God's Politics

God's Politics


Diana Butler Bass: American Muslims and Religious Freedom

posted by gp_intern

Driving around yesterday afternoon, I was flipping between the news on two radio stations – a local talk station and BBC World Radio. During the same hour, both stations covered the same story about Islam: the findings of the first-ever nationwide survey of American Muslims, a study conducted by The Pew Research Center.

The commercial station led with the finding that one in four younger American Muslims support – under some circumstances – the practice of suicide bombing in defense of Islam. The BBC report highlighted the fact that American Muslims are far more middle class and assimilated to mainstream culture than European Muslims. The two stations, one sensationalistic and the other measured, seemed as if they were reporting on entirely different research! I went home and downloaded the whole study to check it out for myself.

Needless to say, the commercial station lifted the edgiest finding – one tempered by the fact that Muslim Americans reject religious terrorism by a much larger margin than do Muslims in other western countries. Older American Muslims almost completely reject Islamic terrorism, and half are “very concerned” about Islamic extremism throughout the world. And 53 percent also say that since Sept. 11 it has become “harder” to be a Muslim in the U.S.

The BBC got the big story right. According to the survey, American Muslims are happy, politically and socially moderate, and middle class. The data counters conventional wisdom. U.S. Muslims are better educated, have higher incomes, and express a higher degree of life satisfaction than European Muslims. Fifty-three percent think of themselves as “American” first and “Muslim” second. They believe the American dream: 71 percent agree that people who work hard can get ahead. Almost two-thirds said that “life is better” for Muslim women in America than in Muslim countries.

Muslim satisfaction with American life is a pleasant surprise; a result that should cause all Americans to consider how well immigration can work. However interesting that data may be, the story behind the story – that of the contrasts between U.S. and European Muslims – strikes me as more provocative. In Britain, France, Germany, and Spain, Muslims are much poorer than other citizens. Eighty-one percent of British Muslims consider themselves “Muslim” first and “British” second. French, German, and Spanish Muslims express little concern over Islamic extremism. Of all western Muslims, those living in Germany and Spain expressed greatest life dissatisfaction. Germany and Spain were, of course, places where the Sept. 11 terrorists had cells and financial support.

The primary historical difference regarding religion between the United States and these western European nations is the separation of church and state. Britain, France, Germany, and Spain have long – and often violent – histories of church-state establishments, often having made Christianity (or some form of Christianity) their official religion. In some cases, religious toleration was forced (either slowly or violently) upon European governments, not developing as a natural part of the society’s internal sense of identity. As recently as 2000, during the writing of the European Union Constitution, many Europeans still argued that Europe was “Christian,” and that religious identity should be part of the Union’s legal apparatus.

In the United States, Christianity was the religion of vast numbers of early settlers and political leaders. But it was never of a singular form, allowing for religious diversity since the nation’s founding (and, please, remember the native religions that inhabited this land). Diversity made it impossible for one church to gain hegemony over politics thus necessitating the establishment clause and guarantees for religious freedom. Eventually, the experience of religious diversity, a desire for toleration, and the prohibition of establishment led to the contemporary doctrine of the separation of church and state. At its best, America has a heritage of Christian liberality, intellectually influenced by Christianity but open to a wide range of ideas and peoples through the practice of religious toleration. Religious freedom is the great American contribution to classical liberalism and the foundation of contemporary liberal movements.

With its contrast between the U.S. and Europe, the Pew study suggests that the separation of church and state works to create a more generous, open, and safer society in regard to terrorism. In his recent book, Freedom’s Power: The True Force of Liberalism, Paul Starr argues:

[T]he guarantees of religious toleration and freedom of conscience exemplify the logic of liberalism as a foundation for a stable policy. Internecine religious conflicts and wars of religion, like revenge feuds, deplete the powers of states and societies. Religious toleration serves not only to allow people to worship differently but also to reduce conflict, facilitate economic exchange, and create a wider pool of talent for productive work and the state itself (p. 22).

Since Sept. 11, some Christians have called for an end to the separation of church and state to combat terrorism, claiming a stronger national Christian identity, a “Christian America,” is the way to defeat Islamic extremism – a tactic employed by some reactionary European political parties. The Pew study shows that approach is wrong-headed. The path to peace between Christians and Muslims is that of religious freedom, separation of church and state, and appreciative toleration in the best traditions of liberality.


Diana Butler Bass (www.dianabutlerbass.com) is the author of Christianity for the Rest of Us: How the Neighborhood Church is Transforming the Faith (Harper San Francisco), an award-winning study of mainline Protestant spirituality and congregational life.



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Payshun

posted May 23, 2007 at 11:19 pm


Great stuff. p



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Don

posted May 24, 2007 at 12:42 am


This one will probably earn a hit from Donny. ;-) Thanks, Diana, for digging behind the sensationalism. Peace,



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letjusticerolldown

posted May 24, 2007 at 12:43 am


I have no reason to doubt what is posted here, but what Christians have “called for an end to the separation of church and state to combat terrorism”???



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Mark P

posted May 24, 2007 at 12:49 am


Eighty-one percent of British Muslims consider themselves Muslim first and British second. -Well, count me as one who considers himself Christian first and American a distant second. -You cannot entirely blame the Europeans for their (pardon the phrase) Muslim problem. The Muslims in Europe especially in Germany are first or second generation Turkish industrial workers who have large enough numbers to sustain independent communities. Thus they have no incentive, ability, or wealth to incorporate themselves into their communities. American Muslims are often skilled laborers or professionals and there are far more third or fourth generation Muslims in America.



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Mark P

posted May 24, 2007 at 1:07 am


Diane, -Let me add this: -YOU CANNOT GLOSS OVER THE 1/4 STATISTIC. You ought to celebrate the positive notions, but the fact that one in four American Muslims under the age of 30 are okay with suicide bombing against civilians in some circumstances. That. Is. Scary. 280,000 young Americans…. -7% of Muslims under 30 support Al Quaeda. -29% don’t have an opinion or refused to answer. Uh…. -How in the world can you see that as insignificant or “sensationalism”?



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jesse

posted May 24, 2007 at 1:13 am


I don’t really see how this statement: “The commercial station led with the finding that one in four younger American Muslims support under some circumstances the practice of suicide bombing in defense of Islam.” and this statement:”Muslim satisfaction with American life is a pleasant surprise; a result that should cause all Americans to consider how well immigration can work.” do not contradict each other.I also agree with Mark’s assessment above. There are differences between the American and European Muslim populations, and I find it very hard to believe that present Muslim discontent in Europe can be attributed to the desire of secular Europe to shove Christianity down their throats!Religious tolerance in the US may have a tempering effect on radical Islam in this country, but it doesn’t follow that Christianity in Europe is somehow responsible for the Muslim extremism they have there.I would also like to know who these Christians are who are calling for an end to the separation of church and state in the wake of 9/11.



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cs

posted May 24, 2007 at 1:51 am


I also want to know who calls for an end to the separation of church and state. Additionally, the history of church-state symbiosis in Europe is largely historical. It is difficult to square with the contemporary reality of a largely secular society. Current issues with immigration and unrest in Europe might be better seen as an indictment of the conflict between multicultural secularism and fundamental ideology. IMHO.



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Biff

posted May 24, 2007 at 2:00 am


Don’t forget that the same study said only 40% of America Muslims believed that Arabs carried out the September 11th attacks. It would be interesting to see what the other 60% believe. Was it Israel? Bush? Zionists? While the majority of the study is promising, there are still some troubling facts that should not be spun for politically correct reasons.



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jurisnaturalist

posted May 24, 2007 at 3:52 am


I personally believe that assassination, even if suicidal, is a perfectly viable form of defending one’s liberty, if it has indeed been encroached upon. For those 1/4 of Muslims defending suicide bombing, perhaps this is the sort of action they are thinking of. Diana is spot on, for once, in recognizing separation of Church and State as pivotal in the differences between European and American Muslim communities. I’m dubious about the staying power of pluralistic Islam, because its tenants call for a theocracy, which Jesus explicitly denounces, and so should Christians. Concerns about cementing of Church and State in some circles reveals the ugly head of Constantine re-emerging. It is important to recognize that one can’t have one’s cake and eat it too, however. If we want to demonstrate the separation of church and state the Church must assume full responsibility for social issues for which the church has an explicit mandate.



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kevin s.

posted May 24, 2007 at 5:07 am


I think it is possible to read both encouraging and troubling information from the study.That one in four Muslims are cool with suicide bombers is profoundly troubling. That Muslims are more comfortable living here than Muslims in Europe is a positive. Frankly, the Europeans are abysmal when it comes to assimilating minorities of any stripe. Most of the nations refuse to educate the disabled. They force minorities into ghettos that would make ours seem like paradise.They trumpet the achievement of their natives, tsk-tsk Americans, and sweep everyone who is not like them under the rug. We would call that failure, and good on us for doing so. At the same time, it is a TREMENDOUS problem that large numbers of Muslims view suicide bombing as acceptable, and that a number of them deny that Arabs committed the 9/11 atrocities. As Christians, we ought not be surprised. Islam is a lie of a religion (I just sent any number of people into a boiling rage with that comment) and it has a unique element of violent conversion. I am not with the pacifists in saying that all war is forbidden, but there is quite a distinction between the lives of Mohammed and Jesus. And praise God for that.



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canucklehead

posted May 24, 2007 at 5:20 am


“You cannot entirely blame the Europeans for their (pardon the phrase) Muslim problem. The Muslims in Europe especially in Germany are first or second generation Turkish industrial workers who have large enough numbers to sustain independent communities. Thus they have no incentive, ability, or wealth to incorporate themselves into their communities.” MarkP Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s revealing book “Infidel” would paint a little different picture of the Muslim community in Holland than this, Mark, and I recommend it for your reading. Dutch society (as the assassination of Theo Van Gogh demonstrated) hosts a strong contingent of African Muslims who, b/c of the small size of Holland, are virtually forced to integrate but are very hesitant to do so in the cultural sense.



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moderatelad

posted May 24, 2007 at 6:27 am


Interesting -1 in 9 people will sue their doctor over nothing and we get up in arms because that is one of the things that is driving up health care costs in the US 1 in 13 people driving on the roads in the US has thought of suicde by dirving their car into a wall or another car and we are conserned about that. 1 in 4 Islamic people believe that terrorism to further their cause is OK and we are not concerned about that??? If one in 4 Christians said the same thing – the Dept H&HS would be setting up 12 step programs to deprogram us so that the world will be a better place. Beam me up Scotty -Sleep well tonight… .



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squeaky

posted May 24, 2007 at 6:45 am


Kevin S.–I’m not boiling with rage over this “Islam is a lie of a religion (I just sent any number of people into a boiling rage with that comment) and it has a unique element of violent conversion.” However: I don’t think it is as much a lie as you seem to think–does not Islam have the same roots as Christianity and Judaism? You need also to be prepared to say Judaism is a lie of a religion, as well, then. As for the latter half of the sentence–I wouldn’t say Islam is unique in its tendency towards violent conversion. Crusades, Inquisition, the way Native Americans were treated, etc…Christianity has its share of violence in its past, so it doesn’t seem prudent to point fingers in this way. I think many Muslims would also probably tell you that it is extremists in their faith who are acting as terrorists. I tend to view Islamic terrorists as members of a cult, much like the members of Christian cults–like Jim Jones and David Koresh, both who had no problem forcing their followers into mass suicide to make whatever point they were making.



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jurisnaturalist

posted May 24, 2007 at 6:50 am


How many of you would give your life to defend your family or your homeland from a foreign invader? God help us if the number is less than 1 in 4. We get away with calling them terrorists, but they are defending their homes. They are forcing a foreign superpower to spend far more on its effort than it can support for any length of time. There’s a reason the stock market is so high. The government is pumping money into the economy and it is flowing through the hands of bankers and investors first. We only gripe when we have to pay for gas. The English could have called us terrorists, too, according to the then-unconventional methods of war the minutemen employed in the Revolutionary War. I’m not saying that I love the Taliban, but I will say that people get the government they deserve, and this is often shaped by public thought. Some proportion of those living in Afganistan believed that religion ought to be married to government, and that is what they got. The thing that made America possible was its belief in one God combined with a belief in separation of Church and State. Without this and a concept of common or natural law liberty is impossible.



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Mark P

posted May 24, 2007 at 7:26 am


jurisnaturalist, as I understand it, the question was specifically suicide bombings AGAINST CIVILIANS, which pretty much routs your arguments. If you’re willing to murder the innocent for a political or religious cause, God help you, my friend.



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jurisnaturalist

posted May 24, 2007 at 7:35 am


Who is a civilian in a civil war? I, too, condemn targeting of civilians. I don’t condemn any military targeting. Which is greater in Iraq right now? How many military targets miss and hurt civilians? How many civilians did the allies murder in WWII? How many civilians did the US murder during sanctions against Iraq?



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moderatelad

posted May 24, 2007 at 2:31 pm


squeaky | 05.24.07 – 12:50 am | #I don’t think it is as much a lie as you seem to think–does not Islam have the same roots as Christianity and Judaism?I believe that it is a false religion. Yes – you can say that it has it has the ‘same roots’ as Christianity and Judaism, can you spell plagiarism. Mohammad took what we liked from the other two and created his own. He liked the idea of mono-theism and so he took Allah the god of the moon and elevated him to the ‘one god’ status. NOW – that said – I believe and support their right to believe what they want to believe and practice their religion the way they believe they should; but not to include terrorism and murder as part of this of their desire to convert the world. I tend to view Islamic terrorists as members of a cult, much like the members of Christian cults I agree – just wish we could hear those words from a leading Islamic Cleric on par with the Pope that they believe the same way. Sadly – I have not heard them speak out and I don’t know if it is because they privately agree with what is going on and are praying that they succeed or that they are afraid for their lives if they speak out against them. Have a blessed day .



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Donny

posted May 24, 2007 at 3:24 pm


I am OK with the lies about the seperation of Church and State, told long enough, that we (well liberal children all grown up) now believe it. I would not want to be ruled by Liberalism or Islamic theolgy.Both kill our people (and children) and destroy the American family. Actually the First Amendment – which states that the Government cannot do anything to a religious body – will protect Christians from the deceptive political ploys of the Left that is trying to outlaw Christian speech and freedoms every bit as much as those promoting Secularism in Europe (and America) and Sharia Law in Islamic countries.



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Donny

posted May 24, 2007 at 3:27 pm


OK, So if there are one-million Muslims in America OK with suicide (murder)bombings, that makes for 250,000 Muslims OK with suicide (murder) bombings. And the multiplication factor goes up accordingly. I did get the math right didn’t I?I wouldn’t want to be accused of ignorance or phobia.



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nad2

posted May 24, 2007 at 4:12 pm


violence begets violence, and is the product is ignorance and failed imagination. we are now engaged with a culture radically different than ours with elements beautiful and grotesque, but we must imagine a better way to co-exist and foster understanding, without violence in the face of violence. we have so much, the rest of the world is much more aware of it than we are, which is a problem of lack of empathy on our part and of perceived greed when we invade an oil rich region because it looks like we are grasping greedily for even more. humility takes courage, but it is necessary in creating the common ground of understanding, and like it or not, the world is getting smaller & it is filled with people who are both wildly different from us and don’t really like us. all we can do is our part & on that i think we can do alot better than leading militarily.



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Wolverine

posted May 24, 2007 at 4:25 pm


Aside from the absence of a state church in American history, there is another factor that may be contributing to the radicalism of European Muslims: a restricted labor market that makes it more difficult for unskilled workers to find steady work. I would also argue that these restrictions place a premium on a job-seeker’s social contacts. Both of these factors work to the disadvantage of Muslim immigrants, who are likely to lack both skills and social contacts to established job providers. This is reflected in high unemployment rates, which are particularly acute among Muslim immigrants and their immediate descendants. Wolverine



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Eric

posted May 24, 2007 at 4:28 pm


Diana wrote that “Since Sept. 11, some Christians have called for an end to the separation of church and state to combat terrorism.” This is quite an accusation to make particularly when no supporting data is provided. This is very sloppy writing. Does anyone have any examples of this?



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Eric

posted May 24, 2007 at 4:36 pm


I think a better explanation of why European Muslims have not assimilated as well is that they are much larger numbers of them in Europe than in the U.S. Muslims have been forced to assimilate in order to function in our society because they can’t ghetto (if I can make it a verb) themselves off from the rest of society. The Muslim world is simply a lot closer to Europe than the U.S. so more Muslims are able to get there than here. Of course, this may all change in the years to come. jurisnaturalist – You wrote, “I personally believe that assassination, even if suicidal, is a perfectly viable form of defending one’s liberty, if it has indeed been encroached upon. For those 1/4 of Muslims defending suicide bombing, perhaps this is the sort of action they are thinking of.” When people speak of suicide bombings, no one speaks of strapping a bomb to one’s back and walking into battle against an opposing army. There are few examples of this ever happening. We’re talking about strapping a bomb to one’s back and walking into the midst of innocent civilians and blowing oneself up. I have a hard time believing the former definition is what the Muslims in the poll were thinking of and I think you know this too. Stop being so naive.



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jurisnaturalist

posted May 24, 2007 at 4:40 pm


nad2, Violence is searching for an alternative. Most people would like to get out of the cycle of violence. The only successful exit is rule of law. But the law must be untainted, uncorrupted by force, or political power. The only way to do this is to harshly limit the power of the state to mere protection of rights and contracts, and no more. As special interests clamor for the state’s favor, the limits of government power erode away. The best we, as Christians, can do, is to work to restrain the state to its proper sphere. Wolverine, You are absolutely right about the work conditions in Europe. We are blessed to live in a land with less police control over labor. Would that there were no regulations and enterprise would expand!



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kevin s.

posted May 24, 2007 at 4:47 pm


“You need also to be prepared to say Judaism is a lie of a religion, as well, then. ” Of course. And when Jews are flying planes into buildings, I will be appropriately indignant. Point being, as Christians we should be unsurprised when people are driven to violence by their belief in a false God. Absent the tenets of Christianity, worship of God amounts to self worship. There is no absolute truth in Islam, because it is based on a false premise, thereby allowing it’s followers to act in accordance with their oen sinful desires. To the extent that this happened during the crusades (I disagree that our mistreatment of Indians was fueled by Christian fervor) then the same principle applies.Having said that, there is nothing inherently bad about Muslims that isn’t present in anyone else. Further, Wolverine is correct that stifling economic policies in Europe drive Muslims to the fringes of society.



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moderatelad

posted May 24, 2007 at 5:08 pm


nad2 | 05.24.07 – 10:17 am | #“…violence begets violence, and is the product is ignorance and failed imagination.” So – if that is the case. What was done against Germany in both WWI and WWII so that they felt that they had the right to attack another country? What caused Japan to attack not only US but many others. Sometimes bad people can only be stopped with what they understand best – wiolence. War is the last act of a civilized soceity to deal with an irrational one. No one wants war because in all cases everyone looses to one extent or another. But to allow a violent gov’t to go unchecked so that they can inflict death and destruction on weaker gov’ts or their own people is immoral.Blessings – .



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kevin s.

posted May 24, 2007 at 6:46 pm


“Sometimes bad people can only be stopped with what they understand best – wiolence.” Wiolence? Are we sending Elmer Fudd to fight our battles for us? That’s be pretty sweet. Nobody’s messes with E-Fudd… Except for Bugs Bunny. Bugs Bunny didn’t meet violence with violence. He was awfully condescending though. Part of me wanted Fudd to blow his brains out, just once. I can’t be alone on that one.



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Eric

posted May 24, 2007 at 7:23 pm


Ok, in order to get some supporting data I emailed Diana Bass at her VTS account (dbass@vts.edu). Hopefully she’ll respond to our questions about her statement regarding Christians who’ve called for an end to the separation of Church and state.



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l'etranger

posted May 24, 2007 at 7:32 pm


Wiolence? Are we sending Elmer Fudd to fight our battles for us? – LOL I swoaw i soaw a wabbit Wolverine “Aside from the absence of a state church in American history, there is another factor that may be contributing to the radicalism of European Muslims: a restricted labor market that makes it more difficult for unskilled workers to find steady work. I would also argue that these restrictions place a premium on a job-seeker’s social contacts.”Certainly true in France, less so I think in Britain and to some extent Germany, where I think the rapid de-industrialisation of areas with high Muslim populations in the former, and the guest worker system in the latter create different socio-economic problems. Also worth reflecting that the populations are all very different. The US has a large native born, African American muslim population, in France the muslim population is largely North African/Arab, in the UK largely South Asian, and in Germany largely Turkish – so Muslims are not a monolithic group. Oddly just typing that I realise that this is all related to our respective colonial/pseudo colonial pasts. The difficulty it strikes me about the suicide bombing question is that it doesn’t ask about context or where it is taking place. I don’t think that this survey suggests that 8% of American muslims are about to bomb the local Walmart… An interesting comparison would be how many British would consider Bomber Harris’s bombing of civilian areas in WW2, or respectfully, how many Americans would support the extension the Vietnamese bombing campaigns into Cambodia. I would hazard a guess that you’d get at least 8% happy with that, and it’s not immediately clear that the moral quality of these actions were that different from say, bus bombings in Tel Aviv.



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moderatelad

posted May 24, 2007 at 8:05 pm


kevin s. | Homepage | 05.24.07 – 12:51 pm | #”be bery bery qwite – were huntin wrabbit tonite.”I agree – one for the rabbit and then – the coyote. Tee hee – have a great day – .



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Wolverine

posted May 24, 2007 at 8:27 pm


One cannot mention Elmer Fudd without a nod to the greatest cartoon of all time: What’s Opera Doc. (aka “Kill the Wabbit”) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What's_Opera,_Doc%3F As an aside, the entire musical score to “What’s Opera Doc” was adopted from the operas of Richard Wagner, who was a favorite composer of a certain German fascist. So once again it all goes back to Hitler. Wolverine



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l'etranger

posted May 24, 2007 at 8:30 pm


Reductio ad hitlerium indeed all together now (to Ride of the Valkyries) Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit etc.



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jurisnaturalist

posted May 24, 2007 at 8:47 pm


moderatelad, “What was done against Germany in both WWI and WWII so that they felt that they had the right to attack another country? What caused Japan to attack not only US but many others.” You’re kidding, right? The Old World, Europe, was regularly involved in internal conflicts over land. WWI was just a continuation of that long, drawn out process of inter-state competition. What made it different in the long run was the involvement of the US. WWII was easily predicted by even Lord Keynes as early as the Treaty of Versailles, based on crippling reparations requirements. Japan was, again, merely competing, as many other nations were, in the land-and-resources grab game across the Pacific. The US wanted to win that game, so it extended its involvement in the Pacific beyond Hawaii and the Philippines by stationing more than a reasonable proportion of its fleet within striking range of Japan. Also, the USG lent support to China in the form of munitions and pilots, known as the Flying Tigers. Was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor provoked? Much in the same way as 9-11 was provoked by attacks on targets in the Middle East and military support of the state of Israel.



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nad2

posted May 24, 2007 at 9:09 pm


juris, most glaringly missing from your japan analysis is the western embargo placed on japan of, inter alia, oil in july 1941 (5 months before pearl harbor). imagine if the US had no native oil & then the mid-east embargoed us so the american engines for everything shut down. you think the poo wouldn’t hit the fan? is this what you mean mod by the last act of a civilized society to deal w/ an irrational one?



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Eric

posted May 24, 2007 at 9:30 pm


nad/juris, are you two saying that it is justifiable for country A to attack country B even if country B hasn’t literally attacked country A first? Or are you just explaining some of the causes of the World Wars?



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nad2

posted May 24, 2007 at 10:04 pm


eric, the latter.



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posted May 24, 2007 at 10:11 pm


“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) This message thread has been visited by a God’s Politics Blog moderator for the purpose of removing inappropriate posts. Click here for a detailed explanation of the Beliefnet Rules of Conduct: http://www.beliefnet.com/about/rules.asp which includes: Help us keep the conversation civil and respectful by reporting inappropriate posts to: community@staff.beliefnet.com 1



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Carl Copas

posted May 24, 2007 at 10:13 pm


One in four younger Muslims approve of suicide bombings? Sounds like we Christians have some work to do? Any suggestions on how we begin?



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jurisnaturalist

posted May 24, 2007 at 10:20 pm


nad2, thanks, I just didn’t get that far this time… Eric, I am saying that if Country X attacks Country Y it is none of countries U, S, or A’s business. Now, the USG did literally attack both Japan and Germany economically, which is how wars, in the long run, are won.



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Don

posted May 24, 2007 at 11:18 pm


“I agree – just wish we could hear those words from a leading Islamic Cleric on par with the Pope that they believe the same way.” The reason we don’t hear from an Islamic equivalent to the pope is that there ain’t no such person. Islam, unlike most of Christianity, has a very diffused authority structure. There are no Islamic leaders who could speak for a majority of Muslims. When a Muslim scholar issues a fatwa (a legal ruling, by the way, not necessarily a death sentence on an ‘infidel’) those Muslims who recognize that scholar’s authority abide by that ruling; other Muslims might simply ignore it. And one large reason we don’t hear a huge outcry against Islamist militants from “ordinary” Muslims is that many are intimidated by the Islamists. We should keep in mind that the Islamists’ first (and possibly primary) target is not the non-Islamic West but other Muslims who don’t believe the way they do. Non-Islamist Muslims have more to fear from them than we do. And, FWIW, calling Islam a false religion is way oversimplifying. It’s a lot more complicated than that. But to try and explain it would probably take hours. Peace,



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nad2

posted May 24, 2007 at 11:47 pm


eric, concerning christians who call for an end to seperation of church & state – i get the trinity broadcast network (despite my continued protests) beamed into my home through cable. i cannot tell you how many times i’ve checked in to see what was on & seen a show on this very topic w/ islam, gays & your run-of-the-mill methodists (ok, i made that last one up) being the problem to be cured by doing away w/ seperation of c&s as the founders really intended it all along. i tell myself this is just some fringe element not to be taken seriously, but then i remember they have their own tv station!



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jesse

posted May 25, 2007 at 12:20 am


being the problem to be cured by doing away w/ seperation of c&s as the founders really intended it all along. –So, these people are asking for the establishment of a state church? This was the founders’ intent, of course.



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canucklehead

posted May 25, 2007 at 1:39 am


“And, FWIW, calling Islam a false religion is way oversimplifying. It’s a lot more complicated than that. But to try and explain it would probably take hours.” Don You’re bang on as usual, Don. On several threads here I’ve touted Hirsi Ali’s book INFIDEL – one of the things that makes it such a good read is simply the education it affords about growing up devout Muslim in North Africa (Somalia). One of the things I found interesting was her comment that when she was small, one of the frequent questions they were taught to ask themselves = what would the Prophet do? WWtPD? WWTPD? WWMD? WWMDD? WWMDoDo?



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Don

posted May 25, 2007 at 2:41 am


“n several threads here I’ve touted Hirsi Ali’s book INFIDEL” I haven’t read that one yet, but it’s on my list. Another excellent book is Paul Barrett;’s “American Islam: The Struggle for the Soul of a Religion.” It’s a profile of seven American Muslims. Some are quite moderate, a few not so moderate. But it’s a good look at the kinds of struggles they face. And the profiles of the moderates are very encouraging. I’ve also heard good things about, but haven’t read, Reza Aslan’s “No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam.” Aslan (interesting name to all the CS Lewis fans!) is a research scholar at USC’s Center for Public Diplomacy. When I first saw the book in the stores, I wasn’t interested because it looked like just another history of Islam, and I’ve read several. But Aslan’s ideas about the future of Islam, from what I understand, might make it worth the read. And you might want to take a look at the dialogue over Barrett’s book between Aslan and Daniel Benjamin (of the Brookings Institution) in Slate.com a few months ago. Try searching their archives. Worth reading. Peace,



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nad2

posted May 25, 2007 at 4:49 am


karen armstrong, who wrote ‘a history of god’ just wrote a book called ‘muhammed.’ i have not read it but it’s gotten good reviews but has also been criticized as being too soft on the man & focusing too much on the good of the man & the origins of islam. canuck, i will check out this infidel book you tout. another great primer, if anyone is so inclined, is huston smith’s ‘the world’s religions’ (formerly ‘the religions of man’). it offers great & thoroughly concise (~50 pages per religions) explanations of each of the major religions, including islam.



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kevin s.

posted May 25, 2007 at 6:29 am


“As an aside, the entire musical score to “What’s Opera Doc” was adopted from the operas of Richard Wagner, who was a favorite composer of a certain German fascist. So once again it all goes back to Hitler.” I am exposed!



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squeaky

posted May 25, 2007 at 6:44 am


Actually, although Elmer Fudd came to mind first, I also thought of Star Trek IV. “Where are your nuclear wessels?” I’m a little off, though. Too much LDS.



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kevin s.

posted May 25, 2007 at 6:51 am


“You’re bang on as usual, Don. On several threads here I’ve touted Hirsi Ali’s book INFIDEL” Ugh. I am ashamed for not having read it. I am convicted. I will read, and devote blog entries to it. Unless it is terrible, which seems unlikely. Off topic: The Pistons game is over, and I am watching a film called “Torque” on TNT. It is a film about motorcycle gangs starring Ice Cube. So help me, this might be the worst film ever made. Correction: Ice Cube just reffered to the white leader of an opposing gang “Dawson’s Creek”. That is awesome. Wait… Now the white gang leader just stole a shotgun from a fat store manager with a pretty sweet move.I amend my comment to state that “Driven” is the greatest film ever made. I’m sorry I ever doubted you, “Born 2 Ride”. Wait, what movie am I watching again? This comment has been visited by a Beliefnet Moderator.



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Don

posted May 25, 2007 at 2:29 pm


If I may plug one more book, I thought of this after I signed off last night. “Approaching the Qur’an: The Early Revelations” by Michael Sells is an excellent introduction to the Islamic faith and the Qur’an. It approaches the Qur’an the way Muslim youngsters are taught, so it gives an “insider’s” view of the faith, something I think is valuable to know and understand. The translations are of the shorter suras (chapters) of the Qur’an that usually are placed in the back of the book. This approach is preferable to trying to read the Qur’an from cover to cover, an effort that usually ends in an exercise in futility. The reader is given a real sense of the power and imagery of these verses. The explanatory notes are quite insightful. Peace,



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moderatelad

posted May 25, 2007 at 6:08 pm


jurisnaturalist | Homepage | 05.24.07 – 2:52 pm | #You’re kidding, right? Well – if what was written is true – violence begets violence – what was done to Germany prior to WWI that caused them to think that they had the right to be violent agaist another country. What was done to the Japanises homeland that gave them the right to be violent back at several countries in their section of the world. Sometime people are just violent and the only language they understand is violence. Yes – the end of WWI set the foundation for WWII – but that is history. When scrupture says ‘to whom much is given – much shall be required’, I understand that. I am not rich by many peoples standards but I have a good life. But – I would also say – ‘to whom much is given to – much graditude shall be required’. That is something you do not see too often which is sad. Not that any of us feel that they should fall down and thank everyone as if they were an endentured servant. But an attituds of graditude for what they have rec’d that they did not have to pay for would be nice. Have a great weekend! .



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Another nonymous

posted May 25, 2007 at 6:09 pm


“karen armstrong, who wrote ‘a history of god’ just wrote a book called ‘muhammed.’” Nad2, you’re a brave man to bring Karen Armstrong into the mix here. Since you’ve taken the leap, though, let me also recommend her book ‘The Battle for God.’ It deals with fundamentalists in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Readers be advised: The presentation of all three religions is not likely to please traditionally orthodox practitioners. At the same time, Armstrong’s understanding of and sympathy toward the motives behind fundamentalism is surprisingly strong. So, if you ever wondered why Ayatollah Khomeini was so beloved in Iran, this book will tell you, in ways that make the phenomenon clear and comprehensible. In the process, you’ll learn a lot of other things about Islam that you probably didn’t know. Read with critical faculties fully operative, but do read.



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nad2

posted May 25, 2007 at 8:59 pm


nonymous, wherever we get it, america needs to be reading up on islam (& arabs need to be reading up on ordinary western & christian folks), & not on ways to discount it, but on ways to bridge a divide w/ ordinary people from a culture foreign to us. we need common understand which is so clearly missing on both sides.



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Another nonymous

posted May 25, 2007 at 9:05 pm


nad2 | 05.25.07 – 3:04 pm | # Amen.



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jurisnaturalist

posted May 25, 2007 at 9:20 pm


moteratelad, Have I in some way been ungrateful? I am grateful for the men who fought to protect our freedom. I am not grateful for the men who, when in power, sent other men to die when it was not necessary. I am grateful for both of my grandfathers who served in WWII, and although if it had not been him it probably would have been someone else doing the same thing, I am not grateful for FDR’s desire to make the US the policemen of the world.



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jurisnaturalist

posted May 25, 2007 at 9:25 pm


An easily accessible history of Islam’s middle periods, during the 15th and 16th centuries (on the Roman calendar) is Louis L’Amour’s Walking Drum. Not just a Middle Eastern western it is a well-researched novel with plenty of action, but also plenty of history and geography. I read it as a sophomore in High School, and used it when I taught Middle School. It is not academic, but it is especially useful at demonstrating all the valuable additions Islam has made to our culture, especially preserving the writings of the ancients and bringing them to Spain, where they eventually fed the Scholastic movement. Good stuff, and lots of fun. Give it to your son, there’s plenty of chivalry and romance. Nathanael Snow



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Kristi

posted May 25, 2007 at 11:33 pm


Thanks for the reading suggestions, guys. I have read all of Karen Armstrong’s previous work, and she has done a wonderful job of explaining the tenets, beliefs, and traditions of Islam so that we Westerners can understand and relate. And I give you an amen too, Nad2. In this country in particular, Christians tend to regurgitate rhetoric about Islam, rather than studying up on it for ourselves. I also highly recommend Huston Smith’s book. It was the text for my World Religions class in college, and is a brilliant, non-reductionist, treatise on all the major world religions. I came away from that class with such a love and respect for practioners of other religions. And Kevin S., your first mistake is watching any movie STARRING Ice Cube (except maybe We Three Kings).



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Another nonymous

posted May 26, 2007 at 12:08 am


“In this country in particular, Christians tend to regurgitate rhetoric about Islam, rather than studying up on it for ourselves.” Absolutely, Kristi, and let me add one further thought. IMO (which means I didn’t just get this from Karen Armstrong), we are not really in a conflict with Islam, but with a largely pre-modern culture, similar to that which existed, e.g., in parts of the American south before the 20th century. Such cultures feel extremely threatened by the rapid changes of modern society, and often lash out violently. Thus, if we want to understand the suicide bombers, we should look at the people who bombed churches during the civil rights movement, and ask why so many were willing to excuse them. Let me be absolutely clear that I am not *making* excuses. There is never any excuse for destructive violence against civilians. But neither is it as far from us as we often like to think.



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Ben Smith

posted May 26, 2007 at 12:12 am


Diana’s article is rather naive – she finds a difference between American and European Muslims and then attributes it to the different attitudes to religious diversity in the US and Europe, when in fact the significant factor could be any one of a number of other things – there’s lots of things different about US and European culture, not to mention the differences between the culture of Muslims who go to the US and Muslims who go to Europe. France has huge problems with Muslim immigrants integrating peacefully and happily into society. But since the revolution France has had a very strongly secular freedom of religion, interpreting ‘freedom of religion’ to be ‘freedom from religion’ when it comes to government, with a culture which not so much allows for religious diversity but instead forbids any form of religious expression in public life. France may be too dogmatically secular compared to the US, and this may be the problem, but it certainly isn’t too theocratic!



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Brent Hardaway

posted May 26, 2007 at 1:43 am


At least I lived long enough to hear this. A Sojouner’s writer admitting that the U.S. isn’t the cruelest, most injust place on earth, and that minorities are better off here than in Europe, where the econominc policies that Sojos routinely advocates are followed.



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canucklehead

posted May 26, 2007 at 5:10 am


Bill Moyers had Bruce Bawer on his Journal last weekend promoting BB’s book While Europe Slept. Don’t know if this blog is familiar with BB but he penned “Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity” about ten years ago but has been living in Europe for the last decade or so. I haven’t read the Europe book yet, but in the interview it sounded like he has similar concerns about the Muslim “takeover” of European culture as those touched on by Hirsi Ali in INFIDEL. And now, I am taking a vow of silence and reading for the weekend.



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Kristi

posted May 26, 2007 at 6:23 am


While I do believe that many groups that wish to stay in and/or revert to a pre-modern type society tend to be VERY threatened by modern society, not all react violently (ie, white supremacists vs. the Amish), so I am ambivalent about whether we can state this as one of the major causes of Islamists’ violent behavior. I think it has more to do with feeling hopeless and helpless—for example the Amish have fertile land and cooperative, caring communities to draw from, where as Muslims in many countries do not (though many do in the U.S. which may be why less of them approve of violence, than Muslims in other countries). I think that you will find that most White Supremacists are also from depressed backgrounds with no sense of community or resources (a bit like kids in street gangs). If you have no hope, you lose your ability to see clearly whether something is for good or evil, if you think it is your only way out.



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kevin s.

posted May 26, 2007 at 9:08 pm


“And Kevin S., your first mistake is watching any movie STARRING Ice Cube (except maybe We Three Kings).” Barbershop and Boyz n the Hood were also good. My biggest mistake was beeing too lazy to turn the TV off.



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Sarasotakid

posted May 28, 2007 at 5:31 pm


radicalism of European Muslims: a restricted labor market that makes it more difficult for unskilled workers to find steady work. I would also argue that these restrictions place a premium on a job-seeker’s social contacts. Wolverine I don’t know if you have traveled over there Wolverine. I have traveled a lot in France and I would have to say that you hit the nail right on the head. That is the heart of the problem.



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moderatelad

posted May 29, 2007 at 2:58 pm


jurisnaturalist | Homepage | 05.25.07 – 3:25 pm | #I am grateful for the men who fought to protect our freedom. I am not grateful for the men who, when in power, sent other men to die when it was not necessary. I think we need to define your idea of ‘not necessary’ before we go any further. FDR had come to the conclusion that they only way to handle Hitler was to join forces with our friends in Europe. After being attacked by the Empire of Japan we should not have faught back? Your logic is a little thin… I am thankful for the beef on my plate – but not the farmer that raised it to be slaughtered. Be Blessed – .



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