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Saturday, January 18

WHITE MEAT:

That is the code name for Americans in al-Qaeda. The National Post has a long article about a Moslem boy who emigrated to Canada, went to Catholic schools, and became a terrorist with connections to the World Trade Center attack.

Less than three years ago, Mr. Jabarah was a straight-arrow student at a Catholic high school who wanted to be a doctor, worshipped at the local mosque and did volunteer work picking up litter from roads in Niagara. Today, he is a 21-year-old detainee at a U.S. military base, trying to rescue his life by revealing to FBI agents the secrets he learned as a terrorist.
Mr. Jabarah's descent into the underworld of radical Islam, where Americans are dehumanized even in code ("White Meat" comes from pigs, the consumption of which is deemed un-Islamic), is all the more troubling considering he spent his teenage years in Canada, the country that gave him refuge, citizenship and an education.


How did he become a terrorist?

Shortly after graduation in June, 2000, he flew to Kuwait City to enroll at university, but his father said he had trouble gaining admission and was also discouraged because the school did not offer Islamic studies courses in English.
He went instead to Pakistan.
The al-Qaeda faithful who roam Pakistan's religious schools in search of fresh recruits saw Mr. Jabarah as a prized asset. His fluent English and Canadian passport made him a valued potential operative. He could travel freely without raising suspicion. He was also young and unworldly. "He grew up in Canada, he never went to any Asian countries before," his father said.
The recruiting tactics used by radical Islamic groups such as al-Qaeda harness the force of religion to incite Muslim youths to violence. Psychologists hired by the government of Singapore to study 31 captured members of Jemaah Islamiyah found the recruits had been singled out in religious classes and gradually indoctrinated over an 18-month period.
Those selected to participate in terrorist attacks were unassertive, unquestioning and harboured feelings of guilt and loneliness. Gradually the recruits were led to believe the Muslim faith was under attack and a holy war against the West was a religious duty. They were promised martyrdom if they died for the cause.



Jabarah sang like a bird, but the people who needed to hear didn't listen:

The inside account that Mr. Jabarah supplied was distributed to police and intelligence services in August, 2002, and some responded by heightening security at their embassies. It was not enough, however, to prevent the worst act of terrorism since Sept. 11.
In Thailand, Hambali had ordered his deputy, Muklas, to plan attacks at places where Western tourists were known to hang out, including nightclubs in Indonesia, Prof. Gunaratna said.
"Ironically, before the Bali tragedy, the U.S. intelligence community communicated this specific threat to Southeast Asian security and intelligence services in August, 2002. However, the Southeast Asian services failed to develop the contact or ground intelligence essential to detect and disrupt a terrorist attack."
Two Canadians, Mervin Popadynec, an oil industry engineer from Wynyrd, Sask., and Rick Gleason, a financial advisor from Vancouver, were vacationing on the Indonesian island paradise of Bali when Hambali's men struck on Oct. 12.
The bombers parked a minivan packed with explosives on the narrow street outside the Sari Club, a nightclub in the city of Kuta that was filled with Western tourists. Flames roared through the club and the building collapsed, killing almost 200.
Mr. Popadynec was killed instantly. Mr. Gleason died later from burns that scorched nearly half his body. A friend recalled him as an adventurous traveller and outdoorsman with a "refined sense of humour." But to the terrorists, they were no more than "White Meat."


And Canada objects to American INS screening of men born in Islamic countries if they also carry Canadian passports.


12:50 PM


Friday, January 17

IT STARTS AT BIRTH:

For all those raising boys, the problems start at birth. The National Post reports:

Women are more likely to experience complications during labour and delivery when they are giving birth to boys, Irish researchers have found.
A study of more than 8,000 births found baby boys required longer labours, more Caesarean sections and instrument deliveries, more blood sampling and more hormone stimulation to induce contractions.
The findings confirm what doctors have suspected for years, said Dr. Maeve Eogan, the lead researcher. "We often would humorously explain it to patients, if their labour was slightly complicated, with the adage, 'It must be a boy,' " said Dr. Eogan. "The reason we did this research was to see if there was any truth in that, or whether the male infants were being wrongly accused
."

Why the difficulty?

Boys have a larger head than girls and this may cause labour to be longer and more complicated, but there are likely to be other factors.
The baby boys were bigger, on average, than the baby girls in the study, but that did not fully explain the phenomenon, Dr. Eogan said. Boy babies were also more likely to suffer fetal distress, which is not affected by size.
"It must just be something specific to the male infants," Dr. Eogan said. "Perhaps they're less able to withstand stress, and labour, of course, is a stressful process for a fetus."


Males are bigger, stronger, and more fragile than females. It begins even before birth. More males than females are conceived, but so many males die before birth that the sex ratio at birth is nearly even.

It's a man's world?


4:40 AM


Thursday, January 16

SWAPPING YOUNG MOSLEMS FOR OLD EUROPEANS

The demographic decline of Europe has not gone unnoticed in the Islamic world,

In the Arab News, Amir Taheri proposes:

North Africa, which has the most beautiful beaches of the Mediterranean, could become a kind of Florida for the old-age pensioners of western and northern Europe. In exchange, millions of young people could move north from the south to provide the labor force needed to keep the modern European economies going. Turkey, for its part, could become an important reservoir of manpower, agricultural production and purchasing power for an expanded Europe.

Moslems are stung by the refusal of the European Union to admit Turkey.

France's former President Valery Giscard d'Estaing claims that Turkey's entry into the EU could mean "the end of Europe."
The reason?
Giscard answers with one word: Islam!
Germany's former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, despite the fact that his own son has married a Turkish Muslim lady, takes a similar position.
What Giscard and Kohl ignore is the fact that Islam already forms the second largest, and the fastest growing, religious community in the European Union. Giscard and Kohl are yesterday's men, with a vision oriented toward the past rather than the future.
What would happen if the entire European continent, including all those that have refused to join the EU, enter the club alongside with Turkey, Egypt and the four North African countries? This new and expanded version of the old Roman Empire will have a total population of around 800 million of which some 250 million would be Muslims.


Amir claims:

The Europeans, especially the French, pride themselves in having secular political systems. Thus there is no logic in treating the European Union as if it were an exclusively Christian club. It makes no sense for the European Union to court Georgia and Armenia as future members, simply because they are Christians, but slam the door in the face of Turkey and Morocco which are closer to Europe by geography and history.

Europeans can't survive as "former Christians" who refuse to reproduce themselves and who refuse to let in immigrants. Who will fight to defend the "faith of our fathers" when he no longer believes in that faith. In most of Europe Christianity, like children, is but a memory. The future belongs to Islam.


5:43 PM


FEMINIST FANTASIES:

Another weirdly fascinating article, Why Feminism is AWOL on Islam, eexamining the abuse of women in the Islamic world, and the response - of either silence or justification - of feminists in the West. Particularly astonishing is the reaction of "postcolonialist feminists":

To this end, the postcolonialist eagerly dips into the inkwell of gender feminism. She ties colonialist exploitation and domination to maleness; she might refer to Israel's "masculinist military culture"-Israel being white and Western-though she would never dream of pointing out the "masculinist military culture" of the jihadi.

And she expends a good deal of energy condemning Western men for wanting to improve the lives of Eastern women. At the turn of the twentieth century Lord Cromer, the British vice consul of Egypt and a pet target of postcolonial feminists, argued that the "degradation" of women under Islam had a harmful effect on society.

Rubbish, according to the postcolonialist feminist. His words are simply part of "the Western narrative of the quintessential otherness and inferiority of Islam," as Harvard professor Leila Ahmed puts it in Women and Gender in Islam. The same goes for American concern about Afghan women; it is merely a "device for ranking the Ľother' men as inferior or as Ľuncivilized,' " according to Nira Yuval-Davis, professor of gender and ethnic studies at the University of Greenwich, England. These are all examples of what renowned Columbia professor Gayatri Spivak called "white men saving brown women from brown men."


Some standard issue American feminists just hold to the old romantic dreams:

Gender feminism's tendency to reduce foreign affairs to a Lifetime Channel movie may make it seem too silly to bear mentioning, but its kitschy naiveté hasn't stopped it from being widespread among elites. You see it in widely read writers like Kingsolver, Maureen Dowd, and Alice Walker. It turns up in our most elite institutions.

Swanee Hunt, head of the Women in Public Policy Program at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government wrote, with Cristina Posa in Foreign Policy: "The key reason behind women's marginalization may be that everyone recognizes just how good women are at forging peace."

Even female elected officials are on board. "The women of all these countries should go on strike, they should all sit down and refuse to do anything until their men agree to talk peace," urged Ohio representative Marcy Kaptur to the Arab News last spring, echoing an idea that Aristophanes, a dead white male, proposed as a joke 2,400 years ago.

And President Clinton is an advocate of maternal thinking, too. "If we'd had women at Camp David," he said in July 2000, "we'd have an agreement."


It is a long article, well worth reading and keeping.


12:51 PM


ZEN WARRIORS:

A weirdly fascinating article from the January 11th New York Times, "Meditating on War and Guilt, Zen Says It's Sorry", reporting on the use of Zen by the Japanese military in the 30s and 40s. It is based on the book Zen at War by Brian Victoria, described as "a former Methodist missionary, who is a Zen priest and historian."

According to the article,

From its beginnings in Japan, Zen has been associated with the warrior culture established by the early shoguns. . . .

Traditionally, Zen stresses an inward search for understanding and mental discipline. But Mr. Victoria said that imperial military trainers developed the self-denying egolessness Zen prizes into "a form of fascist mind-control." He said Suzuki and others helped by "romanticizing" the tie between Zen and the warrior ethos of the samurai. Worse, he charges, they stressed a connection between Buddhist compassion and the acceptance of death in a way that justified collective martyrdom and killing one's enemies.

"In Islam, as in the holy wars of Christianity, there is a promise of eternal life," Mr. Victoria said in an interview. "In Zen, there was the promise that there was no difference between life and death, so you really haven't lost anything."


It also exposes the work of D. T. Suzuki,

who taught at Columbia University in the 1950's and remains the best-known Japanese advocate of Zen in the West. In 1938, however, Mr. Suzuki used his prestige as a scholar in Japan to assert that Zen's "ascetic tendency" teaches the Japanese soldier "that to go straight forward and crush the enemy is all that is necessary for him."

The rest of the article is interesting, not least for its description of how Zen groups are now apologizing for their past. It does help do in the romantic Western vision of eastern religions as sources of peace and brotherhood.

My thanks to Amy Wellborn's blogspot In Between Naps for the link.


11:34 AM


Wednesday, January 15

THE WICKED TIMES:

The editors of The New York Times are quite put out by President Bush's policies on abortion. His opposition to Roe v. Wade upsets them very much, as they make plain in an editorial in the January 12th issue titled "The War Against Women". Bush is waging war, mind you. He is out for blood. He must be stopped.

A big thrust of Mr. Bush's aggressive anti-choice crusade has been to undermine the legal foundation of the Roe decision by elevating the status of a fetus, or even a fertilized egg, to that of a person, with rights equal to, or perhaps even exceeding, those of the woman. This desire to recognize the personhood of zygotes is part of the rationale behind the Bush policy prohibiting federal financing for research on all new embryonic stem-cell lines, despite the hopes that this research could lead to breakthroughs in treatments for diseases like Parkinson's, cancer and diabetes.

How absurd, the reader is supposed to think, because the writers are so sure, to think that a fetus might be a person and have rights. It is not a person, it is . . . well, this is a matter the writers will avoid. Their readers are not supposed to think about things like that. They might get distracted, and fail to understand that a fetus her mother wants is a person and one her mother does not want is not a person. The writers quickly go on, piling on words like "aggressive" and "undermining," and denouncing Bush's "disdain for freedom of speech" and his "international war against women's right to control their bodies," and appealing to their readers' fears of dying of Parkinson's, cancer, and diabetes.

There follows much more of the same, including the claim, offered near the end, that

the Bush administration's war against women's rights is . . .a steady march into the past, to a time before Roe v. Wade, when abortion was illegal and pregnancy was more a matter of fate than choice.

"More fate than choice." Yes, that is how babies are formed. By fate. A fate as arbitrary and vindictive as the Greek gods. A woman is minding her own business, and suddenly she finds herself pregnant. With a zygote - a mere zygote! - who took up residence in her womb without her permission. Her life will be shattered, ruined, if she cannot expel the invader fate has sent her. We cannot force her to suffer from the whims of fate. She must have a choice. Bush must be stopped.

It is all so reasonable. It is all said so confidently and with such moral passion. It is offered in defense of women. It is said by the editors of The New York Times. It is said in the language of Hell.


8:01 PM


THE RIGHT IS WRONG:

According to the January 19th issue of Our Sunday Visitor (a conservative Catholic weekly), Wal-Mart pulled from its shelves a pregnant doll, Barbie's long-time friend Midge, though she is married and is even wearing a wedding ring. The doll's stomach is attached to the rest of her body with magnets and can be removed to reveal her unborn child.

The complaints that led Wal-Mart to pull the doll seemed to come, not from pro-choicers objecting to a doll that will teach little girls that unborn babies are human, but from the "Christian right." They were afraid, according to the OSV story, that the doll might promote teen pregnancy. This because the doll was sold separately from her husband.

I always react to media attacks on the "Christian right." These are average people, decent, hardworking, law-abiding, etc., who hold the views on most issues that most Americans held just a few decades ago. They may not hold them with all the sophistication one would wish, but on the other hand a lot of sophisticated people believe very foolish things. Sophisticated people believed in Joseph Stalin was making a better world, to take one notorious example.

But they have offended the Political Gods and the Media Angels by forgetting their place and by gaining political power, and doing with it things these Gods and their obliging Angels wish they wouldn't. For this - for playing by the rules of American politics and winning at it - they are treated as idiots.

But sometimes they really are ridiculous. This time, for example. Because the pregnant doll is alone in her box, as dolls are generally sold, teenage girls may say "yes" to their importunate boyfriends. This is not terribly bright. Do they think that a pregnant woman should not appear in public without her husband, lest some teenage girl think her unmarried and run to her boyfriend's house to say "Let's do it!"?

Having made this mistake, they are taking from Wal-Mart's shelves a doll that may have some small effect in keeping young women from aborting their children. The girl who has played with Midge and seen the unborn child day after day will have this image - the reality that the baby is really a baby - with her always. In playing with the doll, she will put herself in the mother's place, and feel something of the love and care for the baby the mother feels, and something of her pride in bearing a child.

Why would anyone want to take away from little girls such a toy? Isn't this the kid of doll we would ask the company to make? What is with these people?

I think the reason people on the "Christian right" do this kind of thing is that so many of them live in fear. They react to almost everything in "the world" as if it were a danger and a threat. They wear glasses the opposite of rose-colored. (Now that I think of it, a world colored rose would be sickening. It would be like living in a bottle of Peptobismal.)

They have trained themselves to find in almost everything a malign purpose and effect. Something Must Be Wrong. And thus, when we see a doll, refreshingly pregnant (how rarely does popular culture celebrate pregnancy) and refreshingly married (how rarely it celebrates marriage), they see an inducement to fornication. When we see a doll that may teach little girls the value of human life, they see a doll that will teach them that they need not wait for marriage.

I have felt this myself. One does feel, and quite reasonably, that there are threats on every side, and that genuine evil is waiting round some dark corner to hit you before you know it. You think of the power of visual images and the ubiquity of pornography, and how careless are so many parents - even orthodox Catholic parents - with their children's access to the internet and cable tv, and imagine your own child getting addicted. It is easy, and it is reasonable, to fear.

And I think a lot of pro-choicers feel it as well. Look at how they speak of unplanned pregnancy. (Leaving aside for the moment whether any pregnancy other than one resulting from rape can properly be called "unplanned," sex being a known cause of pregnancy.)

For them, for you to have a baby you did not intend to have is the end of your chances for the good life. The baby will be a burden who (not "that") will keep you from finishing high school, or going to college, or getting a good job, or rising the corporate ladder. Some of this is merely the language used in advertising, of course, but I think, from people I have known, that they really are afraid.

And afraid not so much of children but of losing control, of having to face troubles they did not expect, of never getting what they want, of having to live their lives serving others. Which means that they are afraid of life.

So the "Christian right" and the pro-abortion left live their lives in fear, and let their fears dictate their politics. But this is not a simple equivalence. I am not saying "A pox upon both their houses." We can distinguish the two.

The effect upon the first of living in fear is that they often make themselves look silly, and hurt their own cause. The effect upon the second of living in fear is that they often make themselves do evil, and encourage others to do evil as well. The first removes the baby from the shelves of Wal-Mart. The second removes the baby from the womb.

And yet we cannot let the "Christian right" off the hook. They know Him who said "Be not afraid." What a witness might they have to the pro-choicers were they less afraid?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
By the way, Barbie dolls are not allowed in our house. The top-heavy Barbie does not offer the image of femininity we want our girls absorbing. Fortunately, our only daughter of an age to whom Barbie might appeal, nine-year-old Hannah, dislikes the toys of the kind of little girl she disdainfully refers to as "girly girls." (Sometimes they make you proud.)


7:45 PM


Tuesday, January 14

DREHER ON EXECUTION:

I don't know how many of you need to be pointed to Rod Dreher's columns, but here is an interesting one from yesterday on why he agrees with Gov. Ryan of Illinois in commuting the death penalty. It is just as good as the one linked in the last blog.


1:02 PM


SEX IN MIDDLE AMERICA:

In his January 14th National Review Online" column, "Rampant Rabbit, Licking Lizard", our contributing editor Rod Dreher writes of the popularity of sex-toy parties among the women of small town middle class middle America.

As it turns out, this sort of thing is a pretty big deal nowadays. Home sex-toy parties - usually, but not always, all-woman affairs - are all the rage now among, well, normal people (as distinct from the sort of exotic species you move off to the Big City to meet). Clients and distributors say that these events take the shame out of purchasing "sex toys" (a telling euphemism, given that swinging has now been rechristened "play," to give it an air of childhood innocence). The idea is: Why should a woman have to slink around to a dirty bookstore to examine and purchase these things, when she can do so with friends, and in the comfort of someone's home?

Rod's analysis of the problem this ghastly practice symbolizes, which I won't give away (that's why we provide links), is very good. He is rather more surprised and disheartened than I am to find such things in the tiny town in Lousiana in which he grew up. Having grown up in a New England college town, I have never had the sentimental view of Middle America so popular among Christian conservatives. This may have been an example of New England snobbery, but it was also the result of a realistic view of human nature. Baking apple pies has no known effect upon the lusts of the flesh.

For more insight into the problem, see one libertarian reaction in one of Rod's postings in today's edition of National Review's blogsite The Corner. The writer calls himself "a conservative Republican of the libertarian variety," but one does wonder what he thinks the word "conservative" means. (Whatever it means, it shouldn't appear in the same phrase with "libertarian.") The level of the poor man's moral thinking, and therefore of his moral life, is rather sad:

For you and some others it seems ridiculous to want to have a threesome with two pretty girls when there are lovely mountains to climb. But to others it makes perfect sense to want to climb a mountain and have a threesome too. Some women want to play with Rambunctious Rabbit too, NOT because they feel life is empty and they need to try to fix their deteriorating love life. But simply because it probably feels very good. Nothing wrong with that.

The whole reaction is worth reading, as an example of a certain mind, unfortunately very common, that thinks it is promoting freedom when it is only promoting bestialism. (By which I mean the reduction of man to a beast.) His freedom is only a freedom for doing whatever one wants to do at the moment, it is not a freedom to become what man is meant to become.

He announces about halfway through his message to Rod that he and his girlfriend enjoy having sex with another woman, which explains his libertarianism. No one, he says, is hurt. The women who provide the third member are "professional, smart attractive women in Manhattan who are intent on having fun before their time is through on the earth or before they chose to 'settle down'." I don't know how one could ever show such a man that in their romps the three people are hurt badly, because they are enacting a choice to be less than they could be - to be closer to beagles than to angels.


12:08 PM


Monday, January 13

ISLAMIC P.R.:

In "Muslim Disinformation Campaign", published on Frontpage, Robert Spencer exposes the particular spin put on current affairs by the Council on American Islamic Relations (the oft-quoted CAIR), the International Institute of Islamic Thought, and similar Islamic p.r. agencies. Spencer is the author of the new book, Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World's Fastest Growing Faith (Encounter Books).

The International Institute of Islamic Thought recently sent out a flyer - also published in he says, I presume as an ad -

entitled "Q & A on Islam and Arab Americans." Virtually everything about this little flyer is misleading, starting with the title itself: although it purports to be about "Arab Americans," in fact it is solely about Islam. Several times the author of the flyer does what American Muslim groups in other contexts scold non-Muslims for doing: equating Muslims and Arabs. In one place it states that American Muslims come "from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds and national origins," yet in the very next column it poses the question, "What is an appropriate way to greet an Arab-American?," and explains in the answer that "some Muslims feel it is inappropriate for unrelated men and women to shake hands." While it acknowledges that "most Arab-Americans grew up in the USA and do not require special greetings," it makes no mention of the main reason why for most American Arabs, it's completely irrelevant what Muslims feel about shaking hands or anything else: the vast majority of Arab Americans are Christians.

Spencer goes on to analyze several of the flyer's most misleading statements, including its explanation of "jihad" and its claim that Islam is a religion of peace, condemns terrorism, and tolerates other religions. The facts, he points out, are more problematic.

I know relatively little about Islam, but I do know something about Westerners, including Western liberals, and as far as I can tell many of the "experts" journalists quote, and most of the journalists themselves, have simply adopted a hermeneutic by which any Muslim who supports the idea that Islam is peaceful, tolerant, etc., speaks for authentic Islam, and anyone who doesn't, doesn't. They either ignore the contradictory statements in the Koran or explain them away by comparing them with other statements more to their liking.

This isn't the most useful way of deciding what is authentic Islam and what is not, but at any rate, the question the West faces is not "What is authentic Islam?" but "What is politically normative Islam?" What an ideal Islam is like does not matter very much, even if it exists here and there (and whether it does is a serious question). What matters to the West - and to Christians and others in the Islamic ruled countries themselves - is what a great many who speak in Islam's name, and often hold positions of authority in Islamic societies, say and do. What matters is which set of statements in the Koran they believe central.

Looked at this way, the answer is not reassuring.


11:30 AM


MAINTAINING BLOG SILENCE:

To explain to our regular readers why we have been so quiet since last Wednesday: the editor and the senior editors were all away at the winter editorial meeting. This year our associate editor Robert P. George, professor at Princeton and author of several very good books like The Clash of Orthodoxies, joined us for part of the meeting. It was a helpful meeting whose fruits you will see in the magazine.


11:21 AM




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