Sunday, September 30, 2012

It Has To Stop

Ever since the release by an American citizen of an anti-Islam film, Muslims around the world have been rioting, targeting American interests in particular. Whether the protests are because of the video or the video is just a pretext for attacks is debatable.

However, it seems that American embassies are not the only things in the cross-hairs. Today in Bangladesh, Muslim protesters burned Buddhist temples and homes after complaining that a Buddhist man had insulted Islam.

This is beginning to get ridiculous. Well, it has always been ridiculous, and I just feel like something needs to be said. The interesting thing is that Islam itself seems to be the main religion most forgiving of blasphemy. According to Leviticus 24:16 of the Christian Bible,
"And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death."
The Bible clearly sets a death penalty for blasphemy; furthermore, it is discussed in multiple places throughout the Bible as being unforgivable:
Mark 3:29 - But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.
Luke 12:10 - And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 
These are just two examples. Judaism has similar teachings; for example, the Leviticus passage is part of the Torah as well. What's more, Israel has current laws punishing blasphemy:
Insult to religion
170. If a person destroys, damages or desecrates a place of worship or any object which is held sacred by a group of persons, with the intention of reviling their religion, or in the knowledge that they are liable to deem that act an insult to their religion, then the one is liable to three years imprisonment.
Injury to religious sentiment

173. If a person does any of the following, then the one is liable to one year imprisonment:
(1) One publishes a publication that is liable to crudely offend the religious faith or sentiment of others;
(2) One voices in a public place and in the hearing of another person any word or sound that is liable to crudely offend the religious faith or sentiment of others.
 Maybe not as extreme as those suggested by Leviticus, but it's definitely nontrivial.

So, you must be thinking: wow, if Christianity and Judaism do that, the Quran must take it to another level. In fact, on the subject of blasphemy, the Quran says...

...wait for it...


That's right, the Quran, the holy book of Islam, says nothing about blasphemy. Furthermore, the hadith, the teachings attributed to the prophet Muhammad, also say nothing on the topic. How can this be? It seems that Muslim jurists created the offense of and punishment for blasphemy, and added it to the Sharia law. Punishment for blasphemy has nothing to do with Islam, and everything to do with the extremists doing everything they can to control the masses. It's easier to control everyone when they are only allowed to think one way.

Unfortunately for many common citizens in the Middle East, this is the only way of life they know. The teaching of the religion is so closely tied into the Sharia construct that it's hard to tell the difference. The radicals in charge are in complete control of the masses; because the "sin" of blasphemy is so ingrained in the everyday Muslim, all the leaders have to do is point to a target to send the masses into a riotous frenzy. The people don't know any better; not only are they used to blasphemy being handled in such a way, but it must go through their mind that if they don't react violently to an offense, will they be seen as sympathetic to it and therefore a blasphemer themselves? And so they riot, and destroy, and kill. It's a vicious cycle that doesn't seem likely to stop anytime soon.

As much as we in America would like to, we can't blame Islam. We can't blame Muslims in general. In fact, the religion of Islam itself is the one thing that can correctly be said to not be a contributing factor to this mess at all. We need to fix the situation in the Middle East, but to do that, we must first understand the situation. We cannot paint all Muslims with a broad brush. The average Muslim is no different from you or I in principle. The line of thought that "all Muslims are terrorists" or "Islam is a hateful religion" only serves to add to the chaos in the world. I write this article so that we can better understand the situation, because without knowledge, we are no better than those we rail against.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Not-So-Civil View On Civil Rights

civil rights (n): Personal liberties that belong to an individual, owing to his or her status as a citizen or resident of a particular country or community.

With that out of the way, I'd like to direct you to Ann Coulter's comments on who deserves civil rights.

I'll give you a moment to recover from your shock.


Ready? Okay.

While there are many good choices, I think this was my favorite quote:
"We don't owe the homeless. We don't owe feminists. We don't owe women who are desirous of having abortions or gays who want to get married to one another. That's what civil rights has become for much of the left."
So it seems that, in Ann Coulter's mind, a certain class of people deserve equal rights only if they have been enslaved in the past. I could go on a diatribe explaining why this is categorically ridiculous, but I'm not sure Miss Coulter leaves anything to be said. The fact that she thinks rights are some sort of currency to be doled out based on the degree to which a class was repressed is nonsensical. Whether or not this is more crazy than the fact that she seems to believe that immigrants, women, and homosexuals have never been repressed is debatable. Miss Coulter's ignorance of who deserves rights is surpassed only by her blatant disregard for current and historical events.

I don't think it possible for anyone to defend Miss Coulter's remarks. Whether or not you are pro-choice, whether or not you agree with gay marriage, no matter your beliefs on immigration, you cannot possibly believe that personal liberties and freedoms should be bargaining chips to be used as payment to bury the past. Shame on Miss Coulter for her remarks, and I believe that she should apologize: not to women, or gays, or immigrants, but to all Americans who should be offended that a woman who claims to be an American can have this sort of view on civil rights.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Forgetting the 47%

We've all seen the video clip by now, with Mitt Romney discussing how he feels about voters who support President Obama:

Romney has since doubled down on his comments, while allowing that they "were not elegantly stated". I suppose that's smart; he'd have a hard time trying to explain that he didn't really mean what he said. After all, the comments were made during a private fundraiser that was not supposed to be filmed, which would seem to be a perfect setting to speak candidly about what he really believes.

Most people shouldn't be surprised that Romney feels this way. By now we are all well aware of his total and utter disconnect from the issues that trouble anyone not at the very top of the income spectrum. His "lower the rates and broaden the base" statement is about the only concrete piece of policy we've heard from him in the entire campaign. Apparently, the 47% of people who owe no income tax each year are all completely dependent on entitlements, and have no desire to move up the economic ladder.

After all, we all know that the 50% of recent college graduates that can't find a job are just sitting back and loving it. The elderly who receive no income could be in the factory working their butts off, but they just think they're too good for that type of work. And soldiers? They think that just because they're on the front lines of the War that Never Ends that they should be exempt from getting a real job and actually doing something for their country? Please.

Humorously, many of the 47% that Romney has such contempt for are probably supporters of his. Seniors have tended to back the GOP for some time now. The military will always have a strong connection to the party that can't cut a penny from defense spending (even though our military spending is more than the next twenty largest military spenders combined). Many southern states that back the Republicans based on religious and social considerations (the "Bible Belt") are among the poorest states in the nation.

The former governor's comments are ridiculous in every sense of the word. He has tried some damage control, but cannot stop himself from saying stupid things. As quoted in this article, Romney believes that his comments underscore his effort to "focus on the people in middle". How are you focusing on the middle of the country if you have thrown out nearly half of it? The hits just keep coming in an interview with Fox News:
"There are a number of retirees and members of the military and so forth who aren't paying taxes and that's how it should be. 
"But I do believe we should have enough jobs and take-home pay such that people have the privilege of higher incomes that allow them to be paying taxes. 
"I think people would like to be paying taxes. The good news is if you're doing well enough financially that you can pay a tax. And the problem right now is you see in this country so many people have fallen into poverty that they're not paying taxes they have to rely on government and the right course to help them is not just to have government handing out but instead government helping people to get back to good jobs."

It's funny how in one breath you can stand by your comments, and in your explanation, you completely change what the comments said in the first place. The quoted remarks are clearly in direct conflict with the position that the 47% of people who do not owe income taxes are dependent on government and do not want to take responsibility.

We all knew how Mitt Romney felt. Still, there's something sickening about hearing it come so bluntly out of his own mouth. It saddens me that a man such as this can be so close to becoming the President of the United States of America.