Sunday, November 29, 2015

Powerful Jewish Response to U.S. Muslim Registry


The mostly Christian right advocacy for either banning Middle Eastern Muslim immigrants from our land or the creation of a registry for them to clearly identify them to either shun or persecute has drawn a powerful response.  Was it from the Catholic hierarchy in America?  Not that I'm aware of.  Was it major Protestant denomination leadership?  Haven't seen much of that either.  Then who?

Holocaust survivors, displaying pictures of the infamous Star of David coat insignia and arm tattoos they were required to wear in numerous Nazi occupied countries in pre-WWII europe.  Wrap your mind around that.  The very victims of anti-semitism Christian fascists persecuted in that era (and still are advocating today in their enclaves) are also being vilified throughout  the middle east and much of the world of Islam.

Yet these good Jewish people, observant and non-observant alike,  speak out when the rest of humanity is mostly silent about the horrific potential of the leader of the allied forces against fascism
now practicing the same persecution  their fathers and grandfathers fought a world war to end.  That is, should the current rabid pack of Republicans have their way.

So, I for one want to applaud both the good Jewish and Muslim people speaking out against hate and thank them for their courage in doing so.  I'm no fan of organized religion in any form but occasionally rationality prevails from within their ranks and deserves recognition and praise.

These are the successors to the tradition of Jewish-Islamic collaboration exemplified by the great Spanish Jewish scholar of law and ethics Maimonides who in 12th century was revered also in Islamic circles.  Check him out via google.  He was amazing.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Don't Share Our Values? Who Do They Think They're Kidding?

One of the anthems we hear from the anti-Muslim crowd is the statement in the headline above.  Don't get me wrong.  As a secular humanist, I am equally repulsed by many religious values espoused by the major religions, as expressed in their practices.  Catholics not allowing women as priests and relegating many women religious to cooking and cleaning for all male seminaries.  Many Protestant sects not allowing women clergy and relegating women to roles only of child and spousal care.  Orthodox Jews keeping women in the back of the temple and wearing wigs.  Muslims demanding women cover heads and many body parts, with arranged marriages and separating them from men in religious services.  The list goes on.

But let's take a critical look at our secular society here in America, showing tolerance for these discriminatory and absurd practices in the name of freedom of religion.  In our public realm, it took women 80 hard fought years to vote beside men.  We failed to pass the Equal Rights Amendment.  Our courts demand more child care and support of women than equally responsible men.  Paying women something like 75% of what men are paid for equal work and expertise.  Restricting women's right to choose all across the land.  Legal sexual trafficking in some States via prostitution.  Way fewer women holding public office and high level corporate positions than men.  This list goes on too, doesn't it?

Agreed, some of our practices vis a vis women are less "extreme" than stoning them for adultery, genital mutilation, totally covered bodies, no public appearance without a male escort, denying women education, bans on driving often present in standard Muslim cultures often governed by Sharia Law.

But the similarities in second class citizenship and basically legal  ownership of women are painfully close.   All I'm sayin' is let's not get on our high horse about the righteousness of our society treatment of women.  The facts do not support our self aggrandizing superiority. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Caliphate: Invasion and Occupation Don't Work. What Will?

I totally agree with  the Obama doctrine of containment and isolation.  The best  of lousy options.  Please think hard with me on this issue facing us and the world.  Superficial understanding will not birth good solutions.

First, regarding our longstanding economic motivation to try to influence events in the middle east, with disastrous outcomes.  Petroleum reserves experts seem to suggest we can quickly transition our middle east oil imports to other suppliers…..Canada, Mexico et al until we can get out of the oil business, or at least minimize its horrific environmental  and political impact with its use in the energy mix.

Next, we are compelled to provide major materials/armaments/air support to middle east actors willing to rid their area of the Caliphate.  Tragically these Caliphate jihadists have probably as much right to change middle east borders as western colonialists did after the collapse of the Ottoman empire), which is one of the historic roots of our problem in that region.  Oil interests in the region largely drove this western initiative, to tragic long term effect on middle eastern populations and us.
But, somehow, we must find difficult to execute ways to incentivize our middle east allies to work on containment with us with the energy you'd hope would motivate these players as if their very survival depends on it.   Because it does depend on their aggressive engagement in the containment and ultimate Caliphate elimination project.

We must understand the failed history of military occupation, particularly in the middle east and just get out.  Engage with massive diplomatic effort, but get out of Iraq and Afghanistan.  That includes drone bases therein.  The negative results of our drone warfare far exceed its benefits. 

Yes,  we are also going to have to find ways to convince our allies, such as Turkey and the Gulf oil states to get initiatives going to reduce and neutralize the fighter recruiting efforts within their borders, including economic incentives to give hope and a future to their young populations at sufficient levels to keep them busy building a better society there rather than resort to becoming suicide bombers and military fodder for the Caliphate.  But build those better societies in their way, not ours.

To believe the fable that if only they would adopt our form of democracy is to fail to understand our own deterioration of our democratic experiment.

And, similar initiatives are vital, now, not later, to help young offspring and recent immigrants to the  EU to  integrate, prosper to some degree at least feel hope for their future in these very different societies than their families and ancestors grew up and suffered in.   This will take money and lots of creativity.

We in the U.S. must, sadly, tighten both travel (to and from) to the middle east region, immigration of middle easterners and ramp up surveillance of actors identified as potential homeland security risks within our boundaries. Also, expensively,  much more careful screening of displaced persons to whom we offer refuge with the current diaspora out of the middle east will be absolutely essential.  This will be difficult for our civil liberty and pro-immigrant traditions.

 The U.S. and all our allies must initiate severe trade and banking restrictions in addition to oil on those middle eastern countries who fail to abandon support for jihadists from within their populace; ie: Saudi Arabia and their fellow Gulf oil states.   Cutting off both funding, supply routes and arms trade with the Caliphate has to be our  highest priority.   Yes, and we'll have to starve them out of existence.

This threat must force us to address our maintenance of a twentieth century military when what is needed is a twenty first century military.  Our costly maintenance of our rusting and degrading nuclear stockpile most be virtually eliminated.  Our entire ground, air and sea forces must be rebuilt for rapid deployment and smaller, surgical strike forces to deal with guerrilla and urban warfare.   And major chunks of military funding must be diverted to building a really effective intelligence and diplomatic capability.

In the diplomatic sphere, our overemphasis on its trade promotion mission must be reprioritized to skew towards aid in counter terrorism and containment projects with our allies.

Add to this major diplomatic and aid initiatives to partner with governments where new jihadist groups are forming and operating within their borders.

Finally, way better intelligence gathering on the ground in countries of concern. This means learning from, yes, Israel who are among the best on that front.

We in the Christian and secular west must deepen our understanding of Islam.  Here, for my readers, is a start on the project from Atlantic magazine.  This is long, so take your time.

Along with better understanding Islam, I'd suggest we take a hard look at Christianity and Judaism, through both the new and old testaments.  There are very socially destructive notions contained in both as there are in the Koran which is driving the Caliphate.  Look at our own tolerance of fundamentalist Christianity in America and how similar  this cohort is to fundamentalist Islam.  I'd recommend we take a hard look at religions role in the social order, or disorder.  Particularly those in the social fabric who view religion/theology as a destination, rather than a search and exploration of the meaning of life as we know it.   Religious certitude drives conflict and misunderstanding, in my opinion.

Finally, we must engage the World Court to more publicly and aggressively put on trial these jihadist war criminals , including those we have taken out, as a clear statement to emulators that the world will not accept this kind of crime against humanity.

This epistle too is a search, not a destination.