City of Brass

City of Brass

French hijab ban

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

I linked this earlier, but it’s worth highlighting again – this article at Islam Online about the French hijab ban is a fantastic retrospective and absolutely required reading on the topic. 

Ramadan row – French fatigue

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

Ramadan is like a magic word. You need only to utter it and suddenly people become insane:

The trial of seven men for armed robbery was due to start on 16 September in Rennes.

But last week the court agreed to a request from a lawyer for one of the accused to put it off until January.

In his letter asking for the delay, the lawyer noted that if the
trial were to start now, it would fall in the Muslim month of Ramadan.

His client, a Muslim, would have been fasting for two weeks and thus, he said, be in no position to defend himself properly.

He would be physically weakened and too tired to follow the arguments as he should.

The accused in this case are garden-variety criminals, on trial for mundane bank-robberies. Naturally, therefore, the suggestion that Ramadan be invoked as any kind of argument for anything is immediately taken to signal the end times for Western civilization. As one muslim blogger once observed, Muslims are Orcs.

The request for a delay is not some kind of Shari’a end-run around justice, it’s a request completely and fully within the justice system. There’s no Islamic basis for the request, either, it’s a request based on the accused physical state (Ramadan just happens to be the reason). If the lawyer was arguing for a trial delay because of some vague notion of sensitivity to Isamic belief, then that would be nonsense, but the argument that the accused needs to be fully alert when defending himself against charges in a court of law – especially upon the stand – is a perfectly reasonable one.

As usual, the guardians of Western sensitivity are easily bruised, insisting that the imbroglio violates the concept of separation of Church and State. The French concept of Separation, Laïcité, is probably better expressed as “State hostility towards Church”, though that hostility is modulated by French racism, meaning that it is expressed more towards the faith of its ethnic minorities. The result is that the State, claiming to be Separate, actually ends up involving itself all the more directly in religious affairs. For example, the French ban on hijab – this violates in a fundamental way the concept of Separation, because it uses the power of the State to define what is acceptable religious behavior and what is not, in a much more intrusive way that the UK or the US do. I previously argued that the government plays a necessary role in oversight of religious actions, using the Manchester child abuse case as an example – the key difference there is that existing Law was used as an impartial standard to assess the religious act. The religious act itself was not defined illegal, but the details of how it was practiced are constrained by law.

ou sont les John McCains de l’antan?

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

In the 2000 election, John McCain was a very different politician. He was truly a maverick, unafraid to confront the radical elements within his own party, and he paid the price. He lambasted the social conservatives’ hold over the GOP agenda, critiquing the symbolism of George Bush’s speech at Bob Jones University, and calling evangelical leaders like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson “agents of intolerance.” For his principled stand, he was rewarded with a truly horrific smear campaign in South Carolina by the Bush campaign which insinuated that his adopted Bangladeshi daughter Bridget was actually his illegitimate love-child. That smear derailed his impending victory in SC and literally cost him the nomination.

In 2008, John McCain has flip-flopped on almost every issue, consistently moving towards politically-expedient positions that fall in line with the social conservatives he once criticized. He’s also courted even more extreme evangelical leaders like John Hagee, whose comments on Jews, homosexuals, women, muslims, Catholics, and Hurricane Katrina make Falwell and Robertson (who blamed American morality for 9-11, if you recall) seem tame in comparison. And, most tellingly, he has hired the architect of the smear campaign against his own daughter, to help him win against Barack Obama.

I will admit that in 2000 I was less of a political junkie than I am now. But I was a big fan of John McCain in 2000, and had he won the nomination I’d have likely voted for him over Al Gore (because then, unlike now, I didn’t really appreciate Gore’s intellect, vision, and his judgment in matters of foreign policy). Actually, I might have voted for Bill Bradley over McCain, but that’s another story. At any rate, the John McCain today is not the John McCain of yesteryear.

My good friend Joshua Trevino argues that John McCain’s acceptance speech at the RNC convention was a return to the John McCain of old, and in many ways a direct rebuke to the Bush years. But a speech is one thing – the words sounded great, but his actions say something else. By moving to embrace George Bush over the past 8 years, by sacrificing his principled stand against everything that darkens the GOP for the sake of his political career, by choosing a vice presidential nominee whose role is purely to ignite a culture war of the sort he once was an anchor of resistance against, he has betrayed his old 2000 maverick identity.

I’m certain that I am one of the people Josh had in mind when he wrote,

“I’d vote for John McCain if he were still the John McCain of 2000,”
they say. After tonight, we get to find out if they mean it.

However, even the John McCain of 2000 falls well short of the new standard set by Howard Dean and Barack Obama. That new standard is born of the transformative paradigm of a people-powered campaign, a 50-state strategy, a true call for the empowerment of the ordinary American citizen to take direct control of the political machine. Howard Dean was bested by the establishment, but succeeded in clearing the path, and Obama has followed. The country wasn’t ready for these new ideas in 2000, and the key organizing power of the Internet which makes this political revolution possible was still in its infancy (though, McCain 2000 was one of the pioneers there, too).

So would I vote for John McCain circa 2000 in 2008? It would be like riding a steam engine rather than a shinkansen. But easy as such a choice would be, that’s not even the choice offered to me today. McCain 2008 is  not McCain 2000 – that John McCain is gone, and there’s no room for him in today’s GOP.
 
(bonus points for identifying the allusion in the post title…)

no condemnations, please

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

As a follow-up to my earlier disagreement with Rabbi Hirschfield, it’s worth looking at what other muslim bloggers in the Islamsphere have to say about the New York Times article about the Hezbollah death shrine in southern Lebanon:

Angry Arab As’ad: What is Robert Worth’s point in this article? That Arab children love and enjoy terrorism?”

Arabic Media Shack: “Israel used and celebrates the terrorists who fought for its cause just
as much as the Arab side does.  For example, if you can prove that you
were a member of the Stenn Gang or Irgun during the Mandate era, the
Israeli government  today will give you a medal.  That’s celebration of
terrorism just as much as what is being said in the Mughnoya piece. “

AMS goes on to ask whether we can have equal opportunity condemnation, but actually I prefer that we ask no one to condemn anything. This incessant “Condemn This” routine is tiring.

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