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The Top Five Ways Jewish Law Justifies Killing Civilians; #2: Collective Punishment is Kosher (II)

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2011 by loonwatch

(image by Carlos Latuff)

Please make sure to read my disclaimer: Why Religious Zionism, Not Judaism, Is The Problem.

Read the Introduction: Does Jewish Law Justify Killing Civilians?

Previous: #2 Collective Punishment is Kosher (I)

In The Treatment of Hostile Civilian Populations: The Contemporary Halakhic Discussion in Israel, Prof. Ya’acov Blidstein cites Rabbi Yoezer Ariel’s opinion that the Israeli government–but not the Israeli citizen–is permitted to target and kill civilians in order to incur a collective punishment on the enemy population.  Blidstein notes that this is accepted as the “moderate” opinion–and the mainstream one–in Religious Zionism.  It is moderate in relation to the more extreme view taken by the Jewish Underground, which permits individual Israeli citizens to take the law into their own hands.

Blidstein writes that Rabbi Yoezer Ariel’s view allowed

for the deliberate killing of citizens in times of war.  However, the term “at times of war” is itself critical.  According to Rabbi Ariel, war may only be conducted by “a king or by the public, whose authority is like that of a king,” a condition already hinted at in the words of Rabbi H. D. Halevi.  There is no state of war without such an authorized decision [from the king or its equivalent]; hence, “an individual may not declare war [on his own].”  Rabbi Ariel interprets Maimonides’s references to the event [of Dina] in a similar way.

Blidstein concludes:

On the whole, then, the thrust of [Rabbi Yoezer] Ariel’s article is pragmatic, not principled.  The killing of civilians is acceptable, provided it is initiated by sovereign authority, not by individuals taking the law (quite literally) in their own hands.

What is more disturbing is that the great Maimonides does not restrict this permission to the government; writes Blidstein:

Rabbi [Yoezer] Ariel admits that this approach is not shared by all the medieval authorities.  It does not reflect, for example, the Maimonidean attitude toward the subject; Maimonides allows–and even encourages–the individual to act. However, Ariel argues, the vast majority of the rishonim did not concur with this view, recognizing as legitimate such action only on the part of the state, and not the individual.  This is true even if study of the sources which he cites indicates a more complex study.

So, we have an accepted, minority view–held by Maimonides no less–that individuals (such as Israeli settlers) are permitted to kill civilians as a form of collective punishment.  Meanwhile, the so-called “moderate,” mainstream opinion is that this right rests with the Israeli state alone.  (Note, however, that Blidstein is hesitant to agree with Ariel’s claim that “the vast majority of the rishonim [the “classical” halakhic authorities] did not concur with this view,” arguing that the reality is much more “complex.”  What one can glean from this is that there were other rabbinical authorities of the past who permitted individual Jews to kill non-Jews, who can be quoted by the Jewish Underground types.)

It should also be pointed out in The Orthodox Forum’s annual book War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition, Rabbi Michael J. Broyde rejects Rabbi Shlomo Goren’s view that collective punishment (even against babies) is prohibited.  Indeed, Prof. Ya’akov Blidstein notes that Goren’s view was not taken seriously by other Religious Zionist rabbis because it “is not based upon Talmudic sources,” which “naturally weakens its halakhic impact and authority.”

Rabbi Shlomo Goren was the first Chief Rabbi of the IDF.  Although he had some very extreme views (such as calling it a “tragedy” that Jews did not “blow up” the Dome of the Rock Mosque and Al-Aqsa Mosque–a view held by the Jewish Underground), with regard to “collective punishment” he held the non-Talmudic view.

Yet, by Operation Cast Lead (the Gaza War) in 2009, the IDF rabbinate had shifted to the right.  The new Chief Rabbi of the IDF, Avichai Rontzki, issued statements in line with the majority view among Religious Zionists, commanding soldiers that “no mercy should be shown” to the enemy (the Gazan population).  An “IDF rabbinate publication” quoted the works of Rabbi Shlomo Aviner saying “When you show mercy to a cruel enemy, you are being cruel to pure and honest soldiers.”  To make it very clear that “the enemy” referred to here was the civilian population, the IDF publication likened the Palestinians to the Bible’s Philistines, who were exterminated to clear the land for the Jews.

When an Israeli human rights group cried foul at this IDF publication, the Israeli government scrambled to do damage control.  Naturally, their “investigation” claimed that the publication was distributed only in a few isolates places and had not been properly vetted.  Western news outlets reassured us that Rabbi Shlomo Aviner was just an “ultra-nationalist,” a fringe, radical element in Israel.

Yet, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner is not some fringe, radical element in Israel.  Instead, he is a well-respected rabbi of Modern Orthodox Judaism in Israel.  As the Jerusalem Post notes, R. Aviner “is considered one of the spiritual leaders of the Religious Zionist movement.”  The Jewish Daily Forward calls him “one of the leading Religious Zionist rabbis.”  Ynetnews, the English website of Israel’s most-read newspaper, calls him ”one of Religious Zionism’s leading rabbis.”  Haaretz calls him “a leading Yesha rabbi” and “one of religious Zionism’s most influential rabbis.”  Israel National News, part of Arutz Sheva (an Israeli media network aligned with Religious Zionism), calls Aviner “a well-respected rabbinical authority within much of the religious-Zionist sector.”

TorahMusings.com, an extremely popular blog supervised by Orthodox rabbis, says:

To place R. [Shlomo] Aviner into contemporary society, he is on the left wing of right wing Religious Zionists.

Left wing?  One can only imagine what the right wing is.  In other words, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner is perfectly in the mainstream of Religious Zionism–nay, he is one of its “spiritual leaders.”

R. Aviner is well-respected in Orthodox circles.  He has written articles that appear on many mainstream Jewish and mainstream Orthodox Jewish websites, including The Jerusalem PostOrthodox Union website (ou.com), Israel Nation News, and TorahMusings.

Aside from this, of course, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner is the rosh yeshiva (dean) of the Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva, a Religious Zionist Talmudic academy in Jerusalem that fundraisers in the United States.  It is the same institution where Rabbi Abraham Kook, the “main ideologue of modern religious Zionism,” sent his son to study.  Shlomo Aviner is also the Chief Rabbi of Beit El.  He can hardly be considered a fringe character.

Indeed, R. Shlomo Aviner moves in the same circles as the Modern Orthodox rabbis of The Orthodox Forum and the authors of War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition.  On TorahMusing’s website, we find that Rabbi Shlomo Aviner shared the same podium in New York state with none other than Rabbi Michael J. Broyde and Rabbi Norman Lamm.

Yet, when this controversy broke about the IDF’s chief rabbi using a publication with quotes from Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, Israel’s defenders in the West tried to portray R. Aviner as some “ultra-nationalist” fringe lunatic.  Yet, this is clearly misleading.  One should hardly be surprised, considering that I have found virtually the exact same views in the book written by The Orthodox Forum, which is the combined work of Orthodox Jewish experts from around the world.  The only difference, of course, is that (1) R. Aviner’s wording is more direct and frank, whereas The Orthodox Forum says the same thing but in a more “sophisticated,” intellectual way; (2) Aviner was unfortunate enough to catch the media’s attention during the Gaza controversy.  It is the latter reason that forced Israeli apologists to throw him under the bus and take one for the team.

*  *  *  *  *

What then does Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, the “left-wing” of the Religious Zionist right, argue?  He argues that “Purity of Arms” applies only to Jewish civilians.  He says on his very own website (emphasis added):

We are all for “Purity of Arms” and for saving citizen lives. But which civilians? Our civilians

Aviner concludes by saying: “They are guilty, we are not.”  He also extends “purity of arms” to Jewish soldiers (but not to Palestinian civilians).  In a question and answer section, Rabbi Aviner argues that “purity of arms” refers to protecting the lives of Jewish soldiers, not to Palestinians.  He warns: “Don’t tarnish the purity of arms with the blood of our own soldiers.”

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner writes:

 The Mechilta (halachic midrash) says “The best of the non-Jews should be killed.”

He clarifies that “this statement refers to a time of war,” at which time “even a ‘pleasant’-seeming non-Jew is killed.”  He justifies carpet bombing civilian populations, saying “it is permissible according to the Halachah based on the law of ‘rodef.’”  The entire civilian population, including children and babies, acquires the title of “rodefim” and is thus licit to kill.

Where have we heard all this before?  In fact, it is the exact same argument heard in “the contemporary halakhic discussion in Israel.”  Is it not misleading then to categorize Rabbi Shlomo Aviner’s views on this subject to be the rantings of some fringe “ultra-nationalist” extremist?  R. Aviner did not make this view out of thin air; rather, he points out that ”this is also the ruling of Ha-Rav Shaul Yisraeli in the book ‘Amud Ha-Yemini’ at the end of chap. 16.”  He is here citing the tract written by Rabbi Shaul Israeli, who justified the Qibya Massacre in 1953, in which two-thirds of the victims were women and children.   R. Israeli’s influential tract has been used to justify killing civilians from the early years following Israel’s birth all the way to the Gaza Massacre in 2008-2009.

Next: #2 Collective Punishment is Kosher (III)

The Top Five Ways Jewish Law Justifies Killing Civilians; #2: Collective Punishment is Kosher (I)

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2011 by loonwatch

(image by Carlos Latuff)

Please make sure to read my disclaimer: Why Religious Zionism, Not Judaism, Is The Problem.

Read the Introduction: Does Jewish Law Justify Killing Civilians?

Previous: #1 Civilians Are Really Combatants

As I documented in the previous article, the first way in which Jewish law justifies the targeting and killing of civilians is by classifying civilians as combatants if they indirectly take part in the war effort–even if by “mere words.”

But what about civilians who neither directly or indirectly participate in the war effort?  Surely they will be protected, right?

Not so.

Jewish law permits targeting civilians who “passively” support the war effort.  A “hostile civilian population” is guilty of “passive” support if they fail to root out the combatants/terrorists living in their midst.  If the city’s population does not do this, then they are all liable to be killed–including women, children, and babies.

In War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition, the highly esteemed rabbi and professor Michael J. Broyde finds support for collective punishment in the Bible: on page 6, he cites the story of the Rape of Dina.  Dina is raped by a man named Shekhem, and the entire city of Shekhem is put to the sword for this crime.  (The rapist, Shekhem, has the same name as the city he lives in.)  Broyde quotes Maimonides as saying that “the inhabitants of Shekhem [the city] were liable to be killed since Shekhem [the person] stole [Dina], and the inhabitants saw and knew this and did nothing.”

Rabbi Broyde reflects on this story by saying:

Consequently, if one is in a situation where innocent people are being killed by terrorist acts that cannot be stopped by catching the perpetators themselves, and those terrorists are supported by a civilian population that passively protects them and does not condemn them, collective punishment might well be permitted by Jewish law.

Broyde permits the “collective punishment of vast segments of society for the active misconduct of the few.”  In other words, civilian populations are “liable to be killed” if terrorists commit “active misconduct” and they [“the inhabitants”] “saw and knew this but did nothing.”  If the civilian population does “not condemn them [the terrorists],” then they [the civilians] can be killed.

Rabbi Broyde invokes the views of two of the most authoritative rabbinical authorities in Jewish history, Maimonides and Nahmanides.  Broyde notes: “Both share the basic approach of permitting collective punishment.”  He writes on p.6: “Maimonides rules that…all members of society may be punished,” and on p.7 that Nahmanides would “permit regulations that include collective punishment.”

This view, justifying collective punishment, is promoted within the first few pages of the book War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition.  Prof. David Shatz writes on p.xiv of the Introduction that “Jewish sources present a view of jus in bello [conduct of war] that is more permissive than many secular accounts,” and that Jewish law permits

imposing collective punishment on vast segments of an enemy society in response to the misconduct of a few, as could happen when terrorist perpetrators escape capture.

He goes on to say that “the Jewish polity may licitly embark on hostilities in a way that might involve causing civilian deaths.”  This allowance is beyond just collateral damage–which, under Jewish law, is a given–and encompasses civilian populations that are targeted as punishment for “passively” supporting terrorism.  This “passive” support is also to be understood differently than “indirectly” supporting terrorism (“material support”).  Passive support refers to mere inaction: if the PLO and the rest of the Palestinians cannot stop terrorists from firing rockets, then they are all guilty and can be killed via collective punishment–including women, children, and babies.

*  *  *  *  *

This view is supported by Torah MiTzion, the national and international Religious Zionist movement that promotes Torah study with service in the Israel Defense Forces, providing a “generation of Religious Zionism, balancing between safra v’sayfa (book and sword).”  In an article entitled Jewish Law in Our Times, the legal adviser of the group asks rhetorically “Can Collective Punishment Against Fighters and Citizens Be Justified?”, a question which he answers in the affirmative, saying:

Whenever a battle is waged by one nation against another, there is no need to differentiate between one person and another, even if many members of that nation do not actually take part in the actual fighting.

The author goes on to say that “if we are faced with a situation defined as war, there is no obligation to differentiate between fighter and citizen.”  The principle of discrimination simply does not apply in times of war.  This is especially true “because the State of Israel has been in a perpetual state of (halachically defined) war ever since its inception.”  He then quotes the esteemed Netziv (Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin) who said that a person is only punished for spilling blood

at a time when it is otherwise appropriate to act with brotherhood [peacetime]. But this is not the case during war, when it is a time to hate. Then it is a time to kill and there is no punishment whatsoever for so doing, because this is the way of the world.

*  *  *  *  *

As I discussed earlier, Rabbi Shaul Israeli’s “thoughtful article” is hearkened as “the starting point” for discussion of “war-related topics” in the Jewish religion; in it, R. Israeli uses a complex religio-legal argument to justify collective punishment.  He invokes the Jewish law of din rodef–the law of the pursuer–which basically says that if a person is chasing you trying to kill you, you can kill him first.  It stands to reason, therefore, that a bystander could also kill the rodef (pursuer) as well, in order to save your life.  In fact, it may even be considered obligatory to do so.  This religious law is used to justify killing civilians by transforming entire civilian populations into rodefim [pursuers].

In The Treatment of Hostile Civilian Populations: The Contemporary Halakhic Discussion in Israel, Prof. Ya’acov Blidstein notes the trend in halakhic circles to use “the definition of a hostile population as a rodef [pursuer], direct or indirect.”  Blidstein notes:

There is also a tendency in contemporary halakhah to categorize as rodef a population that is “supportive and encouraging” of hostile, murderous actions.

Once dutifully transformed into rodef, the entire civilian population becomes licit, or even mandatory, to kill.  This justification was given for the Qibya Massacre, in which 69 Palestinians were slaughtered (of which two-thirds were women and children).  Writes Blidstein:

In his essay, Rabbi [Shaul] Yisraeli argues that a group of civilians, such as the residents of Qibia, who were notorious for their support and encouragement of terrorist acts, are likewise to be treated as rodefim [pursuers].

He goes on to say:

Rabbi Yisraeli concludes from this that even those citizens who support and encourage acts of terror, for example, are considered rodefim, and one may deal with them in kind.  In so ruling, however, he has offered many people a very far-reaching justification for aggressive treatment of civilian populations…[He] is speaking of people who provide the murderer with support and encouragement, but do not take an active, directly conspiratorial part in the act itself.

He is also speaking of those who give “passive support” to terrorism, i.e. doing nothing other than happening to live in the same city as the terrorists.  Unless you actively hand over the terrorists or their names to the Israeli authorities, it is assumed that you are guilty–you are a rodef–as well.

*  *  *  *  *

Instead of protecting civilians from the killers, Jewish law seeks to protect the killers of civilians (by shielding them from prosecution). Prof. Ya’acov Blidstein entitles one sub-section of his article as “Protection of the Aggressor,” in which he discusses this disturbing issue.  Once the civilian population has been deemed rodefem, Jewish soldiers may kill them and are to be protected from all prosecution for doing so.  This is because the rodef–in this case the civilian population–is legally considered a “dead man” and their “blood is like water.”  Therefore, lethal force may be used, even when less than that may have sufficed. Writes Blidstein:

One who deliberately kills the rodef is in any event exempt from punishment by the court because the “pursuer” is defined as gavra katila–an individual who is already considered as if dead in a legal sense…

Rabbi [Shaul] Yisraeli follows a similar line in his article on the Qibia incident, but arrives at a more far-reaching conclusion, equating the license granted the bystander with that of the person threatened.  Not only is the bystander who kills the pursuer (when he could have used less lethal means) exempt from punishment; he is allowed to behave in such a manner ab initio [from the beginning]. “…When he [the rodef] has been warned and continues to pursue…there is no rule at all requiring one to take care to use non-lethal means, for then [spilling] his blood is permitted, and one may kill him by virtue of the rule, that his blood is like water.”

In times of war, Halakha accepts collective punishment as acceptable, even when applied to the “innocent child.”  Writes Prof. Blidstein:

Behavior in war, according to Rabbi [Ya’akov] Ariel, is based upon the collective identity of the members of the participating nations.  In this organic view, even the innocent child is an organ of the greater body of the nation.  Thus, one waging war against this body is allowed to harm the child as well, just as the fighting body may itself demand of all its organs that they devote themselves to the war effort.  This argument dismisses the question of the personal innocence of the one injured–on one side or the other–as irrelevant.

Rabbi Ya’akov Ariel reasoned:

Just as in a personal struggle…it is your right to protect yourself by striking the soft belly [of the aggressor]…so in war against the collective, you may strike those organs of the [enemy] nation that seem [appropriate] to you, in order to prevent a strike on the part of other organs.

The civilians of the enemy nation (including children and babies) become licit to kill, just as “the Biblical Simeon and Levi killed all of the inhabitants of Shechem (Gen. 34), including those who had nothing to do with the rape of Dinah.”

On p.24 of War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition, Rabbi Broyde writes of Rabbi Ariel:

War is the collective battle of societies, R. Ariel posits, and thus there are no innocent civilians, even babes in their mothers’ arms are to be killed, as harsh as that sounds. [96]

In footnote 96, Broyde gives his view, agreeing with the statement but limiting the right of killing “innocent civilians, even babes in their mothers’ arms” to the [Israeli] government.  Here is footnote 96, found on page 40:

96.  R. Yaakov Ariel, “Haganah Atzmit (ha-intifida ba-halakhah),” Tehumin 10:62-75 (1991).  He basis his view on the famous comments of the Maharal on the biblical incident of Shekhem, which defend the killing of the innocent civilians in that conflict along such a rationale.  R. Shlomo Goren, “Combat Morality and the Halakhah,” Crossroads 1:211-231 (1987) comes to the opposite conclusion.  See also the article of R. Yoezer Ariel (brother of Yaakov Ariel), who also reaches a different conclusion; R. Yoezer Ariel, “Ha’onashat Nokhrim,” Tehumin 5:350-363 (1979).  In this writer’s view, R. Yoezer Ariel’s paper correctly distinguishes between individual and national goals in this matter.

As can be garnered from Broyde’s own words, R. Yoezer Ariel agrees with his brother R. Ya’akov Ariel in principle, permitting targeting and killing innocent civilians (including children and even babies).  He does, however, limit this right to the government (the Israeli state), not to individuals (such as Israeli settlers).  This is the most popular view among Religious Zionists: the Israeli state is allowed to impose collective punishment, targeting and killing “hostile civilian populations.”

Should we call these views representative of The Halakha (Jewish law), just as Zionist Islamophobes insist on categorizing one particular interpretation of Islamic law as The Sharia?  Should we smear all of Judaism because of such views, just as Zionist Islamophobes would smear all of Islam for the views of Radical and Ultra-Conservative Muslims?

Note: Page II of “Collective Punishment is Kosher” will be published within 24-72 hours…

The Top Five Ways Jewish Law Justifies Killing Civilians; #1: Civilians Are Really Combatants

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 12, 2011 by loonwatch

(image by Carlos Latuff)

Please make sure to read my disclaimer: Why Religious Zionism, Not Judaism, Is The Problem.

Read the Introduction: Does Jewish Law Justify Killing Civilians?

The first way in which Jewish law justifies targeting and killing civilians lies at the very heart of the issue.  The starting point of the just war theory (and international law) in regards to jus in bello (just conduct during war) revolves around the definition of combatant and civilian.  Jewish law (Halakha), as understood by mainstream Modern Orthodox Judaism in Israel, utilizes very different definitions for these two words.

International law, as enshrined in the Geneva Conventions, narrowly defines combatants as those who take direct part in hostilities of an armed conflict.  The T.M.C. Asser instituut in The Hague notes:

Article 3 [of the Fourth Geneva Convention] indicates that during non-international armed conflicts the persons who enjoy protection against the various forms of violence and infringement mentioned are ‘[p]ersons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention or any other cause…’

Similarly, the following groups are protected under international law:

…medical officers, corpsmen, chaplains, contractors, civilian war correspondents and armed forces personnel who are unable to engage in combat because of wounds, sickness, shipwreck or capture (ie. POWs)…

In essence, “direct participation in hostilities” refers to using a weapon.  This is the fundamental underpinning of international law with regard to distinction and protection of civilians.

Jewish law, on the other hand, deems anyone who indirectly ”participates” in the hostilities to be a combatant and therefore fair game.  Those who ”materially contribute to the war effort” can be licitly targeted and killed.  On p.xvii of War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition, Prof. David Shatz writes:

[Rabbi Michael] Broyde also raises the issue of who is a combatant.  In his view, Halakha maintains that anyone who materially contributes to the war effort is a combatant and thus a fair target.

Based on this “definition,” the modern-day state of Israel takes a very expansive view of “combatant,” legitimizing the targeting and killing of Palestinian civilians.  We clearly see an example of the great latitude taken in this regard by modern-day Jewish religious authorities in the case of the Qibya Massacre.  Rabbi Shaul Israeli, considered  “one of the most important rabbis of the Religious Zionist school of thought,” penned one of the most influential monographs on this subject, entitled “The Qibia Incident in Light of Halakhah.”  In it, he legitimized indiscriminate violence against civilians.  This tract, as we shall see, has defined the Religious Zionist view towards the issue of distinction.

The esteemed rabbi and professor Michael J. Broyde writes on p.22 [note: all citations are from War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition, unless otherwise indicated]:

Indeed, the earliest modern discussion of this topic was presented by R. Shaul Israeli in 1954 in response to the killing of civilians by Israel Defense Forces Unit 101 at Kibia (Qibya) in 1953.  R. Israeli argues that civilians who conspire to assist in the undertaking of military operations can be killed through the pursuer rationale, as they are materially aiding the murderers.

He continues:

Indeed, R. Israeli goes even further, and seems to adopt the view that those who simply extend support to terror–by encouraging acts of violence with mere words–can be labeled combatants as well.  This is not, R. Israeli posits, any form of collective punishment, as only people who are guilty (whether of murder or conspiracy to commit murder) are actually being punished.

The reference to “the killing of civilians by Israel Defense Forces Unit 101 at Kibia (Qibya) in 1953″ refers to the Qibya Massacre, in which sixty-nine Arabs were slaughtered–of which two-thirds were women and children.  Prof. Avi Shlaim, a prominent Israeli historian at Oxford University, writes on p.91 of The Iron Wall:

[Acting defence minister Pinhas] Lavon’s order was executed by Unit 101, a small commando unit created in August to carry out special tasks. Unit 101 was commanded by an aggressive and ambitious young major named Ariel (“Arik”) Sharon.  Sharon’s order was to penetrate Qibya, blow up houses, and inflict heavy casualties on its inhabitants.  The full and macabre story of what happened at Qibya was revealed only during the morning after the attack.  The village had been reduced to a pile of rubble: forty-five houses had been blown up, and sixty-nine civilians, two-thirds of them women and children, had been killed.  Sharon and his men claimed that they believed that all the inhabitants had run away and that they had no idea that anyone was hiding inside the houses.  The UN observer who inspected the scene reached a different conclusion: ”One story was repeated time after time: the bullet splintered door, the body sprawled across the threshold, indicating that the inhabitants had been forced by heavy fire to stay inside until their homes were blown up over them.”

There are too many issues to comment on here.  There is the obvious inhumanity and depravity of the IDF–the Most Moral Army in the World™–firing upon civilians to keep them in their houses and then blowing up those houses on top of them.  Prof. Martin E. Marty writes on p.286 of Fundamentalisms Observed that, in the context of war, Halakha would indeed permit tactics “such as blowing up homes of parents of Arabs who harm Jews.”

What is truly amazing, however, is that this scenario–the Israelis blowing up and bulldozing Palestinian homes–is a pattern repeated throughout Israel’s short history.  All this was done to terrorize the Palestinian population, in order to get more Palestinians to flee their homes to make way for Israeli settlers.  This perfectly fits the quintessential definition of terrorism, yet all we ever hear about is Hamas this or Hamas that.

Then, there is the fact that the war criminal responsible for carrying out this massacre, Ariel Sharon, would later be elected Israel’s prime minister.  Such is the moral state of the modern day state of Israel–war criminals and terrorists are voted into power.  One continually hears about how evil the Palestinians are for voting in Hamas to power, while hearing almost nothing about how Israelis have routinely voted terrorists and war criminals into office.

Another interesting thing to comment on is that discussions of Ariel Sharon and Israel’s war crimes focus on events such as the Sabra and Shatila Massacre, in which Israel only played a support role.  It is my opinion that the focus on the Sabra and Shatila Massacre is a mechanism that deflects attention away from those massacres that were directly carried out by Israeli soldiers.  There are countless such instances, so why the emphasis on Sabra and Shatila?

In any case, it was following the Qibya Massacre that Rabbi Shaul Israeli published a monograph entitled “The Qibia Incident in Light of Halakhah,” which articulated the halakhist view towards the targeting and killing of “hostile civilian populations.”  It was reprinted with some expansions under the title “Military Actions for the Protection of the State” in chapter 16 of Amud ha’Yamini.  This work has had lasting influence in modern halakhic discussions in Israel, and came to form the majority view of the Religious Zionist movement, which is the dominant form of Orthodox Judaism in Israel.  On p.32 of War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition, Rabbi Michael Broyde refers to Rabbi Shaul Israeli’s article as a “thoughtful article” that is “the starting point” for such discussions. Commenting on a vast collection of Jewish articles on “war-related issues,” Broyde notes that “the overwhelming number of [them] agree with the starting point of R. Israeli.”

But perhaps we ought to look at a dissenting opinion to see what is contained in Rabbi Shaul’s tract.  Prof. Ya’acov Blidstein published an article entitled The Treatment of Hostile Civilian Populations: The Contemporary Halakhic Discussion in Israel in which he criticizes R. Israeli’s view, saying:

[Rabbi Shaul] Yisraeli develops a systematic and extensive discussion concerning the issue of the attitude to be taken toward a hostile civilian population that supports and encourages violent, murderous acts.

He notes that Rabbi Israeli legalized the killing of entire civilian populations “for their support and encouragement of terrorist acts,” instead of just those actually involved in terrorist acts. ”People who provide the murderer with support and encouragement, but do not take an active, directly conspiratorial part in the act itself” are licit to kill.  Therefore, “‘supportive and encouraging’ civilian population[s]” become “combatants” and can be killed en masse.

Prof. Blidstein notes that “the exact meaning of the terms ‘encourage’ and/or ‘support’” are left wide open.  That the state of Israel takes the widest possible meaning is apparent by the incident in which the view itself was first articulated by R. Israeli: in the Qibya Massacre, “two-thirds of them [were] women and children.”  How children and babies can be guilty of “encouragement and support” of terrorism and be licitly killed by the Israeli military is as much a mystery to me as the Canaanite or Amalekite children and babies being killed in the Bible for the “crime of idolatry.”

Blidstein concludes:

It seems to me that the general direction revealed here is quite clear.  Most of the authors surveyed read the halakhic sources in a manner that allows for extremely forceful action toward various Arab populations, whether these populations encourage and support hostile activity, or only have Arab ethnic identity.

He notes ruefully:

We have also encountered authors who attempted to limit this tendency, but these seem to be less than fully effective in their treatment, and are, within the school surveyed, in a minority.

Prof. Blidstein says his “general thesis” is

that there is a tendency in this school [Religious Zionism] to legitimate more aggressive activity against the civilian population, and to read rather narrowly those restrictions intended to limit and circumscribe such activity.

The fast and loose way in which Israel strips non-combatants of their protected civilian status is very disturbing.  Here, we have the justification of a brutal massacre of 69 civilians of which two-thirds were women and children–an act of state terrorism in its purest form–based on the claim that these were “civilians who conspire[d] to assist the undertaking of military operations”–those who supposedly “simply extend[ed] support to terror–by encourag[ing] acts of violence with mere words.”  In reality, however, there is no way to reasonably determine even this much, and it is simply assumed that the civilians “encouraged and supported” terrorism.

The truth is that the state of Israel routinely strips civilians of their protected status by claiming that they “materially contribute[d] to the war effort.”  This is a very easy charge to levy, requiring very little proof and certainly the issue of proof becomes moot when the civilians have already been killed.  It is especially convenient considering that most indigenous populations indirectly support resistance movements against the occupiers, and the Palestinians can hardly be expected to be different in this regard.

By this all-encompassing definition of combatant, the American women factory workers during World War II who produced parts for planes and tanks would be classified as “combatants” and become licit to kill.  By this definition, American journalists who wrote in support of the war against Nazi Germany would become “combatants” and become fair game.  The millions of American citizens who bought war bonds would similarly become “combatants.”  When we apply this standard to ourselves, it seems truly unthinkable, immoral, and evil.  But when we apply it to Palestinians, it becomes something acceptable.

*  *  *  *  *

To be fair, Israeli apologists from “liberal, secular” Judaism voice similar ideas.  Case in point: Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who is one of Israel’s greatest defenders from the “liberal, secular” spectrum of the Jewish faith.  Dershowitz is credited as being “Israel’s single most visible defender” and “the Jewish state’s lead attorney in the court of public opinion.”

One would hope that as a law professor and self-professed liberal Alan Dershowitz would adhere to international law by respecting the idea of distinction and protection of civilians.  Unfortunately, one would be quickly disabused of such a notion by reading Dershowitz’s writings.  He argues that the word civilian is “increasingly meaningless.”  Dr. Norman Finkelstein documents Dershowitz’s morally repugnant ideas on p.xvi of Beyond Chutzpah:

The main target of Dershowitz’s “reassessment of the laws of war” has been the fundamental distinction in the laws of armed conflict between civilians and combatants.  “The preservation of this sharp dichotomy,” Yoram Dinstein has written [a world-renowned expert on international law and the laws of war], “is the main bulwark against methods of barbarism in modern warfare.”  However, ridiculing what he deems the “increasingly meaningless word ‘civilian’” and asserting that, in the case of terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, “‘civilianality’ is often a matter of degree, rather than a bright line,” Dershowitz proposes to replace the civilian-combatant dichotomy with a “continuum of civilianality”:

Near the most civilian end of this continuum are the pure innocents–babies, hostages and others completely uninvolved; at the more combatant end are civilians who willingly harbor terrorists, provide material resources and serve as human shields; in the middle are those who support the terrorists politically, or spiritually.  [189]

[189] He goes so far as to suggest that combatants might deserve more solicitude than civilians in time of war, depending on “the precise nature of the civilian’s ‘civilianality.’” (Preemption, p.247)

Prof. Alan Dershowitz is but one voice in a pro-Israeli movement trying to “revise” international law in order to strip civilians of their protected status (more on this later).  By “revising” the definition of “civilian” to include those who provide “indirect” assistance to the war effort–or who “materially support” the war (even if by “mere words”)–these pro-Israeli defenders are taking a sledgehammer to international law.

One can imagine the absolute outrage if the shoe was on the other foot–if pro-Palestinian groups were justifying the targeting of Israeli civilians for their “material support” of the war effort and military occupation.  If, in the words of these Orthodox Jewish authors, “mere words” in support of the combatants stripped civilians of their protected status–or if, in the words of the “liberal, secular” Jewish law professor Alan Dershowitz, “politically[] or spiritually” supporting the war effort reduced one’s “civilianality”–then the majority of the Israeli population would no longer be considered purely civilian; in that case, wouldn’t Hamas or Hezbollah be legitimated in targeting and killing them?

But as Dr. Finkelstein notes on p.xvii, Dershowitz “imagines that this revision won’t apply to Israel because ‘the line between Israeli soldiers and civilians is relatively clear.’”  Finkelstein asks:

But is this true?  Israel has a civilian army, which means a mere call-up slip or phone call separates each adult Israeli male from a combatant.

As Finkelstein quips presciently on p.xviii, “it remains to consider Dershowitz’s own location on the continuum of civilianality.”  Wouldn’t being “Israel’s single most visible defender” constitute providing “material support” to Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinians?  Using the elusive and expansive word “material support” one is able to strip most civilians of their protected status.

During the Gaza War, in which Israel massacred scores of civilians, the Israelis used this “extended definition” of “combatant.”  Amos Guiora, who served as a military lawyer in Israel for 19 years, wrote:

Israel declared war on an organisation [Hamas], and by extension on all those involved in that organization – active and passive alike.

Prof. Alan Dershowitz is certainly correct about one thing: Israel’s apologists, from the Orthodox Jewish to secular sectors, have successfully rendered the word civilian “increasingly meaningless.”  By extending combatant status to civilians who “indirectly” contribute to the war effort, the Israeli state is able to justify killing civilians whenever it wants: wherever Israeli rockets land, there is a Palestinian terrorist.  Ergo, Israel never targets anyone but terrorists.

The principle of distinction and protection of civilians is the basis for war ethics under international law: could it be said then that Jewish law is fundamentally at odds with the just war theory?  Wouldn’t this be the conclusion our anti-Muslim Zionist opponents would arrive at if this were about Islam?

Next: The Top Five Ways Jewish Law Justifies Killing Civilians; #2 Collective Punishment is Kosher (I)

Why Religious Zionism, Not Judaism, Is The Problem

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 10, 2011 by loonwatch

This is my disclaimer to the series entitled Does Jewish Law Justify Killing Civilians?

Pro-Israeli pundits often argue that they have a problem with “Islamism,” which they define as the politicization of the religion of Islam.  Prof. Jeffrey Herf of the University of Maryland clarifies, for example, that he doesn’t have a problem with Islam but with “Islamism,” a religio-political ideology enjoining Muslims to reestablish the pan-Islamic Caliphate.

If pro-Israeli propagandists insist that “political Islam”–which they call Islamism–is the problem, then in a similar vein am I arguing that Religious Zionismnot Judaism, is the problem.  It is the mixing of the political ideology Zionism with Judaism that I criticize.  I believe criticizing Judaism en toto would be Anti-Semitic.  Judaism, without the infusion of Zionism into it, is–in my opinion–a wonderful religion.  I believe it would be absolutely detestable to take my criticisms of Religious Zionism and use them to justify vilifying Judaism as a whole.

*  *  *  *  *

The dangers of falling into Anti-Semitism are very real.  Historically, Anti-Semitism has been a major problem, and it continues to be in some parts of the world today.  One of the primary ways in which Anti-Semites unfairly targeted Jews was to vilify Halakha, digging up intolerant views in the rabbinical tradition to smear Judaism with.

But herein lies an irony: many Zionist Jews are now joining Anti-Muslim Christians in vilifying the Islamic tradition in a very similar way.  Once Halakha was the target of bigots; today, it is Sharia.  Rabbi Eliyahu Stern has written an excellent article about this topic, entitled Don’t Fear Islamic Law in America.

I will be applying the same standards our opponents apply to the Islamic tradition to the Jewish one, to show that Judaism is equally vulnerable to such criticisms.  It is hoped that this exercise will encourage people of Judeo-Christian background to be more hesitant in vilifying and targeting Islam.  This is purely an exercise in thought, a what if scenario (what if we applied the same standards to your religion as you do onto others?) designed to be the antidote to religious and cultural arrogance.

By clarifying that this constitutes an “exercise in thought” one should know that I am not saying Judaism is XYZ because of ABC, but rather simply that if you insist on arguing that Islam is XYZ due to ABC then–based on your own logic–Judaism and Christianity are also XYZ because they too have ABC.  This is a what if? and an if-then argument.

*  *  *  *  *

This is not to say, however, that religion has nothing to do with the matter.  I am extremely critical of Religious Zionism, which has a very real and deleterious impact in world affairs.  Religious Zionists are now among the most influential voices in Israel’s hawkish right-wing, using religion to justify even more regressive policies towards the Palestinians.  Dr. Claudia Baumgart notes in Democracy, Diversity, and Conflict: Religious Zionism and Israeli Foreign Policy that Religious Zionism “started to play a major role” in Israeli foreign policy by the late 1960′s.  Today, its impact is absolutely pernicious.

Religious Zionism went even further than secular Zionism, declaring the settlement of Palestinian land–all of Palestine–a mitzvah, a religious obligation under Jewish law.  While it may be possible to convince secular Zionists of the need for a two-state solution, this is not possible with Religious Zionists who believe it is forbidden in their religion–nay, it is a blasphemy of the highest order and greatest magnitude–to cede even one inch of Eretz Israel to the Palestinians.  This is why Religious Zionism is a major impediment to peace in the region.

Much like how Radical and Ultra-Conservative Islam is a problem (“Islamists” as some incorrectly say), so too is Religious Zionism a major problem.  I agree with Dr. Baumgart’s assessment that “religion is not an independent cause of conflict in and between states.  But it can be an important intervening variable…”  In other words, Religious Zionism did not independently and all by itself create the problem of Israeli oppression of Palestinians, but it certainly is one important causative factor among a myriad of others.

This is of course not much different than my view of Radical and Ultra-Conservative Islam.  Some critics may assume that I do not think Radical and Ultra-Conservative Islam are part of the problem–that only American and Israeli foreign policy are to blame.  This is incorrect: I believe that terrorism is the result of a myriad of factors, and although American and Israeli neo-colonialism certainly tops the list, Radical and Ultra-Conservative Islam plays an important role as well.

Criticism of Religious Zionism should not tarnish Judaism as a whole no more than criticism of Radical and Ultra-Conservative Islam should tarnish Islam as a whole.  One should stay clear of the bigotry that would compel oneself to smear an entire faith for the actions of a particular strand of a religion.

*  *  *  *  *

My need to criticize Religious Zionism is also founded on the link between Zionism and Islamophobia. Pro-Israeli apologists are often anti-Muslim; conversely, anti-Muslim bigots are almost invariably pro-Israeli. In fact, Islamophobes fanatically support the state of Israel, which they see as the embodiment of the Crusader state in the heartland of the infidel Muslim world.  Meanwhile, Israelis see the Islamophobes as useful to their cause against their Muslim foes.  Often, however, there is no distinction between the two: Zionist Islamophobes form a large chunk of the anti-Muslim camp.  Pamela Geller, an extremist Zionist Islamophobe, is a case in point.  In light of this, it is important to hold Religious Zionism to the same standard that these Zionists/Islamophobes so mirthfully apply to Islam.

*  *  *  *  *

One may quite reasonably criticize my choice of title, “The Top Five Ways Jewish Law Justifies Killing Civilians:” after all, it does not make it clear that I am herein criticizing the Halakha of Religious Zionists, not of all Jews.  This is acceptable criticism, which I agree with in principle.

However, remember that this article series is a “thought exercise:” the entire purpose is to show how Judaism and Christianity could not possibly live up to the high standards anti-Muslim Jews and Christians insist on applying to Islam.  Our Islamophobic opponents certainly do not differentiate between different interpretations of Sharia.  They take Radical and/or Ultra-Conservative interpretations of Islamic law as The Sharia.  Likewise, I will take the Orthodox Jewish interpretation of Halakha–as understood by “mainstream” Modern Orthodoxy–to be The Halakha.  Then, we will see how much anti-Muslim Jews and Christians like it.  How will Pamela Geller respond to holding her religious faith up to the same standards she insists upon for Islam?

*  *  *  *  *

Having said all of this, the primary reason I chose to speak about Halakha is that it is our opponents themselves who invoked the comparison between the supposedly peaceful Judeo-Christian tradition on the one hand and the supposedly warlike Islamic tradition on the other.  This argument–that the modern-day Judeo-Christian interpretations are overwhelmingly peaceful, whereas those of Islam are warlike–is raised by both the King and Queen of Islamophobia, Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller.

Robert Spencer’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) invokes this comparison multiple times.  For example, he says on p.31:

When modern-day Jews and Christians read their Bibles, they simply don’t interpret the passages cited as exhorting them to violent action against unbelievers. This is due to the influence of centuries of interpretive traditions that have moved away from literalism regarding these passages. But in Islam, there is no comparable interpretive tradition. The jihad passages in the Qur’an are anything but a dead letter.

Meanwhile, the Queen of Islamophobia published a letter by David Yerushalmi which said:

[T]he historical comparison between the response to sharia in this country and Europe’s objection to Jewish law centuries earlier is a result of poor scholarship and faulty logic.  Jewish law, certainly since the destruction of the Jewish Commonwealth almost two thousand years ago, has had nothing to do with political power or the desire to effect dominion over another people. 

To the contrary, the opposition to sharia is the fact that throughout the Muslim world, sharia is the call to an exclusive Islamic political power with hegemonic designs (see the two most prominent surveys cited here: http://mappingsharia.com/?page_id=425).  The war doctrine of jihad is part and parcel of sharia.  It is alive and well as such throughout the Muslim world.

Therefore, I am left no choice but to compare Islamic understandings of religious law to their Jewish counterparts.  This comparison was foisted upon me by my opponents.  There is no way to disabuse the King and Queen of Islamophobia (and their loyal subjects) of their claims except to respond in the way I am.

Naturally, “bystanders” will be caught in the crossfire.  Good-hearted, fellow Jews may be offended by such an article series that takes such a critical look at Jewish law.  This is why I explained my absolute reluctance to go down this path in my opening disclaimer.  But, the constant barrage of Islamophobic polemics, encouraged by Israeli activists, convinces me that this is something unavoidable.  Thus it is so, that with a grudging heart, I proceed forth.

*  *  *  *  *

Update I:

It is true that Ultra-Orthodox Judaism within Israel is just as disquieting as Modern Orthodox Judaism (as I will show in a follow-up article). This is due to their unthinking acceptance of Zionist ideology.  On the other hand, those Ultra-Orthodox Jews who forcefully reject Zionism, such as the Neturei Karta, do not justify Israel’s killing of Palestinian civilians.  Perhaps then it would be more appropriate to say that Zionism, not just Religious Zionism, is the problem.  Once again, however, it should be stressed that it is the mixing of a racist political ideology with religion that is to be condemned, not the religion itself.

Update II:

A reader who posts under the user name “Just Stopping By” gave some valid criticism in the comments section, arguing that it would be too broad a generalization to categorize all Religious Zionism as one way–that dissenting opinions do exist.  Admittedly, this article series does deal in some generalizations, but these are acceptable, I think, in the context of this being a “thought exercise.”  One could, for example, hardly expect Islamophobes to recognize that even in Ultra-Conservative Islam there exists nuance.

Having said that, it is fair criticism–especially in an article intended to be a disclaimer and explanation of my viewpoints–that I should recognize the existence of a spectrum of views in Religious Zionism, instead of viewing it as one rigid monolith.  This I readily admit, even though I of course disagree with Religious Zionism as a whole, just as I do Ultra-Conservative Islam.

Update III:

Two additional points need to be addressed here: the first is my choice to use Carlos Latuff’s artwork.  I was unfamiliar with him until I started searching for images to use in my article series, and realized that I’ve used one of his images in the past (without properly accrediting him).  My use of some of his cartoons should not be seen as an endorsement of his political views, which are not very clear to me.  One can only speculate what a cartoonist’s political views are based on his comics.  The images I chose are very applicable to the article series, and that is why I used them.  Nothing more, nothing less.  To give credit where credit is due, I do think Carlos Latuff is a very gifted artist and political cartoonist.

I have seen accusations against him by pro-Israeli apologists that he is an Anti-Semite.  These do not seem to be anything other than the typical Israeli tactic of accusing Israel’s critics of Anti-Semitism in order to vilify and silence them.  One critic claimed that Latuff uses images of “hook-nosed Jews.”  However, this seems baseless to me: notice the perfectly normal nose of the Israeli soldier below.  One could hardly expect a critic of Israel’s war crimes to portray IDF soldiers as anything but evil.  This hardly amounts to Anti-Semitism.  Would these pro-Israeli apologists desire political cartoonists to draw Israeli soldiers with roses coming out of their butts?

The second accusation I have seen against him is that his cartoons use the Star of David.  However, he explained to the Guardian:

Part of the supposed ‘evidence’ for my antisemitism is the fact that I’ve used the Star of David, which is a symbol of Judaism . . . But check all my artworks – you’ll find that the Star of David is never drawn alone. It’s always part of the Israeli flag. Yes, it’s a religious motif, but in Israel it has been applied to a state symbol; and it’s the institutions of the state – the politicians and the army – that I’m targeting. Including the flag of Israel in a cartoon is no more an attack on Judaism than including the flag of Turkey would be an attack on Islam.

The tactic of smearing critics of Israel with the “Anti-Semitic” slur is perfectly pictured by Latuff himself:

I do think some of Latuff’s comics may be over the top and are beyond my comfort level, such as this depiction of an Israeli soldier, which is not Anti-Semitic but just too hyperbolic for me.  One can understand that an artist might want to push the boundaries and invoke strong reactions from his work.  In any case, do I have to agree with every single one of a political cartoonist’s comics before I can reproduce any of them?

The other issue is my reliance on Dr. Norman Finkelstein’s work.  He is one of the world’s leading experts of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and it thus seems obvious why I would draw on his writings.  Despite my deep respect for his scholarship and his person, I must however issue a clear disclaimer distancing myself from his equivocation in response to a question about Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli civilians.  I categorically reject all attacks targeting civilians, no matter who does them.  After all, my entire article series is designed to point out the hypocrisy of anti-Muslim Jews and Christians who condemn Muslims for what they themselves endorse (i.e. the targeting and killing of civilians).  If I would condone such terror attacks, this would be another layer of hypocrisy.

Along these lines, I might as well also state my views on Hamas and Hezbollah, since pro-Israeli apologists and Islamophobes use this as a sort of litmus test to silence opposition (DO YOU CONDEMN HAMAS?  DO YOU?).  Let it be known then that I condemn and reject Hamas and Hezbollah.  Although I recognize the right of the Palestinian people to defend their land and resist occupation (to deny them this right while accepting the right of the occupying power to “defend itself” is the height of colonialist mentality), under no circumstances–none whatsoever–is one allowed to target and kill civilians.  Even if Hamas and Hezbollah were to categorically renounce such tactics (and back up their words with actions), I would still not support these groups, which–like the Israeli and Jewish groups I will discuss–hold extremist religious views.

This does not mean that I do not “understand” why some occupied Palestinians would resort to such tactics.  (One cannot say the same for Israelis, who are the occupiers.)  “Understand” here is to be understood in the sense that one “understands” why a criminal was led to a life of crime due to an abused childhood.  This “understanding” does not equate to condoning, accepting, or justifying.

The desire to support Hamas and Hezbollah is born out of emotionalism, not principled ethics.  Many Muslims feel the need to side with “the Muslim side,” just as many Jews feel compelled to support “the Jewish state.”  I do not support groups or states, but rather ethics and principles.  Groups and states will always let you down; ethics and principles won’t.

Does Jewish Law Justify Killing Civilians?

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2011 by loonwatch

Islamophobes like Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller claim that Islam is more violent than other religions, particularly Judaism and Christianity.  To prove this, they argue that the Islamic holy book, the Islamic prophet, and the Islamic God are all uniquely violent–certainly more so than their Judeo-Christian counterparts.

We proved these claims completely bunk by showing the Bible to be far more violent than the Quran, the Biblical prophets to be far more violent than the Prophet Muhammad, and Yahweh of the Bible to be far more violent than Allah of the Quran.  (See parts 123456-i, 6-ii, 6-iii, 6-iv78, 9-i, and 9-ii of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series.)

Instead of defending their initial claim (which they simply cannot), the Islamophobes quickly shift gears and rely on a fallback argument: they argue that “the Bible doesn’t actively exhort its believers to commit acts of violence, unlike the Quran.”  I refuted this argument in part 6 (see 6-i6-ii6-iii6-iv) in an article entitled The Bible’s Prescriptive, Open-Ended, and Universal Commandments to Wage Holy War and Enslave Infidels.

Once that argument goes to the wayside the Islamophobes then jump to their next fall back argument: “most Jews and Christians don’t take the Bible literally like Muslims do the Quran!”  I refuted this argument in part 7, showing that they do in fact understand the Bible very, very literally.

In a very predictable pattern, once this argument fails, the Islamophobes rely on yet another fall back argument, the famous cop-out “But That’s Just the Old Testament!”.  I’ve refuted this argument in part 8.

Once this fall back argument is refuted, Islamophobes once again do not defend it.  Instead, they move on to the next fall back argument:  they argue that “Jews and Christians simply don’t interpret their holy book in a violent manner, unlike Muslims.”  Writes Robert Spencer on p.31 of his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades):

When modern-day Jews and Christians read their Bibles, they simply don’t interpret the passages cited as exhorting them to violent action against unbelievers. This is due to the influence of centuries of interpretive traditions that have moved away from literalism regarding these passages. But in Islam, there is no comparable interpretive tradition. The jihad passages in the Qur’an are anything but a dead letter.

This is Spencer’s preemptive parry to any counterattack whenever anyone (like myself) responds to his cherry-picking of Quranic verses by reciprocating and finding similar (and even worse) passages in the Bible. We are told that modern-day Jews and Christians simply don’t take those passages seriously any more, that they are merely symbolic or that they are dead letters.

Spencer et al. will then take a break from copying-and-pasting Quranic passages, and instead focus on “classical opinions” in the Islamic tradition, which they claim continue to be to this day the “orthodox, mainstream opinions according to the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence [madhaib].” By contrast, argues Spencer, classical and modern-day orthodox, mainstream interpretations of Judaism and Christianity have moved away from literal understandings of the Bible and opted for non-violent, peaceful understandings.

However, I will prove that this is not the case at all. The violent verses in the Bible helped formulate the “classical opinions” of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and continue to be held by “mainstream, orthodox” groups today.  In this article, we will examine the Jewish rabbinical tradition (both the “classical” and modern day situation); in a later article, we will grapple with the Christian side of things.

Rabbi Eliyahu Stern published an article in the New York Times entitled “Don’t Fear Islamic Law in America.”  Stern’s balanced article noted that the anti-Muslim demonization of Islam (and Islamic law) “is disturbingly reminiscent” of “19th-century Europe” Anti-Semitism.  Pamela Geller, an extremist Zionist Islamophobe, published an irate letter from David Yerushalmi (who she describes as the “leading legal mind on sharia in America and my lawfare attorney”), who huffed (emphasis added):

[T]he historical comparison between the response to sharia in this country and Europe’s objection to Jewish law centuries earlier is a result of poor scholarship and faulty logic.  Jewish law, certainly since the destruction of the Jewish Commonwealth almost two thousand years ago, has had nothing to do with political power or the desire to effect dominion over another people. 

To the contrary, the opposition to sharia is the fact that throughout the Muslim world, sharia is the call to an exclusive Islamic political power with hegemonic designs (see the two most prominent surveys cited here: http://mappingsharia.com/?page_id=425).  The war doctrine of jihad is part and parcel of sharia.  It is alive and well as such throughout the Muslim world.

This is the same argument raised by Robert Spencer: Jewish law is peaceful and certainly does not call to violence or war like Islamic law does.

I will absolutely nuke this argument into oblivion.  (In the words of one of our readers: “Danios doesn’t make the mistake of bringing a knife to a gun fight–he brings a nuclear bomb.”)

*  *  *  *  *

One of the fundamental differences between the Islamic canon (Quran and hadiths) and the Bible is with regard to discrimination: the Islamic texts explicitly, categorically, and emphatically command soldiers to fight combatants on the battlefield only, and totally forbid targeting and killing innocent civilians (women, children, the elderly, the decrepit, etc.). On the other hand, the Bible is replete with verses in which God Himself commands the believers to target and kill innocent civilians. In fact, the God of the Bible becomes very upset with those of his followers who fail to complete acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

It is perhaps no big surprise then that one of the main ways in which the “classical” and so-called “orthodox, mainstream views” of the Islamic tradition differ from those in the Jewish tradition is with regard to discrimination: the Islamic tradition forbids its followers from targeting and killing civilians, whereas the Jewish counterpart permits it.

Rabbi Norman Lamm, convenor of the Orthodox Forum

Every year leading Orthodox Jewish luminaries from around the world–including “rashei yeshivah [deans of Talmudical academies], rabbis, educators and academicians from America and Israel”–flock to The Orthodox Forum to discuss “a single topic affecting the Jewish world.”  In 2004, the topic of choice was “War and Peace,” which was chosen due to “the United States’ involvement in Iraq” and “Israel’s ongoing war with terrorism” (quotes from p.xiii of War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition).

After these influential experts discussed the issues surrounding “war and peace,” they published their discussion in the fourteenth volume of “the Orthodox Forum Series” in a book entitled War and Peace in the Jewish Tradition.  As such, this book does not merely reflect the views of one or two Jewish authors.  Instead, it “brings together the thinking of a wide range of distinguished American and Israeli academicians and religious leaders from various disciplines, to shed light on the historical, philosophical, theological, legal and moral issues raised by military conflict and the search for peaceful resolution” (p.xi) with the goal of appreciating “the relevance of Jewish sources in approaching contemporary challenges” (p.xii).

[Note: Throughout this article series, readers should assume all emphasis is mine, unless otherwise indicated.  Also note that Rabbi is abbreviated to R., as is the accepted convention.]

Reading this very authoritative book, written by the brightest minds of Orthodox Judaism, I came to appreciate at least five major ways in which Halakha (Jewish law) permits shedding the blood of innocents–at least five major exceptions to the law of discrimination.

The reader should keep in mind that these five different exceptions have nothing to do with “collateral damage,” the incidental or unintended killing of civilians, which is generally accepted by international law (with some important caveats).  Instead, these five exceptions have to do with targeting and killing civilians.

I purposefully say “at least five different exceptions,” since there are most certainly more, which I shall discuss in future articles.  However, those other exceptions are debatable or held as minority opinions, such as the concept of targeted assassinations (debatable, I guess) and the idea that Palestinians should be exterminated because they are the modern-day Amalekites (a valid but minority “halakhic opinion”).  Instead, I will focus on views held by the majority of mainstream Orthodox Jewish rabbinical leadership.

*  *  *  *  *

In the United States, Judaism is split into three main sects: Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox.  In Israel, however, Reform and Conservative Judaism do not exist in large numbers.  Instead, the battle lines are drawn between secular and Orthodox Jews.  According to The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 20% of Israeli Jews are secular, 25% are Orthodox (17% are Religious Zionists [Modern Orthodox Judaism] and 8% are Ultra-Orthodox [Haredi]), with the largest group of Israeli Jews (55%) falling under the rubric of “traditional.”

The views of “traditional Jews” towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seem to fall in between the two major ideological groups: secular and Orthodox Jews.  For example, whereas “only” 36% of secular Israelis support “price tag” terrorism against Palestinians and a whopping majority of Orthodox Jews support such tactics (70% of Religious Zionists and 71% of Ultra-Orthodox Jews), just over half of traditional Jews (55%) condone terrorism against the Palestinians.

Orthodox Judaism is split between Modern Orthodox Judaism and Ultra-Orthodox Judaism (Haredi Judaism).  In Israel, Modern Orthodox Judaism is dominated by Religious Zionism (alternatively called “national-religious”).  This sect is widely considered to be the “mainstream” of Orthodox Judaism in Israel.  It is this sect, therefore, that I will focus on in my article series.

One should not, however, be led to believe that Ultra-Orthodox Judaism is much better in this regard.  Although Agudat Yisrael (the original major political party that represented Ultra-Orthodox Jews) initially opposed the Zionist enterprise, this changed after the creation of the state of Israel.  These Ultra-Orthodox Jews saw the Israeli state as a means for “state enforcement of religious laws” and wanted “increased state financial support for their schools and for religious institutions” (quotes taken from the Zionism & Israel Center‘s official website).

Today, “though still non-Zionist, [these Ultra-Orthodox Jews] tend to favor perpetuation of the occupation and vote with the right against peace moves or negotiations.”  Their right-wing attitudes towards Palestinians are reflected in the earlier statistic I cited, which showed that an overwhelming majority (71%) of Ultra-Orthodox Jews support price tag terrorism against Palestinians, which is almost exactly the same percentage of Religious Zionists (70%) who do.  Ultra-Orthodox Judaism in Israel has been heavily influenced by Zionism and Religious Zionism, especially in their hostile views towards the indigenous Palestinians.

However, because many Israelis feel that Ultra-Orthodox Jews are “extreme,” I will focus my discussion here on the more “mainstream” sect, Modern Orthodox Judaism.  (In a follow-up article, I will outline the Ultra-Orthodox view on such subjects in order to prove that there is an emerging “bipartisan” consensus on these issues within Orthodox Judaism in Israel.) For now, however, I will largely stick to the generally accepted views within Religious Zionism.

Therefore, in my article The Top Five Ways Jewish Law Justifies Killing Civilians–the title that will be used for the remaining article series–I will not focus on Yizhak Shapira’s book the King’s Torah.  Despite the fact that Modern Orthodox Judaism’s rabbis seemed to accept Shapira’s views “governing the killing of a non-Jew’ outlined in the book [as] a legitimate stance” and a valid “halachic opinion,” I will bypass all such discussion by focusing on majority views held by Religious Zionism and Modern Orthodox Judaism, not the more extreme Kahanist sect of Religious Zionism.

In so doing, I will show that these majority views are hardly less worrisome than Rabbi Shapira’s opinions expressed in the King’s Torah.  I will show that one need not look to settler rabbis, Kahanists, or Ultra-Orthodox Jews to find extremely warlike views.  The mainstream Modern Orthodox rabbinical leadership will suffice.  Worse yet, Israeli Jews–deeply religious Jews–are leading the fight against the concept of distinction, the fundamental aspect of the just war theory.  They are applying pressure to change international law and to abrogate the regulations of the Geneva Conventions, which they believe are “archaic” and inapplicable today.  Could it be said, using the emotive language of our opponents, that Judaism is waging war against the principle of distinction?

The purpose of this is to prove that if there are problems within the house of Islam (which there certainly are), let it be known that the house of Judaism is no different in this regard.  It would behoove us to remind ourselves of this before we point the accusatory finger at The Other.  Extremist Zionist Islamophobes like Pamela Geller–and their Christian comrades-in-arms like Robert Spencer–should take note.

Disclaimer:  Before we get into it, please read my disclaimer, Why Religious Zionism, Not Judaism, is the Problem. (This is in addition to my earlier disclaimer, which you should also read):

Update:  

The Top Five Ways Jewish Law Justifies Killing Civilians;#1 Civilians Are Really Combatants

#2 Collective Punishment is Kosher (I)

#2 Collective Punishment is Kosher (II)

#2 Collective Punishment is Kosher (III)

#2 Collective Punishment is Kosher (IV)

Allah as the Best of Deceivers?

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2011 by loonwatch

I recently published a two-part article (see here and here) comparing the God of the Bible with the God of the Quran, showing that Yahweh of the Bible seems more violent and warlike than Allah of the Quran.

The response from the anti-Muslim critics was minimal.  Three very weak responses were provided by Halal Pork, Farlowe, and Nerses.

*  *  *  *  *

Halal Pork replied as follows:

One of the names of Allah is Al-Mukkar-the Deceiver.Why is that not included in the list

I included the twenty-five most common names used for God in the Quran. The term khayru al-makireen is used in the Quran only twice. That’s why it wasn’t included in the list.

The fact that khayru al-makireen didn’t make the list says a lot.  Consider that God is called Merciful over 300 times in the Quran, and the term khayru al-makireen is used only twice.  I wonder which one Islamophobes will focus on?

Meanwhile, the name Lord of Armies is used in the Bible for God just under 300 times.  The most common descriptive name for God in the Quran revolves around mercy, whereas the most common descriptive name for God in the Bible revolves around armies and war.  This was the main point of my two-part article.

*  *  *  *

The term khayru al-makireen is first used in verse 3:54 of the Quran:

And they schemed [against Jesus] and God schemed [against them], but God is the best schemer.

This is alternately translated as “deceiver” or “plotter”–the translation of “deceiver” is preferred by anti-Muslim elements, whereas “plotter” by Muslim apologists.  I’ve chosen the more neutral “schemer.”

The context of this verse can be found in Tafsir Al-Jalalayn, as follows:

God says: And they, the disbelievers among the Children of Israel, schemed, against Jesus, by assigning someone to assassinate him; and God schemed, by casting the likeness of Jesus onto the person who intended to kill him, and so they killed him, while Jesus was raised up into heaven; and God is the best of schemers, most knowledgeable of him [Jesus].

Some killers schemed against Jesus, and so God schemed against the killers to fool them.  God made someone else look like Jesus–a willing martyr, by the way–and the killers murdered him instead (don’t worry, he is promised heaven).

So, that is the context in which God “schemed.”

If Osama bin Ladin tried to kill the President of the United States, but the Secret Service used one of the President’s doubles to “deceive” OBL, would there be anything wrong with this? That’s the exact same situation as appears in the Quran.

The term khayru al-makireen is repeated in verse 8:30, again in the context of those who tried to assassinate one of God’s prophets, in this case Muhammad himself. The leaders of Mecca planned to assassinate him, “scheming” against him by deciding to do the ugly deed altogether as one so that nobody could assign blame to any one single tribe.  This would prevent any possible retaliation. They also planned on killing Muhammad using the cover of darkness.

The Quran says that God “schemed” against these killers, and fooled the killers by making them think Muhammad was in his bed when in fact it was his younger cousin Ali.  When the killers found out it was just Ali, they didn’t kill him since he was just an adolescent.  In the meantime, Muhammad slipped away and fled to another city with his life.

So once again, God’s “scheming” involved fooling killers so that they could not murder.

How one could twist this into something negative, I don’t know…but I guess Islamophobes are very adept at twisting things.

But in any case, the attribute of “scheming” or “deceiving” has nothing to do with the context of war. Therefore, it has nothing to do with the topic of my article and Series, which is about whether Islam is more violent and warlike than Judaism and Christianity. What relevance does “scheming” have to do with that, except maybe that God schemes against killers to prevent them from killing?

*  *  *  *  *

In any case, since this has nothing to with the topic at hand and is mostly a religious discussion more fit for Christian and Muslim apologists, I’ll just link to a Muslim apologist who responds to Christian polemicists:

The Biblical God As a Deceiver, by Bassam Zawadi

In that link, Zawadi notes that the Bible contains numerous verses in it where God “deceives.” Once again, for me the interesting thing about it is the level of pure hypocrisy of anti-Muslim Jews and Christians who vilify Islam and the Quran for what is found in their own religion and holy book.

Zawadi points to the following verse of the Bible, for instance:

Jeremiah 4:10 Then I said, “O Sovereign LORD, the people have been deceived by what you said, for you promised peace for Jerusalem. But the sword is held at their throats!”

Of relevance here is the fact that unlike the two Quranic verses–which show God stopping people from killing by deceiving murderers–the Biblical verse in which God deceives involves him tricking a population into thinking they would have “peace” when in fact “the sword is held at their throats!”  The Bible says:

4:16  “Tell this to the nations, proclaim it to Jerusalem: ‘A besieging army is coming from a distant land, raising a war cry against the cities of Judah.’”

God deceived so that a “besieging army” could carry out its war of conquest.  Similarly, God will delude people in 2 Thessalonians 2:11 so that Jesus can kill and destroy them.

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As for Farlowe’s response, this is perhaps the weakest and most desperate response of all.  He writes:

Yahweh, God of War, yet the Jehovah’s (Yahweh’s) Witnesses (aka Watchtower Society) are a pacifist group who refuse to fight in armed forces in every country they live.

Why on earth would we restrict this to Jehovah’s Witnesses?  All Jews and Christians believe that Yahweh is the name of God.  This seems one last, desperate attempt to obfuscate the issue.  Jehovah’s Witnesses are not even considered to be Christians by our Evangelical opponents; they are condemned as a deviant cult.

Although Christians might use the term “God” more often for God than “Yahweh,” they certainly believe Yahweh of the Bible to be God.  But if one wants to play most common name associations, then Judaism would be most associated with the term Yahweh.  And, traditional and Orthodox Judaism is certainly not pacifist–as my next article in the Series will clearly show.

*  *  *  *  *

Nerses relies on a fall-back argument similar to the trite “But Jews and Christians don’t take the Bible literally like Muslims…!”, which I refuted in part 7.

My next article in the Understanding Jihad Series will be about Jewish law (Halakha) and will address the basic premise of Nerses’ argument.  However, the entirety of his claims will take several articles to thoroughly refute.  Nerses regurgitates the standard lies that are found in Robert Spencer’s book–lies that will be laid to waste over the course of this Series.

*  *  *  *  *

Lastly, I have said it before and I’ll say it again: Muslims shouldn’t vilify other faiths because they have plenty of “tricky issues” in their own religion that they must deal with.  Even if the Islamophobes could prove that the God of the Quran is very deceiving, how would that refute anything I’ve said?  My point is not that Islam has no “tricky issues” to deal with–only that Judaism and Christianity do too (perhaps more so).  Specifically, in the case of war and violence, the Quran pales in comparison to the Bible.

The Bible’s Yahweh, a War-God?: Called “Lord of Armies” Over 280 Times in the Bible and “Lord of Peace” Just Once (II)

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2011 by loonwatch

Please read The Bible’s Yahweh, a War-God?: Called “Lord of Armies” Over 280 Times in the Bible and “Lord of Peace” Just Once (I) first.

A quick glance at the list of God’s names in the Bible (refer to link above) shows that most of them depict God’s Might and Power (including Lord of Armies, which depicts his might on the battlefield), but only very rarely is God described as loving, peaceful, merciful, forgiving, and beneficent.

Contrast this to God’s names in the Quran.  Here are the twenty-five most frequently used names for God found therein:

Twenty-Five Most Frequently Used Names for God in the Quran

1. God (Allah, Al-Iah): over 2,700 times
2. Lord (Al-Rub): over 950 times
3. The All-Merciful, The Most Merciful (Al-Rahman, Al-Rahim): 306 times, another 4 times as The Most Merciful Among the Merciful (Ar-Hamu Ar-Rahimeen) and 11 times as The Extremely Merciful (Al-Ra’ouf)

4. The All-Knowing (Al-Alim): 162 times
5. The Wise (Al-Hakim): 114 times
6. The Forgiving (Al-Ghafur, Al-Ghaffar, Al-Ghafir): 93 times, another 1 time as The Vast in Forgiveness (Wasi’u Al-Maghfirah)

7. The Mighty (Al-Aziz): 64 times
8. The All-Hearing (Al-Sami’u): 46 times
9.  The All-Seeing (Al-Basir): 46 times
10.  The All-Aware (Al-Khabir): 46 times
11.  The All-Capable (Al-Qadir): 46 times
12.  The Self-Sufficient (Al-Ghaniy): 21 times
13.  The Witness (Al-Shahid): 20 times
14.  The Knower of the Unseen (Alimu Al-Ghaybi, Alimu Al-Ghaybi wa al-Shahada, Allam Al-Ghiyoob): 17 times

15.  The Patron (Al-Wakil): 13 times
16.  The Acceptor of Repentance (Al-Tawwab): 11 times
17.  The All-Able (Al-Qadir): 11 times
18.  The Clement, Forbearer, Forgiver (Al-Halim): 10 times, another 5 times as The Pardoner (Al-’Afuw)

19.  The Praised (Al-Hamid): 10 times
20.  The Truth (Al-Haq): 10 times
21.  The Powerful (Al-Qawiy): 9 times
22.  The Vast (Wasi’u): 9 times
23.  The Creator (Al-Khaliq): 8 times
24.  The Great (Al-Adhim): 8 times
25. The Peace (Al-Salam): 7 times

One immediately notices a theme here: the God of the Quran is The All-Merciful, The Most Merciful,  The Most Merciful Among the Merciful, The Extremely Merciful, The Most Compassionate, The Most Beneficent, The Most Forgiving, The Acceptor of Repentance, The Clement, The Forbearer, The Pardoner, etc.  As Prof.  William Schweiker notes on p.52 of Humanity Before God that “…the Qur’an frequently emphasizes God’s mercy, pardon, and forgiveness…”

Prof. Harold A. Netland writes on p.78 of Dissonant Voices that “the early preaching of the prophet [Muhammad] ‘spoke of God’s power and his goodness to human beings.’”  Prof. Caesar E. Farah writes on p.133 of Islam: Beliefs and Observances:

In the early days of Muhammad’s preachings he stressed rahmah (mercy) and Rahman (the merciful) so much that his listeners believed he was calling upon them to worship a god called al-Rahman

The Qur’an contains numerous revelations on mercy, ending with the words “Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.”

In fact, every single chapter of the Quran aside from one starts with a verse calling on God the All-Merciful, the Most Merciful.

This emphasis on Allah’s Mercy is altogether unlike Yahweh’s emergence as Israel’s war-god; the Canaanites came to fear the terror of Yahweh, such that even seeing the Ark struck fear in their hearts.  For example, as Henricus Oort’s Bible for Learners (vol.1, p.337) so presciently notes, Rahab (a Canaanite) cooperates with the Israelite army ”because she feared Yahweh,” as she had seen what Yahweh had done to the surrounding nations.  Indeed, the Israelites benefited from portraying their god as particularly brutal and cruel, which caused Israel’s enemies to be paralyzed by fear.

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Most of the other names of Allah refer to His Power (such as the All-Hearing, All-Seeing, All-Knowing, etc.), but without any association to war.  In fact, not a single name or description of God in the Quran attributes war to God.  Unlike the Bible, one simply cannot find in the Islamic holy book a name of God such as “Lord of Armies,” or a description such as a “man of war” or “warrior.”

There is a reason for this: Allah was never understood to be a “war-god.” Quite simply, there is no “divine warrior god” theme found in the Quran.  Unlike Yahweh who entered the Judeo-Christian tradition as a war-god, Allah was known during Islam’s birth as a creator God.  Writes Prof. Harold A. Netland on p.76 of Dissonant Voices: Religious Pluralism and the Question of Truth:

Above all the gods, distant and remote, was Allah, the God, creator of the world.

As Prof. Jonathan P. Berkey notes on p.42 of The Formation of Islam, Allah “represented a remote creator god.”  Unlike Yahweh, Allah was not thought to march out on the battlefield alongside the soldiers. Instead of Allah, the pagans brought along idols such as Hubal to the battlefront.  Dr. Malise Ruthven writes on p.28 of Islam in the World that “the pagans carried some of [their] idols as standards into battle,” but this was not the case with Allah as there were “no images of Allah” (p.21 of Prof. William E. Phipps’ book Muhammad and Jesus).

In their battle against other tribes or against the Muslims, the pagans of Mecca did not carry with them the “remote, creator God” that was Allah, but instead took with them ”Hubal, a war god” (p.13 of Prof. Matthew S. Gordon’s Islam).  This did not change with the early Muslims, who never believed that Allah was ever physically present on the battlefield.  Instead, the Prophet Muhammad and early Muslims would point upwards to the sky when they referred to Allah.  Whether or not this meant that the Islamic God was literally “above the heavens” or merely otherworldly  (a matter of intense debate among Muslims today), the fact is that Allah was never thought to reside on earth, an idea that has always been considered blasphemous to Muslims.

In other words, the Israelites acquired a war-god, whereas the early Muslims acquired a creator god.  Yahweh, a war-god, later acquired the ability to create; Allah, a creator god, later acquired the ability to assist in wars.  But, there is a difference between being a war-god and being a god that can assist in wars.  The former defines the god’s primary role to be war, whereas the latter holds war to be one function of many.  It is the difference between being a chef by occupation and being a journalist who sometimes cooks.  Stated another way: Yahweh was principally a war-god, whereas Allah was principally a creator god who also had the capability to assist in wars.

Additionally, it should be noted that although Allah did come to assist the early Muslims in wars, He only did so through divine agents.  It was believed that He dispatched an army of angels to fight for the faithful.  Nowhere does God Himself become a “divine warrior” and march out onto the battlefield.  This is an important difference, and one that explains why Allah is not understood to be a “warrior god” like Yahweh.

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As noted in my disclaimer to this Series, nowhere is this information meant to be used to vilify Judaism or Christianity.  Suffice to say, there are plenty of “tricky issues” in the Islamic faith that should make the Muslim believer think twice before lobbing polemical grenades against people of other religions.  There is almost nothing I find more odious than adherents of a religion viciously attacking other religions.

Yet, it is completely appropriate in our very specific and particular context–in which Muslims and Islam are vilified by the majoritarian religious group–to chop anti-Muslim demagogues down to size.  One of the easiest ways to do this is to subject their own religion to the standards that they themselves foist upon Islam.  When this is done, what can they do but choke on their own medicine?

The Bible’s Yahweh, a War-God?: Called “Lord of Armies” Over 280 Times in the Bible and “Lord of Peace” Just Once (I)

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 1, 2011 by loonwatch

*This piece was first published on Aug, 23.

This article is the conclusion to part 9 of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series. Please read my “disclaimer”, which explains my intentions behind writing this article: The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

Islamophobes argue that the holy book of Islam, the Quran, is uniquely violent as compared to other religious scriptures–certainly more so than the “peace-loving Bible.”  Similarly, they argue that the the prophet of Islam, Muhammad, was uniquely violent as far as prophets go–certainly more so than the religious figures of the Judeo-Christian faith.

These reassuring platitudes were shattered in LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series, (see parts 1234567, and 8).  Clearly, the Bible is more violent than the Quran, and the Biblical prophets were more violent than the Islamic prophet.

But what about the Islamic God?  How does He compare to the Judeo-Christian God?  Is it true that Allah of the Quran is uniquely warlike and violent as the anti-Muslim camp claims?

We previously came to the conclusion (see here, here, here, here and here) that Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God–however, whereas the God of the Bible and the God of the Quran are essentially the same, they differ somewhat in their details.  In other words, they have slightly differing qualities and characteristics.  For example, Christians would argue that their God is Trinitarian, whereas the Islamic God is Unitarian.

Anti-Muslim Jews and Christians often try to portray the Islamic God as uniquely warlike and violent, as opposed to the supposedly loving and peaceful God of the Bible.  However, I will argue (quite convincingly) that in fact the Quranic God is no more warlike and violent than the Biblical one.  Indeed, we might even be able to say the opposite: Yahweh of the Bible, unlike Allah of the Quran, is a war-god.

Yahweh originated from a war-god tradition.  Dr. Lloyd M. Barre writes:

The earliest Yahwistic traditions reveal that Yahweh was a bedouin war god from the deserts of Edom and of the surrounding regions. His essentially warlike characteristics are demonstated by his name, by cultic celebrations of his mighty deeds, and by his ark.

Prof. Mark S. Smith notes on p.144 of The Origins of Biblical Monotheism that Yahweh was introduced to the Israelites as a “divine warrior [god] from the south.”  Indeed, “Yahweh and Baal co-existed and later competed as warrior-gods” (Ibid., p.33).  This motif continued in the Israelite tradition: the tribal warrior-god Yahweh went to war against competing gods and nations on behalf of Israel.

Although Yahweh, the God the Israelites adopted, would one day become the supreme God of the land and eliminate his competition, initially he was just one of many competing “war and storm-gods;” as Prof. Erhard S. Gerstenberger writes on p.151 of Theologies of the Old Testament (emphasis added):

Yahweh was not always God in Israel and at every social level.  Rather, initially he belongs only to the storm and war gods like Baal, Anath, Hadad, Resheph and Chemosh…His original homeland was the southern regions of present-day Palestine and Jordan.  Thus the regional and functional, cultural and social limitations of Yahweh should be beyond all doubt.  The elaboration of ideas about Yahweh, e.g. as a guarantor of fertility, personal good fortune, head of a pantheon, creator of the world, judge of the world, etc. is gradual and only fully unfolds in the exilic/post-exilic age, always in connection with social and historical changes.

In other words, Yahweh started out as a “storm and war god,” and only later acquired other functions now commonly associated with God, including for example the ability to create.

Prof. Corrine Carvalho writes on p.79 of Encountering Ancient Voices: A Guide to Reading the Old Testament that “Yahweh was first and foremost a warrior God.”  From the very beginning, “God appeared to the ancient people as a warrior…’armed in military attire, to contend with all the forces of his foes’” (p.19 of God is a Warrior by Professor Tremper Longman).  This is a reflection of God being introduced to the Hebrews in a time of persecution and war, as Moses defeats Pharaoh’s forces and then leads his people to war against the Canaanites in the Promised Land.

As we shall see later, herein lies a major difference between Yahweh of Judaism and Allah of Islam; the very first introduction of Yahweh to the believers was in the war-god role, not as the creator of all things; as Robert Wright writes in The Evolution of God:

…If you go back to the poems that most scholars consider the oldest pieces of the Bible, there’s no mention of God creating anything. He seems more interested in destroying; he is in large part a warrior god. What some believe to be the oldest piece of all, Exodus 15, is an ode to Yahweh for drowning Eygpt’s army in the Red Sea. It begins, “I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea…the Lord is a warrior.”

He notes:

The part about creating stars and the moon and the sun and light itself–the story in the first chapter of Genesis–seems to have been added later. In the beginning, so far as we can tell, Yahweh was not yet a cosmic creator.

Biblical scholar Prof. J.M.P. Smith writes in Religion and War in Israel published in The American Journal of Theology (emphasis added):

Among the functions of Yahweh called into play by Israel’s needs, the leading place in the earlier times was held by warHence, Yahweh is constantly represented as a war-god. He it is who marches at the head of Israel’s armies (Deut. 33:27); his right arm brings victory to Israel’s banners (Exod. 15:6); Israel’s wars are “the wars of Yahweh” himself (Num. 21:14; I Sam. 18:17, 25:28); Israel’s obligation is to “come to the help of Yahweh, to the help of Yahweh against the mighty” (Judg. 5:23); Israel’s enemies are Yahweh’s enemies (Judg. 5:31; I Sam. 30:26); Yawheh is Israel’s sword and shield (Deut. 33:29); yea, he is a “a man of war” (Exod. 15:3) As the leader of a nation of war, Yahweh was credited with the military practices of the day.  He shrank not from drastic and cruel measures. Indeed, he lent his name and influence to the perpetration of such deeds of barbarity…Yahweh orders the total extermination of clans and towns, including man, woman, and child (I Sam. 15:3; Josh 6:17 f.).

In line with the customary belief in ancient times, the warrior-god of Israel did not just lend his help from afar or through divine agents but was thought to literally accompany the soldiers on the battlefield. Professor Sa-Moon Kang of Hebrew University of Jerusalem writes on p.224 of Divine War in the Old Testament and in the Ancient Near East (emphasis added):

YHWH was understood as the divine warrior…YHWH intervened not only to help the army on the battlefield but He also marched in front of the king and soldiers…The victory after the battles was given to YHWH, and the spoils obtained were dedicated to YHWH and His treasures.

In Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism, winner of the 2005 National Jewish Book Award, Howard Schwartz writes (emphasis added):

40. The Warrior God

Yahweh is a mighty warrior who defeated Pharaoh at the Red Sea…God appeared to Pharaoh as a mighty warrior, carrying a fiery bow, with a sword of lightning, traveling through the heavens in a chariot…God took a cherub from His Throne fo Glory and rode upon it, waging war against Pharaoh and Egypt, as it is said, He mounted a cherub and flew (Ps. 18:11). Leaping from one wing to another, God taunted Pharaoh, “O evil one, do you have a cherub? Can you do this?”

When the angels saw that God was waging war against the Egyptians on the sea, they came to His aid. Some came carrying swords and others carrying bows or lances. God said to them, “I do not need your aid, for when I go to battle, I go alone.” That is why it is said that Yahweh is a man of war (Exod. 15:3).

Notice here that Yahweh does not merely engage in fighting via divine or worldly agents.  Instead, he is literally on the battlefield itself, fighting as a warrior god.  Schwartz goes on:

In addition to Exodus 15:3, Yahweh is a man of war, God is described as a warrior in Psalm 24: Who is the King of glory–Yahweh, mighty and valiant, Yahweh, valiant in battle (Ps. 24:8).  Frank Moore Cross finds in this passage a strong echo of the Canaanite pattern, in which both El and Ba’al are described as warrior gods.

Prof. F.E. Peters writes on p.272 of The Monotheists:

Yahweh was a warrior God (Exod. 5:3, Isa. 42:13)…The Israelites, quite like the pre-Islamic Arabs, even carried their God with them into conflict on occasion (Num. 10:35-36).

Eventually, the Ark became associated with the presence of God Himself, and was brought to the battle front.  Prof. Reuven Fireston writes in an article entitled Holy War Idea in the Hebrew Bible:

The Ark of the Covenant is the symbol and banner of God’s presence in battle (1 Sam. 4:4, 2 Sam. 11:11), and this connection between the Ark and the presence of God in war is made already in the desert in Num.10:35: “When the Ark was to set out, Moses would say: Advance O Lord!  May your enemies be scattered and may your foes flee before you!”  The Ark is like a battle station from which God fights for Israel and, although not mentioned in every battle, probably went forth often and is referred to in passing as a regular part of the battle array (Jud. 4:14).  The Philistine army was terrified of the Ark itself and related to the Ark as if it were the very appearance of God (1 Sam. 4:5-8)

On pp.16-17 of God Is a Warrior, Longman et al. trace the “the divine warrior theme,” dividing it into ”five stages:”

The first stage is God’s appearance as a warrior who fights on behalf of his people Israel against their flesh-and-blood enemies.  The second stage overlaps with the first, yet culminates Israel’s independent political history as God fights in judgment against Israel itself.  The Old Testament period ends during the third stage as Israel’s prophets look to the future and proclaim the advent of a powerful divine warrior.  While many studies of the divine warrior are restricted to the Old Testament, we will show its development into the New Testament.  The Gospels and letters reflect a fourth stage, Christ’s earthly ministry as the work of a conqueror, though they also look forward to the next stage.  The fifth and final stage is anticipated by the church as it awaits the return of the divine warrior who will judge the spiritual and human enemies of God.

The divine warrior theme is one of the basic motifs of the Bible, and can be seen from the very start of the Biblical narrative with Moses defeating the Egyptians all the way to the end of with it with the triumphant return of the divine warrior conqueror Jesus Christ.  The genocide against the infidels begins with Moses and comes to its completion with Jesus (refer to parts 1234567, and 8 of the Understanding Jihad Series).

*  *  *  *  *

That Yahweh, the God of the Bible, is a war-god is clearly written in the text itself:

Exodus 15:3 The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is His Name.

Of note aside from the obvious “man of war” appellation is that Yahweh is depicted as a man who is actually physically on the battlefield as a warrior, instead of merely helping from afar. “The Lord will fight for you” (Ex. 14:14) is meant to be taken very literally.

Says the Bible elsewhere:

Isaiah 42:13 The Lord will march forward like a warrior.  He will arouse His zeal like a man of war.  He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry.  He will prevail against all His enemies.

God was not just any warrior, but the best of them–victorious in battle:

Psalm 24:8 Who is the King of Glory?  The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.

He would prove his might in battle by crushing the heads of his enemies:

68:21 Surely God will crush the heads of his enemies.

Indeed, the God of the Bible would order his people to do more than that, commanding them to ethnically cleanse and commit genocide against infidel populations (again, refer to parts 1234567, and 8 of the Understanding Jihad Series).

*  *  *  *  *

That Yahweh was a warrior-god can be ascertained from the choice of name itself. A longer name for Yahweh is found in the Bible: Yahweh Tzevaot or Yahweh Sabaoth, which is translated as “Lord of hosts” or “Lord of armies.”  Prof. Corrine L. Carvalho writes on p.79 of Encountering Ancient Voices: A Guide to Reading the Old Testament:

In other passages in the Bible, a longer version of the name, the Lord of hosts, could also be translated as “the one who created the heavenly armies.” This would suggest that Yahweh was first and foremost a warrior God.

Biblical scholar Jonathan Kirsch writes in God Against the Gods:

Among the many titles and honorifics used to describe the God of Israel is Elohim Yahweh Sabaoth, which is usually translated as “Lord of Hosts” but also means “Yahweh, the God of Armies.”

This name, Lord of Hosts (Armies)–which defines God’s function as the war-God (or warrior God)–is used well over two-hundred times in the Bible.  Stephen D. Renn notes on p.440 of the Expository Dictionary of Bible Words:

This title, translated “Lord of hosts,” occurs around two hundred times [in the Bible], mainly in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the postexilic prophets. It is found occassionally in the Former Prophets, Chronicles, and Psalms.

Biblical scholar David Noel Freedman writes on page 1402 of Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible:

Yahweh is linked with seba’ot (“armies/hosts”) 284 times in the Hebrew Bible.

Jehovah is another way to spell Yahweh in English.  BlueLetterBible.org says of Jehovah Sabaoth (the Lord of Armies):

Use in the Bible: Jehovah and Elohim occur with Sabaoth over 285 times. It is most frequently used in Jeremiah and Isaiah. Jehovah Sabaoth is first used in 1Sa 1:3.

Interestingly, if you scroll up just one entry above, you find the following entry for Jehovah-Shalom (the Lord of Peace):

Use in the Bible: In the Old Testament Jehovah-Shalom occurs only once in Jdg 6:24.

In other words, God is the Lord of Armies over 280 times in the Bible, but Lord of Peace only once.  Based on this, would you say that the emphasis of God’s nature is on his warlike nature or his peaceful side?

*  *  *  *  *

To make matters worse, the one time that the Lord of Peace is used, the passage isn’t that peaceful at all.  As noted above, the name Yahweh Shalom is found in Judges 6, in which God orders an Israelite man named Gideon to ethnically cleanse the indigenous population of Midian, reassuring him that “you will strike down all the Midianites together” (Jdg 6:16).

Gideon expresses some doubt about his ability to do this “great task,” and he wants to make sure it’s really God who said that (reasonable enough, right?).  Gideon asks God to prove that it’s really Him, so God reveals an angel to him.  The angel burns up some meat and bread, which are both completely incinerated.  The meat and bread represent the Midianites, who are to be “utterly destroyed.”

Once Gideon realizes it’s an angel in front of him, he panics and thinks that God is angry with him for asking for proof.  Gideon is worried that God might kill him for that.  That’s when God reassures him that He’s not going to kill him (Gideon, that is), whereupon Gideon breathes a huge sigh of relief and calls God the Lord of Peace for not killing him.  Gideon decides to build an altar at that place which he calls “The Lord is Peace” and then God tells him to build an altar by destroying the altar built for the pagan god Baal.

Then, the Bible goes on to tell how God helps Gideon destroy the Midianites.  Of note too is the fact the name Gideon is a Hebrew name that means “he that bruises or breaks; a destroyer,” as well as “mighty warrior.”  So, The Destroyer built an altar called The Lord is Peace by destroying an altar to another god, in thanks to God for sending him proof that He is the one who asked him to destroy the heathen Midianites.  Not very peaceful at all.

*  *  *  *  *

Indeed, “‘Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of hosts’ is one of the frequent titles or names of God in the Old Testament.”  In fact, using BlueLetterBible.org I compiled a list of the most frequently used names in the Bible, and Yahweh Sabaoth is God’s fourth most frequently used name in the Bible:

Most Frequently Used Names for God in the Bible

1.  Yahweh (Lord): 6,519 times
2.  El, Elohim (God): over 2,000 times
3.  Adonai (Lord): 434 times
4.  Yahweh Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts/Armies): over 285 times
5.  El Elyon (The Most High God): 28 times
6.  El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty): 7 times
7.  Qanna (Jealous): 6 times
8.  El Olam (The Everlasting God): 4 times
9.  Yahweh-Raah (The Lord is My Shepherd): 4 times
10.  Yahweh Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness): 2 times
11.  Yahweh Mekoddishkem (The Lord Who Sanctifies You): 2 times
12.  Yahweh Nissi (The Lord My Banner): 1 time
13.  Yahweh-Rapha (The Lord That Heals): 1 time
14.  Yahweh Shammah (The Lord is There): 1 time
15.  Yahweh Jireh (The Lord Will Provide): 1 time
16.  Yahweh-Shalom (The Lord is Peace): 1 time

(This list seems consistent with that provided by Agape Bible Study.)

This would mean that not only is Lord of Hosts/Armies the fourth most common name of God, it would mean that it is the first most frequently used descriptive name of God in the Bible, behind only generic names such as Yahweh (Lord), El/Elohim (God), and Adonai (Lord).  Sabaoth is certainly the most common descriptor following Yahweh, with Raah (as in Yahweh-Raah) a very distant second place.

*  *  *  *  *

Having thus understood the warlike and violent origin and nature of the Judeo-Christian God, one would wonder why it would be something necessary for Muslims to prove that they worship the same deity.  If it is agreed–as is only reasonable–that Muslims worship the same God as Jews and Christians but that their conception and understanding of God differs–I argue that the Judeo-Christian conception and understanding of God is not very desirable in the first place.  That the Islamic view of God differs in regard to war and violence is a good thing.

Stay tuned for the next page, in which we contrast the Islamic conception and understanding of God with the Judeo-Christian one…

Update I: Check out The Bible’s Yahweh, a War-God?: Called “Lord of Armies” Over 280 Times in the Bible and “Lord of Peace” Just Once (II) which was just published.

Ron Paul’s Unforgivable Sin of Opposing America’s Sacred Wars, And Why Are Muslims So Warlike?

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2011 by loonwatch
Image taken from kickapathy.com

As the GOP debates and subsequent presidential campaigns unfold, one very popular Republican candidate will get the cold shoulder from the mainstream media machine: the esteemable Congressman and good doctor Ron Paul. No matter how many straw polls the man wins, no matter how much money he raises from enthusiastic supporters, and no matter how many soldiers enlist in the Ron Paul Army, nothing will make him a Serious Candidate in the eyes of the mainstream media. He is Unserious–a Fringe Candidate who stands no chance of winning an election.

A self-fulfilling prophecy is put into effect: the MSM refuses to cover him “because he can never win an election;” because he receives no MSM coverage, he can never win an election.

As Glenn Greenwald puts it:

They are also vital in bolstering orthodoxies and narrowing the range of permitted views.  Few episodes demonstrate how that works better than the current disappearing of Ron Paul, all but an “unperson” in Orwellian terms.  He just finished a very close second to Michele Bachmann in the Ames poll, yet while she went on all five Sunday TV shows and dominated headlines, he was barely mentioned.  He has raised more money than any GOP candidate other than Romney, and routinely polls in the top 3 or 4 of GOP candidates in national polls, yet — as Jon Stewart and Politico‘s Roger Simon have both pointed out — the media have decided to steadfastly pretend he does not exist, leading to absurdities like this:

And this:

.

What has Ron Paul done to earn the wrath of the mainstream media and the Very Serious Establishment? Paul certainly has some strange views when it comes to the budget: strangulating medicare, medicaid, and welfare, as well as cutting funding for education and other vital public programs. Yet, it is unlikely that any of these political stances could ostracize him or make him Unserious, since some Very, Very Serious Republican candidates hold similar views on such issues.

What makes Dr. Paul stand out from the rest of the pack are his views with regard to the war and civil liberties–his complete rejection of the so-called War on Terror. He rejects the conventional wisdom that necessitates endless wars to Keep Us Safe against Terrorism. Paul refuses to cheerlead America’s Endless Wars, and is brave enough to point out the injustices in our foreign policy. Paul points out that if we point one finger at the Evil Muslim Enemy, four fingers point back at us.

For pointing out that the emperor wears no clothes, Ron Paul earns the contempt of Serious Journalists, who ensure that Paul is marginalized. He must be silenced and made irrelevant.  When he speaks about such topics in the press, people get antsy.  So the establishment desperately attempts to shut him up.

Greenwald says (emphasis added):

There are many reasons why the media is eager to disappear Ron Paul despite his being a viable candidate by every objective metric…

But what makes the media most eager to disappear Paul is that he destroys the easy, conventional narrative — for slothful media figures and for Democratic loyalists alike. Aside from the truly disappeared former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson (more on him in a moment), Ron Paul is far and away the most anti-war, anti-Surveillance-State, anti-crony-capitalism, and anti-drug-war presidential candidate in either party…That the similarly anti-war, pro-civil-liberties, anti-drug-war Gary Johnson not even allowed in media debates — despite being a twice-elected popular governor — highlights the same dynamic…

The steadfast ignoring of Ron Paul — and the truly bizarre un-personhood of Gary Johnson — has ensured that, yet again, those views will be excluded…

Paul and Johnson committed the unforgivable crime of opposing war (not just one war, but all of America’s wars), and for this they will be punished. For this, they will never be able to even dream of being considered a Serious presidential nominee, let alone President of the United States.  The media’s selection of who is Serious and who is Unserious is all a part of the manufactured consent that Noam Chomksy so eloquently wrote about many years ago.

Think about that for a minute: our country is so absolutely and steadfastly pro-war that there is no room for peaceniks. The Just War theory forbids war except in self-defense. None of America’s many wars fits this description: that’s quite easy to see when we note that our troops are deployed in far away, foreign lands. We’re not defending ourselves from an invader who occupies Southern California or who is stationed in Maine. Even the thought of another nation’s army marching into any U.S. state is completely unthinkable, almost as unrealistic as Martians landing on earth.  We have no need to engage in Just War since we are actually very, very safe and secure–our defense is virtually impregnable, such that there is no plausible scenario where our territory could be occupied or our capital advanced upon.

My point is: if a person believed in the Just War theory and rejected war except when it fulfilled those very narrow conditions, it would then be necessary to reject each of America’s wars. But doing so would mean departing from the acceptable parameters of national debate; it would mean becoming part of the Fringe and Unserious.

One simply simply cannot be taken Seriously unless one is a war-monger. Is it not strange that such a nation as this would somehow be absolutely mystified that another peoples, those living under the boots of their American or Israeli occupiers, would glorify jihad?

One simply must be a warmonger in America to be taken Seriously–as the current president himself is and all of the Serious presidential candidates are–yet somehow Those Warlike Moozlums Over There are so violent for glorifying jihad against the occupier.

Truly opposing the concept of wars of aggression (the supreme international crime)–to have a minimum commitment to peace by at least adhering to the Just War doctrine–does not mean simply opposing one of America’s wars and accepting another. Many of those on the Left somehow think they aren’t war-mongers even while they strongly supported (and some continue to support) the Afghanistan war.  After all, what can we think about a people who respond in such a brutal manner–devastating an entire country (and then another after that)–in retaliation for one terrorist attack (committed by a non-state actor no less) except that they are warlike? Even Ron Paul himself initially voted to invade Afghanistan, although he redeemed himself by becoming an outspoken critic of the war. Yet there continue to exist liberals who support the Afghanistan war, even while they think of themselves as “peaceful.”

War is so sacred in America that truly opposing war makes a presidential candidate Unserious and un-electable.  How truly grave a political sin this is can be gauged by the fact that Ron Paul is now Unserious, even while Michelle Bachman is slowly being considered a Serious candidate. Newt Gingrich is a Very Serious candidate, even though he has supported virulently anti-Muslim propaganda and the absolutely loony, fear-mongering idea of “stealth jihad” and “creeping sharia.” Those ideas aren’t Unserious enough to warrant exclusion from the mainstream media’s blessing, but opposing war is an automatic trip to the Unserious waste bin. Unabashed bigotry is acceptable whereas peacemaking is Unserious, Fringe, and unacceptable.

* * * * *

Would you consider voting for Ron Paul?  Why or why not? Let us know in the comments’ section below.

James Kirchick: What About all the “Christianist” Support for Killing Civilians?

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2011 by loonwatch

In an August 2nd piece in the New York Daily News, James Kirchick a contributing editor for The New Republic wrote that ‘Islamist terror dwarfs Breivik’s brand because almost nobody supports Christianist violence.’ He implies in the piece that there is more support amongst Muslims for the targeted killing of civilians than groups in the West.

Kirchick is not the first, and probably will not be the last to express such a sentiment. To buttress his point Kirchick cites the familiar Pew Poll research and celebrations on Palestinian streets after the 9/11 attacks as evidence that there is a large wellspring for terrorism, while claiming that, excepting some mad bloggers, Breivik was universally condemned in the West.

It goes without saying that Kirchick’s analysis is simplistic for more than one reason.  Firstly, Breivik’s terrorism did not emerge out of nowhere, there is an anti-Muslim movement from which his thoughts were gleaned. Secondly, there are many in the anti-Muslim movement who share Breivik’s ideas about the “Muslim threat.” Thirdly, while many in the anti-Muslim movement are not willing to kill to reach their ends they do share in a radical and anti-Democratic path to “solve” the “Muslim problem.” Fourth, there is a significant group of individuals who do support aggressive and violent action to “save the West from Muslims” (see: SIOA is a Hate Group).

Fifth, the Islamist terror threat is overblown, (see: “All Terrorists are…”). Sixth, Kirchick conflates anti-Americanism and opposition to American foreign policy with  those who express a willingness to join “Islamist terror.” Seventh, he is unaware or ignores the fact there is a disproportionately large amount of support and acceptance for the killing of civilians amongst non-Muslims in the West, but lets keep it brief.

Support for Breivik’s Brand of Terror vs. Islamist Terror vs. Professional State Terrorism

Breivik’s brand of terror may not elicit as much support as ‘Islamist terror,’ but that is not to say there isn’t a pool of acceptance for the murder of civilians in the West. In fact, what would Kirchick’s response be to the fact that many more non-Muslims condone and justify the murder of civilians than Muslims?

58% of Catholics and Protestants believe the targeted military killing of civilians is sometimes justified (would that be considered “Christianist” support?), while 52% of Jews and 64% of Mormons believe it is sometimes justified. That dwarfs Muslims, 21% of whom say it is sometimes justified, while 78% say it is never justified.

What would Kirchick make of the evidence that Americans and Israelis are more likely to justify the murder of civilians than Muslims in almost every country?

Mormon-Americans 64%
Christian-Americans 58%
Jewish-Americans 52%
Israeli Jews 52%
Palestinians* 51%
No religion/Atheists/Agnostics (U.S.A.) 43%
Nigerians* 43%
Lebanese* 38%
Spanish Muslims 31%
Muslim-Americans 21%
German Muslims 17%
French Muslims 16%
British Muslims 16%
Egyptians* 15%
Indonesians* 13%
Jordanians* 12%
Pakistanis* 5%
Turks* 4%

*refers to Muslims only

It would seem that Professional Terrorism of the statecraft kind dwarfs the meager in comparison threat of “Islamist terror.”

Perhaps Kirchick wrote this piece before the publication of the Gallup Poll survey and was therefore the victim of horrible timing?

Homework for James Kirchick

Kirchick would do well to read a new book from Charles Kurzman, “The Missing Martyrs.”

“The Missing Martyrs” is an accessible scholarly work that addresses the overlooked and often ignored question of: if as we are told, there is a lot of support for terrorism amongst Muslims, why out of 1.5 billion Muslims are there so few Muslim terrorists? Why does fear of the bogeyman of “terrorism” continue to haunt us when the threat from so-called “jihadists” is just not that great?

Aaron Ross in his book review for MotherJones writes,

As it turns out, there just aren’t that many Muslims determined to kill us. Backed by a veritable army of fact, figures, and anecdotes, Kurzman makes a compelling case. He calculates, for example, that global Islamist terrorists have succeeded in recruiting fewer than 1 in 15,000 Muslims over the past 25 years, and fewer than 1 in 100,000 since 2001. And according to a top counterterrorism official, Al Qaeda originally planned to hit a West Coast target, too, on 9/11 but lacked the manpower to do so.

While Arabs and Muslims continue to repudiate Al Qaeda and its allies by toppling dictators and pushing forward towards Democracy, it is high time that US journalists, analysts and think tanks stop beating the dead horse of “Islamist terror” and catch up to the changes shaking the world.

Terrorism is not confined to non-state actors alone, if this is accepted than the narrative of greater support for terrorism amongst Muslims must not only be revised but should properly be dumped in the garbage bin of history.

Book Review: “The Missing Martyrs” by Charles Kurzman

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2011 by loonwatch

Having completed the book I was about to sit down and do a review, however I stumbled upon this one from MotherJones which reflects to some degree my thoughts on the book:

Why Aren’t There More Muslim Terrorists?

by Aaron Ross (MotherJones)

Immediately after last month’s terror attacks in Norway, Islamic extremism shot to the top of almost every list of suspected culprits. Among the soothsayers of creeping Shariah, there was never any doubt who was responsible. Others’ more rational, if hasty, assessments of Norway’s threat matrix pointed to the same (wrong) conclusion. For all their differences, both lines of reasoning shared a common assumption: that the sheer volume of Muslim terrorists out there made their involvement likely. Or as Stephen Colbert skewered the media’s rush to judgment: “If you’re pulling a news report completely out of your ass, it is safer to go with Muslim. That’s not prejudice. That’s probability.”

Charles Kurzman begs to differ. In his new book, The Missing Martyrs, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill sociology professor rejects that Muslims are especially prone to violent extremism. “If there are more than a billion Muslims in the world, many of whom supposedly hate the West and desire martyrdom,” he asks, “why don’t we see terrorist attacks everywhere, every day?”

In theory, we should. After all, there’s any number of ways a terrorist committed to murdering civilians could attack (and our gun lobby certainly isn’t making weapons harder to get a hold of). But we don’t. No Islamist terrorist attack besides 9/11 has killed more than 400 people; only a dozen have killed more than 200.

As it turns out, there just aren’t that many Muslims determined to kill us. Backed by a veritable army of fact, figures, and anecdotes, Kurzman makes a compelling case. He calculates, for example, that global Islamist terrorists have succeeded in recruiting fewer than 1 in 15,000 Muslims over the past 25 years, and fewer than 1 in 100,000 since 2001. And according to a top counterterrorism official, Al Qaeda originally planned to hit a West Coast target, too, on 9/11 but lacked the manpower to do so.

Even so, it sure seems there are a lot of Muslims committed to the West’s destruction. What else to make of the celebrations in Middle Eastern streets after 9/11? Or Pew Research Center opinion polls of multiple predominantly Muslim nations showing significant support for suicide bombings? But Kurzman warns against conflating anti-Americanism with actual willingness to engage in terrorism. In reality, he says, the young man sporting the bin Laden T-shirt in Islamabad is probably more like the American teenager in Berkeley with the Che poster on his dorm room wall than a future Al Qaeda jihadist.

Yet even if only 1 in 100,000 Muslims is a terrorist, that still leaves something like 15,000 terrorists from a global population of around 1.5 billion Muslims. Surely that’s enough to inflict serious damage? It could be—and Kurzman concedes that Islamist terrorism should be taken seriously—but in practice, several factors conspire against Al Qaeda and its allies’ aspirations of regularly striking Western targets with spectacular attacks.

For one thing, Islamist terrorists are bitterly divided between globalist groups like Al Qaeda and localists like the Taliban and Hamas. The Taliban, for instance, opposed (and still opposes) Al Qaeda’s international ambitions, so much so, Kurzman claims, that its foreign minister sent an envoy to warn American and UN officials in the summer of 2001 about a possible, albeit unspecified, attack. Meanwhile, rifts within the Muslim world about issues like democracy, liberalism, and the role of women have crippled support for global jihadists. Insistent that all streams of Islamic thought conform to their rigid doctrines (and willing to murder fellow Muslims to make the point), Al Qaeda and its affiliates have alienated millions of potential supporters, rendering themselves far easier targets for unsympathetic Middle Eastern regimes to go after.

After pressing his case with almost prosecutorial precision for the first two-thirds of the book, Kurzman’s analysis veers off the rails as he detours into an alternately banal and pedantic discussion of everything from America’s need to balance liberty with security to the lexicological origins of sociology. In a case of epically bad timing, he devotes the better part of six pages to praising recently discredited philanthropist Greg Mortenson as “a role [model] for American foreign policy.” Kurzman is unfortunate more than anything else here, but after arguing that American foreign policy doesn’t really affect Muslims’ views of the US, his sudden fawning over Mortenson’s in-vogue “hearts and minds” counterterrrorism strategy is somewhat befuddling.

Still, Kurzman’s hard-headed empirical approach to an issue so often locked in emotion-fueled back and forth makes The Missing Martyrs (or at least most of it) a must-read. Early on, he states his aim: “to reduce the panic by examining evidence about Islamist terrorism—the actual scale of it and the reasons it is not more widespread.” It’s an important goal—perhaps more so now than at any point in recent memory—and Kurzman has made a valuable contribution.

Aaron Ross is an editorial intern at Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here. Follow him on Twitter and email tips and insights to aross [at] motherjones [dot] com.

Surveys Show Muslims in Every Country Less Likely to Justify Killing Civilians than Americans and Israelis

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2011 by loonwatch

(source for comic)

I recently published an article entitled Gallup Poll: Jews and Christians Way More Likely than Muslims to Justify Killing Civilians.  The poll found that Muslim-Americans (21%) were far less likely than their fellow Jewish (52%) and Christian (58%) countrymen to think it is sometimes justifiable to target and kill civilians.  (For the record, these numbers were 64% in Mormons and 43% in people with no religion/atheists/agnostics.)

Islamophobes didn’t like the results of this poll and quickly protested.  LibertyPhile, an anti-Muslim bigot who spends his free time spreading hatred of Muslims (one wonders how empty his personal life is that he kills his spare time doing this?), whined:

…The survey is of American Muslims, who are unlikely to be representative of Muslims in Muslim countries or of Muslims in Europe.

LibertyPhile is among a select group of Islamophobes who have compiled various poll results which portray Muslims in a negative light.  The operative logic is usually as follows: x% of Muslims believe it is sometimes justifiable to target and kill civilians, and x% is a lot!

I agree that x% is a lot.  Even the 21% of Muslim-Americans who think it is sometimes justifiable to target and kill civilians is unacceptably high.  Yet, the point that Islamophobes intentionally fail to mention is that this number is less–far less in this case–than the general public (including Jews and Christians). So while it’s absolutely atrocious that 21% of Muslim-Americans would think so, more than twice that percentage of Jewish- and Christian-Americans think so! This fact “steals their (the Islamophobes’) thunder,” so to speak.

With regard to LibertyPhile’s comment, the data we have from Muslim and European countries confirms that Muslims in general are less likely to justify the killing of civilians as compared to Jews and Christians in America.  Interestingly enough, LibertyPhile himself links to a site that references a poll that proves this!

LibertyPhile links to a website citing the Populus for Policy Exchange, a British study that found that between 7-16% of British Muslims think that it is sometimes justifiable to target and kill civilians. This means that Jewish- and Christian Americans justify targeting and killing civilians 350% more than British Muslims.

LibertyPhile cites Pew Research Center.  Yet, Pew found the same results for French-Muslims: once again, only 16% of Muslims in France believe it is sometimes justifiable to target and kill civilians.  Pew notes that this is the case for the Muslims in all the European countries they polled; says Pew (emphasis added):

Like Muslims elsewhere in Europe only a tiny minority of French Muslims (16%) say that suicide bombings and other violence against civilian targets in defense of Islam can often or sometimes be justified.

Indeed, for Muslims in Germany that number is only 17% (according to a Pew poll), far less than the whopping 52% and 58% among American Jews and Christians, respectively.  According to the same poll, the percentage of Muslims in Spain is significantly higher, at 31%–which is still almost half of what it is for Christians in the United States.

The conclusion we draw from this is that Muslims in Western countries (such as United States, the U.K., France, Germany, and Spain) are far less likely than Jews and Christians in America to justify the targeting and killing of civilians.  This is quite the opposite of the picture that Islamophobes such as LibertyPhile paint.

What about Muslims in the Muslim-majority world?  Do they support the targeting and killing of civilians?  Robert Spencer’s JihadWatch published an article from CNS News, formerly called the Conservative News Service, which cited a Pew poll to prove that a sizable portion of the population did indeed support this.

Yet, even this source shows that support for the targeting and killing of civilians among Muslims in the Muslim world is still lower than what it is among Jews and Christians here in the United States. The article cited by Spencer reads:

In the Pew Global Attitudes Project poll released on Thursday, 68 percent of Palestinian Muslim respondents said suicide bombings against civilians were justifiable “to defend Islam from its enemies.”

That view was shared by 43 percent of respondents in Nigeria and 38 percent in Lebanon, where 51 percent of Shi’ites held the view compared to 25 percent of Sunnis.

Elsewhere, the proportion of Muslim respondents supporting suicide bombings against civilians was 15 percent in Egypt, 13 percent in Indonesia, 12 percent in Jordan, seven percent in Israel (Muslim Arab citizens), five percent in Pakistan and four percent in Turkey.

The Palestinians are split in between those inside of Israeli proper (1.5 million) and those in the Israeli Occupied Territories (4 million).  Using simple math (1.5×0.07+4×0.68)/(1.5+4)=0.51, we find that 51% of Palestinians overall think its sometimes justified to target and kill civilians.  On the the other hand, according to a Gallup poll 52% of Israelis think it is OK to target and kill civilians.

What we have then is:

Percentage of people who said it is sometimes justifiable to target and kill civilians:

Mormon-Americans 64%
Christian-Americans 58%
Jewish-Americans 52%
Israeli Jews 52%
Palestinians* 51%
No religion/Atheists/Agnostics (U.S.A.) 43%
Nigerians* 43%
Lebanese* 38%
Spanish Muslims 31%
Muslim-Americans 21%
German Muslims 17%
French Muslims 16%
British Muslims 16%
Egyptians* 15%
Indonesians* 13%
Jordanians* 12%
Pakistanis* 5%
Turks* 4%

*refers to Muslims only

Therefore, Muslims in every country are less likely than U.S. Jews and Christians (and Israeli Jews) to believe that it is sometimes justified to target and kill civilians.

*  *  *  *  *

The recent Gallup poll shows us how important context is when it comes to statistics.  For several years, the Islamophobes such as LibertyPhile have been peddling statistics showing that an inordinate number of Muslims in various countries believe it is justifiable to target and kill civilians.  For example, they would say something along the lines of:

16% of British Muslims believe it is justified to target and kill civilians.  There are over 2.5 million Muslims in the U.K.  Sixteen percent of 2.5 million is a lot!  That’s how many Muslims there are who believe terrorism is OK.

This number of 16% is certainly alarming, but the Islamophobe needs to prove that Muslims are more accepting of violence than people of other faiths, especially their own Judeo-Christian faith.  In order to draw such a conclusion, there must be another value from the other group to compare it to.  That’s what the recent Gallup poll gives us: a number to compare the 16% to.  And certainly, 58% and 52% are far greater than 16%.

The need for context–and something fair to compare a statistic to–is reflected in other such Muslim-bashing “factoids” that Islamophobes like LibertyPhile peddle.  For example, the site LibertyPhile links to notes that x% of Muslims want Sharia.  Aside from the fact that Muslims have a whole variety of views about what Sharia means and entails, we need to compare x% with the percentage of Jews and Christians who want Halacha and Biblical law in Israel and America.  For the Islamophobes, doing so would steal their thunder.

Ranting and raving about how many Muslims think it’s sometimes justifiable to target and kill civilians while your own religious group is worse really is a case of throwing stones living inside a glass house.  Throughout the Understanding Jihad Series, I have repeatedly harped on the overwhelming hypocrisy and double-standard Jewish and Christian Islamophobes use when they attack Islam.  More often than not, whatever they vilify in Islam is also found in their own religious faith.

*  *  *  *  *

The only worthwhile conclusion that we can draw from all this is that an unacceptable number of people in general–whether they be Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or even atheist/agnostic–think it’s OK to sometimes target and kill civilians.  This is a sobering thought, and should remind us that we should all work together to end war and bring peace to this earth.  The hateful and violent state of humanity–egged on by Islamophobes like Robert Spencer and LibertyPhile (as well as their counterparts in the Muslim world)–is truly disturbing.  Something is truly wrong when so many people–of every faith (as well as those of no faith)–believe it’s sometimes justified to take the life of an innocent human being.

My intention here is not to vilify Jews and Christians (see here).  It is only to prevent the line of thinking that has become endemic among us Americans: Those Foreign-Looking Moozlum People Over There are Evil and Wicked, Whereas We White Judeo-Christian People are Good and Holy.  Once it is acknowledged that we too have the same problem as they, we can draw not only a more accurate conclusion, but a more sensitive, tolerant, and helpful one.

Of course, it would be worthwhile to consider actual results on the ground: we Americans have (at minimum, using conservative numbers) killed 30 times as many Muslim civilians as Muslims have killed of ours, whereas Israelis have killed many-fold the number of civilians as Palestinians have killed of theirs.  Clearly, what people and states do is far more relevant than what they merely believe.

Gallup Poll: Jews and Christians Way More Likely than Muslims to Justify Killing Civilians

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 9, 2011 by loonwatch
The left side is considered Terrorism while the right side isn’t

 

A very important poll from Gallup was resulted recently.  I will comment in detail later on when I pick up where I left off in the Understanding Jihad Series (soon, I promise).

For the record, I purposefully worded the title of my post in a somewhat provocative way; as has been my style in the Series, I tend to show how we can turn the tables on anti-Muslim Jews (i.e. Pamela Geller) and Christians (i.e. Robert Spencer)–as well as anti-Muslim ex-Muslim atheists/agnostics (i.e. Faith Freedom International) who claim that Islam and Muslims are more violent than Judaism and Christianity.  These anti-Muslim elements would have worded the title this way, had it been the other way around.

Perhaps a more sensitive and appropriate way to word the title–had I not been trying to make a point–would be to say “Muslims Least Likely to Condone Targeting and Killing Civilians.”

Check out the results of the poll here and here.  Here are the more pertinent results in bar graph form:

And:

*  *  *  *  *

The comic above is absolutely wonderful and really depicts the utter hypocrisy of the United States and Israel. This hypocrisy is born out in the poll results, which show that many (a majority of?) Americans are opposed to small, weak, and largely irrelevant groups like Al-Qaeda killing civilians but are perfectly fine with the powerful, mighty, and hyper-ultra-mega-super power that is our military targeting and killing civilians on a much larger scale.

Here, it would be appropriate to understand the difference between what I call Professional Terrorism (“state terror”) and Amateur Terrorism (Al-Qaeda style).  Professional Terrorism uses the military-industrial complex to kill tens of thousands of civilians, whereas Amateur Terrorism uses untrained amateurs without the help of state resources to kill a handful of people (or which actually more commonly results in a failed bombing).

In American and Israeli society, Professional Terrorism is acceptable, whereas Amateur Terrorism is absolutely the world’s greatest evil.  Amateur Terrorism provides the justification for Professional Terrorism (this even though it is usually almost always the case that Professional Terrorism started the cycle of violence).  Those who have the capability to carry out Professional Terrorism have absolutely no need to resort to Amateur Terrorism since the former is so much more effective in killing civilians than the latter.  To this effect, Max Blumenthal has published an excellent article (which is worth reading in its entirety) in which he explains why more extremist Jews and Christians don’t need to rely on Anders Behring Breivik’s form of terrorism (Amateur Terrorism):

Many of the American writers who influenced Breivik spent years churning out calls for the mass murder of Muslims, Palestinians and their left-wing Western supporters. But the sort of terrorism these US-based rightists incited for was not the style the Norwegian killer would eventually adopt. Instead of Breivik’s renegade free-booting, they preferred the “shock and awe” brand of state terror perfected by Western armies against the brown hordes threatening to impose Sharia law on the people in Peoria. This kind of violence provides a righteous satisfaction so powerful it can be experienced from thousands of miles away.

And so most American Islamophobes simply sit back from the comfort of their homes and cheer as American and Israeli troops — and their remote-controlled aerial drones — leave a trail of charred bodies from Waziristan to Gaza City. Only a select group of able-bodied Islamophobes are willing to suit up in a uniform and rush to the front lines of the clash of civilizations. There, they have discovered that they can mow down Muslim non-combatants without much fear of legal consequences, and that when they return, they will be celebrated as the elite Crusader-warriors of the new Islamophobic right — a few particularly violent figures have been rewarded with seats in Congress. Given the variety of culturally acceptable, officially approved outlets for venting violent anti-Muslim resentment, there is little reason for any American to follow in Breivik’s path of infamy.

Before exploring the online subculture that both shaped and mirrored Breivik’s depravity, it is necessary to define state terror, especially the kind refined by its most prolific practitioners. At the dawn of the “war on terror,” the United States and Israel began cultivating a military doctrine called “asymmetrical warfare.” Pioneered by an Israeli philosophy and “practical ethics” professor named Asa Kasher and the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Lt. Gen. Amos Yadlin, and successfully marketed to the Pentagon, the asymmetrical warfare doctrine did away with traditional counterinsurgency tactics which depended on winning the “hearts and minds” of indigenous populations. Under the new rules, the application of disproportionate force against non-combatants who were supposedly intermingled with the “terrorists” was not only  justified but considered necessary. According to Kasher and Yadlin, eliminating the principle of distinction between enemy combatants and civilians was the most efficient means of deterring attacks from non-state actors like Hamas and Hezbollah while guarding the lives of Israeli soldiers.

Asymmetrical warfare has been witnessed in theaters of war across the Muslim world, leaving tens of thousands of civilians dead in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gaza Strip. The strategy was formalized in the Dahiya district of southern Beirut in 2006, when the Israeli military flattened hundreds of civilian structures and homes to supposedly punish Hezbollah for its capturing of two Israeli soldiers.

From the ashes of the Israeli carpet bombing campaign emerged the “Dahiya Doctrine,” a term coined by an Israeli general responsible for directing the war on Lebanon in 2006. “IDF Northern Command Chief Gadi Eisenkot uttered clear words that essentially mean the following,” wrote Israeli journalist Yaron London, who had just interviewed the general. “In the next clash with Hezbollah we won’t bother to hunt for tens of thousands of rocket launchers and we won’t spill our soldiers’ blood in attempts to overtake fortified Hizbullah positions. Rather, we shall destroy Lebanon and won’t be deterred by the protests of the ‘world.’” In a single paragraph, London neatly encapsulated the logic of state terror.

While Israel has sought to insulate itself from the legal ramifications of its attacks on civilian life by deploying elaborate propaganda and intellectual sophistry (witness the country’s frantic campaign to discredit the Goldstone Report), and the United States has casually dismissed allegations of war crimes as any swaggering superpower would (after a US airstrike killed scores of Afghan civilians, former US CENTCOM chief David Petraeus baselessly claimed that Afghan parents had deliberately burned their children alive to increase the death toll), the online Islamophobes who inspired Breivik tacitly accept the reality of Israeli and American state terror. And they like it. Indeed, American Islamophobes derive frightening levels of ecstasy from the violence inflicted by the armed forces against Muslim civilians.

Blumenthal notes that “state terror” and “asymmetric warfare” has been perfected by extremists the mainstream establishment in America and Israel and accepted unquestioningly by fringe elements the vast majority of citizenry.  Killing civilians has become so much a part of the norm and we have internalized it to such a great extent that we don’t even recognize it as inherently wrong any more.  This is clearly reflected in the Gallup poll.

*  *  *  *  *

On the relative irrelevance of Al-Qaeda’s violence, see here where Glenn Greenwald correctly comments on “the puny, broken, absurd state of Al Qaeda.”  As for America being a hyper-ultra-mega-super power that wages so much war on so many different fronts that it may have set a new standard for all of history, check out this article here.  And of course, there’s this from Prof. Stephen Walt showing the great imbalance in civilian deaths between the two sides.

Naturally, terrorism in the minds of most Americans is by definition violence committed by Muslims (see here).

As I stated before, I will include a more in-depth discussion of this poll on some other day.

Update I: I published a follow-up article here.

‘Ex-Terrorist’ Fraud: Walid Shoebat Exposed Part 2

Posted in Loon Pastors, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 18, 2011 by loonwatch

The expose on the fraud known as Shoebat continues on CNN:

Robert Spencer, watch out you’re next.

Creeping Shariah: Stealth Threat or Conspiracy Theory?

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2011 by loonwatch

I wanted to find out what the kerfluffle over “creeping Shariah” was all about. After all, this is a Republican worry in thirteen states which have introduced anti-shariah laws. And apparently it’s more serious than even a global economic Depression.

So I went to a blog by the promising name of “Creeping Shariah” and its matching Twitter feed for some hard answers.

The website promised to easily locate the numerous recent cases of jihad being waged on our very shores. In Massachusetts alone there were forty incidents of jihad, as those sly Mahometans managed to finesse a Muslim holiday in Cambridge, plotted to build a cemetery in Belchertown, and the Muslim Brotherhood had apparently consulted with Whitey Bulger to get governor Duval Patrick to build a mega-mosque in Bah-stahn.

Those armed-and-dangerous ladies from Code Pink were raising money for Hamas, CAIR was at it again, trying to help out some headscarf-toting Muslim terrorists at a Boston pharmacy school, Yale University was cozying up to faculty jihadis by not re-inviting an Islamophobe to come back for a conference, and some crazy Mooslim women troublemakers in Kansas City wanted to wear Islamic-style bathing gear in a pool. The fate of our pools, our children, and our very nation were at stake. And all this trouble from a bunch of Muslim women, no less.

Beside the fact that New Haven and Kansas City are not exactly in Massachusetts, most of the other “incidents” reported were endlessly-recycled hate blurbs from people like Pamela Geller and Rick Santorum — which, I will grant you — do constitute a sort of domestic terror. But most of the postings were over a year old. Maybe getting all that “news” onto his website was just too overwhelming for him. HTML can be so wordy.

But now I was really curious. Incidents of creeping shariah and jihad were obviously so numerous, so dangerous, and so troubling that perhaps a Twitter feed could provide better real-time coverage of the onslaught. And surely the feed would corroborate a pattern of Islamification of our beloved heterosexual, fetus-friendly, pro-capitalist, White-loving, brown-skin-hating, Ayn Randophilic, Judeo-Christian-based culture! I went online looking for more answers.

And answers I found. More attacks on Keith Ellison, indignation at a Toronto school which tried to accommodate a Muslim student who wanted to pray quietly in a corner of its library, and the unmitigated gall of the town of Farmington, Michigan, to sell an unused school to an Islamic cultural association. Truly disturbing stuff, indeed!

Elsewhere in the tweets were some on a Republican congressman (Wolf, R-VA) going after CAIR via the IRS, Judicial Watch going after CAIR, and disappointment that CAIR could sue a former intern who stole tens of thousands of documents for his Islamophobe father, Paul David Gaubatz.

There was also a speech by Geert Wilders at the Cornerstone Church in Nashville, part of his“Warning to America” event, which concluded with the words:

You and I, Americans and Europeans, we belong to a common Western culture. We share the ideas and ideals of our common Judeo-Christian heritage. In order to pass this heritage on to our children and grandchildren, we must stand together, side by side, in our struggle against Islamic barbarism. That, my friends, is why I am here. I am here to forge an alliance. Our international freedom alliance. We must stand together for the Judeo-Christian West. We will not allow islam to overrun Israel and Europe, the cradle of the judeo-Christian civilization.

Wow. Now I get it. Only Leni Riefenstahl was missing from the picture. Or was that Hermann Goering?

I mean, thank goodness I’m a Jew! It wasn’t that long ago that Nordic types like Wilders were saying the same thing about my people. Now with the cool kids expanded to “European Judeo-Christians” and not just Christians anymore, I could join a select club and kick around Muslims if I wanted to — rather than just being a Yid whose faith and culture was once characterized by Nazis exactly as Wilders paints Islam at churches and synagogues today.

I’d get with his program, but all I’d have to do is stop trying to be a mensch. That and the stench Wilder’s words would leave in my mouth.

Glenn Greenwald: The true definition of “Terrorist”

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on June 22, 2011 by loonwatch

(cross-posted from Salon)

In late May, two Iraqi nationals, who were in the U.S. legally, were arrested in Kentucky and indicted on a variety of Terrorism crimes.  In The Washington Post today, GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — writing under the headline:  “Guantanamo is the place to try terrorists” –castigates Attorney General Eric Holder for planning to try the two defendants in a civilian court on U.S. soil rather than shipping them to Guantanamo.

To make his case, the war-loving-but-never-fighting McConnell waves the flag of cowardly manufactured fear that is both his hallmark and the hallmark of uniquely American political rhetoric on Terrorism (“my constituents do not think that civilian judges and jurors in their community should be subjected to the risk of reprisal for participating in a terrorist trial“); relies on the ignoble example of Chuck Schumer and other New York Democrats who demanded that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed not be tried in Manhattan; and, as usual, issues vacant cries of war-uber-alles to justify abandonment of basic legal safeguards (“our top priority in battling terrorism should be to find, capture and detain or kill those who would do us harm”).  Along the way, McConnell — as most right-wing politicians are now forced to do given the continuity with Bush 43 — praises Obama’s overall national security approach:

The administration has shown admirable flexibility in making decisions concerning national security and has shown that it is willing, on occasion, to put safety over ideology. President Obama launched a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, ignored calls to hastily withdraw from Iraq and recently agreed to extend the Patriot Act without weakening its provisions or making them harder to use.

Indeed, the Kentucky Republican ends his Op-Ed with an appeal to Obama’s “flexibility”; the President, he urges, should “let Holder know that our civilian courts are off-limits to foreign fighters captured in the war on terrorism.”

McConnell’s criticism of Holder is patently absurd; the very idea that we should start rounding up people who are legally on U.S. soil and shipping them to Guantanamo — rather than trying them in a real court — is menacing, and the fear he invokes (they’ll kill us if we put them on trial) is as fictitious as it is cowardly.  But far more interesting than McConnell’s trite fear-mongering is the notion that these two individuals are “Terrorists.”  Just as McConnell’s Op-Ed did, in all the reporting thus far on this case, the fact that their alleged acts constitutes Terrorism has been tacitly assumed (AP: ”2 Iraqis charged in Ky. with terrorism plotting”; ABC News: “Kentucky Terror Case”; PoliticoMcConnell:  Get Terror Case out of Kentucky”).

But look at what they’re actually accused of doing.  Those above-linked news reports as well as the unsealed indictment make clear that there are two separate categories of acts forming the basis for these allegations.  The first is that one of the men, Waad Ramadan Alwan, admitted to working with the “Iraqi insurgency” to attack American troops during the first three years of the war.  From the indictment:

It was that activity which the FBI trumpeted when announcing the indictments:

WASHINGTON—An Iraqi citizen who allegedly carried out numerous improvised explosive device (IED) attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and another Iraqi national alleged to have participated in the insurgency in Iraq have been arrested and indicted on federal terrorism charges in the Western District of Kentucky. . . .

According to the charging documents, the FBI has been able to identify two latent fingerprints belonging to Alwan on acomponent of an unexploded IED that was recovered by U.S. forces near Bayji, Iraq. . . . Alwan had also allegedly told the CHS how he had used a particular brand of cordless telephone base station in IEDs. Alwan’s fingerprints were allegedly found on this particular brand of cordless base station in the IED that was recovered in Iraq.

The second set of acts involves a plot apparently concocted by the FBI, and then presented to Alwan through the use of an informant, to ship weapons and money to “Al Qaeda in Iraq.”  I realize that the very mention of the phrase “Al Qaeda” is supposed to stop the brain of all Decent People, but as even AP acknowledges, that group is little more than an insurgency group specific to Iraq, devoted to attacking foreign troops in their country:

Neither is charged with plotting attacks within the United States . . . . Their arrests come after FBI Director Robert Mueller said in February that his agency was taking a fresh look at Iraqi nationals in the U.S. who had ties to al-Qaida’s offshoot in Iraq. The group had not previously been considered a threat in the U.S.

Indeed, the FBI — in touting the plot they created and induced Alwan to become part of — acknowledged that the plot was devoted exclusively to attacking U.S. troops in Iraq, not civilians:

Over the course of roughly eight years, Waad Ramadan Alwan allegedly supported efforts to kill U.S. troops in Iraq, first by participating in the construction and placement of improvised explosive devices in Iraq and, more recently, by attempting to ship money and weapons from the United States to insurgents in Iraq. His co-defendant, Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, is accused of many of the same activities, said Todd Hinnen, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security.

According to the charging documents, beginning in September 2010, Alwan expressed interest in helping the [confidential human source] CHS provide support to terrorists in Iraq. The CHS explained that he shipped money and weapons to the mujahidin in Iraq by secreting them in vehicles sent from the United States. Thereafter, Alwan allegedly participated in operations with the CHS to provide money, weapons — including machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, Stinger missiles, and C4 plastic explosives — as well as IED diagrams and advice on the construction of IEDs to what he believed were the mujahidin attacking U.S. troops in Iraq.

There is no suggestion in any of these reports or documents, not even a hint, that either of the accused ever tried to stage any attacks in the U.S. or target civilians either in the U.S. or Iraq.  Leaving aside the fact that this seems to be yet another case where the FBI manufacturers its own plotswhich they entrap people into joining, and then praises itself for stopping them, the alleged crimes here are confined entirely to past attacks on U.S. invading forces in their country and current efforts to aid those waging such attacks now.

One can have a range of views about the morality and justifiability of Iraqi nationals attacking U.S. troops in their country.  One could say that it is the right of Iraqis to attack a foreign army brutally invading and occupying their nation, just as Americans would presumably do against a foreign army invading their country (at least those who don’t share Mitch McConnell’s paralyzing fears and cowardice).  Or one could say that it is inherently wrong and evil to attack U.S. troops no matter what they’re doing or where they are in the world, even when waging war in a foreign country that is killing large numbers of innocent civilians.  Or one could say that the American war in Iraq in particular was such a noble effort to spread Freedom and Democracy that only an evil person would fight against it.  Or one could say that it’s always wrong for a non-state actor to engage in violence (a very convenient standard for the U.S., given that very few nations around the world could resist U.S. force without reliance on such unconventional means).  And one can recognize that most nations, not only the U.S., would apprehend those engaged in attacks against their troops.

But whatever one’s views are on those moral questions, in what conceivable sense can it be called “Terrorism” for a citizen of a country to fight against foreign invading troops by attacking purely military targets?  This is hardly the first case where we have condemned as Terrorists citizens of countries we invaded for fighting back against invading American troops.  The U.S. shipped numerous people to Guantanamo, branded them Terrorists, and put them in cages for years without charges for doing exactly that (indeed, the Obama administration prosecuted at Guantanamo the first child soldier tried for war crimes, Omar Khadr, for throwing a grenade at U.S. troops in Afghanistan).

I’ve often written that Terrorism is the most meaningless, and thus most manipulated, term in American political discourse.  But while it lacks any objective meaning, it does have a functional one.  It means:  anyone — especially of the Muslim religion and/or Arab nationality — who fights against the United States and its allies or tries to impede their will.  That’s what “Terrorism” is; that’s all it means.  And it’s just extraordinary how we’ve created what we call ”law” that is intended to do nothing other than justify all acts of American violence while delegitimizing, criminalizing, and converting into Terrorism any acts of resistance to that violence.

Just consider:  in American political discourse, it’s not remotely criminal that the U.S. attacked Iraq, spent 7 years destroying the country, and left at least 100,000 people dead.  To even suggest that American officials responsible for that attack should be held criminally liable is to marginalize oneself as a fringe and unSerious radical.  It’s not an idea that’s even heard, let alone accepted.  After all, all Good Patriotic Americans were horrified that an Iraqi citizen would so much as throw a shoe at George Bush; what did he do to deserve such treatment?  The U.S. is endowed with the inalienable right to commit violence against anyone it wants without any consequences of any kind.

By contrast, any Iraqi who fights back in any way against the U.S. invasion — even by fighting against exclusively military targets — is not only a criminal, but a Terrorist: one who should be shipped to Guantanamo.  And this notion is so engrained that no media account discussing this case would dare question the application of the “Terrorism” label to what they’ve done, even though it applies in no conceivable way.

One sees the same manipulative dynamic at play in how the U.S. freely tries to kill foreign leaders of countries it attacks.  The U.S. repeatedly tried to kill Saddam at the start of the Iraq War, and — contrary to Obama’s early pledges — has done the same to Gadaffi in Libya. NATO has explicitly declared Gadaffi to be a “legitimate target.”  But just imagine if an Iraqi had come to the U.S. and attempted to bomb the White House or kill George Bush, or if a Libyan (or Afghan, Pakistani, or Yemeni) did the same to Obama.  Would anyone in American political circles be allowed to suggest that this was a legitimate act of war?  Of course not:  screaming “Terrorism!” would be the only acceptable reaction.

It’s hardly unusual that an empire declares that its violence and aggression are inherently legitimate, and that any resistance to it — or the very same acts aimed at it — are inherently illegitimate.  That double-standard decree, more or less, is a defining feature of an empire.  But the nationalistic conceit that all of that is justified by coherent, consistent principles of “law” — or can be resolved by meaningful application of terms such as “Terrorism” – is really too ludicrous to endure.

UPDATE:  Bolstering the definition of Terrorism I provided above, Jonathan Schwarz several years ago documented how establishment political and media circles in the U.S. routinely referred to the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks in Lebanon as “Terrorism.”   As Schwarz wrote:

Whatever else you might say about those bombings, they weren’t terrorism, at least if words have any meaning. They were attacks on military targets.

But this goes really, really deep in U.S. political culture. The basic idea is: we are allowed to send our military anywhere on earth to do anything to anyone. And if someone tries to fight back—even by targeting our military when it’s stationed in their country and killing them—that is fundamentally AGAINST THE RULES.

Propping up that warped mindset is the central purpose of the term Terrorism.

My God is Better Than Yours (I): Christians Calling Muslims “Mohammedans” a Case of Pot Calling Kettle Black

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2011 by loonwatch

This article is part 9 of LoonWatch’s Understanding Jihad Series. Please read my “disclaimer”, which explains my intentions behind writing this article: The Understanding Jihad Series: Is Islam More Likely Than Other Religions to Encourage Violence?

The anti-Muslim ideologues argue that the prophet of Islam was uniquely violent as compared to prophets of other religions, especially Judaism and Christianity; this is an argument furthered in chapter one of Robert Spencer’s book The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades).  Further, they argue that the holy book of Islam is uniquely warlike as compared to scriptures of other faiths, especially the Bible; Spencer argues this in chapter two of his book.

These claims are not well-founded, and we’ve thoroughly refuted them (see parts 1234567, and 8 of the Understanding Jihad Series).  Clearly, the Biblical prophets (MosesJoshuaSamson,SaulDavid, etc.) were more violent than the Prophet Muhammad; even Jesus, who promised to kill all his enemies, was no exception.  Similarly, the Bible is more violent than the Quran.

There is one specific manner in which the Biblical prophets and the Bible are to be considered more violent than Muhammad and the Quran: they sanction(ed) the killing of innocent civilians: women and children.  Worse yet, they sanction(ed) what can only be described as genocide.  Nowhere in the Quran is targeting the life of a non-combatant, especially a woman or child, permitted; in fact, the Prophet Muhammad strictly forbade such a thing.

For all the obfuscation that the anti-Muslim polemicists will provide in response to this Series, keep this point in mind which cannot be reiterated enough: the most significant difference, and why the Biblical prophets and the Bible are to be considered more warlike than the Islamic prophet and holy book, is that they permit(ted) the killing of non-combatants, including women and children–even to the point of allowing genocide. The Islamophobes can copy-and-paste Quranic verses until they go blue in the face (even with the help of those ever so helpful ellipses), but they can never find a single verse in the Quran like that.

Do Muslims Worship the Same God as Jews and Christians?

In addition to Islam’s prophet and holy book, anti-Muslim ideologues (most of whom come from Judeo-Christian backgrounds) absolutely despise the God of Islam: Allah.  Too ignorant to realize that the word Allah just means “God” in Arabic (or technically, The God) and that the Arabic version of the Bible uses the word “Allah” in it for the Judeo-Christian God–and too ignorant to realize that Jewish and Christian Arabs call their god “Allah”–the anti-Muslim ideologues unload all sorts of invective against Allah.

The anti-Muslim argument has two parts to it: (1) the God that Muslims worship is different than the God of the Jews and Christians; (2) this other, different pagan god is warlike, blood-thirsty, and brutal.  In order to debunk this argument, therefore, it is important to refute each individual part.  First, is the God of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims the same?  Second, what are the characteristics of the Muslim God as compared to the Jewish and Christian God?

Do Muslims Worship Muhammad?

The idea that Muslims don’t worship the same god as Jews and Christians dates back to at least the time of the Crusades: Crusader lore had it that the Muslims were “pagans” and that they worshiped the Prophet Muhammad instead of God.  In time, Muslims came to be known as Mahometans, and eventually Mohammedans. This misnomer was used by Orientalists, and continues to be employed by certain anti-Muslim elements today, including some Christians.

This is of course a fascinatingly ironic case of projection: by using this term, these anti-Muslim Christians are mocking Muslims for worshiping a man named Muhammad instead of God.  After all,who but a primitive pagan would worship a man-god? Yet, in actuality it is the Christian community that worships a “man-god”: Jesus Christ.

If Muslims are to be considered pagans for worshiping a man named Muhammad, should Christians be considered pagans for worshiping Jesus?  Even if Muhammad had claimed divinity, how would this have been any different from what Christians claim Jesus did?  Ironically, the pejorative term “Mohammedan” is to Muhammad what “Christian” is to Christ.

In any case, Muhammad never claimed divinity nor have Muslims ever believed such a thing.  In fact, the Quran instructed the Prophet Muhammad:

Say to them (O Muhammad): “I am only a human being like you.  It is revealed to me that your God is One God. So let him who hopes to meet his Lord do good deeds and let him associate no one else in the worship of his Lord.” (Quran, 18:110)

The Quran categorically declared that “Muhammad is no more than an apostle” who can die or even be killed (Quran, 3:144).  Indeed, when the Prophet Muhammad died, his successor Abu Bakr famously proclaimed:

Whoever worshiped Muhammad, let him know that Muhammad is dead.  But whoever worshiped God (Allah), let him know that God (Allah) lives and does not die. (Sahih al-Bukhari, 2:333)

It has even been part of the Islamic tradition to prohibit all imagery of the Prophet in order to prevent Muhammad from being “idolized” as Jesus was by Christians.  This precaution was based on the Prophet Muhammad’s fear of suffering a similar “fate” as Jesus.  Not only does the Quran repeatedly criticize the Christians for deifying Jesus, but Muhammad explicitly warned his followers:

Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the son of Mary (Jesus), for I am only a slave.  So, call me the slave of God (Allah) and His Messenger. (Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:654)

It seems that Christians ought to be the absolute last people on earth to mock Muslims for worshiping Muhammad or calling them “Mohammedans.”  But alas, we will see a recurring pattern here: Christians criticizing Muslims for something that is present even more so in their own religion.

In any case, the Quran repeatedly warns against worshiping anyone or anything besides God (Allah):

Say: “Truly my prayer and my worship, my life and my death are all for God (Allah) alone, the Lord of the worlds.” (Quran, 6:162)

It would be very difficult to construct a case that Muslims actively worship Muhammad.  Unbelievably, however, this Crusader-era canard remains alive and well among some segments of anti-Muslim Christians.  Sam Shamoun, an anti-Muslim Christian polemicist, insists that Muslims do in fact worship Muhammad.  Shamoun uses several very weak arguments to “prove” this claim.  Fortunately, his arguments have been refuted here by Muslim apologist Bassam Zawadi.

For our intents and purposes, whether Muslims worship Muhammad or not is largely a theological debate between Muslims and Christians, one which is hardly relevant to our website.  However, it isrelevant to us insofar as this claim is related to the “slur” of “Mohammedan”–an epithet which is used by many Islamophobes today.  It is a vestige of age-old Western confusion about and propaganda against Islam, whereby Muslims are “Other-ized”: Muslims are understood as followers of some alien and strange faith, one which worships a man named Muhammad instead of God.

Lastly, the “Muslims worship Muhammad” canard, which has been used by Christians against Muslims for hundreds of years, gives us the proper backdrop to understand the “Muslims worship the moon-god” conspiracy theory, which has become very popular among Islamophobes today.  The former Crusader-era canard has been repackaged in the form of the moon-god theory and is now being fed to the masses, once again serving to provide the propaganda needed to sustain our wars, our modern-day crusades against the Islamic world.

The Islamophobes “Other-ize” the god Muslims worship, comparing the “God of Love” supposedly found in the Judeo-Christian tradition with the “war and moon god” supposedly found in the religion of Islam.  The stealthy tacking on of the word “war” to “moon god” makes the moon-god theory directly relevant to the topic of jihad.  It is this “theory” that we turn our attention to next.

Salon.com: Arabic for right-wingers

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2011 by loonwatch

Salon.com: Arabic for right-wingers

BY JUSTIN ELLIOTT

In ominous tones, Islamophobes toss around terms like “taqiyya” and “Shariah.” Do they even know what they mean?

In a now infamous column, the writer Eliana Benador argued this week that Anthony Weiner (who is a Jew) may have converted to Islam but was hiding it from the world in accordance with the practice of “taqiyya.”

“It is also important, when looking at this situation, to remember that observant Muslims practice taqiyya, an element of sharia that states there is a legal right and duty to distort the truth to promote the cause of Islam,” Benador wrote.

In invoking the Arabic term “taqiyya,” Benador exemplified a practice we’ve noticed in the past few years. It’s become common for right-wing writers and even politicians to matter-of-factly toss around Arabic terminology when warning of the Muslim threat to America. These references, often made in ominous tones, are almost always without context.

So we thought it would be useful to hear explanations of terms like “taqiyya” from an expert. John Esposito, university professor at Georgetown and author of “What Everyone Needs to Know about Islam,” was kind enough to explain six of the more common Islamic terms we’ve been hearing. Esposito wrote the “What it actually means” items below, following my introductions.

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The term: dhimmi

How it’s used: As a pejorative for non-Muslims who fail to understand — and unwittingly aid, or even appease — the Islamic menace

Example: “These dhimmi effetes at the Times think their toe licking will save them. They will be the first ones with their heads on the chopping block.” — the blogger Pamela Geller

What it actually means: “Protected people.” The dhimmi were non-Muslims living under Muslim rule who paid a special tax and in return were permitted to practice their own religion, be led by their religious leaders and be guided by their own religious laws and customs. This treatment was very advanced at the time. No such tolerance existed in Christendom where Jews, Muslims and Christians who did not accept the authority of the pope were persecuted, forced to convert or expelled.

However progressive this policy may have been in the past, it would amount to second-class citizenship for non-Muslims today. Therefore, some insist that non-Muslims must be given full citizenship rights because of the Quran’s emphasis on the equality of all humanity. This need for reinterpretation can be seen in the increased incidents of discrimination and violence against non-Muslims in countries like Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia.

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The term: jihad

How it’s used: As casual shorthand for Muslims’ war against the West

Example: “Stealth jihadis use political, cultural, societal, religious, intellectual tools; violent jihadis use violence. But in fact they’re both engaged in jihad and they’re both seeking to impose the same end state which is to replace Western civilization with a radical imposition of Sharia.” — Newt Gingrich

What it actually means: Literally, “struggle” or “exertion” in the path of God, following God’s Will. It is a concept with multiple meanings, used and abused throughout Islamic history. The importance of jihad is rooted in the Quran’s command to struggle in the path of God and in the example of the Prophet Muhammad and his early Companions. The two broad meanings of jihad, nonviolent and violent, are contrasted in a well-known Prophetic tradition. “Greater” jihad is the struggle within oneself to live a righteous life and submit oneself to God’s will. “Lesser” jihad is the defense of Islam and the Muslim community.

Jihad as struggle pertains to the difficulty and complexity of living a good life: struggling against the evil in oneself — to be virtuous and moral, making a serious effort to do good works and help to reform society. Depending on the circumstances in which one lives, it also can mean fighting injustice and oppression, spreading and defending Islam, and creating a just society through preaching, teaching and, if necessary, armed struggle or holy war. A radicalized violent minority combines militancy with messianic visions to inspire and mobilize an army of God whose jihad they believe will liberate Muslims at home and abroad.

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The term: taqiyya

How it’s used: As an explanation for why Muslims cannot be trusted — because their religion allows them to ethically practice deception

Example: “Thus it is reasonable to conclude that Keith Ellison’s deceitful pronouncements at Thursday’s Homeland Security Hearings, this past Thursday, and one day later on ‘Real Time With Bill Maher,’ are consistent with the Koranic doctrine of taqiyya, Islamic religious dissimulation.” — writer on Andrew Breitbart’s Big Peace site

What it actually means: Precautionary dissimulation of religious belief and practice in the face of persecution. Muslims recognize the personal duty of affirming right and forbidding wrong, but when confronted by an overwhelming injustice that threatens the well-being of an individual, this obligation can be fulfilled secretly in the heart rather than overtly. Among Shia Muslims, who from the death of the Prophet onward considered themselves subject to persistent religious persecution by the Sunni majority and the holders of political power, taqiyya permits not only passive or silent resistance, but also an active dissimulation of true beliefs when required to protect life, property and religion itself.

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The term: Shariah

How it’s used: To refer to a rigid set of Muslim laws that prescribe stoning for adulterous women, execution for homosexuals, etc.

Example: “We all know what shariah law does to women — women must wear burqas, women are subject to humiliation and into controlled marriages under Sharia law. We want to prevent it from ever happening in Texas.” — Texas state Rep. Leo Berman

What it actually means: Historically, many Muslims and non-Muslims have come to confuse and use the terms “Shariah” and “Islamic law” interchangeably. Because the Quran is not a law book, early jurists used revelation as well as reason to create a body of laws to govern their societies. But, over time, these man-made laws came to be viewed as sacred and unchangeable. Muslims who want to see Shariah as a source of law in constitutions therefore have very different visions of how that would manifest. Though the definition of Shariah refers to the principles in the Quran and prophetic tradition, some expect full implementation of classical or medieval Islamic law; others want a more restricted approach, like prohibiting alcohol, requiring the head of state to be a Muslim, or creating Shariah courts to hear cases involving Muslim family law (marriage, divorce and inheritance). Still others simply want to ensure that no constitutional law violates the principles and values of Islam, as found in the Quran.

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The term: madrassa

How it’s used: To refer to a place where Muslim youth are indoctrinated into radicalism and, often, terror

Example: “I am very concerned that the school will be a madrassa, funded by taxpayer dollars. We will in effect be supporting the training of future terrorist cells.” — Opponent of a proposed Arabic-themed New York school

What it actually means: A place where teaching, studying and learning take place. In early centuries, “madrassa” came to refer to a school of higher studies (college or university) where Islamic sciences were taught. Today, the term is also often used more broadly. Like the term “school” in American English, it can refer, for example, to a university, seminary, college as well as primary or secondary school. In recent years, the term has taken on a negative connotation, and for some simplistically equated with militant madrassas or schools in Pakistan and elsewhere. While they certainly exist and are dangerous training grounds, they represent a relatively small number of the institutions/schools that are referred to as madrassas.

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The term: Allah

How it’s used: As a negatively charged byword for a special Islamic deity

Example: “The animals of Allah for whom any day is a great day for a massacre are drooling over the positive response that they are getting from New York City officials over a proposal to build a 13 story monument to the 9/11 Muslims who hijacked those 4 airliners.” –Tea Party activist Mark Williams

What it actually means: Arabic for “God” (the term is used by Muslims and Arab Christians for God but is also used in Arabic-influenced languages and thus by Turkish and Malaysian Christians and others). Muslims believe Allah is the same deity worshiped by Jews and Christians. The first verses of the Quran present the basic Muslim view of God: “Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds, the Merciful, the Compassionate, the Sovereign of the Day of Judgment. Truly, it is You we worship and You whose aid we seek.” He is creator, sustainer, judge and ruler of the universe; all-powerful and all-merciful. Allah is described as the Merciful and Compassionate; every verse of the Quran begins with “In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate.” Believed to have revealed himself to a long line of prophets (including the biblical prophets), to Moses, Jews (Torah) and Jesus (Gospels). As in Judaism and Christianity, God is also seen as the Just Judge who is to be obeyed and feared as well as loved.

Hasner: We are witnessing a ‘civilizational jihad’ in America, Florida

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2011 by loonwatch

The last we posted about Hasner he was sitting in rapt attention to a speech from Geert Wilders.

Hasner: We are witnessing a ‘civilizational jihad’ in America, Florida

(Florida Independent)

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Adam Hasner appeared on a Sarasota conservative talk show today, echoing previous comments on the dangers of Sharia in the Sunshine State by saying there is a “civilizational jihad” underway across the country and in Florida. Audio after the jump.

Hasner made the comments on The Dr. Rich Swier Show, hosted by Red County blogger Richard Swier. “We are not in a War on Terror,” Hasner said. “This is a civilizational struggle against an ideology of Sharia Islam.”

“It’s not just a threat on foreign soil,” he continued. “It’s also a threat from those who seek to destroy us from within. And we have a problem of domestic terrorism both in the violent form as well as in the civilizational jihad that we’re witnessing here in our own country and our own state.”

Muslim women’s group launches “Jihad against violence”

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2011 by loonwatch

Jihad has become a term with many negative connotations in our present vocabulary. Are efforts such as this going to help take back the term “jihad?”

(via. Islamophobia-Today)

Muslim women’s group launches “Jihad against violence”

A British Muslim women’s group has launched a “jihad against violence”, in a bid to reclaim the term jihad from extremists.

The campaign, launched by Inspire at City Hall in central London on Sunday, aims to combat all forms of violence but with an emphasis on crimes, including terrorism, domestic abuse and female genital mutilation, that some perpetrators attempt to justify in the name of Islam.

Although jihad means a struggle in the way of God, it has been hijacked by extremists, who have attempted to use it to justify holy war, the group says.

“People think ‘jihad against violence’ is a contradictory statement but our jihad is for peace,” said Inspire’s director, Sara Khan. “Islam has become synonymous with all things violent and the repression of women. We thought we couldn’t sit back and stay silent while our religion is being used to carry out acts of violence.” Khan has previously advised the government on tackling radicalisation and was critical of the government’s Prevent programme for combating extremism for not including enough input from women.

Inspire intends to make information refuting the arguments of those who purport to use the Qur’an to justify terrorism and domestic violence against women and children more widely available – information it says is lacking in many Islamic bookshops. It also wants to put pressure on Muslim leaders to confront what Khan says are currently “taboo” subjects and is encouraging organisations and individuals to sign up to the declaration of jihad against violence on its website.

Original post: Muslim women’s group launches “Jihad against violence”