Belated but sincere Easter wishes to Christian friends out there. And a hearty Chag Sameach to Jewish friends who are observing Passover.
To make amends for my tardiness, I am sharing a link to this piece arguing for a reappraisal of the New Testament as “Jewish” literature. I’m not convinced by all its arguments, but it’s very interesting and thought-provoking and seems especially apropos as both communities observe intertwined holiday seasons.
Listening to this latest example of a prominent American evangelical Christian leader declaring a natural disaster a punishment from on high for America’s sins, I reflect on how selectively political red lines are applied post-9/11.
As if we haven’t had enough unexpected twists in the Oslo tragedy, a fascinating op-ed on Islamophobia by none other than Abe Foxman (“Norwegian attacks stem from a new ideological hate – The Washington Post“) of the Anti-Defamation League appeared in yesterday’s Washington Post.
I don’t often find myself agreeing with Mr. Foxman on issues involving Muslims – though I certainly share his concerns about the use of anti-Semitism as a political tool by Muslim extremists — but I think he is to be applauded for this principled and thoughtful warning about the growing threat of Islamophobia. Most interestingly, Foxman explitly explores the profound parallels between this new hate and the age-old “Socialism of Fools” that the ADL exists to fight.
Abe Foxman: “Norwegian attacks stem from a new ideological hate” – The Washington Post
During a decade spent in the Beltway, I was periodically flabbergasted by the striking provincialism of ostensibly highly educated, well traveled and professionally accomplished individuals when discussions turned to the Muslim world. Frankly, in some people, when question of Muslims come up certain parts of the human brain seem to simply cease to operate, with consistency, common sense and rigor temporarily going out the window as a result. Thus, a variety of anachronistic attitudes and essentializing stereotypes return from the dustbin of intellectual history, until a modicum of socio-historical rigor (or at least caution) is restored when attention shifts to some more “normal” and less exoticized community.
Peter Hart points out an especially egregious recent example of this phenomenon on the invaluable FAIR Blog:
The end of a Wall Street Journal article (7/14/11) on a new report on Afghan deaths highlights the peculiarity of their culture:
Of civilian casualties, 2 percent were caused by night raids, slightly down from last year, with 30 fatalities, the report says. Night raids have been a contentious issue between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. military officers and civilian leaders. The raids are sensitive in Afghanistan, because foreign soldiers burst into civilian homes, where strangers are unwelcome in the country’s conservative Islamic traditions.
Now that justice has finally caught up with Osama bin Laden, one hopes that sanity will finally catch up with Washington. In the indispensable TomDispatch.com, editor Tom Engelhardt rains on our very premature victory parade at bin Laden’s death, pointing out that OBL lives on in a host of crucial ways and that the fiend’s enduring victory lies in America’s self-imposed political debasement after 9/11:
Unfortunately, in every way that matters for Americans, it’s an illusion that Osama bin Laden is dead. In every way that matters, he will fight on, barring a major Obama administration policy shift in Afghanistan, and it’s we who will ensure that he remains on the battlefield that George W. Bush’s administration once so grandiosely labeled the Global War on Terror.
A few days ago, I came across a wonderful op-ed by a journalist and Middle East commentator in the Danish newspaper Politiken – which one might call Denmark’s answer to The New York Times – that I think admirably sums up how the last few months’ events in the Middle East have exposed the abject superficiality and thinly-veiled prejudice that often infects Western and especially American MSM analysis of Middle Eastern politics.
For far too long, it’s been customary to dismiss the Arab masses with this offensive, meaningless shorthand — the “Arab Street” — that casts them as mindless herds of animals ever on the verge of violence and in thrall to extremists.
What follows is my (no doubt imperfect) translation of the article in its entirety.
Criminal charges have been filed against the “Irvine 11″ — the ring leaders of a large group of Muslim students at University of California, Irvine who repeatedly disrupted a speech by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren last February, sparking outrage – which could result in 6 months of prison time. This draconian and unprecedented overreaction raises a host of issues and is being criticized by many in the UC Irvine community. Joseph Serna writes in the The Los Angeles Times (4/16/11):
Orange County prosecutors didn’t flinch Friday when a group of university student activists charged with disturbing an Israeli ambassador’s speech last year at UC Irvine brought more than 60 supporters with them to court.
Instead, prosecutors filed a motion at the hearing to release grand jury transcripts from their investigation and handed out copies of court filings they said illustrated point by point how the students – “the Irvine 11″ – conspired to disrupt Ambassador Michael Oren’s speech at UC Irvine on Feb. 8, 2010, then tried to cover it up.
“They’re caught red-handed,” Deputy Dist. Atty. Dan Wagner said outside court. “They very intentionally tried to shut down” Oren’s speech.
Prosecutors have charged eight former or current UC Irvine and three UC Riverside students with misdemeanor conspiracy to commit a crime and misdemeanor disruption of a meeting. Seven of the 11 were in court and pleaded not guilty. Attorneys pleaded not guilty on behalf of the other four.
Apparently, the charge that packs the most punch here is the conspiring part, a charge the defendants are (implausibly, it seems) denying.
A Kansas politician has “joked” about gunning down “illegal immigrants” (read: Mexicans) like animals. The naked prejudice of such a quip and the irresponsibility of it issuing from the lips of an elected official are mind-boggling.
Kansas GOPer: Let’s Shoot Illegal Immigrants Like Pigs | TPMDC
Kansas State Rep. Virgil Peck (R) suggested Monday that the best way to deal with the illegal immigration problem may be the same way the state might deal with the problem of “feral hogs” — by shooting them from a helicopter. [MORE]
Not to distract us from the appalling anti-Mexican and anti-Latino racism of this odious pronouncement, but I have to say it: Imagine if a Muslim politician (say, Congressman Keith Ellison) said something this extreme about his own (in some cases quite “feral”) opponents.
In a curiously un-self-aware move a few weeks ago, Christopher Hitchens slammed President Obama’s handling of the unrest in North Africa as “pathetic” and “cynical” in a piece for Slate Magazine. Employing a facile (and – given how devoid of neutrality US Mideast policy often has been – a tad euphemistic) analogy to a fickle Swiss banker, he declares:
The Obama administration also behaves as if the weight of the United States in world affairs is approximately the same as that of Switzerland. We await developments. We urge caution, even restraint. We hope for the formation of an international consensus. And, just as there is something despicable about the way in which Swiss bankers change horses, so there is something contemptible about the way in which Washington has been affecting – and perhaps helping to bring about – American impotence. Except that, whereas at least the Swiss have the excuse of cynicism, American policy manages to be both cynical and naive.
He’s right, but I’m not sure he has the credibility to point this out. Much more importantly, nor do many in Washington these days, at least those inside the halls of power. It’s a charge only someone with a track record of at least mild dissent from the dreary, self-defeating status quo in US Mideast policy should dare to make.
The New York Times ran an engrossing and very timely look back in February at the momentous yet curiously under-reported battles that have been waged for decades in the Lone Star State over the religious, scientific and political message of its school textbooks. The stakes are a lot higher than you might guess.