Friday, December 07, 2007

Council Winners

Watchers Council winners for the week of Dec. 7 have been posted.

Of Islamist Foxes and British Chickens by newest council member Wolf Howling. Way to start out with a bang!

His topic is the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB), a fresh British initiative to deal with the problem of radical mosques. Thank goodness the First Amendment prevents any such initiative in the U.S., as the problems in such a plan are legion, and H.W. cites many of them.

I tend to shy away from straight-up statements like this, however:

What the Labour government is missing is that there is no such thing as a “moderate” Muslim. The issues that are "radicalizing" a substantial minority of the British Muslim population are systemic to the dominant forms of Islam. They are not anamolies. Ayaan Hirsi Ali talked about this recently, and it is perhaps the most critical point our leadership on both sides of the pond needs to understand.

Like I tend to shy away from any insistence on what any religion really is or really means based on a pure reading of its scriptures by people who are not themselves part of that religious tradition. I've read the Quran (in Arberry's transcription). I know what it says. I also have read the Old Testament and the New Testament, in some cases in original tongues, and I know there are great swaths of them that make me cringe.

Someone outside the faith, writing for people outside it, could make a great deal out of "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple," and convince people that that was a core part of the Christian faith. And find historical and contemporary examples that seemed to prove it, if you didn't really know the faiths up close and personal.

Fortunately, I don't see those particular passages acted out by most of the Christians and Jews I know. Religion isn't what's in the book. It's how you live your life.

Some, somewhere, might. But the human religious instinct, which I seem to lack but have long observed, is made of a marvelous substance, strong as steel and malleable as silk, harsh as a welder's torch glare and willfully dark when it doesn't wish to see. I don't need anyone to declare himself a "moderate," which is a relative and delimiting term. I do need people to be human, to live human lives, and I won't ask them to self-label. Ali Eteraz, writing of another Western commenter (Mark Steyn) who takes this approach to Europe's problems, points out the nuance:

The fatal flaw in his thesis is the pernicious idea that all Muslims are one and will uniformly seek to impose sharia law. This is a generalisation that even a crusty curmudgeon - and I use the term most affectionately - such as Christopher Hitchens is unwilling to accept. Citing the example of an Afghan refugee who was killed in the London bombings, the Hitch added: "Many Muslims actually have come to Europe for the advertised purposes - seeking asylum and to build a better life."

Also getting votes were FBI Rebuts CAIR Scare Tactics by Cheat Seeking Missiles; Two Different Worlds by Bookworm Room; Greatest Generation from right here; The Politics of Immigration from The Glittering Eye; If the Huck Wins, the Right Loses by Right Wing Nut House; Bush Signals Iran: US Military Option Off The Table by Joshuapundit.

Outside the council, the winner was Teddy Muhammad at Pierre Tristam's Middle East Issues Blog. Here's where I have to confess. I nominated that. I don't know who might be more chagrined by it, "Pierre" or some of the Council members.

The post itself fits well into the shared frustration -- if not outrage -- that many people in the West, friends as well as enemies of Islam, felt at the recent incident in Sudan. It articulates the sentiment many of us shared and is well-versed in Sudanese history, including a passage on the admirable martyr Mahmoud Mohammed Taha:

Numeiri's most heinous excess, if you'll forgive the tautology, was his execution of Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, a 76-year-old pious, moderate Muslim. Taha was the founder and leader of the Republican Brothers, a religious and political movement opposed to Sharia law. He declared publicly, through a leaflet, that Numeiri had "distorted Islam in the eyes of intelligent members of our people and in the eyes of the world, and degraded the reputation of our country." For that, he was hanged on a red steel scaffold as a thousand Sudanese men shouted in Arabic, "Death to the enemy of God!"

But by far the majority of Pierre Tristam's blogging is in a very different mindset that that of many of the Council members. I've tried a few times in the past to nominate something outside the usual round of reliably conservative blogs. Most of them never got anywhere, but this one did. It's not a matter of trying to punk anyone. But to let both sides notice there is overlap, there is common ground, and there are shared concerns. There are no sides, only people, though some people seem to work awful hard to become sides. So, I hope all is taken in the proper spirit.

Votes also went to The 2nd Annual Worst Quotes From The Daily Kos (2007 Edition) at Right Wing News; UNRWA and Palestinian Suffering at The Volokh Conspiracy; Synthetic Biology -- The Next Proliferation at Winds of Change.NET; Do or Die at Military Times.