Monday, March 20, 2006

Amr Khaled: Reforming Provocateur

Amr Khaled: Reforming Provocateur

Imagine a prominent Arab Muslim cleric calling for "a new approach by Muslims, one of reform and dialogue with the rest of the world." An Islamic Martin Luther.

Imagine that the Muslim Reformation has already begun. "For the past three years,with youth across the Islamic world we've been working for a faith-based renaissance in this region, which will not take place by clashes but by coexistence."

It is brave, rational, visionary leaders that Islam must have right now because it is doomed in a clash of civilizations with the West. It is also brave, rational, visionary Muslim leaders that Americans, of all, want now. Because it is we who will be the West's vanguard in the clash, and we to whom war is so execrable and every individual human life so dear.

The utterer of the words above is Amr Khaled, an Egyptian, Islamic televangelist, "young,[38] smiling, teach[ing] love and mercy and popular he's credited with inspiring thousands of women--turned off by dour, traditional clerics--to take on the veil."

The report from which the above quotes was taken was on tonight.

CNN writes that Mr. Khaled is using his star power "by trying a new role, as a bridge between Islam and the West at a time when many (Here!) are talking about a clash of civilizations.

Mr. Khaled has taken the Danish cartoon causis belli and turned it into an opportunity for Islamic introspection. This is what can happen if a policy of continual, constructive provocation as advocated here on March 6 is pursued.

"In his sermons, he has avoided politics [separation of mosque and state] and stressed God's mercy, seeking how one can be a good Muslim while still enjoying the activities of modern life," the report states.

"He is so tolerant and friendly,he makes you feel good about your religion and yourself," a young Egyptian woman is quoted as saying.

Khaled as Martin Luther, the beginning of the Islamic Reformation: Mountains out of molehills at this point. And Martin Luther King was murdered before he could over the mountain. But he saw the racial tolerance that lay in the valley beyond.

The Egyptian government banned Mr. Khaled from preaching in 2002. He decamped to England, getting a PhD with a thesis titled "Islam and coexisting with the other." Now he is back in Egypt. "For good," CNN reports hopefully.

We'll see, but eventually Mohammad must go to the mountain. The mountain cannot be brought to Mohammad.

Amr Khaled at least has started the trek. Godspeed to him. This is Public Occurrences.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Hope and Fear, Tragedy and Reality. Dr. Wafa Sultan on Islam

Hope and Fear, Tragedy and Reality. Dr. Wafa Sultan on Islam.

The truth was made more compelling by the elegant prose:

"The Jews have come from [the Holocaust]
and forced the world to respect them with
their knowledge, not with their terror, with
their work, not with their crying and yelling."

"We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up
in a German restaurant. We have not seen a
single Jew destroy a church. We have not seen a
single Jew protest by killing people."

"Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning
down churches, killing people and destroying embassies."

That is from the front page of today's New York Times under the headline "Muslim's Blunt Criticism of Islam Draws Threats and Some Hope." An important message prominently displayed in America's newspaper of record. And by a Muslim. Compelling indeed.

But the tragedy of the story is that the headline is wrong. Wrong because Dr. Wafa Sultan, whose words those are, is not a practicing Muslim, has not been for 27 years. Wrong because the headline genuflects toward a Muslim Reformation, toward a solution from within, the West's magic bullet hope; no, dream; no, fantasy.

Dr. Sultan was raised a Muslim in Syria but in 1979 witnessed the reality of Islam when members of the Muslim Brotherhood broke into her college classroom and killed the professor before her eyes. "They shot hundreds of bullets into him shouting 'God is great!' At that point I lost my trust in their god..."

The tragic quiddity of the story is captured in the article's account of the "debate" she had with a practicing Muslim, an Egyptian religion professor, on Al Jazeera on February 21.

After saying, "I am a secular human being," Dr. Sultan's opposite ended further discussion by asking rhetorically, "Are you a heretic?" The Times wrote that Dr. Ibrahim al-Khouli "then said there was no point in rebuking or debating her, because she had blasphemed against Islam..."

"Are you a heretic" was all that mattered. A heretic is the worst thing there is in Islam, worse than being an infidel, a believer in another religion. But if one is either, one is also (1) therefore not fully human, and consequently (2) one whose life can--should, to some--be ended mercilessly.

The Times headline is wrong because unless practicing Muslims like Dr. al-Khouli say the things that Dr. Sultan is saying there can be no Islamic Reformation. There will only be those, like Dr. Sultan, who left the faith.

It is because of this reality of Islam, as practiced, that brave, brave, wise Dr. Sultan is sorrowfully wrong when she eloquently says:

"The clash we are witnessing around the world
is not a clash of religions or a clash of civilizations.
It is a clash between two opposites, between two
eras...It is a clash between civilization and backwardness..."

This is also the consensus of the American foreign policy intelligentsia. It was Sen. Kerry's argument that it is not a war with Islam that we're in but a battle between Chaos and Civilization.

It is also the nonsense that produced one of President Bush's most notorious blunders, his ridiculous "Axis of Evil" speech that lumped paranoid, hapless North Korea together with Muslim Iran and Iraq. It is the nonsense that there is some kind of terrorism gene that links the Muslim Brotherhood and...the Irish Republican Army...Basque separatists...Chechyn rebels.

It is the moral bankruptcy that also lumps together backward Saudi Arabia and America in one "Civilization."

No, Dr. Sultan, heartbreakingly no, it is not a "clash between two eras." The clash is occurring between two peoples existing in the same era, now. It is a clash of civilizations, of two contemporaneously existing civilizations not a clash between Civilization and Chaos. "I believe our people are hostages to our own beliefs and teaching," as brave Dr. Sultan said herself.

The terrible, terrifying truth is that the war is with Islam, that if Islam does not Reform from within and attacks America again, it will be Reformed from without in a literal Apocalypse, come from the sky, by American nuclear and thermonuclear weapons. "I am become Death, destroyer of worlds," said an awestruck J. Robert Oppenheimer at Trinity, quoting Hindu, another of Islam's countless enemies. It is a Death that America does not want to inflict, that Americans can not yet even think, but which America will deliver if it has to. This is Public Occurrences.

Investment Advice

Investment Advice take the $2 you normally spend on Powerball or the like, take the odds and put it on the University of Pittsburgh to reach the Final Four. Put another two-bill with the odds for the Deserted Steel Mills to win the national championship. -Benjamin Harris

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Signs of Water on Saturn's Moon Enceladus

Signs of Water on Saturn's Moon Enceladus

Headline on today; what looks to the scientists like an Old Faithful-type geiser spewing liquid water into the "atmosphere" of Enceladus, which immediately freezes on the incomprehensibly cold -300 degree surface.

Everywhere there is water on earth we have found life. We have found strong evidence of it in likely places like Mars and Europa; now in the unlikely place of Enceladus.

Water is all around us in our own middle class solar system in the suburbs of one of a billion other typical galaxies. Life is also all around us in the cosmos and we will find it in our human lifetimes.

-Benjamin Harris