Sunday, February 19, 2006
Prepare to have the crap scared out of you. Also note that Qom is the location of the Jamkaran mosque that contains the well that the 12th Imam supposedly has been awaiting the end times within since the ninth century when he went into hiding (in the well,) at the age of 5.
All streams of Islam believe in a divine saviour, known as the Mahdi, who will appear at the End of Days. A common rumour - denied by the government but widely believed - is that Mr Ahmadinejad and his cabinet have signed a "contract" pledging themselves to work for the return of the Mahdi and sent it to Jamkaran.
Iran's dominant "Twelver" sect believes this will be Mohammed ibn Hasan, regarded as the 12th Imam, or righteous descendant of the Prophet Mohammad.
He is said to have gone into "occlusion" in the ninth century, at the age of five. His return will be preceded by cosmic chaos, war and bloodshed. After a cataclysmic confrontation with evil and darkness, the Mahdi will lead the world to an era of universal peace.
This is similar to the Christian vision of the Apocalypse. Indeed, the Hidden Imam is expected to return in the company of Jesus.
Mr Ahmadinejad appears to believe that these events are close at hand and that ordinary mortals can influence the divine timetable.
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Very worthwhile reading.
Has Jyllands-Posten insulted and disrespected Islam? It certainly didn't intend to. But what does respect mean? When I visit a mosque, I show my respect by taking off my shoes. I follow the customs, just as I do in a church, synagogue or other holy place. But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy.
As a former correspondent in the Soviet Union, I am sensitive about calls for censorship on the grounds of insult. This is a popular trick of totalitarian movements: Label any critique or call for debate as an insult and punish the offenders. That is what happened to human rights activists and writers such as Andrei Sakharov, Vladimir Bukovsky, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Natan Sharansky, Boris Pasternak. The regime accused them of anti-Soviet propaganda, just as some Muslims are labeling 12 cartoons in a Danish newspaper anti-Islamic.
The lesson from the Cold War is: If you give in to totalitarian impulses once, new demands follow. The West prevailed in the Cold War because we stood by our fundamental values and did not appease totalitarian tyrants.
Since the Sept. 30 publication of the cartoons, we have had a constructive debate in Denmark and Europe about freedom of expression, freedom of religion and respect for immigrants and people's beliefs. Never before have so many Danish Muslims participated in a public dialogue -- in town hall meetings, letters to editors, opinion columns and debates on radio and TV. We have had no anti-Muslim riots, no Muslims fleeing the country and no Muslims committing violence. The radical imams who misinformed their counterparts in the Middle East about the situation for Muslims in Denmark have been marginalized. They no longer speak for the Muslim community in Denmark because moderate Muslims have had the courage to speak out against them.
In January, Jyllands-Posten ran three full pages of interviews and photos of moderate Muslims saying no to being represented by the imams. They insist that their faith is compatible with a modern secular democracy. A network of moderate Muslims committed to the constitution has been established, and the anti-immigration People's Party called on its members to differentiate between radical and moderate Muslims, i.e. between Muslims propagating sharia law and Muslims accepting the rule of secular law. The Muslim face of Denmark has changed, and it is becoming clear that this is not a debate between "them" and "us," but between those committed to democracy in Denmark and those who are not.
This is the sort of debate that Jyllands-Posten had hoped to generate when it chose to test the limits of self-censorship by calling on cartoonists to challenge a Muslim taboo. Did we achieve our purpose? Yes and no. Some of the spirited defenses of our freedom of expression have been inspiring. But tragic demonstrations throughout the Middle East and Asia were not what we anticipated, much less desired. Moreover, the newspaper has received 104 registered threats, 10 people have been arrested, cartoonists have been forced into hiding because of threats against their lives and Jyllands-Posten's headquarters have been evacuated several times due to bomb threats. This is hardly a climate for easing self-censorship.
Still, I think the cartoons now have a place in two separate narratives, one in Europe and one in the Middle East. In the words of the Somali-born Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the integration of Muslims into European societies has been sped up by 300 years due to the cartoons; perhaps we do not need to fight the battle for the Enlightenment all over again in Europe. The narrative in the Middle East is more complex, but that has very little to do with the cartoons.
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So now 45 people are dead worldwide because of these cartoons. 16 people dead (including at least 3 children and a catholic priest,) and 15 christian churches burned to the ground in Nigeria. (Remember Nigeria? For more on the one way respect for the sacred, see the behavior of the Palestinian gunmen during the siege of the Church of the Nativity.
In other news:
Low comedy from deep within the Muslim world, newly represented by double talking terrorists. Just yesterday, Hamas came into power. As I noted, its first order of business was to indemnify itself—rhetorically, if not legally—from the obligations of Oslo, and to assert that, no, the nation of Israel does not have the right to exist in this world. Despite Hamas’ being essentially a successor government (and thus required under international law to abide by treaties to which the previous government acceded), the party has renounced any treaty that recognized Israel.Finally. I reiterate, these people have the emotional maturity of Paris Hilton, the religious fanaticism of Pat Robertson, and a shitload of weapons. What shall we do about it?
Can you guess what the second order of business was? That's right: to condemn Israel's decision to cease sending cash to the Palestinian Authority. Specifically, $42.2 million. Since the PA and its new Hamas bosses run almost entirely on the swiftly-eroding goodwill of the rest of the world (terrorism doesn't pay very well), Hamas is now demanding that Israel reconsider its decision to cut funding. A representative said: "This is a faulty decison, and the Israelis must reconsider their decision. It will only increase hatred."
The dominant idea in the Muslims’ worldwide view is that all of humanity must obey the rules of their religion, whereas they owe no respect to the religions of others. Indeed, showing such respect would make them apostates meriting instant execution. Muslim "tolerance" is a one-way street; they demand it for themselves but rarely extend it to others.That was written in 2002 before the Koran riots or the french riots or the cartoon riots.
On September 12, 2001, the newspaper Le Parisien-Aujourd'hui published an account of the jubilant atmosphere that reigned the previous evening in the 18th arrondissement, where there is a large Muslim community. "Bin Laden will nail all of you! He started with America, then it’ll be France." Such was the sort of moderate remark hurled at passersby who didn’t look like North Africans. Or again: "I'm going to celebrate big time tonight! Those guys were real heroes. That'll teach those Americans - and all you French are next!"
This reportage by the Parisien had no equivalent in any other publication and was passed over in silence by almost all the media. At any rate, as an assiduous listener every morning to news and press summaries on the radio, I heard no mention of it on the morning of the 12th.
If the "immense majority" of these Muslims are moderates, as the imams and muftis and their political and media parrots claim, it seems to me that this moderation should be rather more apparent.
In contrast, if moderate Muslims in France dare to protest publicly so little, couldn’t it be because they know that they, and not the extremists, are minorities within their communities. This explains why they are so moderate with their moderation…. The notion that the "immense majority" of Muslims settled in Europe were peacefully inclined was, during the two months after September 11, starkly revealed for what it was: a mirage.
Are you awake yet? The contemporary interpretation and application of Islam has allowed an ideology just as repugnant and dangerous as Nazism or Communism. So in that respect, yes this next world war will be part religious war.
This conflict also contains elements of the civil war, with the whole brother against brother aspect, and WWI with the whole Ottoman empire aspect. Islam means submission. The notion of separation of church and state doesn't have a cultural equivalent or precedent. Sharia law is direct from God. Thus obviously perfect and superior to anyhting created by man. Allowing other laws, secular foreign laws, to supercede the revealed and infallible law of God? That's a big transition to make.
Essentially the Islamic world has to go through the Magna Carta, the American Revolution, the American Civil War, WWI, WWII, the Cold War, and the sexual revolution, all at once. The outside world has, is, and will continue to do so. There is no way to insulate the muslim world from the disruptive influences from the outside world. The muslim world does not have the ability to force the rest of the world to conform to their norms. Thus the muslim world will have to learn to deal with the non-muslim world, either peacefully or violently, but it's inevitable.
I hope that maybe Denmark can birth a muslim enlightenment. If someone somewhere in the muslim world doesn't start articulating a formulation of Islam that allows for freedom of conscience and freedom of worship, I'm afraid the change may be ala Nazi Germany and or Imperial Japan.
There are violent, dangerous, jerks and bullies in every group of people. (Though not all of them claim God-given superiority, the Germans and Japanese just claimed racial and cultural superiority.) Something like 1% of the human population are naturally occurring sociopaths. A much higher proportion than that are badly socialized by bad parents. Healthy cultures find controlled outlets for some such people (eg. fighter pilots, professional sports, undercover agents, etc.) and restrain the rest via the myriad of ways society compells behavior (dirty looks, social exclusion, the prison system, etc.) Police yourselves, or the rest of the world will do it for you, and it will not be gentle.
For fear of appearing racist, many Britons suspend their normal judgments when dealing with the behavior of ethnic minorities. Not only is this totally racist in itself - pre-supposing as it does that ethnics are like children, who know not what they do and must have special dispensation to behave badly - but it also ignores the fact that the other ethnic minorities, be they Jews, Chinese or Hindus, have somehow managed to both keep their culture and fit into their chosen adopted country, without feeling the need to parade around the streets like big overgrown babies, stamping their feet and ordering fatwas when things displease them.
Anyway, from now on I think I'll get just a few less accusations of racism when I point out that Muslims can be a bit, well, narrow-minded. Mind you, it's a long hard struggle trying to make bleeding-heart liberals see sense. Especially when you live in a country where a sizable part of the print and broadcasting media are such guilt-ridden cretins when it comes to Islam that if they saw Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein sexually sharing their own grandmother, they'd swear the poor old lady asked for it.
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