Narcissus' Echo

Thoughts, tears, rants, ruminations, hopes, fears, love(s), and prayers of just another being passing through this wracked sphere...

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A round peg in a world of square holes...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Demanding tolerance from the barrel of a gun

Much has been said over the 12 cartoons (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12), but I am partial to Tim Rutten's piece in particular.

Drawn into a religious conflict
by Tim Rutten
Feb 4, 2006

THERE'S a difference between a piece of journalism that unavoidably provokes and one that is merely provocative. So which were the cartoon caricatures of Muhammad published in European newspapers from Bulgaria to Madrid this week?

The cartoons, which really are rather mild little doodles, first were published in a Danish newspaper last fall. Outraged Muslims in the Persian Gulf states launched a boycott of Danish goods that lead the government in Copenhagen to express regret for the offense, but to defend the paper's right to publish. By this week, the Danes were facing not only violent protests in the Islamic streets but also mounting demands from governments in the Mideast and elsewhere that they apologize and do something to the paper.

By week's end, papers and magazines across Europe had republished some or all of the cartoons in a gesture of solidarity with their Danish colleagues and in defense of their refusal to be intimidated out of free expression. Muslim outrage mounted. Palestinian gunmen surrounded the European Union mission in Gaza and others threatened to kidnap Westerners in reprisal. Violence spread and Western diplomats including Kofi Annan and the British foreign secretary began falling all over themselves to apologize for their news media's insensitivity.

All this would be slightly more edifying if it didn't reflect the destructive and dangerous double standard that the Western nations routinely observe when it comes to the government-controlled media in Islamic states. There the media is routinely rife with the vilest sort of hate directed at Jews and, less often, Christians. The "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" remain widely available in countries where nothing is published without government permission, and quotations from that infamous forgery are a staple of commentaries published across the Middle East. In recent years, government-owned television stations in Egypt and Syria have broadcast dramas that repeat the blood libel.

Where were the united and implacable Western demands for apologies?

If you want to see the continuing consequences of this double standard, consider these reactions to this week's events as reported Friday by the Associated Press: In Gaza City, Palestinian terrorists tossed a bomb into the French cultural center. Ismail Hassan, a 37-year-old tailor marching in an anti-European protest there, said, "Whoever defames our prophet should be executed."

Meanwhile, the imam who preached the Friday sermon in Gaza's Omari Mosque told 9,000 worshippers that the cartoonists who executed the caricatures should be beheaded.

In Nablus, the imam Hassan Sharaf told his congregation that, "If they want a war of religions, we are ready."

A split in philosophy

Whatever the religious sensitivities involved, reactions such as these may strike you as threateningly — even viciously — irrational. That's because they are, and there's a reason.

Back in the High Middle Ages, the three great monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — reached one of those fundamental forks in the historical road. For centuries, a series of Islamic scholars had preserved the works of Aristotle that one day would lay the foundations for the secular logic and science that have made the modern world possible. Their "rediscovery" by medieval scholars provoked a crisis. They recognized that reason was a powerful tool, but were fearful that using it would undermine faith, which was the basis for authority in all three communities.

What to do — or, more precisely, how to think?

Three intellectual giants rose to the challenge. Two of them — the philosopher and jurist Abu al-Walid Ibn Rushd, known to the West as Averroes, and the great rabbi and physician Moses Maimonides — actually were contemporaries, both born in the Spanish city of Cordova. Tradition has it they even met and befriended each other while on the run from the Almohads, Islamic fundamentalists from the Maghreb, who had captured Andalusia and destroyed its storied culture of tolerance. The third was Thomas Aquinas — of whom his admiring coreligionists one day would say, "He led reason captive into the house of faith." Recall that this was an age in which the literate West, not unlike today's Islamists, still regarded theology as "the queen of the sciences."

Averroes' exposition of Aristotle was so widely admired and influential that when Aquinas took it up a century or so later at the University of Paris he referred to Aristotle simply as "the philosopher" and to Averroes as "the commentator." But while Maimonides and, later, Aquinas — who also read and admired the philosopher rabbi — held that there exists a single truth and that faith, properly understood, never can conflict with reason, Averroes took the other fork. He held that there were two truths — that of revelation and that of the natural world. There was no need to reconcile them because they were separate and distinct.

It was a form of intellectual suicide and cut off much of the Islamic world from the centuries of scientific and political progress that followed.

As the events of the last week have demonstrated pretty forcefully, all this is more than an historical curiosity, because the globalization of markets and peoples has brought the rest of the modern world to Islam whether Muslims want it or not. One of the minor paradoxes at work here is that long before the imams' fiery sermons sent people into the streets this week, they'd been whipped into a frenzy by quintessentially modern creations — cellphone text messages and the Internet. Islamic societies are enthusiastic consumers of nearly everything the modern West produces — except such indispensable values as separation of church and state and freedom of expression.

Tolerance goes both ways

The West's current struggle with a murderous global Sunni Muslim insurgency and the threat of a nuclear-armed theocracy in Iran makes it clear that it's no longer possible to overlook the culture of intolerance, hatred and xenophobia that permeates the Islamic world. The hard work of rooting those things out will have to be done by honest Muslim leaders and intellectuals willing to retrace their tradition's steps and do the intellectual heavy lifting that participation in the modern world requires. They won't be helped, however, if Western governments continue to pander to Islamic sensitivity while looking away from violent Islamic intolerance. They won't be helped by European diplomats and officials who continue to ignore the officially sanctioned hate regularly directed at Jews by the Mideast's government-controlled media, while commiserating with Muslims offended by a few cartoons in the West's free news media.

The decent respect for the opinions of others that life in modern, pluralistic societies requires is not a form of relativism. It will not do, as Isaiah Berlin once put it, to say, "I believe in kindness and you believe in concentration camps" and let's leave it at that.

The proof of this is written in the facts on the ground. Across the United States, there are Saudi-funded mosques, teaching that nation's particularly intolerant brand of Islam. There are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia; they're against the law. In Iraq on Friday, the country's dwindling community of Chaldean Catholics prepared for more of the terrorist attacks that have become routine; there were no reported attacks on Muslims in any of the countries where the Danish caricatures were republished. Muslims in those places may have been affronted, but they are not in fear for their lives. No Western leader claims that Ferdinand and Isabella did not expel the Moors from Spain or that there were no massacres during the Crusades. If they did, they'd be howled off the podium and ridiculed into obscurity. The president of theocratic Iran claims that there was no Holocaust and people across the Islamic world applaud.

The European media may have behaved in a provocative fashion this week, but it was provocation in a good cause. The Western governments — ever mindful of their commercial interests — aren't required to endorse what their press has done, but they do nobody a favor when they apologize for it.


Here's an interesting video / slide show (2.2 MB) put together by Michelle Malkin:

Here's a photo for the day:

A Jordanian Muslim woman poses with a received message on her mobile phone saying ‘If we keep boycotting Danish Products till next summer they will lose at least 36 billion EURO’, in Amman Jordan, Febuary 1, 2006. A French newspaper reprinted on Wednesday a series of 12 Danish newspaper cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad that have sparked protests in the Muslim world and prompted Saudi Arabia to recall its ambassador from Denmark. REUTERS/Ali Jarekji

That’s a Nokia phone (Nokia is based in Finland) she’s using to send and receive text messages about the boycott. Western inventions—the phone, the cell phone, electronic text messaging—deployed in the cause of destroying Western values.


A question: just how sensitive is the Muslim press to others?

If the following cartoon, which is representative of the sort printed in editorials across the Middle East, is of any measure--not at all.


Here are more offensive examples.

Another case of "Do as I say, not as I do"?

Meanwhile, Iran is busy organizing a conference on how the Holocaust never happened and is a myth. And these people are upset over a cartoon?

If kidnappings, fire bombings, riots, and murders are how these people respond to cultures and practices different from their own, it doesn't take a genius to figure out what they will do with nuclear weapons in their hands.

Another pertinent question to consider is this: since when does religious (hyper)sensitivity trump free speech and national sovereignty?

A commenter on another blog wrote: Look, I understand that Muslims are forbidden from depiciting the Prophet because it violates Sharia law. Since when does Sharia apply to those of us who aren't Muslim?

As another individual put it, tolerance exceeds its limits when it tolerates the intolerant.

Remember, due to the publication of The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie was forced to go into hiding for a decade when the late Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran issued a fatwa mandating the UK author's assassination.

Now picture Iran with nuclear weapons.

So, tell me, is this the religion of peace?


In other news, Kanye West posed as Jesus Christ for the upcoming issue of Rolling Stone:

Who wants to bet there won't be riots, fire bombings, kidnappings and calls for murder, mayhem and destruction over this?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Worse than setting puppies on fire

Talk about sinking to new lows...

Narcs nab drug-smuggling puppies
DEA: Dogs' bellies were cut open, heroin was placed inside

By Eliott C. McLaughlin

The DEA says these unlikely drug smugglers were rescued during a 2005 raid at a Colombian farm.

(CNN) -- A two-year investigation into a Colombian heroin ring netted more than 65 pounds of drugs, resulted in the arrests of more than 20 people and saved the lives of some drug-smuggling Labrador retrievers, the Drug Enforcement Agency said Wednesday.

Ten wayward pups were found during a raid on a Colombian farm in 2005, and six of them were carrying more than 3 kilograms (6.6 pounds) of liquid heroin in their stomachs, said DEA spokesman Rusty Payne.

Puppy smugglers are another take on the human "mule," or "swallower" in DEA parlance -- someone who ingests packets of drugs and transports them in their stomachs.

The puppies, however, had little say in the matter.

In the case of the puppies found during the 2005 raid, the dogs' bellies had been cut open, and heroin packets were stitched into their stomachs, Payne said. The pups, mostly purebred Labrador retrievers, were sewn back up and prepared for shipment to the United States, he added.

Drug smugglers cut the puppies open and sewed packets of heroin like these into their stomachs.

"The organization's outrageous and heinous smuggling method of implanting heroin inside puppies is a true indication of the extent that drug dealers go to make their profit," said Special Agent in Charge John Gilbride in a written statement.

Though the 10 dogs were rescued before being shipped, it wasn't enough to save all of their lives.

"Three of the six died of infection when the drugs were removed," Payne said, adding that four other puppies "were going to be used and obviously were saved."

Three of the 10 puppies saved during the raid died when the DEA removed the heroin from their bellies.

Payne said the DEA did not announce its find after the raid because the investigation was still ongoing, but Wednesday, the two-year probe yielded 18 search warrants in six Colombian cities and landed the latest of 21 arrests, all Colombian nationals. Another arrest was made during the investigation in North Carolina, said DEA spokeswoman Erin Mulvey.

In addition to the arrests, the investigation led to 14 heroin seizures, totaling 24 kilograms (52.8 pounds), and a seizure of 6 kilograms (13.2 pounds) of cocaine.

The investigation began after agents learned of a cartel in Medellin, Colombia, that was smuggling drugs along the eastern seaboard from Miami, Florida, to New York City.

The cartel also used human couriers, the DEA said in a statement, and shipped the heroin in "body creams, aerosol cans, pressed into bead shapes, and sewn into the lining of purses and double-sided luggage."


Monday, January 30, 2006

Academic Freedom

Ideologues at the lectern

By David Horowitz

January 22, 2006

STEPHEN ZELNICK is a political moderate who has taught in the English department at Temple University for 37 years. He has served as president of the faculty senate, as director of the university's writing programs and, more recently, was vice provost for undergraduate studies.

On Jan. 10, Zelnick and I testified as witnesses before a Pennsylvania House Committee on Academic Freedom, possibly the first such committee in the history of higher education in America.

Zelnick told the legislators that as director of two undergraduate programs, he had observed the classes of more than 100 teachers. He had "seen excellent, indifferent and miserable teaching," he said.

But in all those courses, he added, "I have rarely heard a kind word for the United States, for the riches of our marketplace, for the vast economic and creative opportunities made available for energetic and creative people (that is, for our students); for family life, for marriage, for love, or for religion."

I wasn't particularly surprised to hear that. The hearings in Pennsylvania are a direct outgrowth of the campaign I launched in September 2003 to persuade colleges and universities to adopt an "Academic Bill of Rights" to protect students from unprofessional political indoctrination by their professors. My bill said, for example, that students should be exposed to "the spectrum of significant scholarly viewpoints" and not force-fed an orthodoxy on matters that are controversial.

I began the campaign by trying to convince university trustees and administrators directly that a student's right to an intellectually honest, intellectually diverse education was in jeopardy because of professors — particularly from the left — who were determined to indoctrinate students with their own political opinions. But I turned to legislatures when I found the schools unwilling to listen.

Two years later, more than a dozen legislatures have considered "academic freedom" legislation, including Florida, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, Tennessee and other states. Universities in Colorado and Ohio have adopted new academic freedom rules (after we withdrew legislation that would have forced them to do so), and Pennsylvania has been holding academic freedom hearings as a result of our efforts.

In California, a bill to create an academic bill of rights didn't make it out of committee in the Legislature last year, but is to be reconsidered in the weeks ahead.

University administrators like to suggest that we are wasting our time trying to solve a non-problem. In the fall of 2003, I visited Elizabeth Hoffman, then president of the University of Colorado, who told me, "David, we have no problem here." A year and half later, one of the many extremist professors on her faculty, Ward Churchill, became a figure of national notoriety when the public learned that he had referred to the victims of 9/11 as "little Eichmanns," and had argued that Americans deserved even worse.

As a result of the public outcry, Hoffman was forced to resign. Churchill resigned as head of the ethnic studies department, but is still on the faculty.

The American public understands that a university should be a marketplace of ideas, and that people on both sides of the spectrum will go off the deep end at times. But they will not be so charitable if they believe that the universities are becoming partisan themselves.

Yet the one-sided nature of university faculties has now been the subject of several academic studies. A 2003 study by professor Daniel Klein of Santa Clara University, for instance, found that around the country Democrats outnumbered Republicans about 30 to 1 in the field of anthropology, about 28 to 1 in sociology, and about 7 to 1 in political science.

Another study, conducted by professors at Smith College, the University of Toronto and George Mason University, looked at data from a large national sample of professors and found that professors of English who identified themselves as leaning left outnumbered their conservative-leaning colleagues by 30 to 1; professors of political science by 40 to 1; and professors of history by 8 to 1.

The Churchill problem is not unique to Colorado but reflects a systemwide intellectual corruption in the academic world. Churchill could not have been hired, promoted, given tenure or been made chairman of his department without the support of his entire department, his dean, the university administration and about a dozen scholars in the field of ethnic studies, all of whom would have had to support him in each step of the process.

The Academic Bill of Rights is a modest attempt to improve a bad and deteriorating situation on our campuses. It would restore the idea of intellectual diversity as a central educational value. It would make students aware that they should be getting more than one side of controversial issues and that they should not be browbeaten (or graded) on the basis of their political opinions.

Opponents of the Academic Bill of Rights — including radicalized organizations that now represent the academic profession, such as the American Assn. of University Professors, American Historical Assn., Modern Language Assn. and American Federation of Teachers — have attempted to block its progress by waging a campaign of gross misrepresentation and falsehood, accusing me of seeking to put the government in control of university curricula, and of trying to have left-wing professors fired.

They say that our campaign would require universities to teach such minority positions as Holocaust denial and intelligent design. These claims are patently untrue. Anyone who wants can read the Academic Bill of Rights. There is not a single sentence in it that would substantiate their charges.

The creation of the Pennsylvania committee was the work of a former Marine, Republican state Rep. Gibson C. Armstrong. In the summer of 2004, Armstrong was approached by a constituent named Jennie Mae Brown, a student at the York campus of Penn State who complained to him about a physics professor who, she told the New York Times, regularly used class time to "belittle President Bush and the war in Iraq." According to the article, "as an Air Force veteran, Ms. Brown said she felt the teacher's comments were inappropriate for the classroom."

Although many professors put activism before scholarship, and are indeed guilty of such unprofessional abuses of their classrooms, I believe they represent a minority of faculty, part of an academic subculture that confuses political consciousness-raising with education.

I believe that the majority of university professors in this country are people of goodwill, and the campaign I have launched is designed to encourage them to take a stand in defense of educational values and academic freedom in the classroom.


David Horowitz is publisher of and author of "The Professors," to be published later this month by Regnery.

For the Smith College, University of Toronto and George Mason University study: link.

For the Santa Clara University study: link.

Thinking back to my undergrad days, I recall facing a sea of uncertainty when I considered writing my senior thesis from a conservative angle. That it was conservative was a given, for it defended the writings of what many consider a right-wing Commonwealth writer: the venerable Sir V. S. Naipaul. (The often politically incorrect author once referred to Third World countries as the "The Turd World.")

A substantial proportion of my fellow students were liberal, so one can imagine some of the reactions I received. I lost a number of fair weather friends and acquaintances for my decision, but my unpopular (and lonesome) efforts were vindicated when a panel of professors--one of them, a Jesuit priest who grew up during World War II; the other, an acclaimed novelist and screenwriter; and the third, an eminent authority on post-colonial literature--judged my paper remarkable (and courageous) enough to be awarded a prestigious annual prize for originality and incisiveness in articulating the author's contribution to the critical and theoretical discussion.

I once told an old friend, "We are who we are; to pretend to be anything--or anyone--else, is but gilded slavery." And I hold that belief, fervently.

Like the motto of the latest supercarrier to grace the high seas, I too, believe one achieves "Peace Through Strength," and not through self-denigration, denial, and groveling.

You can spend your life trying to please others, or you can live your life.