Questioning assumptions, left and right - We lead off with a pair of recent books, one striving desperately to undermine our confidence, and the other trying just as hard to snap us out of our fu...
23 hours ago
Commentators on the right have long argued that Islam is incompatible with the values of the Christian West. In fact, some have loudly claimed that Muslims living among them are demanding the majority’s assimilation to their way of life. Those on the left counter that experiences of racism and discrimination encourage extremist beliefs among Muslim youths. However, neither argument has explained why the “unassimilated” have turned almost exclusively to these radically new interpretations of Islam, or why conversion to jihadist ideology has only been a relatively recent phenomenon.
First off, concerns about Muslim assimilation are not well-founded. Large-scale surveys conducted over the past decade have revealed that the vast majority of Muslim immigrants in Europe and the United States identify quite positively with their “host” society. Indices of cultural assimilation are even higher for second-generation immigrants. Moreover, researchers claim generally declining levels of religiosity among Muslims in the West (the same can be said about Christians). Even the biographies of jihadists often work against lack-of-assimilation arguments: many live fairly normal lives before their “born-again” moments.
Members of the global jihad are often portrayed as desperate losers and loners. But these movements don’t necessarily attract antisocial individuals who are alienated from family and peer groups. To the contrary, people often learn about and join jihadist movements with friends and relatives. Indeed, one of the more surprising aspects of jihadist movements has been their skilled use of social media.
The predominantly young men who are drawn into the global jihad are not exactly retreating from the impenetrable world around them, but rather are looking to engage with it. Jihadist movements have expended substantial resources on proselytizing, to the extent that some experts have claimed al-Qaida to be the fastest growing strain of Islam in Europe. Jihadists are not seeking refuge in their parents’ or grandparents’ religion and culture (of which they often know very little) but in a new Islam that is very much of this world and is making use of (some would say perverting) the ideas and technologies supporting it. ...
The “assimilation” debate, then, is not just about making Muslims more French or American. In fact, some government officials and terrorism experts have recognized cultural integration without ideological assimilation as a potential problem, with their warnings of “sleeper cells.” When the left and right talks about assimilation, they also mean the acquiescence of the “assimilated” to current hierarchies of power in the world. If we set aside the religious pretensions of the global jihad and take seriously its claims to eliminate global inequalities and the oppression of ordinary Muslims (especially in the Middle Eastern “heartland”), then the movement’s popularity starts to make sense. One begins to see parallels emerge with past youth movements claiming to defend fundamental human values against powerful countervailing forces in the world, like the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War.
Another factor, to me, is that if their afterlife were true, they expect us to stand before a deity as a supplicant, with a vast power differential, and then essentially grovel. There is no human dignity and no hope in their vision of death — your choice is to submit or suffer. If this god could see into our minds what we were truly thinking, then there is also no point to pretending, and it would know it: this would be a monstrous alien passing judgment on a humanity it regards as corrupt, debased, and wicked, and the only propitiation it could get from us is our terror.
Fortunately, there is no evidence and no reason to think we will continue to exist beyond the death of our bodies, or that there is such a cosmic tyrant, so I’m relieved that I don’t have to worry about a Christian afterlife.
In a disparity that crystalizes the Republican Party's struggle with immigration reform, its official English-language response to President Obama's State of the Union address did not mention the issue -- but its Spanish-language response did.
Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) didn't mention immigration once during her official Republican response, which was aired nationally Tuesday night. A pledge that the GOP would "work to correct executive overreach" was as close as she came.
But Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), who delivered the Spanish-language GOP response, did bring it up. Democratic opposition research firm American Bridge pointed out the discrepancy in an email to reporters.
"We should also work through the appropriate channels to create permanent solutions for our immigration system," Curbelo said, as translated by American Bridge.
On Tuesday morning, Mother Jones reported on an incongruity in the Republican plan to respond to President Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday night. The headliner for the GOP is Joni Ernst, the new Iowa senator and rising conservative star. The party also scheduled Rep. Carlos Curbelo—another new member joining Congress this month and a Cuban American [of course!] hailing from Miami—to deliver a Spanish language translation of Ernst's response.
The problem? Republicans were not letting the Latino guy say anything of his own. And there's this: Ernst has a long record of opposing Spanish in government communications. She endorsed making English the country's official language during her 2014 campaign, and as a county auditor in 2007 she sued to prevent voter forms from being offered in any other language besides English.
Immediately following the publication of the article, Republicans tried to change course. ..
In recent days, National Review, USA Today, Slate, MSNBC, the Miami Herald, and Tampa Bay Times all reported that Curbelo's remarks would be a translation of Ernst's rebuttal. And Curbelo's office confirmed on Tuesday that the congressman would be reading a translation of Sen. Ernst's remarks.
The House Republican Conference notes that Curbelo will replace references to growing up on a small town Iowa farm with anecdotes from his own life. But, according to Curbelo's office, when it comes to policy and politics, he will be speaking Ernst's words—just in a language she doesn't want to be used by the government.
In the days after the bloody end of twin French hostage crises Friday, stories of life-saving courage are beginning to filter out. One of the most striking is the story of Lassana Bathily, a young immigrant from Mali who literally provided police with the key to ending the hostage crisis at the supermarket.
Bathily was in the store's underground stockroom when gunman Amedy Coulibaly burst in upstairs, according to accounts given to French media and to a friend of Bathily's who spoke to The Associated Press. Bathily turned off the stockroom's freezer and hid a group of frightened shoppers inside before sneaking out through a fire escape to speak to police. Initially confused for the attacker, he was forced to the ground and handcuffed.
Once police realized their mistake, he provided them with the key they needed to open the supermarket's metal blinds and mount their assault.
"The guy was so courageous," said Mohammed Amine, a 33-year-old friend and former coworker of Bathily's who spoke to him about the assault on Saturday. ...
Police found four hostages dead inside the supermarket, apparently shot by Coulibaly when he entered the store.
Among them was Yohan Cohen, a 22-year-old who Amine said was "someone amazing, friendly, who likes (and) who respects people."
"I'm Muslim and he's Jewish," said Amine, an immigrant from Morocco. "But there's such respect between us. We're like brothers.
"They took my best friend."
Kirby Delauter is not having a good week.
A council member of Frederick County, Maryland, he got into an online spat with local reporter Bethany Rodgers, attacking her for "for an unauthorized use of my name" in a "hit piece."
In a Facebook post on Saturday, Delauter warned the reporter to never again "use my name or reference me in an unauthorized form."
After Rodgers responded that reporters do not have to seek permission to write about public figures, the councilman simply wrote, "[u]se my name again and you'll be paying for an Attorney [sic]." ...
On Tuesday afternoon, Rodgers' paper, the Fredericks News-Post, mercilessly mocked the councilman in an editorial entitled, "Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter." The newspaper said it was publishing the Sunday editorial early, "in order to garner some feedback."
"[H]ow should we now refer to Kirby Delauter if we can't use his name (Kirby Delauter)?" the paper asked. "Could we get away with an entire editorial of nothing but 'Kirby Delauter' repeated over and over again -- Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter, Kirby Delauter?"
After running through several ideas of how to reference Delauter without using his name (blank spaces, "He Who Shall Not be Named") the paper took a break from its mockery to offer a serious point.
"Kirby Delauter's ignorance of what journalism is and does is no joke, and illustrates one disturbing aspect too prevalent in conservatives’ beliefs: That the media are all-liberal stooges hell bent on pursuing some fictional leftwing agenda," the editorial said.
Remember March 2003? That’s when Natalie Maines, lead singer of the popular country music group The Dixie Chicks, told a British audience, “We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” Compared to The Interview’s extended, ribald parody of North Korea’s leader, one that culminates in a slow-motion shot of his exploding head, Maines’ critique of America’s president was brief and mild. Moreover, Maines hails from a nation that prides itself on nothing more than its freedoms, and indeed consistently deploys those freedoms to contrast itself with dictatorial or repressive nations around the world. It was Bush himself who argued that “they hate us for our freedoms,” an argument that has been rehashed in response to The Interview controversy.
Yet the response to Maines’s comments from millions of her fellow Americans was as outraged, as extreme and as violent as anything out of North Korea. North Korea may indeed have been responsible for what amounted to a boycott of Sony’s film, although the decision to pull the film was the company’s own. On the other hand, numerous country music radio stations and millions of country listeners boycotted The Dixie Chicks themselves, refusing to play their music, destroying piles of their albums, labeling them “Saddam’s Angels,” the “Dixie Sluts,” and so on.
Similarly, North Korean hackers may well have made vague threats of violence against movie theaters that chose to show The Interview. But Maines and the Dixie Chicks received much more overt and widespread death threats, to the point where the singer and group were forced to withdraw from the public eye for some time out of fear for their own safety and that of their families. Such attacks were egged on, if not orchestrated, by the nation’s most prominent conservative voices, as exemplified by Rush Limbaugh’s multi-day tirade against the group. And they were undoubtedly tied to rhetoric emanating from the highest levels of American government, such as Bush’s “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists” remark.
Remembering the response to Maines in this moment would serve as a glass houses moment for Americans,...
Moreover, the Maines response illustrates how quickly we can abandon our ideals of freedom if they contrast with such passionately held perspectives. Bush’s public statement on the attacks on and threats against Maines and the Dixie Chicks was that “Consequences are the price we all have to pay for our freedoms.” Yet it’d be more accurate to say that Maines’ millions of critics were happy to see her freedoms abridged when they conflicted with their beliefs about their leader and nation. In such moments, the gap between America and North Korea seems all too slight.