Talking About Islam

It seems like everyone's losing their minds about Islam these days.

On the one hand there are many on the left who will accuse you of bigotry or Islamophobia if you criticize anything at all about Islam. Apparently we're not allowed to notice that there are fifty-some Muslim countries in the world, but you're hard-pressed to find a single one that is respectful of the rights of women or religious minorities. In fact, it seems like most of them are just despotic tyrannies with little respect for liberal values at all. In Bangladesh, for example, it has become fashionable to execute atheist bloggers for blasphemy. If those death sentences were put to a popular referendum, does anyone think they would be overturned?

Examples of such horrors could be multiplied endlessly. The events in Paris and San Bernardino are not as isolated as we might hope. But almost as worrying are spectacles like this one, in which Maryam Namazie, having been invited to speak at Goldsmiths College in London, found herself interrupted frequently by Muslim hecklers who apparently came specifically to disrupt the talk. Never mind that Namazie carefully distinguished criticisms of Islamist philosophy from criticisms of Muslims as people, and never mind that her talk was largely about the importance of being able to criticize religion as part of free expression. It was still too much for the hecklers.

The video, posted at Jerry Coyne's website at the link above, makes for difficult watching. Check out the part early on where the hecklers start laughing hysterically when Namazie recounts examples of butchery and savagery going on in certain Muslim countries. The story gets worse, however, when you learn that the Goldsmiths Feminist Society issued this statement in support of the hecklers:

Goldsmiths Feminist Society stands in solidarity with Goldsmiths Islamic Society. We support them in condemning the actions of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society and agree that hosting known islamophobes at our university creates a climate of hatred.

How can you do other than stare at that, slack-jawed? The worst atrocities against women anywhere in the world today are going on in Muslim countries, but Namazie is an Islamophobe for pointing out the fact? A feminist group is coming to the aid of hecklers shouting down a woman for doing nothing more than speaking her mind? What is wrong with these people? Do you think the Goldsmiths feminists have ever been reticent about criticizing Christianity for its frequently retrograde views on women?

I'm really not worried that any more than a vanishingly small number of Muslims are terrorists. Even most radicals are ultimately wimps with an instinct for self-preservation, after all. But I am worried about the prevalence of highly illiberal attitudes in Muslim communities, and by the terribly confused liberal groups who frequently defend them. To dismiss these attitudes as the exclusive province of a tiny fringe minority is simply to deny reality. When someone as mild-mannered as Namazie is thought to be spreading hatred, or when Bill Maher and Sam Harris are reviled as Islamophobes for doing little more than criticizing the bad ideas that are so often a part of Muslim culture, then we have a real problem.

But there is another hand, however, and right now I find it more worrying than the moral idiocy of certain left-wing groups. (We shouldn't even call them liberals). Charges of Islamophobia are often misplaced and often used as weapons to stifle dissent, but that doesn't mean Islamophobia isn't a real thing. And increasingly it's becoming the default position of the American right.

There is the usual dichotomy here between the left and the right. Many left-wing groups are saying stupid things these days, but they are politically hapless and have no real power. Not so on the right. The right is far better at organizing, electing like-minded people, and actually implementing their own preferred strain of moral idiocy.

It gets easier by the day to find genuine instances of Islamophobia. Remember Ahmed Mohamed and his clock? If he had been white no one would have thought his little circuit board looked like a bomb. (People might have noticed, for example, that there were no actual explosives attached to the supposed bomb.) Or how about this charming incident from my own home state?

Samer Shalaby, a trustee of the Islamic Center of Fredericksburg, began what was advertised as a “community meeting” with a moment of silence for the victims of Friday’s terrorist attack in Paris. After the moment, a man said, “Amen and thank you!” and another person proclaimed “praise God!”

Shalaby then started a presentation on the Islamic Center's plan to build an 8,000-square-foot mosque at the corner of Old Plank Road and Andora Drive. The mosque would move there from its current location on Harrison Road, across State Route 3 from Harrison Crossing.

But it didn't take long before Shalaby was interrupted by a man who said, “Nobody, nobody, nobody wants your evil cult.”

Some people in the packed room at the Chancellor Community Center—including opponents of the project—expressed disagreement, while others clapped.

“I will do everything in my power to make sure this does not happen because you are terrorists,” the man continued. “Every one of you are terrorists.”

Can I call that Islamophobia? It sure looks like a morbid and irrational fear of Muslims to me.

If it's distressingly easy these days to find so-called liberals suppressing reasonable criticism of religion, it's even easier to find demented, genuine Islamophobia on the right. Here's Lydia McGrew, a prominent right-wing blogger whose rantings we have considered before.

One of the most disturbing points in this jihadist murder spree is that there may well have been no warning sign except Islam itself that Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook posed any threat. True, Tashfeen began making more “radical” posts to her Facebook page, but only after she had already received the necessary background clearance to get a “fiancee visa” and a conditional green card. Why should any law enforcement agency have been trying to look at her Facebook page after that any more than that of any other recent Muslim immigrant to the United States?

It is impossible for leftists at this point to lose face by admitting that Islam is a poisonous ideology and that the latent danger of “self-radicalization” is always there in Muslim immigrants and even second-generation children of Muslim immigrants (like Syed Farook), that this springs from the teaching of jihad itself within Islam, and that this should influence our policies.

Simply being Muslim is now a warning sign that you pose a threat. Is that Islamophobia?

And now we have Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner, saying this:

Republican presidential hopeful and real estate mogul Donald Trump is calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” following deadly terror attacks involving Islamic extremists in California and France.

“Without looking at the various polling data, it is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension,” Trump said in a statement emailed to reporters on Monday.

“Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life,” he continued.

On her show tonight, Rachel Maddow had a correspondent asking people as they went into a Trump rally what they thought of this idea. Short version: They loved it. Does anyone really believe Maddow had to engage in highly selective editing to get those answers?

So, yes, it is aggravating, to say the least, when leftist groups suppress free-expression and side with thugs against reasonable criticisms of religion. It is a complete denial of reality to pretend that all is sweetness and light in Muslim communities, with just a tiny fringe minority going in for extremist ideology. But it is no less a denial of reality to pretend that Islamophobia, the real thing, does not exist, and that it is playing an increasingly toxic role in our political discourse.

The Republicans are desperately trying to whip everyone into a frenzy of hate and fear, since they know that high turnout among bigots is critical to their electoral success. They are not finding it difficult to do so. That's far more worrying to me than a few more morally blinkered leftists.

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I tend to agree with what you wrote, but I must disagree with one of the examples you gave. Ahmed Mohamed was a calculating attention whore who made a stupid publicity stunt that fooled a fair number of liberals to pour out their bleeding hearts on the NASA-shirt wearing muslim boy. Oh, I am a progressive myself, but I am more of the rational/skeptical variety, not the softheads that write for Salon and Slate.

It's a scary time in America; even more-so than the McCarthy-ite years and the Cold War years... hard to see how it will play out, or how current deep divisions in America get anything but worse over the near term :-((

Jason – from across the pond over here in UK, I would have to agree with pretty much everything you say. However, I’m not sure your emphasis as to how much of the problem is coming from the loony right, as opposed to the regressive left, is quite correctly balanced. It seems to me that the latter are making life much easier for the former, effectively closing down the debate by playing the faux “Islamophobia” card at every turn, and might you not be downplaying this important aspect? Sam Harris, to whom you refer, has been most eloquent in highlighting this pernicious trend among such commentators as Glen Greenwald, Reza Aslan, Karen Armstrong etc. At the same time I note your reference to Goldsmiths Feminist Society and agree completely. My point is that I think we should be even more concerned by this crazy trend among those who should be natural allies of liberal values, when they insist on supporting ideas that are clearly in direct opposition to their own ideals. I’ve appended a few further comments and links to some of your own comments, as below:-

*If those death sentences were put to a popular referendum, does anyone think they would be overturned?

Good point – but, much more worryingly, what makes you think the views of Moslems more widely, indeed here in the western world, are much different? :-

Wenzel Strategies (2012):
•58% of Muslim-Americans believe criticism of Islam or Muhammad is not protected free speech under the First Amendment.
•45% believe mockers of Islam should face criminal charges (38% said they should not).
•12% of Muslim-Americans believe blaspheming Islam should be punishable by death.
•43% of Muslim-Americans believe people of other faiths have no right to evangelize Muslims.
•32% of Muslims in America believe that Sharia should be the supreme law of the land.
http://www.andrewbostom.org/blog/2012/10/31/sixty-percent-of-us-muslims…

ICM Poll:

•40% of British Muslims want Sharia in the UK
•20% of British Muslims sympathize with 7/7 bombers
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1510866/Poll-reveals-40pc-of-Mus…

*I’m really not worried that any more than a vanishingly small number of Muslims are terrorists.

Indeed – but even so, there are many thousands of Moslems, at least an order of magnitude more, who at the very least, sympathise with the aims of terrorists, and often enough even with their means of achieving those aims.
Charges of Islamophobia are often misplaced and often used as weapons to stifle dissent, but that doesn’t mean Islamophobia isn’t a real thing. And increasingly it’s becoming the default position of the American right.
Agreed. However, I think you underestimate the size and the very damaging effect of the so-called “regressive left” – a term coined, I believe, by a Moslem, Maajid Nawaz – who are very effectively closing down reasonable debate about the nature and consequences of Islamic doctrine as stated in the Koran and Hadith. This is largely achieved by throwing around easy accusations of “Islamophobia” and thereby implying that racism (of a sort) is inherent in any criticism of Islamic ideology. The problem is further compounded when people such as Glen Greenwald and Resa Aslan then misrepresent the actual views of commentators (most notably Sam Harris) as though they actually were making racist points. See this:-

http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/dear-fellow-liberal2

*The right is far better at organizing, electing like-minded people, and actually implementing their own preferred strain of moral idiocy.

This is true – but you are ignoring the fact that it is the regressive left who are closing down the rational debate here, and it is this process which creates the vacuum and opens up the space which the crazy right can then move to occupy and set up the hate war. The retro- left really do have to start being reasonable and stop the genuine racists/Islamophobes from taking the ground.

*It gets easier by the day to find genuine instances of Islamophobia. Remember Ahmed Mohamed and his clock? If he had been white no one would have thought his little circuit board looked like a bomb. (People might have noticed, for example, that there were no actual explosives attached to the supposed bomb.)

This was indeed a truly sad incident – but who’s really to blame for it, and are you quite sure that Islamophobia (which seems to mean many different things to different people – you don’t give us your own definition) was the basis for it? Security guards are not necessarily the brightest individuals. How are they supposed to discriminate? Would we want to instruct them to ignore all young male Moslems who are carrying home-made electronic devices? Admittedly, in this case, just a little intelligent enquiry (especially on the teacher’s part) would quickly have resolved any concerns, but the question of profiling arises. Is Harris really wrong when he points out that every minute spent searching a little old Mormon lady is a minute not spent searching someone who might be much more likely to pose a real danger? Surely we must make choices when deciding how to deploy limited security resources to best effect. Whilst we must all deplore what happened to the unfortunate schoolboy, can we not at the same time cut the security personnel a little slack in the face of their occasional errors of judgement?

*Can I call that Islamophobia? It sure looks like a morbid and irrational fear of Muslims to me.

Sure, looks like Islamophobia to me too. However, might it not also be an example of the retro- left paving the way for the right? If we were truly engaged in a sensible debate about Islamic theology v western libertarian secular free-thinking, then perhaps the ground would be cut from under the feet of these idiots on the right?

*The Republicans are desperately trying to whip everyone into a frenzy of hate and fear, since they know that high turnout among bigots is critical to their electoral success. They are not finding it difficult to do so.

Again, I would agree. But, again, who’s collaborating in making it easy for them to get this high bigot turnout?

*That’s far more worrying to me than a few more morally blinkered leftists.

In the end, yes – it is more worrying. But no – the “morally blinkered leftists” are not a few, and their stupid facilitation of the right wing agenda is more worrying than I think you are conceding.
The ideological gulf between Islamist theocratic values and those of the post-enlightenment western secular democracies is probably the most worrying geopolitical divide in the world just now. You may have noted the worrying success of the National Front candidates in the recent French elections, to the point that they are now seriously threatening to take the Presidency in the upcoming election of 2017. There must be a real danger that we are facing (broadly) one of two scenarios in the coming years and decades:-

a)A reversion to medieval type religious war – Islamism v Western Civilisation – a potential cataclysm, to be avoided at all costs

or

b)The opening of a rational discourse in which moderate Moslems such as (Maajid Nawaz) can somehow persuade Islam at large to re-interpret their holy texts in post-enlightenment terms, and accept some sort of pluralism and freedom of expression/thought in a “live-and-let-live” society – such as Christianity and Judaism (at least for the most part) have somehow managed over about the last 350 years of frequently very difficult struggle.
We have managed, just about, to get 2 of the traditional religions back in their box. We now need to concentrate on the third one. The regressive left are doing nothing whatsoever to assist in bringing about b) rather than a).

Phil B,

And what percentage of American Christians think that blapheming Christianity shouldn't be protected or that think the explicitly secular United States should be ruled by Biblical law? I'd saw a Majority of Republicans fall into the latter case, at least.

This is a generic criticism of organized religion, not of Islam.

By tgt (not verified) on 08 Dec 2015 #permalink

In reply to by Phil B (not verified)

Jason - sorry, I was unable to italicise your own comments when quoting. Are you able to fix this so that your comments and my responses are easily distinguishable? Thanks. PB.

Ahmed Mohamed was a calculating attention whore...

Wow - that's an odd, unsupportable, assessment.

Second attempt:

There is no easy way to talk about this topic because there are only ugly truths. The Economist tweeted a quote from Tertullian today: “The first reaction to truth is hatred.” Very apropos.

“Apparently we’re not allowed to notice that there are fifty-some Muslim countries in the world, but you’re hard-pressed to find a single one that is respectful of the rights of women or religious minorities. In fact, it seems like most of them are just despotic tyrannies with little respect for liberal values at all.”

Very true. And until recently, none of them suffered for lack of support from Western, liberal democracies. We should notice that too.

I haven’t watched the Maryam Namazie / Goldsmiths College video yet, but I will; I have it bookmarked. Unfortunately, distinguishing religious philosophies from the people who believe them is inherently futile. People (religious and not, Muslim and not, believers and not) tend to define their selves by their philosophies. Criticism of philosophies is almost inescapably regarded as criticism of the persons who hold those philosophies. Holistic All-encompassing philosophical criticism is pretty much doomed. Criticism of certain ideas within philosophies, especially when those ideas conflict with other ideas within the philosophy is probably a better course.

Liberals, feminists, and atheists have a hard time dealing with this because it is such an amorphous problem. Islam is undergoing a titanic internal struggle, akin perhaps to what Christendom went through after the Reformation. The extremism and violence of that protracted struggle were enormous. Unfortunately, the West is getting caught in the fighting because we share this world with Islam, and because we’ve blundered from time-to-time and tried to interfere. Perhaps we acted with good intentions, but the rule that No Good Deed Goes Unpunished remains in force.

sean s.

By sean samis (not verified) on 08 Dec 2015 #permalink

You think Maryam Namazie is similar to Sam Harris and Bill Maher? Sam Harris who thinks that we should treat all muslim looking people in airports like criminals? Bill Maher who thinks that it was proper to detain Ahmed Mohamed for building a clock? Heck, that's even your example of Islamophobia! While Harris and Maher do make some good points about Islam, they follow them up with horrible, bigoted responses.

tgt –
You really have got all this so wrong. First, let’s deal with your post at #7. I don’t think anyone thinks that Maryam Namazie is similar to Sam Harris and Bill Maher – where did you get that impression? Sam Harris has never said that “we should treat all muslim looking people in airports like criminals” – you just provide yet another example of the way in which he is so regularly and so egregiously misquoted. The point that Harris does make is that when facing a potentially lethal threat (in airports perhaps amounting to mass murder) it would simply be insane not to concentrate resources on an identifiable sub-group to which there is a 99% + chance that any such individual will belong. It’s back to the point of the little old Mormon lady – would you really squander precious security resources in searching her to the same extent as you might search a young Middle Eastern male? Would you really be happy that the security personnel guarding a flight on which you were booked should look on these two individuals in the same light? In the 70s and 80s many of us in the UK lived in some fear of Irish Republican terrorists, who bombed and shot many innocent civilians. The security services at the time targeted Roman Catholic people from Ireland, who spoke with an Irish accent, and had names like O’Halloran, or O’Malley. This was grossly unfair to the 99%+ of perfectly peaceable Irish people who lived in London at the time, and I remember feeling pretty sad on behalf of my many Irish friends who had to put up with this. Even so, the vast majority of them were sufficiently tolerant to understand that the actions of a tiny minority of their countrymen had put them in this unfortunate position, and they put up with it with remarkable good grace and even a little humour. For the security services to have equally targeted protestant Danes who spoke in a Scandinavian accent would, under the circumstances, have represented a criminally insane dereliction of duty.

Next, regarding the unfortunate singling out of Ahmed Mohamed. Bill Maher did not quite say that it was “OK to detain him for building a clock”. My comments on this sad incident are recorded above, please read a little more carefully. As for being an example of “Islamophobia”, I actually pulled Jason up on this suggestion – I’m really not sure that it was.

As for “horrible, bigoted responses” – again, can you please be specific? Exactly which responses of Maher and (most especially) Harris were “horrible and bigoted”? Yet more misrepresentation.

Now, let’s move to your post #8. “And what percentage of American Christians think that blapheming Christianity shouldn’t be protected or that think the explicitly secular United States should be ruled by Biblical law?”

Well, probably quite a high percentage, and they’re just as crazy as their Islamic counterparts. Certainly, I offer no defence for them. However, there is at least one very big difference, and it behoves you to recognise this. The fundie Christians are not supported by millions of pre-enlightenment co-fundamentalists who are backing their demands. There are no Christian fundie suicide bombers, there are no Christian fundie groups shooting girls in the head for daring to go to school, there are no Christian fundie groups kidnapping schoolgirls and selling them into slavery, there are no Christian fundie groups flying planes into buildings, there are no Christian fundie groups shooting film makers and cartoonists for blaspheming, there are no Christian fundie groups throwing gays off tall buildings, there are no Christian fundie groups posting ads on you tube consisting of pictures of themselves cutting off the heads of infidels, there are no Christian fundie groups stoning women to death for adultery, there are no Christian fundie groups shooting theatre goers and football fans in Paris by the hundred, there are no Christian fundie groups driving minorities into the hills and crucifying children or burying them alive, there are no Christian fundie groups shooting up Christmas parties in California, there are no Christian fundie groups putting bombs on London buses and tube trains, there are no Christian fundie groups burning pilots alive in cages over open fires, there are no Christian fundie groups committing “honour” killings of their own daughters for refusing to marry the selected man, there are no Christian fundie groups flogging or killing people for no longer professing Christianity, there are no Christian fundie groups etc., etc., etc. On the other hand, you will find Islamic versions of all the above, many actually posted on you tube within at least the last few years, and mostly within the last 12 months. Go look.

It’s all very well to make a “generic criticism of organized religion, not of Islam”, and most of us (including, I'm sure, Sam Harris) would agree that this is fair and legitimate. The point is that the old biblical tenets as set out in a bronze age text have been superseded in western developed society, but this same process has simply not happened in very large parts of the Islamic world.

Now, finally – do you begin to see a difference?

Phil B,
Piece by piece:
1)
"You really have got all this so wrong. First, let’s deal with your post at #7. I don’t think anyone thinks that Maryam Namazie is similar to Sam Harris and Bill Maher – where did you get that impression? "
->

I get it from Jason's comment: "When someone as mild-mannered as Namazie is thought to be spreading hatred, or when Bill Maher and Sam Harris are reviled as Islamophobes for doing little more than criticizing the bad ideas that are so often a part of Muslim culture, then we have a real problem." Seems like Jason's doing the comparison.

2)
"Sam Harris has never said that “we should treat all muslim looking people in airports like criminals” – you just provide yet another example of the way in which he is so regularly and so egregiously misquoted."
->

That's exactly what he argues. Extra attention to people who look muslim is treating muslims like criminals. That you (and Sam) deny this doesn't make it any less true. It's the same for stop and frisk and any other profiling.

It's also a stupid policy. Not only does profiling NOT WORK better than random sampling, it's also completely anathema to the principles of equality that the United States is supposed to represent. You might as well be arguing in favor of torture.

3)
"Next, regarding the unfortunate singling out of Ahmed Mohamed. Bill Maher did not quite say that it was “OK to detain him for building a clock”. My comments on this sad incident are recorded above, please read a little more carefully. As for being an example of “Islamophobia”, I actually pulled Jason up on this suggestion – I’m really not sure that it was."
->

First, I wasn't responding to you, I was responding to Jason, so complaining that I misread you is weird.

Second, your argument is basically: "how do we know this was profiling?" and "isn't profiling what we want?" That's for a kid with a clock, that everyone agrees he said was a clock. Again, profiling doesn't work.

Third, Maher's comments were that we shouldn't rush to judgment to say the kid shouldn't be arrested based on the information we have. The unchallenged information we have is (1) Ahmed said it was a clock, and never said differently. (2) He showed it to teachers as a neat clock he built. (3) He was arrested for a hoax bomb.

Now, What more information would we need to say the arrest was ridiculous? You can rationalize all you want, but the kid was arrested because some idiots were scared of a kid with a muslim name because he had something they cartoonishly considered a bomb.

4) Onto my post #8, the one that was actually directed to you:
"Well, probably quite a high percentage, and they’re just as crazy as their Islamic counterparts. Certainly, I offer no defence for them. However, there is at least one very big difference, and it behoves you to recognise this. The fundie Christians are not supported by millions of pre-enlightenment co-fundamentalists who are backing their demands."
...
"It’s all very well to make a “generic criticism of organized religion, not of Islam”, and most of us (including, I’m sure, Sam Harris) would agree that this is fair and legitimate. The point is that the old biblical tenets as set out in a bronze age text have been superseded in western developed society, but this same process has simply not happened in very large parts of the Islamic world."
->

I don't deny or disagree with any of the quoted material. My point in comment 8 is that your statistics about Western Muslims don't support your point about Islam being inherently dangerous. They don't support your suggestion that Western Muslims aren't very different from middle eastern Muslims.

5) Now that I've read your original comment, I have a couple additional bones to pick with you.

First is the comments about the "regressive left". It's a term that should be applied to groups like the Goldsmiths Feminist Society, but is also now applied to anyone who points out that Sam Harris' proposed policies are racist. Instead of describing people, it's used to disregard people with opposing ideas.

Second is "The ideological gulf between Islamist theocratic values and those of the post-enlightenment western secular democracies is probably the most worrying geopolitical divide in the world just now." if the U.S. is considered a western secular democracy, then this is just silly. A significant portion of the population has the same general ideology of theocratic values. It's Christian theocracy instead of Islamist theocracy, but they have considerably more in common with each other than either do with the principles of secular western democracies.

Currently, the main difference between those backing Christian theocracy and Islamist theocracy is that the more brutal Christian theocrats don't have the power to enact their desires.

Ironically, the genesis of the Left's attempted suppression of reasonable criticism is in the Right's increasing Islamophobia, and the increasing determination of both sides to never be in agreement with each other.

Of course the Goldsmiths Feminist Society stands with the Goldsmiths Islamic Society; doing so puts them in direct contrast with the Goldsmiths Young Republicans, or whatever the conservative group there is called. And not being in agreement with the conservatives is the most important thing -- any hint that there might be some common ground might be taken as a sign that you are (gasp) one of them. Can't have that, now, can we?

By Dan Welch (not verified) on 08 Dec 2015 #permalink

Sam Harris didn't say "Muslim-looking people." He said airport security shouldn't squander resources on people that clearly couldn't carry out an attack, like really small children or really old people. He didn't say anything about let the white guys through unscrutinized, or let people who look like Jerry Seinfeld through, although this is what his critics say he said. White men can be terrorists, of course, so he's not giving them a free pass.

Regarding Ahmed Mohamed, this is such a commonly misunderstood incident. Most people believe Ahmed was a genius wizkid who built a homemade clock for a school science fair project, only to be detained on suspicion it was a bomb just because he's Muslim.

-But he never built a clock -- he simply removed the insides of a manufactured alarm clock and placed them inside a pencil box that looked like a suitcase. The whole thing looked like a "hollywood style" suitcase timebomb.
-There was no science fair. He brought the thing to school unsoliciited.
-The investigators never thought it was a bomb. Instead, they believed he was deliberately hoaxing and tried to get him to confess to that.

Now, did investigators overreact a bit? I agree they shouldn't have handcuffed him if they couldn't get him on anything. But they should be allowed to ask questions. The device was suspicious looking.

AL,

You're the one misrepresenting Harris. Along with his comments about not screening people obviously incapable of carrying out an attack, he also said: "We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it."

"Muslim-looking people" vs "Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim". Either the latter is everyone, and his argument for profiling is vacuous, or it's just "Muslim-looking people."

Also, his idea not to screen people who couldn't carry out an attack is stupid. An Octogenarian can easily hand a gun to a 20 something past security. If we're going to have the screenings, we have to screen everyone. Whether or not we should have the screenings at all is a completely different matter.

As for Ahmed, (1) he took apart the components and put them back together, he didn't simply take off the case and put on a new case, (2) pretty much any tinkered electronic looks like a "hollywood style" bomb (3) there's no mention of a science fair anywhere on this post or in the comments, and (4) he never claimed it was anything other than a clock, so why did anyone think it was a hoax bomb?

Lastly the "device" looking like internal electronic components. There's nothing inherently suspicious about electronic components.

Ironically, the genesis of the Left’s attempted suppression of reasonable criticism is in the Right’s increasing Islamophobia, and the increasing determination of both sides to never be in agreement with each other.

Disagree. Call me an old fogie but it feels a bit like the postmodernism that infected the left in the '70s (combined, quixotically, with a political authoritarianism). Political movements sometimes go through cycles, and the left in the US has dabbled with weird and extreme concepts of anti-western colonialism before. I doubt very much that the incidents such as the one at Yale have their origin in 9/11 and more recent anti-Islam sentiment. It seems to me that anti-colonialism and anti-enlightenment sentiment on the US left is older than that. This may be a different or new variation on the theme, but its kinda the same theme we've seen before. And its a lot older than 14 years. All IMO...

tgt

Your refusal to think clearly on these issues, coupled with your wilful distortions of my views and the views of others, makes it difficult for me to know where to start. Even so, I’ll give it a try, taking your points in the order you make them, and trying not to reproduce too much endless cut-and-paste:-

1)No comparison is made here. Jason simply mentions the one, and then the other two, for the purpose of making a point. As it happens, quite a good point.

2)What exactly do you mean by “treated as criminals”? Are you really expecting us to accept that singling people out for attention at airports is treating them as criminals? Have you never been so treated (I know I have). Admitted, it’s a nuisance, and it’s somewhat uncomfortable. But I, and many others, tolerate this because we know it might serve a greater good in the end. Tough. Your reference to “principles of equality that the United States is supposed to represent” is just non-sensical if applied universally it would prevent law enforcement agencies from treating anyone or anything as a suspect, whether in the US or anywhere else. As for your odious comment ” You might as well be arguing in favor of torture”, I will ignore that and treat it with the contempt it deserves – other than to note that you are perhaps trying to echo a similarly egregious accusation that the retro- left have levelled at Harris.
Your comment that profiling does not work needs some serious evidence to back it up. Your extrapolation to the generality from the particular anecdotal case of this young boy is not sufficient, even if we do consider that he was profiled.

3)Sure, after the event everyone agrees it was a clock. I’ve already conceded that both the teacher and the security staff were almost certainly guilty of over-reacting here, and should have established much sooner that it was “just a clock”. However – suppose for a minute that it hadn’t actually been “just a clock”, and 10 minutes later a bunch of schoolkids had been blown to bits? How much opprobrium “after the event” would have been directed at the security staff for missing this? The point is that at the time, the staff took what they considered to be the safe option, even if they did end up looking pretty stupid (either justifiably or otherwise).
I take the point as to which one of us you may have been responding to, but my points still stand, that observation notwithstanding.

4)I’m not quite sure what you mean by Islam being “inherently dangerous”, and I don’t believe I made such a comment. However, it must be clear to all that Moslem Holy texts can all too easily be interpreted (by those who may wish to do so) as being extremely dangerous to those whom such Moslems consider to be standing in opposition, or even disagreement, with such texts – no cartoonists producing pictures of Christian figures have yet been shot. As for differences between western Moslems and eastern Moslems, there are certainly many points of similarity of view, though I’m sure there must be some differences too – quite how we would quantify all this I don’t know. At any rate a population, east or west, a significant percentage of which proposes application of Sharia law with all that entails, must surely pose some danger to a secular free society. Does this not concern you? Or is this agenda to introduce Sharia under a Caliphate OK with the “principles of equality that the United States is supposed to represent”?

5) Sam Harris’s policies are not racist – which race of people, and I challenge you on this – can you identify as having been singled out for any sort of criticism by Sam Harris? It is almost certainly the case that anyone who can misrepresent Sam Harris as having racist or bigoted views can be legitimately described as regressive left, for which purpose the term is well coined. It would seem that you fit the description well, though I may grant you that it fits the Goldsmiths Feminist Society even better. On the other hand, as for “Islamophobia” – well, there’s a very good word to trot out if you just want to “disregard people with opposing ideas”.

Again, I’ve already conceded that lots of Americans have Christian theocratic ideas, and I repudiate them just as much as I do Islamic theocratic ideas. Yes, you’re right to say that they have “more in common with each other than either do with the principles of secular western democracies”. But please, you must realise that there is an important point beyond this – the large majority of people, certainly here in UK and I’m sure also on your side of the pond, do not get their way in wishing to force their theocracy on others. In your case you have a constitution specifically designed to prevent this. Furthermore, most of your Christian fundies don’t actually want to go quite as far as to execute infidels, behead aid workers, crucify children etc.
Finally, at last, your bottom line is a fair one. We have seen over many centuries, up to about mid-17th that brutal Christian theocrats will, if given the power, tend to behave just as badly as any other theocrats. Keeping power out of the hands of such fundies is essential, and the same is precisely true of Islamic fundies. In the end, they’ll all enact their desires if given enough opportunity for enough time. Agreed.

Phil,

1) Rereading it, Jason did not directly compare them, he simply compared their treatments. I retract my direct comparison claim, but I maintain that the treatments of Namazie and Harris/Maher are not similar.

2)
a) Yes, being singled out for extra screening based on what someone looks like IS being treated like a criminal. Its just like stop and frisk. Are you aware of the stop and frisk policy in New York City? If not. Please stop here so I can explain it. I reference it repeatedly going forward.

b) That you're willing to give up civil liberties (which you might not have in the UK), does not change that that's what it is. A search based on what you look like is an unreasonable search and a fourth amendment violation.

c) No idea why you think not being able to profile people means that no one can be treated as a suspect. You just need a valid reason to consider someone a suspect. Again, this is like stop and frisk.

d) The torture comment was a direct comparison to the profiling. It's unconstitutional, immoral, and doesn't work. I'm vaguely aware of something with Harris and torture, but I do not know what it was and I was not referencing it.

e) For profiling not working, see stop and frisk. See all the studies that show black people are searched by police way more than white people, but they find less contraband. See Sam Harris' back and forth with Bruce Schneier on airport security. Or just think for a second. The logical response of a terrorist to certain people profiled for additional/less screening: use people who fit the profile to be screened less. You know, like Al Qaida did. It's like building in a loophole.

3)
a) Both teachers thought it was a clock. You even claim that the officers always said it was a clock. That's why the officer wanted him to say it was a hoax. By your own admission, the officer never thought it was a bomb. And hell, if any of them thought it was a bomb, why was he simply told to keep it in his bag? Why was no bomb squad called? You're arguing for something that was obviously never seriously considered. Give it a rest.

Beyond that, your argument is an example of "worst first" thinking. It's why parents who let their elementary school kids walk to school are visited by Child Protection Services. "Oh no! This horrible thing could have happened!" It's stupid and harmful.

4)
a) Inherently dangerous. Wasn't that the main point of your first comment? Muslims are dangerous. These Muslims do horrible things, and these other Muslims, in the western world, support the same ideas. If that wasn't your point, I did not understand your point. Can you try explaining it to me?

b) The Koran might be worse than the Bible and the Torah, but there are plenty of passages in the Torah/Old Testament about killing infidels, blasphemers, and people who don't subscribe to a specific morality. Singling out Muslims, is, again, uncalled for.

c) Differences between eastern and western Muslims: danger of sharia. Of course Sharia is against U.S. principles. I've never said otherwise. I don't know where you get that suggestion from me. It seems like a complete non sequitur.

5)
a) So it's not racist to treat some people different because they look Arab? That's what Harris' profiling policy demands... until he gets called on it, and then it's everyone of the right age and strength...which means there was no reason to mention Muslims at all, much less be honest about profiling them... but then Harris will go and mention Muslims again. Somehow, you think that's not racist.

b) I said the policies Harris espouses are racist and bigoted, not that he is racist and bigoted. Minor detail, but I want to be clear that I'm attacking his ideas, not dismissing his ideas by attacking him.

c) And, as I noted, "regressive left" is used to dismiss people who are criticizing ideas. Instead of attacking the claims, the people are attacked.

d) Islamophobia. It's how the word is used. If people use the word to ignore arguments, it's bad. If it's a conclusion based on an examination of their ideas/actions, then it's fine. Same goes for racist, bigoted, anti-semitic, etc... As it was used by Jason, it was akin to asking "is their racism?" and then looking at possible examples of it. Jason isn't exactly one to defend Islam. Same goes for me.

e) Need to quote here: "the large majority of people, certainly here in UK and I’m sure also on your side of the pond, do not get their way in wishing to force their theocracy on others."

Large majority getting their way? No. I didn't deny that anywhere, I don't think. I explicitly said that the Christian theocrats didn't have enough power to act like the Muslim theocrats. That said, there is considerable theocracy existing all over the US, and even more pushed for. The FFRF and ACLU are constantly fighting against existing theocracy here. All the local councils and school boards who claim their communities as Christian, and push Christianity. Look at all the completely unnecessary regulations on abortion (opposed by doctor groups) in various states. They've shut down abortion clinics to the point that the travel and waiting periods are cost prohibitive. All based on religious belief. The (multiple) congressmen who have opposed regulations to combat global warming because God gave us dominion of the land and won't let anything happen to us. Nope...no theocracy here.

f) another quote: "In your case you have a constitution specifically designed to prevent this."

Yes, but it only works so long as the people want it to work. We have multiple presidential candidates (one a former governor) who has said that God's law trumps the constitution. Despite it being plainly secular, the right constantly claims Christianity is inherent in the constitution and that the US is a Christian nation with Christian based laws.

g) Yes, most of our Christian fundies don't claim they want to behead people, but some do, and that's now, when they aren't the most in power. Our major Republican presidential candidates go on radio shows hosted by people who have (recently) called for the killing of gays. The "Values Voters Summit", a major conservative political conference, had multiple speakers who call for similar barbarism. Heck, we recently had a state congresswoman talk about how she wants to go to Europe to kill Syrian refugees. The two leading republican candidates for the presidential nomination want to ban Muslims from entering the country.

You think of the US as secular, but, in practice, it's not nearly as secular as it's constitution proclaims.

h) I appreciate your willingness to agree with me on things instead of arguing that those aren't my positions. I've had more than a few internet discussions where people insist I must be holding evil views.

@9 Phil B:: "concentrate resources on an identifiable sub-group"
ie

“we should treat all muslim looking people in airports like criminals”
so you're nicely contradicting yourself.

Anyhow this is not the most important issue.
The most important issue is that terrorists have brains too. As soon as security "concentrates resources on an identifiable sub-group" terrorists will make very sure their members won't look anything like members of that "identifiable sub-group".
So pick your choice - Harris is too stupid to think of this simple point himself or he spreads irrational fear of muslims - is an islamophobe.

tgt,
I suspect (though I may be wrong) that I am a little older than you, and I am beginning to weary of this point-by-point exchange – it’s fairly exhausting and, please remember, it is now well after midnight where I’m sitting! Nevertheless, your latest submission warrants a response and I’ll do my best. Firstly, I suspect our two positions are not quite as far apart as our earlier exchanges might suggest – I detect a tentative note of conciliation creeping into our conversation. Even so, I can’t quite let you get away with everything you’ve come out with in your last response – especially in light of the fact that you’ve raised (or at least hinted at) one or two areas where we haven’t yet trespassed. One thing I must definitely make clear:- just because I disagree with you on various points, there is no way in which I would accuse you of “holding evil views”. That is the sort of language that I would expect from the theocrats with whom neither of us has the slightest sympathy, and it is wholly inappropriate for an exchange such as this. As I said, this will not be point-by-point, but I will engage more generally with some of your latest expositions:-
We have something like your “stop and frisk” in UK – our enforcement agencies call it “stop and search”. It is essentially the same as what happens in NYC. The black African population have complained bitterly that it is overly directed against them, and the London Police have been much criticised for it. I suspect that the Afro-Caribbeans are correct on this point. You do not need to explain further – really, NYC is not so very distinct. As for giving up civil liberties – NO! We are not prepared to give up on these and, believe me, such liberties are as well preserved here (at least, if not more so) than in NYC. I know you belong to the land of the brave and the free – because your own propagandists have been telling me this for years – but have you considered that NYC, and indeed the USA as a whole, may not actually be the bravest and the freest of all? Funny how even the most left wing Americans (Chomsky perhaps excepted) can’t quite get their heads around the idea that maybe they actually belong to the land of “the fairly brave and the relatively free”. I think you’ll find that the British idea of freedom is in fact rather better developed than your own. But that’s another discussion – although a very interesting one!
With respect, torture was not a very good comparison to profiling. I don’t particularly like profiling but, unlike you, as a pragmatist I can see a necessity. If the comparison with torture is completely inappropriate (which it is) then the comparison with “building a loophole” is not much better. Schneier’s points against Harris do not weigh heavily – and certainly don’t amount to the evidence for inefficacy of profiling that I requested earlier, that you might provide.
As for the clock – I’ve had enough, and have already conceded (right from the start) that it was not very impressive.
The “inherently dangerous” point needs clarification. Your simplistic analysis at 4 a), a false representation of what I actually said, clearly requires, since you’ve directly asked for it, further explanation. If Muslims are dangerous, not an allegation I made and certainly not in the generality, then this can only apply to those Moslems who actually commit terrorist offences. So the question must become – why do some Moslems do these things? Again, Harris gives the answer. People’s actions are motivated by what they believe. And where does that come from – answer, a 7th century text that promises paradise for martyrdom, coupled with a failure to modify such beliefs in the light of enlightenment values – values which have held great sway in the previously Christian world (even the USA), but which seem to have made little if any impression in the Islamic world. It’s not a question of “inherent danger” – it’s just the way things happen to have come to pass. Christianity largely grew out of its infantile basis – Islam didn’t. Agreed again – the Bible/Torah is intrinsically just as vile as the Koran regarding all the things you mention. It’s just that 21st century Jews and Christians interpret their holy texts differently these days – whereas too many Moslems do no such thing.
Oh dear, back to Harris’s alleged racism. Making a distinction between those more likely to commit terrorist offences on the one hand, and those less likely on the other hand is not racist. Again – which race is Harris being racist against? Whether you’re attacking Harris or his supposedly racist ideas, either way you are failing to make the distinction – which in the end is irrelevant anyway, because such a distinction is a false one. A racist man and a man who holds and expresses racist ideas are 2 indistinguishable concepts – see Sean Samis above.
“Regressive left” is emphatically not used to dismiss people – it is used to categorise a very bad way of thinking. As for “Islamophobia” – it is generally used to dismiss arguments from people you don’t like, akin to racism, but with much less of a basis. The accusation takes a lot of work to disclaim – as in the case of Affleck slandering Harris. It takes a lot less time to make a mess than to clear it up.
I have much more sympathy with your later points. You clearly have a big problem with Christian fundamentalists in the USA, and I entirely accept your points about abortion clinics, climate change loonies, and all the other excesses that your Christian fundamentalists force on your society at large. All of which goes back to my earlier point about how relatively “free” you are in the USA.
In the UK, more free than you are, whatever spin you may like to put on it, the Christian loony fundies are a marginal group, tiny in number, and anyone who meets one just smiles sweetly and passes by on the other side of the road. They certainly have no public profile, and any candidate for public or political office who was to express such religious views would be committing electoral suicide – he/she just wouldn’t get on any such shortlist. Meanwhile, you have guys like Ben Carson, who believes the world to be 6000 years old, who stand a chance of actually being elected to the presidency. Who’s the most free?
Your final point is the saddest of all – namely that your Constitution, supposedly the great safeguard of the land of the “free and the brave”, only works in so far as the people want it to work. How true.
tgt (what’s your name by the way?), I hope you are not too upset by my observations. I suspect you are well motivated and well intentioned, but I do think you have got a few ideas a bit confused. If I have gone any way at all to bringing you from the regressive left to the progressive left, then my evening has been well spent – but I somehow suspect that my efforts have only been partially successful at best.
Still, you have my good wishes. Keep going.
Phil.

MN b

“we should treat all muslim looking people like criminals” – where did I say that, or anything like it?
Hardly a fair paraphrase of my comment that you first quote!
As for terrorists, yes they certainly have brains – but so do we. There is a limit to which they can disguise themselves, and the security forces no doubt are well aware that a “cat and mouse” game has to be played. But don’t throw away the initial advantage – just watch for the response, and then respond accordingly.
Your conclusion with regard to Harris is too stupid (and too slanderous) to warrant comment, other than to point out your cowardly tactic of hiding behind the old “Islamophobia” mantra – yet again!

Yeah, "talking about Islam," I started reading here and wasn't finding much that was helpful so... so much for that. Sorry if I missed something good, but time's limited.

Less broadbrush swashbuckling and more specific, enlightened management techniques please. For instance, any ideas on how not to pour gasoline on a fire?

By Obstreperous A… (not verified) on 09 Dec 2015 #permalink

Phil B,

pre-1) I like to go by tgt as a psuedonym, as my name is, well, incredibly uncommon. There are, to my knowledge, 3 people with my first/last name in the United States, and likely 0 outside the US. The last name is a result of a cultural eastern European naming scheme, a small town, an invasion, immigration to Ellis Island at a specific time period, and then random chance of picking that part of the name, and shortening it in that specific way to go from 20 some characters to 10. Jason knows my name, and has actually met me in person at one of his visiting college lectures.

For background, I'm a mid-30s white, atheist, software-engineer with a philosophy background. I was raised Catholic with a dad that was in the Jesuits (learned, liberal Catholic order) for most of a decade. The family was lower middle class economically, upper class academically in an upper-middle to lower-upper class suburb.

1) Not willing to give up civil liberties:

Treating Arab's as heightened security threats is giving up civil liberties.

2) Relative freedom:

The ideals of freedom in the US are solid. It's the lack of implementation that's a problem. The people who give lip service to freedom are a problem. That you think we should be fine with profiling, suggests that you don't care about freedom for those we would profile.

The relative freedom scales of the US and UK are interesting. The US has much more robust free speech laws than the UK, and the surveillance state is considerably more comprehensive in the UK. There's also the issue of parochial public schools in the UK. One of the biggest differences between the US and the UK is that religion is built into UK government, and has slowly been secularizing, while it's specifically separate in the US, and US Christians rebel at that and bring in religion wherever possible. The larger area of the US allows more religious fiefdoms.

3) Profiling vs torture:

You didn't actually point out a problem with my comparison. Just stated it was wrong.

4) Profile loopholes:

Again. No argument. Just a statement that part of my argument is wrong You don't touch the rest of it.

5) The clock:

Are you admitting that Maher's comments were stupid, and based on fear of this brown kid? That the left (and libertarians) were right to criticize the school and police? Or are you dropping it because your arguments have been shown to be B.S., but you don't want to admit to the B.S....or to the arguments you made?

6) Inherently dangerous as your point:

You denied my summation of your point, claimed you were going to explain your point, and then didn't explain your point at all. (You did talk about the inherently dangerous idea separate from your argument, but that's irrelevant.) Again, what was you point? I still see nothing other than the tarring of Muslims as inherently dangerous.

7) Racist Harris.

Sorry, back to quotes: "Oh dear, back to Harris’s alleged racism. Making a distinction between those more likely to commit terrorist offences on the one hand, and those less likely on the other hand is not racist."

I've never claimed that was. The point is that increased scrutiny passed on racial physical characteristics, when the huge majority of people with those racial physical characteristics are not likely to commit terrorist offense, IS racist.

Muslim looking people might be 10 times more likely to commit terrorist attacks than non Muslim looking people, but if that's 99% vs 99.9%, then it's racism to treat the Arab looking people differently from the non Arabs.

"Again – which race is Harris being racist against?"

As I've noted before, Arabs...as the people who would be caught up in the "Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim."

If you're claiming this isn't a race, then just translate racist to bigoted. The general idea holds.

"Whether you’re attacking Harris or his supposedly racist ideas, either way you are failing to make the distinction – which in the end is irrelevant anyway, because such a distinction is a false one. A racist man and a man who holds and expresses racist ideas are 2 indistinguishable concepts – see Sean Samis above."

I see an important difference. I'm attacking the racist ideas, not labeling Sam as racist to invalidate his ideas. I wrote a whole piece up about that difference.

8) General use of "regressive left" and "islamophobia".

You just stated that it's the opposite of the way I stated they're used, and then came up with an example that is outside our discussion. Islamophobia, as used in Jason's post and my comments, is clearly okay. You do not come up with anything against it. Your use of "regressive left" as referring to me is also clearly improper, as you didn't argue against my logic, you just stated it by fiat. I point out Sam Harris' racist policies, so I'm "regressive left."

Your attempt at newspeak fails. (Again, that's a conclusion based on the above evidence, not a tarring meant to dismiss your argument).

10) Point you dropped:

Your claim that not being able to profile means no one can be a suspect.

This was an argument for profiling and against equal protection of all people. Is your complete avoidance of it now an admission that it was BS? Worse B.S. then your torture vs profiling, profiling is effective, and Ahmed clock arguments, which you at least paid lip service to?

Phil B,

In re: MN b

1) Treating them like criminals:

I'm with MN b. Maybe you don't see the comparison because England doesn't have a parallel to the 4th amendment (protection from unreasonable search and seizure) and 14th amendment (equal protection under the law).

If you single out a subgroup for extra screening, you are searching them and seizing them (seizure, in US jurisprudence, includes detainment) in an unequal manor. These searches and seizures are treating them like suspected criminals...based on nothing more than what they look like, a profile that is likely to be wrong, well, nearly 100% of the time. That's unreasonable, both based on the legal definition and the plain English definition.

2) Cat and mouse game:

In the back and forth, the terrorists are free to break our security. The gradual improvement works in the end, but it allows for terrorists to win at any individual step. It's the same as the free market. In principle, it works as time goes to infinity, but it doesn't work at any stage before that.

Another comparison is evolution. Species generally adapt to their environment (it works, bitches!) but it's also pretty horrific for individuals along the way.

3) Conclusion about Harris

There's no hiding behind calling him an Islamophobe. The logic that leads to that conclusion is plainly outlined. You need to attack the logic, not the conclusion. You refuse to, calling it stupid and slanderous. Possibly because there is no defense.

Here's another difference between the US and UK. In the UK, you might win a verdict in court on calling that slander (really, libel); in the US, you'd be laughed out of court, and, if you're in the right state, be hit with an anti-SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, also known as a Butthurt lawsuit) and sanctions/fees. An anti-SLAPP law is in the pipeline at the federal level. Because of the UK's incredibly lax defamation law, UK defamation judgments are not enforceable in the US.

If you single out a subgroup for extra screening, you are searching them and seizing them (seizure, in US jurisprudence, includes detainment) in an unequal manor. These searches and seizures are treating them like suspected criminals…based on nothing more than what they look like, a profile that is likely to be wrong, well, nearly 100% of the time. That’s unreasonable, both based on the legal definition and the plain English definition.

I don't see a problem with profiling based on reasonable correlates to violent conduct. The problem here is anti-Arab or anti-Muslim profiling isn't reasonable. We've had 354 mass shootings in the US this year, and 353 of them were done by non-Muslims (this is also less than the expected per capita representation of Muslims in the US; at 0.8% of the population, just on random luck there should have been 3 shootings by Muslims).

In contrast, if TSA wanted to profile the subgroup "males under 65," I would have no problem with that (and for the record, I'm in that group). In my opinion the correlates between violence and that subgroup are a lot stronger. They won't, because it would cause an almighty stink amongst the young white males in the population, but if we are going to go the route of profiling, that would frankly be the most statistically solid profiling to do.

eric,

The problem with reasonable profiling is that any organized group can use said profiling to end up with less scrutiny. If we only look at "males under 65" for enhanced screening, then they will work on recruiting females under 65 and anyone over 65. The females are less statistically likely than the males, but even in a 10-1 ratio of males to females, there are still plenty of females to act, or, at least, smuggle in the contraband. Same goes for older people. It's not like old people are known for being progressive.

So maybe we make the profiling secret? With the breadth of the security system, that's going to fail, and make the enhanced security on profiled people pointless. And why would we even trust the secret profile as being accurate? The history of software bugs has shown us that secret procedures tend to have more holes in them than procedures that everyone can see.

A followup to my comments about Sam Harris' profiling ideas. Both I and MNb talked about how Sam Harris pairs his horrible ideas with language that would make them pointless. Marek Sullivan wrote an article about this tendency of Harris. He doesn't use the profiling example, but all his examples follow the same basic pattern: horribleness mixed with repudiation of the horribleness and watering of the ideas to nothingness mixed with repetition of the original ideas, all followed by attacks of misrepresentation on anyone who points out the horribleness. It's not that we don't get the subtlety, it's that the points are contradictory.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/12/09/sam-harriss-quantum-universe-or-…

@24: sure, adaptive adversaries mean any sort of profiling must be combined with random sampling or some minimal screening for everyone. However, not all attacks come from large-resource recruiting organizations. Most are going to be 'lone wolf' efforts or organizations using whatever attackers they can get. And looking at males will catch something upward of 90% of those while reducing your operational costs by 50% or so. That's not a bad trade off. Assuming your audience is willing to consider risk trade offs...which the American public isn't. :)

@eric 24

As noted above, minimal screening of everyone is not sufficient to pair with enhanced screening for the profiled. If it was sufficient, it'd be sufficient for the profiled as well.

Random sampling along with profiling is interesting, but is that any better than just random sampling? The profiled people would still just use the random sampled people, so it's just the sample catching anything...which is the same as just random sampling everyone, but it would take more security resources

You are right that I am talking about about organizational terrorism, but that's because that's what Harris was talking about. No need to discuss anything else to point out Harris' issues.

As for your 'lone wolf' efforts, you define them as organizational as well. It will be harder for those organizations to find people, but, again, with attacks on the US flight system so few and far between, this is a minor impediment.

That leaves us with actual lone wolves. Is stopping them worth the cost? I'd say that we, as a society, don't think so. The enhanced security only came after 9/11. Actual lone wolf terrorists are rare, and they generally are more specific in their targeting...like a black church, or horrible abortion providers.

Also, your numbers are interesting. How are the operational costs going down 50%? Are you suggesting that the minimal screening costs nothing? There's going to be no back up as different people have to follow different rules? Do you know why everyone takes their shoes off at airport security? After the shoe bomber, the TSA only required thick soled shoes to be taken off. Tennis shoes? Sandals? No threat there. You could keep those on. And there was confusion, and slower lines. It was more efficient and cheaper just to have everyone take off their shoes.

Bruce Schneier talks about this. Once you've reached a certain level of security, it's generally more efficient to have everyone follow the same procedures than for there to be two sets of procedures. Complexity is the enemy of efficiency.

Hello
If you are looking for true and real Islam
Just a bit of time to a leader of Iran and Western European youth read about Islam beg
english.khamenei.ir
letter4u ، #commonworry # ، #الألم_المشترک و #

In the name of God, the Beneficent the Merciful
To the Youth in Europe and North America,

The recent events in France and similar ones in some other Western countries have convinced me to directly talk to you about them. I am addressing you, [the youth], not because I overlook your parents, rather it is because the future of your nations and countries will be in your hands; and also I find that the sense of quest for truth is more vigorous and attentive in your hearts.

I don’t address your politicians and statesmen either in this writing because I believe that they have consciously separated the route of politics from the path of righteousness and truth.

I would like to talk to you about Islam, particularly the image that is presented to you as Islam. Many attempts have been made over the past two decades, almost since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, to place this great religion in the seat of a horrifying enemy. The provocation of a feeling of horror and hatred and its utilization has unfortunately a long record in the political history of the West.

Here, I don’t want to deal with the different phobias with which the Western nations have thus far been indoctrinated. A cursory review of recent critical studies of history would bring home to you the fact that the Western governments’ insincere and hypocritical treatment of other nations and cultures has been censured in new historiographies.

The histories of the United States and Europe are ashamed of slavery, embarrassed by the colonial period and chagrined at the oppression of people of color and non-Christians. Your researchers and historians are deeply ashamed of the bloodsheds wrought in the name of religion between the Catholics and Protestants or in the name of nationality and ethnicity during the First and Second World Wars. This approach is admirable.

By mentioning a fraction of this long list, I don’t want to reproach history; rather I would like you to ask your intellectuals as to why the public conscience in the West awakens and comes to its senses after a delay of several decades or centuries. Why should the revision of collective conscience apply to the distant past and not to the current problems? Why is it that attempts are made to prevent public awareness regarding an important issue such as the treatment of Islamic culture and thought?

You know well that humiliation and spreading hatred and illusionary fear of the “other” have been the common base of all those oppressive profiteers. Now, I would like you to ask yourself why the old policy of spreading “phobia” and hatred has targeted Islam and Muslims with an unprecedented intensity. Why does the power structure in the world want Islamic thought to be marginalized and remain latent? What concepts and values in Islam disturb the programs of the super powers and what interests are safeguarded in the shadow of distorting the image of Islam? Hence, my first request is: Study and research the incentives behind this widespread tarnishing of the image of Islam.

My second request is that in reaction to the flood of prejudgments and disinformation campaigns, try to gain a direct and firsthand knowledge of this religion. The right logic requires that you understand the nature and essence of what they are frightening you about and want you to keep away from.

I don’t insist that you accept my reading or any other reading of Islam. What I want to say is: Don’t allow this dynamic and effective reality in today’s world to be introduced to you through resentments and prejudices. Don’t allow them to hypocritically introduce their own recruited terrorists as representatives of Islam.

Receive knowledge of Islam from its primary and original sources. Gain information about Islam through the Qur’an and the life of its great Prophet. I would like to ask you whether you have directly read the Qur’an of the Muslims. Have you studied the teachings of the Prophet of Islam and his humane, ethical doctrines? Have you ever received the message of Islam from any sources other than the media?

Have you ever asked yourself how and on the basis of which values has Islam established the greatest scientific and intellectual civilization of the world and raised the most distinguished scientists and intellectuals throughout several centuries?

I would like you not to allow the derogatory and offensive image-buildings to create an emotional gulf between you and the reality, taking away the possibility of an impartial judgment from you. Today, the communication media have removed the geographical borders. Hence, don’t allow them to besiege you within fabricated and mental borders.

Although no one can individually fill the created gaps, each one of you can construct a bridge of thought and fairness over the gaps to illuminate yourself and your surrounding environment. While this preplanned challenge between Islam and you, the youth, is undesirable, it can raise new questions in your curious and inquiring minds. Attempts to find answers to these questions will provide you with an appropriate opportunity to discover new truths.

Therefore, don’t miss the opportunity to gain proper, correct and unbiased understanding of Islam so that hopefully, due to your sense of responsibility toward the truth, future generations would write the history of this current interaction between Islam and the West with a clearer conscience and lesser resentment.

Seyyed Ali Khamenei
21st Jan. 2015

@Peyman,

I've read enough is the original sources is Islam to say that it is, well, a mix of good and horrible ideas made up by demogogues who were a products of their time. Just like Christianity. Past that, the original meanings and texts are irrelevant to dealing with current Muslims. What matters is what people believe. When large groups of Muslims say Islam means killing infidels, we have to treat them at their word, just like we have to treat those Muslims that say Islam means peace at their word. Both are Islam. Islam, like Christianity, is whatever its believers want it to be.

We are at war with barbarous, religious fanatics. That they are also Muslim is almost irrelevant.

"If you are looking for true and real Islam"
There is no such thing like true and real islam.
The San Bernardino murderers belong to islam as much as my female counterpart (a practicing muslima), who unambiguously condemns such things. She doesn't deny though that they are muslims too.

The letter sent by the leader who is reading this, what is your opinion?

Have you ever read the Quran, the Muslim holy book or by their Prophet Muhammad familiar?

Dear peyman;

I know you may find this frustrating, but what the Quran says is irrelevant. Christians share a single Bible and a multitude of interpretations of that Bible. Islam has the same problem vis-à-vis the Quran.

Non-Muslims have no standing to decide who is or is not a “true” Muslim; they can only recount the observable behavior of persons who claim to be Muslim and who claim to act in the name of their God.

This is why you are making little headway in convincing others here that Islam is a religion of peace. YOUR take on Islam is peaceful (perhaps) but that is only your take on it. Clearly there are others who have a dramatically, violently different take on Islam.

Whether or not Islam is a peaceful religion is a dispute you have with other Muslims, not with non-Muslims.

sean s.

By sean samis (not verified) on 11 Dec 2015 #permalink

@sean samis,

Even Muslims have no standing to decide which other people are Muslims. If someone claims to be, then they are. That's why faith based ideas are so horrible. They can't be logically argued with by anyone, whether they are part of the in group or not.

By tgt (not verified) on 11 Dec 2015 #permalink

In reply to by sean samis (not verified)

tgt 37;

Regarding, “Even Muslims have no standing to decide which other people are Muslims.” Perhaps true, but the point remains valid: non-Muslims certainly don’t. This is not unique to Islam; the same can be said of any other religion.

“If someone claims to be, then they are.” Again, only co-religionists could possibly judge that.

“That’s why faith based ideas are so horrible.” By itself, this does not make “faith based ideas” horrible, or even bad. It’s not membership decisions that make any idea bad. Murky, yes. But not bad or horrible.

“They can’t be logically argued with by anyone, whether they are part of the in group or not.”

Well, if members of the in-group have no standing to decide who else is a member of the in-group (your first point) then the final clause in this sentence is pointless.

Being something that cannot be logically argued does not make “faith-based ideas” horrible, it just puts them outside logical discourse; kind of like most cultural attributes (fashion, haute-cuisine, art preferences, etc.)

sean s.

By sean samis (not verified) on 11 Dec 2015 #permalink

Sean

1) Not even co-religionists can judge if someone is of that religion. I don't know why you suggest they can. If I claim I'm Christian, then I'm Christian. That's all there is to it. Faith can't be logically argued away.

2) I didn't mean membership is why religion is bad, it's that everyone gets to determine what that religion means for themselves, and no one can challenge those beliefs.

3) "in group or not": This was a repeat of my point, not a new point. The final clause is fine.

4) Faith based ideas are not about preferences. They're about supposed truths. Putting true false claims beyond logic is horrible.

By tgt (not verified) on 11 Dec 2015 #permalink

In reply to by sean samis (not verified)

This is not my word that I speak to you this letter to talk to the person you by Imam Khamenei,
Iran's Supreme Islamic sent to you to find the truth of Islam.

In response to you, I do not think that Islam is the religion of peace, mercy and justice in coexistence

  And the value of people and even kill a person is considered to be equal to the killing of human beings on earth. This behavior

Contrary to Islam. This thinking Wahhabi Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is the Wahhabi thought.

peyman @40

It does not matter whether your write your own words, or the words of Imam Khamenei; the words you write are the words of a human expressing their own beliefs. Other humans have their beliefs; even other Muslims have beliefs quite contrary to the Imam’s or yours.

I believe you are sincere when you say that Islam is peaceful, that it holds that killing one person is equal to killing all. But again, there are others who claim to be Muslim and who violently disagree with you and the Imam on this precise point.

Your English is much better than my Farsi, so I do not criticize your writing on that score; but your last comment is hard for me to make out:

“This behavior Contrary to Islam. This thinking Wahhabi Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is the Wahhabi thought.”

I think you are saying that this violent Islam is an example of Wahhabi thought, and that ISIL uses Wahhabi thought.

As someone who is not Muslim, I can only say that I have no standing to agree or disagree with your assessment, and that it really does not matter to non-Muslims. As I said before, the correct nature of Islam is a dispute between Muslims.

If you or the Imam cannot convince other Muslims of what is the correct belief and behavior, you will never convince non-Muslims either. Arguing here is arguing with the wrong audience.

sean s.

By sean samis (not verified) on 11 Dec 2015 #permalink

tgt @ 39;

“If I claim I’m Christian, then I’m Christian. That’s all there is to it. Faith can’t be logically argued away.”

If that were true, then all religions would be doctrinally identical. You are free to claim that you are a Christian, but other Christians are free to examine your beliefs and behaviors and say you are not. Your right to define yourself does not overrule the right of others to exclude you from their religion. You would be free to ignore their assessment, but the rest of us would be free to notice their claims about you.

My point: those of us who are not Christian have no standing to decide what you are, but we have every right to notice how you label yourself and what other self-identified Christians have to say about you.

“...everyone gets to determine what that religion means for themselves, and no one can challenge those beliefs.”

No. Anyone can challenge anothers’ beliefs. That is part and parcel of religious behavior. Others can claim you are not at all what you say you are.

My point above still holds.

“Faith based ideas ... are about supposed truths. Putting true false claims beyond logic is horrible.”

Horrible? No. Inconvenient? Sure. Frustrating? Yes. Horrible? Nah. There are much bigger fish to fry.

sean s.

By sean samis (not verified) on 11 Dec 2015 #permalink

@ sean samis.

1) I do not understand your claim that my logic leads to all religions being "doctrinally identical". My logic goes the other way. Every person's religion is their own. It's rare that 2 people of the same religion agree on everything.

2) Yes, anyone can say I'm not Christian, but they're argument is invalid. When a belief is based on faith, and we take faith as valid, there is no logic to claim that anyone's faith is more accurate than anyone else's. People can validly say "your beliefs don't line up with my beliefs about Christianity", but claiming the other is not Christian is not valid.

3) You missed the logic. No one, who takes faith as valid, can validly challenge anothers' beliefs. That there is tons of squabbling about what individual religions actually mean and are does not negate my point. None of their arguments are valid.

4) I stand by my claim that putting true false claims beyond logic is horrible. It allows people to change reality to fit their desires and makes arguing against harmful beliefs impossible. What bigger fish are their to fry right now than Islamic extremism? If they did not rely on faith, we could have a discussion.

tgt @ 43;

“Every person’s religion is their own.”

If every person’s religion is different from every other person’s religion, it is QUITE EASY to logically see that one person’s X is not the same as another person’s X. Logic can easily distinguish between different belief systems.

What logic cannot do is determine which form of X is “validly X”

“It’s rare that 2 people of the same religion agree on everything.”

That’s true, but you and I arrive at that conclusion by using logic to compare religious claims. Clearly then, you and I can logically say that someone’s X is not like others’ X.

I am NOT saying that logic can disprove anyone’s claim that they are Christian or Muslim. I am saying that only Christians or Muslims have standing to say someone is not of their religion. Outsiders don’t even have standing to AGREE with their assessments because (as you’ve already noticed) logic has no place in religious beliefs.

So when peyman or others say that some violent Muslim’s faith is invalid, we cannot say he’s wrong or right. We non-believers can only shrug and say Whatever. I don’t care if the criminal is really Muslim or not, I only care what they do.

“...they’re [sic] argument is invalid. When a belief is based on faith, and we take faith as valid, there is no logic to claim that anyone’s faith is more accurate than anyone else’s.”

Being logical and being valid are not the same things. A valid religious argument can be made about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It won’t be very logical (or interesting), but that does not make it invalid.

Think of it a different way: if you cannot logically invalidate someone’s beliefs, you cannot logically invalidate their religious arguments on religious grounds. You could demonstrate that their arguments are invalid logically, but not religiously and in the world of religion, it’s the religious grounds that matter.

Any religious person can validly say that another person’s religious claims are invalid or that they are not of their faith. Those of us on the outside cannot evaluate these internal squabbles; we can notice them, but we cannot say who’s right or who’s wrong.

“What bigger fish are their [sic] to fry right now than Islamic extremism?”

This incompatibility between logic and religious belief predates Islamic extremism and will persist long after it is gone. If this is the place you’ve chosen to fight religious violence, you will fail because the battle is happening elsewhere. Hint: the vast majority of the victims of “Islamic extremism” are Muslims.

“If they did not rely on faith, we could have a discussion.”

Sadly, grotesque violence is not limited to the religious. That’s where it’s concentrated now, but now is not forever. Maintaining peace and civilized order is and has always been a whack-a-mole exercise. That is part of that whole “eternal vigilance” thing.

sean s.

By sean samis (not verified) on 11 Dec 2015 #permalink

For once, the Koran reading the Koran all reasoning and logic that you face yourself and to respond to your question on religious authority and look at your own mind

peyman @ 45

I’ve read enough, and heard enough, and examined my own conscience; I have nothing I can use to judge between your description of Islam and anyone else’s. There is just too much evil in the world to say that it cannot possibly come from some deity.

But then, I also know that I have no credible evidence which would lead me to believe any deity exists at all.

If your God is real, your God does not care what I believe. If he was real and cared, he’d have made his wants known to me. If he doesn’t care, there’s no reason I should.

شب بخیر

I hope that google translation came out correctly...

sean s.

By sean samis (not verified) on 11 Dec 2015 #permalink

tgt #21

Wow, you really are persistent, and energetic to boot – the responses keep coming, and I admire your energy if nothing else. Meanwhile, yet again you are forcing a response, and I’ll just have to summon up the strength from somewhere! At least I now know that I’m dealing with someone with a philosophy background, so I’ll bear that in mind and try not to be too scared. Firstly, thanks for that interesting little bio - which is much more than I asked for. The mere mention of Ellis Island raises all sorts of colourful ideas in a British mind (colourful in a good way that is), and you should be rightfully proud of what is undoubtedly an intriguing history. Now, let’s consider a few of your latest points:-

“The ideals of freedom in the US are solid. It’s the lack of implementation that’s a problem”.

Well sure – but we can all say something similar to that, and in the end, this sentence amounts to no more than a piece of meaningless sophistry. I do not think we should be “fine with profiling”, and I am most certainly concerned about freedom for those who might be profiled. You may recall my comment from #18, opening line para 3:- “I don’t particularly like profiling but, unlike you, as a pragmatist I can see a necessity”. What this means, whether we like it not, is that somewhere there is some sort of compromise to be struck between security on the one hand and the preservation of all our liberties on the other. I don’t like this reality any more than you do, but the correct way to deal with this question, whatever it may be, is certainly not just to ignore it – and that must apply in the US, the UK, or anywhere else. If we want security from the ill deeds of people who would do the most dreadful things to us if given the chance, then we have no choice but to agree to compromise somewhere on liberty. It’s sad, but it’s unavoidable. The relevant question then becomes just which liberties, and to what extent, are we prepared to compromise on. I do not pretend that answering this question is going to be anything other than difficult and controversial – but it is this answer on which the whole discussion must turn. So let’s consider profiling in this light – particularly, as this seems to be the context we’re mostly talking about – at airports. It’s not nice to be singled out for a body and bag search. However (always assuming that you’re not actually carrying guns, bombs etc.), the process probably takes no more than 10 minutes, there’s no actual pain involved, and the overall infringement on your civil liberties really does not need to be too great. If one bomb is found and 300 lives are saved from being extinguished at 30,000 feet, then has this infringement (admittedly on thousands of innocents) justified itself? Perhaps you will respond with more Schneier, namely that profiling for such a purpose is ineffective. If you can provide solid evidence to demonstrate that to be the case – and the default position must surely be that profiling, whatever its liberty infringing properties may be, would at the outset seem to be a rational way to approach uncovering a problem which is known to emerge from identifiable sub-groups – then I will concede. In the meantime I will continue to side with Harris in claiming that the frisking and searching of little old ladies from Utah is a waste of precious resources.
I didn’t really want to push the relative merits of US v UK constitutions but, again, you’ve forced my hand. Your basic lack of understanding of the way our system works is a problem, so we need to clear up a few matters. Something that never ceases to amaze me is how even the most left wing and libertarian of Americans seem to go all starry-eyed and dreamy at the mere mention of the constitution, apple pie, Uncle Sam and all. Looking in from the outside, this document apparently carries something of the same authority for them as ancient religious texts do for others. Commenting on a US hosted blog in this manner is probably to invite a heap of opprobrium from the locals, but I’ll just have to take that chance – no doubt I can plead some amendment or another in my defence if the necessity arises. In fact I’ll start by defending myself from the outset, just as a sort of pre-emptive prophylactic dose. I am about as pro-American a Brit as you will find (even among a population which is, generally, very pro-American). I like the common values we share, the common approach to many world problems, and your deliberate spelling errors (although occasionally annoying) are mostly very quaint. I love visiting your country, where we are always made to feel welcome and, taken as a whole, you are probably the most generous and friendly bunch in the world. Things might be even better, if only we had a common language too. Even so, I feel I should bring a few things to your attention:-
The constitution of the UK is not written down anywhere. We have evolved a system over almost 1000 years (actually 949 years, if you wish to quibble) by gradual change which has come about as a response to unfolding events and the advent of new ideas. In retrospect, this means we have got a millennium of (relative) internal political stability - of a sort – which is pretty remarkable, and probably unmatched by any other nation in the world. Now I don’t wish to overplay this – you can point to a horrendous civil war (almost as bad as yours) in the 1640s, a period of rule by anarchic gang warfare in the late 15th, and a fair smattering of outright rebellions down the ages of varying degrees of success, among all sorts of other upsets. Not to mention all the hassle in finally getting England and Scotland to join up in 1707. Nevertheless, out of all this has come a system of common law, Magna Carta (whose basis you share with us), and a whole load of custom backed up by usage and precedent, all of which goes to make it unnecessary to write the thing down – it’s just enacted by a set of underlying basic principles on which the whole system has come to rest. In short, we don’t have a written constitution because we don’t need one, we’ve bypassed the necessity. And this goes to the heart of the thing – by not needing to write it down we avoid the problem to which you so eloquently refer above – namely the dichotomy that exists between “solid ideals of freedom” on the one hand, and on the other hand the problems entailed in a lack of “implementation”. I hope to demonstrate that an ancient system of precedents has allowed us to create a seamless continuum, in which there is not, at least not of necessity, any divide between solid ideals and their implementation. Let’s consider your points:-

“The relative freedom scales of the US and UK are interesting. The US has much more robust free speech laws than the UK, and the surveillance state is considerably more comprehensive in the UK”.

You may indeed have such laws, but free speech is possibly the most basic freedom we have in the UK, and it is most robustly championed by all of us – and has been since at least the early 18th. It is guaranteed not by laws that defend it, but by a complete (or very nearly complete) lack of any law that would limit our right to say what we want. Free speech is the inherent default position. Libel/defamation laws are available to those who may think that someone has said something untrue that has damaged them, and go through the civil courts. The libeller’s freedom to libel is uninhibited – but if he wishes to compromise someone else’s good standing by telling lies about him in public, then it may be demanded that he compensate the offended party accordingly. There is certainly no part of the criminal code to stop you saying what you want.

“There’s also the issue of parochial public schools in the UK”.

Really not quite sure what you mean by this. What are these “parochial public schools”? We have a state schooling system supported by local taxation, and a public school system which just means that they are fee paying. Is this not similar to your own system (except that I believe you reverse the terminology, such that your public schools are the state supported ones?)
Cont...

tgt #21

“One of the biggest differences between the US and the UK is that religion is built into UK government, and has slowly been secularizing, while it’s specifically separate in the US, and US Christians rebel at that and bring in religion wherever possible”.

I do not know where you got this odd idea from. Religion has no part whatsoever in the UK Government, which has been thoroughly secularised since at least 1651 when the civil war concluded. The Church of England is “established” in the ancient and constitutional sense in that the Head of State (The Queen) is also the head of the Church of England. This is a purely nominal status, and gives the church no privileges whatsoever. It dates from the 1530s when Henry VIIIth decided to kick the Pope out and declared himself head of the Church as well as head of state. As the power of the monarch has slowly disappeared (receding to just about zero by George IVth, early 19th), so his/her position as head of the Church has similarly disappeared down the plug hole of time with respect to any power or authority that might derive therefrom – it’s back to my point of ideals and implementation marching together. Let’s contrast this with the religious influence on US politics. Your so-called “wall of separation”, though seemingly constitutionally secured, has left quite a gulf between “ideals” and implementation. Heck, you even have some nutters like David Barton who still try to argue (and there seems to be enough loonies who actually agree with him) that the founding fathers were trying to found a definitively Christian nation! Even assuming Barton +co to be wrong (a fairly safe assumption), you have a plethora of fundies trying to get God, creationism, Genesis, Intelligent Design and who knows what other rubbish into your schools, universities, and I don’t know what other institutions. A serious failure to integrate ideals with implementation – no? Any such crazy efforts in the UK wouldn’t get to first base.

“The larger area of the US allows more religious fiefdoms”.

No. The religious fiefdoms that plague your nation have little to do with area. The ancestors of these largely rural populations all arrived within the last 350 years or so, and brought a great deal of religious fundie baggage with them – that, after all, is the reason they left here to turn up on your patch in the first place. The current citizens have inherited a great deal of this, and still wish to push it. Your failure to fuse ideals with implementation, by virtue of having to put it all in a written code rather than just let it work out over time (time which, in all fairness, you haven’t yet actually had), is the basis of the current religious problems in the US – how strange that such a large and powerful nation should at one and the same time be the most developed nation in the western world (technically, scientifically), whilst also being the most backward (religiously, and in some ways socially). Problems with respect to Government/Religious authority relationships are virtually non-existent over here, whereas you seem to be enmired, with no way to defuse the problem. Look at all the ludicrous lawsuits that scientists have had to sue for in order to keep creationist fundie nonsense out of your education system – and you talk of some of our legal judgements being “laughed out of court”. Can you just imagine the open-mouthed amazement with which we react when someone like Judge Jones actually has to go as far as to rule in a court that ID is not scientific? Duh!
The reality is that Church/State separation is a far more secure reality over here - it would never be challenged and hasn’t been for centuries – than in the US, where it seems to be constantly under threat from one loony fundie group or another, requiring constant appeals to courts to make decisions in such matters. None needed over here. Again, please try harder to get ideals and implementation in step.

“Here’s another difference between the US and UK. In the UK, you might win a verdict in court on calling that slander (really, libel); in the US, you’d be laughed out of court, and, if you’re in the right state, be hit with an anti-SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, also known as a Butthurt lawsuit) and sanctions/fees. An anti-SLAPP law is in the pipeline at the federal level. Because of the UK’s incredibly lax defamation law, UK defamation judgments are not enforceable in the US”.

You’ve clearly misunderstood again. Libel laws are a purely civil matter. All they imply is that you must sometimes accept the consequences of your words, in much the same way as we all have to accept the consequences of our actions. This does not in any way bar you from saying what you wish, when you wish, or to whom you wish – you remain perfectly free to do so, and no-one will arrest you or lock you up. However, you should also realise that your words may have consequences for which you may have to answer to a consequently damaged party. Furthermore, the libel/defamation laws are by no means lax – it’s generally a very difficult and expensive case to bring. Where’s the problem?
Well, I guess that’s enough for now on the UK constitution. Let’s turn to the US – but I’ll restrict myself to issues arising within current US borders, and avoid extrapolation to foreign policy matters. I’ll try to sketch a very brief overview of what’s gone on in the USA since Jefferson and co. signed up to what “We hold to be self-evident etc………..”.
Plenty of slaves imported, Mr Jefferson owning more of them than anyone else in Virginia at the time. Seems like ideals and implementation are having a hard time getting on with each other from just about day1.
Now, let’s do a bit of manifest destinying. Let’s break I don’t know how many deals with the natives, not much self-evident freedoms for them then! Still, a quick genocide deals with that, round up the remainder in a few reservations, and make an appointment at Wounded Knee in 1890 to deal with any pesky others that the genocidal psychopathic Custer and his pals haven’t already dealt with – then invent a heroic last stand myth to cover it all up. As for the wretched Mexicans, that’s already a done deal, before even the blacks were free. Half their territory taken by Mr Polk, just to make sure that the good old constituted USA can re-introduce slavery into a land that had banned it some decades earlier. Just another implementation problem then.
Meanwhile, back in mid- 19th, things are still not right, so let’s have a big civil war. Both sides will conspire to pretend it’s not about slavery (suits the constitution) until they can’t keep up the pretence any more, then Mr Lincoln adds a new footnote letting the cat out of the bag. Fortunately there’s an earlier footnote allowing them all to have guns, so it’s OK to keep blasting each other to bits – no implementation problem there then. Even so, a different and serious implementation problem still persists – namely that we can’t implement freedom for black people because we haven’t yet blasted away enough of those pesky slave owners. Fortunately, just over 2 years later, the problem is finally solved as Sherman, Grant, Sheridan and co. burn up the final resisters + all their territory, and all black people can be free and equal – er, well…not exactly. Fast forward 100 years or so. Despite everything still being self-evident, it seems that no-one has pointed this out to the slave owners’ great-grandchildren who won’t let some people into their schools or onto their buses. Cue riots and someone having a dream – can we spot another implementation problem here? It’s well into the 2nd half of the 20th century by now, but still we’re not allowing some people (equal people, self-evidently, you understand) to vote. At the same time plenty of people must go to the far east (drafted, but no infringement of their civil liberties intended , of course) and start spraying agent orange on the locals. Implementation?
Wind back a few years - The Volstead act. Christian fundies again. This minority is loud enough to stop everyone buying a bottle of champagne to celebrate a daughter’s wedding or the arrival of a new baby. As a side effect, creates the largest organised crime syndicates that the western world has ever seen, groups who later re-invest all the cash into legitimate fronts – construction etc., - and into the 21st century, we still live with their organised drug running cartels and the like. Not the best footnote ever appended.
Which brings us nicely to Senator McCarthy and his antics in the 1950s – not too long before you and I were born! Un-American activities, careers destroyed, people hounded out, passports arbitrarily confiscated, blacklists published etc. My parents remember being horrified that this could happen in the USA – at the height of the cold war, whilst we all supposedly stood side by side against the excesses of Stalinist dictatorship and Soviet communism, we in the UK witnessed our closest and strongest allies indulging in exactly the sort of behaviour that we were all supposed to be lined up against by opposing Stalin and co. in the first place! Let me assure you, under the UK constitution that outrage could simply never have happened – but the US Constitution couldn’t prevent it. A serious failure of “implementation”.
Let’s summarise:
A nice piece of paper, drawn up out of sudden and immediate necessity to form the basis for a new nation, and actually neatly summarising some ideas that had been formulated over here over the previous hundred years or so, it was a good start. In the ensuing years it gets subject to numerous re-editions, modifications, additions, subtractions, crossings out, deletions, insertions, re-insertions, etc., until it really starts looking a bit moth eaten and threadbare. It’s a good effort by a young nation trying to catch up with its British antecedents. Unfortunately the ideas are not quite in step with the reality on the ground, which is the origin of the implementation problem which you so correctly identify. It is this disconnect with reality – ideas out of step with implementation, as you yourself put it – that creates the problem. I can’t blame you for not having a millennium of experience during which changing ideas can be slowly matched with changing ways of actually behaving, because you haven’t had that opportunity. Nevertheless, you must be aware that a simple statement of ideals is simply not sufficient, and there are others who can tutor you in this respect. Despite all your indoctrination to the contrary, the USA is not the home of the enlightenment, it is one of its inheritors – and, in all fairness, making a pretty good effort to catch up. You are not the freest nation in the world; you are followers not leaders in this regard, and no amount of propaganda can change this basic truth. The UK is a much more free society, in the true sense of the word, than the USA, and our freedoms have a much more secure and better established basis than do yours. On the basic freedom issues we’re already there, way ahead of you, and much more cognisant of the difficulties, paradoxes, and other problems inherently implicit in any effort to establish and maintain those freedoms. Our ideals and their implementation, although admittedly far from perfect, are at least more or less in step – by long established precedent, which does not rely on a piece of paper hurriedly written up 200+ years ago, and a few back-of-the-envelope alterations in the years thereafter. In essence, we are a much more mature nation with an outlook which reflects that greater experience of the world.
So, finally, can you begin to understand why we Brits are not taking any lectures on civil liberties, free speech, freedom of the press, etc. from Uncle Sam?
I’m well aware that I have not engaged with some of your (occasionally reasonable) points as expressed in your recent comments, but this comment has already gone on more than long enough, so I will end here and come back to you later on your more substantive points. Is this OK?
God bless America,
Best wishes, Phil.

Glad you believe your lifestyle you so thank you sean samis

I have some comment to offer on this discussion. First, I agree largely with nearly all of Phil B's points in his post N° 3 except, specifically, this:

“the worrying success of the National Front candidates in the recent French elections, to the point that they are now seriously threatening to take the Presidency in the upcoming election of 2017.”

They aren't any serious challenge to the two major parties' hold over the presidency. (Recent regional election returns have shown this again to be the case.)

Second, tgt's points about profiling being illegal --with, as example, the abusive stop-and-frisk practices-- are true. Police legally need probable cause to stop and quetsion a person. On the other hand, tgt is mistaken to imply that appearance alone is always insufficient grounds for probable cause—though, in his defence, he meant only a individual's usual physical characteristics are not—in most cases—sufficient without other pertinent and timely information of a suspect at large whose physical characteristics may resemble a large number of potential suspects. (And, note, e.g. Police who are experts at spotting the distinctive bulges of a concealed hand-gun (where this is illegal) have, on seeing the indicators, probable cause to stop and search such a person on the basis of the appearance alone.) In general, police need specific cause to stop any given individual—the cause must be related to the individual himself or herself and not merely to any and all who more or less resemble him or her. This effectively rules out routine, unmotivated blanket stops of everyone who is Muslim-looking merely because they are Muslim-lookiing; but it would not necessarily rule out stopping those who have particular traits which, under the circumstances of the moment, distinguish them from others who, like them, look like they are Muslims. Hypoth. An alert has been broadcast indicating that a Muslim-looking man (or woman) approx. 25 to 30 and traveling with a girl approx. 8 to 10 years old are suspected of being part of a planned attack. On those grounds, any person fitting the profile could be stopped on valid probable cause.

Since everyone's person and belongings are systematically searched anyway, in effect, every Muslim man and woman, like everyone else at the airport, is searched prior to boarding a flight. Where deficiencies are revealed through experience, the corrective measures adopted, if any, will obviously be applied uniformly to all.

By the way, if there were a fair and reliable profile of a fundamentalist Muslim alien—that is, a person who, on objective criteria, applied to all similar people equally who seek admission to the U.S. as visitors, I wouldn't object to its application in prohibiting everyone fitting the criteria being denied entry to the U.S. (or other European nation) where the law provided for this. In short, a ban on people who are arguably, on objective criteria, fit to be regarded as Muslem fundamentalists—adherents to literal readings of the Qu'ran—is something I'd find reasonable to put up for debate and possible adoption by lawful means. In the U.S. such a law could not apply to citizens or even to legal resident aliens unless it made express reference to these latter.

In general, on civil liberties, I consider both the U.S. and the U.K. to be deplorable and regard it as a vain exercise to try and determine which is worse than the other. Each, for different reasons and at different times and in different circumstances, show themselves to be very poor respecters of civil liberties. I don't feel even minimally safe in either country and I have years of residence experience in both of them.

By proximity1 (not verified) on 14 Dec 2015 #permalink

By the way, if there were a fair and reliable profile of a fundamentalist Muslim alien—that is, a person who, on objective criteria, applied to all similar people equally who seek admission to the U.S. as visitors, I wouldn’t object to its application in prohibiting everyone fitting the criteria being denied entry to the U.S. (or other European nation) where the law provided for this. In short, a ban on people who are arguably, on objective criteria, fit to be regarded as Muslem fundamentalists—adherents to literal readings of the Qu’ran—is something I’d find reasonable to put up for debate and possible adoption by lawful means.

I wouldn't. I really don't understand this desire by people to use really crappy proxy indicators for future violent behavior when we have clearly better indicators of potential future violence. Things like past record of violent behavior, age, and most correlative, gender. To use any other correlates while not using these is simply irrational bias. Like saying you want to reduce caloric intake but then ignoring calorie count and instead assessing food based on flavor. It makes no sense to us poor indirect proxy measures when you have decent direct ones.

"The Republicans are desperately trying to whip everyone into a frenzy of hate and fear, since they know that high turnout among bigots is critical to their electoral success."

That has to be the silliest thing you've said in a long time, Jason. While I agree with your perspective overall it is not always a good idea to paint your opposition with such a straw-man argument. It diminishes your position.

All worldviews have an eschatology. That is, the three major ones at this time (Christianity, Islam, Marxism) all seek dominance. The difference is that they each seek it through different means and mechanisms. Even within each group there are sub-groups which vary their methods.
For instance, ISIS is a branch of what might properly be called a "primative" theology, ignoring the developed theology of Islam in general. Their level of violence is not found acceptable within Islam. At the same time the greater percentage of adherents would prefer Sharia to be installed. They see it as beneficial to humanity even though it involves a serious level of subjugation to be applied to Jews and Christians. Theirs is not a system, as you have noted as a pretext, which can interact within a liberal democracy.
Christianity (certainly the greater number of our segments) has that capacity.

Collin @ 52;

“While I agree with your perspective overall it is not always a good idea to paint your opposition with such a straw-man argument. It diminishes your position.”

As a general rule, Collin, I agree with your position. But not in this instance. I think Jason’s statement is pretty much on the mark.

A appreciate your effort to distinguish the theology of ISIS from Islam in general; but here’s the thing: this kind of distinction is precisely what Republicans are failing to do.

sean s.

By sean samis (not verified) on 17 Dec 2015 #permalink

Sean,
Here's the problem:
ISIS is Islam. But ISIS is not all of or representative of all of Islam. To say, as does Obama, that ISIS is not Islam is to deny the reality of their theology. Theirs is a "primitive" theology, an attempt to recreate Mohammed's theology in action. But Islam has a developed theology as well.
As to the errors of the politicians, as I stated Obama speaks incorrectly about ISIS in a manner equally as erroneous as do his opponents. Both are making generalizations for public consumption.
IOW, Jason would be right if partisan politics determined the truth of the matter. But this is firstly a theological question and secondly a political one.

By Collin (not verified) on 17 Dec 2015 #permalink

In reply to by sean samis (not verified)

Collin,

ISIS may be islamic, but it is not Islam. It CAN’T BE because of the evidence YOU PROVIDE.

This must be true if, as you say, “ISIS is not all of or representative of all of Islam”. If “Islam has a developed theology...” but ISIS has “a “primitive” theology” then that shows that ISIS may be islamic, but it is not Islam.

When you yourself demonstrate distinctions between ISIS and Islam, then ISIS is only islamic.

Even on a theological level, Jason and our President are correct; you are the one arguing against your own evidence.

sean s.

By sean samis (not verified) on 18 Dec 2015 #permalink

"There is one Islam" is one of their guiding principles. From that position all the variants come under the umbrella of Islam. Petty grammatical nit-picking is meaningless here.
All you have proved is that you do not understand the theological significance, none of it, of either the issue or of my choice of words. Go study theology and the come back.
www.myreligionislam.com/detail.asp?Aid=4913

By Collin (not verified) on 18 Dec 2015 #permalink

In reply to by sean samis (not verified)

Collin,

I actually laughed out loud when I read your last comment.

ISIS may claim to represent all Islam, but that’s just their claim. Other Muslims clearly do reject their claim, so ISIS is only islamic; it is not Islam. ISIS might claim to be Islam (and you appear to agree with them) but it is just their claim. (and yours?) Other Muslims have a say in this matter too; they’re calling BS on ISIS (and you?)

I might not understand all the theological nuance, but that is irrelevant on this point. No theological claim trumps simple logic.

sean s.

By sean samis (not verified) on 18 Dec 2015 #permalink

Couldn't the vain exercise of debating whether or not ISIS and other extremist violent groups are *really* Islamic or not be left aside? Does it actually matter practically whether or not ISIS is appropriately called or calls itself Islamic? These facts remain:

It claims to be Islamic. It acts in the name of Islam and at least some people outside its own self-avowed ranks accept its claims to be acting in the name of Islam---if that were not true, their appeals to recruits would simply not be effective--unless one believes that these recruits are purely mercenary in character. [ I grant that possibility but I dismiss it as improbable and simply less likely than the alternative that many recruits sincerely believe that they are joining a "properly" Islamic fighting force.] But it is clear that their appeals are to some extent effective.

---

As an analogy, many people could and did object to Ku Klux Klan members describing themselves as Christians. They indeed gave a terrible impression of Christians but, in fact, how can anyone deny that many Klansmen sincerely saw (see) themselves as Christian? It's a fact that religions have all kinds of people in their ranks--the violent and the insane, not excepted. And some of these people can and do claim to act in their avowed religion's name and to be motivated by its "authority". This is the fact we have to face and with which we are obliged to deal. Too many of these terrorists' co-religionists are indeed failing to do just that. Face the very unpleasant truth.

By proximity1 (not verified) on 19 Dec 2015 #permalink

That gets into over-generalizing. It goes the error of both political arguments. The Reps are saying all are narrowly defined while the Dems are saying something more like the No True Scotsman fallacy. Either way generalizations are being built.
Making a KKK analogy is like making a Nazi Godwin. Though on the one hand it might be an ad absurdum argument on the other hand it tends to end the dialogue. The KKK was not formed as a Christian sect but rather by Democrats to reinforce segregation & slavery, coupled with nationalism. The "Christian" content of their system is subservient to the political, wholly consistent with the progressive framework. (If you doubt that look at Birth of a Nation and Woodrow Wilson's relationship to it.)
You are free to engage in suppositions about ISIS. But that's why I posted a link to something more well-informed.

By Collin (not verified) on 19 Dec 2015 #permalink

In reply to by proximity1 (not verified)

Collin,

You wrote, “That gets into over-generalizing. It goes the error of both political arguments.”

That is very true, but when you insist that “ISIS is Islam” you make the same error of overgeneralizing.

The greatest harm from all these overgeneralizations is that it obscures the fact that most of the victims of ISIS are other Muslims; we should make common-cause with them, not hold them to blame with over-generalizations.

“Islam is just a religion and, like every religion in the world, it depends on what you bring to it.

If you’re a violent person, your Islam, your Judaism, your Christianity, your Hinduism is going to be violent. There are marauding Buddhist monks in Myanmar slaughtering women and children. Does Buddhism promote violence? Of course not.

People are violent or peaceful, and that depends on their politics, their social world, the way that they see their communities, and the way that they see themselves.

--- Reza Aslan”

sean s.

By sean samis (not verified) on 21 Dec 2015 #permalink

Your statement has to be one of the most wonderfully naive Western remarks that I've read in a long time. You fancy a sentimental knowledge without research and quote a sentimentalist who also avoids the substance of the issue.
Here's the core question: What does this [any particular theological] system actually propose?
Until you're willing to wrestle with something other than sentimentality you are doomed, as the movie says, you will think no new thoughts.

By Collin (not verified) on 21 Dec 2015 #permalink

In reply to by sean samis (not verified)

Collin @ 62;

“Here’s the core question: What does this [any particular theological] system actually propose?”

The central topic of our exchange can be easily summarized: does ISIS speak for all Muslims?

On that particular question, your “core question” is irrelevant. The content of ISIS’s theological system is irrelevant to the question of whether their theological system is representative of all Muslims.

This is a matter of logic; not theology.

The content of any theology is irrelevant to whether it binds or speaks for any particular individual or group.

ISIS claims to speak for all Islam; that claim does not mean that they DO speak for all Islam; that’s just their claim.

Other Muslims claim ISIS does not speak for them. Your position seems to be that ISIS’s theology trumps all other Muslim claims. That is absurd.

Until you are ready to wrestle with LOGIC, you are doomed to error.

sean s.

By sean samis (not verified) on 21 Dec 2015 #permalink

No. That's the point you want to make. That's not what I've said and presenting as a proposal I have made is disingenuous.

&

I never said any such things.

That's just, to be generous, uninformed. Theology is held to and understood by people systematically. Your questions regarding the nature and character of theology can be answered with some reading. I would be happy to provide you with a bibliography -- if you're willing.

By Collin (not verified) on 21 Dec 2015 #permalink

In reply to by sean samis (not verified)

My quotes disappeared

First
"The central topic of our exchange can be easily summarized: does ISIS speak for all Muslims?"

and surrounding the ampersand
"The content of any theology is irrelevant to whether it binds or speaks for any particular individual or group."
&
"Other Muslims claim ISIS does not speak for them. Your position seems to be that ISIS’s theology trumps all other Muslim claims. That is absurd."

Collin;

Your attempt to repair your comment did not make it any clearer.

Yes, the central topic of our exchange is the question: does ISIS speak for all Muslims?” Since many Muslims reject it, the answer is an emphatic No.

If you are addressing a different point, I think you need to spell it out.

“Theology is held to and understood by people systematically.”

That may be true (it’s a generalization) but it’s also irrelevant.

People disagree about what is theologically correct/true; so no theology speaks for all persons or even all of a group except if that group is defined as “the people who accept that theology”.

Since the people who reject ISIS’s theology include many (if not MOST) Muslims, ISIS’s theology is not definitive of Islam or being Muslim. Any attempt to equate ISIS with all of Islam is false. ISIS’s position on than matter is of no consequence.

sean s.

By sean samis (not verified) on 21 Dec 2015 #permalink

You're setting up a straw man argument when you misrepresent my position.

Time to change language, then.

What I am saying about ISIS is that it is *within the pale of orthodoxy* of Islam. That's all. I've never said anything more. You just keep going on with your misrepresentation. It does you no good.

Within Christianity all of the orthodox sects share a common eschatology and set of creeds. These are common and accepted. We might boil it down to basic trinitarian doctrine (creedal) and arrival at the eternal state (eschatology). Likewise all of Islam accepts certain principles regarding jihad, but where they differ is in means and method. They share eschatology and creed. To say that all are Islam is not to say that they agree on all points. It is to say that they all share allegiance though the method and application work out differently for each sect.

Of course not all Muslims would say that ISIS is within the pale of orthodoxy. In the case of Christian theology, we of a reformed mind would say that Rome (1) within orthodoxy when it comes to creed and eschatology but (2) outside orthodoxy with regard to specific doctrinal failures, notably on justification and grace. Likewise the Nation of Islam is in one sense under the generally umbrella of Islam but outside because of their race-specific teaching. What it boils down to is this: My statement is to present the broader theological umbrella of Islamic teaching as the general pale of orthodoxy. Though each specific group will define itself as orthodox, each knows that they share the same basic creeds and eschatology.

I trust your read the link I provided earlier. It is from within Islamic theology (though certainly not an answer from all), in order to better and fairly represent the theology.

At this point the conversation should terminate. You have not shown the least inclination to represent my position fairly, let alone to understand the subject at hand.

By Collin (not verified) on 21 Dec 2015 #permalink

In reply to by sean samis (not verified)

** on that matter is of no consequence.

sean s.

By sean samis (not verified) on 21 Dec 2015 #permalink

Collin;

You are finally making some sense.

“What I am saying about ISIS is that it is *within the pale of orthodoxy* of Islam.”

That might be true, and if it is it only makes it islamic, as I’ve repeatedly written.

However, you also wrote that “...not all Muslims would say that ISIS is within the pale of orthodoxy.” If they are correct, then your basic claim would be false; ISIS wouldn’t even be islamic, much less Islam.

Whether ISIS is actually “within the pale of islamic orthodoxy” is only for Muslims to say. So we outsiders need to not treat all Muslims as if they support or agree with ISIS in any significant way.

“To say that all are Islam is not to say that they agree on all points. It is to say that they all share allegiance though the method and application work out differently for each sect.”

Muslims are all islamic and all of them together are Islam but no subset “is Islam”; every subset is just islamic: of or part of Islam. ISIS is NOT Islam, they are at most islamic

This is not a question of theology; it is a logic problem:
ISIS is not coextensive with Islam.
It may be a subset, but it is not the whole.

Treating Muslims as if ISIS is the whole of Islam is very bad mistake.

sean s.

By sean samis (not verified) on 21 Dec 2015 #permalink

Now you've gone from misrepresentation to obfuscation.
(Although you still maintain the misrepresentation.)
You're not doing well.

Collin;

I’m actually doing quite well here; much better than you.

Happy Holidays!

sean s.

By sean samis (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

I'm actually doing quite well.
Not feeling any compunction to lie (er, prevaricate) or mislead really helps.
Have a great Christmas and New Year.

By Collin (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink

In reply to by sean samis (not verified)

Well there you go! We’re both doing fine and neither of us feels any need to lie, prevaricate, nor mislead.

Carry on.

sean s.

By sean samis (not verified) on 22 Dec 2015 #permalink