Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wrigleyville Bomb Plot: Nothing Happening Here, Folks.....Just Move Along !

Yesterday, the press revealed that Sami Samir Hassoun, a Lebanese-born legal resident of the US, planted a bomb in the Wrigleyville neighborhood right around the time a concert was letting out, when the clubs and bars in the area would be most crowded.

Unbeknownst to Hassoun, the bomb was a fake. A year ago, the FBI had intercepted Hassoun's plans to terrorize Chicago. (These plans included poisoning the water supply, assassinating Mayor Daley, and destroying the Willis (Sears) Tower.) Agents posed as co-conspirators and built a case against Hassoun, which was all supposed to have come to a head last Saturday night. Instead of blowing apart several hundred people and demolishing buildings, Hassoun was arrested.

The news stories (we watched ABC/Channel 7) were all very careful to point out that Hassoun had NO affiliation with any group or ideology. How odd that they would go out of their way to mention this...if they didn't have information on Hassouns motives, that's one thing. But to deliberately say, this early in the case, that he did not have any specific motive aside from spreading  mayhem by mass murder, is irresponsible.

It's bad journalism, for one thing. You don't make a statement of fact before you have all the facts.

It's also insulting. Americans are no strangers to terrorism, and we know there is ALWAYS an ideology behind these acts. Even the Unabomber, crazy as he was, had one. Crimes of passion may be committed without sufficient reflection, but going to the trouble of procuring materials, researching methods and neighborhoods, etc., doesn't strike me as the work of a mind empty of any motive.

There are two possible reasons for making the "no ideology" statement.

One, the FBI has far more information than it is prepared to reveal at this point. That may be in order to keep the case against Hassoun strong, or it may be to deny him his soapbox. Videos of Muslim suicide bombers are creepy, but they all get lots of free publicity after they blow themselves up. If Hassoun has a similar performance floating around on YouTube,  why give him that kind of platform?

Or two: the media really thinks the public is stupid and will buy that Hassoun was just having a bad day, or a bad year. His animosity toward Mayor Daley is a bit over the top. Yes, we all hate the parking meter system. We all complain about the potholes that take forever for  city "workers" to repair. We make fun of what he says, like when he named "Uptown Sinclair" his favorite Chicago author. (Upton's more upscale, but less well-known brother?) As much as the average Chicagoan kvetches about Daley, I know of no one who actually wants this guy hurt--or dead. So that makes no sense.

And, newsflash! Daley isn't even running next term!

Hassoun did mention revolution, several times, but what sort of revolution remains murky....he played  coy as to who would actually come to power once the Mayor was out of the way.  Except that he seemed determined to eliminate the bar/club scene, so apparently he has some issue with alcohol consumption. Perhaps that's a clue ! I know teetotalers, too, but they usually don't try to blow up places that serve beer.

Here are some excerpts from the FBI complaint that was filed in federal court over Sami Samir Hassoun's plan to destroy much of Chicago:

" During their June 22, 2010 meeting, Hassoun told the CS that he had received a

package from relatives in Lebanon that, according to Hassoun, contained an Arabic language manual on how to construct non-traceable explosives. Hassoun further claimed the package contained certain metal parts to be used in the construction of an explosive device...he claimed that
his relatives would send additional parts"

Hmm....that's interesting! So he wasn't a lone wolf--he said he had relatives in Lebanon who were actively supporting this little endeavor. If Hassoun didn't have an ideology, what ideology did these relations have? Whatever it was, it was violent.

UC (a person involved in the sting):1 asked Hassoun about his motivation for the attack and whether he was concerned about those who would be hurt by such violence. Acknowledging the casualties that
would result from his plans, Hassoun stated that such losses were the inevitable result of “revolution,”  but that those costs were acceptable, especially in light of the “good” that could be
done if they were successful in the end.

Right here he comes out and says that the revolution IS being done for a purpose, and that is to replace the present system with one that is "good." Acceptable costs? Inevitable losses? Sounds like he's carrying out his plan to achieve a vision--but it doesn't sound like he's going to be the oagent of all this "good." It sounds like he's acting on behalf of some entity.

During their July 21, 2010 conversations, the UCs asked Hassoun about his motivation for engaging in these proposed attacks. UC-2 stated his purported purpose: “want[ing] to change how our country [i.e., the United States] treats our people back home.” In response, Hassoun stated that he was differently motivated: “Mine is a kind of a different concept than this.”Hassoun explained he saw attacking Chicago as a means of creating chaos to gain political control of the city and its sources of revenue.  The proposed participants’ differing motivations did not trouble Hassoun: “We’re the same, we’re the same boat altogether. We’re floating same boat, you know. . . . [W]e’re doing the same thing, but everybody has their own interest. Because you know why? The results of this is a benefit to everybody.”

The FBI agents allude to motives that may be nationalist in character. Hassoun distances himself from that idea, but then says they're "in the same boat." Which "boat" would that be?  

It's important to note that not every cause, although it may have features in common with other causes, is exactly the same.  The Taliban has different short-term goals than does Hamas. They may (as in the above statement) work together to achieve some of these ends, but the vision for specific changes is not necessarily identical. Hassoun may not care about the "people back home." His focus may not have anything to do with that, it may not be his battle.   His field may be restricted to what he can achieve in the US.

At one point during the video, Hassoun stopped a woman then unknown to him, as she was walking past him to ask her about the busiest entertainment districts in Chicago. The woman, a waitress in a local bar who is hereinafter identified as “Individual A,” agreed to be filmed as she named Chicago nightlife locations. Based on his questioning, it appeared that Hassoun was using this independent source to confirm that he had properly identified proposed targets for a terrorist attack. When watching the video with the UCs on August 16, 2010, Hassoun referred to his interaction with Individual A as “like God [was] opening the way.”

This is the most chilling statement of all, and a clear reference to the Qur'an's "straight path." Suddenly Hassoun the random non-idealogue sounds a lot like many of his spiritual brothers, 19 of whom, a little over nine years ago, were more successful in promoting their vision than our friend Hassoun.

Too bad the press was forced to report on this story at all--it's so embarrassing to have to apologize for the Religion of Peace, over and over and over and over. I'm sure this incident would have quietly gone away if someone hadn't been combing through motions filed (you notice nothing hit the news until after charges were brought in court).

Let's hope the FBI stays on top of the Hassouns among us.

And let's hope our media is kind enough to keep us informed.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

If the Mountain won't come to Mohammad, Mohammad must go to the Molehill...

The Chicago Sun-Times Media Wire  carried this story on Sept. 14th, 2010:

"Burned Quran found in front of Muslim center"

A burned copy of the Quran was found on the sidewalk outside a Muslim community center Monday in the Irving Park neighborhood on the Northwest Side.

At about 5 p.m. Monday, two young people attending services at the center found the burnt holy book on the sidewalk in the 4300 block of North Elston Avenue, police News Affairs Officer Veejay Zala said.

An online search shows the Muslim Community Center is located at 4380 N. Elston.

Grand Central Area detectives are investigating.

Anyone with any information should call the police Civil Rights Section at (312) 745-5827.

This was the first coverage I saw; other news outlets have since weighed in, including stories that lengthily quote CAIR spokesmen who obligingly explain Islamophobia.

Give me a break.

First, Chicagoans are being shot to death left and right. We have a cop shortage to begin with, and then the cops are among those being murdered. Yet apparently the Chicago Police Department has a couple of detectives to spare for this incident. (Hey, did they ever even catch the animals who gunned down the officer on the eve of his retirement? No matter: those detectives would be put to better use solving more pressing cases, like this one.)

Second, is it really illegal to burn the Qur'an? We've been through all this before with the Terry Jones Florida church issue. If burning the Qur'an were illegal, on any level, he would have had law enforcement lined up around his church for weeks, just waiting for the chance to slap the cuffs on him. 

Third, how is this a hate crime? And if you can give a general definition of a hate crime which is appropriate to this incident, is this universally applied? Ie., is the same penalty earned for the person who burns a Bible or a flag? If not, why not?

One of the comments posted about this incident mentioned that if the police are pursuing this as a hate crime, they're actually enforcing sharia.  That's pretty insightful.  If they're spending their time and resources tracking down someone who, while not a member of a certain religion, has nonetheless violated the precepts of said religion, then that's enforcing sharia. Well, why not? The Chicago Public Library is apparently doing so (see my previous post).

Fourth, how do we know this even happened? I have no doubt a Qur'an was found, and that it had been burned.  But who put it there? The building is heavily trafficked by Muslim worshippers, yet no one actually witnessed the book being dropped.  Teenagers supposedly found it. Hmm. Could the teenagers have planted the Qur'an and then alerted the media?

If you don't think that's likely, you might recall the Muslim student at St. Xavier University a few years ago. Her property was defaced, there was a big brouhaha over this having happened at a Catholic university, there was an investigation, and--if I remember correctly--the student body marched in her support.

Guess what? Under questioning, she admitted she was the person responsible! Wow. How embarrassing for the university, plus all those supportive students. I bet they felt dumb...which they should. Her motive was to call attention to Islamophobia--which, even when it doesn't exist!--is still such a pressing problem.

Earlier this year, a Muslim community center was torched. This was in Tennessee or Kentucky. Same protocol was followed: shock and horror expressed by a supportive community, an investigation, lots of press. Conclusion: it was an inside job by one of the Muslim worshippers. Do we see a pattern yet?

It's the Tawana Brawley Syndrome, used with exceptional finesse by organizations like CAIR. I don't know if CAIR is directly involved in this current case or not, but it sure has CAIR's fingerprints all over it. The publicity junkies at CAIR are already saturating the news media with accusations of Islamophobia.

Newsflash, CAIR: the American public is catching on to your tactics. And we're figuring out that where there's smoke, as with this Qur'an, there may not necessarily be fire.

Putting Rationality on the Back Burner

So the Qur'an pyre at the Florida church fizzled out before any books were burned.  On a basic level, that makes me happy: I never even highlight textbooks, so the willful destruction of the printed word makes me uneasy.

Not only that, but the reverend who orchestrated the whole event was, in a sense, preaching to the choir.  Pastor Terry Jones's statement--that the Qur'an contains a dangerous message--is already accepted by his congregation.  He would have had more of an impact if he had distributed Qur'ans to the uninformed non-Muslim public, with the advice to read it with the understanding that its words are taken literally by millions. That would have educated people who otherwise embrace watered-down synopses of the book which ignore some of its more uncomfortable decrees ("Slay unbelievers wherever you find them.").

Too many non-Muslims are quick to uncritically accept what they're told, third-hand, about Islam. And they're given comforting information by self-appointed Muslim theologians who dismiss any negative elements with the following arguments:

        --"That passage doesn't translate exactly. You can only understand it if you read it in the original Arabic."

        --"Well, YOUR Bible contains just as much violence. More, even!"

Those statements are not valid. I have addressed those two responses in previous blog entries.  Also, I don't know anyone who can take EVERY verse of Scripture, Bible or Qur'an,  literally, all the time. Even if you believe that the word of God has been given to us in perfect form, and therefore we should follow its teachings as closely as possible, we are not perfect beings. So, as for the devout and non-violent Muslim, if he were to go around slaying unbelievers wherever he finds them, we would all be in mortal danger every time we stepped out of the house. (That would ruin my enjoyment of kiftah kebab, because I would have to worry about being poisoned ! Not to mention being very hesitant to hail a cab.)

But getting back to Reverend Jones: he should not have concocted his plan, simply out of common courtesy. You can think what you want about another person's religion, but to go out of your way to mock it is just not gentlemanly behavior. Yes, there was an art exhibit that featured a crucifix immersed in urine, and that was disrespectful and disgusting. But the incident didn't give Jones precedent, it only put him in the category of the "artist" who thought he was making a creative statement. Does he like being in that company?

And yet common courtesy, and respect of another person's, or many people's--feelings should also encourage the 9/11 mosque developers to stand down. According to an imam I once spoke to, there is an obligation in Islam to refrain from doing anything that causes another person's distress. I don't know what the Arabic word is, or if it's in the Qur'an or one of the hadiths. But if that's true, why haven't the mosque developers observed this?

But Pastor Jones should have had the support of anyone crying "free speech." Where were these people?
Why didn't President Obama come out and say about Jones the same thing he said about the mosque: that he may not personally think it was such a hot--no pun intended--idea to burn Qur'ans, but that Jones did have the right to do so?

Well, for one thing, Obama just doesn't have the analytical skills he's often credited with. He probably didn't see the parallel.

But the worst reason, and the one that got the most play, was the huge panic over the effects the Qur'an burning would have: there would be rioting and killing! There would be bloodshed ! There would be violence, much of it directed at Americans, specifically, or Westerners, more generally (non-Muslim).

It's interesting that these concernes were most often expressed by people who promote themselves as being pro-Muslim/anti-Islamophobic. Read between the lines: You shouldn't burn the Qur'an, because it will cause violence--because Muslims, fundamentally, are violent, out-of-control people .

That's right: a limited event  halfway around the world by a pastor who is conisidered "fringe" by most American Christians, never mind Americans in general, will send Muslims into such a frenzy of violence that no one will be safe ! Therefore, Pastor Jones will have blood on his hands. Not the people who are actually committing these acts of violence, because they can't be expected to control themselves.

This pretty much says it all, because in fact the Qur'an burning did not take place, yet over a dozen people have been killed due to the possibility that it might have gone ahead. That's right: Jones didn't hold a match to a single page of the Qur'an, but Muslims in Afghanistan and Kashmir still felt compelled to go ballistic and murder people.

It's not the first time the threat of violence has been held up as a reason not to  "provoke" members of the Religion of Peace. An opera in Germany, a few years ago, went on the defensive and totally bowed to pressure because one of the characters was Mohammad, albeit respectfully portrayed. They were told to change their script or there will be blood. Don't forget Motoonism and the South Park issue! There were even actual riots and killings over parts of the Qur'an ripped out and flushed down a toilet at Guantanamo--even though that never happened, it was just a rumor. The list goes on and on, but it's all the same: If you offend Muslims, they will attack. therefore don't offend them. And they get the right to determine what's offensive, so unless you're willing to say only very positive things about Islam--shut up. If they take umbrage, their behavior will be your fault!

Anyone who works with troubled people, or animals, knows that ignoring threats of aggression is a recipe for disaster. Oh, the dog snarled at you and lifted his lip? Some owners think it's best not to "provoke" him, even by accident! Except eventually he will be provoked. And whose fault will that be, the trainer who tried to modify the unwanted behavior, or the owner who dismissed warnings as, "He's really a sweet animal, he doesn't need any correction."  The dog ends up running the house just because no one can set reasonable limits of behavior.

And haven't we all witnessed the toddler who, like Billy Mumy in the Twilight Zone, was able to send grown-ups "into the corn" ? You know the episode--everyone had to kowtow to him because he had the power to make people just vanish. How many families have you seen who have an out-of-control, spoiled and malicious kid who runs the show, because the THREAT of doing something violent keeps everyone in line? The parents and siblings who continue to placate this person don't teach him anything; they just enable bad behavior.

As a society, we're enablers, too.  We tolerate, and excuse, threats of bad behavior if the offended party says the magic word, "religion." Suddenly, like the passive mean-dog owner or the fearful parent, we figuratively roll on our backs to display submission.

That's why the idea of violence over the Qur'an burning should have been given no life by the military, by the media, or by our Commander-in-Chief.

And it's why the threat of violence should never be a reason to roll over. It should, instead, give us reason to assert our authority: violence will not be tolerated, and when encountered it will be dealt with decisively.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

9/11 + 9

Yesterday marked the 9th anniversary of the jihadist attack on the United States: an attack that was about as Muslim as the College of Cardinals is Catholic. And yet the news coverage for the anniversary was amazingly apologetic to Muslims. Any mention of Islam has been purged from the media. If it is mentioned, there is a caveat that only a tiny percentage of Muslims harbor ill will toward the West.

It's creepy: it's as if the Twin Towers were sucked into the earth by an earthquake, or that this involved spontaneous combustion. It is now viewed as a natural disaster that just randomly affected thousands of people directly, and millions indirectly.

And yet, we know that the 19 actual hijackers who participated represented a huge, international movement dedicated to bringing down the West. They saw themselves, and were accepted by millions of fellow believers, as holy warriors acting in accordance with the Qur'an.

Did they represent the view of every Muslim in the world? Of course not. We all know that. But it is insulting to be told that you can't ever mention militant Islam without putting it in its larger context of civility. No: militant Islam is dangerous, it is growing, and it is cloaked by people, Muslim and non-Muslim, who keep trying to say its existence has been extinguished by the presence of non-militant Muslims.

I subscribe to the Chicago Tribune, and the front section contained stories that offered nothing but tea and sympathy for followers of Islam, with advice from our president on how to be kinder and gentler to our Muslim neighbors.

Yes, Barack, we've heard it all before. In fact, news features that focus on the poor beleaguered Muslim community have increased over the past few years, and the past few months they've been running more and more frequently. The tone of these articles is always the same: Muslim Americans are true-blue, yet inexplicably have been singled out for the most humiliating and vicious attacks EVER experienced by ANY sociocultural group in America.

I don't know how much loyalty the average Muslim would show to the US if actually pressed--the Fort Hood massacre springs to mind--but lots have gone on record to say they would never pick up arms against their Muslim brothers. (That's so weird, because the Muslim Iranians and the Muslim Iraqis were blowing each other to pieces for years. But whatever.)

However, for the sake of discussion, let's assume that the vast majority (we always have to talk about the Vast Majority of Muslims, such as, the vast majority that are moderate, the vast majority that love the US...) are fairly patriotic in a benign sort of way: law-abiding, tax-paying citizens who vote, buy American and eschew dressing in a way that broadcasts their religiopolitical agenda (ie, hijab).

And yet they endure daily torment for just being Muslim....people "look at them funny" (back in their countries of origin, this is known as "casting the evil eye")...people think they have strange names....people make terrorist jokes....the women go to K-Mart and strangers come up and YANK OFF THEIR HIJABS !

Yesterday's paper carried a story that was written by a member of CAIR (already, a conflict of interest, but that's how the Trib rolls these days) about young Muslims who feel vicitimized and pushed to the margins of high school society. And they had NOTHING to do with 9/11, so they don't get it.  But they deal with this daily abuse by contacting organizations like CAIR, which then help them set up Muslim youth groups so they can raise awareness and gain self-esteem, etc.

This is so creepy, it amazes me that the editors at the Trib allow these stories to run without question, yet shut down any ensuing discussion.

Because here's what's going on, and it's like a page out of a book called "How to Start a Homegrown Terrorist Cell":

1. Identify a group that feels marginalized.

2. Convince that group that they are really victims, that society as a whole really believes that they are horrible people.

3. Give them a new, stronger identity with a group that reinforces the idea that they are different. Emphasize those differences. Watch to see how that gels: the kid will feel more out of place, and angry about that, and people not in the group will see the anger and react negatively, which will fulfill that prophecy.

4. Involve an agency that bills itself as a civil rights advocacy group but which really has a shady  agendum.

5. Plant reporters who belong to the group in major press outlets so they can promote this propaganda and fan the flames of really feeling persecuted.

6. When these kids are really angry, but all grown up with jobs and money, watch to see what they do.

Adolescents often feel marginalized or "different." It's an awkward phase in most people's lives. Teasing a kid about their differences is obnoxious, but it's common, especially among boys. The person who is teased is allowed to tease back. I think hazing is stupid, but kidding is not necessarily malicious. Teenagers say dumb things, and if they're not told to knock it off, they can say things that are unintentionally mean. Or if they do say intentionally mean things, and it's hazing, adults need to be told so they can step in.

As for actual versus perceived cases of discrimination, I've pointed out before that something like a hijab is an in-your-face political statement, worn by women who often never wore it in their home countries, but who begin wearing it here in the US.  It is not religiously mandated; it's not cultural (or else why wait until they're here, or why do native-born Americans wear it?). It's political. And the political statement it makes is exactly the opposite of what the Vast Majority of Muslims supposedly want: it says, we are not part of your culture, we are different, we want to be treated differently--we want extra privileges, we want extra consideration, we want exceptions made for us. If you don't like that, too bad, we will make you look like a bully.

I think Americans are aware of this, and if they shun someone wearing hijab, it's the same as shunning someone who wears a white supremacist t-shirt. If you're not a white supremacist, and you think that's a terrible mindset, then shun away.

The one case I've ever come across regarding a woman having the hijab yanked from her head involved an incident in a department store. It was right after the Fort Hood massacre, and a shopper apparently reached her limit with this in-your-face display of superiority. She yanked off a Muslima's hijab, was arrested and forced to pay a fine. End of story.

Not! Because CAIR has been trotting out this incident, and multiplying it over and over. It's like that trick were you tell someone if they give you a penny, and double it the next day, and keep on doubling it for a whole month...you'll end up with millions of dollars. Well, that penny of the Hijabogate has been doubled about 15 times now.

I think that's all fake, and I wonder how many people really believe that it's happening out there.

I, for one, will not be yanking any hijabs. When I see women wearing them, I STEER CLEAR. Not because I think they're wearing an explosive suicide belt, but because I find them --not the Vast Majority, mind you!--about as attractive as white supremacists.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Justice according to the ISLAMIC Republic of Iran

As a woman in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Sakineh Ashtiani already occupied the lowest rung on the ladder, but her life got a lot worse after her husband died. Or was killed, actually.

As a widow, she--a consenting adult, although there's no such concept in the Islamic Republic--may or may not have had a sexual relationship with another adult. (Oh, and she was an "unwitting accomplice" in her husband's murder. But that's a recent development, and a minor issue compared to the adultery charge.)That's all based on hearsay and a confession that was blurted out after days and days of interrogation and possibly torture.

In a nightmare good news/bad news scenario, the bad news was that she was sentenced to death by stoning. The good news was that she was sentenced to, and received, 99 lashes. (Islamic law, in the Islamic Republic of Iran, specifies that these be carried out at "full force.") Presumably, this was instead of the stoning--but wait! The bad news that followed was that this is in addition to the stoning.

Good news: after her adult children appealed for mercy and brought international attention to the story, world opinion pressured the Islamic Republic's authorities to suspend the sentence until after Ramadan, and then--more good news!--although execution is still in the cards, it may be by hanging instead of stoning.

But then: bad news: a picture surfaced, and was published by a newspaper covering the story. It featured a women who looked like Ashtiani. This woman was not covering her hair. Again, according to Islamic law in the Islamic Republic, this is a big no-no. Sentence: 99 lashes. (Please pay attention, all of you who say, "Oh, but women are free to wear what they want in Islam, and it's such a good way to be modest and seen only for your inner beauty, etc. etc." Yeah, right.)

But, good news: this woman only resembled Ashtiani !

Bad news: by the time this information surfaced, the sentence had already been carried out.

Well, who can blame the Islamic authorities for this little mistake? If you've only ever seen a woman with her head covered, and then you see a woman who sort of looks like her but with all this hair, anyone could make an error! Oops.

Good news: the international campaign to have Ashtiani's sentence lifted is gaining momentum. Brazil has offered her asylum, the Pope is appealing to the Islamic Republic of Iran for mercy, and protests are being held outside the Islamic Republic's embassies.

Bad news: all this attention is just making the Islamic Republic's Islamic authorities really ticked off.

Stoning is a nasty way to go.  The victim is buried (for men, up to the waist; for women, up to above the breasts). The rocks have to meet a size requirement: too small, and the punishment isn't effective and takes forever; too large, and it's over too quickly, which detracts from the entertainment value. Essentially, the rocks have to be hefty enough to eventually crack the skull open when repeatedly whacked against the victim's head. If you don't see brains ooze out, you're not done yet.

Now, for anyone who says, "Oh stoning is cultural, not religious!" , I say, "Boy, have I got some great Florida swampland for sale to you!" Because it is totally religious. It is in the Islamic Republic's Islamic legal code, and it is imposed by Islamic authorities, and you can't get much more religious than that. Although it is mentioned in the Bible, and in the past was practiced by a number of cultures, stoning is now exclusively a Muslim punishment. In today's world, there are no non-Muslim countries which have this punishment on their books.

It's very interesting that one of God's 99 names, according to the Qur'an, is "God the most merciful." I don't know about that: maybe it should be replaced by "God the Most Sadistic."

At least in the Islamic Republic of Iran.