Speaking Truth to Barbarians

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On March 11, the New York Times ran a remarkable profile of the courageous Syrian-American psychiatrist Dr. Wafa Sultan, who is telling it like it is:

Perhaps her most provocative words on Al Jazeera were those comparing how the Jews and Muslims have reacted to adversity. Speaking of the Holocaust, she said, "The Jews have come from the tragedy and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror; with their work, not with their crying and yelling."

She went on, "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."

She concluded, "Only the Muslims defend their beliefs by burning down churches, killing people and destroying embassies. This path will not yield any results. The Muslims must ask themselves what they can do for humankind, before they demand that humankind respect them."

Dr. Wafa told Al Jazeera,

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 a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality.

The Times reports that this video clip has been downloaded around 1 million times so far. I STRONGLY recommend watching the whole thing. It's inspiring.

Correction: Original post read that the clip had been downloaded a million times in Muslim countries. I misread the Times report. My apologies for the confusion. However, I still hope that that will happen.

NEXT: Deadly Drawings

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  1. 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 a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality.

    It sounds like Wafa is on ARI’s mailing list. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

  2. I’ve added her to my Dead Pool list. She’s a lock.

  3. Also, it should be mentioned that her point about Jewish reactions to the Holocaust is kind of silly. During the Holocaust there were indeed Jews who shot Germans, planted bombs, etc. (see, e.g., Warsaw Ghetto uprising). After the Holocaust, it was kind of a moot point — the Jews’ main persecutor, in the form of the Nazi party, had been destroyed, and there were so few Jews left in Europe that any sort of effort to carry out a terrorism campaign against anti-semites in general would have merely resulted in their final extermination.

  4. That doesn’t make it silly, SR. The Muslims aren’t facing anything like a holocaust, yet they’ve gone straight to murdering random strangers for being infidels/heretics/whatever.

  5. Is anyone keeping count about how many times the obvious needs to be pointed out before certain people get it? Or rather the question would be, just because this comes from a fellow muslim, does it mean that ‘those who will not see’ will somehow start seeing?

  6. Somehow I don’t think that saying “Be more like the Jews” is going to be received very well among her target audience.

  7. She’s bunk, if one expects her to be taken seriously, a good satire here of her and others by a born female Muslim who is actually lapsed and skeptical of religion.

    http://www.aqoul.com/archives/2006/03/how_to_be_a_mus.php

    And her comments were partly false, self-contradictory, and according to an Arab secular Christian commenter who saw the original, heavily edited. But conveniently timed and translated for her new book and speaker’s fees which do not appear to be aimed at the audience people think should hear it.

  8. That is one brave woman!

  9. Come to think of it, any appeal using rationality or empathy is not going to go over well with her target audience, because they don’t seem to possess those qualities.

  10. “The Jews have come from the tragedy and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror; with their work, not with their crying and yelling.”

    I guess she never heard of the Stern Gang, the Haganah, and the Irgun.

  11. mch: Thank you for the link. But I think that the Aqoul posting is largely just another knee-jerk denial that there may be any problems at all with Islamic culture. Whatever problems there are, it’s always somebody’s else’s fault. It certainly didn’t refute Dr. Sultan’s points.

  12. “The Times reports that this video clip has been downloaded in the Muslim countries around 1 million times so far.”

    BTW, Ron, the article actually just says the video has been downloaded over a million times, it doesn’t reference the geographic location of the downloaders as far as I can tell. (And I won’t even point out that the source of the “1 million” figure is MEMRI.)

  13. “I guess she never heard of the Stern Gang, the Haganah, and the Irgun.”

    Dude, Hershel Schwatrz used to beat me up in Junior High. I can’t frigging believe that she’s pulling this “Jews are peaceful” crap. Tell that to Hershel.

  14. SR: Thanks for the correction. I will make it in the text. It might have been wishful thinking on my part.

  15. Somehow I don’t think that saying “Be more like the Jews” is going to be received very well among her target audience.

    Excellent!

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

    I know some Southerners who’d take exception to that. I’ve often wondered whether there was any lesson for moderate/liberal Muslims to draw from the American civil rights revolution, especially the white Southerner’s handling of it. The parallels between the Islamofascists and the KKK always seemed striking to me, but I’ve never been able to think of any useful lessons to draw from that analogy.

  17. “The Jews have come from the tragedy and forced the world to respect them, with their knowledge, not with their terror; with their work, not with their crying and yelling.”

    huh? You could have fooled me. I thought that incessant whining over being oppressed by every culture on the planet since the beginning of time, was the cornerstone of Judaism. And they certainly don’t shy away from violence either.

  18. Somewhere there’s a muslim Jeanne Kirkpatrick calling this woman a Blame the Ummah First liberal.

  19. I know some Southerners who’d take exception to that.

    In the last 40 years?

  20. I thought that incessant whining over being oppressed by every culture on the planet since the beginning of time, was the cornerstone of Judaism.

    Damn Jews. Its not like they’ve been oppressed by every culture on the planet since the beginning of time, or anything.

  21. Can survivors of suicide bombings sue Hamas and other terror organizations for all their cash? Wasn’t that how the KKK was finally brought down?

    I understand that gwetting the money might be a problem, but if rich saudi’s think their donations might end up in the pockets of jewish victims perhaps they will give to a more peaceful charity?

  22. Pretty cool. I wish we could see the whole interview, but MEMRI seems to have the only clip. The host made a legitimate point that “clash of civilizations” is a term invented by Huntington, not Muslims, and it looked to me like Sultan didn’t know that. And who wouldn’t want to see more of a guy wearing a fez? I’d doubt the full clip would dispel the idea that Sultan got the better part of the argument as much as the edited clip makes it look like MEMRI cut it to make her look good. She was breathing fire no matter how you slice it. (She’s definitely not the first person I’d go to with my psychological problems, though.)

  23. As of 11:37 EST, the link to see the “whole thing” (which I wanted to view) results in loading a blank page located at this URL:

    http://switch3.castup.net/cunet/gm.asp?ai=214&ar=1050wmv&ak=null

  24. Well, this is just going to reinforce to them why women shouldn’t be allowed to talk.

    I get her overall concept, and of course there’s a lot of truth to it. Would file this under “generally agree, but with a great deal of reservations about how some points would be clarified.”

    The practical side of me says you should never argue by saying “not one ___ has ever done ___” because of course, no matter what it is, some ___ has of course done ____ at some point in time.

    So you leave yourself wide open to counterexamples. And once those start flooding in, the overall theme of the message gets watered down, and you get drowned out.

  25. Irshad Manji wrote a book saying much of the same things.

  26. DaveInBigD,

    I’m writing an article which compares the two.

  27. Hak-Out of curiousity, and article for what publication?

  28. Putting this (American, secular humanist, FEMALE) lady on Arab TV reminds me of having Schumer or Feinstein on Fox News. Lots of fire spit, but in one ear and out the other of the target audience I suspect. The fact that she may be making valid points probably was lost on the viewers once she admitted she was a “heretic”.

  29. Here’s a solution to the clash of civilizations, then, if you want to somehow continue this ridiculous analogy:

    Why don’t we create a state in the middle of Europe for all the Muslims to escape to and create a religious state following Muslim law. Then, support that state no matter what it does, and spend tons of money and blood making sure no other state ever so much as bats an eye at it. In fact, we can subsidize this state’s nuclear weapon program just to make sure it is safe.

    Yep. Just about as ridiculous as comparing the way Jews responded to the holocaust to the way the Muslims are responding to the West’s constant interference in their states. What Muslims have suffered under Western installed and supported dictatorships can’t compare to the holocaust, because there are just too many differences in the scenarios. Islam is in no danger of being eradicated like Judaism was, while the slightly over a decade of Nazi rule can’t compare to the century of Western meddling in the middle east, that is still going strong. It’s just a plain old stupid analogy, that makes no sense on any level, except in an effort to get headlines by being outrageous.

    The point is that it is wrong to kill innocent people to achieve your political ends, period. But we can’t say it that way, or the mask gets pulled off our WOI, WOT, WOD, and many other policies.

    No need to analogize to other situations – it’s really a pretty simple concept.

  30. Why don’t we create a state in the middle of Europe for all the Muslims to escape to and create a religious state following Muslim law. Then, support that state no matter what it does, and spend tons of money and blood making sure no other state ever so much as bats an eye at it. In fact, we can subsidize this state’s nuclear weapon program just to make sure it is safe.

    Where in France should we put it?

  31. I know “WOT” and “WOD”, but “WOI”???

  32. . . .the Muslims are responding to the West’s constant interference in their states . . .

    First, there are lots of states where lots of Muslims live where its hard to point to any Western interference.

    This sentence should probably read more like “some Muslims are responding to the West’s interference in some Middle Eastern states.” But that sort of takes the sting out of it, and raises the question of who is objecting, who is interfering, and why.

    Anyone care to claim that we shouldn’t be trying to prevent Iran and Syria from exporting terror to Iraq? How about preventing Iran from getting nuclear bombs? How excited is anyone about letting the House of Saud (bad) be replaced by AQ sympathizers (worse)?

    And what makes these states “the Muslims'” states? Sure, they have done a good job of running off the Christians and the Jews in recent years so that the people who live there all profess to be Muslims, but we don’t speak of any countries as “the Christians'” states, so why should we speak of any countries as “the Muslims'” states?

  33. support that state no matter what it does, and spend tons of money and blood making sure no other state ever so much as bats an eye at it.

    I would hardly call repeated invasions with the avowed purpose of exterminating the Jews “batting an eye” at Israel.

  34. “I would hardly call repeated invasions with the avowed purpose of exterminating the Jews “batting an eye” at Israel.”

    To quote a great American apologist:

    “In the last 40 years?”

    “Anyone care to claim that we shouldn’t be trying to prevent Iran and Syria from exporting terror to Iraq”

    Must be one of those Article 0 powers: “defend nations on the other side of the earth from their neighbors.” Hold on, let me get my pocket Constitution and look it up…

    “How about preventing Iran from getting nuclear bombs? ”

    Well, since we didn’t care about Israel, India, or Pakistan getting them, and since Iran disavows having the intent to get them, and since Iran is currently completely complying with the NPT (and we aren’t, because we’ve just agreed to supply fuel to a country that isn’t a signatory), I’d say it must be another one of those Article 0 powers that you liberals and neocons cite for your penumbras and emanations.

    “How excited is anyone about letting the House of Saud (bad) be replaced by AQ sympathizers (worse)?”

    You need to understand that we’ve propped the House of Saud up since FDR, at least. And then understand that the House has created Wahabiism as a way of diverting discontenting away from the House. So it’s not like AQ just happened to form there – it was the direct consequence.

    Meanwhile, we’re busy having fun with the mess the Brits created in Mesopotamia. So I guess you’re arguing that we’ve never interfered in Egyptian affairs, but I think you’d be surprised by what was done during the Cold War. However, I’ll stand by the point that the west has heavily meddled in the large majority of middle eastern states for a century at least.

  35. But I think that the Aqoul posting is largely just another knee-jerk denial that there may be any problems at all with Islamic culture

    Even apostates like me are more respectful towards Islam. It’s really quite annoying to watch self-proclaimed “reformers” parade around in the Western media as if they were actually relevant.

    Women like Irshad Manji and Wafa Sultan aren’t going to bring about meaningful reform in Islam by insulting it in the most blunt terms. Their approach will only succeed in putting average, reasonable Muslims (the equivalent of NASCAR dads and soccer moms) on the defensive. Muslims that would otherwise support meaningful reform will feel that they have to close ranks because their core beliefs are being threatened.

    There are many problems with the way Islam is being practiced today, but gross oversimplification and ignorance of regional variations (the Muslim experience in KSA vs. Morocco vs. France vs. US) will not result in viable solutions. Instead, these so-called reformers make xenophobic Westerners feel that their Islamophobia is justified (an attitude I’ve already observed in some of the above comments).

  36. There are factual inaccuracies in Dr. Sultan’s schpiel to be sure, and there were some minor tactical errors. But there are so few commentators capable (and willing) to defend Western values eloquently and criticise wayward Islamic ones in Arabic to an Arab speaking audience. For that reason alone, she deserves some semblance of praise.

  37. “What Muslims have suffered under Western installed and supported dictatorships”

    I guess it would be far better for them to suffer under dictatorships that they themselves install? Or that are not supported by the West?

  38. eerie: Christian reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin were noted for their politesse and their zeal to avoid giving offense to the then dominant Roman Catholic church. Reformers are, by definition, outsiders to the established order. Unless the established order is pressured and, yes, “insulted” why in the world would they have any reason to reform at all?

    quasibill: You overlook the fact that many political and religious leaders in the Muslim world are using “the Jews” as an excuse for their backward cultures and oppressive regimes. The same tactic was used by you-know-who in the 1930s and 1940s.

  39. Have to agree with eerie.

    As an example: if you were a, say, European, and wanted the US to change the policy on torture, who do you think would resonate with red state denizens, Markos Zuniga, or Stephen Bainbridge?

  40. First, the line about ‘Aqoul and knee-jerk denials of problems in the region is amusing. Shows the writer has poor reading comprehension skills and is unfamiliar with ‘Aqoul generally.

    But let’s move on, because I like Reason on a normal day.

    As the author at ‘Aqoul who started pimping the idea of my fellow authors (who are collectively Muslims, Muslim Apostates, Xians, Jews, and vaguely suspicious Rootless Cosmopolitans – all of MENA region experience) of focusing on what I named “the pious middle” – what our Ed. in Chief and Author eerie has called “Muslim equiv. of Nascar Dads and Soccer Moms – perhaps a word might help. Above all as I like Reason overall.

    First, I very much agree with eerie’s last line: “, these so-called reformers make xenophobic Westerners feel that their Islamophobia is justified (an attitude I’ve already observed in some of the above comments).

    Second, the problem I see with the Secular Liberal (the classic Liberal, all about free markets, etc) who stumbles into the MENA subject matter is that said Liberal usually begins with the assumption Liberalism simply hasn’t been in the Middle East.

    Sadly there is a history. Less of liberalism, more of secularism, that ain’t pleasant in the MENA region. Something around a century of secularism as failure. That failure is two sided. One side belongs in the region, and squarely with the locals (Arabs, Berbers, Kurds, etc). One side belongs with the West for financing secular failures and generally being incompetent in its mucking around. Where you place the balance, well in my opinion that depends on the particular country’s detials etc. Anyone blaming the situ all on the Arabs or all on the Nasty Imperialists is engaging in idiotic Agitprop.

    Being a classic liberal by convinction and personal bent (like most of our ‘Aqoul authors), I’d like to see more Liberalism in the region; indeed I think it is the cure for the ills of the region. And I have fairly deep roots, I didn’t stumble into this concern with 11 Sep.

    However, as a pragmatist, I also dislike magical thinking and prefer to start with real, pragmatic actions, words etc. that will actually advance the goal in question.

    The point of some of our recent pokes at the ‘Poster Boy’ / ‘Poster Girl’ “Muslim Reformers” has quite simply been that none of those “selected” by the Western media are in any way “Muslim Reformers.”

    They’re mostly panderers – of course Wafa would seem to be genuinely angry and the very picture of the hard-core Arab Secularist that ceased being relevant c. 1980 or so.

    The kind of discourse that Sultan uses (which was fun I must confess, although that MEMRI clip is quite chopped up – rather wish I had seen the original) is rather like taking a radical Lefty say from the Village c. 1950 and plopping them down in Kentucky to preach humanism, etc. etc. etc.

    Whether she is right or wrong (and certainly she seems blind to a number of inconvenient facts, but what the heck), she’s simply not a voice that is relevant. Ozzy and Harriet of Farmtown Middle America Kentucky were not going to listen to a East Village radical (let’s leave aside as good classic liberals the idiocy of E. Village radicalism) and be convinced they should “reform” their politics/religion or whatever.

    Just not going to happen.

    And it is is deceptive and delusional for Media to hold up Sultan or others as something other than the fringy please the Westerners who want to hear Fire&Brimstone against the Evils of Islam (and its radicals).

    Period.

    BTW, RC Dean, the MENA states have hardly been chasing out Xians, who largely are the economic elite in the Levant and Egypt. However Xians do get visas to go to the West faaaaaaaaar easier. Economic migration. I would too, frankly. Pain in the ass.

    Now, if Reason’s readers and authors want to indulge themselves in empty neo-Victorian cluck-clucking about the evil wogs and all that, feel free. Otherwise, I’d say one has to think about what practically brings home the bacon (to be ironic) of liberalised reason in region.

    We at ‘Aqoul have been trying to think that through. As well as mocking the empty neo-Victorian cluck-clucking about the frightful Wogs and the panderers to the same.

  41. The Lounsbury: Thanks for your post, but my reading comprehension is fine. In any case, you write:

    The kind of discourse that Sultan uses (which was fun I must confess, although that MEMRI clip is quite chopped up – rather wish I had seen the original) is rather like taking a radical Lefty say from the Village c. 1950 and plopping them down in Kentucky to preach humanism, etc. etc. etc.

    Of course that’s a pretty good description of what happened in the 1950s as Northern white civil rights workers came South to join hands with American blacks who were struggling for justice.

    I am curious–you say that you think that liberalism is THE cure of the ills of the region. Of course I agree. But just how will people in the region find out about liberalism without liberals preaching to them and upsetting them? Also who do you nominate as a “relevant” voice or a real reformer?

  42. The question posed to eerie, supra: “eerie: Christian reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin were noted for their politesse and their zeal to avoid giving offense to the then dominant Roman Catholic church. Reformers are, by definition, outsiders to the established order. Unless the established order is pressured and, yes, “insulted” why in the world would they have any reason to reform at all?

    First, analogies to Luther and Calvin are badly misplaced since it rather implies the issue in the Islamic world resembles that of Xiandom c. Luther & Calvin. The situ is vastly, vastly different; and the usage tends to self-deceive.

    That being said, Luther came from within a certain set of learning, a certain background. The Muslim equivalent would be a “faqih” – a “professor of theology / jurisprudence.”

    Having someone trained in Fiqh (theology/jurisprudence) getting up and saying harsh things to the Jihadist-Takfiri loons would be the equivalent of Luther.

    Wafa Sultan is the equivalent of a simple Burgher getting up and yelling at the learned Clerics, etc. before an audience that is pre-disposed to be sympathetic not to the ranting of a Burgher bur the pronunciations of the Cleric. (The analogy is bad, but gets to the point)

    Wafa Sultan is an angry secularist. That’s okay. But angry secularists who brush off the bloody-handed history (as eerie alluded to) of the secular governments and use unpopular groups as their main examples for changing behaviour are very simply going to be dismissed unheard.

    Rather like my example of dropping a East Village radical trotskyte out in the midst of America in the 1950s.

    Applaud her if you will but I don’t see her as doing anything to advance liberalism. Rather her sort of pandering only reinforces the extremists who see it as, and pimp the idea that liberal values (economic to social) are being used by a Xian West to weaken the Arabo-Islamic community.

    She’s, in the end, a meaningless ranter.

  43. Everyone bends their religion to suit their own desires, so we may refrain from blaming the religion per se. In any case, “Arabist” culture appears to be entrenched in a barbaric sensibility. Islam is just their excuse for being there.

  44. The Lounsbury: Thanks for your post, but my reading comprehension is fine.

    The objective evidence suggests otherwise.

    In any case, you write:

    The kind of discourse that Sultan uses (which was fun I must confess, although that MEMRI clip is quite chopped up – rather wish I had seen the original) is rather like taking a radical Lefty say from the Village c. 1950 and plopping them down in Kentucky to preach humanism, etc. etc. etc.

    Of course that’s a pretty good description of what happened in the 1950s as Northern white civil rights workers came South to join hands with American blacks who were struggling for justice.

    Well, leaving aside the fine mythology that I understand surrounds Northern white civil rights workers, versus local blacks, ex-the TV coverage, I would say it is a piss-poor description.

    My understanding of the American NE white civil rights workers impact was in drawing national American coverage to the violence being used to suppress black demonstrators; the level of violence demonstrated proving shocking and thus motivating

    I do not recall ever reading anything suggesting that the “outside agitators’ (as I believe the term went) had the least success in swinging any bloc of southern American white opinion behind liberal values (either economic or social, ironically).

    Rather they proved to be telegenic in getting bloodied and in motivating a US Federal governmental response to suppress the tyranny of the majority in the Southern states.

    So, let’s count that, for purely historical accuracy reasons, as irrelevant. Now, this might have some relevance if there were cases of large blocks of any given MENA population being denied its civil rights (versus a majority or minority). I suppose one could argue something in this manner in Sudan, but it’s hard to do so in the context of what are really tribal conflicts and pre-modern identity.

    I am curious–you say that you think that liberalism is THE cure of the ills of the region. Of course I agree. But just how will people in the region find out about liberalism without liberals preaching to them and upsetting them?

    Preaching nothing the bloody hell do with it, really. Spreading of liberalism, in the classic sense, has to come from within, and is going to come out of self-confidence, not outsiders berating locals.

    Economic reform, expanding an independent (from the government, as opposed to the government dependent ‘middle classes’ so often dominent now) middle class that will naturally have a penchant for protecting property rights, as well as for avoiding conflict that upsets the basis of their prosperity.

    Contra your evident stereotype, the region has not been in a hermetically sealed box the past 50 years. AMong the problems at present, among the reasons the Islamic parties are so strong is the explicetly Western modelled secular parties – the kinds of parties Wafa Sultan and family backed and belonged to – have failed miserably, drowning in corruption, and venal rent-seeking.

    The Western Import Solutions have gotten a black eye. Much of the population is turning, naturally, to “something else.”

    Pretending the Secular Phase did not happen doesn’t solve anything.

    Also who do you nominate as a “relevant” voice or a real reformer?

    In what sense? In which country?

    Abstractly One can see a sort of Middle Class, let’s not break things reasonableness in the Egyptian Amr Khaled, and even Qardaouie, despite his salafisme, provides an interesting set of commentary that certainly is better than the takfiri.

  45. Always glad to see ugly ethnic stereotyping: In any case, “Arabist” culture appears to be entrenched in a barbaric sensibility.

    Indeed. One should characterise “Arabs” everywhere as Barbarians.

  46. Lounsbury is right about one thing – Wafa Sultan probably isn’t an inspiration for the majority of Muslims.

    The mythical “moderate Muslim” who will magically reform the Muslim culture in the exact form that we desire does not and will never exist. The moderate liberals who DO exist will probably be as effective in “reforming” the Middle East as moderate, liberal Germans were at fighting totalitarianism during the 1930’s.

    This ‘strategy’ of depending on a mythical being to defend us is whifty and unworkable. We’re depending on the kindness of unicorns. The longer we practice this appeasement/waiting strategy, the more powerful the fascist/Wahhabist forces in the Middle East become.

    By declaring herself a ‘secular’ human being, Sultan immediately alienated herself from the Muslim world. It was the equivalent of a moderate German declaring that they had converted to Judaism in 1936. She might appeal to liberal muslims who strongly reject Islamist values, but there are very few of them. Her message won’t convince the fairly large majority of apathetic potential Muslim brotherhood/Sharia supporters to rise up against their fascist leaders.

    But she can inspire us to value and defend our own rights and our own culture, something we have consistently been neglecting to do. She is very much in favor of enlightenment values and human rights. Her defense of Western/Jewish culture and accomplishment is more inspiring than anything we’ve managed to say so far. How many Western media pundits or politicians confront Islamist fascism with her skill? How many Western pundits or politicians directly confront it at all? I’d guess the number is zero.

    We can’t expect Ms. Sultan to fight for us, but we can watch her and learn how it’s done. Then, we go out and defend our own culture, and confront these Islamists ourselves. Maybe, after many years, we may be able to convince our politicians to do the same. Giving Ms. Sultan some political power would certainly help that process.

  47. quasibill for president!

    Must be one of those Article 0 powers: “defend nations on the other side of the earth from their neighbors.” Hold on, let me get my pocket Constitution and look it up…

  48. Ah, it’s great to see people blithering on without the slightest clue at all. Like Maryatexitzero.

    Mary, based of course on her profound knowledge of the region, opines:
    The mythical “moderate Muslim” who will magically reform the Muslim culture in the exact form that we desire does not and will never exist. The moderate liberals who DO exist will probably be as effective in “reforming” the Middle East as moderate, liberal Germans were at fighting totalitarianism during the 1930’s.

    Nice, pulling out the well-worn Nazi analogy. After all, any problem facing the West just have an analogy to the Nazis.

    Regardless of the underlying facticity and reality.

    This ‘strategy’ of depending on a mythical being to defend us is whifty and unworkable. We’re depending on the kindness of unicorns. The longer we practice this appeasement/waiting strategy, the more powerful the fascist/Wahhabist forces in the Middle East become.

    Now we roll out the equally stock “appeasement” rhetoric – as well as the stock “fascist” rhetoric – never mind its fact free content.

    Of course the paragraph is pretty empty of any real content when it comes right down to it – there is the vague faux analogy to 1930s Europe, but it’s merely a Potemkin analogy, imagery thrown up without any content.

    By declaring herself a ‘secular’ human being, Sultan immediately alienated herself from the Muslim world. It was the equivalent of a moderate German declaring that they had converted to Judaism in 1936.

    Not really.

    Of course to the reader who knows nothing about the region, it pushes the right buttons, but it doesn’t have the slightest content.

    The reality of the region is (i) merely declaring herself secular she puts herself in the same category as most 60s era intellectuals, the secular regime of Syria, and plenty of secular public commentators; (ii) She certainly did, in her overall commentary, alienate most viewers. Not so much by her ‘secular human’ response (although the phrasing at that point in response to the question was weak – but then again the MEMRI clip is cut all to hell so it’s hard to judge the real flow) as her overall rhetorical style that really came off as “asshole.”

    Bad start. Certainly if she wanted to make her case well to the Arabic speaking audience, she could have emphasised her secularity (no, it ain’t shocking kiddies, contra the fantasy being pimped by Mary) in a more rhetorically winning way.

    But whatever, your concern is about the little mythology you have in your head at present, not the real region.

    She might appeal to liberal muslims who strongly reject Islamist values, but there are very few of them.

    Are there fairly few?

    What are “Islamist” values?

    Why do I think you merely “know” the above via osmosis and not any real knowledge.

    Her message won’t convince the fairly large majority of apathetic potential Muslim brotherhood/Sharia supporters to rise up against their fascist leaders.

    Well, supporters of the Ikhouane and Sharia are hardly ipso-facto supporters of “fascism” – although it’s semi-literate understanding of MENA politics and society that tend to box in Westerners into a little tiny cubicle.

    But again based on the MEMRI agitprop cut of her appearance on al-Jazeerah, she certainly didn’t come off as convincing or someone who got the hook on the other side. Pity as she speaks really excellent Formal Arabic and clearly has an excellent command of Arabic rhetoric. She’s angry – and I understand that – but a different approach would have been more productive.

    On the other hand it was probably fun to bang on.

    But she can inspire us to value and defend our own rights and our own culture, something we have consistently been neglecting to do.

    Ah, yes, against the WOGS, the yellow hordes and others diluting “our values.”

    Blah blah.

  49. “She’s, in the end, a meaningless ranter.”

    I’m not sure. She was probably heard by an awful lot of ordinary ME people. For a lot of them, this might be the first time they’ve heard someone say these types of things in Arabic. Some of them might hear echoes of things they’ve thought before but never dared say in public.

  50. Really, my major point was that quasibill’s whole rant seems to pivot on the notion of “Muslim” nations being “interfered with” by “the West.”

    First, and no one seems to have picked up on this, the notion of “Muslim” nations strikes me as highly suspect. Glad to see the thread has fallen into the much more accurate terminology I suggested – Middle Eastern nations.

    Second, it is not at all clear what counts as “interference.” To our most vocal Islamist opponents, let’s not forget, publishing cartoons apparently counts as interference. Certainly many attempts at modernization and peaceful export of our commercial and political culture are seen as “interference” in the traditional Muslim culture of these MENA. Are you complaining about that, quasibill? What about non-violent diplomatic-type “engagement”, such as the pressure currently being put on Iran? “Interference” as well?

    Finally, it is assumed but definitely not shown that our interference (however defined) has made these people worse off. Lets keep in mind that when the US stopped interfering in Iran, the Iranians got the current mullahcracy. Does anyone seriously think that whatever would replace the house of Saud if it were removed from the scene would be an improvement, human-rights-and-liberty-wise?

    But really, anyone who has no problem whatsoever with the Iranian mullahs developing nuclear bombs, and think we should do nothng at all to prevent this from happening, well, I just can’t take them seriously.

  51. {But she can inspire us to value and defend our own rights and our own culture, something we have consistently been neglecting to do.

    Ah, yes, against the WOGS, the yellow hordes and others diluting “our values.”

    Blah blah.

    Comment by: The Lounsbury at March 14, 2006 03:49 PM }

    (sigh) Look, Looneyberry, or whatever you call yourself,…if you must insist on accusing people of bigotry, at least have the decency to credit them with having their own slurs. Wogs?!! That sounds like the language of some lefty-swishy Brit. On this side of the Atlantic we use terms like ragheads, camel-jockeys, and sand niggers. Or sometimes, just the ol’ wellworn Mud People. Wogs indeed!

  52. Re I’m not sure. She was probably heard by an awful lot of ordinary ME people. For a lot of them, this might be the first time they’ve heard someone say these types of things in Arabic. Some of them might hear echoes of things they’ve thought before but never dared say in public.

    Contra your supposition, it is not that unusual to have people like Sultan on al-Jazeerah; one of the amusing things about this Wafa mania is the supposition her appearance is all that unusual – not ordinary to be sure but not unusual and certainly not the first time viewers of al-Jazeerah have had the occasion to hear “these types of things.”

    The Arab world is not, I repeat, not best understood through the stereotypes of the old Cold War.

    As for Wogs, it has amusement value.

  53. You know, actually, in reflecting, this is really the key failing of most post 11 Sep new to MENA commentators. You bloody well think that this is Iron Curtain II, and if one just sets up al-Hurrah and expose “for the first time” the Arabs to (whatever the menu of solutions of the commentator) that this will be the start.

    Afraid the dynamics are utterly different, and the problem lies in the realm of MENA already having had a bad spot with first quasi-secular Colonial Rule, and then quasi-secular post Colonial rule. At no point are most of the populations cut off in a manner resembling the Soviet system. Some exceptions to be sure, but it simply is not that history.

  54. ISLAM IS THE FRUIT OF SATAN’S ASSHOLE>

  55. The Lounsbury

    Dude, (Ameriglish for ?Mate?), clearly we?re all ignorant, bigoted, misinformed. Let?s just start there.

    Given your overwhelming brilliance, I probably shouldn?t have to point out to you being a condescending twat isn?t exactly the best way to bring us to the light of your wisdom and insight.

    I also read all the posts on your blog. You seem to spend a lot of time pissing and moaning about the average American?s ?anti-MENA? instinct. We are provincial, yes. Surprise. We would be happy to have continued ignoring their existance but for some assholes with a grudge. Pity we paint the whole region over a few bad apples, but what exactly would you expect?

    You don?t do very much to actually provide any reasonable counterexamples, FWIW, however, or go to any effort to remind anyone about the great moderate intellectual cosmopolitan tradition in the middle east.

    Is that just because the wise and tolerant voices of the middle east are just as scared of the screaming psychotic jihadist towelheads as much as the average US-moe is? probably. So how are americans any different?

    Plus, if you intend to speak to a US audience, a little sensitivity to usage and terminology can?t hurt. e.g. Wogs = raghead, camel jocky, over here. Don?t be snippy ? I work for brits and have to do the same in reverse. colour, whilst, etc.

    Hope your cancer improves.

    JG

  56. Dude, (Ameriglish for ?Mate?), clearly we?re all ignorant, bigoted, misinformed. Let?s just start there.

    If you wish.

    Given your overwhelming brilliance, I probably shouldn?t have to point out to you being a condescending twat isn?t exactly the best way to bring us to the light of your wisdom and insight.

    I consider just compensation, actually, for correcting the hand-waving chicken little shrieking that a handful of commentators were putting out.

    Handful.

    I also read all the posts on your blog. You seem to spend a lot of time pissing and moaning about the average American?s ?anti-MENA? instinct.

    That would be the posts about DPW and the idiotic blundering xenophobic nativism that was the majority response to DPW taking over some management leases on some cranes, right?

    We are provincial, yes.

    Well.

    I do not how amusing it is that my moderately impolite interventions, perceived as foreign and looking ‘down’ on ‘you’, raise the hackles of Americans. A bit of reflecting on the whole discourse about Barbarian muslims and the like might be productive, even enlightening. One might even extract a lesson about how best, for one’s own interests, to promote such views, besides nose in the air superiority and condescending superiority of civilisation, eh?

    Probably not.

    Surprise. We would be happy to have continued ignoring their existance but for some assholes with a grudge.

    Well, as it happens the US Gov has been blundering about with well-honed incompetence. As such, ‘you’ were not in fact ignoring their existence.

    Pity we paint the whole region over a few bad apples, but what exactly would you expect?

    About as much as I see. However, upon occasion the desire to correct and/or mock the same overcomes me.

    You don?t do very much to actually provide any reasonable counterexamples,

    Counter examples to what? Wafa Sultan?

    Amr Khaled I suppose would be one. Other names would simply be names to you.

    FWIW, however, or go to any effort to remind anyone about the great moderate intellectual cosmopolitan tradition in the middle east.

    Eh?

    Is that just because the wise and tolerant voices of the middle east are just as scared of the screaming psychotic jihadist towelheads as much as the average US-moe is? probably. So how are americans any different?

    Well, no. Actually depending on where one is, one gets different views. Leb Land, Morocco, Tunisia, there usual party line is all about tolerance between communities (and the jerky Imperialists are bossing us around). Egypt is a cess pit. UAE is Happy Happy Development of Happy Happy Islands….

    The issue is not whomever being “scared” to speak out generally against Islamism. That’s pretty bloody ordinary.

    The issue is credible speakers addressing the pious middle who are attracted to the Islamists politically because they represent about the only real political alternative to the corrupt secular parties.

    The issue is that 90 percent of the commentary here is not even on the right page as to where the challenge of public discourse or diplomacy really lies – but prefers its own Don Quixote mythologies to attack.

    If one wants address the issues, one has to get down to the basics – not honk one’s horns over Wafa Sultan (who I have nothing against personally, it’s the absurdly ill-informed USA reaction that is irritating).

    Plus, if you intend to speak to a US audience, a little sensitivity to usage and terminology can?t hurt. e.g. Wogs = raghead, camel jocky, over here. Don?t be snippy ? I work for brits and have to do the same in reverse. colour, whilst, etc.

    The Wogs references have been for amusement, if one gets the joke then its funny, otherwise you at least figure out the meaning.

    Hope your cancer improves.

    Not dead yet.

  57. Actually, the Arabs of the Maghreb do seem somewhat Barbarian to me.

  58. Ah, the Pun-dits among us.

  59. “First, and no one seems to have picked up on this, the notion of “Muslim” nations strikes me as highly suspect. Glad to see the thread has fallen into the much more accurate terminology I suggested – Middle Eastern nations”

    Well, I used both in my first post, so don’t feel too giddy that you can’t read properly. And I used them both because they do have specific meanings, and the two categories do overlap to a significant extent. And much as you or I might dislike it, we are a Christian nation, as the vast majority of our nation is christian, and we have holidays and other claptrap in our government which is directly traceable to Christian theology. And you can see how a vocal minority is raising hell whenever any of this clap trap is so much as questioned. So referring to a Muslim nation is simply referring to a nation that is predominantly muslim in it’s population. And to expect that these countries with large muslim populations might somehow reflect muslim theology seems pretty logical to me. I guess that’s a stretch for your brain, but it’s really not a difficult concept either.

    “Second, it is not at all clear what counts as “interference.””

    Well, to keep it even more simple for you, RC, as I know you have problems accepting the fact that the US is anything but Christ-like in its foreign policy, I’ll leave it at deposing rulers, installing rulers, and providing military and monetary support to dictators. Again, not difficult concepts, that most sane people can agree constitute interference. All your other blather about cartoons represents nothing more than the same fringe we have here that bitches and moans every time the Catholic Church is painted in a poor light. Not a large percentage of people, but the most noticeable.

    I’m talking about the large portion of the population that knows more of middle east history than you do, RC, and they resent the things we’ve done, but aren’t so radicalized (yet) that they’re going to anything active about it. Now, not cooperating when we come knocking and looking for terrorists (who they don’t necessarily like either)? You bet. And the more we bomb and kill, the more likely this large silent pool becomes more active.

    “Finally, it is assumed but definitely not shown that our interference (however defined) has made these people worse off. Lets keep in mind that when the US stopped interfering in Iran, the Iranians got the current mullahcracy.”

    Yeah, but is that because the mullahs were the ones that spoke the loudest against what many people saw was the injustice perpetrated by the U.S.? Do you just wash your hands of the effects of your initial intervention and say “well, nothing bad happened because we did bad things – bad things would have happened no matter what?” You see, when you install a dictator, radicals are the first ones to lead the revolt. So it shouldn’t surprise any thinking person that the end result is a radicalized movement succeeding your reactionary dictator. Radicalized Islam didn’t arise in a vacuum. It is very much a product of the environment. So it’s kind of ridiculous to cry “but we mean well!” as you do all kinds of evil things.

    Oh that’s right, I forgot I was talking to a manifest destiny believer. I’m sorry. I sometimes forget that neo-cons are nothing more than liberals who worry more about foreign policy than domestic policy.

  60. Where’s Hak when you need him for a “know-it-all” smack-down style battle.

    In this corner, the challenger, the Brit with Wit. The Looooounsburrrrry!!!!!!

    And in this corner…..HAAAAAKKKKKKLUUUUUYT!

  61. Always glad to see ugly ethnic stereotyping: In any case, “Arabist” culture appears to be entrenched in a barbaric sensibility.

    Indeed. One should characterise “Arabs” everywhere as Barbarians.

    I don’t know about “Arabs” everywhere, mostly the ones that make so much news beheading captive journalists and slaughtering other Arab families for being of a different sect. By barbarism, I mean prone to resorting to violence against others who offer no threat.

    I have a few very long time friends and one is an Arab of Palestinian descent as well as Muslim who I respect as highly as anyone on my list of dear friends. He is certainly not barbaric.
    SO,
    from personal knowledge informed by experience, I would never claim that “Arabs” are barbaric, as I do not think barbaraism is a genetic characteristic (except to the extent that all humans have a primal capacity for barbarism), but is rather a cultural manifestation. If I thought that “Arabs” where barbaric, then that is what I would have said.

    Why you would insist that I mean something other than what I said I don’t know, but it is a classic straw man.

  62. I will also add that I consider the U.S. government barbaric (becasue it is a government) and the intended purpose of the U.S Constitution was to constrain the barbaric expressions that cultures often manifest through their governments.

  63. and further, that western colonialism is, at least in part, at cause for the mess in the middle east (and elsewhere).

    If it were my decision, I would say: leave them alone. Defend against attack, but leave them alone.

  64. Lounie:

    Despite your word salad method of discourse and “analysis,” it turns out that the reason you didn’t name “relevant liberals” in MENA when challenged to do so is because you think that there aren’t [m]any. I am truly very sorry to hear it.

  65. Well, I am not playing a “name relevant liberals” game my dear since I regard it as irrelevant (although charming confusion of secular, capitalist and liberal).

    But sorry does not really matter, now does it?

    The reality is what it is. As a pragmatist I suggest you live with reality, which is simply put not very liberal. (Although again, neither is continental Europe, so that is hardly enough to hang the region on) The odd little marginal whanker leading the odd little marginal Western style secular liberal oriented party that gets 20 odd votes really does not get one anywhere. Nor does a Wafa Sultan scolding some Sheikh with the same language her parent’s hyper-secular generation used (although she does use it brilliantly).

    Mind you, I am actually rather optimistic at the medium term chances of a native liberalism coming to fruition, primarily from economic development and liberalisation in region. That’s what I am interested in, and if one wants to see change in the region, one looks there. Not to the deceptively familiar mirages of the imported secularism and mirage of Wafa Sultans. I would point you to arties like this: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/4788712.stm

    I would suggest rather than being pointlessly angry at me for having pushed your buttons, you rather ponder how one can actually, genuinely build some semblance of support for classic liberalism in the MENA region. It isn’t going to be by “lecturing” anyone, nor by pulling out the hoary old relics of 50-70s era secularism (with its tinge of social liberalism).

    It will be by building up independent entreprenurial middle classes that initially will be more of an Islamist bent politically, but with exposure to liberal ideas and a natural buy in to commerce and industry – not bombs. Very much the kind of path one is seeing in Turkey, and which one can see potentially emerging in places like Tunisia and Morocco (one might say Dubai, but the entrepreneurs are displaced Levantines and to really see them put down roots, Syria has to stop being a stunningly incompetent fun-house-mirror attempt at Stalinism.).

    There you have it. Whack away at Lounsbury if you want, I am as amused as you at your turns at it, but I’d prefer you take a long thought about what really supporting classic liberalism in the region entails.

  66. First, I’d like to see more real support for classic liberalism in the U.S.
    But as we have seen, the political process is antangonistic toward it.

  67. I would just like to point out that I have pretty much scrolled past all of Lounsbury’s posts because, quite frankly, he has no respect for the fact that my time is important.

    Boil it down to a couple of paragraphs, maybe a bulleted list, and I’ll consider eyeballing your shtick.

  68. mediageek echoes my thoughts very well.

    Lounsbury, take a step back and look at the context of your posts. Two important points:

    1) This is the Reason community blog. Most people here believe in a set of values that leads us to be unimpressed by…well, anything that isn’t liberal, capitalist, and tolerant.

    2) You write a LOT of words. There’s a LOT of it to wade through. And mostly, it’s not that enlightening, and you surely know that.

    Here are the interesting paragraphs you’ve written today. I encourage you to follow up in a similar vein. Keep up your signal-to-noise ratio:

    Well, no. Actually depending on where one is, one gets different views. Leb Land, Morocco, Tunisia, there usual party line is all about tolerance between communities (and the jerky Imperialists are bossing us around). Egypt is a cess pit. UAE is Happy Happy Development of Happy Happy Islands….

    Now, if you want to talk moderates, well, we’re in a different world. I am for more interested in the pious middle Depends on where we’re at of course. I already named our silly Egyptian pop Preacher. I would name the head of the Maghrebine PJD as an apparent moderate with an independent political base and the potential to evolve into a kind of Erdogan like figure for the Islamist parties.

    [para 4, 5, and 6 of your last post, from “Mind you” to “Stalinism).”]

    I really doubt that anyone here has any important delusions as to Wafa Sultan’s meaning, or might find any significant enlightenment in the rest of your contributions today. Mostly you are writing to gratify yourself (er, unlike me, of course!), and to develop your writing voice. And those are good reasons to write, but don’t guarantee good Reason writing. You are acting very much like a college freshman.

  69. Larry, I disagree. I’ve found Mr. Lounsbury’s posts rather informative. I’ve been meaning to thank him all day, but I’m a lazy and ungrateful bastard…

    Anyway, I don’t mind the long posts (but then, it’s Spring Break, so I’m really bored). I don’t have enough area knowledge to know if what he’s saying is at all accurate, but then, the fact that I don’t have that knowledge and he does is the reason I enjoyed his posts so much.

  70. FTA: “We have not seen a single Jew blow himself up in a German restaurant.”

    SR: After the Holocaust, it was kind of a moot point — the Jews’ main persecutor, in the form of the Nazi party, had been destroyed, and there were so few Jews left in Europe that any sort of effort to carry out a terrorism campaign against anti-semites in general would have merely resulted in their final extermination.

    Although it didn’t include blowing themselves up in restaurants, there was a post-war Jewish terror campaign against Germans, including civilians. They successfully managed to infiltrate the prisoner of war camps where many senior Nazis were being held and poisoned the food. Other than showing no respect for the rule of law that the British and Americans were trying to impliment it’s hard to feel much antipathy towards them for that.

    However, a group working out of Palestine (as it still was at that time) attempted mass murder of thousands of German civilians by poisoning the water supply, they were only stopped because the British discovered the plot and intercepted the terrorists on route.

    Zionists wrote the book on modern terrorism. They don’t blow themselves up in cafes because they have a well armed state and can achive the same ends with 1000lb bombs dropped from altitude. If the Palestinians had Apache helicopters, they wouldn’t be blowing themselves up in cafes either.

    And don’t be so hard on southerners, they weren’t murdering racial minorities, they were preserving the demographics.

  71. Also let’s not forget the Irgun, Lehi, etc. and their little games versus the Arabs during the British Mandate years, which included several market and bus bombings remarkably similar to what we’ve seen lately in Baghdad and Tel Aviv.

  72. Well:

    …. quite frankly, he has no respect for the fact that my time is important.

    Quite true. I couldn’t care less.

    Boil it down to a couple of paragraphs, maybe a bulleted list, and I’ll consider eyeballing your shtick.

    Nah. That implies my time is not important.

    Served the purpose at the time.

    Lounsbury, take a step back and look at the context of your posts. Two important points:

    1) This is the Reason community blog. Most people here believe in a set of values that leads us to be unimpressed by…well, anything that isn’t liberal, capitalist, and tolerant.

    Yes, indeed. I like Reason, only Reason I bothered bickering with the OP. AS to being unimpressed by anything that isn’t liberal, capitalist and tolerant, pity you have such a narrow range.

    2) You write a LOT of words. There’s a LOT of it to wade through. And mostly, it’s not that enlightening, and you surely know that.

    I amused myself. Besides, evening narcotics.

    Here are the interesting paragraphs you’ve written today. I encourage you to follow up in a similar vein. Keep up your signal-to-noise ratio:

    Well, no. Actually depending on where one is, one gets different views. Leb Land, Morocco, Tunisia, there usual party line is all about tolerance between communities (and the jerky Imperialists are bossing us around). Egypt is a cess pit. UAE is Happy Happy Development of Happy Happy Islands….

    Now, if you want to talk moderates, well, we’re in a different world. I am for more interested in the pious middle Depends on where we’re at of course. I already named our silly Egyptian pop Preacher. I would name the head of the Maghrebine PJD as an apparent moderate with an independent political base and the potential to evolve into a kind of Erdogan like figure for the Islamist parties.

    [para 4, 5, and 6 of your last post, from “Mind you” to “Stalinism).”]

    More coherency than I usually expect post hydromorphone, but I enjoyed it.

    I really doubt that anyone here has any important delusions as to Wafa Sultan’s meaning,

    I’d say your doubts are probably misplaced, reading the OP, subsequent commentary (ex-me) and the like. Esp. the challenge re imp. MENA liberals.

    or might find any significant enlightenment in the rest of your contributions today.

    Quite true.

    Mostly you are writing to gratify yourself (er, unlike me, of course!),

    Entertain myself.

    and to develop your writing voice.

    No not really, that’s pretty much set at my age.

    And those are good reasons to write, but don’t guarantee good Reason writing. You are acting very much like a college freshman.

    Mostly I was writing as part of a fun little game between myself and the OP wherein he came up with new silly statements, and I used an overly large swatter to go after them. And digress.

    Of course none of it good Reason writing per se, but these are blog comments, so some liberty of form implied…. Nice turn with the college freshman though, got my attention. Charming phrase.

    In any case, rather a lot over a heavily over-edited MEMRI hack-up of the al-Jazeerah tape. I really wish an un-MEMRI-ed version were out there.

  73. We like to think we are less barbaric because we eschew interpersonal violence, leaving our barbaristic expressions to the formalized collective institution of political government.
    So when the tanks rolled over Tiannamen (sp?) we don’t blame the soldiers driving the tanks, but when we see images of Arabs committing violence against others, we perceive no centralized formal authority to blame it on.

  74. I believe you’re saying apparent mob violence is somehow more disturbing that what appears to be well-disciplined violence by the ‘forces of order.’

    Interesting.

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