“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Observanda: Islam - The Intolerant Truth

Observanda: Islam - The Intolerant Truth

Tigers got a post up on a Robert Spencer article at Front

Spencer writes:
The government of Pakistan has banned my book The Truth About Muhammad, confiscating all copies and translations. Why? Because it contains “objectionable material” about Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. Said Shahid Ahmed, counselor of community affairs at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington: “The book is very, very damaging — let me tell you.”

Objectionable material? Damaging? I confess it: they’re right. There is plenty of objectionable material in this book. Here’s a small sampling:

1. The Truth About Muhammad details the triple choice that Muhammad directed his followers to offer to non-Muslims: conversion to Islam, subjugation without equality of rights with Muslims under the rule of Islamic law, or war. Did I fabricate this? No, it can be found in, among many other places, Sahih Muslim, a collection of hadith – traditions of Muhammad and the early Muslims – that Muslims generally consider reliable. In it, Muhammad says:

Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah….When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them….If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya [a special tax levied on non-Muslims]. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them. (Sahih Muslim 4294)
I don't suppose there is really any news here. Of course, Spencer's book has been banned. That's no surprise. Pakistan, though is surprising in other ways. For instance, here's a New York Times Jan 2, 2006 article, When She Speaks, He’s Breaking All of Islam’s Taboos about a 28-year old Karachi drag queen with a hit television show.
It is hard to judge how successful Mr. Saleem’s show is — there is no form of Nielsen ratings here. And there are clearly people who find the show revolting.

But by many measures, it is a success. Television critics have been generally supportive, and the show, which has been on a year and a half, has a prime-time slot despite its name, “Late Night Show With Begum Nawazish Ali.” Mr. Saleem said it was named for its racy content, usually shown late, but he said the network scheduled it earlier hoping for a hit that would bring in more advertising revenue.

Urbanites, meanwhile, seem not to be able to get enough of the once-a-week show, which is rerun twice each week. They have showered praise on Mr. Saleem’s portrayal of a middle-aged widow who, in glamorous saris and glittery diamonds, invites to her drawing room politicians, movie stars and rights advocates from Pakistan and India.

With fluttering eyelids and glossy lips, Begum Nawazish Ali (Begum means Lady or Mrs. in Urdu) flirts with male guests using suggestive banter and sexual innuendo. With female guests, she is something of a tease, challenging them about who looks better. Questions are pointed and piercing. Politics, democracy and saucy gossip are enmeshed in her conversation.

Mr. Saleem sees the show’s acceptance and commercial success as a testimony to the tolerance and moderation of Pakistan, a country often seen by the outside world as teetering on the edges of militancy and extremism.

Colorful and witty, Mr. Saleem is open about his own sexuality and sprinkles his conversation with gender-bending phrases. “My life fluctuates between two extremes,” he says. “I always say this: I am a man and I am a woman. It is two gender extremes, and I am constantly trying to balance it.”

He is unabashed at the criticism that his show often borders on raunchiness. “Sitting senators have sent requests to be on the show,” he says.

Mr. Saleem has also been willing to take on tough political subjects. He is openly critical of the army’s role in ruling Pakistan, for instance.

This is what devout, fundamentalist Muslims see and are so afraid of. This is the modernity that has been thrust upon them with the advent of the television and satellite. They see the western decadence and have vowed to stop it or die trying.

There are ever widening faultlines in Muslim society and the west must find a way of turning the cultural changes to our advantage. We may not be happy with the result but we have no choice. The Islamists are waging an ultimately futile war against modernity. Given enough time, the post modern world will prevail over Islam just as it has over Christianity in Europe. In the meantime, the nuclear threat we perceived before we invaded Iraq is still the single most dangerous threat facing our country. Maybe not this year or next but eventually, if left unchecked, someone will get one or several nuclear devices and the decadent capitals of the world will be ground zero. The problem for the west is how to extract the cancer of Islamenoma without killing the patient or igniting a world war.


  1. Bravest Advice:
    BEFORE President Bush had tomorrow night's speech about Iraq crafted, it might have helped a bunch to listen to Danny Swift.
    Danny is no politician - just a New York City firefighter who had the living daylights blown out of him before losing two comrades, including Chris Engledrum, and saving two others outside Baghdad on Nov 29, 2004.

    "I hope there is a change in strategy, a big, big change in strategy," said Danny, who has been back at Ladder 43's firehouse for 10 months after recovering from shrapnel wounds.
    "For a start, let's forget cut and run - but also let's have the best military in the world allowed to perform like the best military in the world," he told me yesterday.

    "Twenty-thousand ex- tra troops won't make a dent under the disheveled and disorganized practice of the rules of engagement, which are a joke. There are seven different levels you have to think through before you can fire your weapon - and that's under battlefield conditions.

    "Our military can't fire their weapons on the enemy. We virtually can only return fire when we see someone shooting at us, and that may be too late. That's not how you fight a war."

    Danny was in a Humvee in Taji that day with fellow firefighter Engledrum when one of those dreaded roadside bombs blew his contingent sky high.
    When Swift regained consciousness, blinded in one eye, he went to Engledrum's side.
    "Sadly, Chris was gone and so was rifleman Willie Urbina," Danny recalled.
    But Danny, an Army medic, was credited with saving the lives of Felix Vargas and Ritchie Cornier.

    "Change of strategy?
    People have to realize that the Iraqis, on any side after thousands of years of violence, only respect the guy with the biggest gun," Danny was saying.
    "Wouldn't it be nice if we really went into Sadr City and cleaned it out. Then those guys in there would be saying to themselves, 'These guys mean business.'

    "Trouble is a lot of our guys can't really give it everything they got even though they want to because they're worried about ending up in Leavenworth.
    "You have to let the military do their job."

    Are you listening, President Bush?

  2. ", perhaps the reason it appears that we may have "graduated from the Michael Ledeen School of Middle East Diplomacy" is because we - like Dr. Ledeen - recognize that since the 1979 revolution, the Islamic Republic of Iran's leadership has been at war with the United States (among others). There's neither much diplomacy in their constant offensive in all its forms, nor much diplomacy in the solution that will bring it to an end. This is not to be confused with a call for a ground invasion.

    But rather, imagine if the United States put the full weight of its economic might behind the opposition groups within Iran and their dissidents scattered throughout Europe and North America.

    How different would the face of this epic conflict be if the mullah regime were overthrown from within and the jihadiyun's chief state sponsor of their terrorist activities no longer in the business of exporting arms, expert trainers, operatives and cash?

    All analysis - be it of Iraq, Somalia or nearly any other theater - finds paths back to the mullahcracy in Tehran, the epicenter of terrorism."
    Steve Schippert -

  3. Destabilization of Iran and cheap gas on the horizon? Two separate but connected articles?

    Financial times:
    Yet for all the political furor, oil markets on Tuesday shrugged off the latest geopolitical threat to supply, focusing instead on the warm US winter and strong inventories. At one point the price of oil hit an 18-month low point, dipping below $54 in New York, although it later recovered most of its losses.

    The political row in Belarus – and Venezuela’s announcement of plans to take state control of its heavy oil projects – did little to deflect the downward trend in the price. The price of oil has fallen by more than 10 per cent since the start of the year and yesterday Mustafa Mohatarem, chief economist of General Motors, forecast it would fall below $50 this year. West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in February fell to an intra-day low of $53.88 a barrel before recovering. Brent crude fell to an intra-day low of $53.64 a barrel before climbing back.

    David Kirsch, manager of the markets intelligence service for PFC Energy, said the weak trend was likely to continue, with oil prices likely to test $50 a barrel. “I don’t see any positive news in the next week or so that is likely to lift prices,” he said.

    The Business:
    As the Saudis look to Pakistan for nuclear insurance against Iran, so they are also contemplating deploying the oil weapon against their regional rival. Obaid claimed that Saudi Arabia could afford to cut the price of oil in half, a move that would bankrupt Iran. In 2005 the Saudis initiated a $50bn scheme designed to increase their oil production by 1.5m barrels per day and give Riyadh more leverage over prices. Iran has nothing like the same clout: its oil industry has weakened considerably. Iran is currently producing 5% less than its OPEC quota because of technical difficulties; the oil minister has warned that without substantial investment, production will collapse by 13% a year. Yet, because of the difficulties of attracting foreign investment and expertise to Iran, it is hard to see where the money would come from, especially since Tehran has little cash in its own coffers.

    All this accentuates the strategic logic of Saudi Arabia purchasing the bomb. At a stroke, the Saudis would have undercut the nationalist and religious appeal of Iran’s bomb. They would also be challenging Tehran to an arms race in which it could not afford to compete. But a Middle East with a nuclear Iran and Saudi Arabia vying for supremacy would be an intolerably dangerous and unstable place, especially when the Israeli dimension is added. The old cold-war nuclear certainties of deterrence and mutually-assured destruction are less than reassuring in a region where ancient hatreds and religious fervour are so strong. Iran’s President Ahmadinejad, let us note, prayed openly for the apocalypse at the UN General Assembly.

    Just my view...any thoughts?
    Recent proclamations by Israel about nuclear attacks on Iranian sites deters Chinese, Indian, and Russian investment in Iran. This is already occuring. Iranian oil and gasoline infrastructure would be the initial target of attacks. Counterattack by Iran would then be followed by attacks on their nuclear sites.

  4. >elijah

    westhawk's article a few days ago:

    Any crude oil price multiplied by zero exports still equals zero. A low price would inflict financial pain on Iran sooner, but the end result will be the same in either case. But a high price will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign imports, improving U.S. strategic flexibility.

    The price of oil matters not; what does matter is that Iran's economy is going to hell and they can't do anything about it (except maybe speed it up).

    Iraq was once the counterweight to Iranian hegemony; once the former was removed, the latter's threat became more visible. I wonder, does anyone see the Iranians as a countervailing force against the Saudis and their Wahhabist ideology? If Iran's nuclear capabilities are neutralised (and they so clearly should), does anyone here believe that we will witness the unprecedented exporting of Wahhabism throughout the Middle East?

    Just a cursory glance at Pakistan and you'll see what I mean when I state that the Saudis could be doing a whole lot more to make life more sufferable in the Middle East.

  5. Charles Linked this Video at BC
    ...but the corrupt politicians in DC are followed by the ignorant/compliant sheep.
    Numbers USA

  6. I don’t know that anyone was thinking that we might have to watch Muslim-on-Muslim violence play out in our own home towns, as this story in Detroit indicates.

    Late Saturday night, 12 Muslim businesses and mosques were vandalized, with 11 of the 12 belonging to members of the Detroit Shi’a population. None of the targeted buildings were owned by Irai-American Christians or members of the Lebanese community. It is suspected that the atacks were in retaliation to the celebrations seen in the streets at the news of Saddam Hussein’s execution.

    While so far there have been no Shi’a reprisal attacks on Sunni businesses and mosques, it is a realistic fear among Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The potential for more deadly attacks certainly exists if such tension escalates.