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The deep Crisis of the West
Crisis of faith
24.01.2015. France and the rest of Western Europe have never honestly confronted the issues raised by Muslim immigration. Thus writes Christopher Caldwell in his WSJ article Immigration and Islam: Europe’s Crisis of Faith:
The terrorist assault on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7 may have been organized by al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen. But the attack, along with another at a Paris kosher market days later, was carried out by French Muslims descended from recent waves of North African and West African immigration. Well before the attacks, which left 17 dead, the French were discussing the possibility that tensions with the country’s own Muslim community were leading France toward some kind of armed confrontation.
Consider Éric Zemmour, a slashing television debater and a gifted polemicist. His history of the collapse of France’s postwar political order, “Le suicide français,” was No. 1 on the best-seller lists for several weeks this fall. “Today, our elites think it’s France that needs to change to suit Islam, and not the other way around,” Mr. Zemmour said on a late-night talk show in October, “and I think that with this system, we’re headed toward civil war.”
More recently, Michel Houellebecq published “Submission,” a novel set in the near future. In it, the re-election of France’s current president, François Hollande, has drawn recruits to a shadowy group proclaiming its European identity. “Sooner or later, civil war between Muslims and the rest of the population is inevitable,” a sympathizer explains. “They draw the conclusion that the sooner this war begins, the better chance they’ll have of winning it.” Published, as it happened, on the morning of the attacks, Mr. Houellebecq’s novel replaced Mr. Zemmour’s at the top of the best-seller list, where it remains.
France’s problem has elements of a military threat, a religious conflict and a violent civil-rights movement. It is not unique. Every country of Western Europe has a version. For a half-century, millions of immigrants from North and sub-Saharan Africa have arrived, lured by work, welfare, marriage and a refuge from war. There are about 20 million Muslims in Europe, with some 5 million of them in France, according to the demographer Michèle Tribalat. That amounts to roughly 8% of the population of France, compared with about 5% of both the U.K. and Germany.
Such a migration is not something that Europeans would have countenanced at any other moment in their generally xenophobic history, and the politicians who permitted it to happen were not lucky. The movement coincided with a collapse in European birthrates, which lent the immigration an unstoppable momentum, and with the rise of modern political Islam, which gave the diaspora a radical edge.
Just why Europe has had such trouble can be partially understood by contrasting it with the U.S. Europe’s welfare states are more developed and, until recently, more open to noncitizens, so illegal or “underground” immigration has been low. But employment rates have been low, too. If Americans have traditionally considered immigrants the hardest-working segment of their population, Europeans have had the opposite stereotype. In the early 1970s, 2 million of the 3 million foreigners in Germany were in the labor force; by the turn of this century, 2 million of 7.5 million were.
Europe was not just disoriented by the trauma of World War II. It was also demoralized and paralyzed by the memory of Nazism and the continuing dismantling of colonialism. Leaders felt that they lacked the moral standing to address problems that were as plain as the noses on their faces—just as U.S. leaders ducked certain racial issues in the wake of desegregation.
Europeans drew the wrong lessons from the American civil-rights movement. In the U.S., there was race and there was immigration. They were separate matters that could (at least until recently) be disentangled by people of good faith. In Europe, the two problems have long been inseparable. Voters who worried about immigration were widely accused of racism, or later of “Islamophobia.”
Speech codes have done little to facilitate entry into the workforce for immigrants and their children or to reduce crime. But they have intimidated European voting publics, insulated politicians from criticism and turned certain crucial matters into taboos. Immigrant and ethnic issues have become tightly bound to the issue of building the multinational European Union, which has removed vast areas of policy from voter accountability. “Anti-European” sentiments continue to rise.
Voters all across Europe feel abandoned by the mainstream political class, which is why populist parties are everywhere on the rise. Whatever the biggest initial grievance of these parties—opposition to the European Union for the U.K. Independence Party, opposition to the euro for Alternative für Deutschland, corruption for Italy’s 5 Star Movement—all wind up, by voter demand, placing immigration and multiculturalism at the center of their concerns.
In France, it is the Front National, a party with antecedents on the far right, that has been the big beneficiary. In the last national election, for seats in the European Parliament, the FN, led by Marine Le Pen (daughter of the party’s founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen), topped the polls. But the ruling Socialists froze the Front National out of the recent national ceremonies of mourning, limiting participation in the Paris rally to those parties it deemed “republican.” This risks damaging the cause of republicanism more than the cause of Le Pen and her followers.
Acts of terrorism can occur without shaking a country to its core. These latest attacks, awful as they were, could be taken in stride if the majority in France felt itself secure. But it does not. Thanks to wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, thousands of young people who share the indignation of the Kouachis and Coulibaly are now battle-hardened and heavily armed.
France, like Europe more broadly, has been careless for decades. It has not recognized that free countries are for peoples strong enough to defend them. A willingness to join hands and to march in solidarity is a good first response to the awful events of early January. It will not be enough.
Read the entire article in The Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Caldwell is a senior editor at the Weekly Standard and the author of «Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West.»
Now and then
17.01.2015. Islamic violence must be called Islamic. To say that Islam owns it, produced it, and has to solve it is not saying that all Muslims agree with the tactics of ISIL, contract killers in Paris, or child killers in Pakistan. Thus writes professor James D. Tabor in his article Killing Heretics: Now and Then. He later continues:
In the aftermath of the murders in Paris this week we are assured “these are acts of terrorism and are not part of the Islamic religion.” We are told constantly, “this is not Islam,” these are just thugs wanting power. That is like saying the Roman Catholic Inquisitioners who killed “heretics” or the Reformers who slaughtered Catholics were not “really Christian.” From a moral point of view, perhaps not, but in terms of religious identity such disavowals are nonsense. Let’s call extreme views of ALL traditions “bad” forms of the religion, fine, but to deny that such violence and evil is perpetrated by “devoted” religious fanatics who take their faith seriously misses the power that such evil forces draw upon. They have convinced themselves they are doing God’s work and God is on their side–a sad and ubiquitous aspect of the violent history of ALL religious traditions.The issues are much more complex and I recommend these successive blog posts of Joseph Hoffmann as providing some clear thinking on what we are facing in our times when it comes to the new waves of Islamic violence: [...]
Read the entire article at jamestabor.com.
Article from the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD)
16.01.2015. Looking at a year of beheadings by ISIS, child grooming abuses in the UK, the hanging judges of Iran, slaughtering and enslaving of Christians in Egypt and Africa, and various murders justified in the name of Islam throughout the world, many people are understandably asking: What is the true nature of Islam? Is it that although there are many peaceful Muslims, Islam itself is not peaceful? Thus begins Ahmed Vanya his article Beautifying Islam (italics in original, boldface emphasis added by me, links from original not included here):
Looking at a year of beheadings by ISIS, child grooming abuses in the UK, the hanging judges of Iran, slaughtering and enslaving of Christians in Egypt and Africa, and various murders justified in the name of Islam throughout the world, many people are understandably asking: What is the true nature of Islam? Is it that although there are many peaceful Muslims, Islam itself is not peaceful?
If, for us Muslims, Islam is a religion of peace, justice, and mercy, how come the militants, who claim to be staunch Muslims -- who are ready to die for Islam and who claim to have established a state in the name of Islam in Iraq and Syria by sacrificing blood and lives -- are beheading journalists and aid workers, and enslaving religious minorities, all by citing Islamic Sharia Law?
The Taliban (literally "students") in Afghanistan have persecuted religious minorities and inflicted human right abuses against women -- and men who disagreed with them or who have fallen afoul of their laws. Boko Haram has also carried out human rights abuses in the name of Islam and Islamic law. In Malaysia, where "moderate" Islam is practiced, Christians cannot call God "Allah." In Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, and supposedly an ally of the U.S., the policies and practices carried out by the state, and the Wahhabi religious scholars in the name of Islam, are woefully anti-humanitarian. Many Muslims from around the world perform the religiously required pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina; a number of them are on the dole of the petrodollars provided by the Saudis, but do not show much concern for the human rights abuses carried out in the name of Islam by the Saudi establishment.
Many devout Muslims, like monks in monasteries, are busily trapped in performing rites and rituals, and ceding ever more ground to extremists, without adequately reflecting on the history of Islam, the nature of God and the nature of revelation from God.
We Muslims commonly believe that God sent prophets and messengers to every corner of the world since the beginning of creation to guide humanity, but that most, if not all, of the messages got corrupted and adulterated, one way or another, except the message of Islam. But it seems natural that most people, Muslims or not, also see their own religion as the only true religion. But there are religious traditions, both in Islam, such as many Sufi sects, and in other religions, that affirm the transcendental unity at the core of almost all religious traditions, and that are inclusive and universalistic in nature.
Also, Muslims learn from the Qur'an that hubris, or arrogance, is the greatest sin committed by the Satan, and that it was arrogance that led him to disobey God. God asked him to bow to Adam, the first human, but Satan refused out of arrogance.
The current question seems to be: Did Muslims go astray very early on, when they conquered many lands and developed a massive doctrine and theology of intolerance (it took about 300 years to solidify Sharia after the passing of the Prophet Muhammad), due to pride and quest for power -- the very arrogance that is prohibited? Although many conversions to Islam did not occur by the sword, the first four caliphs (the so-called "Rightly Guided") and their successors did in fact send out armies to conquer the world. If Islam is a religion that stands for justice and peaceful coexistence, then this policy of jihad -- and the idea that peace and justice can be achieved only under Islamic sovereignty -- with Muslim rulers subjugating non-Muslims, cannot be justified as sanctioned by a just and merciful Creator.
This mainstream, legalistic, text-bound, literalist Islam -- now the dominant strain and controlled by the traditional Muslim scholars -- is a mixture of both humanistic ethical values, combined with supremacist ethos, as it developed throughout the centuries. Due to its literalist tradition, it does not have the flexibility or the ability to overcome interpretations of the scriptures that are inimical to pluralistic and humanistic values.
Many equate this literalist, legalistic, text-bound Islam to be the "true" Islam. But just because it is the dominant form of Islam does not mean that it is the "true" Islam. A careful study of the history of Islam indicates that this view is utterly unwarranted. Religious traditions have changed and evolved over time, based on the understandings, interpretations, and practices of their adherents. Therefore, it is the duty of us Muslims, using reason and common sense, to reinterpret the scriptures to bring about an Islam that affirms and promotes universally accepted human rights and values.
If we Muslims want to stand up and challenge the literalism of the text-bound scholars and the militants who are beheading, enslaving and persecuting people around the world alike, we need to develop an interpretative methodology that balances revelation with reason as in other rational, religious traditions.
The militants are idealistic and impatient, and part of an ideology that has essentially become frozen in time, while the other Muslims are more careful, patient and circumspect, and dwell in a tolerant society without resorting to violence.
That is why many of these literalists believe that peace, justice and mercy (all interpreted according to the classical Sharia) can be achieved only under the sovereignty or hegemony of Islamic rule. And that is also why the OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference, since renamed the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), in 1990 came up with its own version of a human rights declaration, the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam -- based on Sharia law -- to supersede the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, approved by the UN in 1948.
So the vital question is: Can't we Muslims also learn from all of human history and all of nature -- the arts and the sciences -- which are also created and originated from God, as in "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God," as stated in the U.S. Declaration of Independence?
There are signs and hints in the natural world that provide guidance from the Creator on a continuing basis, even after all the textual revelations. Although God has stopped sending His messages (revelations) through human messengers, He is still providing messages, in the form of natural phenomena in the world He created, so that human beings can experiment and learn, and benefit -- using reason and reflection.
Slavery and beheadings may have been suitable at some time in human history. But just because it is in the scriptural texts, it does not mean that we need to follow them to the letter so literally, for eternity -- unless we happen to agree with the literalists, and reject using reason and thinking to learn from the natural sciences and the experiences of human history.
A religion that prescribes killing or criminalizing apostates; condones institutionalized slavery, stoning, beheading, flogging, and amputations; which restricts and criminalizes freedom of speech and freedom of religion; commands the stoning of adulterers; develops a theory of constant state of war with non-believers; discriminates and demeans women and people of other religions is not only "The Religion of the Bigots" but it is also the Religion of the Bullies.
Classical Islamic law, developed over the history of Islam, is definitely not peaceful or benign, and therefore not suitable for this age; neither are its violent and grotesque progeny such as Islamism and jihadism.
If we Muslims believe that "true" Islam, which is genuinely aligned with the will of the Creator, must be fundamentally peaceful, comprehensively merciful and objectively just, then it is our duty to cleanse the traditional, literalist, classical Islam and purify it to make an Islam that is worthy to be called a beautiful religion.
Read the entire article at Gatestone Institute. Hat tip: Document.no.
Ahmed Vanya, based in San Jose, California, is a fellow at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD).
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