seeking knowledge and laughter, putting a bullseye on inaccuracy


The Struggle Within Islam

Following up on my recent post, "Muslim Terrorists are Rare... and Stupid," I just read a good article in the September Smithsonian. The "Struggle Within Islam" explores how most Muslims react to the actions of the minority that commit acts of horrible terror.

“Today, Al Qaeda is as significant to the Islamic world as the Ku Klux Klan is to the Americans—not much at all,” Ghada Shahbender, an Egyptian poet and activist, told me recently. “They’re violent, ugly, operate underground and are unacceptable to the majority of Muslims. They exist, but they’re freaks.

“Do I look at the Ku Klux Klan and draw conclusions about America from their behavior? Of course not,” she went on. “The KKK hasn’t been a story for many years for Americans. Al Qaeda is still a story, but it is headed in the same direction as the Klan.”

Muslim Terrorists Are Rare... and Stupid

Fantastic article in Foreign Policy - "Why is it so hard to find a Suicide Bomber These Days?"

I have been making this point in arguments for years. To those who argue that all Muslims support terrorists or want to kill us (due to our freedom, no doubt), I have asked why there are so few terrorist attacks then. With over a billion Muslims, one would think we would see more than the occasional attempt (often blundered).

The reality is that just as most Christians really don't want to lift a finger to do anything Jesus actually encouraged them to do, most Muslims don't believe the scary passages in the Qu'ran that give license to kill the infidels. Everyone reads what they want to read and ignores the inconvenient parts (though for many, the inconvenient parts are the ones encouraging peace, love, and hippy stuff).

At any rate, Kurzman's article is first rate and fun to read. A sample where he offers five answers to the question posed by the title:

The first and most obvious answer is that most Muslims oppose terrorist violence. According to surveys by Gallup and the Pew Global Attitudes Project, support for attacks on civilians is a minority position in almost every Muslim community. (By way of comparison, a 2006 survey found that 24 percent of Americans consider attacks on civilians to be justified.) But even if only 10 percent of the world's billion Muslims supported terrorism, we would still expect to see far more terrorist activity than we do.

Top Thinkers - al Qaeda's Dissident

Foreign Policy magazine has a special end of year issue chronicling the top 2009 global thinkers - someof whom did not necessarily have "good" ideas (says me). Nonetheless, I was intrigued by a short feature on Sayyid Imam al-Sharif:

How the prison writings of Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, one of al Qaeda's founders now labeled a turn coat, are doing more to expose the terrorist group's hypocrisy than anyone else.

This dude is now in prison in Egypt - after first writing books justifying al-Qaeda's butcherous activities, he suddenly decided it might not be in the best interests of God to kill everyone with which they disagree:

He claims he came to realize that the haphazard use of violence by Islamist groups causes more harm than good with respect to Islamic law, an idea he had been pondering since he left terrorism in the early 1990s.

So long as al-Qaeda keeps killing other Muslims, I think we can expect support for them to continue plummeting amongst those who used to support them as a check against the power of the West.

October Atlantic and the Media

As I continue to plow through the magazines I set aside during my sports shooting season, I wanted to note the 2009 October issue of The Atantic. It focused mostly on media issues, but also featured one of the best discussions of U.S. Torture Policy in Andrew Sullivan's letter to former-President Bush that offers perhaps the only real solution for moving forward on this important issue.

I was struck by a quote from Mark Bowden (an author I almost always enjoy reading, regardless of subject matter) in his "The Story Behind the Story" that really gets to the heart of why Fox News bothers me so much:

Journalism, done right, is enormously powerful because it does not seek power. It seeks truth.

Fox News has blazed a path of subverting what journalism should be. They weren't the first - but they have blown away the competition. And it bothers me to the extent that other networks copy that approach in an attempt to gain viewers rather than educate viewers.

I was pleasantly surprised by Robert D. Kaplan's "Why I Love Al Jazeera," (which was about Al Jazeera English, not the arabic sister-channel). AJE is basically a BBC-style program if Howard Zinn ran it - it focuses intently on the perspective of the powerless.

And Kaplan also zinged Fox News - noting:

I have spent the past two years reporting from the Indian Ocean region, dealing predominantly with Muslims and indigenous nongovernmental organizations; watching Al Jazeera is the vicarious equivalent of engaging in the kinds of conversations I have been having. One of the multitude of problems I have with Fox News is that even its most analytically brilliant commentators, such as Charles Krauthammer, seem to be scoring points and talking to their own ideological kind rather than engaging in dialogue with others. Watching Fox, you have to wonder whether many of its commentators have ever had a conversation with a real live Muslim abroad.

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