Friday, August 24, 2012

Mordechai Kedar: Diplomacy of Rabbis

by Mordechai Kedar

Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)

We are all aware of the dismal state of the relationship between Israel and Turkey, which deteriorated as a result of Operation Cast Lead (which began in the last days of December 2008), the Davos meeting between Peres and Erdoğan (in January 2009) and the cancellation of the joint naval maneuver (that was supposed to take place in October 2009). And as a result of the Mavi Marmara event (at the end of May 2010), the relationship between the two countries plunged to a new low. Neither of the countries hosts ambassadors of the other, and the investigative committees that functioned over the past two years did not succeed in bridging the differences of opinion. Each of the two countries has demands of the other, and the state of affairs between them seems to be "stuck".

There are many people in Israel and Turkey who are very dissatisfied with the present condition of relations between the countries, and long for the warmth and brotherhood that characterized the cooperation in many areas that the two countries enjoyed in the past. Irrespective of politics, it is clear that during the past two years the trade relations between the two countries have not only not contracted, but have even expanded. El Al has stopped flying to Turkey, but the Turkish airline maintains a number of flights every day between the two countries and the planes are full.

Behind the scenes some Turkish friends of Israel are working to improve the relationship between the countries. One of them is Adnan Oktar, a Turk, Muslim believer and friend of Israel, who, for the past twenty five years published many books and articles under the pen-name of Harun Yahya, dealing with issues regarding Darwinism, Communism, history, philosophy and religion. He has accumulated many supporters, and according to the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre of Jordan, in 2010 he was among the fifty most influential people in the Islamic world today, for his dissemination of creationism in an Islamic context, and other extensively distributed publications on Islamic topics.

Oktar has accumulated more than a few rivals also, who try everything possible to silence him. He was accused of being holocaust denier because a book under the title "The Holocaust Lie" was published under his pen-name in 1995. However, Adnan Oktar officially denies writing this book and states that his pen-name Harun Yahya was misused. This book does not reflect his opinions and the book was published without his knowledge.

After the attacks of September 11, 2001 he published a book in which he claims that true Islam rejects terror, and since then he has been endeavoring to promote inter-faith dialog and to encourage mutual understanding. In his articles and books he often quotes the prophets of Israel and the vision of redemption and global peace that they gave to the world. Oktar publicly supports the right of the Jewish people to live on the land of its fathers with sovereignty, in independence and in true peace with its neighbors, whether Arab, Turkish, Iranians or others, and therefore his detractors claim that he is actually an agent of the Mossad...

Adnan Oktar, being an Islamic thinker, prefers to conduct a dialog with believing Jews, because he finds a common cultural basis with them. From his point of view, a god fearing Jew is his brother, as is any person in the world who believes in the One who dwells above. Abraham - the "Father of Many Nations" - is the ancient father of all monotheists, and therefore there is no reason that they should bicker over anything. Peace, brotherhood and cooperation between people are the supreme values in the eyes of the Creator, and therefore war, conflict and death are contrary to His will.

This belief of Oktar moved him to invite to Turkey a delegation of members of Knesset from the religious side of the Israeli cultural map, in order to open a dialog between official Israel and the Turkish political stratum. And more specifically, with the religious Justice and Development Party, which has ruled Turkey since 2002. The Israeli delegation included Members of Knesset Rabbi Nisim Ze'ev and Rabbi Yitzhak Cohen, who is also deputy minister of the treasury. The rabbi of Geneva, Rabbi Dr. Yitzhak Dayan, Rabbi Benjamin Abramson, an adviser to the Sanhedrin and the writer of these lines also participated. The delegation conducted two days of hearings, one in Ankara the capital, and one in Istanbul. These discussions included dozens of people from the boiling cauldron of Turkish politics, most of whom are members of the Islamic party, AKP. This party is not homogeneous, and many are its shades and variations. Just try to imagine a religious party in Israel that includes Satmar, Shas, the Degel Hatorah, Aguda, Mafdal, the Jewish Home, Believers in the Torah and Avodah, the Conservatives and the Reform, all together in one party. Apparently the wolf will live with the lamb and the tiger will lie down with the kid before a party such as this will be established in Israel, however in Turkey the Party of Justice and Development is such. This apparently is the reason that it can be the largest party and therefore it rules; Israeli politicians please take note. It has within it many shades, radical as well as moderate, modernists as well as traditionalists, in whom the belief in the Almighty unites everyone. It is natural that those among them who met with the Israeli delegation were also those who relate to Israel with a warmer attitude than that of their prime minister, Rajab Tayyip Erdoğan.

The discussions touched on every subject, without circumventing any problem and without skipping any obstacle. The points under discussion were the conflict between Israel and the Arabs, especially Hamas, the incident at Davos, the Mavi Marmara affair and the entire relationship between Turkey and Israel. The central meeting was held in Ankara on Wednesday August 15, with about twenty members of the Party of Justice and Development. The meeting began with an atmosphere that was somewhat tense; however, the atmosphere warmed up with time and the two sides arrived at the joint conclusion that the joint challenges confronting Israel and Turkey today - Iran, Syria, Lebanon and more - are much greater and more fateful than the negative events of 2008-2010. The meeting concluded with the decision to establish a joint committee of three members from each side in order to continue the dialog, whose mission will be to create a situation where the governments of Israel and Turkey will be able to find a way to restore their relationship to the good situation that existed in the past. The discussions were conducted with an atmosphere of brotherhood and affection radiated by Adnan Oktar.

The meeting was headed by Mr. Yaşar Yakış, who released the following announcement:

Statement by Mr Yaşar Yakış, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey:

On 15 August 2012 we shared an Iftar with a delegation from Israel. The Iftar was followed by a friendly exchange of views. The Turkish participants included former Minister of Health Mr. Halil Şıvgın, other former Ministers and former Members of Parliaments and me. The Israeli delegation was composed of Rabbi Dr. Yitzak Cohen, Deputy Minister of Economy; Rabbi Nissim Zeev, Member of Knesset; Itzak Dayan, Chief Rabbi of Geneva, Switzerland; Dr. Mordechai Kedar from the Bar Ilan University; Rabbi Ben Abrahamson, consultant to Sanhedrin; and Mrs. Shoshana Bekerman, Spokesperson of Nissim Zeev.

The meeting was organized by Mr. Adnan Oktar's organization in the JW Marriott Hotel in Ankara.

The two delegations had a friendly exchange of views on the present situation of the relations between Turkey and Israel. They pointed out that the strained relations did not serve the interests of either side.

Various ideas were voiced during the meeting in order to find an exit from the present impasse. However, no concrete proposal emerged from the meeting since this was the very first encounter between these two delegations. Therefore it was decided that both delegations designate a team of three members and that these members remain in touch by exchanging messages and narrow down the scope of the subject. It will not be easy to focus on specific proposals if the scope of the debate is kept wide.
The members of the team will try to work out concrete proposals and prepare other meetings in the future if the proposals become mature enough to justify the holding a new meeting.

The previous minister of health in Erdoğan's government, Halil Sibgin, published a similar announcement, and added:

It is a good thing to see that there are efforts on both sides to improve and develop Turkish-Israeli relations, which have deteriorated after the Mavi Marmara incident. I believe, however, both parties should strive harder to improve these relations. These efforts will contribute to both regional and global peace.
It must be emphasized that at no time did the Israeli and Turkish delegations see themselves or present themselves as representatives of their governments or the heads of their governments, and their goal was entirely to create mutual understanding and an atmosphere of openness among the members of the political stratum so that the process of discussion and decision-making will be more comfortable for both governments. Although the these discussions were not official meetings between the countries, it was clear that the government of Turkey was aware of the visit, because a Turkish police cruiser accompanied and provided security for the members of the Israeli delegation in all of its movements. The participation of Rabbi Yitzhak Cohen, deputy minister of the treasury, was not a secret to the Israeli government. The Israeli delegation also met with a representative of the Republican People's Party (CHP - the secular party of the opposition), and from this congenial meeting the delegation emerged with a positive feeling as well.

It is important to note as a parallel subtopic that Turkey went out of its way to facilitate the task of the delegation. Funding was entirely provided by Adnan Oktar, and it included flights from Israel, internal flights, a hotel, transportation and strictly kosher food. During the entire stay Oktar's people stayed close to us and took care of all our needs. A person only invests many thousands of dollars if he believes that the goal is important, and the restoration of a functional relationship between Israel and Turkey is important to Adnan Oktar. These days, in which there are few Muslims who are willing to identify with Israel, the activity of Oktar on behalf of the people of Israel and the state of Israel must be praised; here are his words on peace and brotherhood between Israel and her neighbors:

"Mr. Oktar has been asked about the purpose of the visit, and answered: The purpose of this visit is to establish the friendship between Israel and Turkey, to secure that there is no tension between the two countries, to show that our love and compassion to the Jewish people dating back to a long history has been persisting without any harm coming to it. There are some people who show enmity to the Jewish people. This has been a slap-down response to them…

It is a desire from the heart, for good, for relations between Turkey and Israel to be better, for Turkey and Israel to be allies… We think things will be good, that it is important to collaborate with Israel, that it is important for us to be in alliance with Israel, because they are descended from the Prophets. They are the descendants of the Prophets Abraham and Israel…

The work we have been carrying out about Israel are by nature oriented to prevent some disasters. We secure peace. We prevent wars and bloodshed. We advocate freedom. Is this something wrong? By no means. We make sure that they become friends with Turkey. Is this good or bad? Good."
I don't know how close Adnan Oktar is to Erdoğan's ear, but the series of meetings with people of the ruling party that he organized for the Israeli delegation was impressive, and proves that he is very close to some of the people of the ruling party. This is especially obvious given that it was, as much as I know, the first time in recent years that an Israeli parliamentary delegation has come to Turkey. I do not claim that Oktar and the members of both delegations have created a revolution in Israeli-Turkish relations, but we clearly felt that Israel is dear to many in Turkey in general and particularly to some among the ruling party, the Party of Justice and Development, and that they feel that the time has come to find the way to enable Israel and Turkey to bring to a close to the present miserable chapter in the relations between the two countries.

Diplomacy and Tradition

The delegation to Turkey may be seen in a wider context: for years the Islamic world around Israel has been becoming increasingly religious. Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Kuwait, Gaza (already an Islamic state for five years, in case you have not noticed), and of course Iran - in all of them a cultural shift has occurred, and as a result, a political change in the direction of Islam, each one according to its own style and course. There will be those who will say "these Muslims are all radical, all terrorists, all want to throw us into the sea, because we are a Jewish, democratic, Western and 'liberal' state." Those people have a point, because there will always be preachers and imams who will justify this opinion. However, reality is much more complex than we think, and just for comparison: how many streams of Judaism are there among the 13 million Jews in the world? Then how many varieties of Islam can there be among 1.5 billion Muslims?

I do not claim that there are no extremists and terrorists in the Islamic world, but there are also others, who are not radical and not terrorists, and who see themselves as no less faithful to Islam than the extremists. Just as is the case among us, many Muslims form their religious world according to their own spiritual values, according to the way they have been educated and according to the image of their cultural worldview that has been crystallized in the course of their adult life. There are among them many who are willing to accept the Other as he is, even if he is a Jew, Israeli and even Zionist. The courageous among them will show this; those who are even bolder will support and fund activities intended to strengthen the standing and the regional strength of the state of Israel, but the most courageous will not try to hide their support for Israel from the media or from the public in their country. The most prominent example of these courageous ones is Adnan Oktar.

Surprisingly, it seems that Muslims who are faithful to Islam feel more comfortable with traditional Jews, who share with them faith in the Master of the Worlds, and it may be that the arduous and laborious path of Israel into the heart of the Muslim world that surrounds it may be paved by rabbis, with their beards, their skull-caps and long black coats. I do not claim that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must really enlist as cadets the men who warm the benches of the Porat Yosef or Panevezys yeshivas , but - on the contrary - apparently the appropriate people to conduct a discourse with Muslims who are faithful to their religion and tradition are not the disciples of Shimon Peres's or Yossi Beilin's or Alon Liel's cultural school.

The path to our neighbors' hearts, both those who are more and those who are less sympathetic, is ultimately paved with personal contact. The delegation to Turkey proved, at least to me, that it is important for Israel to be represented in a way that will make it easier for our traditional neighbors to accept us, and that the state of Israel is not entirely secular and liberal. We have among us enough traditional people, who are also traditional in appearance, and who, because of the respect that our neighbors have for tradition, actually makes them more capable of finding the way to manage the contacts between Israel and its neighbors so as not to generate cultural aversion. It is also important that they speak the languages of the area - Arabic, Turkish and Persian - and it is important that they will undergo professional training in the conduct of negotiations and diplomacy. It will be easier for them to come to diplomatic achievements with our Muslim and traditional neighbors, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister Office should take this issue into consideration.

May peace and the mercy of the Almighty and His blessing be upon you, my dear readers.


Dr. Kedar is available for lectures in the U.S. and Canada

Dr. Mordechai Kedar ( is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav.

Links to Dr. Kedar's recent articles on this blog:

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

In Egypt, US fails to learn from its mistakes

by Dan Margalit

Right before Israel's eyes, a play is being performed in the Sinai Peninsula that could change the face of the peace agreement with Egypt unilaterally, without any negotiations and without consent.

Aside from the grand statements ("No more war, no more bloodshed"), the peace agreement contained an ironclad component — that Sinai would remain demilitarized. This situation has been strictly maintained, with slight modifications, since 1979. It was based on the assurance that Israel would leave the infrastructure it had build in Sinai after the Six-Day War in 1967 in place for the Egyptians. There are airfields, military bases, and access roads that any army based in Sinai could use. These could all become an immediate risk.

Now the Egyptians have entered Sinai and Israel is in an awkward position. How can Israel tell Mohammed Morsi to stop, when it wants the Egyptian army to fight radical terrorism in Sinai? Will Egypt fight? Will it fulfill the mission if it encounters difficulties and will it assert itself over the local Bedouin population? Has it begun to take substantive steps, within the framework of Operation Eagle, to eradicate Salafi terrorism? This is what the Egyptian defense minister and chief of staff have declared. But what will actually happen? That will only be known after several weeks and months.

In the meantime, tanks have entered prohibited areas under the peace agreement, and not a word has been heard from the Egyptians promising that these tanks will be withdrawn at the end of the operation. Who can really say that the operation will end? There will always be another terrorist cell, and Morsi, who has already announced that he wants to make changes to the peace agreement with Israel, could seize upon this pretext to continue establishing new facts on the ground, without any say from Israel.

The Egyptians are not the only ones who have not declared their commitment to the peace agreement as it was written, which stipulates that any changes be negotiated and agreed upon. The Americans have not reiterated this condition either. On the contrary, the irresponsible American journey from the ousting of Hosni Mubarak to the Muslim Brotherhood's rise to power and the waning influence of the Egyptian military, continues in an orderly fashion. The United States promises to give Egypt more military and intelligence aid. The U.S. has good intentions — and is doing this out of the hope that Egypt will use these means to fight radical Islamist terror. But the results have so far provided the opposite. It is as though the American government refuses to learn from its biggest mistakes to date.

This is not totally disconnected from what is happening in Syria, where Bashar Assad is slaughtering his own people on a scale not seen in the Arab world in decades (Assad is acting like his father). Where is the United States? It does not want to independently lead a move against Assad and is waiting for Europe, which is bogged down with its economic woes. But the battle for Syria is a battle against the largest and most important foreign outpost of Iran. It is not that the Americans do not understand this. In fact, they do, and it is possible that they are deterred because of this. And how will the world look, with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt ridiculing the peace agreement with Israel, which was signed under U.S. auspices, if the rebels run out of ammunition against the pro-Iranian Assad?

Dan Margalit

Source: Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Could an Attack on Iran Facilitate Regime Change?

by Evelyn Gordon

An Iranian op-ed writer recently urged his country to emulate Israel. Of course the “Zionist regime” is illegitimate, wrote Seyed Ammar Kalantari, but the fact that “this small group of around seven million people who only about 60 years ago moved to this small spot from all sorts of different cultures and nationalities” has managed to survive, despite repeated attacks by Palestinians and various Arab armies, shows it must be doing something right. That something, Kalantari argued, is Israel’s willingness to criticize its leaders.

What makes this remarkable isn’t just that Israel is being touted as a shining example in the very country whose leader regularly pledges to annihilate it as “a cancerous tumor.” It’s that the article appeared on a website closely affiliated with Mohsen Rezaee, a former Revolutionary Guards commander who now serves as secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, a key organ of the regime. It’s one of numerous recent reminders that most Iranians are vastly more open-minded than the thugs who run their country.

Just this week, a leading Iranian opposition cleric publicly urged the regime to “do everything to prevent a Zionist attack on Iran, because if that happens, Iran will be severely damaged, even if the Zionist regime is damaged even more.” The regime “must not act as warmongers,” warned Ayatollah Yousef Sanei: “The country is currently facing a unique situation, and the most important thing to do is to shut the mouth of the Zionist regime with our thoughts, our pens and an effort to take the right actions.” While Sanei didn’t specify said “right actions,” the meaning seems clear: steps to allay international, and especially Israeli, concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

In fact, an online poll published in June found that a decisive majority of Iranians – 63 percent – favor giving up uranium enrichment in exchange for an end to sanctions. And another poll, published in May, found that Iranians are much more supportive of basic liberal values than, say, Egyptians, Jordanians and Moroccans, or even residents of some Asian and eastern European democracies. Fully 94% of respondents, for instance, deemed “freedom to choose” an important value, and 71% deemed tolerance important.

All this shows what an incredible opportunity was wasted when U.S. President Barack Obama failed to support the Green Revolution in 2009, preferring instead to pursue negotiations with the mullahs: In Iran – unlike, say, Egypt – a successful revolution might well have produced a better government rather than a worse one, because most Iranians would genuinely rather build a decent society at home than foment mayhem abroad.

Today, however, this very decency is frequently used as an argument against attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities: An attack, we are told, will cause ordinary Iranians to rally round the mullahs, thereby setting the prospect of regime change back decades.

Personally, I think the data indicates that any such effect would be short-lived. People who value freedom of choice and tolerance aren’t likely to become permanent mullah-lovers, nor will opposition leaders long laud the regime for provoking the very attack they warned against.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has an additional argument: the Ugandan precedent. Yoweri Museveni, who became Uganda’s president after Idi Amin’s downfall, told him that Israel’s 1976 Entebbe raid “strengthened Amin’s rivals because it revealed how vulnerable his regime was,” Netanyahu related this month.

There’s no way to know for sure who’s right. But we do know the Green Revolution failed primarily because the regime’s brute-force tactics eventually convinced the demonstrators it was too strong to be toppled. Thus showing that the regime isn’t as powerful as it seems may actually be the very spark needed to finally send the mullahs toppling.

Evelyn Gordon


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

WH Relaxed Iran Sanctions Under Pressure

by Alana Goodman

The Cable’s Josh Rogin has more on the Obama administration’s decision to allow non-profit groups to send hundreds of thousands of dollars each in cash to Iran as part of earthquake relief efforts. Rogin reports that the White House was initially worried about the optics of temporarily relaxing sanctions so close to the election, but eventually agreed after getting support from the State Department:

State Department officials argued in favor of granting the license, while the White House resisted the move, worried about how even a temporary and limited relief of sanctions against Iran would play in the media so close to the presidential election. Eventually, with the support of top State Department officials, the White House was persuaded to agree to the move, these sources said.

The National Iranian American Council, a group that has advocated for weaker sanctions and other pro-regime policies, also played a major role in lobbying the administration (the organization touts a conference call it set up with the White House about this issue on its website).

Unsurprisingly, Rogin also reports there are concerns on Capitol Hill over whether the cash will make it to the people who need it, or whether it will intercepted by the Iranian government.

Treasury officials and NIAC downplayed these worries:

Parsi said the best way to prevent the money from getting into Iranian government hands is to work through respected NGOs that are based in the United States and have a presence in Iran.

There are some checks on the aid, Treasury officials say.

“The license specifically forbids any dealings with entities on the OFAC SDN list such as the IRGC,” Treasury Department spokesman John Sullivan told The Cable, referring to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. “There is also a mandated report to the Treasury and State Departments so we can make sure the money does not end up in the wrong hands.”

Obviously that’s the hope, but what about the groups controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps?

For example, will American groups be able to send money to the Iranian Red Crescent — Iran’s most prominent “humanitarian relief” group? The Red Crescent isn’t on the Specially Designated Nationals list, but the group is reportedly controlled by the IRGC, according to leaked U.S. diplomatic cables from 2008.

While NIAC maintains that there’s precedent for the Obama administration’s decision, citing a similar sanctions waiver by President Bush after the 2003 earthquake in southern Iran that may not be the most assuring comparison. There have been allegations that much of the international aid was stolen at the time, as the New York Times reported yesterday:

Pouria, an office manager with broad shoulders, said he made a similar trip in 2003 to Bam, a southern city where a powerful earthquake killed 25,000 people, many of them buried in rubble. After the world gave money to help, Pouria said, he saw a lot of it disappear in the wrong pockets.

“Bam was a lesson for me,” Pouria said he had reminded his wife after news of this month’s earthquakes. “We normal people should take the initiative.”

His feeling was echoed in the doubts expressed by many Iranians, even senior leaders and lawmakers, about the ability of the official aid organizations. Members of Parliament representing the quake-stricken region complained to Iranian news agencies of shortages. Parliament called in the director of the Red Crescent for questioning.

What exactly are the safeguards to ensure that won’t happen again?

Alana Goodman

Source: Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Obama's Oil and Gas Folly

by Jeffrey Folks

Obama's campaign speeches always seem to include a line about how he can take credit for increasing domestic oil and gas production. As the official White House website has it, "domestic oil and gas production has increased every year President Obama has been in office."

On Wednesday, however, his administration put into effect yet another new regulation making it harder for America's oil and gas companies to increase production. In fact, that regulation, as the head of the American Petroleum Institute recently wrote, would make American companies unable to compete with foreign competitors. That may be exactly why the president supported it.

The new regulation, Section 1504 of the Dodd-Frank bill, would require American companies to release information detailing expenditures on foreign operations. That proprietary information would immediately be available to foreign and domestic competitors alike, and would be used to undercut whatever advantages American companies have achieved as a result of their own hard work. Section 1504's "extractives transparency rules," as interpreted by Obama's activists at the SEC, force American companies to compete with one hand tied behind their back. Competitors in Moscow and Beijing must be dancing for joy now that the rules have been finalized. Obama has just handed them the keys to the world's oil riches.

The problems with Section 1504 go beyond the "competitive disadvantage" to which it puts American energy companies. When implemented, Section 1504 will also place American companies in conflict with foreign countries which prohibit the very same disclosures that 1504 mandates. As a result, American companies might well be forced to cease operations in nations where they have already invested tens of billions of dollars in order to avoid running afoul of the law.

As one study pointed out, there are also serious security implications involved in implementing Section 1504. American companies working in dangerous environments overseas may be placing their employees at risk if they fully disclose the locations, funding, and status of their operations. The safety of American workers and their local employees overseas should be a paramount concern, but the SEC ruling does not appear to address this concern.

In addition to the risk of violence, Section 1504 exposes American companies to the risk of greater shareholder litigation. Like all complex securities regulation, Section 1504 is a boon for trial lawyers, but not for American workers or consumers, who will end up paying the costs of litigation.

In fact, it appears that the SEC has proceeded in the most intrusive manner possible, though it need not have done so. Dodd-Frank allowed the agency broad leeway to interpret transparency rules in a manner that would not have materially harmed American companies. It appears that, under Obama's direction, the agency has gone out of its way to punish American companies. Yet nothing in Section 1504 applies to foreign state-run competitors that are not listed on U.S. markets.

All of this raises the question, of course, of why Dodd-Frank should have singled out oil and gas (and mining) companies for a transparency ruling that does not apply to other industries. That decision, in and of itself, would seem to be blatantly unfair and discriminatory. It is another manifestation of the left's obsession with creating a carbon-free future that fails to take into account economic impact or even basic feasibility. In the absence of fossil fuels, America's economy would be reduced to the level of Mali and then some.

Far from increasing domestic oil and gas production, Obama has already cut future production from what it would have been. As the American Petroleum Institute states, current policies "prevent us from adequately preparing for the long-term." Energy production has a long lead time -- as long as two decades, if one includes locating promising acreage, leasing, permitting, drilling, and building the infrastructure for getting production to market. This means that the consequences of current policies don't become apparent for at least a decade. When they do, Obama's policies will be seen to have curtailed domestic production and placed America's energy security in jeopardy.

The increased production for which Obama is taking credit can be attributed to leasing and advances in drilling technologies that took place during previous administrations. By contrast, Obama has been consistently hostile to fossil fuel development.

Since Obama likes to boast about his so-called achievements in domestic energy production, here is a brief list of what he has actually done:

-reversed commitments to allow development of offshore Atlantic reserves, and failed to expand drilling on Alaska's North Slope and offshore Alaska

-shut down Gulf of Mexico deep-water drilling entirely for six months and slowed new permitting there indefinitely

-reversed previous commitments to allow drilling for oil shale on federal lands in the Rockies

-vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline, shutting off major supplies of oil from Canada

-slowed hydraulic fracturing on public and private lands by imposing new EPA regulations, and allowed the EPA to issue hasty determinations of fracking pollution that have since been discredited

-proposed $44 billion of new taxes on oil and gas companies at the same time that he squandered $80 billion on unproductive solar and wind companies such as Solyndra

-continued to support a devastating corn ethanol program that is raising food prices worldwide and costing U.S. taxpayers billions in taxes to pay for subsidies and additional billions in higher fuel costs

-driven up the cost of electricity by mandating and subsidizing wind and solar generation instead of promoting use of natural gas (and coal)

-accused "speculators" of driving up oil prices (except when those prices are falling, which is then not attributable to speculation) while it is his own actions that are driving up those prices in anticipation of future declines in U.S. oil and gas production

To this long list of Obama's policy mistakes we can now add Section 1504, the SEC requirement that American oil and gas companies reveal much of their proprietary information with regard to foreign exploration to their foreign competitors.

In other words, Obama's oil and gas policy has been nothing less than an assault on fossil fuels. The administration's plan all along has been "to wean America off dependence on fossil fuels" (a "national mission," as Obama has called it). Yet no practical alternative exists to supply America's energy needs. Meanwhile, foreign rivals -- China, in particular -- are locking up oil and gas reserves around the globe. Recently, CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Company) has offered to purchase Nexen for $15.1 billion. That purchase that would greatly expand Chinese ownership of oil and gas reserves in the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere in North America. This deal follows Chinese purchases of reserves throughout North America, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. In future decades, China will reap the benefit of its pro-fossil fuels policy while America suffers from the folly of what Obama has done.

Meanwhile, American companies are hobbled with new regulations and taxation that make it harder for them to produce energy. The cumulative effect of Obama's green energy policy has been to gut future domestic energy production, putting America in the hands of foreign producers, many of whom are hostile to the U.S. Decades from now, with domestic production of oil and gas inadequate to meet our needs, we will have Obama to blame.

But as Obama stresses in his campaign appearances, his work is not yet finished. He has not yet totally dismantled America's oil and gas companies. That job he has left for his second term.

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Obama and the Asphalt Plantation

by Lee Cary

President Obama has done nothing to address the problems of the black community defined in a 1965 report by Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

And by doing nothing, he's made the problems worse.

Forty-seven years ago, Moynihan (1927-2003) was the Assistant Secretary of Labor in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. In the context of helping formulate policy concerning Johnson's War on Poverty, he wrote "The Negro Family: A Case for National Action." Later, he served four terms as a Democrat U.S. Senator from New York (1976, 1982, 1988, and 1994).

Moynihan projected the image of an erudite born into wealth, with easy access to the finest Ivy League colleges. In fact, he grew up poor, attended high school in East Harlem, worked nights as a longshoreman while in high school, once shined shoes on a street corner, and received an M.A. and Ph.D. from Tufts University. Later, he studied economics as a Fulbright Scholar at The London School of Economics. Concerning his education -- he built it.

His 17,000-words report is stacked with statistics that painted a dismal future for the "Negro" in American society, if the trends were not reversed. He wrote that,

"The fundamental that of family structure. The evidence - not final, but powerfully persuasive - is that the Negro family in the urban ghettos is crumbling... So long as this situation persists, the cycle of poverty and disadvantage will continue to repeat itself." [snip]

"A national effort is required that will give a unity of purpose to the many activities of the Federal government in this area, directed to a new kind of national goal: the establishment of a stable Negro family structure."

Moynihan linked the erosion of the black family with chronic unemployment among blacks.

"The fundamental, overwhelming fact is that Negro unemployment, with the exception of a few years during World War II and the Korean War, has continued at disaster levels for 35 years. Once again, this is particularly the case in the northern urban areas to which the Negro population has been moving." (italics in source version) [snip]

"[H]igher family incomes are unmistakably associated with greater [black] family stability - which comes first may be a matter for conjecture, but the conjunction of the two characteristics is unmistakable."

Moynihan's conclusion was controversial in 1965, and still is today.

"In a word, a national effort towards the problems of Negro Americans must be directed towards the question of family structure. The object should be to strengthen the Negro family so as to enable it to raise and support its members as do other families. After that, how this group of Americans chooses to run its affairs, take advantage of its opportunities, or fail to do so, is none of the nation's business."

And should the reader have missed his point along the way, Moynihan ends with this paragraph:

"The policy of the United States is to bring the Negro American to full and equal sharing in the responsibilities and rewards of citizenship. To this end, the programs of the Federal government bearing on this objective shall be designed to have the effect, directly or indirectly, of enhancing the stability and resources of the Negro American family." (bolded in source)

To the debatable extent that the War on Poverty aimed toward "enhancing the stability and resources of the Negro American family," it failed -- miserably. A case can be made that the effort led to an outcome opposite to its intention.

We are now in that worse future for the "Negro" community that Moynihan predicted would happen with the wrong "national effort". For his Presidential part, Barack Obama has done nothing to reverse the failed policies of the War on Poverty.

Had he truly been the transformational leader that some thought he would become, he would have declared the War on Poverty as lost and, therefore, over. Then he would have led an altogether different approach to addressing a situation that has worsened since Moynihan's report. His response has been to push more of the same.

A different approach would, surely, have involved engaging the American business community, large and small companies alike, as allies, rather than as greedy, tax-dodging capitalists (as a dirty word).

We leave Moynihan's report, and fast forward to the September/October 2012 issue of The American Interest, and, (Professor of Foreign Affairs and the Humanities at Bard College) Walter Russell Mead's article entitled "The Great Compromise".

"The election of President Obama marked both the definitive triumph of the 1977 racial settlement and the beginning of its end. A generation of national struggle against the spirit of race prejudice had created the closest thing to a color-blind electorate American politics had ever known. A generation of opening doors to talented blacks provided the opportunity for not just Barack Obama but a galaxy of African-American leaders in business, politics and culture to reach the summit of national life.

But the financial crisis that helped Obama win election in time devastated the black middle class and demonstrated the extent to which the core economic assumptions that shaped the new era in race relations were under threat. The housing bubble's greatest victims were striving minorities; a combination of well-intentioned efforts to increase home ownership among low-income and minority families with unscrupulous and irresponsible Wall Street lending products left millions of Americans stuck with pricey mortgages in overvalued properties."

Never mind that Professor Mead avoids the role of the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 and blames the lenders for bringing about the "housing bubble". (He doesn't teach economics at Bard) And, let's not quibble with his somewhat artificial time-stamping of 1977 as the end of the post-Reconstruction era that ran from 1877-1977. Many of his points are, nonetheless, worth considering.

Although many blacks have entered the middle class, the problems within inner city black communities are worse than ever. His analysis mirrors Moynihan's, but is forty-seven years later and uglier.

"Conditions in many American cities deteriorated dramatically as white flight, globalization (destroying the manufacturing base of many rust belt cities), poor governance and the drug trade ravaged urban America. The heavy police presence and law enforcement crackdowns sent a growing proportion of young black men to prison. Weak family structures, absent fathers, abysmal schools and the consequences of a culture in which drug abuse and violence were widespread placed almost insuperable barriers in the way of young generations of African Americans born into the inner cities."


"[U]rban demographics are changing, and the politics of urban employment will change with it. In cities like Los Angeles, New York and even Washington, DC, black political power has begun to decline. Spanish-speaking immigrants and immigrants from Asia are exerting more power in local elections, and the patronage networks that have served blacks well in recent decades will now increasingly serve other client groups. An influx of affluent whites, who dislike machine politics and want to improve services like schools while cutting costs, puts additional pressure on the patronage networks. Add the squeeze on state and municipal government hiring together with a decline in relative black political power, and the future is not particularly hard to calculate."

By now, the reader may be asking: How much worse will things get before the consequences are so socially traumatic as to require a dramatically new direction in city, state and federal governments' policiesand practices? After all, isn't doing the same thing over-and-over again, and expecting a different outcome, one definition of insanity?

Upon his election in 2008, President Obama had the political capital to tackle this problem, but he wasn't up to the task. In fact, the task doesn't, in retrospect, appear to have even been on his agenda.

The lack of interest he showed for the plight of the poorest constituents in his Illinois State Senate district should have been a clue as to his intentions - or better, his disinterest in the matter.

When Barack Obama said "I'm not the president of the black America," he was telling the truth. He hasn't been blacks' president, because he hasn't acted as the nation's president.

And so it is that in the nation's urban centers today, too many black communities remain asphalt plantations where corrupt politicians are the overseers -- most from the same political party that the president leads.

Lee Cary


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Will the Romney Campaign Demand Release of the Obama-Khalidi Video?

by Edward Olshaker

Will this be the year we finally see a presidential nominee with the guts to make an issue of his opponent's extremist associations?

Actually, it's already happened, but not in the way many of us wished. President Obama recently accused Mitt Romney of allying himself with "the radical fringe of his party," in an e-mail highlighting his occasional fundraising events with Donald Trump, and now the president's campaign is warning that Paul Ryan is a dangerous extremist.

The audacity of this line of attack naturally brings up the issue of Those Whose Names Must Not Be Mentioned -- Obama's own collection of terror supporters and actual terrorists he chose as mentors (and whose influence is disturbingly evident in his foreign policy). If Romney was waiting for some kind of formal invitation before attacking the president's most glaring weakness, that invitation has arrived.

Obama's fundraising off Romney's "radical" associations is an example of either chutzpah he will get away with or hubris that will come back to haunt him by inviting scrutiny of Obama's closeness with terrorists who appear with him in the suppressed Los Angeles Times video of a 2003 anti-Israel gathering -- former PLO operative Rashid Khalidi (who dedicated a book to Palestinian murderer Yasser Arafat), Bill Ayers (who dedicated a book to Palestinian murderer Sirhan Sirhan), and Bernardine Dohrn.

The guest list also included Ali Abunimah, a close Obama ally who founded the Electronic Intifada website in 2001 (surely Obama realized that the word "intifada" is synonymous with suicide bombings) and the Sanabel debka troupe. Columnist Debbie Schlussel reported that she witnessed a performance of this Palestinian children's dance group that included "simulating beheadings and stomping on American, Israeli, and British flags." (Did they let the children use real swords when they acted out the beheadings? Maybe we'll find out when this comes up in the debates.)

What kind of presidential candidate participates in such an event? One who is "out of touch with most Americans' values" and "fully embraced extremism" -- phrases the Obama team uses to describe Paul Ryan and the Tea Party, while the president's own indoctrination by terrorists goes unmentioned. The disturbing unspoken truth is that if Romney relentlessly attacked Santorum and Gingrich on their worst vulnerabilities yet declines to do the same to Obama, he is succumbing to racial bullying, just as John McCain and even the Clintons did on their way to defeat.

Only Romney and Ryan have the visibility to speak out on the suppression of the video without being ignored and reach the crucial undecided voters. At least one of them must wear two hats -- candidate and one-man alternative media (it's grossly unfair, but it's the hand they've been dealt). Will one or both hold a press conference in front of the LA Times building, as Romney did in front of Solyndra headquarters? Romney will benefit immeasurably if he goes on offense and throws back at Obama the same charge Obama's campaign is hurling at him -- "He's hiding something," and in this case, something infinitely more unsettling than anything that might be found in Romney's tax records.

While the LA Times protects Obama, not all prominent elected officials have been so lucky. As one alert blogger noted in 2008, the paper was quick to report the contents of an audiotape damaging to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And then, four months ago, the LA Times cavalierly publicized photos of a few rogue U..S troops posing with body parts of dead Afghan suicide bombers. Despite pleas by the U.S. military and others about the potentially deadly consequences, the newspaper stood by its decision, as editor Davan Maharaj insisted, "At the end of the day, our job is to publish information that our readers need to make informed decisions."

That's truly a priceless quote for the Romney campaign to cite when asking why a newspaper would release photos endangering U.S. troops' lives yet suppress a video that endangers a favored politician's career.

Although the media and Obama effectively operate as a single entity, the obligation to obtain the release of the video's contents is ultimately on the Obama team themselves, especially in light of their demands for more Romney's tax records, e-mails from his term as governor, and a pro-Romney PAC's donor list. In the president's own unintentionally ironic words, "[w]hat's important is if you are running for president is that the American people know who you are and what you've done and that you're an open book."

Unless and until the video is released, the Romney campaign would be remiss not to play by the Obama camp's rules and mention that there are "disturbing reports" -- the same provocative term DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz used to hint at something evil in Romney's finances -- that the event included a toast to the death of Israel.

Even without the video, there was more than enough in the LA Times' 2008 account of the anti-Israel event to create profound concern about Obama's leanings and judgment. It was an evening of the kind of Chicago hate that Romney is finally beginning to suggest Obama take back home with him:

At Khalidi's 2003 farewell party...a young Palestinian American recited a poem accusing the Israeli government of terrorism in its treatment of Palestinians and sharply criticizing U.S. support of Israel. If Palestinians cannot secure their own land, she said, "then you will never see a day of peace."

One speaker likened "Zionist settlers on the West Bank" to Osama bin Laden, saying both had been "blinded by ideology."

Coincidentally, 2003 was also the year Khalidi openly endorsed massacring Israeli soldiers during peacetime -- the same thing Nidal Hassan did to U.S. soldiers at Fort Hood and Mohamed Merah did to French soldiers before killing Jewish schoolchildren. Yet Obama has extolled Khalidi as a valuable Mideast adviser whose views helped correct "my own blind spots and my own biases."

Khalidi, who also hosted an Obama fundraiser, continues to be ignored by major media outlets that filter out information that contradicts the official storyline of Obama as healing unifier. In addition to dedicating his book, Under Siege, to Arafat, Khalidi has labeled Israel "racist" and "apartheid" and callously mocked "hysteria about suicide bombers." As Alyssa A. Lappen and Jonathan Calt Harris reported, when "Palestinians lynched two off-duty Israeli officers on October 12, 2000, Khalidi did not critique the perpetrators of this crime, but railed against the 'prostitute' and 'cynical' media that dared to show Palestinians triumphantly displaying bloodied hands after the killings."

The influence of Obama's mentors was chillingly evident when he warned in 2009 that apartment construction for Jews in Jerusalem "embitters Palestinians in a way that could end up being very dangerous" -- a pre-emptive blaming of future victims of terrorism for bringing it upon themselves. (The president seemed to be echoing the reaction of Islamic Jihad leader Daoud Shihab to the previous year's terrorist murder of an 86-year-old man in Gilo: the killing was "a natural response [emphasis added] to crimes of the occupation in the city of Jerusalem[.]") If Obama had been president 50 years ago, would he have reprimanded African-Americans for living in a particular neighborhood because it would incite violent racists who would rather lynch them than co-exist with them?

Because of this and numerous other examples of policies that clearly stem from his indoctrination, Obama's protégé-mentor relationship with terrorists is a more pressing issue today than it was in 2008. In the most important paragraph of Sarah Palin's Going Rogue, she wrote:

... I will forever question the campaign for prohibiting discussion of such associations. All the more since these telltale signs of Obama's views, carefully concealed with centrist campaign-speak, have now been brought into the light by his appointments and actions in office.

September 5, the 40th anniversary of the Munich Massacre, would be the ideal time to highlight President Obama's participation in honoring a PLO operative at an Israel-bashing event. The victims included American-born David Berger, who along with the other slain athletes is honored by a national memorial site in Ohio. Berger is merely one on a long list of Americans killed by Palestinian terrorists, and every such murder is technically an act of war on the U.S. Obama's gravitation to Khalidi and his views was not an uncharacteristic anomaly, but part of a pattern that included giving $27,000 to a hate cult that supported Hamas and Hezb'allah and disseminated bizarre blood libels -- "Israeli death squads" hunt down civilians; Israel "worked on an ethnic bomb that kills Blacks and Arabs" and commits "genocide and ethnic cleansing ... every hour of the day." Yet for now, Romney remains silent, even as Obama attacks his "values."

Because Romney's choice of Ryan guarantees that this ticket will be defined by Obama and the media as "radical" and "extremist" (and it's the image, not the reality, that will influence voters), he has left himself little choice but to use all his ammunition and remind voters about the genuine extremists -- violent enemies of the U.S. and its allies -- Obama chose as mentors who shaped his disastrous foreign policy.

Time is running short. Because it was late in the campaign when Palin raised the issue of Obama's terrorist allies, the media in effect shouted her down and ran out the clock. For the sin of telling the truth about the emperor's clothes, she had to be ripped to shreds, along with her family. The media told the voters it was not Obama's scandal, but hers; she was guilty of being negative.

Romney and Ryan can expect the same treatment, but this issue works to their advantage if they refuse to back down. Whenever the media accuses them of negativity (or worse), it will help to remember the moral clarity and common sense of Palin's reply to the charge: "It's not negativity. It's truthfulness. And the American people deserve to know."

Edward Olshaker is a longtime freelance journalist whose work has appeared in History News Network, The Jewish Press, FrontPage Magazine, and other publications.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Three Democrat Women for Dependency

by Bruce Thornton

The Democrats have announced that Massachusetts Senate Candidate Elizabeth Warren and Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke will be on hand at the Democratic National Convention to hype the alleged Republican “War on Women” and promote “Julia,” the cartoon character that touts the numerous boons Democrats supposedly provide women. The Dems’ showcasing of these three women highlights what’s at stake in November if Obama wins––even more expansion of government power that will further entangle women and men alike in dependency and servitude.

Fluke, you remember, appeared before some Congressmen last February and claimed that birth control cost $3000, arguing that making women bear this fiscal burden is a sexist crime against humanity as well as an assault on “women’s health.” Leave aside the creepiness of treating pregnancy as a disease. Given the numerous clinics that offer free birth control, Fluke’s claims were patently absurd. And making a student at a prestigious law school a spokesman for those women without Fluke’s options, opportunities, and resources was even more ridiculous. It revealed once again the hypocrisy of affluent feminists who advance their own careers by exploiting the misery of poor and working-class women. By every standard of well being––health, leisure, education, disposable income, or economic opportunity––the average middle class American woman today, let alone a college graduate heading for a lucrative law career, enjoys a better life than most of the men who ever existed. And the problems of poor and working-class women have less to do with their sex, and more to do with the lack of economic opportunity exacerbated by progressive policies that enable big government interference rather than creating the conditions for economic growth.

Then there’s Elizabeth Warren, or “Fauxcahontas” as she came to be called after she was exposed as having exploited an alleged 1/32 Cherokee heritage in order to get a leg up in her academic career by passing herself off as a “woman of color.” The spectacle of a blonde, blue-eyed Harvard Law professor getting special consideration because of a tenuous connection to a “protected group” was equally revealing of progressive hypocrisy. Once again, intrusive government policies designed to benefit those presumably victimized by past discrimination are more often the vehicles of careerist advancement for a white woman more privileged than most white males.

But even worse are Warren’s economic views. Don’t forget, she was the source of Obama’s now infamous “you didn’t build that” put-down of entrepreneurs and business builders. Last September Warren said, “You built a factory out there? Good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police-forces and fire-forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory — and hire someone to protect against this — because of the work the rest of us did.” So factory-builders pay nothing for roads, public colleges, firemen, and police? In fact, they pay much, much more than their fair share of these public resources, because their tax payments have to make up for all the freeloaders––nearly half of taxpayers––who pay nothing. Like Obama, Warren wants to demonize the “makers” in order to justify appropriating more of their wealth to finance government programs that buy political support from the “takers.” It’s about power, the power of government agencies, government bureaucrats, and elite government “experts” to manage and control our lives and further their own careers––all financed by revenues expropriated from those who actually do create wealth and jobs.

Finally there’s the cartoon character Julia, featured in an Obama campaign slide show “The Life of Julia” touting how much big government does for women with the programs Republicans allegedly want to “gut.” Its purpose is to show “how President Obama’s policies help one woman over her lifetime—and how Mitt Romney would change her story.” From Head Start to Medicare, Julia’s life is defined by her utter dependence on the federal government. The whole production is so silly that even the liberal New Yorker panned it: “’The Life of Julia’ borrows its aesthetic from USA Today and its narrative logic from Chutes and Ladders. It is a very bad place to begin a campaign. As a story, ‘The Life of Julia’ is a mess; it’s got the verisimilitude of a string of paper dolls. As an argument, it’s worse. Better public education and affordable health care are worth fighting for, urgently, and they matter to everyone, but the heart of the fight is not over whether Julia, a fictitious college-educated Web entrepreneur, can one day plant Brussels sprouts.”

Julia illustrates better than anything all the dangers of “democratic despotism” analyzed by Tocqueville 150 years ago. Rather than self-reliant individuals who rely on family, church, and civil society for support in negotiating the challenges of their lives, Obama champions the all powerful state that marginalizes and weakens these resources, and justifies ever greater interference in personal life by providing goods paid for by somebody else. Rather than the Founders’ vision of limited government allowing free people to pursue their happiness, Obama champions for women the “hubby state” that erodes their freedom and dignity by taking responsibility for their choices and actions, infantilizing them as much as a sugar daddy does a trophy wife.

That dependence and diminishment of women’s agency and freedom by intrusive big government is what connects Warren, Fluke, and Julia. Warren discounts the hard-work and talent of individuals and privileges instead the policies of government, which of course will always need more intrusive power and more money in order to continue providing these collective boons that allegedly help people to succeed. Fluke wants government-coerced payments for birth control so that women are less accountable for their sexual behavior, since the big brother state will coerce insurers to provide birth-control pills and, when she forgets to take them, a free abortion to undo the consequences of her actions. And Julia illustrates how thoroughly dependent women are under the “soft despotism” of big government, which replaces her personal relationships and resources with the bureaucratic functionaries armed with what Tocqueville called a “network of petty regulations––complicated, minute, and uniform,” until eventually women and men alike become “a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which government is the shepherd.”

So who is conducting a “war on women?” The Dems, who want women dependent, their freedom restricted by the rules and regulations of big government, their independence and self-reliance sold for transient benefits? Or the Republicans, who want women and men left alone to make their own choices, take their own risks, accept the consequences of their own actions, pursue their own happiness, and thus achieve the dignity of free people who, as Tocqueville wrote, consider freedom “a good so precious and so necessary that no other good could console them for its loss,” and who “find, in tasting it, consolation for everything that occurs”?

Bruce Thornton


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

New Video Series Takes Your Questions About Islam

by Mark Tapson

Ask A Muslim” is a new internet video series that “showcases the current face of Black Islam in America today.” With its light, upbeat tone, its soundtrack of soulful grooves, and perpetually smiling faces gleaming with professionally whitened teeth, it’s designed to present an easygoing, non-threatening setting in which Americans can get the reassuring truth about the Religion of Peace.™ Unfortunately, you won’t find straight answers here. Nor will you find, at least thus far in the series, enough of the most pointed questions that Americans who are legitimately alarmed about Islam truly want addressed. What you will find is a lot of obfuscation and condescension.

Produced by the Black Public Media Network, two episodes of the series have been released so far (the first is just under seven minutes, the second just under nine). It uses man-on-the-street-style questions directed to a recurring handful of black Muslim artists, writers, imams, and “cultural observers.” Random (presumably) individuals are filmed asking their questions with the world-famous LOVE sculpture in Philadelphia prominently displayed over the questioner’s shoulder.

Episode one eases viewers into the series with superficial questions about Muslim “otherness” like, “Why do Muslim people have gigantic, bushy beards?” and “Why do Muslim women cover themselves to varying degrees, even their faces?” To the latter question, Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, an assistant professor of Anthropology and African American Studies at Purdue, replies that Muslim dress for women is “about modesty, but it doesn’t prevent you from sort of expressing yourself personally or feeling beautiful.” Except in regions oppressed by sharia, where women express themselves and their physical beauty at risk of their lives. “Muslim women just wear the clothes that they wanna wear!” exclaims comedian Omar Regan. Try telling that to the morality police in Iran, who drag women off to jail for sporting western haircuts or jeans, or to the enforcers of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in Saudi Arabia. For that matter, try telling it to the victims of honor killings in America who simply wanted to be like their non-Muslim friends.

“What do real Muslims think about fake Muslims?” one young man asks in episode two. Huh? You get a shot at asking a “real Muslim” for the truth about Islam and that’s your question? In any case, the respondents ramble vaguely but pleasantly, eventually acknowledging that “fake Muslims make our religion look bad.” But without a definition of “fake,” this answer is meaningless. Next question.

“Why do people convert to Islam in jail?” Good question. Most of the respondents softpedal about people in jail having time for self-reflection and finding “fulfilling answers” in Islam. A couple of others surprisingly and correctly note that attaching oneself to the prison Muslim population helps ensure your protection there. Dr. Khabeer steers her answer toward black Americans who “find themselves incarcerated unjustly,” which would seem to have nothing to do with Islam per se. There’s no mention of the fact that Muslim prisoners now benefit from special dietary and other privileges, or that there is very purposeful, aggressive Muslim recruitment going on among violent criminals whose brutal anger can now be channeled against the infidel society whose illegitimate laws are not Allah’s laws.

Halfway through episode two, we come to a critical question: “What is sharia law?” Singer/actress Sumayya Ali smilingly replies, “Sharia law is a loaded word these days.” No kidding. Why might that be? Congressman Keith Ellison, a friend to the Muslim Brotherhood, vaguely suggests that people are scared unnecessarily because “some Muslims have promoted a false understanding of the idea.” He doesn’t specify whom or what’s false about it. “The purpose of it is just to promote human dignity, fairness, and justice.” Sounds great! Except that Islamic definitions of “human dignity, fairness, and justice” are not the same as western ones.

What are you infidels so alarmed about, anyway? “People are so scared of sharia law, it is crazy,” says comedian Regan, who is described as a “former member of S.O.A.,” a music group he co-founded. The site doesn’t explain that S.O.A. stands for Slaves of Allah. “I don’t even understand why you [sic] scared. Sharia law is actually a beautiful thing.” He is wearing a t-shirt exclaiming “Haram! Haram!” Haram, of course, is anything forbidden under sharia. Spoken word artist Amir Sulaiman asserts that “Sharia law is just to protect the sacred things, and the most sacred thing that God created is the human being, so it’s to protect the human being’s right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.” He seems to be confusing sharia with the Declaration of Independence. Islam values none of those concepts as Americans understand them.

The “Ask a Muslim” website calls Islam the “most misunderstood religion on the globe.” They don’t explain why that is: that they are trying to put a happy face on Islam while global jihad is inconveniently exposing it for the supremacist political ideology it is. They also don’t address why Islam is supposedly so dang difficult to understand despite the fact that after the 9/11 attacks, more non-Muslims than ever before have studied Islam to understand the religious motives of those who declared war on us. And yet we continue to be told by condescending apologists, including the speakers in this video series who treat their viewers like children, that we don’t understand the true Koran or the complexities of sharia, and that our concerns and criticisms stem from irrational fear. The problem always seems to lie with us. No other religion seems to be so intellectually impenetrable – not even Zen Buddhism.

It will be interesting to see what questions arise in subsequent episodes. But one remark unintentionally speaks volumes already. Dr. Jamillah Karim, assistant professor of religious studies at Spelman College, says in episode one, “We believe that the prophet Muhammad was the best human being, so we want to follow his model in every way.” And therein lies the contradiction: that we are expected to be reassured about a religion whose role model is a warlord who tortured, enslaved and slaughtered all who stood in his way, who advocated the genocide of Jews, who consummated his marriage with a nine-year-old, who ordered the stoning of adulterers, and who commanded that all must submit to Islam or die. Somehow I doubt that “Ask a Muslim” will honestly address that topic.

Mark Tapson


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.