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No, Iran is Not a Democracy

No, Iran is Not a Democracy →

Before you get too excited about "moderates" winning Iranian elections, you might want to remember how one becomes a candidate in an Iranian election.

Elections in Iran are rigged even when they aren’t rigged.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei hand-picks everybody who runs for president. Moderates are rejected routinely. Only the less-moderate of the moderates—the ones who won’t give Khamenei excessive heartburn if they win—are allowed to run at all. Liberal and leftist candidates are rejected categorically.

Imagine Dick Cheney as the overlord of America allowing us to choose which one of his friends will be in the co-pilot’s seat. That’s not democracy. That’s not even a fake democracy.

​What about the elections for the Assembly of Experts? Doesn't that give moderate reformers a chance to gain power?

Everyone who gets to run in the election for the Assembly of Expert will be hand-picked by the Supreme Leader. And every single one of them will be an Islamic theologian. That’s what the Assembly of Experts is. A theocratic institution of Islamic theologians.

None of the “experts” are atheists. None of them are secularists. None of them are agnostic. None of them are liberals under any conceivable definition of the word liberal. Certainly none of them are Christians, Jews or Baha’is. They’re all Islamic theologians or they wouldn’t even be in the Assembly of Experts.

​Iran is a theocratic dictatorship, wearing the trappings of democracy. Under the current system of government, there will be no moderate leaders. There cannot be.

The Sydney Gunman's Failed Message

The Sydney Gunman's Failed Message →

When Michael Totten talks about the Middle East, I listen.

When the Australian gunman forced his hostages to hold that flag up to the glass, he was identifying himself as a Salafist. But no one in media seemed to know what that flag is. Reporters just described it as “a flag with some Arabic writing on it,” as if it’s just some random flag from anywhere that could have meant anything.

The guman sent a message, but it wasn’t received. And we know he was monitoring the news in real time. He was directly across the street from an Australian news channel. He wanted attention, but he was not getting the attention he wanted. Reporters couldn’t even figure out who he was when he clearly identified himself and his ideology.

Hours into the standoff, he demanded an ISIS flag in return for the release of one of the hostages. CNN anchors wondered aloud why, if he wanted an ISIS flag, he didn’t just bring one with him in the first place. But he did bring a Salafist flag. He must assumed that at least somebody would recognize it and explain it to the audience. I recognize it because I’ve been working in the Middle East for ten years, but news anchors are generally not experts in anything in particular except presenting information on television. They’re generalists.

Would the standoff have ended better if the man had more quickly succeeded in delivering his initial message without all the mounting frustration of being misunderstood? Probably not. Obviously, since he took hostages at gunpoint, he was not from the non-violent wing of the Salafist movement. Nevertheless, it’s time for Westerners who aren’t Middle East experts to know who the Salafists are and what they’re insignia looks like. They’ve been at war with us now for a long time.

The important thing for me, is that certain groups in the Middle East consider themselves to be at war with the West. It does no good for us to pretend that it's just random violence from some kind of a lost generation. That will only make us feel better until the time that they show up in our cities, bringing the war to us. As happened in Sydney.

The Blasphemy We Need

The Blasphemy We Need →

I agree with Ross Douthat.

We are in a situation where my third point applies, because the kind of blasphemy that Charlie Hebdo engaged in had deadly consequences, as everyone knew it could … and that kind of blasphemy is precisely the kind that needs to be defended, because it’s the kind that clearly serves a free society’s greater good. If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said, because otherwise the violent have veto power over liberal civilization, and when that scenario obtains it isn’t really a liberal civilization any more. Again, liberalism doesn’t depend on everyone offending everyone else all the time, and it’s okay to prefer a society where offense for its own sake is limited rather than pervasive. But when offenses are policed by murder, that’s when we need more of them, not less, because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed.

The Islamist Threat Isn't Going Away

The Islamist Threat Isn't Going Away →

Michael Totten, speaking from experience on the Middle East.

President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney wrapped up their trilogy of presidential debates on Monday this week and spent most of the evening arguing foreign policy. Each demonstrated a reasonable grasp of how the world works and only sharply disagreed with his opponent on the margins and in the details. But they both seem to think, 11 years after 9/11, that calibrating just the right policy recipe will reduce Islamist extremism and anti-Americanism in the Middle East. They're wrong.

The Middle East desperately needs economic development, better education, the rule of law and gender equality, as Mr. Romney says. And Mr. Obama was right to take the side of citizens against dictators—especially in Libya, where Moammar Gadhafi ran one of the most thoroughly repressive police states in the world, and in Syria, where Bashar Assad has turned the country he inherited into a prison spattered with blood. But both presidential candidates are kidding themselves if they think anti-Americanism and the appeal of radical Islam will vanish any time soon.

First, it's simply not true that attitudes toward Americans have changed in the region. I've spent a lot of time in Tunisia and Egypt, both before and after the revolutions, and have yet to meet or interview a single person whose opinion of Americans has changed an iota.

Second, pace Mr. Romney, promoting better education, the rule of law and gender equality won't reduce the appeal of radical Islam. Egyptians voted for Islamist parties by a two-to-one margin. Two-thirds of those votes went to the Muslim Brotherhood, and the other third went to the totalitarian Salafists, the ideological brethren of Osama bin Laden. These people are not even remotely interested in the rule of law, better education or gender equality. They want Islamic law, Islamic education and gender apartheid. They will resist Mr. Romney's pressure for a more liberal alternative and denounce him as a meddling imperialist just for bringing it up.

Anti-Americanism has been a default political position in the Arab world for decades. Radical Islam is the principal vehicle through which it's expressed at the moment, but anti-Americanism specifically, and anti-Western "imperialism" generally, likewise lie at the molten core of secular Arab nationalism of every variety. The Islamists hate the U.S. because it's liberal and decadent. (The riots in September over a ludicrous Internet video ought to make that abundantly clear.) And both Islamists and secularists hate the U.S. because it's a superpower.

Everything the United States does is viewed with suspicion across the political spectrum. Gamal Abdel Gawad Soltan, the director of Egypt's Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, admitted as much to me in Cairo last summer when I asked him about NATO's war against Gadhafi in Libya. "There is a general sympathy with the Libyan people," he said, "but also concern about the NATO intervention. The fact that the rebels in Libya are supported by NATO is why many people here are somewhat restrained from voicing support for the rebels." When I asked him what Egyptians would think if the U.S. sat the war out, he said, "They would criticize NATO for not helping. It's a lose-lose situation for you."

So we're damned if we do and we're damned if we don't. And not just on Libya. An enormous swath of the Arab world supported the Iraqi insurgency after an American-led coalition overthrew Saddam Hussein. Thousands of non-Iraqi Arabs even showed up to fight. Yet today the U.S. is roundly criticized all over the region for not taking Assad out in Syria.

Totten concludes with this.

It's not his fault that the Middle East is immature and unhinged politically. Nobody can change that right now. This should be equally obvious to Mr. Romney even though he isn't president. No American president since Eisenhower could change it, nor can Mr. Romney. We may be able to help out here and there, and I wholeheartedly agree with him that we should. But Arab countries will mostly have to work this out on their own.

It will take a long time.

A ‘War on Women’?

A ‘War on Women’? →

Republican Congressional candidate Martha McSally recently spoke out about the true war on women. Ms. McSally is running for Gabby Giffords' old Congressional seat. Oh, and she's also the first woman to fly a fighter jet into combat.

"No one has the right to a world in which he is never despised."

"No one has the right to a world in which he is never despised." →

Which brings up the absolutely salient point that there is no U.S. government role in the creation of Innocence of the Muslims. In an editorial on September 12, the New York Times observed that "whoever made the film did true damage to the interests of the United States and its core principle of respecting all faiths." The makers of the video clearly aimed to incite Muslims, but they are under no moral or legal obligation to respect other people’s religious beliefs. Whatever damage to U.S. interests the film has caused among Muslims, the interests of U.S. citizens would suffer far graver harm if our government were permitted to engage in censorship.

As the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution makes plain, it is indeed a "core principle" that the U.S. government cannot favor one religious doctrine over any other and must respect everyone’s faith or lack thereof. President Thomas Jefferson expressed this view well in his 1802 letter to Danbury Baptists, "I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."

This wall of separation is largely responsible for the relative social peace our religiously diverse country enjoys. A comparison of the Hudson’s Institute’s Index of Religious Freedom for countries in the Middle East and North Africa with the World Bank's indicators for political violence and for voice and accountability finds that the lack of freedom of religion and speech goes hand-in-hand with social violence and political instability. Where church (mosque) and state are entwined, social and political violence are far more common.

Paul Berman on the Rushdie Affair and its Aftermath

Paul Berman on the Rushdie Affair and its Aftermath →

Michael Totten again, quoting Paul Berman. It's dangerous to criticize Islam.

When I met Hirsi Ali at a conference in Sweden last year, she was protected by no less than five bodyguards. Even in the United States she is protected by bodyguards. But this is no longer unusual. Buruma himself mentions in Murder in Amsterdam that the Dutch Social Democratic politician Ahmed Aboutaleb requires full-time bodyguards. At that same Swedish conference I happened to meet the British writer of immigrant background who has been obliged to adopt the pseudonym Ibn Warraq, out of fear that, in his case because of his Bertrand Russell influenced philosophical convictions, he might be singled out for assassination. I happened to attend a different conference in Italy a few days earlier and met the very brave Egyptian-Italian journalist Magdi Allam, who writes scathing criticisms of the new totalitarian wave in Il Corriere della Sera–and I discovered that Allam, too, was traveling with a full complement of five bodyguards. The Italian journalist Fiamma Nierenstein, because of her well-known sympathies for Israel, was accompanied by her own bodyguards. Caroline Fourest, the author of the most important extended criticism of [Tariq] Ramadan, had to go under police protection for a while. The French philosophy professor Robert Redeker has had to go into hiding. I have no idea what security precautions have been taken by Flemming Rose, the cultural editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which published the Muhammad cartoons. And van Gogh…

Salman Rushdie has metastasized into an entire social class, a subset of the European intelligentsia–its Muslim wing especially–who survive only because of their bodyguards and their own precautions. This is unprecedented in Western Europe during the last sixty years. And yet if someone like Pascal Bruckner mumbles a few words about the need for courage under these circumstances, the sneers begin–"Now where have we heard that kind of thing before?"–and onward to the litany about fascism. In the Times magazine, Buruma held back even from hinting obliquely about the fascist influences on Ramadan’s grandfather, the founder of the modern cult of artistic death. Yet Bruckner, the liberal–here is somebody on the brink of fascism!

Power Line - Geert Wilders speaks

Power Line - Geert Wilders speaks

Geert Wilders, possibly the next Prime Minister of the Netherlands, finally gets his chance to speak to the British House of Lords about the threat posed to Western Civilization by radical Islam. (Great Britain refused to allow him into the country last year, claiming that he was too bigoted to be allowed to speak.) Here's the money quote, about the problem facing us.

We see Islam taking off in the West at an incredible pace. Europe is Islamizing rapidly. A lot of European cities have enormous Islamic concentrations. Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels and Berlin are just a few examples. In some parts of these cities, Islamic regulations are already being enforced. Women's rights are being destroyed. Burqa's, headscarves, polygamy, female genital mutilation, honour-killings. Women have to go to separate swimming-classes, don't get a handshake. In many European cities there is already apartheid. Jews, in an increasing number, are leaving Europe.

Michael Yon on Arabs

Life Before Death:

When my western friends talk bad about Arabs, I think of places like UAE or Qatar where we are extremely welcome and safe. The idea that we are in a global religious war is untrue. Certainly there are wars unfolding that have religious basis, but this is not World War III. We are not in a war against Muslims, and the vast majority of Muslims are not at war with us. Islam is experiencing a culture-wide religious and political civil war, much like the wars that accompanied the Reformation in Europe. We are trying to put out the flames of the Islamic civil war. Yet sometimes we make it worse.

The whole thing is accompanied by beautiful pictures of Afghanistan.

(Via Michael Yon - Online Magazine.)

How the Arab World Thinks

Barack Obama wants to restore America's image around the world. But how does the rest of the world view Barack Obama? I read an interesting commentary on that a few days ago. I've highlighted what I found interesting, but you should really read the whole thing.

The Arabs and Obama:

That's an interesting way to make a point lost on most American commentators: Barack Obama's father was Muslim and therefore, according to Islamic law, so is the candidate. In spite of the Quranic verses explaining that there is no compulsion in religion, a Muslim child takes the religion of his or her father.

The point of course is not that Obama is really a Muslim, because in America he is whatever he says he is. American ideas about such things as choice, religion, freedom of expression - including the freedom to choose your own faith - are different from the rest of much of the world. For us, a man is whatever religion he wants to practice, or not practice. But for Muslims around the world, non-American Muslims at any rate, they can only ever see Barack Hussein Obama as a Muslim.

It's useful keeping in mind that difference between how Americans see our lives and our actions and how others see us, given that one of the chief conceits of the Obama campaign is that a president of his biological identity will redeem our reputation around the world after George Bush enflamed the better part of humanity by invading two Muslim countries.


So, if we're concerned about how we look to the rest of the world, we should at least recognize how much of the world looks at things. Laugh as some may about the Bush Administration's idea to export democracy to the Middle East, they had the basic principle right. The world needs our help more than we need to petition its approval. We are a people who choose our own faith, and, after a civil war and a civil rights movement, a nation where the dignity of each individual human being is accorded respect, and men and women are equal regardless of race, sex, religion or creed.

The Middle East is not like that and George W. Bush thought it wise, for the sake of Arabs and Americans, to try to do something about it, an initiative that inspired some Arabs while it enraged others. (So now guess who the good guys are in the Middle East and who are the bad ones?) What made them like or dislike Bush wasn't the color of the president's skin or his religious faith, but his ideas. It's not clear to me why Americans seem now to be trying to export a very un-American idea - that a man's color and his faith matter.

Read the rest.

Freeing Women in Algeria

Algerian women are slowly doing what women in few Islamic countries are able to do -- they are gaining independence from the men in their lives. I couldn't be happier.

Women make up 70 percent of Algeria's lawyers and 60 percent of its judges. Women dominate medicine. Increasingly, women contribute more to household income than men. Sixty percent of university students are women, university researchers say.

How is this happening? Well, mainly through the laziness and apathy of Algeria's men.

Algeria's young men reject school and try to earn money as traders in the informal sector, selling goods on the street, or they focus their efforts on leaving the country or just hanging out. There is a whole class of young men referred to as hittistes -- the word is a combination of French and Arabic for people who hold up walls.

University studies are no longer viewed as a credible route toward a career or economic well-being, and so men may well opt out and try to find work or to simply leave the country, suggested Hugh Roberts, a historian and the North Africa project director of the International Crisis Group.

Algerian women have been quick to take advantage of the opportunity. They have also learned to use traditional Islamic dress as a tool to further their goals.

Sociologists and many working women say that by adopting religion and wearing the Islamic head covering called the hijab, women here have in effect freed themselves from moral judgments and restrictions imposed by men. Uncovered women are rarely seen on the street late at night, but covered women can be seen strolling the city after attending the evening prayer at a mosque.

As a result, they may be able to do more to modernize Algeria than anyone ever dreamed.

Women may have emerged as Algeria's most potent force for social change, with their presence in the bureaucracy and on the street having a potentially moderating and modernizing influence on society, sociologists said.

Many of today's Algerian women have a decidedly Enlightened view of religion and work.

"I don't think any of this contradicts Islam," said Wahiba Nabti, 36, as she walked through the center of the city one day recently. "On the contrary, Islam gives freedom to work. Anyway it is between you and God."

Ms. Nabti wore a black scarf covering her head and a long black gown that hid the shape of her body. "I hope one day I can drive a crane, so I can really be financially independent," she said. "You cannot always rely on a man."

This is the perspective, attitude, and action that American feminists cannot endure. Rather than violently overthrowing the "patriarchy" and "men's religion", Algerian women are working through religion and the patriarchy to achieve their goals. If they succeed, they can be model to Muslim women everywhere. They will also be another crack in the wall of traditional Muslim barbarism and oppression.

Go, go, go!

This entry was tagged. Civil Liberties Islam

Feminists, Exposed

Women in Muslim countries are routinely beaten, raped, stoned, and murdered by the men around them. As such, the Muslim world is the main front in the battle for sexual equality. Of course, you wouldn't know it by the way that American feminists act or speak.

Eve Ensler takes this line of reasoning to equally ludicrous lengths. In 2003 she gave a lecture at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University in which, like Pollitt, she claimed that women everywhere are oppressed and subordinate:

I think that the oppression of women is universal. I think we are bonded in every single place of the world. I think the conditions are exactly the same [her emphasis]. I think the nature of the oppression--whether it's acid burning in one country, or female genital mutilation in another, or gang rapes in the parking lots in high schools of the suburbs--it's the same idea. . . . The systematic global oppression of women is completely across the globe.

That's from Christina Hoff Sommers' article in this week's edition of the Weekly Standard.

Feminists are also completely unable to tell the difference between American Christians and Afghan Taliban:

Katha Pollitt, a columnist at the Nation, talks of "the common thread of misogyny" connecting Christian Evangelicals to the Taliban:

It is important to remember just how barbarous and cruel the Taliban were. Yet it is also important not to use their example to obscure or deny the common thread of misogyny that connects them with Focus on the Family and the Christian Coalition. . . .

Soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Katha Pollitt wrote the introduction to a book called Nothing Sacred: Women Respond to Religious Fundamentalism and Terror. It aimed to show that reactionary religious movements everywhere are targeting women. Says Pollitt:

In Bangladesh, Muslim fanatics throw acid in the faces of unveiled women; in Nigeria, newly established shariah courts condemn women to death by stoning for having sex outside of wedlock. . . . In the United States, Protestant evangelicals and fundamentalists have forged a powerful right-wing political movement focused on banning abortion, stigmatizing homosexuality and limiting young people's access to accurate information about sex.

Ah, yes. Limiting young people's access to accurate information about sex is exactly the same as having acid thrown in your face. Christina explains, in her article, that none of America's feminists are willing to help out Muslim women:

One reason is that many feminists are tied up in knots by multiculturalism and find it very hard to pass judgment on non-Western cultures. They are far more comfortable finding fault with American society for minor inequities (the exclusion of women from the Augusta National Golf Club, the "underrepresentation" of women on faculties of engineering) than criticizing heinous practices beyond our shores. The occasional feminist scholar who takes the women's movement to task for neglecting the plight of foreigners is ignored or ruled out of order.

As a result, she has some fairly harsh words for American feminists:

Muslim women could use moral, intellectual, and material support from the West to improve their situation. But only a rational, reality-based women's movement would be capable of actually helping. Women who think that looking like a pear is an essential human right are not valuable allies.

Extremely true. Is it any wonder that many people would like to marginalize American feminists and do everything possible to keep them away from the reigns of power?

It's unfortunate that American feminists are unwilling to join the battle in any meaningful way. Sexual equality in Muslim nations could go a long way towards ending the cycle of terrorism that infects those nations:

Women's equality is as incompatible with radical Islam's plan for domination and submission as it is with polygamy. Women freely moving about, expressing their opinions, and negotiating their relationships with men from a position of equal dignity rather than servitude are a moderating, civilizing force in any society. Female scholars voicing their opinions without inhibition would certainly puncture some cherished jihadist fantasies.

Read the entire article in this week's edition of the Weekly Standard. It's well worth your time. You'll discover the America is just as harsh towards women as Uganda and Pakistan. You'll also discover organizations like the Women's Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equity (WISE) which work to help Muslim women in oppressive societies. Consider donating to the cause. Unlike America's feminists, I think these women are worth supporting.

The Dirt on Muhammed

It turns out that Muhammed himself was actually a pretty decent guy. Yesterday, the Anchoress posted a conversation she had with Ali -- a "reformist" Muslim. She started the conversation after she became curious about this question: "Is this something Muslims are also taught to do? Is there a "turn the other cheek" component to Islam?"

The following discussion is very interesting and informative in light of what Mohammed's more ... energetic ... followers are doing.

[tags]islam, muhammed[/tags]

This entry was tagged. Islam