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DoubleQuote in the wild: gun, flag, scripture

Monday, July 7th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- offered as an opportunity to compare and contrast -- not an equation to swear by ]

Some will prefer one side of this DoubleQuote to the other, and feel it proposes an unjustified “equality” between them. Some will want to say “A pox on both your houses”.


I prefer to think of it as a Socratic question — an equation with a question mark, perhaps?



  • The Blue Street Journal
  • **

    If there are such qualities as the words good and evil denote, I’d say with Solzhenitsyn:

    Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart – and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an uprooted small corner of evil.


    Ramadan, the military and the Bible: misplaced juxtapositions, paradoxes, nuances

    Monday, July 7th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- on the paradoxes, double standards, accommodations and hypocrisies -- whatever you call them, however you see them -- that arise when religions overlap -- or bump up against one another ]


    That’s a juxtaposition of title and photo, straight out of my morning mail from Vision to America News a few days back.

    As you know, juxtaposition is a particular favorite of mine, the rhetorical flourish I most enjoy — but it can manifestly be abused. Do you suppose the personnel in the photo were under orders to perform the characteristic Muslim five-times-daily prayers known as salat? Were they led, perhaps, by an officer or senior NCO? Isn’t that what this juxtaposition suggests?

    Or is the photo simply a photo of Muslim members of the armed forces at prayer, in accordance with their beliefs?


    Pamela Geller uses the same photo with the title you see here:

    Her text, below, begins:

    Our troops must adhere to the sharia during the Islamic month of Ramadan in Bahrain and other Muslim countries. Subjected to dawah (proselytizing) by an Islamic cultural adviser at the Naval Support Activity, soldiers are forced to sit through lessons on Islam. No eating, drinking, alcohol, smoking during the month of Ramadan.

    This is what the Obama administration and the US military are obsessed with as armies of jihad tear through the Middle East.


    By way of contrast, back in 2009 Army dot Mil datelined Fort Jackson, SC, FORT JACKSON, S.C., September 24, carried the same photo under the headline Soldiers celebrate end of Ramadan

    with the caption:

    Muslim Soldiers bow down in prayer during the celebration of Eid-Al-Fitr Sunday at the Joe E. Mann Center. Eid-Al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims worldwide.

    and text that begins:

    About 100 Muslim Soldiers gathered at the Joe E. Mann Center Sunday to celebrate Eid-Al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan.

    “It’s a great honor and privilege to do this,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad, U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School, who presided over the ceremonial part of the celebration. “We want (the Soldiers) to be empowered through the spiritual foundation that Islam provides. Eid-Al-Fitr is a culmination of the fasting during the month of Ramadan. As a result of that, we do the celebration traditionally for three days, but the biggest (part) is this particular day.”


    And the truth shall set you free.


    The fact is, though, that much as I think Vision to America and Ms Geller are playing dirty pool here, I do think we have a bit of a paradox going when we offer our troops in Dubai sensitivity training in Islamic traditions and ask them to be respectful of them…


    — even going so far as to ban and burn Bibles in Pashto and Dari sent to troops in Afghanistan, because they might be used by enthusiastic evangelicals to evangelize the locals:

    Military personnel threw away, and ultimately burned, confiscated Bibles that were printed in the two most common Afghan languages amid concern they would be used to try to convert Afghans, a Defense Department spokesman said Tuesday.

    The unsolicited Bibles sent by a church in the United States were confiscated about a year ago at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan because military rules forbid troops of any religion from proselytizing while deployed there, Lt. Col. Mark Wright said. Such religious outreach can endanger American troops and civilians in the devoutly Muslim nation, Wright said.

    “The decision was made that it was a ‘force protection’ measure to throw them away, because, if they did get out, it could be perceived by Afghans that the U.S. government or the U.S. military was trying to convert Muslims,” Wright told CNN on Tuesday.

    Hey, I have to say I sympathize with that argument —


    But I also sympathize with the Air Force kid who wanted to put a Gospel verse up on his personal whiteboard, and was ordered to take it down. As Onan Coca writing at Eagle Rising pointed out:

    The truth of the matter is that no Christian would have complained had a Jewish or Muslim cadet placed a verse from their religious scriptures on their whiteboards.

    I certainly hope that’s the case — Baruch haShem, and Allah knows best.


    Observations of a religion watcher

    Friday, June 13th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- ISIS in Iraq, the battle of Badr, and 5,000 swooping angels ]


    Two days ago, under the title Iraq army capitulates to Isis militants in four cities, the Guardian reported:

    The extent of the Iraqi army’s defeat at the hands of militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) became clear on Wednesday when officials in Baghdad conceded that insurgents had stripped the main army base in the northern city of Mosul of weapons, released hundreds of prisoners from the city’s jails and may have seized up to $480m in banknotes from the city’s banks.

    Iraqi officials told the Guardian that two divisions of Iraqi soldiers – roughly 30,000 men – simply turned and ran in the face of the assault by an insurgent force of just 800 fighters.

    It’s that second paragraph that interests me.

    Supposing you were among the 800 ISIS fighters at the point when those 30,000 Iraqi soldiers desert the field, will your mind not move instantly to the Qur’an 3.124-25, verses which describe how 300 Muslims decisively defeated 1,000 fighters of the Quraysh at the seminal battle of Badr?

    When thou saidst to the believers, “Is it not enough for you that your Lord should reinforce you with three thousand angels sent down upon you? Yea; if you are patient and godfearing, and the foe come against you instantly, your Lord will reinforce you with five thousand swooping angels.”

    — or to Qur’an 8.9?

    When you were calling upon your Lord for succour, and He answered you, “I shall reinforce you with a thousand angels riding behind you.”

    The impact on ISIS morale must be enormous — surely God is assisting them!

    To win a battle is one thing. To win a battle when outnumbered is another. To win a battle when outnumbered with the blessings of God is a third and yet more powerful thing.


    Well, yeah.

    After I’d written this, but before posting it, I came across Ibn Siqilli’s blog post today titled Translation of the Message from Abu Muhammad al-’Adnani al-Shami, Official Spokesman for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, after Mosul, in which al-Shami says, quoting yet another Qur’anic verse about the battle of Badr:

    Allah ta’ala? said, {[Remember] when your Lord inspired to the angels, “I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.”} [Al-Anfal: 12]

    All praise is to Allah, who fulfilled His promise, kept His slaves firm, gave victory to His soldiers, and alone vanquished the Rawafid. All praise is to Allah who filled their hearts with terror and their feet with defeat. All praise is to Allah who made their weapons, equipment, vehicles, and wealth, war booty for the mujahidin.


    And yet, and yet — there’s also Kirkuk.

    Indeed, it’s possible that angels weren’t required in either instance, and that the Washington Post got it right in an article titled Iraq disintegrating as insurgents advance toward capital; Kurds seize Kirkuk.

    If God gave ISIS the melting away of Iraqi forces in Mosul and elsewhere, he appears to have given the Kurds a similar melting-away of Iraqi forces in Kirkuk, where the oil sits… Thus the BBC reports on the Kurdish situation:

    Iraqi Kurdish forces say they have taken full control of the northern oil city of Kirkuk as the army flees before an Islamist offensive nearby.

    “The whole of Kirkuk has fallen into the hands of peshmerga,” Kurdish spokesman Jabbar Yawar told Reuters. “No Iraq army remains in Kirkuk now.”

    Even the melting away of the army on two fronts, however, doesn’t stop the Iraqi propaganda machine. The WaPo article linked above also contained this more than slightly surreal item for a propagandap-quote collection::

    Meanwhile, in Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and in towns and cities further south, young men flocked to recruitment centers to volunteer to fight the extremists, underscoring the sharpening sectarian divide that risks engulfing all of Iraq in war.

    State television broadcast footage of the long lines, accompanied by patriotic songs whose lyrics tout the army’s achievements: “We’re the soldiers of the nation, we shall never retreat.”


    There is more to say on such varied topics as the major Shia shrines and hawza or seminaries at risk, the Grand Ayatollah Sistani‘s call to arms, the role Iran and the IRGC is adopting, and the presence of senior Ba’athist officers in the ranks of ISIS, etc — but this must do for now.

    I’ll return with more from Ibn Siqilli shortly, but leave you with this — from my POV, the most horrifying part of al-Shami’s statement, coming right at the end of his rant, and specifically threatening the two Shia holy cities of Karbala and Najaf:

    The Rafidah [lit. "those who reject", ie the Shia] will continue to curse you as long as some of them exist. Truly, between us is a settling of debts. … There will be a heavy and long account. However, the settling of debts will not be in Samarra and Baghdad, rather in Karbala al-munajjasah (the defiled) and Najaf al-ashrak (the most polytheistic).


    On the confounded confusion of religions!

    Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- Ireland and Israel are more Muslim than Saudi Arabia, while Gandhi was more Christian than Billy Graham -- non-obvious, but arguable? ]


    The Irish Times yesterday ranked Ireland ‘the most truly Muslim country in the world’:

    The country in the world most faithful to the values of the Koran is Ireland according to an Iranian-born academic at George Washingon University in the US. Next are Denmark, Sweden and the UK.

    In a BBC interview, Hossein Askari, Professor of International Business and International Affairs at George Washington University said a study by himself and colleague Dr Scheherazde S Rehman, also rates Israel (27) as being more compliant with the ideals of the Koran than any predominantly Muslim country.

    If Ireland is Muslim, which I’ve never been entirely sure of, maybe it’s because Gandhi was so very Christian. In 2001, Christianity Today reported a poll of “931 self-designated Christians in Britain” in a piece somewhat titled Survey Silliness:

    NOP Research Group (company slogan: “Knowledge Is Power”) conducted the poll for the religious division of British publisher Hodder & Stoughton. [ ... ]

    The poll asked respondents to rank the Christian qualities of five world figures.

    Undoubtedly to the great relief of her Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa won in a landslide of 53 percent. But then the results turn strange: George Carey (the Archbishop of Canterbury) and Mahatma Gandhi tie at 10 percent, singer Cliff Richard snags 6 percent, and evangelist Billy Graham wins only 3 percent.

    I think you may need to be British to appreciate the religious importance of rocker Cliff Richards, and even then it’s not compulsory.


    In any case, all this religious mixology led me to search on Google for Chrislam, which in turn led me to Theodore Shoebat and my next post


    I have set before you life and death

    Sunday, June 1st, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- tasking Heuer's ACH theory with the old question of revelation vs scientific discovery? ]

    For a very pithy take on the pivotal question facing those who adhere to the literal interpretation of a given scripture as God’s infallible Word, try these two quotes:

    A very similar question, it seems to me, can be put to those who hold that science, by virtue of its falsifiability, moves in a manner that will be seen to be asymptotic to infallibility.


    I’m not saying the two options Pastor Hagee Jr offers are the only options, nor that Christianity is the only religion whose scriptures pose this sort of question to its followers.

    However, there are two fairly clear general options laid out here, and they cut across many fields, from “what sort of biological education would you like to see implemented in schools?” via “how should we respond to warnings of the accelerating risks associated with global warming?” to “are the Iranian nuclear negotiators bound by their concepts of Shia theology, and if so, how does that affect our analysis of their strategic thinking?”

    Let’s call the competing hypotheses here “revelation” and “discovery”. One interesting question: does each of them require evidentiary validation, or is one of them “obviously” self-validating, and if so, how?

    I ask this, partly because I just obtained ACH software, where ACH refers to the Analysis of Competing Hypotheses as described by Richards Heuer Jr in his Psychology of Intelligence Analysis, and specifically in chapter 8.

    Pitting an “infinite and revelatory” hypothesis against a “finite and discoverable” one is one way to test the limits of the ACH system — either it’s a totally irrational and foolish use of a rational tool, or a western equivalent of the zen koan system, depending on your — eh? — hypothesis.

    Life or death? Science or revelation? Which is which?

    How do you know? How can you be sure?


    In the ballpark, btw?


    Steven J. Brams, Biblical Games: Game Theory and the Hebrew Bible


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