Monday, December 31, 2007

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Huckabee's Hat Trick: Foreign Policy Amateur Hour Suggests We Should Watch for Pakistanis Coming Into the Country

You would think someone on Mike Huckabee's staff would have the courage to tell him to stop demonstrating his foreign policy ignorance by making yet additional ill advised comments on the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

After first apologizing to the people of Pakistan for her death, Huckabee has poured fuel on the fire by insulting all Pakistanis.

This from O. Kay Henderson on the Radio Iowa website today:

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says the assassination of Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto underscores the need to secure the America's borders to prevent potential terror attacks here.

"We ought to have an immediate, very clear monitoring of our borders and particularly to make sure if there's any unusal activity of Pakistanis coming into the country. We just need to be very, very thorough in looking at every aspect of our own security internally because, again, we live in a very, very dangerous time," Huckabee said during a news conference Thursday night in West Des Moines.

Imagine how well this comment will be received by our allies in Pakistan ! Neither President Musharraf nor the leaders of the opposition can have much confidence that Mike Huckabee has any understanding of Pakistan.

Having succeeded in first falsely suggesting American responsibility for the tragic event, then insulting the Pakistani people, Huckabee completes his foreign policy amateur hour hat trick by implying Pakistani President Musharraf's improper use of U.S. aid is somehow related to the tragedy.

Huckabee also said it was time to put more pressure on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's government. According to Huckabee, a "full accounting" of the $10 billion in U.S. aid sent to Pakistan since 9/11 is "more needful" now than ever.

I'ld say it's time for Governor Huckabee to return to the pulpit, where his foreign policy ignorance won't cause anybody harm.

Mike Huckabee's Reaction to Bhutto Assassination Continues to Reverberate

Mike Huckabee's botched reaction to the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan continues to reverberate around the world.

He first stumbled by "apologizing" to the people of Pakistan for her passing.

Later, his campaign's damage control spokes people offered an update in which he offered that he meant to "sympathize" with the people of Pakistan, not apologize to them.

Of course, it didn't help that he also got the current status of martial law in Pakistan wrong in the same press briefing today (It's been lifted, he called for it to be lifted. He apparently meant to say he didn't want it to be re-instated. At least, that's what we guess he meant to say. It's hard for the listener to understand the difference between what he says today and what he means tomorrow).

Here's how the blogosphere commented on his foreign policy performance today:
According to this report from CBS News , Mike Huckabee reacted to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto by expressing "our sincere concern and apologies for what has happened in Pakistan." I'm hoping that Huckabee simply misspoke because otherwise he'll need to explain what the U.S. has to apologize for. Nothing comes to mind unless one is prone, in the fashion of Jimmy Carter, mindlessly to "blame America first." Huckabee also said that the U.S. needs to consider "what impact does [the assassination have] on whether or not there's going to be martial law continuing in Pakistan.
I'm speaking of Mike Huckabee, who partially botched his response (speaking to a crowd that was 88 percent his supporers, 12 percent Ron Paul supporters): He made a bad choice of words when saying the U.S. needs to consider "what impact does it have on whether or not there's going to be martial law continuing in Pakistan." He should have said whether or not martial law will be reinstated - it was lifted nearly two weeks ago. A minor slip, maybe, but not a subject he wants to mess up on when he is already considered weak in the area of foreign policy.
MUCH MORE ON THE BENAZIR BHUTTO ASSASSINATION, including statements from various Presidential candidates, at The Corner. Plus, a questionable reaction from Bill Richardson. UPDATE: Dropping the ball at NBC. And Huckabee apologizes. Apologizes? Jeez, he is Jimmy Carter.
The Huckster : Mike Huckabee strode out to the strains of "Right Now" by Van Halen and immediately addressed the Bhutto situation, expressing "our sincere concern and apologies for what has happened in Pakistan." Apologies? I knew he was a no-good, tax-hiking, nanny-stater who raised his son to torture animals, but even I had no idea he was behind the Bhutto assassination. -- W.C. Varones
Huckabee Reaction to Bhutto Assassination - From The Road ORLANDO, FLA. -- With about 150 supporters crowded around a podium set up on the tarmac of Orlando Executive airport (and about 20 Ron Paul supporters waving signs outside) Mike Huckabee strode out to the strains of "Right Now" by Van Halen and immediately addressed the Bhutto situation, expressing "our sincere concern and apologies for what has happened in Pakistan." Apologies? Apologies???!!!
Everyone is having all kinds of fun talking about silly-ol' Huckabee apologizing for Bhutto's assassination, expressing "our sincere concern and apologies for what has happened in Pakistan."
Huckabee apologizes for al Qaeda

Mike Huckabee Blunders in Response to Bhutto Assassination

Nancy Cordes of CBS News reports that Mike Huckabee responded to the tragic assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan today by expressing:

"our sincere concern and apologies for what happened in Pakistan."

Perhaps no statement does more to undermine Huckabee's drive for the Presidency than this one. In it, he reveals himself as a rank amateur in foreign policy. Such an "apology" from a Presidential candidate can be used by our Islamist enemies to our national disadvantage. It creates a foreign policy problem today where none existed yesterday.

Clearly, Huckabee belongs to the Jimmy Carter School of American Foreign Policy. Both Carter and Huckabee appear to believe that whatever happens in the world, America is at fault.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Pipes Says Obama Raised as Muslim; Considers Implications

In an article in FrontPage Magazine, Islamic scholar Daniel Pipes concludes that "available evidence suggests" Barak Obama:

"was born a Muslim to a non-practicing Muslim father and for some years had a reasonably Muslim upbringing under the auspices of his Indonesian step-father. At some point, he converted to Christianity. It appears false to state, as Obama does, "I've always been a Christian" and "I've never practiced Islam." The campaign appears to be either ignorant or fabricating when it states that "Obama never prayed in a mosque."

Pipes goes on to analyze the possible implications of this personal history.

Obama's conversion to another faith, in short, makes him a murtadd. That said, the punishment for childhood apostasy is less severe than for the adult version. As Robert Spencer points out, "according to Islamic law an apostate male is not to be put to death if he has not reached puberty (cf. Umdat al-Salik o8.2; Hidayah vol. II p. 246). Some, however, hold that he should be imprisoned until he is of age and then invited' to accept Islam, but officially the death penalty for youthful apostates is ruled out."

On the positive side, were Obama prominently charged with apostasy, that would uniquely raise the issue of a Muslim's right to change religion, taking a topic on the perpetual back-burner and placing it front and center, perhaps to the great future benefit of those Muslims who seek to declare themselves atheists or to convert to another religion.

Pipes cites the following evidence as the "smoking gun" in Obama's early Muslim raising:

" In "Obama Debunks Claim About Islamic School," Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press wrote on January 24, 2007, that Obama's mother, divorced from Obama's father, married a man from Indonesia named Lolo Soetoro, and the family relocated to the country from 1967-71. At first, Obama attended the Catholic school, Fransiskus Assisis, where documents showed he enrolled as a Muslim, the religion of his stepfather. The document required that each student choose one of five state-sanctioned religions when registering Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic or Protestant. "

Further evidence is found in statements made by his childhood friends:

Two months later, Paul Watson of the Los Angeles Times (available online in a Baltimore Sun reprint) reported that the Obama campaign had retreated from that absolute statement and instead issued a more nuanced one: "Obama has never been a practicing Muslim." The Times looked into the matter further and learned more about his Indonesian interlude:

His former Roman Catholic and Muslim teachers, along with two people who were identified by Obama's grade-school teacher as childhood friends, say Obama was registered by his family as a Muslim at both schools he attended. That registration meant that during the third and fourth grades, Obama learned about Islam for two hours each week in religion class.

The childhood friends say Obama sometimes went to Friday prayers at the local mosque. "We prayed but not really seriously, just following actions done by older people in the mosque," Zulfin Adi said. "But as kids, we loved to meet our friends and went to the mosque together and played." Obama's younger sister, Maya Soetoro, said in a statement released by the campaign that the family attended the mosque only "for big communal events," not every Friday.

Pipes argues that worldwide Muslim perceptions of Obama's arguable apostasy should at least be addressed by the Obama campaign.

We wonder if this issue will be discussed in the public dialogue of the campaign, or if Pipes' article will be ignored.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Prayer for My Enemy

Open the eyes of my enemy, Lord,
that he might see,
Your wish for him,
Your wish for me.

Open the ears of my enemy, Lord,
that he might hear,
Your voice of love,
is always near.

Open the mind of my enemy, Lord,
that he might know,
the time for peace,
is now to show.

Open the heart of my enemy, Lord,
that he might feel,
Your fulsome love,
not false but real.

Open the soul of my enemy, Lord,
that he might learn,
Your wish for him,
to You return.

Like Paul before,
upon the ground,
it's time he hear,
My Lord's true sound.

Show the false word to him,
that he may know,
Damascus then,
is ever so.

Note to readers: This prayer was written before the author was aware of the 2007 theatrical play of the same name written by Craig Lucas.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Duty for Rational Discernment of Divine Revelation

The Duty for Rational Discernment of Divine Revelation is the first obligation we have towards God once we choose to believe in His existence. We were created as thinking, rational beings, and God expects us to use our intellect to attempt to understand and determine how He wants us to conduct our lives.

Rational discernment consists of study, reading, prayer, discussion, and fellowship. We cannot expect to know God's will in its entirety -- because we, as humans, are limited in our ability to comprehend Him. We can, however, understand parts of His will, and we must attempt to do so in good faith.

This duty is especially significant for believers in a 21st Century world of instant communications. Thomas Aquinas, writing in the 13th Century, felt that man was too limited in intellectual capability to undertake such a project, and must simply accept Divine Revelation as such. Eight centuries later, the ideas of Aquinas remain powerful, yet not sufficiently relevant to our current world.

The concept of The Duty for Rational Discernment of Divine Revelation has arisen in the context of the new book I am co-authoring with Dr. Rashid Ahmad, Abrahamic Small Groups.

Muslims, Christians, and Jews, for the most part, have little difficulty in agreeing that there is One True God. The Argument from Design is as powerful to Muslims as it is to Christians.

The problem comes in discerning what the will of that One True God is.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Syrian Government Bans Facebook !

In a classic example of how authoritian Middle East governments are disconnected from the march of progress, Syrian dictator Assad has banned Facebook !

The heavy handed ban on the free exchange of information and ideas took place on November 18, 2007, and there is no sign that Assad will relent. It seems the Syrian Government is fearful that Israeli citizens are actually joining Facebook Groups created by Syrians.

It will be interesting to see how long it will take Facebook techies to help Syrians evade this governmental ban. Equally interesting will be the official corporate response from Facebook.

Mitt Romney's Speech on Religion in America

If you missed Mitt Romney's historic speech on Religion in America, which he delivered yesterday at the George H. W. Bush Library in Texas, you can see the text of it here, courtesy of the New York Times.

For those of you who are still skeptical of the Red State/Blue State divide in this country today, just browse through the comments on the speech made by readers of the Times.

Did they read the same speech I did ?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Distribution of the Jewish Population in the United States

Here's an interesting map showing the distribution of the Jewish population of the United States, according to the 2000 US Census.

If you compare this map to the one I posted yesterday showing the distribution of the Muslim population of the United States, you will see that the population concentrations of the two faiths seem to coincide along the following areas:

* Along the Boston-Washington corridor

* Detroit, Michigan

* Los Angeles, Californian

* San Francisco, California

* Houston and Dallas, Texas

* Denver, Colorado

* South Florida

Monday, December 03, 2007

Teddy Bears and Terrorists

It's hard to find much in the way of good news to come out of the recent events in Sudan, in which a rather hapless middle aged English woman, Gillian Gibbons, was convicted and sentenced to be flogged for allowing her students to name their class teddy bear Muhammed.

Being a "glass half full" kind of guy by nature, I'll hazard two things that were marginally positive in an otherwise dreadfully surreal set of events.

1. It could have been much worse.

2. Muslim British Members of Parliament played a role in securing Ms. Gibbons' release. (Thankfully, she is reported to be out of the country now).

I'll grant the possibility that the entire Muslim MP intervention to save the day may have been suspiciously well choreographed. A conspiracy theorist might even suggest the entire matter was planned from Day One.

Putting aside the skepticism for the moment, if we posit that all the parties involved were authentic in their positions, the trial, protests, and negotiations for release of Ms. Gibbons all tend to confirm the basic premise behind Abrahamic Small Groups:

Western Muslims can and should play a leadership role in guiding their unhinged brethren back into a realm that is closer to the range of reason.

Fundamentally though, the cries of the out of control Sudanese Muslim crowds to put Ms. Gibbons to death for such an inadvertent and minor offense to Muslim sensibilities brings back all the bad memories of the long list of irrational and violent terrorist activities of Islamists around the world.

September 11, 2001 was, of course, the most memorable of such events, but by no means the first, nor will it be the last. And, the likelihood that it will stand out as the most violent event in the history of Islamist terrorism seems to be entirely problematic.

The suspicion from this armchair in North America is that the frenzied whipping up of this crowd is part of a localized political agenda in Sudan as much as it is of religious fervor.

The American Muslim scholar Muqtedahr Kahn, who has of late generated some controversy of his own, put the controversy in an interesting light with a recent comment on the topic:

Most Muslims have great fervor for Islam, but little knowledge of it.

The fear, of course, is that greater knowledge of Islam may do little to tone down the unhinged craziness of certain Muslim crowds in Sudan, or the suburbs of Paris for that matter. Critics such as Sam Harris and others argue that greater knowledge of Islam will only increase such craziness.

The hope of many of us non-Muslims is that greater knowledge of Islam will have exactly the opposite effect.

Distribution of the Muslim Population of the United States

Doing research for my new book Abrahamic Small Groups, which I am writing with Dr. Rashid Ahmad, I ran across this interesting map, which uses 2000 US Census Data to show the distribution of the American Muslim population.