective and long standing roles of minister and Parliament in the legislative process”.

There are a few restrictions — orders can’t be used to introduce new taxes, for instance — but most of the limitations on their use are fuzzy and subjective. One of the “safeguards” in the Bill is that an order can impose a burden only “proportionate to the benefit expected to be gained”. And who gets to judge whether it is proportionate? Why, the minister of course. The early signs are not good. Having undertaken initially not to use orders for controversial laws, the Government has already started talking about abstaining from their use when the matter at hand is “highly” controversial.

3) Holocaust Denier Convicted

Right-wing British historian David Irving was sentenced to three years in prison Monday after admitting to an Austrian court that he denied the Holocaust — a crime in the country where Hitler was born.

Irving, who pleaded guilty and then insisted during his one-day trial that he now acknowledged the Nazis' World War II slaughter of 6 million Jews, had faced up to 10 years behind bars. Before the verdict, Irving conceded he had erred in contending there were no gas chambers at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

4) Lawsuits over "Racism"

In 2002 in Switzerland the Islamic Center and the Somal Association of Geneva, SOS Racisme of Lausanne and a private citizen sued her for the supposedly racist content of The Rage and The Pride. In November 2002 a Swiss judge issued an arrest warrant for violations of article 261 and 261 bis of the Swiss criminal code and requested the Italian government to either try or extradite her. Roberto Castelli, Italian minister of Justice mentioned this fact in an interview broadcasted by Radio Padania affirming that the Italian Constitution protects the Freedom of Speech and thus the extradition request had to be rejected, the episode is mentioned in her book The Force of Reason

I seem to recall that there have been a few more of these suits in the past several years but cannot recall them.

5) Proposed UK Religious Hatred Bill

Controversial plans to make incitement to religious hatred illegal have been unveiled by the government.

The new offence gives equal protection to all faiths. Jews and Sikhs are already covered by race hate laws.

Critics say the reintroduced plans - which cover words or behaviour intended or likely to stir up religious hatred - will stifle free speech.

Ministers insist the new law would not affect "criticism, commentary or ridicule of faiths".

'Preserve tolerance'

The Racial and Religious Hated Bill would create a new offence of incitement to religious hatred and would apply to comments made in public or in the media, as well as through written material.

The aim is to protect people from incitement to hatred against them because of their faith.

(text of bill here)

6) Double Jeopardy Not Absolute

All members of the Council of Europe (which includes nearly all European countries, and all members of the European Union) have signed the European Convention of Human Rights, which protects against double jeopardy. The Seventh Protocol, Article Four, says:

No one shall be liable to be tried or punished again in criminal proceedings under the jurisdiction of the same State for an offence for which he has already been finally acquitted or convicted in accordance with the law and penal procedure of that State.

This specific optional protocol has been ratified by all EU states except six (namely Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom). Those members states may still have the provision in their respective constitutions (if any) providing a prohibition against double jeopardy.

In many European countries the prosecution may appeal an acquittal to a higher court (similar to the provisions of Canadian law) - this is not counted as double jeopardy but as a continuation of the same trial. This is allowed by the European Convention of Human Rights - note the word finally in the above quote.

The Parliament of the United Kingdom passed legislation in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 introduced by then Home Secretary David Blunkett to abolish the previously strict form of prohibition of double jeopardy. Retrials are now allowed if there is 'new and compelling evidence'. All cases must be approved by the Director Of Public Prosecutions and the Court Of Appeal must agree to quash the original acquittal.

7) Gun Rights in Europe

Nonexistent

(not really relevant but I thought I'd throw it in)

Help Me Out

The story about London mayor Ken Livingstone was the genesis for this post and is what got me thinking. I saw it the other day on one of my favorite blogs, and almost could not believe what I was reading. How do you "suspend" an elected official over something he said, no matter how offensive or stupid it was?

In the comments section I asked just this, but haven't received a satisfactory answer.

It is simply inconceivable in the United States for an elected official to be removed by some board. My understanding is that in most all jurisdictions elected officials can only be forced to resign if they are convicted of a crime, and usually a felony at that. Obviously the details will vary from place to place, but I think I have it right as a general rule.

Further, the concept that someone could be charged with a crime for denying the holocaust is also inconceivable. But I understand that this is the case in several European countries. What else is it against the law to say over there? Here freedom of speech is pretty absolute (exceptions of course are libel, slander, shouting "fire" when there is none, but those things are different).

All of the other things listed above simply could not happen in the United States, at least as a matter of federal or local law. Universities have been known to pass "speech codes", but that's not quite the same as Congress passing a law making it illegal to criticize another's religion (which is basically what the British bill would do).

The only exception I can think of is a qualifier to double jeopardy. Here in the US they do have civil rights laws, and in the infamous Rodney King case, some Los Angeles cops were found innocent of using excessive force against him, but were later convicted of violating his civil rights. But even this doesn't really violate double jeopardy.

This got me thinking of other things I've read recently. My general perception is that in general Europeans do not have all the rights that we take for granted here in the United States.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not about to go off and label any part of Europe "not free". They're part of the Free World. We're still allies, still share common values (or should), and are all in this fight against Islamic radicalism together, whether all of us know it or not.

But help me out here. Do I have all this right about Europe? My main question is about freedom of speech, as most of the issues above revolve around that.

Posted by Tom at 9:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 20, 2006

What the "Cartoon Jihad" is Really All About

Sky News last week reported on a poll by the Sunday Telegraph in which 20% of Muslims in Great Britain support the July 7 terrorist who set off the bombs in London.

One in five UK Muslims sympathise with the suicide bombers who killed 52 people in London on July 7, a survey suggests.

The ICM poll also reveals four in 10 want hardline Sharia Law introduced in parts of Britain.

A group of 500 UK Muslims aged 18 and above were quizzed for the Sunday Telegraph.

While 20% said they had sympathy for the July 7 killers' "feelings and motives", 99% condemned the attacks.

Another 75% said they did not sympathise with the bombers.

...
Sharia should be introduced in "predominantly Muslim" areas of Britain, according to 40% of the Muslims polled.

That last one is the most scary of all. It's also exactly why I've been concentrating so much on the "Cartoon Jihad" these past few weeks. Anyone not totally mired in the fever swamps of political correctness knows full well that the protests around the world are not about the cartoons. They are about intimidating the West. Radical Muslims do not want to assimilate into our societies. They want nothing of the traditional give-and-take between the natives and new immigrants that is a hallmark of Western Civilization. They want us to change. They want to bring their odious and hateful Sharia law into our societies.

For all the problems in the US today with regard to Hispanic immigrants, we need to keep in mind that they are fundamentally like us. They come from countries with a Christian heritage. They too are children of the Enlightenment. The Reformation affected their society as well. In short, they think like we do. As such, they are participating in our tradition of give-and-take. We can debate how well it is going, and I think that the leftists with their multiculturalism are harming the process, but that is another debate.

Not so with Muslims, at least in Europe, where there are a lot more of them and they are much less assimilated. We don't have that many in the US, and the ones who are here don't create a whole lot of trouble beyond the usual complaints of discrimination that we've come to expect. Local Muslims didn't participate in the Feb 18 protests outside of the Danish Embassy in Washington DC, as instead we saw the New Black Panther party, a group more based on racialist principles than religion.

The Growing Islamization of Britain

Think all this is exagerated? Check out this article in the Sunday Telegraph from yesterday titled "The day is coming when British Muslims form a state within a state". Money quote

That is why they(Muslims) do not believe in integration. In 1980, the Islamic Council of Europe laid out their strategy for the future - and the fundamental rule was never dilute your presence. That is to say, do not integrate.

They're even worried over at the left-wing British paper The Guardian, calling the above poll "a warning that should not be ignored."

USS Neverdock has all the links you'd ever want on the growing he Islamization of Britain. Check it out. A few tidbits

British theater censors play so as not to upset Muslims

Britain adopts Islamic laws

English flag offensive to Muslims

Make his blog a part of your daily reading.

No Assimilation in Belgium

Last week on Downeastblog, one of my Belgium friends wrote about the situation in his country

One could fill books about the behaviour of Moroccan youngsters in Brussels schools e.g., with teachers driven to the brink of insanity, intimidated, ridiculed, sometimes chased out of the classrooms. Theft, robbery, downright murder. Schools in Antwerp forced to scrap pork meat from the school menu. Rampant "youth" criminality everywhere with the often minor perpetrators getting away with it unpunished. "Youth" gangs cruising the streets during the day (when they ought to be on the school banks), and cruising them at night (when they ought to be doing their homework). Of course, when they enter the job market, they have acquired no skills at all, not to mention raucous behaviour is not exactly inducing patrons to hire them either. Result: unemployment figures for young immigrants of 40% in the Brussels Region.

Doesn't sound like give-and-take to me.

The Demographics in France

Remember those riots in France a few months ago? Maybe they were a sign of things to come.

At the time most msm outlets simply referred to the rioters as "youths", or some other similar euphamism desiged to hide their true identity. In reality, of course, they were Muslim immigrants, mainly from Algeria.

Here are some population statistics you might not have seen:

It is one thing to know in theory that France has undergone major ethnic changes over the past 30 years and another thing altogether to confront a mass ethnic insurgency. The figures are inescapable. There are about 60 million inhabitants in continental France, plus 2 million citizens in the overseas territories (essentially the French West Indies and La Reunion island in the Indian Ocean). About 20 million, most of them white and Christian, are over 50

Out of the remaining 40 million or so, 10 million or so belong to the ethnic minorities: Muslim North Africans, Muslim Turks or Near Easterners, Muslim Black Africans, Christian West Indian, African or Reunionese blacks. When one regards to the youngest age brackets, the proportion is even larger. It is estimated that 35% of all French inhabitants under 20, and 50% of all inhabitants in the major urban centers, belong to the ethnic minorities. Islam alone may claim respectively 30% and 45%. Since war is essentially the business of youths, the combatant ratio in any ethnic war may thus be one to one

In the end it's not so much the numbers as the lack of assimilation. I post these demographics simply to illustrate that it's not a small problem. There are enough Muslims in Europe now that the politicians take notice, and are concerned about getting their vote.

As the survey in Britian shows, many Muslims hold anti-western views, and given their numbers, are going to have great influence in Europe in the years ahead. This problem isn't going away.

Posted by Tom at 2:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 17, 2006

Max Boot Gets It

Writing in the LA Times, Max Boot (via NRO) reports on the disturbing, but unfortunately predictable reaction to the cartoons and the riots they have created by Muslims while at a conference at Kuala Lumpur the other day.

Although the conference was not about the cartoons or anything similar, they were apparently issue number one. Here are the most important parts

Even though all of the Muslim delegates were intellectuals, activists, politicians and other movers and shakers, they resonated with the rage of the dispossessed. With considerable justification, they fulminated against the backwardness of the Islamic world compared to the West. With considerably less justification, they blamed their frustrations on the West.

...
IN RECENT years, some Muslims, notably the authors of the 2002 U.N. Arab Human Development Report, have been acknowledging internal problems — a lack of freedom, honest government, gender equality, scientific research and education — that have turned their societies into global also-rans. But in Kuala Lumpur there wasn't much introspection in evidence. Most attendees — and I suspect their views are broadly representative of the Muslim world as a whole — preferred to rant against supposed Western oppression.

The cartoon brouhaha not only confirms this victimization legend, it assuages the shame many Muslims feel over the atrocities committed in their name by Osama bin Laden & Co. To hear many Muslim attendees talk, you would think there is no difference between a cartoonist who injured no one physically and terrorists who kill thousands of innocent people. The trope of the conference seemed to be: "We have our extremists … and you have yours." Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami took this argument to its logical conclusion by equating American neoconservatives with Al Qaeda. As if Paul Wolfowitz were plotting to crash hijacked aircraft into Tehran office buildings.

The most depressing aspect of the whole cartoon affair is not the intolerance for press freedom exhibited throughout Muslim lands. It is the willingness of so many Muslims — even those who would never burn a consulate or threaten a newspaper editor — to scapegoat the West for their own failures. Muslim nations will never make any progress unless they stop focusing on the offenses, real or imagined, visited upon them by the outside world and start looking within for what ails them.

(emphasis added)

Meanwhile, some Brits Get It Too

If this article in the British newspaper The Times has it right, much of the British public is fed up with the Muslim reaction to the cartoons (I found this one myself thank you):

PEOPLE in Britain take a hard line against Muslims protesting violently against supposed insults to their religion, and are gloomy about future relations between Muslims and the rest of the population.

Muslims protested peacefully in Trafalgar Square yesterday. But a Sunday Times-YouGov poll of more than 1,600 people shows widespread public anger about protests earlier this month in Britain and the worldwide uprising in response to Danish cartoons picturing the prophet Muhammad.

The poll shows that 86% of people think the protests were “a gross overreaction”. By 56% to 29% respondents said it was right to publish the cartoons in Denmark and republish them elsewhere.

Earlier this month Muslim protesters in Britain carried placards urging violence and death against those who insult Islam, and celebrating last year’s July 7 London bombings. Asked about those protests, 58% said it made them angry and 76% said the police should have arrested those carrying offensive or provocative banners.

The police and politicians are criticised more generally for not confronting Islamic extremism, with 80% of respondents saying the authorities show too much tolerance of Muslims who urge extreme acts. Two-thirds, 67%, think this is because senior policemen such as Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan police commissioner, are too “politically correct”.

Now let's see if this anger turns into action. Don't hold your breath.

Posted by Tom at 8:47 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Danish PM Comes Through

The Danish President stands up to Muslim extremists who have used the cartoon issue in an attempt to intimidate Europeans into clamping down on free speech(hat tip NRO). In an interview with Der Spiegel, a German newspaper, Danish Minister President Anders Fogh Rasmussen explains what is really going on:

SPIEGEL: For the first time, your government is at the center of an unimaginable international crisis that spans from northern Africa to southern Asia.

Fogh Rasmussen:These protests are no longer about the 12 caricatures that were published by a free and independent Danish newspaper. Many groups with a vested interest in the Islamic world are now exploiting the situation for their own purposes.

Read the whole thing.

Meanwhile, Others Continue their Appeasement

The Brussels Journal (hat tip again to NRO) has a story about how some European leaders are kowtowing to the Muslim extremists.

Javier Solana, High Representative of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) and the Secretary-General of both the Council of the European Union (EU) and the Western European Union (WEU), is one of the worst appeasers, and has come under fire recently. The Brussels Journal provides details:

Mr Solana continues his appeasement visit to the Middle East. On Wednesday he met Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. The EU Foreign Policy Coordinator told the press that they discussed measures to ensure that “religious symbols can be protected.” He said: “Such steps could materialise through various mechanisms, maybe inside the new human rights commission created in the UN.

If he's so concerned with protecting religious symbols, he can start with the Star of David, which is regularly trashed by Muslims. The most vile anti-Jewish cartoons are a staple of Arab Middle East propaganda.

It's not just Solana, either

The Socialist MEP and former Danish Prime Minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen [not to be confused with Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the present Prime Minister] said that the cartoons “lack respect for and knowledge of Islam.” Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the leader of the European Greens, criticized Denmark and Germany for their lack of respect for Islam. Hans Winkler, the Secretary of State for European Affairs in Austria, the current chairman of the EU Council, said that freedom of the press is not absolute and that “religious feelings should not be offended.” Mr Winkler also said Turkey could play an important role in establishing “a positive dialogue with Islam.” Austria is now defending Turkey's EU admission, while it opposed it in the past.

But the reason why we have freedom of speech is so that we can say anything we want, whether it offends anyone else or not, as long as it is not slanderous or libelous. We do not have a First Amendment in this country so that we can discuss how to fund Social Security. We have it so that we can say whatever we want (above caveats apply).

I warned the other day about a "press code of conduct" that was being floated as a trial balloon in Europe. While some, like the Danish President, understand the threat and how to face it, others clearly do not.

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February 10, 2006

Munich Redux?

In 1938 the British and French appeased Hitler by giving him the Sudenland, a portion of Czechoslovakia where many Germans lived. As we all know, Hitler soon seized the entire country. The dead was done in the city of Munich, where British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain sacrificed freedom for what he hoped would be "peace in our time".

Two days ago I was hopeful that the "Cartoon Intifada" would wake up Europeans who could not see the danger in their midst. It not appears that I may have spoken too soon.

Today's Belmont Club post
has a series of reports that are very disturbing, because, if representative, they show that far from recognizing the danger of Muslim extremism within their countries, they are perhaps repeating the mistakes of Munich.

(all reports below hat tip Wrechard of Belmont Club)

One blog Wrechard cites, Barcepundit, links to a story in the British newspaper The Telegraph. Although he mentions VDH, he may as well have been speaking about yours truely.

I'M AFRAID the esteemed Victor Davis Hanson was a tad too optimistic when he wrote that the cartoon controversy might mean an European awakening against Islamic fascism. Turns out that the European Union is planning a press code of conduct:

Plans for a European press charter committing the media to "prudence" when reporting on Islam and other religions, were unveiled yesterday.

Franco Frattini, the European Union commissioner for justice, freedom and security, revealed the idea for a code of conduct in an interview with The Daily Telegraph. Mr Frattini, a former Italian foreign minister, said the EU faced the "very real problem" of trying to reconcile "two fundamental freedoms, the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion".

Millions of European Muslims felt "humiliated" by the publication of cartoons of Mohammed, he added, calling on journalists and media chiefs to accept that "the exercising of a right is always the assumption of a responsibility". He appealed to European media to agree to "self-regulate".

Accepting such self-regulation would send an important political message to the Muslim world, Mr Frattini said.

Not convincing? Instupundit reports that Sweden is shutting down websites that show the offending cartoons.

As it turns out, in another article (or post) on the Telegraph's website, the author of the story above says that

In today's print edition I reported on plans by Franco Frattini, the EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, to bring together European newspapers and media groups, and draw up a voluntary code of conduct, committing editors to "prudence" when reporting Islam and other religions.

Mr Frattini thinks I misconstrued what he said. He has issued a stern press release, putting his side of the story.

Mr Frattini is quoted at length in the article, and in the interests of space I'm not going to reprint all of it. I encourage readers to follow the links and judge for themselves.

Two quotes, I think, from Mr Frattini will suffice

Since September 2005 I am in close contact with various representatives of the media, including the European federation of journalists, on issues linked to freedom of speech. I have offered to facilitate a dialogue between the media representatives and between them and faith leaders if that would be found useful by both parties

...

There have never been, nor will there be any plans by the European Commission to have some sort of EU regulation, nor is there any legal basis for doing so

But it doesn't end there. The reporter, David Rennie, produces the transcript of his interview with Mr Frattini. Again, I'm not going to quote the entire thing, but urge readers to follow the links. Here are the money quotes

So what I believe is that even in this very difficult moment, our first statement should be, freedom of expression should be granted, to everyone. But, in candour, of course violent reactions should be condemned, but that said, if you want to reconcile those two principles, please help me to find the best way.

That is my political approach, it is not a bureaucratic one. If I have to condemn violence, obviously I condemn violence, but that said, after having condemned violence, what should we do? We should do something more, and we should together, journalists and editors, and European institutions address this together, because it is a matter of fact that this publication inflamed a very difficult situation in the Middle East.

...

The Commission probably has to play a role as a facilitator, as an encouraging body, because freedom of expression is a private matter. Each and every journalist has the right to improve his or her capacity of expressing freedom. I do not see at all a [formal Commission] communication on this. I see a possible political result, for example, a European Deontologic Charter, approved by the press itself, with the facilitating role of the Commission.

...
I would like to see a European project, a European media project concerning exactly the application of exercising the right of expression. The exercising of a right is always the assumption of a responsibility."

Q: would this charter have banned the first publication in the Danish press?
Frattini: "In this very moment, no. But in this very moment, immediately after the victory of Hamas, in the middle of a very difficult negotiation with Iran to persuade Iran to renounce the enrichment of uranium, in this very moment, if you are going to take that very important decision [to republish], please, are you going to reflect on what kind of consequences will follow from offending the Muslim religion

I'll give Frattini this, he speaks carefully. He does everything but come right out and say he wants to limit freedom of the press. He left himself just enough wiggle room that he could deny what he had implied. Bill Clinton was pretty good at this also. Both would do well at the UN.

Wrechard's take on Mr Frattini's comments is not that he is on the verge of imposing government censorship, but that he is sending a message to the press, "we cannot protect you and you will have to look out for yourselves". In other words, play ball or suffer the consequences.

Let's hope we don't have another "Munich 1938" taking place before our eyes.

In the meantime, my new motto is "Buy Danish"!

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February 8, 2006

Will Europe Wake Up?

I'm wondering if much of Western Europe will soon wake up from their current slumber. Consider what's happened these past three years:

1. Theo van Gogh murdered by a Muslim terrorist
2. Dutch politicians such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, forced to go into hiding or live under police protection after threats by Muslim extremists
3. The Madrid metro bombed by Al Qaeda
4. The London subways bombed by Al Qaeda
5. Riots in France by Muslim immigrants
6. The current "cartoon infidata"

Europeans have reacted in various ways to each of the above. The Spanish reacted by attempting to appease the terrorists. The French pretended they didn't have a problem. But it seems to me that there is a growing recognition on the other side of the pond that they face a real danger. I believe that the current rioting over the cartoons published six months ago in Danish newspapers might prove to be the last straw.

Why not Appease Them?

The reaction to the current rioting hasn't been completely solid. A few newspapers in France and Germany have republished the caroons to show their committment to freedom of the press. In the United States, the only one to do was is the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Tony Blankley, editorial page editor of the Washington Times, says that four reasons are usually provided by those who advise against reprinting the cartoons:

1) just because one has the right to speak doesn't mean one must;

2) restraint is often exercised, particularly when being respectful of other religions or cultures;

3) tensions are particularly high among Muslims now;

4) only a madman, or, if there is a difference, those who want to instigate the "clash of civilizations" would pour gasoline on that already raging fire.

This seems to make sense on the surface, but as he points out "That argument would be not only plausible, but persuasive, if the cause of the violent Muslim reaction to the cartoons was merely a transitory phenomenon -- a brief, spontaneous, bizarre overreaction."

Exactly.

It's not a "Double Standard"

Blankley points to a Muslim who sees exactly what the danger is:

Hirsi Ali, the black, Muslim, female co-producer of assassinated Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, talked about Western journalists to Der Spiegel this week, while in hiding: "They probably feel numb. On the one hand, a voice in their heads is encouraging them not to sell out their freedom of speech. At the same time, they're experiencing the shocking sensation of what it's like to lose your own personal freedom. One mustn't forget that they're part of the postwar generation, and that all they've experienced is peace and prosperity. And now they suddenly have to fight for their own human rights once again."

"The [Islamists] call Jews and Christians inferior, and we say they're just exercising their freedom of speech... Islamists don't allow their critics the same rights... After the West prostrates itself, the [Islamists] will be more than happy to say that Allah has made the infidels spineless."

The point is that when people say the Muslims "have a double standard", they are missing the point. To the Muslims it isn't a double standad; they believe that sharia law should rule the world. Christianity, Judaism, and all other religions are to be subjugated to Islam. Everyone but Muslims get second-class status. Western democracy is to be subverted and eventually overthrown.

No not all Muslims think this way. Yes I know that many or even most Muslims are good decent people. But if that's where you end you are missing the boat, because it doesn't take a majority to decide matters, just a determined minority. Just ask Lenin.

The Washington Times agrees, and points out that the Muslims who object to the Danish cartoons stirring up riots are not interested in our "tolerance", but rather

They wanted to create a groundswell of discontent among Muslims in Europe, put pressure on Denmark -- and other nations -- to abide by sharia law and to build a sympathetic base for further terrorist attacks. The placards of British Muslims, demanding more "7/7s," a reference to the London subway bombings on July 7, went straight to the point of the clerics' Middle East tour. This was an exercise in agitprop to further the goals of Islamofascism, and it worked

What We Must Do

What we must not do is blather on about "now is the time for restraint by the press", or "with freedom of the press comes responsibility". Yes yes we know all that. But what we must do is react strongly to reassure newspapers that what they need not fear intimidation by murderous fanatics.

We can't do it alone, we need our European friends to help us out. But we are all in this together, and it is my hope, and cautious prediction, that (most of) the Europeans will finally see the light. The Times points out that

An awakened Europe, after all, is exactly what the United States has been waiting for -- reinforcements in the war against the terrorists
.

Of course, it's not really a desire for "more troops" to help us fight, or at least that's not all of it. As much as we've had policy differences with some Europeans over the years, between the lot of us we are still the best the world has to offer, and we'd best preserve our nations and our cultures.

Posted by Tom at 9:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 9, 2005

Twelve Days and Counting in France

Rioting has continued for twelve straight days in France and one wonders what to make of it. From my news survey, many liberals take the view that religion has nothing to do with it and that it is all because of poverty and racism.

Retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, one of the few analysists who predicted how the invasion of Iraq would proceed accurately, says that this is not the case


"It is not a directed part of the global extremist network, but it is an offshoot that is well-organized and has similar objectives in intimidating the French government, which they have done," Gen. McInerney said.

The riots will expand unless the French government moves quickly to quell the disturbances, he said.

"It is an assimilation problem that Muslims have, and it will only eventually be resolved through an Islamic reformation," he said.

Exactly. Here in the United States we have a tradition of give-and-take with our immigrants. They adopt traditional American ways, and those already here pick up some of their traditions and customs. This is not occuring in Europe. Europeans only seem to want the immigrants for their labor, and are not interested in assimilating them. On their side, the current generation of Muslim immigrants want no part of European society, which they see as decadent. Rather, many of them want to impose their beliefs on Europe.

According to an article in StrategyPage, France is starting to question the loyalty of Muslims serving in their army:

France has been detecting, or at least fearing, loyalty problems among the fifteen percent of its soldiers who are Moslem. The military insists that these second and third generation soldiers of, for the most part, Arab descent, are loyal. But many Christian soldiers, NCOs and officers are not so sure. Harassment of Moslem troops by Christian soldiers is common. There have been no major incidents of soldiers turned terrorists, but the abuse from paranoid soldiers, NCOs and officers might push Moslem soldiers to go bad. This is believed more likely because there are no Moslem chaplains. Thus Moslem soldiers seek spiritual advice from clerics with no military experience, and possible a radical agenda. More worrisome is that radicalized soldiers will leave the army equipped with skills they can use for terrorist attacks.

Daniel Pipes has a typically insightful article on the riots. He asks why, if the rioters are motivated by bad economic conditions and racism, they cry "Allahu Akbar". Rather, he sees the riots as part of "a new form of jihad"

Indigenous Muslims of northwestern Europe have in the past year deployed three distinct forms of jihad: the crude variety deployed in Britain, killing random passengers moving around London; the targeted variety in the Netherlands, where individual political and cultural leaders are singled out, threatened, and in some cases attacked; and now the more diffuse violence in France, less specifically murderous but also politically less dismissible. Which of these or other methods will prove most efficacious is yet unclear, but the British variant is clearly counterproductive, so the Dutch and French strategies probably will recur.

Read the whole thing.

Wretchard of Belmont Club fears that the French will react precisely in the wrong way:


What I am afraid will happen is that the French authorities will apply the worst possible combination: a short-term crackdown based on profiling together with an agreement to cede the governance of these ghettos to some kind of Islamic councils. That will make the banlieus more opaque while at the same time making them more alien. Yet the attraction of this policy mix is obvious. It throws a bone to the extreme right and left wings of French policy and may quell the disturbances for a moment. It kicks the can down the road into a minefield. It's a soothing gargle of antiseptic mouthwash prior to flossing with a razor blade.

Indeed. Czar Nicholas II combined both personal weakness and a determination to maintain absolute power for himself. This proved a fatal combination. While it would be premature at this point to predict that we are seeing the "end of Europe", these riots, combined with ominous demographic trends, can only make one fear for the future of that continent.

Wednesday Update

StrategyPage says that ethnicity and economics are the main factors driving the rioters. They point out that Islmac clerics have issued a fatwa condemning the violence, but that the rioters are not very religious so don't listen. They also point to 10%+ unemployment, and laws that make it hard to fire, and thus hire, employees. Add to this a lax attitude towards property crimes and a existing Muslim-run criminal gangs, and you have trouble.

There are some Islamic radicals running around in all this, but they are a minority. The Moslem kids like to talk about respect and payback, but very few see this as a religious war. It’s become a sport, with various groups competing to cause the most destruction. Text messaging, Internet bulletin boards and email made it possible for the rioters to stay in touch and compare notes. The media coverage also encouraged the violence, giving the kids some positive (for them) feedback.

My guess is that there is a little of everything going on. And we cannot forget that there is a tendancy to see what you want to see. Thus conservatives look for Muslim extremism, and liberals look for criminal and ethnic alienation. StrategyPage shoots straight, and although in this case I think they underplay the religious angle, I do admit that economic and ethnic factors play more of a role than I had initially considered.

Either way, the French response, which seems to be that if they buy off the rioters they'll stop, is precisely the wrong one. On Bloomberg today (via Michelle Malkin):


De Villepin's call for increased spending on training programs comes amid rising unemployment among immigrants. Last year, 17.4 percent of immigrants were unemployed, compared with 9.2 percent for non-immigrants, says Insee, the Paris-based government statistics office. For the same education level, immigrants are more likely to be unemployed, it said.

``Youth unemployment reaches almost 40 percent in some areas,'' de Villepin said. He added that the goal of the government will be to give unemployed youth living in France's ``sensitive urban areas'' a work contract, an internship or training in coming months.

De Villepin also said he will restore government subsidies to local associations scrapped by his predecessor and aims to triple scholarships and improve links between universities and students living in poor areas.

The prime minister said in the interview that students must be able to join vocational training programs at the age of 14 instead of 16. Almost 150,000 students drop out of school without a diploma or a skill each year, according to the prime minister.

De Villepin also called for businesses and the population as a whole to fight ethnic discrimination. The government wants to make sure that the riots aren't used by ``radical Islam,'' which is not the ``main'' concern at the moment, he said.

Some people just never learn.

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September 12, 2005

Islam and Europe

Just in case you think Tony Blankley has overstated his case about the Islamic threat to Europe in his new book (excerpted below), consider two stories that recently appeared in the British press.

You're not going to believe this stuff, folks. Or maybe you will.

The first story is from the London newspaper The Telegraph(hat tip Andrew Stuttaford of NRO). In it we're told that a "a Muslim barrister" Prime Minister Tony Blair thinks that Jews and Freemasons are secretly in control of the war in Iraq. Blair, you see, came under their "sinister" influence and just couldn't help himself.

Ahmad Thomson, from the Association of Muslim Lawyers, said Mr Blair was the latest in a long line of politicians to have been influenced by the group which saw the attack on Saddam Hussein as a way to control the Middle East.

A Government spokesman confirmed last night that ministers and officials consulted Mr Thomson on issues concerning Muslims but refused to be drawn on his views. "We talk to a lot of people, including many whose views we do not necessarily agree with," she said.

This includes, apparently, complete whackos.

And, big surprise, Thomson thinks that the Holocaust is "a big lie".

The second story is from http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1775068,00.html, also a British newspaper:

Advisors appointed by Tony Blair after the London bombings are proposing to scrap the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Day because it is regarded as offensive to Muslims.

They want to replace it with a Genocide Day that would recognise the mass murder of Muslims in Palestine, Chechnya and Bosnia as well as people of other faiths.

Tony Blair needs new advisors pronto.

And just why is the Jewish Holocaust Memorial Day so "offensive" to Muslims?

>A member of one of the committees, made up of Muslims, said it gave the impression that “western lives have more value than non-western lives”. That perception needed to be changed. “One way of doing that is if the government were to sponsor a national Genocide Memorial Day.

“The very name Holocaust Memorial Day sounds too exclusive to many young Muslims. It sends out the wrong signals: that the lives of one people are to be remembered more than others. It’s a grievance that extremists are able to exploit.”

If you believe this I've got a bridge to sell you.

Let's just call it as it is: The Muslims hate the Jews, and take one of two positions regarding the Holocaust; they either deny that it occured, or believe that it did and was a good thing. The idea of the Holocaust as a day of sorrow is utterly beyond their comprehension.

Which is one reason why the UN can never agree on a definition of terrorism; because the Muslims want a definition that they can use to pin on Israel and the U.S. http://theredhunter.com/mt/mt.cgi?__mode=view&_type=entry&blog_id=1&id=482&saved_changes=1#

It's really about that simple.

But while the committees are at it, they have another recomendation for the Prime Minister. Hey, when you're on a roll, go for it all.

The committees are also set to clash with Blair on his proposal to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir, the radical Islamic group. Government sources say they will argue that a ban is unjustified because the group, which is proscribed in much of the Middle East, neither advocates nor perpetrates violence in the UK.

Reread that last phrase, "because the group...neither advocates nor perpetrates violence in the UK".

In other words, Blair is hoping that the crocodile eats him last.

Andrew McCarthy spares us the task of researching who this Hizb ut-Tahrir group is. He found a 2003 Heritage Foundation paper about the group. It's conclusion is that

Hizb ut-Tahrir represents a growing medium- and long-term threat to geopolitical stability and the secular regimes of Central Asia and ultimately poses a potential threat to other regions of the world. The party is transnational, secretive, and extremist in its anti-Americanism. It seeks to overthrow and destroy existing regimes and establish a Shari'a-based Caliphate.

Hizb may launch terrorist attacks against U.S. targets and allies, operating either alone or in cooperation with other global terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda. A Hizb takeover of any Central Asian state could provide the global radical Islamist movement with a geographic base and access to the expertise and technology to manufacture weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. and its allies must do everything possible to avoid such an outcome.

The paper also estimates the group's strength at about "5,000-10,000 hard-core members, and many more supporters" throughout south-west asia.

Nope, folks, Tony Blankley wasn't exaggerating one bit. The government of Tony Blair is a willing participant in the suicide of Great Britain.

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The Islamic Threat, Part I

Tony Blankley is the editorial-page editor of the Washington Times, has a new book out called The West's Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations.

Today's Washington Times
has the first of a three-part series in which they've excerpted sections of the book. Here are a few tidbits:

The threat of the radical Islamists taking over Europe is every bit as great to the United States as was the threat of the Nazis taking over Europe in the 1940s.

It is beginning to dawn on Europeans that the combination of a shrinking ethnic-European population and an expanding, culturally assertive Muslim population might lead to the fall of Western civilization in Europe within a century.

This phenomenon, called Eurabia, is viewed with growing fatalism both in Europe and in America.
...

But that survival instinct is threatened by the multiculturalism and political correctness advocated in media and academe -- and institutionalized in national and European Union laws and regulations for half a century.

Europe's effort at cultural tolerance since World War II slowly morphed into a surprisingly deep self-loathing of Western culture that denied the instinct for cultural and national self-defense.
...

If Europe doesn't rise to the challenge, Eurabia will come to pass. Then Europe will cease to be an American ally and instead become a base of operations (as she already is to a small degree) against us.

Read the whole thing.

This is a book I'm going to have to buy. And soon.

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August 25, 2005

Scotland

It has taken me longer than expected to get back to blogging since my return from Scotland, mainly because other obligations have intervened. But I promised a report on the trip, so here goes. I'm going to get some photos up soon, if not tonight then this weekend.

I'm still working on getting photo's up on this blog. For now please go to my other blog sites, Warm 'n Fuzzy Conserva-Puppies or I love America for photos of the trip.

Earlier this month I went as part of a mission trip with my local church. The reason we went to Scotland is that western Europe is almost a post-Christian culture. Statistics show that less than 10% of the population attends church. Indeed, it is not going to far to say that there is almost a neo-pagan attitude towards religion.

Twenty-six of us went, split almost evenly between adults and high-school kids. We flew through Manchester, thankfully avoiding the labor strikes that plagued Heathrow.

We stayed in Motherwell, Scotland, city of some 320,000 that is itself in a post-industrial state (ok, I promise to stop using "post-" this and that). Great Britain became a great power partially because of its steel mills and ship building. Perhaps the last stand of the old industrial economy was in the 19890s when Margaret Thatcher went toe-to-toe with labor leader Andrew Scargill over the issue of closing unprofitable coal mills. Scargill's defeat signaled the last hurrah of the old-time economy. Today much of the UK's economy is based on high-tech enterprises, but the transition has not been so easy for many people.

I bring all this up not to provide an excuse, or even a reason, for the people there to have turned away from Christianity. It was simply to set the stage for the rest of the post.

Our destination in Motherwell was a small church called Calvary Christian Fellowship Motherwell.

We stayed at the church, sort of "camping out" on the floor, the people there having provided air mattresses for us. They also fed us well, the ladies of the church were quite dedicated in cooking us large dinners.

Here's a photo of Calvary Christian Fellowship Church

IM000223.jpg

You'll also notice that the date on the picture is off by a year. oops.

Our Mission

On to the purpose of our trip. We performed two main functions while we were there: One, we taught a "Vacation Bible School" for elementary-school age kids, second, we engaged in what can be called "street evangelism".

Here we are at a local outdoor shopping center. As people came out of the stores we gave them flyers to the Vacation Bible School that we would be teaching and a concert that would be held at the church later that week. If they looked receptive, we engaged them in a discussion about Jesus.

IM000236.jpg


Religion in Scotland

My purpose here is not to provide a complete history and analysis of the situation in Scotland. But anyone who has paid attention knows that as a whole we in the states are more religious than the people of western Europe. It's pretty well known, for example, that one reason that European elites look down on President Bush is that he is open about his faith.

If Wikopedia is to be believed, about 65% of the population claims church membership. The website Scottish Christian says that 11% of Scots attend church regularly, which is actually higher than the English, which come in at 7%.

The trend is consistent throughout western Europe, according to this story in USA Today, which quotes statistics provided by the World Christian Database, says that church attendance is less than 10% in France, The Netherlands, and Sweden.

By contrast, about 40% of Americans go to Church or Synagogue regularly, and well over 90% profess some belief in God.

The worst part is that the trend is strongly downhill in western Europe. While the US seems to be in another of our periodic religions "awakenings", fewer and fewer people are going to church in western Europe, this from another table in the USA Today article cited above.

The stereotype of the European who looks down at Americans who attend church is typified by this CBN story which quotes American author Richard Miniter telling of his experience living in Brussles:

Richard Miniter lives in Brussels and is a correspondent for The London Sunday Times. He said, "When, as an American in Europe, you tell Europeans that you go to church on Sunday, they look at you like a museum piece—something strange.
"

Impressions

I was immediately struck by how hard the people on the street looked in Motherwell. I would was a "what you lookin' at" attitude. I did not feel unsafe, it wast a general stare-straight-ahead-don't-you-bother-me thing. Not a friendly bunch.

One was also struck by the number of pubs in the area. While it is indeed a British thing to 'pop out for a quick pint' we were informed that the drinking in this area was more on the frankly American style of getting soused than the more reserved two-pints-and-go-home attitude that I encountered in Ireland when I visted that Island in the '90s.

The church building itself was kept secure with everything from bars on the windows, to doors that were always kept locked, to a gate and fence with sharpened tops surrounding much of the property. They had had problems with people trying to break in, and even a few late-night episodes of drunks pounding on the door(for whatever reason drunks do what they do).

Vacation Bible School

Think of VBS as kind of a five-day extended "Sunday school" and you'l get the picture. The whole thing was based on an "African Safari" theme, a sort of package you order from some company, which came complete with all the paraphahalia that you'd expect; posters, pictures, balloons for the walls, a few fake palm trees, and various activity books. The kids spent 3-4 hours with us each afternoon.

Calvary Motherwell holds these Vacation Bible Schools all summer long, with various American churches coming to help teach them. As luck would have it were were last, and our week was just before school starts again in Scotland. Attendance was less than earlier in the summer, as our 17 students were fewer than our 26 'teachers'. But no matter.

IM000294.jpg

IM000296.jpg

My job in the whole affair (other than helping as needed) was to take part in a little skit or play that we did. Every day we did one or two acts for the kids. The play was about forgiveness and I got to play the bad guy who eventually comes 'round in the end. It was more fun than I thought it would be. The set for the play was an African safari. Here we are

IM000331.jpg

"Street Evangelism"

The VBS was two hours per day, so even with prep time we had lots of time left over.

One evening we all went to a spot near the local supermarket, took a few guitars (we were blessed with some very talented folks), sang Christian songs, and handed out flyers and literature. We spoke to whomever seemed interested in talking about Jesus.

On a few days we went around neighborhoods and handed out flyers advertising a concert that the church was holding. An American band from a California church performed at Calvary Motherwell the last Thursday that we were there.

Edinburgh Castle

One of the most interesting places we went was Edinburgh Castle. I'm a huge history buff and found it fascinating.

IM000359.jpg

After the castle we took a walk through the wild side. It was the week of the Fringe Festival, "fringe" being just about what you think it means: whackos galore, dressed up in all sorts of costumes. Here's a bit of the tamer stuff

IM000397.jpg


They took up maybe two blocks, and were made up of maybe four groups: One handing out playbills for their theater productions. From what I saw most of these plays were leftie affairs, "pushing the boundaries of taste" and all that. Second was some street theater. I didn't get close enough to hear any of it and just as well. Third was one group of certified American moombats, ranting against the war; "Bush only got 51% of the vote and that's not a mandate!" yeah ok. Last was just assorted weirdos running around in various costumes, some somewhat normal, some fairly vulgar.

So what did we do? With those handing out playbills we traded them for Christian tracts. I'm sure no one was converted but if nothing else it was amusing to see the look on their faces.

I took lots of photos. If I hadn't been with my group I'd have engaged the American moonbats in discussion. No point in arguing; I'd have tried to find out what groups they were affiliated with and all that.

After that we went to a nearby park and ate lunch. After that we broke out the guitar and sang a few songs. Anyone in a nearby group who made eye contat with us got a friendly visit. And the visits did turn out to be quite friendly; they asked the hard questions and we gave straight answers. Again, people don't convert on the spot, but you can plant seeds. Whether or when the seed grows is not up to us.

I don't do well in personal evangelism, so I let others in our group take the lead in the discussions. As much as I like to talk and argue politics and history, I find talking about faith very difficult. So it was a learning experience and fortunately I was with some very insprirational people.

The Teenagers

I don't have any kids of my own, and the neices and nephews are still in elementary school, so I don't get a lot of interaction with high school aged kids. Before this trip, I've been on three mission trips, all with another church, and in each of them we had about a 50-50 split between adults and high school kids.

The short version is that these trips absolutely renew my faith in young people, at least in the ones who are involved in churches. Our country is in good hands if they are the ones who take the reigns when we pass on.

Certainly the kids on this trip exceeded all expectations. They are much more willing to share their faith with total strangers, whereas I was often unsure and hesitant. They did a fantastic job with the Vacation Bible School. When you get disillusioned by stories of this or that in the press, my advice is to visit the youth groups at your local church.

Final Thoughts

I have been fortunate in my life to have had the opportunity to visit many places and to go on may trips. I've been to six countries in Europe, and across the U.S. from Washington DC to Los Angeles. I've traveled with friends, parents, and church groups.

Let's face it, traveling is a pain, especially overseas trips where flying east always causes me to loose a night's sleep (I can never sleep on a plane). And I am the worst; for some reason I never pack or gather things to bring until the last minute, then I spend the last two days running around frantically. When I leave the house I am plagued with the feeling that I forgot to bring something, or left some appliance on in the house. It's only when I'm actually on the plane (or far along on the road) to where it subsides.

But what is life if not without memories? My philosphy is to seize the moment when it comes, because most opportunities do not come twice.

With maybe one exception, these mission trips raise my spirits and renew my faith in God and in other people. There is no destination, only the journey.

Posted by Tom at 8:38 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 14, 2005

The Islamization of Europe?

"Either Islam gets Europeanized or Europe gets Islamized"

Is the choice really that stark? Perhaps so, if David Pryce-Jones has it right.

Pryce-Jones, also a senior editor for National Review, wrote an article that was published in the Decemmber edition of Commentary provocatively titled "The Islamization of Europe?" (online at another site) While some may find the idea alarmist, from what I've read recently he's hit the nail on the head.


Contemporary Islamism might be summed up as the effort to redress and reverse the long-ago defeat of Muslim power by European (i.e., Christian) civilization. Toward that end, it has followed two separate courses of action: adopting the forms of nationalism that have appeared to many Muslims to contain the secret of Western supremacy, or promoting Islam itself as the one force capable of uniting Muslims everywhere and hence ensuring their renewed power and dominance. In the hands of today's Islamists, and with the complicity of Europe itself, these two approaches have proved mutually reinforcing.
...
In its global reach and in its aggressive intentions, Islamist ideology bears some resemblance to another transnational belief system: namely, Communism. Like today's Islamists, Communists of an earlier age saw themselves as engaged in an apocalyptic struggle in which every member of a Communist party anywhere was expected to comport himself as a frontline soldier, and in which terror was seen as a wholly permissible means toward victory in a war to the finish.
...
Another has been the attempt in Britain to set up a Muslim "parliament" that will recognize only Islamic law (shari'a) as binding, and not the law of the land. Still another has been the insistence, in France, on the wearing of the hijab by girls in public schools, a practice that clearly contradicts the ideals of French republicanism and is in any case not an Islamic requirement. The tactical thinking behind such incitements was well articulated by an al-Qaeda leader who, calling upon British Muslims to "bring the West to its knees," added that they, "the locals, and not foreigners," have the advantage since they understand "the language, culture, area, and common practices of the enemy whom they coexist among."
...
The institutions that have been affected by Islamophile correctness run the gamut. In Britain, a judge has agreed to prohibit Hindus and Jews from sitting on a jury in the trial of a Muslim. The British Commission for Racial Equality has ordained that businesses must provide prayer rooms for Muslims and pay them for their absences on religious holidays.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Tom at 10:34 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack