" /> I write: August 2006
Curmudgeonalia
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August 26, 2006

The Caged Virgin

(An Emancipation Proclamation for the Women and Islam)
Ayaan Hirsi Ali – ISBN13 – 9780743288330

For those unaware, Ali is the Somali woman who wrote the script which Theo Van Gogh produced, and resulted in his assassination by a Muslim in Holland. She is a brilliant woman who escaped her suffocating family—and religion--immigrated to Holland, learned Dutch, achieved independence and a fine education, was elected to the Dutch parliament, and is a prime mover to reform Islam and inform the West. Recently challenged for “falsifying her entry documents” to gain citizenship in Holland, she has resigned parliament and is moving to the U.S. to accept a position with the American Enterprise Institute where, in my opinion, she will be more influential and more respected than in Holland.

I have previously recommended, and reviewed, What Went Wrong, Sword of the Prophet, and Why I Am Not a Muslim. This book is different. It is brief, to the point, and rendered from personal experience (including genital mutilation, the horrors of which she discusses fully.) It also provides answers to the questions it posits. One is simultaneously alarmed by the narrative and overwhelmed by her courage. She (more eloquently than I have in the past) makes the point that the problem isn’t, or isn’t only, radical Islam, but Islam itself! It is a pre-modern, unreformed religion based in Arab tribalism; a world inhabited by ghosts, spirits of the dead, invisible creatures, magic, seduction and belief that paradise can be achieved thru violence and martyrdom.

Islam is the only religion founded by a warrior; built using tactics including lying, torture, assassination, mass murder, and the destruction of goods and communities. While painful for Muslims to admit, these are historic facts.

The moral framework of Islam, unlike Christianity and Judaism, has not changed with the times, and will have to be forced to change, somehow. The fact that the majority of Muslims live in dire circumstances, with disease, overpopulation, starvation and unemployment has yet to cause them to reflect upon their plight in any constructive way.

• “We Muslims have completely lost sight of the balance between religion and reason.” (I would suggest, rather, that there has never been such a balance.)
• “The best way for Islamic culture to liberate itself from its backwardness is by ceasing to blame others.”
• “This personal suffering [primarily of women] is the inevitable result of the form Islam takes at home, at school, in everyday life, and in the media.”
• “The primary task of both Muslims and non-Muslims is to face the malicious extremism manifest in the attacks of September ll. Do not underestimate it. Fear of that kind of Islam is valid. Fanaticism in Islam . . . is growing steadily.”
• “We Muslims are inclined to view universal values, such as freedom of the individual and the equality of men and women, as exclusively Western values. This is wrong.”

Islam is a beautiful and tolerant religion, in theory. But it is submerged by Arabian cultural imperialism. No educated Muslim can raise issues of faith which deviate from the Koran; the uneducated masses never consider it. Most everything in the Koran is outdated, yet it cannot be challenged. Muhammad’s first victims are the minds of Muslims themselves, imprisoned as they are in the fear of hell and the natural pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

Much of the trouble is the cult of virginity; hence the book’s title. Women are property. They cannot do anything without approval of the males of the family, must stay in the home, and are subject to cruelty, beatings, rape and humiliation. All of this social control results in Muslim women maintaining their own repression.

She describes the effect on the family structure as well. There is a harsh influence on children, especially young boys, who are raised by “caged” women who are ignorant, without experience or education. They have no self-image and no control over them. Little girls are unappreciated, dealt with as property, and little cared for. They grow into womanhood with built-in feelings of inferiority. They are made so! Nowhere in the world is the position of women as bad as in Islamic countries. When half of the population is not permitted to contribute, except as household and sexual slaves, it is small wonder there has been no progress in more than a millennium.

She elaborates succinctly on the errors of the West, and especially multiculturalists. Afraid to be called “Islamophobic," they refuse to criticize those viewed as “victims,” and encourage Muslims to maintain their culture. There is inflexible defense of Islamic education which perpetuates the poverty and alienation of Muslims, and permits the teaching of hate. This attitude, refusing to hold Muslims to the same standards as all others has resulted in gains by the reactionary forces. Moderates are being intimidated and forced into hiding, figuratively at least. The West is clearly afraid of Muslims, afraid to confront their illusions, and this fear of offending leads to the perpetuation of injustice and human suffering. This is dangerous and must be stopped.

A satanic pact has been forged between Westerners who make their living by representing Muslim interests . . . those who have a vested interest in maintaining the cage—a myopic, selfish, short-term interest (not at all unlike Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson do with black Americans.)

Waiting for enlightenment to take place within Islam is a mistake. It won’t happen. The West must help it to change—by opposing the radicals, supporting the moderates, and not tolerating the current activities and attitudes. “Tolerance” isn’t working. It is in the interest of the Islamic world and of the Western world to promote a flourishing culture of self-criticism among Muslims and support them whereever possible.

And it would help a lot if Western leaders weren’t always ruminating that Islam is a religion of peace, hijacked by the fascists! It isn’t so!

She notes that Bin Laden and his ilk have succeeded in achieving the exact opposite of what was intended. Things will no doubt get worse first—as they have since the book was written—but 9/11 was a mistake of horrendous proportions. It marks “the beginning of the end of Islam as we know it.”

I believe it will take an act which dwarfs 9/11 to finally get the West’s attention, but when that happens the gloves will come off and Islam will be dealt with as was Nazism. Unfortunately, it will take a more serious act of terrorism. Our generation’s “Pearl Harbor” has already been forgotten by most, and the current course of the Iraqi war is tiresome, so we want to quit. Can’t happen . . . won’t happen. They won’t let it. This is a battle between religions, and a battle about civilization.

If you have not yet been introduced, I’d suggest you go to memritv.org/ and click on favorites. Then choose the video of the interview with Waffa Sultan. You can read an abbreviated transcript of that interview at memritv.org/Transcript.asp?P1=1050. Sultan is another strident supporter of the westernization of Islam, and like Ali a convert to agnosticism. Also, like Ali she is now in the United States.

Posted by respeto at 12:51 PM

August 20, 2006

On “Saturation Bombing”

Why did we do it in WWII? . . . And should we reconsider now?

Just had to share this! It is a letter to the Weekly Standard in response to an article (which you do not have to have read to appreciate the rejoinder.) I encourage you to read this letter and carefully consider its content. Never have I seen a letter to the editor which was so explicit and so matter-of-factly correct. I did a thesis on this once, yet never have I heard an argument for annihilative bombing that makes more sense. Keep in mind that this is more of a testimonial than it is a random opinion. The author experienced the trauma and renders first-hand knowledge!

The letter is as it appeared in the Standard (the emphasis is mine.)

Regarding Christopher Hitchens’s “Scorched Earth” (July 31): The real consequence of an indiscriminate bombing campaign was the changing of the German (and Japanese) mind after 1945. As a German born and raised in Hamburg, I am pretty sure that the air campaign extinguished German romantic militarism.

The bombing bore two lessons for the generations to come: First, those who did not prevent Hitler from rising to power in 1933 perished along with the Nazis—a lesson that made Germans very wary of extremist parties in statu nascendi ever since. Second, the war came home to German women, instead of being fought merely in the trenches. As such, for the first time since the Thirty Years’ War, the female half of Germany drew on firsthand experiences when cautioning against militaristic slogans. In the years following 1918 that had not been the case, resulting in young Germans falling prey to heroic tales the Nazis were telling them about Langemarck and Verdun.

After 1945 it was different. I have known many Hamburg citizens who could not stand a cozy fireplace any longer, even decades later, for the terror of the fire bombing made a fireplace unbearable to them. The reply an American general gave to a reporter in March 1945 when asked why the Allies bombed small cities with no strategic value has tuned out to hold true: We want Germany to remember for a hundred years the consequences of waging war against us.

It is, I might cautiously add, an experience that our present enemies are missing. A strategy that makes allied soldiers and pilots tiptoe and hop around mosques and kindergartens is a very humane and sensitive one. It might, though, fail to drive home a lesson that Japanese and Germans learned the brutal way: Citizens who do not care about what their neighbor does, citizens who do not rise to the occasion when there is time to do so, will pay dearly for it. Terrorists hiding among the populace count on precisely such complacency.

In Germany and Japan, the allied bombing campaign made it clear to everyone that missing courage may not be a means of getting out of the way; to the contrary, it may draw those who do not stand up against megalomaniacal hotheads into the abyss as well.

That is a lesson the allied warplanes, amidst their bombs, pounded the Germans and Japanese with, and though I hate to admit it, given the sacrifices of those who did not favor the wars of Hitler or Hirohito, it did indeed work.

Posted by respeto at 2:24 PM

August 14, 2006

Lamb

Christopher Moore – ISBN-13 – 978-0380813810

This book is a laugh a minute, but only if your reading speed is slow.

Levi, also known as Biff, is Joshua’s childhood friend, and Joshua (Jehovah in Greek) is Jesus Christ. Biff is resurrected by the angel of death to return in the 21st century to reveal to the world the life of Josh in the 30 years between his birth and his ministry, and is accompanied by Maggie (Mary Magdalene), tasked the same, for another “take.”

Of course, the whole thing is a spoof, and I can imagine Jerry Falwell being incensed, but there is a chuckle on virtually every page and a guffaw on not a few.. For instance, he explains how Joshua practiced miracles. Resurrections were the most difficult and confusing: “To be fair, . . . resurrections weren’t that uncommon [then]. Jews were quick to get their dead into the ground, and with speed there’s bound to be errors. Occasionally some poor soul would fall unconscious during a fever and wake to find himself being wrapped in linen . . . but no one complained, except perhaps those people who didn’t wake before they were buried, and if they complained—well, I’m sure God heard them.”

And, who knew:
• That at age 13 Josh and Biff journeyed to the Afghani cave castle of Balthazar, a black African wizard (yes, he of the Myrrh), to study Confucius, Tao, Feng Shui, and other disciplines and philosophies?
• That Joshua challenged God when he first tasted bacon? Forbidding fornication, killing, stealing, coveting and all that made sense, but being deprived of bacon had to be a mistake!
• That after nine years they traveled to a mountain top in China were they sojourned with an Indian sage, Gaspar (yep, another Wiseman), where they studied Buddhism, Kung Fu and Jew-Do? Here Josh learned to “turn the other cheek” (from a Yeti, no less) and of the Golden Rule, etc., while Biff mastered the martial arts which would assist him in protecting Josh for the rest of his life. Josh, you’ll recall, was totally non-violent! Wouldn’t even protect himself.
• The ends to which Biff went to inform Josh of the carnal truths which he was to be deprived of for life?
• That after years with Gaspar they moved on to India to study with his brother—you guessed it, Melchior—where Joshua lived in a cave, practiced extreme asceticism, learned to turn water into wine and to multiply loaves and fishes, later “to feed the multitudes?” Biff learned little, but used Josh’s new found talents to support himself (selling the stuff) and “studying the Kama Sutra” with a sex worker.
• That there were really 13 disciples? “Thomas twin” was really two people: Thomas (a bit of a nut) and his imaginary, invisible twin who was always near.
• That the content of the sermon on the Beatitudes was debated amongst the disciples for weeks, determining who/what should be included, who inherited the earth, who went heaven, etc.?
• That the Sermon on the Mount didn’t happen quite as it is recorded?

And in the epilogue you will finally learn what the “H.” stands for in Jesus H. Christ.

There is, perhaps, a bit too much idle profanity and occasional scatological talk, and the book drags near the end, but it is quite an amusing read. For those who will not read it, there is little to say. For the doubters, you might wish to read the last chapter (pp 438-444) first. Here Moore explains the considerable research which he did before beginning the book.


Posted by respeto at 10:50 AM

August 11, 2006

Team of Rivals

(The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln)
Doris Kearns Goodwin – ISBN-13 – 978-0684824091

The book begins with the campaign of 1856 and ends with Lincoln’s assassination, with a brief epilogue explaining what happened to the principals following the war. It is brilliant, and should go a long way toward redeeming Goodwin’s reputation, recently sullied by allegations of plagiarism. Indeed, it deserves to win another Pulitzer! She demonstrates intense scholarship as she spins out this engaging narrative, as close to a page turner as any history book you will ever read . . . and read it you should.

To say that it is well written is akin to saying that Ruth was a pretty good ball player, Jordan a decent hoopster or Armstrong a respectable biker.

Author in the past of books on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt (Pulitzer in History,) the Kennedys and Lyndon Johnson, she here takes on the demanding task of multiple biographies: Lincoln and his Civil War cabinet, many of whom were rivals for the nomination of 1860, and others from the opposition. She amply demonstrates the incredible talents of Lincoln in forging this “team of rivals” into a cohesive band of advisors, all chosen because they were talented, wise, committed, reliable, trustworthy and potentially loyal. Bitter enemies became fast friends.

Especially his adversaries learned to love and respect his incredible talent, and well into the war acknowledged that they would not have performed as well, let alone better. He was the consummate political sage of the era. The average reader will come away with a still more exalted interpretation of Lincoln than he held before.

The book is full of factoids, vignettes and flashes of wit and humor which further flavor the stew (and she nicely puts the allegation of Lincoln’s homosexuality to bed.) One comes away with the understanding that Lincoln believed, and believed he was exemplary of the fact, that anyone could be successful in, even president of this nation. One is treated to numerous examples of his humor and stories used to ease tension and make points, not at all unlike Ronald Reagan. Also included are Lincoln’s Gettysburg address and portions of his second inaugural.

Over the oft debated cause of the war she leaves no doubt that it was, ultimately, about slavery. However, “Lincoln pointedly denied fundamental differences between Northerners and Southerners. He argued that ‘they are just what we would be in their situation. If slavery did not now exist amongst them, they would not introduce it. If it did now exist amongst us, we should not instantly give it up. . . . I surely will not blame them for not doing what I should not know how to do myself.’” He encouraged others to comprehend the position of Southerners thru empathy.

His uncanny political ability, repeatedly referenced, is best summarized by a quote from the Washington Daily Chronicle: “the most truly progressive man of the age, because he always moves in conjunction with propitious circumstances, not waiting to be dragged by the force of events or wasting strength in premature struggles with them.”

General William Tecumseh Sherman noted, years after Lincoln’s death: “Of all the men I ever met, he seemed to possess more of the elements of greatness, combined with goodness, than any other.”

While Tolstoy observed: “The name of Lincoln is worshipped thruout the world and [his personality has become legendary.] Now, why was Lincoln so great that he overshadows all other national heroes? He really was not a great general like Napoleon or Washington; he was not such a skilful statesman as Gladstone or Frederick the Great; but his supremacy expresses itself altogether in his peculiar moral power and in the greatness of his character.”

And, so it remains today.

Posted by respeto at 11:48 AM