David Thompson
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December 27, 2008

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Jason Bontrager

Refusal to immunize is a self-correcting problem...eventually.

carbon based lifeform

Coming to London soon- more of Allah's mercy:

"The End of Time event at the East London Mosque... will feature a videotaped lecture from Anwar al-Awlaki, who is banned from entering the United States after allegedly acting as a spiritual adviser to three of the September 11 terrorists... He is due to deliver a video lecture at the mosque in Whitechapel on New Year's Day. Speeches will have titles such as The sound of the trumpet – the real terror starts. Other speakers will include Suhaib Hasan, who advocates implementing sharia in Britain, and Khalid Yasin, who has described the beliefs of Christians and Jews as "filth". The publicity material for the all-day event appears to be a clear reference to the attacks on New York, and features meteors raining down on Manhattan, setting fire to the city and shattering the Statue of Liberty."

http://mickhartley.typepad.com/blog/2008/12/the-end-of-time.html

David

Jason,

“Refusal to immunize is a self-correcting problem... eventually.”

Most likely; though I don’t see why Afghan schoolgirls should be obliged to taste Allah’s “compassion” in this way. If their survival and prosperity requires the extermination of the Taliban, at least as a coercive entity, that seems a pretty good trade-off. Some people are deserving of compassion; others aren’t. And sometimes there are trade-offs to make.

rxc

“Refusal to immunize is a self-correcting problem... eventually.”

I don't think so. In this case you end up with a lot of very photogenic(in a strange sense) suffering children who need to be taken care of. Prompting calls for aid and appeals to allow them to emigrate to countries where they can receive proper care. And those countries that provide the aid and/or the care end up supporting the victims, while the perpertrators continue to generate more victims for the compassionate to take care of.

Francis Sedgemore

"I don’t see why Afghan schoolgirls should be obliged to taste Allah’s “compassion” in this way."

Swat is in Pakistan, David.

David

Thanks. That’s what I get for typing in haste. Though much the same applies to many Afghan schoolgirls too:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/3446627/Afghan-schoolgirls-sprayed-with-acid.html

Francis Sedgemore

Indeed, David, but the point is that Taliban creep is threatening the integrity of Pakistan as well as that of Afghanistan. Those commentators in the west who insist on a purely political solution to the problem are idiots of the highest order, and of use to neither man nor beast.

David

Francis,

A while ago, I wrote about Jason Burke’s omission from his Observer articles of the theological dimension and what that implies about possible solutions (and impossible ones).

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2008/01/root-causes-aga.html

But the post above was prompted after hearing some seasonal guff about the alleged imperative to feel compassion for all human beings, indiscriminately. (The implied premise being that even the most monstrous individual or group is, in some way never quite specified, a victim of something or other and thus deserving of forgiveness.) It struck me that, contrary to such platitudes, feeling an emphatic and uninhibited disdain is quite important, and perhaps essential.

Francis Sedgemore

Perhaps the theological dimension is omitted by commentators – and not just Burke – because of the difficulty in crafting articles that discuss such matters while at the same time stressing the humanity that transcends metaphysical considerations. Many writers are simply not up to the job, but those who are can be impeded by editorial considerations. Burke does have a point of sorts, even if it is "less than satisfying", as you put it back in January.

Theology is indeed important, but it is derivative and reactive – gods and demons are extrapolations of human hopes, fears and neuroses. When it comes to Afghanistan and the world's other "trouble spots", what I value are reports and analyses that show how very like us the people involved are. Give me Terry Glavin over Simon Jenkins any day, but I wouldn't write off Jason Burke. For the likes of the Grauniad, Observer and TV news bulletins he is writing to order.

David

Francis,

“Theology is indeed important, but it is derivative and reactive…”

Well, that’s pretty much a secular or atheist perspective. Obviously religion can be entangled with any number of personal, political or territorial issues to the extent that primary and secondary motives are indistinct; but I wouldn’t presume that’s how it’s viewed by those actually immersed in a theological milieu of the kind mentioned above. I wouldn’t regard theology, and specifically Islamic theology, as *by default* a secondary phenomenon or convenient framing device for something else entirely. Often quite the reverse. I’ve had exchanges with people who very much see their theology as a primary motive and who would make no distinction between the political and religious. Over the last couple of years I must have quoted literally dozens of jihadists who’d reject that “impious” distinction.

Those of us who don’t have a religious affiliation and who are accustomed to secular proprieties sometimes find it hard to grasp just how intimately religion (and one religion in particular) can motivate a person and shape their worldview.

Francis Sedgemore

"Well, that’s pretty much a secular or atheist perspective."

David – It's also an *informed* Christian perspective, and one I used to hold as a practising catholic (small "c") until I stopped believing in God altogether and sold my soul to Freud (which was not that long ago, truth be told!).

Over the years I've studied a fair amount of comparative theology, and as a result I can understand why theologians turn to more rigourous philosophical frameworks when faced with serious moral, ethical and existential problems. Religion does motivate people and inform their cosmologies. But this doesn't detract from the view that theology is often little more than a codification of messy spiritual impulses, feelings, hopes, fears, call them what you will.

Given the greater integration of religion and politics, I would imagine that a larger number of followers of Islam accept the canon of belief than western Christians do that of their religion. But it is a mistake to assume that this describes the majority view. My impression – and this is one developed through some interaction with European Muslims – is that the reality is complex, and the edifice not all that solid. Political ideologies rarely are, especially when the relevant ruling classes have been undermined.

When people enjoy freedom of thought and expression, they are more likely to say what they really think. What are the views of ordinary Muslims across the world? To a large extent we do not know, owing to the obsession of politicians and analysts with imams and other so-called community leaders. Jihadist nutjobs are not the be all and end all of Islam.

David

Francis,

“Given the greater integration of religion and politics, I would imagine that a larger number of followers of Islam accept the canon of belief than western Christians do that of their religion. But it is a mistake to assume that this describes the majority view.”

Agreed. I’m not sure how one might calculate what the majority view is. What I was getting at is that quite a few commentators downplay religious conviction as essentially a vehicle for other, more familiar, motives, as if it were just a convenient framing device with no dynamics and imperatives of its own. (One might of course think of religious conviction in terms of vanity, psychodrama or whatever, but I’m thinking of commentators who insist on some purely political evaluation.)

The idea that religious conviction itself could be a primary driver is, for some, unthinkable. Even when faced with repeated statements to that effect from jihadists themselves, many pundits have chosen to disregard those explanations in favour of poverty, “imperialism,” etc. This reluctance to accept repeatedly stated motives has enabled a large part of the left to persist in offering quasi-Marxist “root causes,” which range from inadequate to inexcusably perverse.

You sold your soul to Freud? :)

Francis Sedgemore

"...but I’m thinking of commentators who insist on some purely political evaluation."

David – I'm sure we can agree that such people are useless idiots, but Marxism, quasi- or otherwise, simply doesn't come into the current "left" world view. If one were to apply a proper marxian analysis to this situation (and it would in my view have some utility), the synthesis might not be so far from the arguments I've outlined above.

As for majority views, this is where proper sociology has a role to play. That is, intelligently-framed questions, extensive data gathering, statistical analysis and presentation. Not opinion pieces in the Grauniad or New Statesman.

Freud kneweth all!

Anna

"When it comes to Afghanistan and the world's other "trouble spots", what I value are reports and analyses that show how very like us the people involved are."

How "like us" is the Taliban's Shah Dauran who says "Female education is against Islamic teachings and spreads vulgarity in society"?

Lovernios

"[T]he militant group set a deadline of January 15 for its order to be obeyed or it would blow up school buildings and attack schoolgirls." Ah, the favored target of the brave islamic warriors, along with the elderly, women and unarmed men.

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