Charlie Hebdo and Islam

I’ve read a lot of interesting and good stuff on all this, but I do admit to being particularly frustrated by liberals who pretend that a killing where the killers should “God is Great” and “We have avenged the prophet” somehow has literally nothing to do with Islam.  Seriously?!  (And yes, I’m looking at you Ezra Klein and Nick Kristoff).  I was pleased to see that the Slate political gabfest triumvirate also wholeheartedly endorsed what I’ve seen as the best take on the matter, that from George Packer:

They are only the latest blows delivered by an ideology that has sought to achieve power through terror for decades. It’s the same ideology that sent Salman Rushdie into hiding for a decade under a death sentence for writing a novel, then killed his Japanese translator and tried to kill his Italian translator and Norwegian publisher. The ideology that murdered three thousand people in the U.S. on September 11, 2001. The one that butchered Theo van Gogh in the streets of Amsterdam, in 2004, for making a film. The one that has brought mass rape and slaughter to the cities and deserts of Syria and Iraq. That massacred a hundred and thirty-two children and thirteen adults in a school in Peshawar last month. That regularly kills so many Nigerians, especially young ones, that hardly anyone pays attention.

Because the ideology is the product of a major world religion, a lot of painstaking pretzel logic goes into trying to explain what the violence does, or doesn’t, have to do with Islam. Some well-meaning people tiptoe around the Islamic connection, claiming that the carnage has nothing to do with faith, or that Islam is a religion of peace, or that, at most, the violence represents a “distortion” of a great religion. [all emphases mine] (After suicide bombings in Baghdad, I grew used to hearing Iraqis say, “No Muslim would do this.”) Others want to lay the blame entirely on the theological content of Islam, as if other religions are more inherently peaceful—a notion belied by history as well as scripture.

A religion is not just a set of texts but the living beliefs and practices of its adherents. Islam today includes a substantial minority of believers who countenance, if they don’t actually carry out, a degree of violence in the application of their convictions that is currently unique.Charlie Hebdo had been nondenominational in its satire, sticking its finger into the sensitivities of Jews and Christians, too—but only Muslims responded with threats and acts of terrorism. For some believers, the violence serves a will to absolute power in the name of God, which is a form of totalitarianism called Islamism—politics as religion, religion as politics. “Allahu Akbar!” the killers shouted in the street outside Charlie Hebdo. They, at any rate, know what they’re about.

Is it really that hard to admit that this killing is very much about Islam without condemning Islam or all Muslims?  I’m so sick of false dichotomies in political discourse.  Anyway, not that I have any solutions or have read any particular good ones, but pretending that an event like this has nothing to do with Islam certainly does not help lead towards solutions.

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Just standing there

In one sense, the police killing of Tamir Rice seems somewhat more understandable in that there’s a person waving an (apparently real) gun around.  But you watch the video and it sure as hell seems they hardly gave the 12-year old boy a chance to do anything before a cop with a horrible record shot him (if this guy is not indicted, there really is no justice).  That said, I can see people debating that.  The police actions following the shooting, though, are absolutely horrible in many regards.  Starting with letting Tamir just like there bleeding to death with no attempt to provide aid (hmmm, disturbingly similar to some other cases).  But there’s more:

The two Cleveland police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was carrying a pellet gun, stood by without rendering medical aid as the boy lay wounded next to their patrol car, a newly released extended surveillance video shows.

Then, about a minute and a half after one officer had shot Tamir, the other officer tackled the boy’s 14-year-old sister as she tried to reach her brother. Tamir was shot Nov. 22 after someone called 911 to report “a guy” who had been pointing a “probably fake” pistol outside a community recreation center on Cleveland’s west side.

The video, which was obtained by the Northeast Ohio Media Group, seemed to clarify an issue in the shooting investigation: that the Cleveland officers provided no immediate medical assistance to Tamir, who was not pronounced dead until more than nine hours later at a Cleveland hospital…

It also confirmed the account that Tamir’s mother, Samaria Rice, told in the weeks after the shooting, that the police had tackled and detained her daughter as she rushed out of the recreation center, trying to reach her brother’s side.

After the second Cleveland officer, Frank Garmback, subdued Tamir’s sister — he pushed her to the ground back-first, tumbling on top of her in the process — the girl was handcuffed and put in the back of the police cruiser, a few feet from her brother.

The officers then stood by without tending to Tamir, the extended video showed. It was not until four minutes after the shooting, the video showed, that Tamir received medical assistance when another man was seen bent down next to him. According to the Rice family’s lawyer, Benjamin Crump, the man who provided the first medical assistance was an F.B.I. agent who was in the neighborhood.

I get that policing is a tough job, but this is really pretty appalling and when there is such bad policing, those involved need to be held accountable.

Security theater

I’ve long been of the opinion that the vast majority of the security checks that we go through at the airport are simply security theater and that any reasonably intelligent and determined bad guy of any kind could surely find a way past most all of this “security.”  Doing a full-body patdown of someone like me because my contact lens disinfectant solution has hydrogen peroxide in it is not exactly the best use of security resources.

Anyway, I figured there had to be easy shortcuts for the truly determined.  That said, I had no idea how absurdly easy those shortcuts could be:

As Brooklyn’s district attorney, Kenneth Thompson, discovered in arresting five men for gun smuggling last month, this turns out to be a security defect at most airports in the nation. Senator Charles Schumer is now sensibly calling on the Transportation Security Administration to mandate physical screening for all airport workers. Agency officials responded that they would look into whether new safeguards were needed. Now, each airport works out separate security requirements; very few, if any, require physical screening of the full array of workers like airplane cleaners, mechanics and baggage handlers, according to Mr. Schumer. The Atlanta scheme is particularly alarming because it operated for an estimated five years in various airports. “They could have easily put a bomb on one of those planes,” Mr. Thompsonnoted.

The district attorney described how Georgia’s “lax gun laws” allowed the baggage handler to buy weapons online without a background check. The handler carried the guns into work, free from any detector, and used his airport ID to take them through an employee entrance into the secure passenger area. There he would meet his accomplice in a men’s room and exchange guns for cash. The accomplice, previously cleared through check-in, would load up his carry-on and take weapons aboard, even as the pilots and flight crews had to go through detectors.

Seriously??!!  We go through all this absurd crap and meanwhile just because someone doesn’t have a criminal record (lots of bad guys have no criminal record) they can pretty easily get almost anything they want on an airplane.  What a depressing joke.

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