Thursday, February 02, 2006

The cartoon crisis continues

More developments on the Mohammed cartoon crisis.

Muhammad cartoon editor is sacked
'No one will draw the Prophet'
London Islamists target Israel, Denmark
Muslim Cartoon Fury Spreads
Anger as papers reprint cartoons of Muhammad
European papers ignore Muslim fury over Danish cartoons
Danish news editor: Dark dictatorships have won

And from the Financial Times, the first warning that this cartoon will lead to more terrorism.

President Hosni Mubarak said the reprinting of the cartoons – originally published by Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, they were reproduced this week in newspapers across Europe – would lead to serious repercussions, inflaming sentiment in the Muslim world and among European Muslim communities. Insensitive handling of the issue, he said, would give more pretexts to extremists and terrorists to carry out attacks.

In Saudi Arabia, Prince Nayef, the interior minister and staunch conservative, said the cartoons were an insult to all Muslims, and suggested the Vatican should intervene to put an end to the spread of the cartoons.

Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister of Turkey, a European Union candidate country, deemed the cartoons an “attack on our spiritual values”, and called for a limit on press freedom.


The statements of Hosni Mubarak and Tayyip Erdogan indicate how deep this cultural division is. At the same time many Europeans -- not most, but many -- are suddenly aware they stand on the edge. If they let Islamic clerics determine what Europeans can and cannot print in their own press through a process of intimidation and force, the Old Continent will have surrendered a large part of its independence and sovereignty. The holy grail of every agitator is to find an issue on which both sides are unalterably opposed. Radical Islam has found it the blasphemy of Mohammed and ironically gave those who would rouse the West a mirror issue of their own: the blasphemy of censorship and the extinction of freedom of speech.

Both sides now are in too deep to climb down without damage. For the European press the path to this confrontation has been imperceptible, absentminded and catastrophic. Yet all so terribly familiar. The old warnings come naturally to mind.

... descending incontinently, fecklessly the stairway that leads to a dark gulf.
It is a fine broad stairway at the beginning, but after a bit the carpet ends.
A little farther on there are only flagstones, and a little farther on still these break beneath your feet.

The fine, broad highway to Hell that is political correctness which has achieved the opposite of its intent: not the universal chorus of harmony but religious conflict at its most primitive level.

And do not suppose this is the end. 
This is the beginning of the reckoning. 
This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of the bitter cup, 
which will be proffered to us year by year, 
unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, 
we rise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.

But the words are only memories. The men who said them are gone and their heirs are not yet found.


Blogger Jamie said...

I have the strangest feeling... It seems to me that I'd feel this way if I were waiting for biopsy results: the tension would drive me to say foolish things like, "Even if it's bad news, I just want to know!" right up until the phone call. Then, when I'm told that the tumor is malignant, I'd immediately look back on the minute before the phone rang with desperate longing for the uncertainty I was living in before.


2/02/2006 12:01:00 PM  
Blogger Philomathean said...

This gathering crisis validates the warning that Samuel Huntington made in Foreign Affairs in 1993 about a coming "clash of civilizations." In that article Huntington said:

It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future.

Huntington's thesis was controversial at the time. Now it seems obvious.

2/02/2006 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

How apt that in a world where groups have been metaphorically cartooning each other, that battle lines would be 'drawn' on actual cartoons.

2/02/2006 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

A comic book I recall from the early 60's had brave USAF aircrews crossing into Warsaw Pact airspace in their B-66's to parachute Sears and Roebuck catalogs and U.S. newspapers into Communist nations.

Maybe we should do airdrops with comic books that deliberately abuse Islam.

And throw in a few Playboy magazines, too.

2/02/2006 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Meme chose said...

They may wish they had never made their sensitivity on this issue so clear.

I'm speculating, but it's interesting that such a cheap and effective way to hurt Islamists has emerged from this. It opens up the possibility of a new, devastating form of asymmetric warfare in which Western citizens can engage.

All it takes is a campaign to mail a flood of these cartoons to addresses in areas where Muslims live.

Nobody would be mortally offended except the Islamists.

The deluge of incoming mail might at last begin to tell them something important about the society in which they live, a salutory message which our politically correct politicians, media and public officials have sadly been too timid up to now to utter.

2/02/2006 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

I have gone back and forth on the issue.

Over at the Jawa Report they are creating their own cartoons in a deliberate attempt to get a fatwa issued against them. The JR has went over a line I think good taste and manners puts down.

However, with the Danish cartoons I am all for publishing them. I think it silly clerics and rulers who P&M every time a Western leader criticizes them are now trying to dictate something as fundamental as the limits of sovereign nation's freedom of speech.

I wonder what the futures contracts on bombings in Denmark and Norway are priced at?

One last note. I recall reading somewhere most of the MSM in Europe is still looking the other way, that they have most people in Europe convinced this is yet another bad thing the West is doing to the poor oppressed Mulsim.

We will see.

2/02/2006 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Meme Chose,

It is the inflammatory effect of the cultural weapon that is most deadly. Radical Islam depends above all on gradually disarming the West which is physically more powerful. The cartoon issue and others like it accelerate this process to the point where it approaches an explosive reaction. The Islamists drop the mask before they are ready and it works against them.

2/02/2006 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Heloise said...

I hope the reaction of Muslims throughout the world is an eye-opener for all those "progressive" liberals/socialists/communists who fancy themselves artists and intellectuals who control the ideas of the West. Obviously the murder of innocent people in the World Trade Towers, the Pentagon, the bombings in Spain and Britain, the ritual execution of Theo VanGogh, the jihadi beheadings of infidels in Iraq, etc. couldn't muster up their ire but maybe, just maybe these events will make them reflect on their unyielding support of the religion of peace.

Of course I am by nature an optimist.

2/02/2006 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger enscout said...

Mubarak and Erdogan have defined themselves by making such naive statements about their expectations of our culture. As national leaders their behavior is disgraceful. So much for Turkey's acceptance into the EU.

This should make all the lefty-multi-culti moral equivilancy crowd sit straight up in their chair. It will take some spin to blame this one on conservatives - but blame they will.

He continues to use the deceiver to separate His people.

2/02/2006 12:52:00 PM  
Blogger wretchardthecat said...

Marcus Aurelius,

The Jawa cartoons are an example of a explosive chain reaction effect. Even the distasteful will emerge. The real problem with the Islamists demands was they are almost impossible to implement. First, there are laws against censorship; due process for shutting down newspapers; the financial interests involved are huge. Then there are the technological problems. How do you shut down the Internet? There are servers in Russia and China. Can Denmark or the US shut them down there? How on earth do you keep cartoons depicting Mohammed suppressed?

Because this a nondiplomatic incident de-escalation is very difficult. The arrow of escalation on this is one-way. Now it may peter out by exhaustion. But I doubt anything that any Western politician does can appreciably reverse things. They must either ride it out or prepare for the possible effects.

2/02/2006 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Eleanor © said...

And they have no idea of the rage that is rising in Westerners. We will not allow these people to dictate or usurp our rights and freedoms...

2/02/2006 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

The really funny thing is that they believe the Pope can order what the papers can print.

Just as Mr Putin thinks that the President can fire reporters at the NY Times.

How little they understand the nature of our Society.

2/02/2006 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger Kyda Sylvester said...

People's religious sensibilities -- from all religions -- are often offended in films, plays and books. In your opinion, what can an individual do to defend himself from such offenses?

This is a question from the new (and controversial) citizenship test in use in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, as reported by Spiegel.

The test, which clearly targets Muslims, is of course outrageous (you can take it yourself here--Spiegel has provided some pretty amusing sample answers), but wouldn't it be interesting to read some of the actual responses.

2/02/2006 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger Doug Santo said...

"But the words are only memories. The men who said them are gone and their heirs are not yet found."


Their heirs are in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their leader, for another 3 years, is a student of history and understands the crisis that faces the west. He is determined to take bold action despite waves of vocal critics who deride his every action and despite opinion polls that show he has lost support among the public.

I have read Churchill's memoir of World War II several times. I remember a passage from one of the early volumes, The Gathering Storm I think, where Churchill describes a debate in the house of commons where he held a seat. At this point in his political career Churchill had been out of office for many years, more than a decade. His influence was low. His ideas were derided as those of a crazy war-monger. Churchill stood in defiance of almost the entire political body to give his dissenting speech. I forget now the topic, but it had something to do with some of Chamberlain's early decisions to appease Hitler. Of coarse, Churchill took quite the opposite side of that issue.

In the book Churchill describes the beginning of his speech and the cat-calls and boos. At several points during his talk, he was shouted down by the combined voices of the vocal dissenters and forced to stop and wait for order to be restored in the chamber. After each interruption he would continue his dissent, until he finished his speech and resumed his seat. I have read this passage many times. Each time I do brings tears to my eyes.

If any leader in recent history is an heir to that great man, it is our current President.

Doug Santo
Pasadena, CA

2/02/2006 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger grrr1 said...

[quote="wretchard"]The Islamists drop the mask before they are ready and it works against them.[/quote]
This is true if there is only one mask and they hide behind it. Much more dangerous mask is covering the West's eyes: it's wearer insists that the mask does not even exists.

2/02/2006 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger A Jacksonian said...

A speech I would *love* to hear from Danish Prime Rasmussen:

"Our answer to those countries that wish to silence us: Our people were Vikings and we remain Viking still. We have trod the lands of the Mediterranean once, do NOT incite us to return as we will return as Vikings."

I am sure that will *never* be said, but there are ancient roots in Europe that go back far and some few still honor those roots. The job of trying to make Europe clean, sanitary and homogeneous looks to be coming to an end.

I hope enough remember still who they were, lest they lose all that they have.

2/02/2006 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger grrr1 said...

[quote="doug santo"]Their leader, for another 3 years, is a student of history and understands the crisis that faces the west.[/quote] Sure. That's why he call their fundamental ideology "noble" in his SOTU address.

2/02/2006 01:15:00 PM  
Blogger Kyda Sylvester said...

And the BBC joins the fray, not in solidarity, but as reporters.

The Muslim Council of Britain says:

"It depends on whether they're broadcast to illustrate the story about the row developing, or, in the same way as the European newspapers have published, to gloat [emphasis mine] about freedom.

"We recognise that the newspapers have full freedom. However, we hope that they would be able to show restraint when it comes to these images because of the enormous hurt it would cause to Muslims."

But the Muslim Association of Britain says ixnay:

"It will only infuriate the British members of the Muslim community and Muslims around the world. It will be insult to injury. You can't reproduce these images in a sensitive manner."

Will those London Islamists now heed their own call?

2/02/2006 01:21:00 PM  
Blogger Jamie Irons said...

Wretchard and others,

The indispensable Melanie Phillips has an interesting bit of history and some subtle analysis on this issue...

Cartoon Jihad

Jamie Irons

2/02/2006 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger diabeticfriendly said...

Maybe we should do airdrops with comic books that deliberately abuse Islam.

And throw in a few Playboy magazines, too.

seems I said something about this WEEKS ago...

time to humilate them...

only when they are emotionally destroyed can they be rebuilt

2/02/2006 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

This is a double edged sword guys.

Nor is the chorus from the moslem world over the danish article a sign of strength.

Rather it is a mirror of European weakness.


Consider the constant hammering the moslems -- especially the wahabbists-- are taking about their teaching in school.

consider what the beards are thinking

wadya wadya mean I can't teach jihad in my own school. jihad is islam. jihad is the way. jihad is my past. jihad is my present. jihad by allah will be mine and my pupil's future.

but the tide has turned against these men. so at minimum they're looking for a quid pro quo.

except that there is no religious freedom in the middle east. and the moslems have been steadily driving out their religious minorities for decades as well as pushing moslems into non moslem countries.

basically the moslems are over playing their hand.

2/02/2006 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger Derek Kite said...

This is a truly fascinating issue. Salman Rushdie was the precursor to this event. Somehow the writers and cartoonists are again expected to shut down their creative processes to appease the unappeasable.

The Muslim world has been able to threaten and scare the west before. This isn't a crisis of Europe. This is a crisis of the Muslim leadership. What happens if they can't scare people anymore?

A very common mistake in conflict situations is to assume that the other side thinks like you do. This situation brings home how different the cultures are, and how the two can never meet.

The Europeans and the west in general is sometimes criticized for appeasing or ignoring obvious threat. I think it is as simple as people and the western culture not caring. The US didn't really care about Islam before 9/11. Europe didn't really care before this and the riots in France. Now everyone cares. Beware.


2/02/2006 01:34:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

Maybe it will dawn on the Muslim fundies that the mark of a great religion is durability. I wish I understodd the Far East better, but over on this side of the ball, Judaism and Christianity both have adapted to the needs of their adherents. No brittle facade will ever again be needed by either of those faiths.

2/02/2006 01:37:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

The "Soir" editor claimed a right to blasphemy. I would have been more interested and impressed if he claimed a responsibility to report news, in this case the controversy over the cartoons, and therefore publication of the cartoons themselves.

2/02/2006 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

Doug Santo--I don't often say it, but I agree with you--this president will be--or belong on--Mount Rushmore someday. In some ways, his challenge--the one inside his country, the explosion of energetic nihilism--is more deadly that anything since Lincoln had to heal up a nation split only slightly more.

2/02/2006 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Every president since Eisenhower has been driven to distraction.
(Carter is auto-driven)
Bush is, like Churchill, exceptional in his ability to stay his course.
...for better or worse.
(I picture W in prayer, and Winston sipping Scotch!)

2/02/2006 01:49:00 PM  
Blogger enscout said...

Speaking of European weakness; Olivier Guitta over on The Counterterrorism Blog has posted the story of the absence of Al Quaeda on the EU's list of terrorist organizations.


2/02/2006 01:50:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Heloise said...
"Of course I am by nature an optimist. "
When my eye first scanned Wretchard's latest, I thought:
"Great, they fired Toles"
(and drooled at the prospect of Kevin's outrage)
Then I read.
Hope springs eternal.

2/02/2006 01:53:00 PM  
Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

Doug, that's only an admirable trait when the course is right.

Look at the nonsense just from the SOTU speech:
- More "religion of peace" rhetoric.
- Not one word about the natural gas crisis in N. America, and nothing about conservation.

Bush could easily dispel the notion that he serves the oil industry and not the country.  He reinforces it.

2/02/2006 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger Alf said...

Wretchard, These cartoons are a disaster for the secular humanist Europeans - who are apparently clueless on issues of faith. Freedom of speach is of critical importance, but no one in his right mind would insult another's mother and expect them to be amused. Blaspheming another's God is an order of magnitude worse.
As Mark Steyn recently described in the WSJ, Europe due to its demographics and culture is on the teetering towards extinction. This incident may well mark the start of a long civil war that ends with the formation of Eurorabia.

2/02/2006 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Meme chose: yes, relative to hurting Islamics, my thoughts exactly, as you might have surmised.

But are we hurting them? I think not. We are enraging them, but unfortunately I am sure that they will not emulate Walt Disney lemmings and pitch themselves off some precipice.

What Wretchard means is what they will do is reveal their true nature - appear not as poor oppressed that elicit the sympathy of the Left - but rather show themselves as unreasonable lunatics that not even a Ward Churchill could embrace - or a Howard Dean ignore.

In any event there will no doubt be those cowards in the West who will apologize profusely, and be willing to give up a little thing like drawing some pictures in order to keep the "peace" - but many others will see the true nature of what they will finally recognize as The Enemy.

On the other hand - if you are planning a battle with Islamics, then put up a billbord with suitable cartoons and site your guns accordingly.

2/02/2006 02:13:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Re: "Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister of Turkey, a European Union candidate country, deemed the cartoons an “attack on our spiritual values”, and called for a limit on press freedom."

Well, if anyone had any doubts as to why Turkey should be denied EU membership, Mr. Erdogan has just confirmed them.

2/02/2006 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger CatoRenasci said...

Well, so much for Turkey's admission to the European Union....

2/02/2006 02:19:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Ever hear someone speak when they've been breathing Hydrogen?
...that's REALLY funny stuff.
Almost makes one forget we could cut our consumption by 30% nearly immediately w/efficiency improvements alone.

2/02/2006 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger Meteor Blades said...

I probably agree with the main posts on this site 25% of the time, but this one, and the others on this subject here, have been spot on.

2/02/2006 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger Fat Man said...

So far only Ann Coulter is correct.

2/02/2006 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

I think the French riots probably doomed Turkey's EU entry. A mixed result for either side, as Turkey has that Islamic democracy record, and its geographical position as the gateway to the east.

2/02/2006 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger Kyda Sylvester said...

basically the moslems are over playing their hand.

And apparently starting to feel the heat:

Meanwhile, Imam Akkari, who led the delegation that sought help from the Arab World in dealing with prejudices against Denmark's Muslim community, said it wasn't his intention to stymie the right of free speech to the country's journalists.

"Our intention was never to introduce censorship or to ban criticism of issues related to religion," Akkari emphasized. In recent years though, he points out, the Danish media focused an inordinate amount of attention on Muslim communities. "But now we are worried that the problem is escalating and that some people might get the wrong idea," he said. Akkari strongly condemned the bomb threat levelled against Jyllands-Posten and is quick to emphasize that he is dedicated to "the political path of discussion."

Spiegel further reports that non-Muslim Danes are getting increasingly pissed off:

Other Aarhus inhabitants went even further. "If they don't agree with the freedom of the press, then they should go back home," said Anne Grethe, a 59-year-old who refused to give her last name. Jen, too, wanted to remain anonymous. "Most Muslims don't want this conflict," the 33-year-old said. "But I can't help thinking, if Danish companies have to lay people off as a result of the boycott, then it should be the Muslim employees who are let go first."

Perhaps next time the Imam will think twice before doing this:

One group of Danish Muslims, led by a young imam named Ahmed Akkari, grew so frustrated by the inability of Muslims to get their message across in Denmark that they compiled a dossier of racist and culturally insensitive images circulating in the country and took them on an road show in the Arab World to raise awareness of the discrimination they faced. Link

2/02/2006 03:10:00 PM  
Blogger Christian Adams said...

Doug Santos,

Your comments about Churchill and Bush - right on!

2/02/2006 03:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robert Schwartz, 2:42

Thanks for the laugh!:)

2/02/2006 03:18:00 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

engineer-poet - did you even watch the speech? Bush said, "This country is addicted to oil" and went on and on about ethanol and methanol. I wish he'd said something about drilling offshore and in Alaska. To my mind he's too conciliatory about our failure to use our own energy resources, including nuclear and coal.

2/02/2006 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

These Muslims have broken the bedrock rule of teasing: don't react, or you will only encourage more teasing.

The difference, of course, is that on this playground and with these actors people could end up dead.

I agree with Wretchard, I think we are seeing just the beginning of the Offensive Offensive.

2/02/2006 03:52:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Offshore Oil would provide quick relief, as would efficiency.
All the rest will be ready when they are ready, and the government will probably just get in the way.

2/02/2006 04:04:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Reuters reported a big Tanker Spill in Alaska,
Turned out to be 5 barrels, 3 of which were confined on deck.

2/02/2006 04:05:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

Ah, but those two spilled barrels, just wait 'til they get the dead microbes counted. It'll be a billyun wrongful deaths to curse in between cursing gas prices in between making scary shadow pictures of the wrong boogymen around tonite's bonfire of the vanities.

2/02/2006 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger Meteor Blades said...

Until you have fully electric cars, nuclear is going to do bupkis for our "oil addiction."

2/02/2006 05:00:00 PM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

This article at le Monde shows an image of the front page of France Soir with the cartoon of the four gods where it says "Yes, we have the right to caraciture God" and "Mohamed, everyone here has been caracitured."

This article at Der Speigel , in English, talks about the mood in France over this issue.

2/02/2006 05:03:00 PM  
Blogger Moneyrunner said...

I agree with Wretchard that the Moslems are overplaying their hand.

The surest way to lose a war it to stumble into one.

However, I am uncomfortable about being allied with people who believe that the highest good is insulting someone’s religion. Remember Piss Christ?

2/02/2006 06:02:00 PM  
Blogger Karridine said...

(Tayyip Erdogan, prime minister of Turkey, a European Union candidate country, deemed the cartoons an “attack on our spiritual values”)


hiring Billy Zane and Gary Busey to act roles of American uniformed Muslimoid thugs and a Jewish organ-harvesting lunatic IN ABU-GHRAIB is somehow NOT an "attack on OUR spiritual values"?

2/02/2006 06:51:00 PM  
Blogger Karridine said...

Reverend Rat say:"How little they understand the nature of our Society."

And furthermore, when we TELL THEM, STRAIGHT UP, in writing and in words and in deeds HOW IT IS...

they DO NOT BELIEVE us! They CANNOT believe us BECAUSE of the habitual lying THEY were taught! "The world is like US, liars, therefore America and the West is lying!"

"How little they understand the nature of our Society."

2/02/2006 07:00:00 PM  
Blogger felix said...

Great stuff, Wretchard. It looks like the pace of events in the clash of civilizations is speeding up.

2/02/2006 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger John Aristides said...

However, I am uncomfortable about being allied with people who believe that the highest good is insulting someone’s religion.

Not highest good, but it is the gold standard of protected speech qua unpopular speech.

You are right in one respect: its utility resides almost entirely in its availability; 'good' rarely follows its execution.

However, when 'availability' itself is being attacked, its time to start exercising some rights.

2/02/2006 07:19:00 PM  
Blogger Kyda Sylvester said...

However, I am uncomfortable about being allied with people who believe that the highest good is insulting someone’s religion.

Just as, I'm sure, many people who support the right to choose are uncomfortable bedfellows with those who believe that unrestricted abortion is a constitutional right and the ability of any female under any circumstance to demand and receive an abortion is our highest societal value.

But, just as I think the 4th Amendment was not written with law-abiding citizens who have nothing to hide in mind, the 1st did not have in mind those of us who would engage in measured, rational debate.

2/02/2006 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger Ozymandias said...

What are the Islamists gonna do to us for insulting their pedophile prophet - kill us even deader? What ever happened to "I'd rather die on my feet that live on my knees?"

Why are people so worried about offending these cultural failures? Why, after having fled their homelands - because their homelands suck - are they indulged to overlay their failed cultures on someone else's country?

I'd like to think this latest foreshadowing will help shake the scales from European eyes. Unfortunately, I don't think the Europeans are up to the challenge. I believe the wars of 1914 - 1945 mortally wounded Europe's great nations. I think the genes and memes related to courage, self preservation, nationalism, and patriotism have been bled and bred out of them.

Islam is like an opportunistic disease that moves in on dying cultures - that's part of the reason it swept the mideast in the early years. How many cultures were obliterated in the name of Allah?

Either the Europeans rise to the challenge during this generation, or in 200 years most of their languages will no longer be spoken, even by academics.

2/02/2006 07:35:00 PM  
Blogger Jodo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2/02/2006 09:09:00 PM  
Blogger Judith said...

"Freedom of speach is of critical importance, but no one in his right mind would insult another's mother and expect them to be amused. Blaspheming another's God is an order of magnitude worse."

There is a huge gap between not being amused and threatening to kill people who offend you.

2/02/2006 10:46:00 PM  
Blogger Engineer-Poet said...

Doug:  30%?  About 2/3 of US oil consumption goes to transportation.  We could get 10% in that sector by changing driving habits, but I'd like you to explain how to get 30% even in transport without replacing the vehicle fleet.

Robert:  I listened to it live, I've read the transcript, and read about the administration's back-pedalling yesterday.  While Bush was touting wind and ethanol in the SOTU, guess what's happening at NREL?  Layoffs in the wind and ethanol programs because their budget was cut (see item 15).

We're likely to lose more gas production in the next hurricane season, among other looming problems.  There are a bunch of civil-defense things we could do, like insulating the heck out of every leaky old building so that we don't need as much gas and the loss doesn't become a crisis.  But did you hear the word "conservation" pass Bush's lips?

I'll believe the administration has its head on right when it calls for repeal of the accelerated depreciation for heavy vehicles used in a business, which prompted doctors and real-estate agents to buy 12-MPG Hummers instead of Cadillacs.

2/03/2006 01:39:00 AM  
Blogger Towering Barbarian said...

A Jacksonian,

' A speech I would *love* to hear from Danish Prime Rasmussen:

"Our answer to those countries that wish to silence us: Our people were Vikings and we remain Viking still. We have trod the lands of the Mediterranean once, do NOT incite us to return as we will return as Vikings."'

In my admittedly limited experience tough talk like that only works if you are able to back it up. In what sort of shape are the Danish armed forces? With that in mind, Rasmussen is correct to speak softly for the moment. In his place I would do so too. I'm enough of a Hamiltonian that I would arm quietly while doing so but I would still speak softly until the moment came that my nation's soldiers could do the talking.

And if he doesn't intend to arm? Then speaking softly is even wiser.

2/03/2006 01:47:00 AM  
Blogger wilburn13 said...

Al-Aqsa's feigned outrage and subsequent crackdown on the Euros in Gaza is to Hamas normalization as Kerry's filibuster coup from Davos is to libdem relevance: chirps of denial as reality rolls by. Can you triple the GDP of a country via havarti?

2/03/2006 01:56:00 AM  
Blogger Captain Wrath said...

Insightful as always. Now I am really depressed. Thanks.

2/03/2006 03:50:00 AM  
Blogger Robert Bove said...

Let's face it, Muslims can be a humorless, theologically insecure lot. Worrying about their feelings would occupy all our time. Lucky for us, isn't it, that they have a system for helping us in such comprehensive worrying: It's called Shari'a Law. Coming soon to a continent near you.

I have no doubt fear and not especial sympathy for religion drives the self-censorship of American and European media that refuse to republish the cartoons that have precipitated Europe's free-speech crisis.

2/03/2006 04:55:00 AM  
Blogger A Jacksonian said...

"In my admittedly limited experience tough talk like that only works if you are able to back it up. In what sort of shape are the Danish armed forces? With that in mind, Rasmussen is correct to speak softly for the moment. In his place I would do so too. I'm enough of a Hamiltonian that I would arm quietly while doing so but I would still speak softly until the moment came that my nation's soldiers could do the talking.

And if he doesn't intend to arm? Then speaking softly is even wiser." - A Towering Barbarian

The problem with that solution is that there may not be a Denmark worth saving if the long-view is taken. Whate does it mean, today, to be a Dane? How well have they integrated foreigners into their society? Do these that have come to their land believe in the openness and toleration of the Danes?

A Hamiltonian/Jeffersonian mix *only* works if you have a coherent people who understand the danger and believe that they, as a people, are worth fighting for.

I am all *for* seeing Denmark put forward a defense budget that takes 5-7% of their GDP to prepare for hard times ahead (latest from 2003 is 1.6%). They can train their military with some of the finest, though they may have to do so in Iraq to prove their commitment and prepare for a new place to fight. Danes have fought above their weight category in elden times, they may want to think on what it takes to do so again.

Teddy Roosevelt could "Speak softly and carry a big stick", because he *had* a stick to use. If the Danes do not bring themselves to realize the danger, and continue with a cultural status quo, will there *be* a Denmark in a slow 10 year build-up? How *DOES* the Prime Minister push his point home?

In a fight with a culture that believes that it has long-standing quarrels going back to the time of Byzantium, they best be reminded of the Varingians. And that many others took that name as the poor Byzantines could not see a difference between Northern Peoples. The Danes *can* demonstrate toleration, but they can also demonstrate what it means to be a Dane. And if they want to arm, they best do so quickly as the western portion of Europe begins to feel the shaking of their cultural roots.

A tolerant and peaceful people, are the Danes. To speak softly today runs the risk of not having a People and society that has an identity. If their neighbors to the south do not speak out and find solutions, Denmark may be faced:

"To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’t is nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep:
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to,—’t is a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d."

I misdoubt the Danes will 'Go Gentle into That Goodnight'. If they are still *Danes*.

2/03/2006 04:57:00 AM  
Blogger inciceroshadow said...

The muslim masses do not understand political and social discourse in the Western sense because they lack the trappings of civil society that foster free expression and open dialogue. By their own example, however, they DO understand - and after a fashion even respect - brute force. In the end, this clash of civilizations will not be solved by discourse - and perhaps it should not be.

2/03/2006 10:40:00 AM  
Blogger Sissy Willis said...

Some religions are more equal than others

2/03/2006 10:50:00 AM  
Blogger Samana said...

A friend of mine said, "Let's agree to not print any more cartoons about Mohammed if they agree to stop blowing stuff up." Let's send that message in a videotape to Al Jazeera and have them broadcast it as a 'truce' offering.

2/03/2006 01:23:00 PM  
Blogger kurdan said...

I think europe still has to learn a lot from the turks, turks will bring maturity, peace and tolarance to the union. Europeans with their history of racism and wars, need Turkey to ensure the peace in the region. What can you expect from a culture whose roots are coming from one of the biggest slave empire. Being strong is called civilization in this world, it doesn't matter if your economy is built upon wars, petrol or slaves.

2/15/2006 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Red River said...


The man, who claimed himself as the final messenger of Allah, was born in Mecca between AD 570 and 580. He also claimed he was the founder of a New World Religion as well as the spiritual and temporal leader of his people. He was called Mohammed. He belonged to the clan of Hasidim, a tribe of Quaraysh. His father died before he was born, and he was six his mother died. His Uncle Abu Talib took responsibility for him. In personality, he displayed an acute moral sensitivity at an early age, and he was known al-Amin (the trusted one). Like his fellow tribesman, he became a trader and made several journeys to Syria, where he met and conversed with Christians and Jews. He then began to manage the business of a rich widow, Khadija; she was greatly impressed by his hard working and ability, and she shortly offered him marriage, which he accepted at the age of 25. Information about his early life and religious activity is very sketchy. The story says Mohammed was raised first by his grandfather, Abu al-Muttalib, and then by his uncle, Abu Talib. During his period the family lived in humble circumstances, but Mohammed achieved wealth and position as the age of 25 by an advantageous marriage to the wealthy widow, Khadija, who was fifteen years his senior. Her money enabled him to manipulate the people of that region. Mohammed knew Christians and Jews were so religious. His views at commercial fairs in Mecca came to change his life and the people of that region. He periodically withdrew to cave outside Mecca to meditate and pray for guidance. During one of these retreats he experienced a vision of the archangel Gabriel, who proclaimed him a messenger of Allah. He was greatly bewildered by the experience but reassured by his wife, and, as new revelations followed, he came to accept his mission. His wife and his cousin Ali became his first followers, and eventually he began to preach in public, reciting the verses of his revelation, which came to be known as the Koran. He gained some prominent converts, but the movement was so slow.

Mohammed’s earliest teaching emphasized his belief in one transcended but personal Allah, the Last Judgment, and social and economic justice. Allah, he asserted, had sent messengers to other nations throughout history, but, having failed to reform, those nations had been destroyed. Mohammed proclaimed his own message, the Koran, to be the last revealed Book and himself to be the last of the messengers, consummating and superseding the earlier ones.

Mohammed had received a lot of bad feelings from wealthy merchants who looked down upon him in Mecca. In fact, Mohammed had no reliable relative and dependable family beside his financier Khadija. He tried to be honest, but the wealthy merchants did not regard Mohammed as a trusted one.

Insisting on the necessity of social reform, Mohammed advocated improving the lot of slaves, orphans, women, the poor and replacing tribal loyalties with the fellowship of Islamic faith. This egalitarian and revisionist tendency quickly aroused the animosity of the rich merchants who dominated Mecca. They persecuted some followers of Mohammed. Mohammed then ordered some families to take refuge in Ethiopia in 615. When both his beloved wife Khadija and his uncle and protector Abu Talib died in 619, he despaired of his position in Mecca. On the other hand, the merchants in Mecca were unhappy because of Mohammed’s conversion of the people to Allah. After an unsuccessful effort to convert the nearby town of At Taif, he was pronounced wanted. Meanwhile a delegation from Yathrib (later Medina), a city about 300 km (186 mi) to the north that was divided by tribal hostilities asked him to arbitrate the feuds, offering him considerable authority. The delegation knew Mohammed was in danger. After substantial negotiation, Mohammed accepted the offer. When the merchants prepared to murder him, he asked his followers to leave Mecca for Medina. Mohammed and his follower arrived in Medina eight days later. His flight became known as the Hegira (Arabic Hija, emigration) and marked the beginning of the Islamic calendar. Here, the word “emigration” was used to Mohammed’s flight. In fact, the threat from the merchants of Mecca was so heavy and his life was in danger because of his rigorous teaching of Allah. Finally, he had to run away from Mecca. Mohammed was soon given supreme authority in Medina, and he began to establish the ritual practices of Islam and to carry out social reforms. He promulgated a charter that specified the rights and relationships of the Muslims, Jews, and other groups of the city. The merchants of Mecca, meanwhile, persisted in their hostility, demanding the extradition of Mohammed and his partisans. One of the groups in Medina supported Mohammed’s elements to fight against Mecca’s merchants referring to in the Koran as the Hypocrites, who had submitted to Islam but were secretly working against it. The three Jewish tribes that were residing in Medina aided this group in turn. Mohammed’s strategy in the developing conflict with Mecca was to attack Mecca’s trade caravans returning from Syria and thus economically weakens the city. In 624, the first major battle occurred like terrorist activities, in which the Muslims, despite their inferiority in numbers and weapons, soundly defeated the Meccans. In the next major battle, the following year, the Meccans had the advantage but were unable to achieve a decisive victory. A Meccan army besieged Medina in 627 but failed to take the city. Mohammed meanwhile eliminated his enemies within Medina. After each of the battles he expelled a Jewish tribe, and after the major battles he had massacred the remaining male tribes for collaborating with his opponents. Mohammed’s army finally became stronger and stronger. In 630, the Meccans, unable to conquer Medina and crippled by the severing of their trade routes, at last submitted to Mohammed because they were afraid of being killed. Mohammed’s army attacked the merchants of Mecca in different forms in the name of Allah. When his army became powerful, tribal delegations arrived from throughout Arabia, and their tribes were soon converted to Islam. Those who refused to be converted to Islam would be horribly punished by Mohammed’s army. Mohammed, now the most powerful leader in Arabia, enforced the principles of Islam and established the foundation of the Islamic Empire. He ordered the destruction of the idols in the Kaaba, the traditional place of pilgrimage in Mecca, which then became the shrine of Islam. He granted Jewish and Christian religious autonomies as “people of the book”, whose revelations anticipated his own. On his last visit to Mecca, at the time of the annual pilgrimage, he gave a sermon in which he summarized his reforms, declared the brotherhood of Muslims, and repudiated all distinctions of class, color, and race. He died suddenly and unexpectedly in Medina about a year later, on June 8, 632.

After Khadija died in 619, when he was 50, he eventually married nine women, including 9 years old Aisha (Ayesha), the daughter of his kinsman and early follower Abu Bakr, who was to become the first caliph, or successor to Mohammed. He also took a Christian woman as his concubine. Mohammed’s sons all died in infancy, and the only daughter to survive him was Fatima, who married Ali, the fourth caliph. The scuttlebutt spread around the world that Mohammed had raped Aisha and forced her to be his wife. It was not a reliable story. But Aisha was Mohammed’s second and favorite wife. He died in her arms.

After Mohammed’s death, his followers began to establish the story of his life with mythology, probably derived in part from accounts of the founders of other religions. The story of Mohammed’s ascension to heaven from Jerusalem, for instance, seems to have been patterned on the ascension of Jesus. Mohammed’s heart, his early followers asserted, was miraculously cleansed of all unworthy thoughts when he was a boy of 12, and he was declared, as were the other messengers, immune from error and able to intercede on the behalf of sinners. Although the Koran explicitly denies that Mohammed performed any miracles, his followers soon credited him with many miraculous feats. Muslims, however, have always attributed their religion to Allah alone and repudiate any suggestion of Mohammed’s divinity. Mohammed’s remarkable abilities and personality were demonstrated by the establishment and rapid expansion of Islam, which had to overcome the traditional idolatry and tribal Arabs and opposition of their most powerful leaders. The strong monotheism, the theory of revelation, and the Biblical element in the Koran all suggest that Mohammed was exposed to both Christian and Jewish influence. However, his versions of Biblical stories indicate that they were indirectly acquired-most likely from Jewish and Christian traders and travelers whose religious knowledge was imperfect and apocryphal. The Hanifs, native people, who were unhappy with Arabian paganism, became satisfied after idol worshippers were killed by Mohammed’s army.

But Mohammed’s career always remains concealed in mystery. He felt disturbed and disgusted by the idolatry. He was painfully aware that the religious life of Jews and Christians about him contrasted sharply with the materialistic paganism of his people. He went to a cave under Mount Hira, near Mecca, for meditation and prayer. If the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain. When Mohammed introduced his relationship with Allah to the Arabs, he was asked for miraculous proofs. He then ordered Mount Safa to come to him, and as it did not move, he said, “Allah is merciful. Had it obeyed my words, it would fall on us to our destruction. I will therefore go to the mountain, and thank Allah that he has had mercy on a stiff-necked generation”. The phrase is often used of one, who not being able to get his own way, bows before the inevitable.

Here, he said he received a Call “like the breaking of the dawn”. In fact, he wanted to say something to the people who were devoted to paganism; therefore, he created the legendary revelation of Allah, so that he could mention what he wanted to. According to tradition, Mohammed’s Call, the legendary revelation of Allah, came suddenly and dramatically in 611, when he was about forty years old. Description in the Koran, as well as a number of traditional stories, suggest that the Call was a flash of divine insight delivered by the angel Gabriel. Mohammed had no idea to begin founding a new religion. His ambitions were of modest kind; he hoped to bring his people to a unified Arab. Revelation was similar to that of the Christians and Jews. The early chapters of the Koran are brief and orthodox, dealing mainly with the unity under Allah, the wickedness of idolatry, materialism, and imminence of divine judgment.

At first, Mohammed’s few influential supporters, in addition to his wife, Abu Bakr and Umar were his powerful friends, and his sons-in-law Uthman and Ali, who succeeded him as the four “rightly guided” caliphs. Apart from this intimate circle, few were interested in his message of reform. However, as Mohammed became more confident in the importance of his mission he openly attacked the prevailing paganism and its leaders. He antagonized the powerful merchants who controlled Meccan society. Actually, he hated wealthy traders. Feared that his reforms would deprave Mecca of its unique and profitable position as a center of pilgrimage and trade, the merchants declared war with Mohammed and persecuted Mohammed’s soldiers. Eventually, some of Mohammed’s followers fled to Coptic Christian Abyssinia where they found asylum under the ruling Negus. The support of powerful relatives enabled Mohammed to maintain a foundation in Mecca, but he experienced one setback after another. First his wife died; then the sympathetic patriarch of his clan, whose successor was hostile to him.

Mohammed’s lack of achievement in Mecca, coupled with his abortive attempt to spread his message in Taif, led him to search for a new, more promising horizon. He found it at Yathrib (Medina).

Medina was a sophisticated city; it attracted many Pagan Arabs who eventually outnumbered its Jewish founders. It had no stable government but was constantly torn by feuds between the rival Arab tribes of the Aus and Khazraj, with the Jews often controlling the balance of power. After prolonged negotiations Mohammed finally agreed to his famous Hija (migration) to Medina. The people of Medina saw him as a man of power, discipline, and spirit who could serve as a mediator and conciliator rather than a religious leader. Unlike the Meccans, they had few strong religious convictions. Mohammed had some followers in Mecca, but the majority did not like his idea. They would accept the religious aspect of Islam for political and economic needs.

The move of Mohammed and his followers to Medina proved to be a pivotal one for the whole development of Islam. Once in Medina, Mohammed’s revelations changed in character; Mosques became a community and state, with Mohammed as the lawgiver, the supreme judge, the commander in chief, and the ruler.

Mohammed’s sudden death threatened the dissolution of the community he had struggled to create. First there was the problem of selecting his successor, or caliph. This task threatened to disrupt political and religious unity and precipitated some of the bloodiest battles in Islam. Mohammed had left no heir or clearly designated successor; in fact he had undermined the traditional tribal system of government by taking temporal as well as spiritual power into his own hands. Since he had proclaimed himself the last of the messengers and said that his unique mission would terminate with his death, there was no need for a spiritual successor, but someone had to fill his role as head of state, commander in chief, lawgiver, and chief justice. During the confusion that followed his death, several rival parties arose, each claiming priority in the appointment of a caliph.

The original Meccan converts, those who had migrated with him to Medina, based their claim on belonging to Mohammed’s tribe Quarayah and being the first to embrace Islam. His supporters of Medina, on the other hand, claimed priority because they had supported him following the Hija. Both groups, comprising the most influential among the Companions of Mohammed, cleaned toward the traditional tribal method of selecting a new chief from among the best qualified of their number.

A third group, advocating the idea of a divine designation as opposed to the traditional elective principle, supported Ali, a paternal cousin of Mohammed and the husband of his only surviving daughter Fatima; there were the influential Umayyads; the aristocrats of Mecca although the most recent converts to Islam, they claimed that their traditional position leadership, based on power and position, entitled them to name the caliph. An open breach between these diverse elements was avoided by the swift action of a small group of senior companions who nominated Abu Bakr as Mohammed’s successor.

Abu Bakr, an unprepossessing, but kindly man, slightly stooped by his sixty years, was revered for his gentleness, humility, and piety. His selection seemed most appropriate, for he had been chosen by dying Mohammed to lead the faithful in prayer. Mohammed’s death created a lot of problems. It acted as a signal for revolt to many of the out-laying tribes in central and eastern Arabia whose conversion to Islam had been at best lukewarm. Islam threatened their nomadic independence, and they were grateful for the opportunity to throw it off.

Abu Bakr’s awesome task was not only to be an effective religious leader, but also to solidify the shaky unity of the Islamic community. He was remarkably successful. In his short reign of two years, this weak man consolidated the diverse components of Islam and launched the Arabs on their path of conquest. Before his death in 634, Syria, Iraq, the southern provinces of Persia, and the Byzantine Empire had all fallen to the Arab conquerors.

To avoid difficulties, Abu Bakr had appointed Umar to succeed him, and the nomination was unanimously accepted. The reign of Umar (634-644) saw the further expansion of the Arab Empire. The typical Arab raids for booty into Iraq and Syria developed into campaigns of permanent conquest. The small Arab detachments, really mere raiding parties, were led by commanders (Khilid ibn al-Walid being one of the best known) and struck with lightning swiftness deep into the surrounding countries. They met little effective resistance. The seemingly unconquerable Arab armies, brilliantly using the desert as their ally won one battle after another. In the north the Arabs entered Damascus in 635. Then after the decisive battle of Yarmuk (636) the Byzantine emperor Heraclius abandoned Syria. Jerusalem fell in 637. In the east the Arabs won even more spectacular victories against the Persian Empire. After the battle of Qadisiya (643), finally broke Persian power, and the empire fell into Arab hands. In Egypt the pattern was the same: and Arab army under Amr al-Ass struck in 639. By 642 all of Egypt was under Arab domination.

Thus in a single decade a host of highly organized, sophisticated, and settled societies found themselves conquered by migratory Arab tribesmen. The Persian Empire, which had existed for centuries, was no more, and mighty Byzantium was forced back to the Tauru Mountains in Asia Minor.

The inspiration of Islam was of primary importance; it provided the Arabs, for the first time, with a cohesive centralizing force and the dramatic religion. The Muslims believed that divine intercession enabled them to scatter the armies of the infidels. The wars of conquest, moreover, provided opportunities for heroism and booty in the name of Allah and Islam. Everywhere the Islam conquerors gained territory and converts because of killings.

For the conquered peoples, the task of shifting from old to new rulers was not difficult. Most of them had long been alienated by cruel and corrupt Persian and Byzantine bureaucratic administrations. Moreover, in Egypt and Syria the Christian population was strongly opposed to the centralizing and Hellenizing tendencies of the Byzantine bureaucracy and Orthodox Church. Umar’s organizational abilities also contributed greatly to the Arab’s success. He regularized the legal position of the millions of non-Muslim subjects in his domain and set up an efficient administrative system for the empire. Mohammed had established the precedent of “tolerance” for the “People of the Book”, the Jewish and Christian communities in the northern Hijaz. Umar left these communities undisturbed except for the payment of an annual tribute in the form of poll tax (jizya); indeed, he extended the principle of toleration to cover not only codes, and were governed by their own religious leaders. This system prevailed throughout the Islamic area until the end of the Ottoman Era and still exists in the restricted way in parts of the Middle East that have not yet been thoroughly secularized. European claimed that Muslims gave unbelievers, mainly Christians and Jews, the choice of conversion to Islam or death by sword. From a practical point of view, mass conversions to Islam would have meant abandoning the jazya, a considerable source of revenue.

The Muslim conquerors, however, sought to maintain their identity as a separate ruling class. Overall authority in the conquered provinces was established by the appointment of military commanders as governors. Arab garrisons maintained order throughout the empire. Individual Arabs in the newly won territories were forbidden to acquire land outside Arabia proper and were discouraged from mixing with the local populace. Yet while the Arabs held the ultimate power, they left civil control in the hands of their non-Muslim subjects-the Hellenized Christians and Persians experienced in the local government.

Umar was reasonable for laying the foundation of the empire. In 644 a discontented Persian slave assassinated him as he was praying in a mosque in Medina. Uthman, a son-in-law of Mohammed, and a member of the influential Umayyad family of the Meccan tribe of Quarayah, was eventually elected caliph. Although noted for his mild manner, piety, and closeness to Mohammed, Uthman turned out to be a somewhat irresolute ruler and was accused of appointing his kinsmen to leading position in the empire. Some, however, were able generals and governors who carried the banner of Islam north into Asia Minor and Byzantium, and on the eastern front into Bactria, Kabul, and Ghazzi.

The problem of Islamic society at that time was the impact of the Empire upon it. The earliest Muslims were wealthy. A second urban generation was in the making, raised amid the amusements and the luxuries of Alexandra, Damascus, Ctesiphon, and the camp cities of Basra and Kufa. For this reason, politics, power, and prestige had ended, and Uthman was too weak to halt the trend. In 656, a party of regicides from the army in Egypt came to Medina to present Uthman with grievance concerning his misrule. Upon discovering that Uthman was stalling only to allow the Syrian troops he had secretly sought from Mu’awiya, the Umayyad governor of Syria, came to Medina to defy him, the regicides stormed his place. They murdered him while reading the Koran. The first blow was dealt by Abdallah, son of Abu Bakr, the first caliph. This murder of a caliph by fellow Muslim was the first direct challenge to the moral hero. Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Mohammed and his male kin, had many virtues as warrior, counselor, and friend. But he lacked the talents to govern a divided state, being indecisive and inflexible, as well as lacking in energy and foresight.

Opposition to Ali began in Mecca headed by Aisha, the widow of Mohammed, who hated him, and by Talha and Zubair, who had been Mohammed’s Companions, and who had their own eyes on the caliphate. They had previously been enemies of Uthman and had formed the real centers of opposition to him in Medina even prior to the advent of the Egyptian regicides. Now, with complete disregard of their previous role in the events leading to the murder, they defiantly withdrew to Mecca, withheld their recognition of Ali, and demanded the punishment of the guilty. Ali did not carry out the direct responsibility for the crime, but the opposition insisted by failing to use his prestige and standing more effectively to protect Uthman, and by failing to punish the regicides after his accession, he had implicated himself in the murder. Soon afterward, a pro-Uthman party developed around the opposition, carrying for war and vengeance. After gathering their forces in Mecca, Aisha, Talha, and Zubair moved to Basra in search of local support.

In 656, Ali moved against them and left Medina at the head of his army-never to return there again. From that day to the present, Medina ceased to be the capital of the Islamic Empire. The conflict was known as the “Battle of the Camel” after the camel Aisha rode as she urged her supporters to fight on. The first battle of Muslim against Muslim ended in victory for Ali, but not before many illustrious Companions including Talha and Zubair had lost their lives. Aisha, “the Mother of the Faithful”, was captured but was permitted to return to Medina, where she lived the rest of her life in obscurity. Ali, realizing his unpopularity in Basra, made Kufa his capital. His position as caliph appeared secure, but in reality his authority was constantly being challenged, both by tribal insubordination and by conflicting councils of theocrats in his own camp.

As for the rest of the empire, Ali was generally recognized as the new caliph. The new governors he had appointed were accepted everywhere, but in Syria Ali was accused of condoning the regicides. Ali led an army and met the Syrian forces at Stiffin by the Euphrates in 657. When the battle against them, the Syrian dramatically raised copies of the Koran on the point of their lances and appealed for arbitration. The arbitration which followed in 659 was unsuccessful, for it ended in a stalemate-Mu’awiya refusing to recognize Ali as caliph, and Ali either abdicating or accepting Mu’awiya as governor of Syria. But the arbitration was, in effect, a moral victory for Mu’awiya, reducing Ali’s status as sole caliph to that of a pretender.

Moreover, the settlement brought other difficulties for Ali, after the “Battle of the Camel”, and many supporters from Mecca and Medina had perished. Ali was left at the mercy of his soldiers-the anarchic and undisciplined nomadic Arabs. Ali subdued an important group among them, known as the Kharijities (seceders), the oldest religious sect of Islam in 659, but they continued to reappear as puritanical, militant movements throughout the later history of Islam.

Ali, weakened by the Kharijite revolt and declining morale among his supporters, was assassinated in 661 in Kufa by a Kharijite. Hassan, his eldest son, was proclaimed caliph in Kufa while Mu’awiya was recognized in Damascus. A few months later, Hassan reached an agreement with Mu’awiya, and Mu’awiya was then proclaimed the sole of caliph of the empire at Jerusalem in 661, with Damascus as his capital. As the center of the community changed from the Companions of Mohammed to the Umayyad, a new era was born.

Muslims say Koran is the word of Allah. They believe that the angel Gabriel is said to have spoken Allah’s word into Mohammed’s ears. According to Muslim tradition, after this ecstatic experience Mohammed was able to recite exactly what he had been told. The term Qu’ran, which means “recitation”, occurs several times in the text itself; the term refers either to a fragment of the revelation or to the entire collection of revelations that are known as the Qu’ran. Oral recitation of the Qu’ran is believed by Muslims to be the believer’s most direct contact with the word of Allah.

The recitation, known as tajwid or tartil, is consequently highly valued among Muslims. Recitation is heard almost everywhere. It is the core of religious devotion. The main topic of the Qu’ran is Allah’s relationship with humanity. The Qu’ran summons humans to acknowledge Allah’s sovereign over their lives and invites them to submit to his will. The chief doctrines laid down in the Qu’ran are that only Allah and one true religion. All people will undergo a final judgment for being rewarded with eternal bliss or being punished. Allah sent messengers to lead the nation. The greatest of these messengers were Abraham, Moses, Jesus Christ, and Mohammed. According to this sacred scripture, humankind’s fundamental role in this world is one of moral struggles. Each person will be held accountable for this struggle at the end of time. Allah sent Mohammed and the Qu’ran to instruct humanity in how to lead a moral life. The teachings of the Qu’ran are dispersed and repeated throughout the book rather than being organized as topic. The subjects of these teachings include Allah and creation, messengers from Adam to Jesus, Mohammed as a preacher and ruler, Islam as a faith and core of life, disbelief, human responsibility and judgment, and society and law. But on many specific questions the Qu’ran is silent.

While the Qu’ran itself does not instruct about the nature of humanity’s moral struggle in detail, the significance of this responsibility is emphasized by the portrayal of the Day of Judgment in some of the most powerful passages of the Qu’ran. Muslims believe that on that day the world will come to an end, the dead will be resurrected, and a judgment will be pronounced on every person in accordance with his or her deeds. The Qu’ran vividly depicts the torment of hell and the bliss of Paradise, the two realms to which people will be sent once judgment has been pronounced. In chapter 100, the Day of Judgment is described:

Although the Qu’ran accepts the miracles of earlier religious leaders, including the messengers of the Hebrew and Christian Bibles (Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and others), it declares their teachings outdated. For Muslims, the Qu’ran teaches the meaning of life. Consequently, it holds a pride of place at the very center of Muslim religious life and practice. There is no more eloquent testimony to the place accorded the Qu’ran in a Muslim’s life than the effort that many pious individuals make to internalize the scripture by memorizing it in its entirety. A person who has thus memorized the complete text is known as hafiz, one who keeps the Qu’ran in his or her heart.

Parts of the Qu’ran are recited on many different occasions. A Muslim who observes the five daily prayers will recite several short chapters from the Qu’ran each day. Passages are recited at birth to the newborn and at death to the dying. All the great events of life and the rites of passage in the Muslim are marked by recitation of the Qu’ran. Parts of the book are incorporated into the rites of marriages and funerals. A new venture of any kind, whether in public or private life, is inaugurated by the recitation of blessings from the Qu’ran. In many Muslim countries every public meeting starts with the recitation of Qu’ranic verse. It is a special mark of devotion to recite the whole of the Qu’ran at least once during the month of fasting.

The significance of the Qu’ran and the understanding of its sacredness can first be understood within the story of Mohammed. According to Islamic belief, the experience of receiving the revelations transformed Mohammed, a human being like any other, became the leader of his people and a man who profoundly influenced the history of the world. Mohammed’s home becomes a major religious center and site of the revered sanctuary and shrine. From AD 570 to 622, Mecca was also an environment of spiritual and intellectual unrest. The people of Mecca lived under an ancient system of tribes and clans; this system had evolved from their former nomadic lifestyle of herding and moving from place to place according to seasonal changes. But the moral values of this tribal social system were breaking down as the people struggled to adapt themselves to the lifestyle of Mecca, a thriving commercial town. As a child, dependent on his uncle for protection and livelihood, Mohammed experienced the bitter competition and politics of his times.

Mohammed was exposed to both Christian and Jewish religious dialogues in Mecca. Prior to his call, Mohammed had developed the custom of retreating to a cave outside Mecca to meditate and pray.

According to Islamic tradition, revelations such as this continued to come to Mohammed in Mecca for 13 years, and later in Medina. The revelations came in fragments as responses to the circumstances that he and his emerging Muslim community faced. The fragmentary nature of the revelations distinguishes the Qu’ran from other sacred texts, including many books of the Hebrew Bible, which tell a coherent history or story.

There was no definitive written text of the Qu’ran while Mohammed was still alive, but the structure of the Suras (chapters) and their titles may have been influenced by Mohammed. Muslims generally believe that the authorized version of the Qu’ran derives from the work of a commission appointed by the third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, during the second half of his reign, roughly 20 years after Mohammed’s death. The text, the number and order of the chapters are also arranged by the commission.

The most widely accepted history of this Uthmanic text is that the commission relied upon a written copy of the entire text that was collected from written and oral versions within two years of Mohammed’s death during the reign of the first caliph, Abu Bakr. Written versions had been created by those who served as Mohammed’s secretaries and wrote down the revelations as Mohammed received them. Oral versions existed because some of Mohammed’s companions had memorized several chapters. The commission thus succeeded in establishing a complete text.

Different readings of certain words and verses, however, continued for a long time. This was due to differences among dialect of Arabic and deficiencies in the script used for writing at that time. Although Arabic script shows the characteristics of a consonantal script, there are several cases where the same form of writing was used to represent more than one consonant without any distinguishing mark If there were agreements on the consonants, some words could be read in different ways because the earliest copies of the Qu’ran were transcribed without symbols to represent certain vowels. Diacritical marks were added to the text a few generations after its creation, but the Uthmanic text was probably not accepted as a definitive text until the beginning of the 4th century of the Islamic calendar (10th century AD). In the 20th century an Egyptian edition printed in 1924 became the official text throughout the Islamic area.

The Uthmanic or canonical text represents a different sequence than the order in which Mohammed reportedly receive the revelations. The chapters, after the short opening chapter called al-Fatihah, are arranged roughly in descending order of length. Because the first revelations are the shorter chapters, they are assigned to the end.

The Qu’ran is divided into 114 chapters, or suras, each of which is further divided into a number of ayt (verses). The chapter titles were taken from images or events included in the suras. The chapters are customarily classified in reference to the two cities in which Mohammed lived and received the revelations. The Qu’ran is divided into various schemes, such as 30 equal ajza (parts), so that it can be read in full during Ramadan, the month of fasting, but reciting one part per day.

The 1924 Egyptian Qu’ranic text is printed with full diacritical marks and other signs that give precise guidance for the pronunciation of each word, especially for those readers who do not know Arabic. Although Arabic can be written without vowels, the meaning of Arabic words depends on both consonants and vowels. For centuries the Qu’ran was transcribed without symbols to represent the missing vowels, so that more than one reading of the text was possible. Despite the consensus among Muslim scholars on the authority of the Uthmanic text, seven or more legitimate readings of the Qu’ran prevailed during the early centuries of Islam.

There are many questions about Mohammed. One of the questions is why did he run away from Mecca?

Another question is he claimed he was the last messenger for the world and why did he set up an army to victimize the traders?

The Qu’ran and clerics are silent for these questions. On the other hand, there is no image of Mohammed remained. Actually, no one is allowed to illustrate Mohammed’s image; therefore, no one knows how he was look-like. After the death of Mohammed, many Muslim parents named their sons Mohammed. The name (Mohammed) became popular. The nomenclatures of Mohammed are not all Muslims. Some people name their pets Allah and Mohammed.

A farmer family of Myauk national once named two dogs, Allah and Mohammed in Thailand. Many Muslims from Bangladesh came to Thailand illegally and worked for the Myauk farmers in the northwestern area of Thailand. Sometimes Muslims prayed for Allah and Mohammed such as “Allah is great and Mohammed is his messenger” in a thunderous voice. When the owner of the farm heard of that voice, he named his dogs. He did not seem to know who were Allah and Mohammed. Muslims who heard that the farmer had two dogs, Allah and Mohammed, tried to create problems in that region. They called a meeting at the Maesod Mosque and told the people that the Myauk farmer merely insulted Islamic religion. At the meeting, the names of the dogs became a big problem. Some said the farmer insulted Islam. Some said they wanted to know the meanings of Allah and Mohammed in Myauk Language. Most of the illegal people threatened the farmer. But they were unable to live longer there; Thai authorities arrested and sent them back to their homeland.

Red River

4/03/2006 05:28:00 AM  

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