October 2009 Archives

ISLAM: NEW VOICES, HOW MANY EARS?

The problem with Islam is Islam.

The dominant view in Islam today is that promulgated by Saudi Arabia, which maintains that adherence to the words and practices of Muhammad as reflected in the Koran is the only right path for Muslims.for all time in all places.

Consequently, hatred of the other - be it Shiite, Christian, Hindu or athiest -- is inbred from birth. Generations have so been taught around the world by Saudi-funded texts, teachers, schools and mosques. This rigid, aggressive, all-conquering, violence-promoting ideology is a grave threat to western civilization. Islam, as an all-encompassing guide for every aspect of life, allows no deviation or accommodation.

There are three possibilities for non-Muslims: Accept, appease and be dominated by Islam as the implacable force overwhelms the compliant culture. Oppose by all means possible, from warfare to expulsion of aliens from western lands. An internal struggle within Islam will adapt it to western principles of freedom and individual rights.

In Europe, Islamization is on march and there appears to be no force to stop it.

However, some enlightened few within Islam are trying to make fundamental change. Whether these voices among the Islamic elite will have much effect on the more than one billion Muslims worldwide in the short run will have any effect is doubtful. The propensity if not encouragement to violence in the cause of Islamic domination that is a way of life in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, NIgeria and so many other countries where Muslims are numerous has been building for decades and will take at least decades if not centuries to moderate, if ever there is a movement to do so.

Nonetheless, a report from the Barnabas Fund, a British charity whose mission is providing support for persecuted Christians in Muslim lands, on new voices speaking out for moderation in Islam seems to present some hope.

The founder of the Barnabas Fund Dr Patrick Sookhdeo is an ex-Muslim convert to Christianity and is most knowledgeable about Islamic strategies to confuse and diffuse opposition to the advance of Islam.

That he sees something positive in the new report issuing from the Islamic Center at the University of Cambridge discussed at length in the report (Contexualizing Islam in Britain) is not a result of naivete.

However, optimism must be restrained at least somewhat when one realizes that the Cambridge Islamic Center is funded by the Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal. Alwaleed has funded Islamic centers at Georgetown at Harvard which, for example, are promoting the acceptance of Shariah Finance, which was invented decades ago in Pakistan as nothing more than a subtle tool for the spread of Islamic practices in western societies.

The report does express disappointment that some western leaders such as President Obama are not supporting such voices of reform but are catering to those promoting the traditional Islam which is a threat to the West.

The report is well worth reading.

Islam: at war within itself

2009-10-29

Barnabas Fund

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo
International Director, Barnabas Aid


Introduction

Recent months have seen a number of unexpected and extremely encouraging statements coming out of the Muslim world. Respected, mainstream Muslim leaders in a variety of countries have voiced opinions which are at odds with traditional, conservative Islam. They have challenged aspects of shari'a and are calling for a liberal, modernist, enlightened Islam compatible with Western norms. Perhaps the most significant of all is a comment by a group of British Muslims calling for an end to the apostasy law and for full freedom in all religious matters.

Since modernisation first impacted the Muslim world following the imposition of secular laws and education systems by Western colonial empires, there have been tensions between Muslim conservatives and liberal intellectuals. Islamic traditionalists and Islamists have on the whole gained the dominant voice within Islam, especially since the Islamic resurgence which began in the 1970s and has swept all before it. These conservatives saw shari'a as divinely inspired and unchangeable, valid for all times and places, and attacked the few liberal voices seeking to reinterpret the Muslim sources in line with modern contexts and human rights.

A small minority of marginalised Muslim progressives has been bravely defying traditional and Islamist pressures by reinterpreting Islam in a way compatible with modern concepts of secularity, individual human rights, religious freedom and gender equality.

However, recently some significant cracks seem to be forming within the mainstream Islam. Important mainstream leaders are coming out against long-held key traditional views and Wahhabi-Salafi doctrines and practices, openly supporting ideas compatible with modernity. It would seem that the reformist teachings of Ahmad Khan (1817 - 1898) and Muhammad 'Abduh (1849 -1905), which had been suppressed, are now resurfacing within mainstream Islam. As some experts on Islam have always been saying, "the really decisive battle is taking place within Muslim civilization, where ultraconservatives compete against moderates and democrats for the soul of the Muslim public." [1]


Some examples:

Kuwaiti Women MPs refuse to wear hijab

Two Kuwaiti women Members of Parliament, among the first four women to be elected to Kuwait`s National Assembly in May 2009, have refused to wear the Islamic headscarf (hijab) in parliament. They demanded the annulment of an amendment to electoral regulations, introduced by Islamists, that enforces the observation of shari'a in parliament.[2]


Tantawi and the niqab at al-Azhar

During a recent tour of a Cairo secondary school, Sheikh Muhammad Tantawi, the Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar University in Cairo (the most important Sunni theological centre in the world), was angered by the sight of a girl wearing the niqab (the full veil which covers the face with only slits for the eyes). He instructed her to remove the niqab, saying "The niqab is a tradition; it has no connection with religion". Ironically, the girl claimed to have worn the niqab in honour of his visit.[3]

Tantawi angrily told the girl that the niqab "has nothing to do with Islam and is only a custom" and ordered her to take it off. He also announced that he would soon issue a formal order (fatwa) banning girls from entering al-Azhar institutions wearing the niqab. "Niqab has nothing to do with Islam, it is just a habit. I know more about religion than you and your parents," he told the student.[4]

Dr. Mahmoud Hamdi Zarqouq, Egyptian Minister of Religious Affairs, went further than Tantawi declaring his utter opposition to the niqab, stressing that "it is just a habit that has nothing to do with religion . . . niqab is an invention that has nothing to do with religion, for the religious men agree that the women`s face and jaws are not improper [to show]." [5]

Imam condemns Church passivity in face of Muslim persecution of Christians [6]

In an interview with Premier Christian Radio earlier this year, Sheikh Dr Muhammad al-Hussaini, founder of Scripture Reasoning and Lecturer in Islamic Studies at Leo Beck Rabbinical College, blamed the church hierarchy in the UK for not protesting vociferously and actively at Christian persecution around the world. Al-Hussaini mentioned specifically horrendous machete attacks on Christians in Nigeria, Iraqi Christians being burned out of their homes and Christians in Pakistan being stoned or attacked on the slightest pretext. He highlighted Barnabas Aid`s efforts on behalf of persecuted Christians as an example of how concerned Christians ought to respond to the plight of their fellow Christians.

While Muslims are hypersensitive to any ill-treatment of Muslims anywhere in the world, he added, they remain silent about the persecution of Christians in their midst. Many Muslims are simply looking for scapegoats to punish for their own troubles. They know that churches in the West will not do more than utter a whimper, as this issue is not sufficiently important to them, mainly because those suffering are neither white nor wealthy, so they can go on with impunity blaming Crusader-Zionist conspiracies for everything.

He called upon the church to be a voice for justice for persecuted minorities, which he claims would speak "into the heart of the Muslim community".

"Contextualising Islam in Britain" report [7]

This report, published in October 2009, is the work of several prominent British Muslim academics and religious leaders. It has broken new ground in coming out with plain statements on key issues, avoiding the ambiguous statements customarily offered by mainline Muslim leaders. It calls for a Muslim worldview based not exclusively on jurisprudence but including Islamic philosophy (falsafah), theology (kalam) and literature (adab).

For Muslims living as a minority in a secular liberal democracy, applying shari'a is a matter of personal conscience and communal suasion rather than legal sanction, says the report. Muslims are not obliged to implement full shari'a against the wishes of their non-Muslim neighbours.[8] Shari'a is not a detailed code of things forbidden and permitted but an ethical system of moral and spiritual education. There are commonalities between the underlying objectives (maqasid) of shari'a and human rights declarations.[9]

The paper opposes the traditional view of divine sovereignty only implemented in an Islamic state under shari'a. It states that this system engenders a lack of democratic checks and balance, a lack of accountability, and may lead to tyranny. An Islamic state is not necessary for Islam to thrive and be practised. Secular democracy as practised in Britain is legitimate because it holds power to account and upholds fundamental freedoms and non-interference in the religious lives of its citizens.[10]

British Muslims, say the authors, are perfectly happy with the British form of procedural secularism (in contrast to ideological secularism) and support its accommodative tradition. The separation of religion from the state and the principle of non-discrimination by the state between religions guarantee freedom and equality for all, giving Muslims the freedom to practise Islam without interference in an atmosphere of respect, security and dignity. [11]

The authors clearly oppose the concepts of takfir [12] and al-wala` wal-bara` [13] which differentiate sharply between perceived true believers and all others, demanding hostility and enmity. Distinctions between believers and non-believers are important only in matters of doctrine and worship, not in matters of social interaction and of seeking the common good of society. In these matters it is important to have friendly relationships with non-Muslims, treating them as equals, and to focus on commonalities and shared values. [14]

The paper states that Islam teaches the equality of all humans regardless of gender and that it forbids forced marriages, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, and honour killings.[15]

Muslims should campaign against injustices and oppression inflicted by Muslims on other Muslims and on non-Muslims. [16]

On suicide terrorism and bombings they state that there are many ways to oppose oppression other than fighting (jihad). These include lobbying, activism, and writing. Foreign conflicts cannot justify violence in Britain.[17] They add that "Islam is opposed to all forms of terrorism, regardless of who sponsors them . . . Both suicide and suicide bombings are absolutely forbidden (haram) in Islam as is the killing of innocent people. [18]

The authors adopt the modern Christian principle of differentiating between religious sin and state-legislated crime. Thus on apostasy they explain that Islam dislikes apostasy but prohibits discrimination against apostates, adding that: "It is important to say quite simply that people have the freedom to enter the Islamic faith and the freedom to leave it". Similarly on homosexuality they state that the Qur`an forbids both the practice of homosexual acts, and discrimination against homosexuals. [19]

The declaration on apostasy is especially important because it goes clearly against the shari'a law of apostasy, accepted by all Islamic schools of law, which lays down a death sentence for those who leave Islam. The authors explain that in early Islam apostasy was conflated with treason in times of war. It was treason that merited the death penalty, not the apostasy. Therefore today "there is no compulsion and people cannot be coerced into a religious commitment". [20] Other Muslim leaders dealing with apostasy had not dared question the validity of the classical apostasy law, but had either asked for the repentance phase (usually 3 days) to be lengthened indefinitely (for example, Ali Gomaa, Chief Mufti of Egypt) or for a moratorium until the time was deemed ripe for the full implementation of shari'a (for example, Tariq Ramadan).


Analysis

There is now a powerful struggle going on for the soul of Islam. It would seem that under the combined pressure of extremist Islamist terrorism, the "war on terror" and the dangers to Muslim regimes and societies, new voices are emerging within mainstream Islamic leadership embracing a new ijtihad [21] compatible with modernity and human rights. They would seem to accept the liberal reformist view of prioritising the core values of Islam, distilled from the Islamic source texts, as spiritual and moral norms that override literalist, coercive, political and social interpretations. They seem to be willing to ignore traditional Islamic concepts that contradict modern humanistic values of pluralism, freedom and equality.


Conclusion

France has forbidden the wearing of the hijab in public places and recently its highest constitutional authority, the Constitutional Council, has refused the introduction of Islamic finance on the grounds that a secular state must not allow principles of shari'a to be recognised in its legislation.[22] In contrast, the governments of the USA and of the UK have consistently sided with the more repressive, conservative and traditional sections within their Muslim communities, apparently hoping to placate, accommodate and appease them by accepting their demands for shari'a implementation in multiple spheres. At the same time they have ignored the more progressive and liberal voices in the Muslim community implying that they are too weak and marginal to be viable interlocutors for governments.

Arab liberals have criticised President Obama`s tendency to endorse conservative and radical forms of Islam while ignoring liberal Muslim trends. A Yemeni liberal journalist accused Obama of appointing Muslim advisors who do not represent the diversity of Muslim opinion and who want to implement oppressive shari'a rules.[23] Others have criticised Obama`s overtures to the Taliban and Iran as strengthening the radicals and weakening the reformists and liberals.[24]

A similar trend is visible in liberal and mainline Christian denominations whose leaders prefer to deal with Islamic traditionalists and hardliners in interfaith dialogue while ignoring the liberal reformist voices emerging within Islam.

It is time Western governments and Christian Churches implemented a policy of rejecting traditional Muslim and Islamist demands and that they shifted to a position of active support for the new voices of reason and moderation within Islam.

Barnabas Aid applauds these encouraging moves and the courageous Muslims advocating them.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Robert W. Hefner, "September 11 and the Struggle for Islam", in Craig Calhoun, Paul Price, and Ashley Timmer, eds., Understanding September 11, Project coordinated by the Social Science Research Council, New York: The New Press., 2002, pp. 41-52.

[2] Richard Spencer, "Kuwaiti women MPs refuse to wear hijab in parliament", Daily Telegraph, 12 October 2009.

[3] Adrian Blomfield, "Egypt purges niqab from schools and colleges", Daily Telegraph, 5 October 2009.

[4] "Sheikh al-Azhar forces a student to remove her Niqab", Mideastwire, 5 October 2009, quoting Al-Masry al-Yawm, "Egypt`s Top Cleric Plans Face Veil Ban in Schools", Asharq Alawsat, 6 October 2009.

[5] "Sheikh al-Azhar: I`m not against Niqab and 80% of religious men...", Mideastwire, 13 October 2009, quoting Al-Masry al-Yawm.

[6] "Imam blames Christian leaders for the Persecution of Christians", Christian Concern for our Nation, 28 August 2009, http://www.ccfon.org/view.php?id=825, accessed 20 October 2009.

[7] Contextualising Islam in Britain: Exploratory Perspectives, University of Cambridge in Association with the Universities of Exeter and Westminster, Centre of Islamic Studies: Cambridge, October 2009.

[8] Contextualising Islam in Britain: Exploratory Perspectives, pp. 10-11.

[9] Contextualising Islam in Britain: Exploratory Perspectives, pp. 10-11, 54.

[10] Contextualising Islam in Britain: Exploratory Perspectives, pp. 10-11, 32-33.

[11] Contextualising Islam in Britain: Exploratory Perspectives, pp. 28, 33.

[12] takfir - the process of declaring someone to be an apostate from Islam, a process which has been revived by radical contemporary jihadi groups.

[13] Al-wala` wal bara` - "Friendship and Distinguishing", a doctrine applied by radical groups to differentiate and separate between real and false Muslims. True Islam is defined by a love for Muslims and a hatred for non-Muslims.

[14] Contextualising Islam in Britain: Exploratory Perspectives, pp. 11-12.

[15] Contextualising Islam in Britain: Exploratory Perspectives, pp. 12-13.

[16] Contextualising Islam in Britain: Exploratory Perspectives, p. 65.

[17] Contextualising Islam in Britain: Exploratory Perspectives, p. 14.

[18] Contextualising Islam in Britain: Exploratory Perspectives, pp. 71, 78.

[19] Contextualising Islam in Britain: Exploratory Perspectives, p. 75.

[20] Contextualising Islam in Britain: Exploratory Perspectives, p. 47.

[21] ijtihad - the process of individual effort by a jurist at logical deduction on a legal question, using the Qur`an and hadith as sources. Ijtihad allows fresh interpretations made from the two sources.

[22] "France court quashes Islamic Finance measure", Al-Arabiya News Channel, 15 October 2009.

[23] "Yemeni Liberal Criticizes Appointment of Dalia Mogahed as Obama`s Advisor on Islam", MEMRI Special Dispatch, No. 2518, 4 September 2009.

[24] "Criticism in the Arab Press of the US Administration`s Initiative to Reach Out to 'Moderates in the Taliban`", MEMRI Special Dispatch, No. 2353, 12 May 2009; "Arab Liberals Eight Years After 9-11: Obama`s Overtures Towards Iran Extremists Seen as a Sign of Weakness", MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis, No. 551, 29 September 2009.


SOWELL ON OBAMA "DISMANTLING AMERICA"

Thomas Sowell and Charles Krauthammer are the two greatest thinkers writing on contemporary affairs in America today. If only Sowell had become the first black president, what a different world it would be!

Krauthammer recently wrote on Obama's deliberate plan to lead America into decline so it would be just another country to be neither envied or feared. That Americans would suffer economically and perhaps physically (as a result of emboldened attackers) doesn't seem to concern him at all.

Now Dr. Sowell adds his analysis of the harm Obama is doing to America.



October 27, 2009
Dismantling America
By Thomas Sowell

Just one year ago, would you have believed that an unelected government official, not even a Cabinet member confirmed by the Senate but simply one of the many "czars" appointed by the President, could arbitrarily cut the pay of executives in private businesses by 50 percent or 90 percent?

Did you think that another "czar" would be talking about restricting talk radio? That there would be plans afloat to subsidize newspapers-- that is, to create a situation where some newspapers' survival would depend on the government liking what they publish?

Did you imagine that anyone would even be talking about having a panel of so-called "experts" deciding who could and could not get life-saving medical treatments?

Scary as that is from a medical standpoint, it is also chilling from the standpoint of freedom. If you have a mother who needs a heart operation or a child with some dire medical condition, how free would you feel to speak out against an administration that has the power to make life and death decisions about your loved ones?

Does any of this sound like America?

Continue . . .

As usual, Mark Steyn says it better than anybody:

For two years, the U.S. media have been polishing Obama's boots, mostly with their drool, to a degree unprecedented in American public life.

While he's oh so tough with Fox News, he's a laughingstock in Russia, Iran and North Korea, imperiling all Americans with his weakness.

October 24, 2009, 7:00 a.m. Mister Tough Guy Who are the real "Untouchables" here?

By Mark Steyn in National Review Online

Benjamin Disraeli's most famous advice to aspiring politicians was: "Never complain and never explain." For the greatest orator of our time, a man who makes Churchill, Lincoln, and Henry V at Agincourt look like first-round rejects on Orating with the Stars, Barack Obama seems to have pretty much given up on the explaining side. He tried it with health care with speech after speech after exclusive interview for months on end and the more he explained the more unpopular the whole racket got. So he declared that the time for explaining is over, and it's time to sign on or else.

Meanwhile, to take the other half of the Disraeli equation, Obama and his officials and their beleaguered band of surrogates never stop complaining. If you express concerns about government health care, they complain about all these "racists" and "domestic terrorists" obstructing his agenda. If you wonder why the president can't seem to find time in his hectic schedule of international-awards acceptance speeches to make a decision about Afghanistan, they complain that it's not his fault he "inherited" all these problems. And, if you wonder why his "green jobs" czar is a Communist 9/11 truther and his National Endowment for the Arts guy is leaning on grant recipients to produce Soviet-style propaganda extolling Obama policies, they complain about Fox News.

Continue. . .

CHICAGO THUGGERY MARKS WHITE HOUSE

Michael Barone shows his distaste for Obama's Chicago-style thuggery.


Obama hits opponents with Chicago brass knuckles

By: Michael Barone
Senior Political Analyst
October 21, 2009

"His father was a great friend of my father." The reference to William Ayers' father was how Mayor Richard J. Daley began his defense of Barack Obama for his association with the unrepentant Weather Underground terrorist. Daley's father of course was Richard M. Daley, mayor of Chicago from 1955 until his death in 1976. Ayers' father was head of Commonwealth Edison, the Chicago-based utility, from 1964 to 1980.

You bet they were great friends. That's governance, Chicago style. The head of government is friends with the heads of every big business, lobby and union, and together they make decisions on how everyone else will live. Those on the inside get what they want. Those on the outside -- well, they get what the big guys want them to have. That's life in the big city.

It's not the worst way to run a city. I know; I'm from Detroit, which might be better off if it had mayors named Daley for 41 of the last 54 years. But it's not the optimal way to run a national administration, at least if you've promised to bring in a new era of bipartisanship and mutual respect. Even so, it appears to be the way that Obama, who once aspired to be mayor of Chicago, has decided to run his administration.

We can see that nowhere better than on the health care issue. Over the spring and summer, the White House door has been wide open to lobbyists from health care businesses. The doctors' lobby has gotten promises that physician payments won't be knocked down too much. In return they are expected to lobby for whatever bill the congressional Democrats come up with.

The pharmaceutical firms' lobbyist, former House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin, has gotten assurances that his clients' business model won't be wrecked any more than it already has been by stringent regulation. In return the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America is running TV ads for health care reform.

The health insurance companies were on board too. Until, that is, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus presented his bill requiring them to cover anyone who applies but exacting only small fines from healthy individuals who decide not to buy insurance until they get sick. Since this looked like a quick road to bankruptcy, the health insurers' lobby commissioned a study that pointed out, correctly I think, that the Baucus bill would increase the cost of insurance to those who already have it.

The response of the Chicago-style Obama White House was reminiscent of the response of the late Mayor Daley when asked an inconvenient question by a reporter whose father and brother were Democratic precinct committeemen. "Sometimes in the best of families, there's a bad apple," replied Daley, to the bewilderment of reporters from out of town. A bad apple is, in Chicago, a former great friend who is not playing team ball.

So the health insurers have been denounced by White House spokesmen and Democratic congressional leaders as foul fiends and gougers of working families. Prominent Democrats have been talking about revoking insurance companies' exemption from the antitrust laws (granted so that small firms would have access to data needed to compete with the giants). Translated into Chicagoese: Nice little insurance company you got there. Too bad if something happened to it.

The same treatment is being given to Fox News, which, according to White House spokesmen "is not a news organization." "Other news organizations, like yours," Obama consigliere David Axelrod told ABC News, "ought not to treat them that way." In other words, when Fox breaks the news that the White House green czar is a self-proclaimed "communist" or that operatives of pro-Obama Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now have been aiding and abetting child prostitution, other news outlets should spike the story. Or risk being demoted from great friend to bad apple.

Last February Obama told Fox News (to which I am a contributor), "I don't always get my most favorable coverage on Fox, but I think that's part of how democracy is supposed to work. You know, we're not supposed to all be in lockstep here."

Now we are. Maybe Obama thought everyone in Washington would be his great friend. Having encountered un-Chicago-like dissent and disagreement, he has responded with classic Chicago brass knuckles. We'll see how far this kind of thuggery gets him.


Michael Barone, The Examiner's senior political analyst

RELIGION OF PEACE IS HEARD FROM AGAIN

Geert Wilders, the courageous Dutchman who travels Europe and the rest of the Western World warning of the mounting threat of Islam, was in London to deliver a speech to members of Parliament. Muslims gathered outside the Housees of Parliament. By clicking here, you can see and hear what they said.


Here is a companion piece to Charles Krauthammer's analysis of Obama's deliberate plan to drive America into economic and military power decline.

The centerpiece of Obama's strategy to seize control of American lives to make economic decline a reality not just a hope is "health care reform." With the government in charge of health care, costs will do nothing but skyrocket. Government-run Medicaid and Medicare are two excellent examples to use for forecasting.

Now the economist writer Robert Samuelson analyzes some new statistics about American population growth and spending and finds that, indeed, Obama can deliver the decline in the American standard of living he seeks. After all, why should Americans live better than others in the world?

Some excerpts:

Every generation of Americans should live better than its predecessor. That's Americans' core definition of economic "progress." But for today's young, it may be a mirage. Higher health spending, increasing energy prices and stretched governments at all levels may squeeze future disposable incomes -- what people have to spend -- and public services. Are we condemning our children to downward mobility?
The young's future has been heavily mortgaged. Taken together, all these demands might neutralize gains in per capita incomes, especially if the economy's performance, burdened by higher taxes or budget deficits, deteriorated. One study by Steven Nyce and Sylvester Schieber of Watson Wyatt Worldwide, a consulting firm, examined just health spending. The continuation of present trends would result in "falling wages at the bottom of the earnings spectrum and very slow wage growth on up the earnings distribution. These dismal wage outcomes would persist over at least the next couple of decades."
The health debate has focused on insuring the uninsured and de-emphasized controlling runaway spending, much of which is ineffective. The priorities should have been reversed. The chance to reorder the medical-industrial complex to restrain costs and improve care has been mostly squandered. Some call this "reform"; no one should call it progress.


A Path to Downward Mobility. Read it all.

A few days before the annual meeting of the Manhattan Institute in New York City, Charles Krauthammer gave either a frightening or sobering assessment, depending upon how alarmed you let yourself be, of Obama' plans as they have become evident in the first months of his reign.

The distaste for America that appears to be in Obama's blood and genes is apparently what is driving him to remake the U.S. into an economic and military mediocrity to please himself and everyone else in the world. That the U.S. is the world's ecomomic powerhouse and the world's sole superpower is unacceptable in his eyes. How dare the U.S. so dominate the world with its success? We don't fit in.

Krauthammer spells out how Obama is doing this. It isn't the the U.S. is misfiring right now on a few cylinders. Obama has deliberately chosen to put the U.S. on the path, as Obalam sees and wishes it, of imperial decline. Hence, the title of his speech: "Decline Is a Choice" and our president has chosen not success for America but decline.

For the video of Krauthammer's address, click here. For a somewhat shortened version, see this Weekly Standard piece below.


Decline Is a Choice
The New Liberalism and the end of American ascendancy.
by Charles Krauthammer
The Weekly Standard 10/19/2009

The weathervanes of conventional wisdom are registering another round of angst about America in decline. New theories, old slogans: Imperial overstretch. The Asian awakening. The post-American world. Inexorable forces beyond our control bringing the inevitable humbling of the world hegemon.
On the other side of this debate are a few--notably Josef Joffe in a recent essay in Foreign Affairs--who resist the current fashion and insist that America remains the indispensable power. They note that declinist predictions are cyclical, that the rise of China (and perhaps India) are just the current version of the Japan panic of the late 1980s or of the earlier pessimism best captured by Jean-François Revel's How Democracies Perish.
The anti-declinists point out, for example, that the fear of China is overblown. It's based on the implausible assumption of indefinite, uninterrupted growth; ignores accumulating externalities like pollution (which can be ignored when growth starts from a very low baseline, but ends up making growth increasingly, chokingly difficult); and overlooks the unavoidable consequences of the one-child policy, which guarantees that China will get old before it gets rich.
And just as the rise of China is a straight-line projection of current economic trends, American decline is a straight-line projection of the fearful, pessimistic mood of a country war-weary and in the grip of a severe recession.
Among these crosscurrents, my thesis is simple: The question of whether America is in decline cannot be answered yes or no. There is no yes or no. Both answers are wrong, because the assumption that somehow there exists some predetermined inevitable trajectory, the result of uncontrollable external forces, is wrong. Nothing is inevitable. Nothing is written. For America today, decline is not a condition. Decline is a choice. Two decades into the unipolar world that came about with the fall of the Soviet Union, America is in the position of deciding whether to abdicate or retain its dominance. Decline--or continued ascendancy--is in our hands.
Not that decline is always a choice. Britain's decline after World War II was foretold, as indeed was that of Europe, which had been the dominant global force of the preceding centuries. The civilizational suicide that was the two world wars, and the consequent physical and psychological exhaustion, made continued dominance impossible and decline inevitable.
The corollary to unchosen European collapse was unchosen American ascendancy. We--whom Lincoln once called God's "almost chosen people"--did not save Europe twice in order to emerge from the ashes as the world's co-hegemon. We went in to defend ourselves and save civilization. Our dominance after World War II was not sought. Nor was the even more remarkable dominance after the Soviet collapse. We are the rarest of geopolitical phenomena: the accidental hegemon and, given our history of isolationism and lack of instinctive imperial ambition, the reluctant hegemon--and now, after a near-decade of strenuous post-9/11 exertion, more reluctant than ever.
Which leads to my second proposition: Facing the choice of whether to maintain our dominance or to gradually, deliberately, willingly, and indeed relievedly give it up, we are currently on a course towards the latter. The current liberal ascendancy in the United States--controlling the executive and both houses of Congress, dominating the media and elite culture--has set us on a course for decline. And this is true for both foreign and domestic policies. Indeed, they work synergistically to ensure that outcome.
The current foreign policy of the United States is an exercise in contraction. It begins with the demolition of the moral foundation of American dominance. In Strasbourg, President Obama was asked about American exceptionalism. His answer? "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism." Interesting response. Because if everyone is exceptional, no one is.
Indeed, as he made his hajj from Strasbourg to Prague to Ankara to Istanbul to Cairo and finally to the U.N. General Assembly, Obama drew the picture of an America quite exceptional--exceptional in moral culpability and heavy-handedness, exceptional in guilt for its treatment of other nations and peoples. With varying degrees of directness or obliqueness, Obama indicted his own country for arrogance, for dismissiveness and derisiveness (toward Europe), for maltreatment of natives, for torture, for Hiroshima, for Guantánamo, for unilateralism, and for insufficient respect for the Muslim world.
Quite an indictment, the fundamental consequence of which is to effectively undermine any moral claim that America might have to world leadership, as well as the moral confidence that any nation needs to have in order to justify to itself and to others its position of leadership. According to the new dispensation, having forfeited the mandate of heaven--if it ever had one--a newly humbled America now seeks a more modest place among the nations, not above them.
But that leads to the question: How does this new world govern itself? How is the international system to function?
Henry Kissinger once said that the only way to achieve peace is through hegemony or balance of power. Well, hegemony is out. As Obama said in his General Assembly address, "No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation." (The "can" in that declaration is priceless.) And if hegemony is out, so is balance of power: "No balance of power among nations will hold."
The president then denounced the idea of elevating any group of nations above others--which takes care, I suppose, of the Security Council, the G-20, and the Western alliance. And just to make the point unmistakable, he denounced "alignments of nations rooted in the cleavages of a long-gone Cold War" as making "no sense in an interconnected world." What does that say about NATO? Of our alliances with Japan and South Korea? Or even of the European Union?
This is nonsense. But it is not harmless nonsense. It's nonsense with a point. It reflects a fundamental view that the only legitimate authority in the international system is that which emanates from "the community of nations" as a whole. Which means, I suppose, acting through its most universal organs such as, again I suppose, the U.N. and its various agencies. Which is why when Obama said that those who doubt "the character and cause" of his own country should see what this new America--the America of the liberal ascendancy--had done in the last nine months, he listed among these restorative and relegitimizing initiatives paying up U.N. dues, renewing actions on various wholly vacuous universalist declarations and agreements, and joining such Orwellian U.N. bodies as the Human Rights Council.
These gestures have not gone unnoticed abroad. The Nobel Committee effused about Obama's radical reorientation of U.S. foreign policy. Its citation awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize lauded him for having "created a new climate" in international relations in which "multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other institutions can play."
Of course, the idea of the "international community" acting through the U.N.--a fiction and a farce respectively--to enforce norms and maintain stability is absurd. So absurd that I suspect it's really just a metaphor for a world run by a kind of multipolar arrangement not of nation-states but of groups of states acting through multilateral bodies, whether institutional (like the International Atomic Energy Agency) or ad hoc (like the P5+1 Iran negotiators).
But whatever bizarre form of multilateral or universal structures is envisioned for keeping world order, certainly hegemony--and specifically American hegemony--is to be retired.
This renunciation of primacy is not entirely new. Liberal internationalism as practiced by the center-left Clinton administrations of the 1990s--the beginning of the unipolar era--was somewhat ambivalent about American hegemony, although it did allow America to be characterized as "the indispensable nation," to use Madeleine Albright's phrase. Clintonian center-left liberal internationalism did seek to restrain American power by tying Gulliver down with a myriad of treaties and agreements and international conventions. That conscious constraining of America within international bureaucratic and normative structures was rooted in the notion that power corrupts and that external restraints would curb arrogance and overreaching and break a willful America to the role of good international citizen.
But the liberal internationalism of today is different. It is not center-left, but left-liberal. And the new left-liberal internationalism goes far beyond its earlier Clintonian incarnation in its distrust of and distaste for American dominance. For what might be called the New Liberalism, the renunciation of power is rooted not in the fear that we are essentially good but subject to the corruptions of power--the old Clintonian view--but rooted in the conviction that America is so intrinsically flawed, so inherently and congenitally sinful that it cannot be trusted with, and does not merit, the possession of overarching world power.
For the New Liberalism, it is not just that power corrupts. It is that America itself is corrupt--in the sense of being deeply flawed, and with the history to prove it. An imperfect union, the theme of Obama's famous Philadelphia race speech, has been carried to and amplified in his every major foreign-policy address, particularly those delivered on foreign soil. (Not surprisingly, since it earns greater applause over there.)
And because we remain so imperfect a nation, we are in no position to dictate our professed values to others around the world. Demonstrators are shot in the streets of Tehran seeking nothing but freedom, but our president holds his tongue because, he says openly, of our own alleged transgressions towards Iran (presumably involvement in the 1953 coup). Our shortcomings are so grave, and our offenses both domestic and international so serious, that we lack the moral ground on which to justify hegemony.
These fundamental tenets of the New Liberalism are not just theory. They have strategic consequences. If we have been illegitimately playing the role of world hegemon, then for us to regain a legitimate place in the international system we must regain our moral authority. And recovering moral space means renouncing ill-gotten or ill-conceived strategic space.
Operationally, this manifests itself in various kinds of strategic retreat, most particularly in reversing policies stained by even the hint of American unilateralism or exceptionalism. Thus, for example, there is no more "Global War on Terror." It's not just that the term has been abolished or that the secretary of homeland security refers to terrorism as "man-caused disasters." It is that the very idea of our nation and civilization being engaged in a global mortal struggle with jihadism has been retired as well.
The operational consequences of that new view are already manifest. In our reversion to pre-9/11 normalcy--the pretense of pre-9/11 normalcy--antiterrorism has reverted from war fighting to law enforcement. High-level al Qaeda prisoners, for example, will henceforth be interrogated not by the CIA but by the FBI, just as our response to the attack on the USS Cole pre-9/11--an act of war--was to send FBI agents to Yemen.
The operational consequences of voluntary contraction are already evident:
* Unilateral abrogation of our missile-defense arrangements with Poland and the Czech Republic--a retreat being felt all through Eastern Europe to Ukraine and Georgia as a signal of U.S. concession of strategic space to Russia in its old sphere of influence.
* Indecision on Afghanistan--a widely expressed ambivalence about the mission and a serious contemplation of minimalist strategies that our commanders on the ground have reported to the president have no chance of success. In short, a serious contemplation of strategic retreat in Afghanistan (only two months ago it was declared by the president to be a "war of necessity") with possibly catastrophic consequences for Pakistan.
* In Iraq, a determination to end the war according to rigid timetables, with almost no interest in garnering the fruits of a very costly and very bloody success--namely, using our Strategic Framework Agreement to turn the new Iraq into a strategic partner and anchor for U.S. influence in the most volatile area of the world. Iraq is a prize--we can debate endlessly whether it was worth the cost--of great strategic significance that the administration seems to have no intention of exploiting in its determination to execute a full and final exit.
* In Honduras, where again because of our allegedly sinful imperial history, we back a Chávista caudillo seeking illegal extension of his presidency who was removed from power by the legitimate organs of state--from the supreme court to the national congress--for grave constitutional violations.
The New Liberalism will protest that despite its rhetoric, it is not engaging in moral reparations, but seeking real strategic advantage for the United States on the assumption that the reason we have not gotten cooperation from, say, the Russians, Iranians, North Koreans, or even our European allies on various urgent agendas is American arrogance, unilateralism, and dismissiveness. And therefore, if we constrict and rebrand and diminish ourselves deliberately--try to make ourselves equal partners with obviously unequal powers abroad--we will gain the moral high ground and rally the world to our causes.
Well, being a strategic argument, the hypothesis is testable. Let's tally up the empirical evidence of what nine months of self-abasement has brought.
With all the bowing and scraping and apologizing and renouncing, we couldn't even sway the International Olympic Committee. Given the humiliation incurred there in pursuit of a trinket, it is no surprise how little our new international posture has yielded in the coin of real strategic goods. Unilateral American concessions and offers of unconditional engagement have moved neither Iran nor Russia nor North Korea to accommodate us. Nor have the Arab states--or even the powerless Palestinian Authority--offered so much as a gesture of accommodation in response to heavy and gratuitous American pressure on Israel. Nor have even our European allies responded: They have anted up essentially nothing in response to our pleas for more assistance in Afghanistan.
The very expectation that these concessions would yield results is puzzling. Thus, for example, the president is proposing radical reductions in nuclear weapons and presided over a Security Council meeting passing a resolution whose goal is universal nuclear disarmament, on the theory that unless the existing nuclear powers reduce their weaponry, they can never have the moral standing to demand that other states not go nuclear.
But whatever the merits of unilateral or even bilateral U.S.-Russian disarmament, the notion that it will lead to reciprocal gestures from the likes of Iran and North Korea is simply childish. They are seeking the bomb for reasons of power, prestige, intimidation, blackmail, and regime preservation. They don't give a whit about the level of nuclear arms among the great powers. Indeed, both Iran and North Korea launched their nuclear weapons ambitions in the 1980s and the 1990s--precisely when the United States and Russia were radically reducing their arsenals.
This deliberate choice of strategic retreats to engender good feeling is based on the naïve hope of exchanges of reciprocal goodwill with rogue states. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the theory--as policy--has demonstrably produced no strategic advances. But that will not deter the New Liberalism because the ultimate purpose of its foreign policy is to make America less hegemonic, less arrogant, less dominant.
In a word, it is a foreign policy designed to produce American decline--to make America essentially one nation among many. And for that purpose, its domestic policies are perfectly complementary.
Domestic policy, of course, is not designed to curb our power abroad. But what it lacks in intent, it makes up in effect. Decline will be an unintended, but powerful, side effect of the New Liberalism's ambition of moving America from its traditional dynamic individualism to the more equitable but static model of European social democracy.
This is not the place to debate the intrinsic merits of the social democratic versus the Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism. There's much to be said for the decency and relative equity of social democracy. But it comes at a cost: diminished social mobility, higher unemployment, less innovation, less dynamism and creative destruction, less overall economic growth.
This affects the ability to project power. Growth provides the sinews of dominance--the ability to maintain a large military establishment capable of projecting power to all corners of the earth. The Europeans, rich and developed, have almost no such capacity. They made the choice long ago to devote their resources to a vast welfare state. Their expenditures on defense are minimal, as are their consequent military capacities. They rely on the U.S. Navy for open seas and on the U.S. Air Force for airlift. It's the U.S. Marines who go ashore, not just in battle, but for such global social services as tsunami relief. The United States can do all of this because we spend infinitely more on defense--more than the next nine countries combined.
Those are the conditions today. But they are not static or permanent. They require constant renewal. The express agenda of the New Liberalism is a vast expansion of social services--massive intervention and expenditures in energy, health care, and education--that will necessarily, as in Europe, take away from defense spending.
This shift in resources is not hypothetical. It has already begun. At a time when hundreds of billions of dollars are being lavished on stimulus and other appropriations in an endless array of domestic programs, the defense budget is practically frozen. Almost every other department is expanding, and the Defense Department is singled out for making "hard choices"--forced to look everywhere for cuts, to abandon highly advanced weapons systems, to choose between readiness and research, between today's urgencies and tomorrow's looming threats.
Take, for example, missile defense, in which the United States has a great technological edge and one perfectly designed to maintain American preeminence in a century that will be dominated by the ballistic missile. Missile defense is actually being cut. The number of interceptors in Alaska to defend against a North Korean attack has been reduced, and the airborne laser program (the most promising technology for a boost-phase antiballistic missile) has been cut back--at the same time that the federal education budget has been increased 100 percent in one year.
This preference for social goods over security needs is not just evident in budgetary allocations and priorities. It is seen, for example, in the liberal preference for environmental goods. By prohibiting the drilling of offshore and Arctic deposits, the United States is voluntarily denying itself access to vast amounts of oil that would relieve dependency on--and help curb the wealth and power of--various petro-dollar challengers, from Iran to Venezuela to Russia. Again, we can argue whether the environment versus security trade-off is warranted. But there is no denying that there is a trade-off.
Nor are these the only trade-offs. Primacy in space--a galvanizing symbol of American greatness, so deeply understood and openly championed by John Kennedy--is gradually being relinquished. In the current reconsideration of all things Bush, the idea of returning to the moon in the next decade is being jettisoned. After next September, the space shuttle will never fly again, and its replacement is being reconsidered and delayed. That will leave the United States totally incapable of returning even to near-Earth orbit, let alone to the moon. Instead, for years to come, we shall be entirely dependent on the Russians, or perhaps eventually even the Chinese.
Of symbolic but also more concrete importance is the status of the dollar. The social democratic vision necessarily involves huge increases in domestic expenditures, most immediately for expanded health care. The plans currently under consideration will cost in the range of $1 trillion. And once the budget gimmicks are discounted (such as promises of $500 billion cuts in Medicare which will never eventuate), that means hundreds of billions of dollars added to the monstrous budgetary deficits that the Congressional Budget Office projects conservatively at $7 trillion over the next decade.
The effect on the dollar is already being felt and could ultimately lead to a catastrophic collapse and/or hyperinflation. Having control of the world's reserve currency is an irreplaceable national asset. Yet with every new and growing estimate of the explosion of the national debt, there are more voices calling for replacement of the dollar as the world currency--not just adversaries like Russia and China, Iran and Venezuela, which one would expect, but just last month the head of the World Bank.
There is no free lunch. Social democracy and its attendant goods may be highly desirable, but they have their price--a price that will be exacted on the dollar, on our primacy in space, on missile defense, on energy security, and on our military capacities and future power projection.
But, of course, if one's foreign policy is to reject the very notion of international primacy in the first place, a domestic agenda that takes away the resources to maintain such primacy is perfectly complementary. Indeed, the two are synergistic. Renunciation of primacy abroad provides the added resources for more social goods at home. To put it in the language of the 1990s, the expanded domestic agenda is fed by a peace dividend--except that in the absence of peace, it is a retreat dividend.
And there's the rub. For the Europeans there really is a peace dividend, because we provide the peace. They can afford social democracy without the capacity to defend themselves because they can always depend on the United States.
So why not us as well? Because what for Europe is decadence--decline, in both comfort and relative safety--is for us mere denial. Europe can eat, drink, and be merry for America protects her. But for America it's different. If we choose the life of ease, who stands guard for us?
The temptation to abdicate has always been strong in America. Our interventionist tradition is recent. Our isolationist tradition goes far deeper. Nor is it restricted to the American left. Historically, of course, it was championed by the American right until the Vandenberg conversion. And it remains a bipartisan instinct.
When the era of maximum dominance began 20 years ago--when to general surprise a unipolar world emerged rather than a post-Cold War multipolar one--there was hesitation about accepting the mantle. And it wasn't just among liberals. In the fall of 1990, Jeane Kirkpatrick, -heroine in the struggle to defeat the Soviet Union, argued that, after a half-century of exertion fighting fascism, Nazism, and communism, "it is time to give up the dubious benefits of superpower status," time to give up the "unusual burdens" of the past and "return to 'normal' times." No more balancing power in Europe or in Asia. We should aspire instead to be "a normal country in a normal time."
That call to retreat was rejected by most of American conservatism (as Pat Buchanan has amply demonstrated by his very marginality). But it did find some resonance in mainstream liberalism. At first, however, only some resonance. As noted earlier, the liberal internationalism of the 1990s, the center-left Clintonian version, was reluctant to fully embrace American hegemony and did try to rein it in by creating external restraints. Nonetheless, in practice, it did boldly intervene in the Balkan wars (without the sanction of the Security Council, mind you) and openly accepted a kind of intermediate status as "the indispensable nation."
Not today. The ascendant New Liberalism goes much further, actively seeking to subsume America within the international community--inter pares, not even primus--and to enact a domestic social agenda to suit.
So why not? Why not choose ease and bask in the adulation of the world as we serially renounce, withdraw, and concede?
Because, while globalization has produced in some the illusion that human nature has changed, it has not. The international arena remains a Hobbesian state of nature in which countries naturally strive for power. If we voluntarily renounce much of ours, others will not follow suit. They will fill the vacuum. Inevitably, an inversion of power relations will occur.
Do we really want to live under unknown, untested, shifting multipolarity? Or even worse, under the gauzy internationalism of the New Liberalism with its magically self-enforcing norms? This is sometimes passed off as "realism." In fact, it is the worst of utopianisms, a fiction that can lead only to chaos. Indeed, in an age on the threshold of hyper-proliferation, it is a prescription for catastrophe.
Heavy are the burdens of the hegemon. After the blood and treasure expended in the post-9/11 wars, America is quite ready to ease its burden with a gentle descent into abdication and decline.
Decline is a choice. More than a choice, a temptation. How to resist it?
First, accept our role as hegemon. And reject those who deny its essential benignity. There is a reason that we are the only hegemon in modern history to have not immediately catalyzed the creation of a massive counter-hegemonic alliance--as occurred, for example, against Napoleonic France and Nazi Germany. There is a reason so many countries of the Pacific Rim and the Middle East and Eastern Europe and Latin America welcome our presence as balancer of power and guarantor of their freedom.
And that reason is simple: We are as benign a hegemon as the world has ever seen.
So, resistance to decline begins with moral self-confidence and will. But maintaining dominance is a matter not just of will but of wallet. We are not inherently in economic decline. We have the most dynamic, innovative, technologically advanced economy in the world. We enjoy the highest productivity. It is true that in the natural and often painful global division of labor wrought by globalization, less skilled endeavors like factory work migrate abroad, but America more than compensates by pioneering the newer technologies and industries of the information age.
There are, of course, major threats to the American economy. But there is nothing inevitable and inexorable about them. Take, for example, the threat to the dollar (as the world's reserve currency) that comes from our massive trade deficits. Here again, the China threat is vastly exaggerated. In fact, fully two-thirds of our trade imbalance comes from imported oil. This is not a fixed fact of life. We have a choice. We have it in our power, for example, to reverse the absurd de facto 30-year ban on new nuclear power plants. We have it in our power to release huge domestic petroleum reserves by dropping the ban on offshore and Arctic drilling. We have it in our power to institute a serious gasoline tax (refunded immediately through a payroll tax reduction) to curb consumption and induce conservation.
Nothing is written. Nothing is predetermined. We can reverse the slide, we can undo dependence if we will it.
The other looming threat to our economy--and to the dollar--comes from our fiscal deficits. They are not out of our control. There is no reason we should be structurally perpetuating the massive deficits incurred as temporary crisis measures during the financial panic of 2008. A crisis is a terrible thing to exploit when it is taken by the New Liberalism as a mandate for massive expansion of the state and of national debt--threatening the dollar, the entire economy, and consequently our superpower status abroad.
There are things to be done. Resist retreat as a matter of strategy and principle. And provide the means to continue our dominant role in the world by keeping our economic house in order. And finally, we can follow the advice of Demosthenes when asked what was to be done about the decline of Athens. His reply? "I will give what I believe is the fairest and truest answer: Don't do what you are doing now."

--Charles Krauthammer is a syndicated columnist and contributing editor to THE WEEKLY STANDARD. This essay is adapted from his 2009 Wriston Lecture delivered for the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research in New York on October 5.

Just another reminder of reality.


Muslim threats to Christians rise in Pakistan

October 4, 2009

Anjum Herald Gill THE WASHINGTON TIMES

LAHORE, Pakistan | Christians in Pakistan are feeling increasingly insecure after several violent attacks by Muslim extremists in the past two months.

In one case, eight Christians were burned to death by a Muslim mob after reports that the Muslim holy book, the Koran, had been desecrated.

Growing Talibanization of the country and a blasphemy law in place for two decades make non-Muslims, especially Christians, easy targets for discrimination and attacks, Christian and human rights activists say.

"The attacks on Christians seem to be symptomatic of a well-organized campaign launched by extremist elements against the Christian community all over central Punjab since early this year," Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Chairwoman Asma Jehangir said at a press conference last month.

The situation has become so serious that Pope Benedict XVI and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari discussed it during a meeting Thursday at the papal summer retreat in Castel Gandolfo, near Rome, the Associated Press reported.

The Vatican said the two stressed "the need to overcome all forms of discrimination based on religious affiliation, with the aim of promoting respect for the rights of all."

Most of the attacks on Christians' houses and churches followed claims of desecration of the Koran. Subsequent investigations generally proved the claims to be false.

Pakistani Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, a Christian himself, said that no Christian would even think of desecrating the Koran. Some elements wanted to create an atmosphere of disharmony, but the government would not allow anybody to play with the lives and properties of the Christians, he said.

On June 30, a mob attacked Christians' houses in the village of Bahmani Wala in Kasur district of Punjab province, destroying more than 50 houses after looting.

On July 30, eight people were burned alive in the village of Gojra, also in Punjab, after a purported incident of desecration of the Koran in the nearby village of Korian Wala. Churches were attacked and copies of the Bible and hymn books were burned in both villages. In Korian Wala alone, more than 50 houses of Christians were ransacked.

On Sept. 11, a church in a village in Punjab's Sialkot district was burned after claims that a 20-year-old Christian youth had desecrated the Koran. On Sept. 15, a day after his arrest, Robert Masih was found dead in his jail cell. Police reported it as a suicide, but Mr. Masih's family claims he was killed. Joseph Francis, who runs an organization providing legal assistance to Christians, said he saw marks of torture on Mr. Masih's body.

Christians account for about 4 percent of the 170 million population of Pakistan, which was carved out of India as a state for Muslims at the time of independence from Britain in 1947.

Since then, successive civilian and military rulers have progressively strengthened the Islamic character of the country by introducing Shariah law. A controversial blasphemy law introduced in 1986 also has widened the gap between the minority Christians and majority Muslims.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom listed Pakistan as a "country of particular concern" in 2006, citing forced conversions of Christians to Islam and a rise in hate crimes against religious minorities.

All the recent attacks targeting Christians, activist groups claimed, were provoked by hate speeches made by Muslim clerics on loudspeakers from mosques.

"The rising intolerance and violence against Christians is a result of the Talibanization and promulgation of Shariah law in the country," said Kanwal Feroze, a well-known journalist. "It is not a matter of blasphemy law, but shows a mind-set of the common man."

When the blasphemy law was introduced during the rule of Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, the punishment was life imprisonment. It was changed to the death penalty by the Federal Shariah Court in 1992 when Nawaz Sharif was prime minister.

Since the inception of the blasphemy law, as many as 976 cases have been registered under it, of which 180 were against Christians. When a Christian is accused of blasphemy, he or she can be granted bail only by the top court in the province.

The step-by-step Islamization of Pakistan began in 1956, when the country's name was changed from the Democratic Republic of Pakistan to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. In 1973, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto changed the country's constitution to declare Islam the religion of the state. Non-Muslims were barred from becoming president or the prime minister, and denied seats in the Senate.

Mr. Bhutto - father-in law of current President Asif Ali Zardari - also nationalized church-run schools and institutions. Some of them were denationalized later by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who led Pakistan from 1999 until 2008.

In 1979, Gen. Zia introduced several Islamic laws that discriminated against non-Muslims - strengthening fundamentalist organizations and sowing the early seeds for Talibanization.

Under the Evidence Act of the Islamic law, a Christian man's witness is worth half that of a Muslim. Christian women would not be deemed as witnesses at all.

Muslim men can marry non-Muslim women but a Christian man cannot marry a Muslim woman. The constitutional provisions also welcome a Christian to embrace Islam, but when a Muslim converts to Christianity, the penalty is death.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has promised to review laws that could fuel hate for non-Muslim citizens after the recent attacks. A committee has been formed to look into the laws and make recommendations.

However, hard-line parties such as Jamaat-e-Islami and the banned militant organization Dawat-ul-Irshad already have warned of protests if the blasphemy law is rescinded. Even the mainstream Pakistan Muslim League-Q party of Mr. Musharraf has threatened to resist any change in the law.

One commentator on this report said this:

Wake up world. Muslims have been raping, terrorising and pillaging for 1500 years. The Koran teaches to kill all infidels, unless they convert to Islam. It won't stop on its own. Islam is like a cancer, unless you kill it, it will kill you.

Another:

FINALLY, THE TRUE TARGET OF ISLAMISTS IS BEING REVEALED. IT IS NOT ISRAEL AS MANY LIKE TO BELIEVE. NOR IS IT UNITED STATES, AS SUCH. THE TARGET OF THE WAR ISLAM IS WAGING SINCE MUHAMMAD WENT TO MEET ALLAH, AND EVEN BEFORE THAT, WAS AND CONTINUES TO BE CHRISTIANITY.
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