Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Sunday Return Roundup

Jill's been out of town this week, which means we missed both Project Runway and Hell's Kitchen. Tonight will be epic.

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Tennessee Mosque opponents plan to argue that Islam is not a religion.

Pam Geller is, as Jeffrey Goldberg correctly adduces, a "vile, racist creature".

A Colorado woman is charged with destroying a controversial piece of art which she says demeaned Jesus.

Dana Milbank argues that Glenn Beck is the conspiracy-theorists go-to source for mainstream validation.

Jon Chait shoots down a ridiculous Christopher Hitchens post attributing the passage of a resolution condemning the Armenian genocide to the nefarious "Isreal Lobby". I'd also refer back to this post.

I find it quite outrageous the fury with which some Orthodox groups react to calling ordained (whoops, apparently that word is taboo too) female religious leaders "Rabbas".


PG said...

Did I miss something egregiously racist that Geller said in the Times interview, or are you and Goldberg making this assessment based on other sources? As I recall, the NYT article makes note of her religiously bigoted statements, but I didn't recall her going off on Ayrahbs or whathaveyou.

joe said...

PG, what do you define as racism? Does it need to be a belief in some hardwired genetic inferiority? To me, belief in cultural inferiority can certainly be enough.

N. Friedman said...

The statement from the demagogic Ms. Geller probably owes its origin to the famous scholar of Islam, Ibn Warraq, who said that, while there are moderate Muslims, there is no moderate Islam. That is Warraq's view. It is also the view of my Hindu friends.

For what it is worth, were one to say that Classical Judaism - as opposed to Reform Judaism - is not a moderate religion, I would say that is correct although there are clearly moderate Jews. I think one could also say the same about certain branches of Christianity and the followers of those branches.

Which is to say, PG wishes to turn arguable observations into racism. That is a major mistake. Islam is a set of ideas. They may or may not be moderate ideas. The followers, of course, are free to choose which ideas to follow (or not follow).

PG said...

I think that religion is sufficiently distinct from race that it's often inaccurate to say someone is being racist if she's actually going off on someone's religion.

E.g., Indian people are basically the same race, so when Hindus are going off on Muslims, I don't think they're being racist -- these are people who, with the exception of religion, share the same culture and much of the same history. The only way in which it's possibly racist is if the Hindus try to make claims about how the Muslims aren't *really* Indian because the only true Indians are Hindus.

And of course, people of the same religion can be racist toward one another (look at how South Asian Muslims who are guest workers in the Middle East are treated).

PG said...

N. Friedman, did you miss my comment in another thread where I pointed out that you routinely ignore what I've actually instead in order to tell me I've said something else? Here you go again: where I'm actually DEFENDING Geller from the accusation she's a racist, you declare "Which is to say, PG wishes to turn arguable observations into racism."

Seriously, dude, listen to yourself. Also, please don't drag Hindus as a group into your issues with Islam. Most of us get along with Muslims just fine, and were historically doing so in India in the 19thC. before the British found it useful to have Indians fight each other in order to keep them too busy to kick the colonizers out.

N. Friedman said...


Fine. I thought I read your comment correctly.

I do not wish to get into a discussion about India but I shall make one point - to add a bit of fact to the discussion.

It is simply not the case that, pre-Britain, all was well between Muslims and Hindus in India. Consider: the bloodiest wars in all history, pre-WWII, occurred in the effort of Muslims to gain control of as much of India as they could. As many as 80 million Hindus and Buddhists were butchered, according to scholarly studies.

That was the way of the world, once upon a time. But, eliding that history from how Muslims and Hindus understood themselves and treated each other in India is rather odd. No. Peace was not how things were before the British showed up. The norm was hostility, one group feeling it had been overridden and the other group thinking it was hated for no good reason.

joe said...

PG, among other things Geller is a birther. And if birtherism isn't a clear intersection of racial and religious prejudice, I don't know what is.

N. Friedman said...


I think the birther issue persists in part due to the publication of a Certification of Live Birth for Obama, which some claim, quite incorrectly, is not sufficient evidence of birth in Hawaii although it is, according to Hawaiian law, not quite the same as a Certificate of Live Birth - i.e. a true birth certificate. People, of course, see what they want to see.

Perhaps, there is racism involved in the issue. Perhaps, it is the mysteries that keep surrounding how Obama acts as president. Evidently, there are lots of people who think him a secret Muslim even though he hung out for years in the church of a Christian preacher - one rightly called a racist and Hamas supporting Antisemite.

So, clearly, something peculiar is at work here - driven by some racists and by issues that are peculiar to Obama's history and actions.

joe said...

Evidently, there are lots of people who think him a secret Muslim even though he hung out for years in the church of a Christian preacher - one rightly called a racist and Hamas supporting Antisemite.

How does this "peculiar" part of Obama's history at all mitigate racism?

On the contrary, it illustrates racism. Wright is branded a Scary Black Man in white discourse, so by the transitive property of Scary Black Men he might as well be from the Nation of Islam. So Obama might as well be a Muslim. These prejudices go hand in hand. Yes, people see what they want to see... and that's an integral part of racial prejudice.

N. Friedman said...


I did not attempt to "mitigate" racism against Obama. I merely noted that there was more than one cause for the Birther phenomena and that not all of the factors are racial - just some of them.

My point about hanging out in Wright's racist/Antisemitic church was that, while people claim Obama a Muslim, it is reasonably unlikely that a believing Muslim would join a church and raise his children in that church. That seems to be pretty convincing evidence that Obama is a Christian, in my view.

Others see it as evidence that he is practicing taqqiyya, which while it, of course, not inconceivable, nonetheless seems pretty hard to take seriously. That may be because Obama chose, while running, to disown his middle name only to emphasize it once he was elected - which makes people correctly think he rather deceptive, if not a liar.

As for Wright... He is an old fashioned racist and Hamas loving Antisemite - a black version of Father Coughlin. Obama gets no points for the association. If anything, it makes people reasonably ask, given all the things about which Obama has been less than upfront about, what are his real beliefs or is he just a Chas Freeman type (i.e. the Chas Freeman who sided against the Bonus Army and sided with the Chinese crackdown at Tienanmen Square), believing in political expediency as his principle.

PG said...

I once discussed with a conservative who is not a birther whether it was possible to be a birther without being racist. We finally concluded that if you're a birther, you weren't necessarily racist, but you're almost certainly xenophobic (otherwise, the fact of Obama's having a foreign-born father and having spent much of his youth overseas wouldn't freak you out).

My (white, American going back for generations) conservative friend thinks there's a huge difference between xenophobia and racism; having a different life story, I don't see as much of a distinction.

N. Friedman said...


I do not see a big distinction in practice between xenophobia and racism either.

The real issue here is what drives the Birther phenomena. I think it is a number of things, some racist and some not. Xenophobia might be an element as well. As I noted: the President has done a great deal to make matters worse.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't it be "rabbot"?