Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Crossed Pond Reports From Kansas City

The blogger Rojas of The Crossed Pond heeded my call for volunteers, and went to the First Freedom seminar in Kansas City today.

He has written a lengthy and informative report, “The Kansas City First Freedom Seminar, or How I Stopped the Jihad”. I’ll just excerpt a few pieces of it here.

I did in fact attend the event. As a result, you will have noticed, the US was not transformed today into a brutal Islamic dictatorship writhing in the vice-like grip of Shar’i’a law.

So, clearly, I succeeded.

A brief note before a somewhat snarky post: I do in fact regard the global Islamist movement, and the attempts by some western nations to accomodate it, as a substantial threat to western liberty; Brad and Adam will be familiar with my ravings at another site regarding the affair of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons. I did, however, enter this event somewhat skeptical of the thesis that Alberto Gonzales’s cabinet department was being overrun by advocates of submission to Allah’s will, and none of what I saw today changed my mind. The DOJ representatives present were all well-informed on the issues and seemed considerably more interested in informing the audience about the details of civil rights law pertaining to religious practice than in advocating any kind of agenda regarding reform of the law. Indeed, when invited specifically to comment upon the hate crimes legislation currently before Congress, the panel declined in toto to express an opinion. As Eric Treene, the DOJ’s Special Counsel for Religious Discrimination commented, “we’re attorneys in law enforcement and do not comment on pending legislation.”

He seems to think we were overreacting in our alarm about this seminar, and perhaps we were. But it’s always better to be too alarmed than not alarmed enough!

There have been concerns expressed in a variety of fora (including the GoV link above) that agencies such as the Council of American-Islamic Relations have been attempting to coopt the First Freedom agenda in order to cast aspersions upon legitimate criticisms of Islam. I have to say that I saw very, very little indication of that. The closest instance came near the end of the presentation, when a group of DOJ community relations specialist distributed a “Quiz on Muslims and Islam” authored by the Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Task Force (now known as SALDEF.) As an educator, it’s not hard for me to identify when a “quiz” is intended to re-educate its takers about a subject, and this was certainly such a quiz. As re-education efforts go, though, this was not a particularly pernicious one. I don’t think that pointing out, for instance, that Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation, can be considered to be part of an effort to force Americans to accomodate a radical Islamic agenda. The entire enterprise came off as more patronizing than misleading. Nor, to my knowledge, is SALDEF an organization that makes excuses for terrorist actions, as could be said of CAIR. In fact, I’d argue that Sikhs have had it pretty rough since 9/11, as they are among the most easily identifiable practicitioners of Islam, yet practice a school of thought that is specifically divorced from Wahabi ideology and which is historically no more inclined to terrorist tactics than any Christian denomination you’d care to name (the Indira Gandhi business being a prominent but atypical example).

Just a minor correction here: the Sikh religion is not a form of Islam; it is a reaction to Islam, a response of the indigenous population of the Indian subcontinent to the Moghul conquests.
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Another complaint that has been raised regarding the “First Freedom” project is that it seems to subordinate speech rights to those of religious practice; the tone of the discussion in the blogosphere suggests concern that this might indicate a trend to criminalize criticism of religion. To some extent the rhetoric of the First Freedom folks has lent credence to this concern; the opening remarks of Mr. Treene dwelt uncomfortably on the point that the framers of the constitution chose to list freedom of religious practice BEFORE the freedom of speech when writing the first amendment (hence “First Freedom”). When this point came into question, however-by a bearded, emphatic, Madison-quoting audience member who bore a stunning resemblence to former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop-the panel was quick to clarify that the “first” designation was for rhetorical purposes only.

Be that as it may, the DOJ’s expressed positions on the issues discussed did at times strike me as potentially dangerous to speech…

What was particularly interesting was Kappelhoff’s discussion of federalism concerns related to hate-crimes legislation. In discussion of the Church Arson Prevention Act (18 USC 247), Kappelhoff acknowledged that the act explicitly required that the offenses in question have an affect on interstate commerce. In his words, however, DOJ attorneys “have become very creative in our ways of establishing an affect on interstate commerce” in order to justify their prosecutions. I am not comforted by the idea that federal prosecutors consider it part of their job to make end-runs around the written intent of the legislation they are asked to enforce, particularly when the effort is a deliberate attempt to federalize what might legitimately be considered a state issue. I am still less comforted by the fact that said attorneys take pride in celebrating this practice at public seminars. One need not sympathize with hate groups to feel uncomfortable about the prospect of the government’s prosecutorial tactics coming untethered from the law.

Exactly.

Apparently, I was not alone in my concern with the strident tone of the government’s representatives regarding hate crimes. When commenter Bev Ehlen expressed the concern that “we should prosecute the crime itself, not the motive,” she recieved loud applause throughout the room. It should be noted that the panelists themselves were quick to agree with her sentiment. It may well be that the somewhat heated rhetoric of the attorneys in question is not indicative of their approach to prosecution. We should hope so.

But Rojas is sanguine about the overall thrust of the DOJ’s efforts:

On the whole, and despite the concerns listed above, I came away with the impression that the First Freedom project is on balance a pretty good idea; certainly it isn’t some kind of fifth column for madcap Islamism. In fact, I’m inclined to think that more liberals than conservatives would object; the whole process struck me as an attempt to expand appreciation for the free exercise clause of the first amendment, which is generally something of which conservatives tend to approve.

If that’s all that it is, then I will withdraw my alarm, and rest content with the efforts of our Department of Justice.

Be that as it may, though: I want it noted that when Kansas City needed counterjihad volunteers, it was ME that stemmed the advancing tide, damnit. The way I figure it, that makes me the new Charles Martel.

You people owe me. Big time.

OK, OK, Chuck! Do you want that in twenties or fifties?

Go over to The Crossed Pond and read the rest.

14 comments:

Papa Ray said...

"Watched weasles will watch their wickness."

Or so I remember the phrase.

On a related note, wanted to make sure you knew about this:

http://www.mappingsharia.us/

FYI

Papa Ray

Anonymous said...

So Sikhism is 'a variant' of Islam? Oh... I'd just love to be a fly on the wall when he tells that to a temple full of Sikhs. Better yet, he could tell a room-full of Indian Sikhs that there's really no difference between them and Pakistani moslems. I'm sure that'd go down really well.

Subvet said...

I know this guy means well but the confusion on the point of Sikhism being a form of Islam takes away his credibility.

Knowing the enemy is one of the first things we ALL need to do!

Qatri said...

Hi All,

This is my first comment but a regular reader of GoV,About the Sikhs, please let there be absolutely no confusion, the difference between them is like heaven and earth. We had a good laugh though!But this can get serious.

Take Care, Adrian

crossed said...

The confusion over Sikhism and Islam has seemed to me to be significantly increased thanks to Bin Laden and his beard and turban get-up. I recall that a Sikh was one of the first victims of retaliatory violence in the UK, after the WTC and Pentagon attacks.

Nevertheless, Rojas should clearly have known better. We will send him to DOJ re-education camps until he can identify all major religious groups and sub-denominations by touch alone.

Kaptaan said...

I just read your post and have to tell you that it is quite surprising that somebody would actually misrepresent SALDEF to such an extent. They are actually trying to point out to Americans that Sikhs in fact are NOT Muslims or anything other than just plain Sikh, without casting asperions on Muslims, or saying that it's okay to discriminate against Muslims and not Sikhs. If you want to read the opinions at a Sikh blog you can do so at Singh on the World

Qatri said...

"Nevertheless, Rojas should clearly have known better. We will send him to DOJ re-education camps until he can identify all major religious groups and sub-denominations by touch alone".

It is this arrogance mixed with ignorance exhibited by some of you that makes me doubt about your intentions when commented on such issues as to the differences between religions and religious symbols, so casually! How can any one not tell the difference between the rag on OBL's head and the turban that a sikh wears? its not like telling the difference between a catholic and a protestant, where as you need more than a "touch alone" to tell the difference.

crossed said...

qatri, it was a joke against my co-blogger, Rojas.

Hoho.

See, you're laughing inside.

crossed said...

Furthermore, I know that Rojas himself is upset that he made that mistake.

Myself, I think it's pretty funny.

Kaptaan said...

All, I contacted SALDEF and basically they said that no one from their organization attended & handed out the brochures as a quiz and that what was handed out was a brochure put together by the DoJ, SALDEF (a Sikh American Org), and Cross Currents (a muslim/ arab organization). SALDEF put together the part about Sikh Americans, NOT the part about Muslims.... which presumably was Cross Currents part...

Qatri said...

crossed, yeah, that was funny and we did have a good laugh! Incase there are any english out there, there is a sikh playing in your national cricket team - Mr.Monty panesar.

gun-totin-wacko said...

I used to work in a field that required a lot of visits to party stores. I have to admit if I see a Sikh, I can't tell from the turban what he is. However, it should be pointed out that (and this is my general observation) the Sikh mode of dress is different than the average Middle Easterner.

Not that it ever mattered to me, but if I saw a man with a beard, a turban, and what sounded like an Indian accent I generally would, if pressed, have thought "Sikh". If not, I guess I would think otherwise, based on what I saw and heard in the store.

All that being said, I recall shortly after 9/11, going into a store and seeing a sign on the door explaining that the owners were not Muslim but Sikh, and stating that the Sikh people oppose violence against all people, and condemn terrorism.

Apparently the sign was posted after they were subjected to some verbal abuse and had a window smashed.

All that being said, I thought the Sikhs long held a reputation as fierce warriors. It must be true, as Flashman says so!

crossed said...

qatri, I am British and a big fan of Panesar, who apart from being a great spinner also seems like a very nice bloke.

Rojas, however, is not British but, rather, condemned to live his life in Kansas where he will never know the joy of cricket nor, indeed, of watching Panesar bowl with those enormous hands of his.

I would say that, in general, British people are significantly more familiar with various groups from subcontinental Asia (the groups that are generally called 'asian' in the UK, as opposed to what 'asian' means here in the US) than are Americans, for relatively obvious reasons.

One should read Rojas' post as a report from a libertarian observer; yes, as he apologised for over at theCrossedPond, he was in error about Sikhs (which error was increased, I think, because the Sikh and moslem material was in the same booklet) but his primary interest is not expertise in World Affairs but, rather, libertarian issues such as Freedom of Speech, about which he is very much more knowledgeable than I ('I' being the person who blogs at TCP as 'Adam').

It may be that, in this case, his interests do not always align with some of the readers of this particular blog, although in this particular case I think that they do.

And anyhow, you all owe him some thanks for stopping the Jihad at the very gates of the World Capital of Bad Professional Sports, Kansas City.

Qatri said...

crossed, if thanks is what it will take to show my appreciation to rojas for "stopping" the jihad, then thank you it is rojas, although i must say, the enemy you see is not the enemy you are fighting. I am definately not an expert in these matters, but i strongly feel there is much more that needs to be done if this has to be stopped. And a good place to start is the United States Of America. Stop patronising the enemy! and to the people of the united states, please wake up and be more vocal about what you feel and think!