U.S. Military Command, Bereft of Its Senses, Sponsors Essay Contest To Pay Tribute To Dead Saudi Despot

Maybe we can’t blame General Martin E. Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He has seen erstwhile U.S. presidents suck up to the Saudi royal family in ways whose unprincipled excess might nauseate the average citizen. I think we all remember George W. Bush holding hands with King Abdullah and kissing him.

Yesterday, President Obama landed in Saudi Arabia to pay his respects at the funeral of the king, who died five days ago.

Now Dempsey gets his own shot at glorifying the Saudi royals just like his bosses.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has established a research and essay competition in honor of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz hosted by the National Defense University.

The king, who died Jan. 23 at age 90, oversaw the modernization of his country’s military during the time he spent as commander of the Saudi Arabian National Guard, a position he held from 1963 until he became king in 2005.

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To Fight Extremism, Should Muslims in French Prisons Receive More State-Sponsored Religious Services?

Farhad Khosrokhavar, a French-Iranian sociologist and author who is an expert on Muslim radicalization, has long scrutinized the role that French prisons play in breeding extremism.

In a piece in the New York Times, he says he believes that while Muslims in France comprise just seven to ten percent of the French population, half of French prisoners are Muslims. He isn’t quite sure, because

laïcité, France’s strict form of secularism, prohibits officially asking and collecting data about people’s religious preferences. These estimates are based on research I conducted in French prisons in 2000-3 and again in 2011-3, when I interviewed some 160 inmates.

That’s a relatively tiny sample, but if Khosrokhavar’s extrapolation is remotely true, that’s a pretty shocking state of affairs.

And Khosrokhavar (pictured below) is just getting started. Imprisoned Muslims believe — sometimes falsely, often not, says the sociologist — that they’re being treated unjustly overall. An inmate of Algerian origin complained

“If I try to take my prayer carpet to the courtyard, they prohibit it. If I grow a beard, the guards call me Bin Laden, smiling and mocking me. They hate Islam. But Islam can take revenge!

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The New York Times Explains Islamic Moderation

Over at smartertimes.com, a site dedicated to calling out the New York Times‘ blind spots and biases, a reader suggested that this Times article, headlined, “Experts See Signs of Moderation Despite Houthis’ Harsh Slogans,” may be “the New York Timesiest thing ever written.”

AMMAN, Jordan — At first glance the official slogan and emblem of the Houthis, who are now the dominant force in Yemen, does not offer much hope to American policy makers.

It includes the words “Death to America, death to Israel, damnation to the Jews.” Houthis shout it when they march, wear it on arm patches, paint it on buildings and stick it onto their car windows. When pictured, those words are rendered in red, framed by “God is great” and “Victory to Islam” in green, on a white background. Sometimes the red words are shown dripping blood.

But don’t worry:

For all their harsh sloganeering, the Houthis may be a lot more moderate than it suggests, according to many diplomats and analysts…

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Alexis Tsipras, New Greek Prime Minister, Is an Atheist

Greece, New York famously has issues with atheists.

Greece, the country, is now led by an atheist.

NPR contributor Joanna Kakissis, reporting from Athens, says that what’s unusual about Alexis Tsipras, who was sworn in as Greece’s prime minister yesterday, isn’t necessarily his young age or the fact that he doesn’t like to wear ties.

As scores of news photographers clicked away, Alexis Tsipras took his oath of office … He said he promised to uphold the Constitution and look out for the welfare of Greeks. Tsipras is an atheist, so he refused a religious oath — the custom in this Greek Orthodox country. He’s the first prime minister to do so. He’s only 40, so he’s also the youngest leader in Greece since 1865.

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With Worrisome New Rules For Students, French Government Suggests It Now Wavers on Issue of Liberté

What do you do with pupils like these?

Éric Bettancourt, a schoolteacher in Clichy-sous-Bois, a heavily immigrant suburb, told the France 2 television channel that three quarters of his students had refused to observe the moment of silence [after the Charlie Hebdo massacre]. “The first shocking words I heard were that the murders were justified,” Mr. Bettancourt said. “They considered that it was forbidden to make blasphemies or insult the prophet through drawings or speech.”

Question: Were the students who refused to be quiet during the moment of silence not exercising their right to freedom of expression? Are they the equivalent, or near-equivalent, of atheists and others who refuse to say (or decline to rise for) the Pledge of Allegiance in U.S. schools? The case can surely be made.

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