Tarheeltalker

Secretary Robert Gates Calling

I wrote  on Thursday about Pastor Terry Jones from Gainesville, Fl and his threat/plan to burn copies of the Koran on 9/11. For the moment that plan has been cancelled although there are others expressing a willingness to take over. This event has been so confusing on so many levels it reminds me a little of  Bizzaro superman in whose world everything was opposite or perhaps like Alice in Wonderland when she follows the White Rabbit into a strange universe all its own.

Let’s see, what else? Thus far I have only seen a comment from Michael Bloomberg that defended Jones’s actions under the aegis of religious freedom, no matter how distasteful they may be.

I wanted to lead with a  this is what we know approach but I am uncertain as to what we really know. For starters, the president weighed in during a press conference with his main point a defense of  Islam. He also confirmed that he ordered Sec Gates to call the Florida pastor  which seems to be  a bit of an unusual approach. He has since been questioned about what role the White House may have played in escalating the situation. Predictably, none at all was the response.

So now  a little time has passed and Jones was true to his word. He burned no Korans. There was an unidentified person who did and some others who shredded pages of the Koran. There were reports of demonstrations in Afghanistan but nothing of any consequence .Unsurprisingly, the misguided folks of  Topeka’s Westboro Baptist Church proceeded with their Koran burning as well as an American flag. The quite apropos headline on The Topeka Capital Journal website said  that the church’s flames produced little heat. No phone calls, no comments from celebrities, no demonstrations,etc.

So, are there lessons here worth learning? Michele Malkin  produced a post entitled  the ” Eternal Flame of Muslim Outrage” which detailed current and past examples of events that have stirred passions among Muslims. Some were silly, others were scary in their escalation. Ann Coulter wrote an article way back on Wednesday entitled ” Bonfire of the Insanities” which also seems well titled, even more so in retrospect. There were good points vis-a-vis Gen Petraeus comments on threats to American troops as well as the  wingnuts right to burn a  Koran, stupid though it may be.

Is there a bottom line yet other than an obscure pastor gaining unneeded notoriety? Probably not.

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September 12, 2010 Posted by | Media, Religion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Un-Christian behavior

Never been to Gainesville,Fl before although I have been nearby. I also have never met Pastor Terry Jones who leads a small church of about 50 folks named the Dove Outreach Center. Remarkably, Jones has managed to make himself notorious  on an international level, quite  a feat in itself. He has received a number of death threats and has started carrying a gun himself. So, what has this heretofore unknown person done  to draw attention from  Gen David Petraeus, Hilary Clinton, Michael Bloomberg, Eric Holder , Rush Limbaugh, ( who appropriately  calls him a lunatic) Robert Gates, Angelina Jolie and countless unnamed but now angry Muslims worldwide?

He has for some inexplicable reason announced a plan to burn many copies of the Koran on of all days, 9/11/2010. How many copies seems  to depend on how many gullible people send  them to him. That is by far the easier of the questions involved. Based on some earlier actions, Jones seems to think that Islam is evil. I will agree that there are followers of  Islam have done some evil things and alas if his plan goes through they will probably do more of those things. ( Gen Petraeus is quite concerned about that.)

I have given  a lot of thought about why Jones is doing this. Publicity, notoriety, name recognition ? He has gotten all of those to be sure. But , assuming he is a legitimate Christian minister, which I have no reason to doubt, what is doing for the furtherance of his ministry or for the “image” of Christianity or for that matter his native country. Oh, just a qualifier. He actually has the right to do this but for me it’s one of those “rights” that just because one has it, one does not need to exercise it.

Cannot  imagine the potential damage he can carry out, unless by some miracle he chooses to call a halt to the event. At this point, that looks unlikely.

Some words from a song came to mind today that at least from a Christian perspective define my feelings quite well. The artist is Wayne Watson and the song  came from his 1988 album The Fine Line. The title is “That’s Not Jesus.” I will just relate a line or two that seems to fit what is happening with pastor Terry Jones.

  •                                     That’s not Jesus, he doesn’t carry on that way,
  •                                    Just some flesh and blood like you and me
  •                                    Somehow gone astray
  •                                    That’s not Jesus, no matter what they say 
  •                                    He doesn’t  need us to defend  him
  •                                    He just wants us to obey

                                       

                       Shalom and amen         

September 8, 2010 Posted by | Religion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Separation of Church and State?

The summer season is the time of year when many folks take to the highways for a little vacation. Some who are more intrepid will choose an overseas destination. I suppose that is what our friend Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf must be doing. He has been on a trip sponsored by the U S State Department and it is  a trip with  a mission. His trip is aimed at improving relations between the United States and the Muslim world. ( Thought that was NASA’s mission.) Of course, he has been enjoined to do no fund-raising for the Park 51 Project. Probably doesn’t need to. I expect that the $100 million plus for that effort is already in place.

One thing I have read about this trip stood. This is not  Imam Rauf’s fist American sponsored  trip. As I recall, it is the fourth. Two were during the Bush Administration and this is the second since Obama took office. He’s getting plenty of  frequent flier miles on these trips alone. These trips were arranged by Bush adviser Karen Hughes as part of a Muslim outreach. So we seem to have opportunity infatuation no matter what he says. Oh wait, the State Department says that his somewhat inflammatory comments(  in 00105, 06 I presume) were taken out of context.

Just  a bit more Islamic outreach. If you liked the Imam’s taxpayer-funded trips you will be thrilled to learn that we are also paying  for the renovation of mosques. A Washington Times article in April reported on our ambassador to Tanzania participating in a ribbon cutting ceremony for celebrating the refurbishing of a 12th century mosque there.  And, and  there was money provided to save the legendary 7th century  Amr Ebn El Aas mosque in Cairo. Who was the namesake for this structure? He was the Muslim conqueror of Christian Egypt. The site was  where he camped before doing battle with the country’s Byzantine rulers. A mosque on the site of a Muslim conquest. Does that sound familiar?

August 27, 2010 Posted by | Politics, Religion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

British Musings

Cover of "Londonistan"

Cover of Londonistan

Several days ago, I wrote about Europe and Great Britain in particular vis-a-vis Islam and terrorism and some of its implications. At the time I was attempting to read Londonistan by Melanie Phillips. I have finally managed to complete that self-assigned task. I might add that the fault is not that of the author but rather my unfamiliarity with her style and the complexity of the subject matter.

Moving forward, my intent is not to review the book but rather make reference to some  things that intrigued me and speculate  about what these things might or might not  mean.  As always dissent/disagreement is welcome. My comments do not follow the book from beginning to end since some areas were more pertinent for me than others. The  author has an excellent notes section if one desires to trace her source material and pursue things further.

There are many references to people in the book with the majority of those names probably being Arabic. I won’t refer much to those individuals. Upfront i will assert that neither the author  nor this writer  are anti- Muslim ‘ She does however, make use of the term  Islamaphobia which also appears in the American media. It refers of course to those who harbor an irrational view of the Islamic faith. An accusation of such is used at times  to stifle  even legitimate criticism of Islam. ( That didn’t work so well for Salmon Rushdie did it? )  She makes the point that adherents of the Muslim faith can often be sensitive to criticism( as are Christians) and  use that to justify or explain away certain actions. Her starting point, the London bombings of 2005 was such  a thing. Muslim leaders condemned the attacks but added that since the bombers were un-Islamic ( native Brits) they  could not have been real Muslims. And  this next that  they added which is a relatively prominent reoccurring theme, is  a concept she calls moral inversion. In general Muslims regard Western values as an assault on their principles  so they present  their own aggression as legitimate self- defense. Or, a country’s support of Israel or the Iraq war is ample cause for some sort of attack. Current example is related to the furor over the New york mosque/cultural center. The chairman of those efforts Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf was interviewed by CBS just after 9/11. He opined that the United States did not deserve what happened but that its policies ” were an accessory to the crime.”

So what were the policies to which he referred? If you say support for Israel go the head of the class. That attitude in Britain, she writes, is even more prevalent. In Britain the prevailing wisdom regarding the Middle East is that of a territorial dispute. Before May 14, 1948 all was well between Arab and Jew  and would be again if Israel  acceded to legitimate Palestinian  demands. The problem, that is not factual. This cannot be totally addressed here but  factor in this one truth . Palestinians could have had a separate state in 1936, 1948 or 2000. Also, many Arab writers and leaders have often spoken of  the inherently evil  Jew out to conquer the world  and they are demonized as the source of all evil in the Middle East. Let me hasten to add that Israel is not always right in its actions/methods  but neither are they behind every conflict on earth as Palestinian Authority imam Ibrahim Mudayris said in 2005.

But let me continue. Let me refer to some of her conclusions but  encourage the reader to interpret them on their own. Britain is a hub of Islamic jihad and has been.In Britain there continues the long-standing policy of appeasing terrorism which has now been combined with the prevailing doctrine of multiculturalism and  ” victim culture.” She asserts that Britain is at a crossroads and could ease further down the road of appeasement. So the country that is the global leader of English speaking culture no longer champions those values. ( Sound  a little like American education?)

She wonders if her native country will reverse its  sleepwalk towards  “cultural oblivion ” or  sink further into disarray and drag the West down with it. Serious things to consider.

August 20, 2010 Posted by | History | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s not a Mosque, But……..

…… rather  a prayer space, they say. Why? According to the  leaders of the ” Park 51″  project, changed from an original name of  ” Cordoba House,” it cannot be  a mosque because  it space for musical performances and  a restaurant. But an AP article datelined Albany and written by Michael  Gormley said that the center will contain  a mosque. Confusion runneth rampant it seems. Glad we got that cleared up. But, call me  a skeptic if you will, but at this stage of the project one can say there is space for any number of things that may or may not come to fruition.

Doubtful that anyone opposed or in favor the 13 story facility will  change their opinion based on that information.  So what are some of the things being said about the facility scheduled to be built at 45 Park Place. Some say that it shows great tolerance, some bring up our constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion ( insert the name of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg here) some say that a Muslim facility should not so near to the site of the former World Trade Centers.

So , on a site fist occupied in 1858 by a structure built for  a New York shipping tycoon, at its last fateful  incarnation it was occupied by  a simple  Burlington Coat Factory store. The site was purchased  for $4.5 million in cash just over  a year ago, at which time the current process  began. Certainly what is now being proposed was planned long before that date.

No doubt there are very well-intentioned people on both sides of this issue. Personally, I would prefer that the Muslim group  that says it wants to rebuild the community would begin that process somewhere a bit distant. Governor David Paterson tried that approach and was unsuccessful. Of course, there is no way that one can have the feelings that many New Yorkers have about the  structure because we have not experienced what they have. But, having said that, I wonder if all of those affected by 9/11 are opposed. I would guess that  they are not . So, once again we have  quite a convoluted situation.

Two final observations. Newt  Gingrich has been quoted as saying that ” there should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York as long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.” That certainly appeals to  many although I  really don’t see its relevance. One thing with which I do agree is that freedom of religion is not the issue. Another quote, this from Mayor Bloomberg. ” I always believed that government  should not be involved in deciding who you pray to, what you say or where you say it.” But Mr Mayor, government is already quite involved in one of those areas, the  where. ASk the religious groups  who have  trouble getting permission to build in certain locales due to zoning laws, etc. Conclusion, freedom of religion provides no guarantee of  being able to build a house of worship anywhere one chooses, Confuses things even more, huh? The discussion about this center will doubtless proceed. A suggestion, follow the money.

August 12, 2010 Posted by | Culture, Religion | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Future of Europe?

This is a subject that   I have been pondering for quite  awhile and  is probably just an initial effort at expressing  some opinions. To me the subject is at once complicated, disturbing and perhaps  a view of  our ( United States ) future.

I am a great fan of political novels, especially those set in our era. Those that depict events similar  to those that are occurring and make reference to actual people and places in the course of their books. I have referred before to Daniel Silva whom I thoroughly enjoy and I have just finished a book by Michael Walsh, Hostile Intent, that addresses some similar issues but from a  quite different perspective. Factored in to my post is a challenging nonfiction book that I have just begun to read. It  is by British author Melanie Phillips  and it its premise dovetails nicely with my fictional reading.

These slightly disparate works all have one word common to them that struck me quite forcefully. That word is Londonistan, which is the title of Ms Phillips book. Walsh mentions and I am fairly certain that Silva does also. Both fictional writers speak heavily of the concept as well.

What is the concept of which they speak? Ms Phillips says it best in the intro to her book. She begins her intro with the London subway suicide bombings of July 7. 2005 and  its implications . She asserts that  it reveals London as the  epicenter ( good Joel Rosenberg word) of Islamic militancy. She uses the word ” Londonistan” which is  a mocking play of the names of London and state sponsors of terrorism such as Afghanistan. You can think of others. She added this chilling detail that one could argue that al-Qaeda actually began in London in the 1980s and 90s. She continues to  talk about Britain in essence turning on itself and attacking its own historical values.

And this next may be the most troubling. There is underway an attempt to establish a separate Muslim identity in the country. This is  in  a country approximately 5% Muslim . So there is a  minority attempting and succeeding in many ways to impose its values on the host country. A tiny but illustrative example is that piggy banks are banned from British banks lest Muslims be offended. Funny, maybe, but not ha-ha funny by any means. British Muslims actually insist they are under Western attack  and blame any wrongdoing by Muslims on others. One more thought before part #1 closes.

 British liberals fear being labeled racist or Islamophobic so Muslim extremism goes somewhat  unchecked and  criticism is against the so-called bigot. The London train bombings were, by this logic, caused by American , Israeli or British policies.

My intent is to refer to Ms Phillips book  again in part #2 as well  as some fictional  references from Walsh and perhaps Silva. As I alluded,  her book is a difficult read for me but I hope to plow through  a bit further.

August 11, 2010 Posted by | International politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Thanks but no thanks, Rev. Graham

Evangelist Franklin Graham was to be the keynote speaker at the Pentagon’s May 6 National Day of Prayer service. Now, he isn’t. Army spokesman Col. Tom Collins announced that the invitation had been rescinded due to the nature of comments Graham had previously made about the Muslim faith. Collins said that Graham’s remarks were “not appropriate” since we are an all-inclusive military and try to honor all faiths.

Graham’s invitation was extended by the Colorado based  National Day of Prayer Task Force which works with the Pentagon chaplain’s office. The disinvite was applauded by the Council on American Islamic Relations( CAIR) which is no surprise. Mikey Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation was also pleased, adding that Graham should never have been invited in the first place.He hopes someone more “inclusive” will be  picked as  a replacement. Oh, I’m certain that any mullah will be a better choice from their perspective.

Weinstein founded the group in 2006 to rebuild the wall of separation between church and state in the military. Based on that position  why would his group want the Pentagon to participate in any kind of National Day of Prayer event anyway.

As for Graham, he was very gracious and said he wuld continue to prayer for  the troops. Hope that will not get him in trouble.

April 22, 2010 Posted by | military, Religion | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

San Antonio and Rabat

At first glance, how could there be any connection between a city in Texas and the capital of Morocco? The connection is  the Muslim faith. First, the Texas side. There is  a small liberal arts  institution located in San Antonio known as Trinity University ( keep that name in the back of your mind) which has become somewhat newsworthy over the past year. In March, 2009 a group of students, the Trinity Diversity Connection, led by a Muslim student began a push to have the words” in the year of our Lord,” removed from the school’s diplomas. Their president’s objections centered on the  fact that this was  a direct Christian reference and not everyone believes that way. The group  has supported by the student government and a campus commencement committee. Input is still being received and trustees  will consider the request at a May meeting.

Now for part two which admittedly is somewhat more significant. The North African country of Morocco ( Casablanca anyone?) is  known as a moderate Islamic country with generally good  relations with the United States. It is like a  number of its neighbors 99% Muslim. So, why the sudden push to  clamp down on Christians?

The country’ s  position as  stated by  Ambassador Aziz Mekouar , which  it refuses to call a crackdown on Christians is that  the sudden, inexplicable deportations of  British citizen and 20 year resident of Morocco, businessman and 15 year resident of Morocco Michael Ramsey  among others. There were interrogations , raids on  homes ,etc followed by swift ignominious passage out of the country.

The charge, proselytizing,the ambassador says it involves pushing someone to change their faith. The unanswered question is why now and why target individuals that have been in the country for years?  Perhaps  the answer is as Jack Wald suspects. Wald is pastor of Rabat International Church. He is hearing reports of Moroccan Christians  being followed, questions and intimidated. He describes it as the heat being on Moroccan Christians.

Two events, neither of which are really connected, but yet are in a sense. One in a pluralistic country, the other in a country 99% of whose people adhere to basically the same belief system. The ongoing event in Texas could not occur in Morocco. Some would say that the events in Morocco have occurred here. In the aftermath of 9/11, there probably was some of that here. But institutionally and  to those actively engaged in ongoing humanitarian activities, I doubt.

Wonder if CAIR operates in Rabat?

April 13, 2010 Posted by | education, Religion | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New Muslim Envoy

Hurrah, hurrah. The President today named Rashad Hussain as his envoy to  the Organization of the Islāmic Conference. The appointment is part of the president’s continuing  effort to improve strained U S Islāmic relations. Hussain will continue to develop the types pf partnerships that Obama talked about  in his famous Cairo speech last year.

Obama also pointed out that his new envoy is  a hafiz of the Quran, which means he has memorized the text of the Muslim holy book. ( Hope he can find out about the justifications for jihad in there. ) Obama also announced his upcoming trip to Indonesia in  March where he  hopes to continue the U S – Muslim dialogue. While he is there perhaps he can visit some  of the places where he hung out as  a child.

I guess only one thing about this appointment has me puzzled and that is this. Why did the president feel the need to appoint such a person at all? With all his qualifications, I  thought Obama was his own very special envoy to the  Islamic world. And, who could be  better, right?

He even made the announcement during his video address to the   7th  US Islāmic Forum meeting in Doha, Qatar. But he is allowing Madame Secretary Clinton to address the meeting tomorrow.

February 13, 2010 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Religion | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Suicide Bombers

Right upfront, I will confess to a great lack of understanding  as to why there are such people as suicide bombers. Any time such a tragic occurrence takes place, I am struck with anger, sorrow and confusion. Why did it happen, to what end and why would men, women or children engage in such a practice?

I suppose there is very little certainty about suicide bombers but there seem to  be several common denominators. Virtually all suicide bombings seem to take  place in the Middle East and almost all the bombers are Arab,but not necessarily Islamic.  Almost all the targets are civilan, which differs marekedly from the Japanese kamikaze  attacks of WWII.

Within the past couple  of weeks  have read about religious pilgrims being targeted in Iraq. We  periodically hear of attacks at busy marketplaces, on buses, at tourism sites, even in or near houses of worship. The attacks  by nature are somewhat random, hard to predict or prevent and designed to instill   shock and fear in those impacted. ( Israel has had some success in preventing such attacks, more than most  target countries.)

So, back to my greatest source of puzzlement. Why would individuals perpetrate such acts? For glory that they leave behind, monetary gain for their families or a perceived reward in the afterlife? I have heard of  these and there may be more. In terms of casualties inflicted, the individual numbers seem significant because of the type of people targeted. In reality the overall numbers are not so great, except for one quite notable exception. That, alas, would be the horrific attacks of 9/11.

Volumes have been written about the why. But even that signature event, why? Perhaps those “in charge” felt the United States would not respond but rather pull back. Needless to say, that did not occur. So, here we are, back to  the beginning and   asking a  question that may be  unanswerable.

It is  a war in a sense, I guess. But it has no rules or battle ground and anyone  can be a  target. One more question to pose.  I wonder why that the   act is   not universally condemned by left and  right, liberal and conservative, by those who lean toward  Israel and those who lean toward the Arabs.  It would seem to an easy act  to condemn, but such is not the case.

February 3, 2010 Posted by | Culture, Life and Death | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment