Islam and the tolerance police

From an award-winning post from Scott Kirwin:

In America Islam is a relatively new religion. People don’t understand it – a fact made harder by the demand that one must learn Arabic to practice it. While Muslims have been emigrating to the United States since its founding, it wasn’t until the end of the 20th century that oil money flowing to the Saudis allowed them to build mosques and proselytize. So until very recently most Americans hadn’t seen a mosque in their neighborhood or lived with Muslim immigrants. The Syrians, Lebanese and other Arabs from the Middle East that arrived in their communities during the 20th century were mostly Christians, so their exposure to Muslims was pretty much limited to the news media.

Our instinct as Americans is to see Islam as just another religion, protecting Muslims with the same Constitutional rights as Methodists, Buddhists, or Catholics. The problem is that Islam isn’t the same as these religions; it is a unique religion that unites politics with religion in a way that hasn’t been seen in the West for over 500 years.

Islam has a terrible history of coexisting with other religions, and its tenets reflect that. Conversion to another faith is punishable by death. The only law is God’s law – so a secular society cannot coexist in an Islamic one – as Turkey is learning. (Yes I know that some branches of Shi’a Islam preach separation between Islam and state, but it’s not First Amendment separation that Americans think). In lands where other faiths exist, Islam must be supreme, and believers of these faiths can live as long as they are taxed and recognize the supremacy of Islam in the societal affairs (Dhimmi status).

This is not to say that Islam is all bad. There are sects that are more liberal and respectful of non-believers than others (the Ismaili sect leaps to mind), and like Obama I too found the calls to prayer sublime in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. But the Ismailis and related sects are a tiny portion of the Ummah, and the sect that has gained the most ground in Europe and the United States is the Wahhabi sect – the most radical and intolerant within Islam.

But Americans are beginning to recognize that Islam is different – that it’s not Buddhists with burkas, or Pentecostals with prayer rugs. They remember 9-11, and each suicide bombing or slaughter of aid workers by men acting in the name of Islam adds to the suspicion. The silence of Muslims and worse, the justification of these acts in some Muslim quarters, is making Americans take note. The fact that condemnations of terror are rarely unequivocal and are nearly always followed with “but…” and a statement that undoes the condemnation that preceded it doesn’t help. Americans want Islam to be as benign as other religions, but they are beginning to wonder if that’s even possible.

Yet American elites which should know more about Islam than the common people side with a religion that is intolerant of the very rights it champions among Christians: women, gays and artistic freedom. The ignorance shown by the mainstream media towards Islam makes one wonder if any of these “journalists” ever left New York City or San Francisco. Every attempt to equate a Muslim cleric with an American religious figure like Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell merely emphasizes their ignorance of both faiths. The reviled Robertson and Falwell would actually be considered raging liberals compared to “moderate” Islamic clerics.

The mainstream media and the American Left have allied themselves with one of the most intolerant faiths around, yet they demand that Americans tolerate this intolerance and call those who don’t “Islamophobes”.

Obama’s “Mission Accomplished” speech

From President Obama’s speech announcing the end of the Iraq War:

“Tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country. This was my pledge to the American people as a candidate for this office. Last February, I announced a plan that would bring our combat brigades out of Iraq, while redoubling our efforts to strengthen Iraq’s Security Forces and support its government and people. That is what we have done. We have removed nearly 100,000 U.S. troops from Iraq. We have closed or transferred hundreds of bases to the Iraqis. And we have moved millions of pieces of equipment out of Iraq.”

—–

“Ending this war is not only in Iraq’s interest – it is in our own. The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people. We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq, and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home. We have persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people – a belief that out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization. Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility. Now, it is time to turn the page.”

via 44 – Live Tonight: Obama’s Oval Office address on Iraq.

So where are the ticker tape parades?  The kisses in Times Square?  Or are we more likely to relive the helicopters on the embassy roof in Saigon?

Combat troops are gone from Iraq

Does this mean the Iraq war is over?

The last American combat brigade in Iraq has left the country, the US military has said.

The 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division began crossing by land into Kuwait in the early hours of Thursday morning, said a spokesman.

The US combat mission in Iraq is scheduled to end on 31 August.

But the Pentagon has not confirmed that the move marks an early end to combat operations.

Most of the 4,000 Stryker Brigade troops drove out of Iraq in a convoy of armoured vehicles, say reports.

The journey along potentially hostile desert roads had been carefully planned for weeks.

Some of the brigade remained behind to complete logistical and administrative tasks but would leave the country by air later in the day, the Associated Press reported.

The BBC’s Jane O’Brien in Washington says the brigade’s departure after seven and a half years is a significant step.

But the Pentagon has stressed that the official end to Operation Iraqi Freedom – the US military mission in the country – remains scheduled for the end of the month.

Some 56,000 US troops are set to remain in Iraq until the end of 2011 to advise Iraqi forces and protect US interests.

Those soldiers will be armed but will only use their weapons in self-defence or at the request of the Iraqi government.

via BBC News – Last US combat brigade quits Iraq.

So did we win or lose?  Should we celebrate?  Or have we not seen the last of this war after all?

Operation Desert Troll

If you hear this rumor, you might welcome it, but it was planted to destablize the Afghan regime:

A new web trolling campaign to spread the rumor that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has converted to Christianity was sweeping the internet on Thursday, calling on people to “exploit Islam’s hatred of all things Christian.” Web trolling involves posting inflammatory statements online to provoke reactions.

Running with the title “Operation: Desert Troll,” the call to action urged readers to use tools such as blogs, twitter, reddit to spread the message. Internet users were also asked to search the term “Hamid Karzai converts to Christianity” to further circulate the rumor.

via ‘Exploit Islam’s hatred of Christianity’.

Islam losing ground to Christianity?

Christianity may be declining in the West and Islam is surging, but in the world as a whole, it’s a different story.  So says Ryan Mauro:

It’s true that Islam (as well as atheism and universalism) is growing in the West, mostly because of high birth rates among Muslims and immigration, but the exploding growth of evangelical Christianity around the world through conversion is unreported. The analysis is distorted because of the lack of reporting from places like Africa, where nearly half of the population is estimated to be Christian. In other places like China, news of such trends is suppressed, leaving few to know that some estimates put the Christian population there at up to 111 million. There may be more members in the underground evangelical movement there than in the 75-million strong Chinese Communist Party. It’s been reported that 10,000 Chinese convert to Christianity per day. That number may be a stretch, but if current trends hold, predictions that China will become the country with the largest number of Christians by the middle of the century could come true.

The image in one’s mind of a Christian is usually of an American or European. The decline of Christianity in the West gives the impression that the religion is collapsing when it is really transforming. In Dinesh D’Souza’s What’s So Great About Christianity, he writes that in 1900, over 80 percent of Christians lived in Europe and the U.S. Now, two out of three evangelicals live in Asia, Africa, and South America. South Korea now holds the title as the second-place country in sending out missionaries, despite the fact that the number one country, the U.S., has over six times as many people.

Another fact to consider is that while the number of Christians overall is declining in the West, the number of evangelicals is rising. There are less of those “Sunday Christians” who do the church routine and don’t make having a relationship with God part of their very being. They are falling away from church as it becomes more socially acceptable to do so and are turning to agnosticism, atheism, and a universalism that believes all religions are one and the same. Christianity is changing into a smaller but more devout and active force.

It is much harder to detect “Friday Muslims” in the Islamic world than it is “Sunday Christians” in the West because of the societal repercussions and the suppression of other religions. Those questioning their faith are likely to keep it private and still go to mosque even if they party on the weekends. The dismal state of the Islamic world economically and politically and the savagery of extremism is turning many Muslims away. For example, I’ve been surprised at how many Iranians I’ve communicated with are atheists or aren’t devout Muslims. There is a clandestine movement to acquire Bibles and practice Christianity in private homes, as up to 1 million are said to have turned to Christianity in the past five years.

This is a problem that raises significant concern in the Muslim world, but the West misses it. In April 2008, Andrew Walden wrote a top-notch piece here at Pajamas Media about this phenomenon. One top Islamic scholar in Libya says that 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity every day and Walden writes that evangelist Wolfgang Simpson says that “more Muslims have come to Christ in the last two decades than in all of history.” He writes that the mufti of the Malaysian state of Perak says that about 250,000 Muslims in his country have filed to officially leave Islam, including 100,000 that have converted to Christianity. The mufti warned that this number doesn’t include those who are non-practicing Muslims.

It is undeniable that Islam is growing in the West, but there are signs that the number of Muslims that don’t diligently practice the faith is increasing just as is the case with Christianity. In February 2005, the Sunday Times wrote that “one estimate suggests that as many as 15 per cent of Muslims in Western societies have lost their faith.” A Pew poll in July 2007 found that Muslim-Americans are in third place in how many describe religion as playing a “very important” role in their lives, with 72 percent affirming the statement as compared to 79 percent of white evangelicals and 85 percent of black Protestants. Most interestingly, only 50 percent of Muslim-Americans take their holy book, the Koran, literally, whereas 66 percent of white evangelicals and 68 percent of black Protestants take the Bible literally.

via Pajamas Media » Is Islam Really the Second-Fastest Growing Religion?.

The Islamic center at Ground Zero

It looks like the Islamic cultural center being proposed for construction near the site where the World Trade Center stood before 9/11 will be built:

Plans to build an Islamic cultural center near the World Trade Center site moved forward after New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to allow the demolition of a building that would be replaced by a mosque.

The panel denied landmark status to a long-vacant 152-year- old lower Manhattan building on Park Place, formerly a Burlington Coat Factory department store. The unanimous vote cleared a hurdle for the site to be torn down and the mosque, recreation and cultural center to be built.

The proposed mosque has drawn opposition from former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who have called its proposed presence near the site of the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S. history inappropriate. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn have supported the project.

“To cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists,” Bloomberg said at a news conference today on Governors Island in New York Harbor, within view of the Statue of Liberty, where he was joined by Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy. “No neighborhood in our city is off limits to God’s love and mercy.”

The Cordoba Initiative, the project’s sponsor, describes itself as a pluralistic organization seeking better relations between the Islamic community and other faiths. Plans for the center include a 500-seat auditorium, swimming pool, restaurants, bookstores and space for art exhibitions, according to the organization’s website.

via Ground Zero Mosque Plans Move Forward After Key Vote – Bloomberg.

We do have freedom of religion in this country, so I see no legal basis for preventing this construction.  But this is not just a mosque.  Swimming pool?  restaurants?  And I’d like more information about the Cordoba Initiative.  Is this a Muslim group that claims Islamic sovereignty over Spain?  If so, they are likely radicals.  And is there any doubt that radical Muslims will use this monument as an occasion for triumphalism? But, again, religious freedom has to mean freedom for Muslims and everyone else as well as for Christians.

We can complain about something without thinking that the state should prevent it (a principle that has other applications). [Like what?]