Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Your Daily Muslim: Europe & Islam

Your Daily Muslim: Europe & Islam

I follow Murtada Shah's blog pretty regularly, and I wanted to comment on it in a more expansive way than I could in a comment.

He says "From one perspective, Muslims are taking a severe hit in Europe, but I'd place at least half the responsibility, if not all, squarely on our own shoulders." I'd keep it to half. The other half goes to a culture (a collection of sub-cultures) that has failed to adopt ideas that flowed in its own midst probably two-hundred years ago. Religious tolerance is not unknown in Europe. Cultural diversity is not unknown. The separation of church and state is not unknown. Indeed, those ideas were first spawned there, though they never took root, as they did in America. Europe has a hostile attitude toward aliens, plain and simple. The Muslim experience in Europe is not new; it was once called the Jewish experience, and look what happened to them!

Simply put, Eurpope has, as it did in the time of Rome, a strong "Cult of State." Back in the old Roman Empire, one could worship any god one wished to, so long as one honored the Emperor over all (other) gods. So long as one participated in the Imperial ceremonies when it was called for, one could continue to worship one's own gods without interferance. This was a problem for those whose gods demanded to honored alone, such as the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jaccob (and Ishmael?).

Jews had the advantage of being a small and stubborn minority. They were often given an exception to the requirements, being required to pray for the Emperor, rather than to the Emperor, as others were required to do. Not so for early Christianity, which grew too much for it to be anything but an enemy of the State. Now, Christianity was corrupted when it was co-opted by the State, in the person of Emperor Constantine, and so became a part of Europe's cultural heritage... unless, of course, you are a heretic. In Europe, so long as you follow a watered-down version of Christianity that places the State above God, you can be accepted. Any other sort, and you are shunned. France claims to separate Church and State, but from what I hear, what they actually do is subordinate Church to State. Islam, of course, cannot be tolerated under these circumstances.

Aliens who come to the US can generally make a place for themselves here. Immigrant districts are tolerated, and when they prosper, they are even celebrated, such as the China Towns scattered across the West Coast. There are, of course, ghettos with higher crime rates due to a disfunctional reaction to different circumstances, but that's nothing new in our experience. It started with the Irish, moved on to the Italians, on through a kaleidescope of immigrant groups that had a difficult time adapting their culture to the circumstance of freedom. If there's a bunch of North Africans, Arabs, or Turks in a particular section of town, causing problems for themselves, the city will likely wring its hands, the police assigned to that district will probably be a frightened group, but its nothing new. The only group that has failed to integrate is the group that was brought here against their will.

This is because we don't "integrate" them. We have no official programs. Though freedom erodes in this country, traditionally, we have said, "You may come here, but don't expect a free ride." We have no official language teaching programs, no official cultural indoctrination programs, no requirement except that the people that come here respect our laws, and our laws are traditionally matters of personal justice, of protecting the rights of individuals against the encroachments of others, both foreign and domestic.

Properly, the murder that occurred recently in France and has stirred up so much turmoil ought to be regarded as a murder. The boys who are involved ought to be brought to trial and punished for murder (we'd call it first degree murder here in the States). It doesn't matter that they had some kind of "religious justification" for it. If anyone from the community tries to help them escape justice for the same justification, they ought to be brought to trial for obstruction of justice. Very simply put, it ought to be treated as a felony, not as a crime of thought, religion, or culture; however, the reaction in France shows very clearly that the majority in that country are less interested in justice than in submission to the Cult of State.

If that were not the case, then I'm sure most Muslims could integrate themselves into European society. It may take a few generations, but it could be done. To the best of my knowledge, there is nothing in the Qur'an that justifies that killing. And if there is, I could probably find a way to justify it using the Christian Bible, as well!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Bush Considering Amnesty

I have recently learned that George W. Bush is currently planning to try to reintroduce an amnesty bill to Congress. This gets my mind whirring.

My first thought is, what the heck is Bush? Is he a Conservative, or a Liberal? He certainly isn't scoring any points with his conservative base by trying to do this. They'd probably like to kick out even the legal immigrants, if they could. He certainly won't win any liberal bleeding hearts by trying to do this, though he may confuse them for a bit. Perhaps it's that he has no political needs now. He's in his second term, and it really doesn't matter what he does. He doesn't get to be president again. Perhaps he has another reason.

Here's one possibility. Border Republicans tend to see the immigration issue differently from other Republicans, so far as I can tell. Interior Businessman Republicans probably don't care much one way or the other about the issue, so for Interior Republicans, it's probably the National Purity folks who control immigration issues. However, on the border, immigrants are often a significant economic resource. In addition, influence from more recent citizens may be felt in the Republican party of that state, meaning Nationalism is weaker there. Perhaps this is why Bush is doing this. He's trying to secure cheap labor for his original supporters back in Texas.

But there's another possibility. Perhaps he is actually being principled, now that he no longer has to be a politician.

Illegal immigration is an issue I have always been concerned about. Personally, were it up to me, immigration would be restricted only by the rate people could be checked in at immigration and customs ports. (Along with this, people who crossed anywhere but a legitimate port of entry would be treated as a foreign invader, and could even be shot on sight by military personnel posted along our borders, rather than in foreign countries.) The acquisition of citizenship is another matter, but I believe that if someone wants to live and work here, he should be entitled to do so. This country was built by immigrants, has a history as being held up as a beacon for the oppressed masses of other countries, and has long reaped significant economic benefits from a steady stream of new people. Natives tend to get fat and lazy; it's immigrants that come to work hard, and they probably value our freedom more than the natives do.

It's a hard life for an illegal immigrant. They have access to jobs only when someone is willing to risk it, they have to find ways to slip through the cracks where driver licensing is concerned, they are generally exploited as cheap labor and have nobody to turn to. They have no access to the protection of the law, because any contact with law enforcement may result in deportation. So why do they come? Why do they stay?

Because staying here illegally is often better than staying somewhere legally, especially if you desire what we call the "American Dream." I know a man who was born in a rather nasty, violent country, who went to Europe as a refugee. He was naturalized, became a citizen of said European country. Then he came here illegally. Why?

He wanted to own a business, his very own business. He wanted something he could share with his sons, a way to support his family, he wanted the pride of ownership, of being able to say, "Look at me. I have succeeded where others have failed. I am my own boss. I am a free man." In the country where his presence was legal, due to harsh government controls on business and property ownership, he could not do this. Oh, he and his family did well enough. They had a place to sleep, food to eat, decent education for their children, and his wife could stay home and take care of the children. They had access to some kind of medical care. For most of us, this would be enough. Many of my readers would probably say he was crazy to turn in that life for the one he chose, life as a fugitive from immigration law. But for him, and for many in this country, it isn't enough to have material comforts. Those things don't make one free, they merely make one a well treated slave.

So he came here, and you know what? He succeeded. He had a better chance of living his dreams here as a fugitive from immigration law than back in Europe as a citizen. Mind you, it took years of struggle and privation. His family went for some time without enough to eat, but in the end, he was supporting them well, with the work of his own hands, as a small business owner. Most Americans today probably don't understand what the big deal is; this is why I favor free immigration. This man is, in many ways, far more "American" than most people who are born in this country! He desired freedom, he acquired freedom, and we condemn him for this!

Perhaps Bush is looking at the people—these decent, hardworking people, and realizes, deep in his Compassionate Conservative heart, that it is unjust that people who have made a life here should be persecuted for it. After all, the Feds simply haven't been doing their job; how else could these people have come here so easily? How is it they remain without being caught, without even being investigated? We pass tough immigration laws, then fail to enforce them, and continue to be the best place in the world to live for those who desire freedom; can we blame them for coming here, when their home country probably persecuted them for that desire? Don't tell me about not "respecting the law." Laws exist to serve the cause of justice, and since this situation is unjust, the laws ought to be changed, and the victims of the unjust law granted relief.

Monday, December 06, 2004


A response to the above.

A friend of mine recommended I read this, and at this time, I am glad I did. At first, this article angered me. The writers' attitude displays a typical hostility toward suburban and rural types, the sort typified by the following:

Citizens of the Urban Archipelago reject heartland "values" like xenophobia, sexism, racism, and homophobia, as well as the more intolerant strains of Christianity that have taken root in this country. And we are the real Americans. They--rural, red-state voters, the denizens of the exurbs--are not real Americans. They are rubes, fools, and hate-mongers.

The whole thing goes on like this. If you, being offended by the attitude these people have toward small towns and rural areas, fail to read the whole thing, you might miss the ending:

These, of course, are broad strokes. We all know that not everyone who lives in the suburbs is a raving neo-Christian idiot.
Gee, thanks. I feel so much better now. I'd drop points from this paper, were it not made clear throughout that this is not intended for people who are not part of the club. It's a call to action and redefinition for liberal urbanites, not a retort to the other side. Though I find this sort of hateful arrogance offensive, it does nothing to dilute their message.

Don't get me wrong. I consider myself to be a liberal urbanite, despite my residence in Fresno, CA (a "small town" of 500,000). I admire the cities, I admire sensible, clean high-density living. I hunger for high-capacity data lines, the ability to get everywhere with my feet alone (whether those feet are on the sidewalk or the floor of public transit), and I recognize just how painful the car culture really is (not that I have much of a choice around here). I like recycling, I am not opposed to gay marriage (though I'm not especially supportive, either), I think abortion ought to be legal (whatever my reservations about it), and I am virulently against the Drug War. I just don't think you get anything done by calling other people "stupid."

However, once I reached the following:

In short, we're through with you people. We're going to demand that the Democrats focus on building their party in the cities while at the same time advancing a smart urban-growth agenda that builds the cities themselves. The more attractive we make the cities--politically, aesthetically, socially--the more residents and voters cities will attract, gradually increasing the electoral clout of liberals and progressives. For Democrats, party building and city building is the same thing. We will strive to turn red states blue one city at a time.
I realized what this was really about: minority politics.

When I say "minority politics," I don't mean politics having to do with racial or cultural minorities. I am referring to the sorts of ideas that I am beginning to realize are always promoted by the minority party. The further I got into this article, the greater sense I got that at this point, many Dems would prefer it if the Republicans just got out of our life and let us live as we will. Take this for example:
The lesson is simple for urban residents: Seattle shouldn't cast its lot with the rest of the state. Rural and suburban voters have shown again and again that they aren't willing to fund urban infrastructure. Throughout Washington State, transportation taxes like 2002's Referendum 51 have tanked, while anti-transit measures like Tim Eyman's I-776 have passed overwhelmingly. While that might seem like grim news for cities like Seattle, there's a silver lining: When cities set their own transportation priorities, truly urban systems (like the monorail) get funded and built, while the suburban mega-highways that lard initiatives like R-51 go unfunded. We don't use suburban roads. We can let the suburbs figure out a way to pay for them.
The impression I get is that the writers might actually think the cities can take care of themselves if they just didn't have the interferance, or even the help, of the countryside. Indeed, in this:
We officially no longer give a shit when family farms fail. Fewer family farms equal fewer rural voters. We will, however, continue to support small faggy organic farms, as we are willing to pay more for free-range chicken and beef from non-cannibal cows.
it almost seems that the writers think that the market provided by urbanites might be enough to encourage the sort of agriculture they support! Where's the call for laws outlawing the bad ag? Where's the call for a share of the nation's tax dollars to give to the good farmers? I'll tell you where that call went: it went away with the Democratic majority. Without their realizing it, the debate went from "the progressive party vs. the don't-take-my-money! party" (Dems vs. Repbs) to the "party of middle america vs. that other party" (Repbs vs. Dems). As I have said before, I have found myself with the choice between a party with convictions I don't agree with and a party with no convictions at all. Well, this article is a call for those convictions to be defined, and I can agree with many of them... if they seriously mean it.

It is obvious that the writers of this article belive that the cities can spend their money better than the countryside. The writers say repeatedly that the urban areas should, as far as possible, secede from the countryside (something that would actually be possible under the system I have described earlier, btw). They should promote their own agendas, and forget their bleeding hearts where the suffering of rurals are concerned. They should realize that the health care crisis affects those other people more than it affects urban areas, that federal welfare props up rural areas more than it does urban areas (and are, indeed, siphoning off of money from urban areas to the countryside), that federal programs like Homeland Security are spent disproportionately in irrelevant rural states, rather than being concentrated in the more likely targets and entry points (cities and borders). This all sounds so familiar...

Could it be that it sounds like the Republicans only eight years ago, who accused the Democrats of siphoning capital off of productive people and giving it to people who are not productive, encouraging them to continue to be so? It does to me. It sounds a lot like the attitude "the feds should just get off our backs" that so many Republicans had in those days. In those days, Republicans were all for shrinking a government they thought unneccesary, wasteful, and did nothing but promote urban values very much against their wishes. The Democrats were blamed for the deficit, for "tax-and-spend" policies. Well, what is happening now that they are in power? They probably spend even more that the Democrats did when they were in power!

In short, the Republicans weren't interested in shrinking the government. They only wanted control. They didn't want to end the redistribution of wealth. They simply wanted to redivert it to their own supporters. They didn't actually dislike cultural regulation. Actually, they like it quite a bit, so long as they are in control. Though laws requiring that dark skinned people, women, and gays be respected are instrusive and unwanted, many of them would gladly require at the federal level that the school day begin with the Pledge of Alligence and a prayer, and ban forms of art they find offensive. In short, they don't really want Liberty and Justice for All. What they really want is Control, just like the Democrats did, and had, for a very long time.

So, to the writers of this article I ask, do you really mean what you say? Do you really think the cities could go it on their own, and they we really should leave the country to manage itself as it will? Are you really willing to drop trade barriers to food, so the cities have an alternate source in the event that the countryside of this country goes up in smoke? Are you really willing to stop trying to regulate guns at a federal level and concentrate on keeping guns out of the cities?

Or is this just a smokescreen you're putting up since you don't really have the power to do what you want, anyway? Have you seen the error of your ways, or are you just a bunch of hypocrites, like the Republicans? You talk this way now, but what will you do when you have regained control? Will you begin the process of dismantling the machinery by which the Republicans now opress you, or will you gleefully take control of it, forgetting the rhetoric you now employ? Remember: you participated in the creation of this monster. Do you truly wish it were gone, or do you just want to get back on its back?

You say the cities need to focus on getting their own tax dollars spend on the cities. Are you willing to take the power of taxation away from the feds and, where desirable, the states, in favor of keeping local funds local? Or do you really want to concentrate all the tax dollars in the cities, believing that city money wouldn't be enough?

Personally, I think there are enough people in both of the major parties that would like to see an end to federal meddling. If they could just realize they have a common cause at the federal level, and that they need not interfere with one another at a local level, they could probably get something done. If these people would just abandon their control-freak allies and join forces, we could finally put an end to this. The larger the government becomes, the more it sucks to lose control of it. At a certain size, the losers lose the luxary of being a "loyal opposition." Let's shrink it, together, and stop meddling in each others lives.

Personally, I've always thought of myself as a Libertarian where federal issues are concerned and a Democrat where local issues are concerned. I agree that cities need decent regulation and public action, but the cities should also foot the bill. There's nothing worse than a society whose urban class has become parasitic, other than perhaps a parasitic countryside (which is a recent phenomenon). If we would just drop federal (and state) taxes to the bare minimum necessary to keep order and defend (not offend) against foreign adversaries, the cities and the countryside would get exactly what they deserve, no more, no less. If the people of the cities and the countryside could just leave alone the question of who deserves what and just trust that each can take care of itself without the other's domination or tax dollars, things would be better.