The principles that rule this blog

Principles that will govern my thoughts as I express them here (from my opening statement):

  • Freedom of the individual should be as total as possible, limited only by the fact that nobody should be free to cause physical injury to another, or to deprive another person of his freedoms.
  • Government is necessary primarily to provide those services that private enterprise won't, or won't at a price that people can afford.
  • No person has a right to have his own beliefs on religious, moral, political, or other controversial issues imposed on others who do not share those beliefs.

I believe that Abraham Lincoln expressed it very well:

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done, but cannot do, at all, or cannot
so well do, for themselves — in their separate, individual capacities.”

Comments will be invited, and I will attempt to reply to any comments that are offered in a serious and non-abusive manner. However, I will not tolerate abusive or profane language (my reasoning is that this is my blog, and so I can control it; I wouldn't interfere with your using such language on your own!)

If anyone finds an opinion that I express to be contrary to my principles, they are welcome to point this out. I hope that I can make a rational case for my comments. Because, in fact, one label I'll happily accept is rationalist.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

How's that again?

Rick Bayan has a blog he calls The New Moderate, which I read from time to time, which frequently makes a lot of sense. But this time, I think he fails to get something. Yesterday's post, entitled “The Prophet Motive: Islamists on the Rampage,” begins with some unexceptionable truths:

The Islamic world is ablaze, and once again the target of the Islamists’ wrath is (guess who) the United States. The protests started in Egypt and quickly spread to Libya, where popular American ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others died when a band of miltants torched the U.S. consulate. Now the wildfires have spread to a dozen nations within Mohammed’s realm, that harsh and stony empire of fanatical faith that stretches from Morocco in the West to Indonesia in the East.

Why the sudden outpouring of hatred and vengeance in lands that were supposed to have been transformed by last year’s Arab Spring? Did the U.S. government offend Muslim sensibilities by admitting Israel to the union, or by declaring a holy war against Iran… or by outlawing the construction of an Islamic recreation center near Ground Zero? No, the Islamists have been on the rampage because a lone American con man and ex-convict made an amateurish, disjointed, absurdly dubbed, almost incomprehensible 14-minute video, “Innocence of Muslims,” that denigrated the holy reputation of the Prophet.

The supreme irony is that the filmmaker is an Egyptian living in the United States. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who went by the pseudonym Sam Bacile and claimed to be an Israeli, had a legitimate ax to grind with Islam: he’s a Coptic Christian, member of an ancient church that Islamists have been targeting in Egypt for decades. The assaults escalated after Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak fell from power, and dozens of Copts have died during attacks on churches (as well as from lethal force used by police during the resulting protests).

Nakoula Nakoula’s film begins with such an attack: Muslims terrorizing Christians in contemporary Egypt. Forced into hiding, a Christian family attempts to make sense of the violence, and the filmmaker suddenly cuts back to the time of Mohammed. The young prophet is portrayed by a handsome enough actor… but of course any visual portrayal of Mohammed is considered a crime against the Muslim faith. (If Christians had implemented such a rule for depictions of Jesus, every notable Renaissance artist would have been beheaded.) The film goes on to portray Islam’s founder as an increasingly promiscuous, intolerant and violent fanatic — a portrayal that, for obvious reasons, wouldn’t go over well in the Islamosphere.

Most of us would be justifiably angered to see Jesus or Moses portrayed in such a light. But here’s the point: we wouldn’t shed the blood of innocents because of an objectionable movie. It would be nearly impossible to imagine Presbyterians, Methodists or Reform Jews setting mosques ablaze after watching a stupid 14-minute video. That’s the difference between Islam and the two older Abrahamic religions.

The more fanatical followers of Islam — and their numbers are too great to be dismissed as a fringe element — still believe in collective guilt, that savage and primitive relic of Old Testament justice in which the sons can be blamed for the sins of their fathers, and the innocent can be punished along with the evildoers. It’s a nasty ancient tradition. Think of Jehovah cleansing the world of virtually its entire human population — babies, granddaddies and all — during the Great Flood… think of the plagues visited upon the innocent firstborn sons of Egypt… think of the wanton, divinely-sanctioned slaughter of Midianites and other tribes that stood between the Israelites and their Promised Land. Think of the centuries-long persecutions of Jews by the Catholic Church, based on the senseless notion that all Jews were to be held culpable for the crucifixion of Jesus.

Christians and Jews have left those ugly relics behind, but the Muslim world seems to be stuck in a medieval time warp. Moderate Muslims, civilized and educated, tend to keep their voices down and hope that the rabid element simply goes away. It makes sense: they’d rather not live with a fatwa dangling over their heads.

But a couple of paragraphs down, he shows that he really did not get it:

Meanwhile, in the West, right-wing Obamaphobes (not to mention the ostensibly “moderate” Mitt Romney) were ganging up on the president for “apologizing” to the terrorists. Internet message boards buzzed with rabid denunciations of our purported Muslim-in-Chief. Sorry, folks… it was the American embassy in Cairo that made the conciliatory remarks, not Obama.

Sorry, Mr. Bayan, but the embassy is supposed to represent the President. Article II, Sect. 2 of the Constitution states:

he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law

This clause has always been understood to imply that “ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls” are the personal representatives of the President. What an embassy says is understood as representing the President's official position. (As Harry Truman once said, “The buck stops here.”) And thus, Governor Romney was absolutely justified in considering the apology of the Cairo embassy as coming from the President. And if you, Mr. Bayan, do not read that statement as an apology (as implied by your quotation marks around “apologizing”), I am curious as to what you would consider an apology.

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