Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Alleged sexual abuse victims of youth volleyball coach Rick Butler receiving outpouring of support

By Christian Red
June 24, 2017

Rick Butler running a volleyball camp in Nebraska in 2014. (Stacie Scott/Lincoln Hournal Star)

The mental anxiety and dread she experienced from seeing her alleged abuser on the opposing sidelines this past week were no less severe than what Florida volleyball coach Sarah Powers-Barnhard endured a year ago at the same junior national championship tournament in Orlando.

“The anxiety was still big. It’s like Groundhog Day,” says Powers-Barnhard, a Jacksonville, Fla., volleyball club director whose teams played in the nationally-televised Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) girls’ volleyball tournament in Orlando, which ends Monday.
But while Powers-Barnhard had to brace herself for the uncomfortable moment when she would again be in the same arena and on the same court as Rick Butler, her former volleyball coach and the man Powers-Barnhard and several other women say sexually abused them when they were teenagers in the 1980s, Powers-Barnhard says she was buoyed this year by an outpouring of support on numerous fronts. That includes an online grassroots movement in which a Denver attorney is making sure the public knows about Butler’s past.
Butler, the owner of the Illinois-based Sports Performance Volleyball Club and an influential figure in the sport, received a lifetime ban from USA Volleyball (the sport’s national governing body) in 1995 after Powers-Barnhard and two other women testified against him before a USAV ethics panel that same year. However, Butler was reinstated by USAV only five years later, in 2000, in an administrative role. Butler acknowledged to the ‘95 ethics panel that he had sex with the three women who testified against him, but Butler said the relationships were consensual and that they began after the women had turned 18. The legal age of sexual consent in Illinois is 17.
Powers-Barnhard last year filed a lawsuit against the AAU in Florida state court, and the amended complaint accuses the organization of violating Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by allowing Butler to coach in AAU events (like the one in Orlando), even though the AAU’s policies bar membership of those accused of sexual misconduct. The complaint also accuses the AAU of negligence.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) said in 1995 that it found “credible evidence” that the allegations against Butler were true, but Butler has never faced any criminal charges.
Nancy Hogshead-Makar, the CEO of Champion Women, an advocacy organization for girls and women in sports, launched an online petition earlier this month demanding Butler’s lifetime ban be enforced. So far, there are more than 2,200 signatures and counting.
“Our petition, our letters to the AAU, USA Volleyball and their sponsors is bigger than removing a single coach from contact with athletes. It is about getting sport governing bodies like the AAU to abide by their own rules regarding sexual abuse, to prioritize athlete safety over finances,” says Hogshead-Makar.
And Powers-Barnhard says she helped hatch the idea of making teal-colored T-shirts with the phrases, “We Stand With Them” and “Ask Me Why” emblazoned on the front and back, so that volleyball players, coaches and attendees to the AAU event in Orlando could sport the shirts during the tournament.
Butler continues to deny the abuse allegations, and his attorney Terry Ekl calls the amended complaint “baseless,” while predicting it will be dismissed in court.
“Rick Butler has never sexually abused any individual and the allegation made by “change.org” (petition) that he did so over 30 years ago is absolutely false. Rick Butler has never been accused by USA Volleyball, AAU, or law enforcement of illegally abusing any player or committing any crime, and there is no factual basis for “change.org” to make such a defamatory allegation,” says Ekl’s statement.
Meanwhile, Denver attorney Emily Swanson, who is also a volleyball coach and is a member of the USAV Rocky Mountain Region board of directors, is determined to make sure that the past accusations made against Butler are fully transparent. Swanson has posted on her Facebook page, transcripts from that ‘95 ethics panel, letters allegedly written by Butler, and numerous other documents pertaining to Butler. The Facebook posts have generated much discussion -- some of it contentious -- among Butler opponents and supporters.
“There has been a lot of information out there. I wanted all the documents in their entire glory for people to read and form their own opinions. I wanted to give people all the information and if their reaction happens to be outrage, and there’s a desire to incite change, then great. This is an issue we need to be fully transparent with,” says Swanson. “I want Butler out. That’s part of my ultimate goal. My other goals are to not have these types of people in coaching, to have associations and organizations stand up to this behavior, and to help communities understand that it is OK to stand up when something is wrong.”


She Says She's Haunted by Coach's Misconduct : Volleyball: Julie Bremner took six years to come forward with her story of sexual abuse. -


A Victim'e Courage: Former Volleyball Players Breaks Silence 3 Decades After Alleged Abuse -


USA Volleyball Admits Reinstating Rick Butler After Sex Abuse Allegations Was a Mistake -


Monday, June 26, 2017

Investigations into election collusion are just a hit job

Adriana Cohen 
June 26, 2017

As special counsel, Mueller has the power to subpoena documents and prosecute any crimes, independent of Congress.
Robert Mueller (Photograph: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller should immediately call off their investigations into the cooked-up Trump-Russian collusion theories.

As real information emerges, it looks more and more like a hit job on President Trump and his administration fabricated by a witches brew of anti-Trump forces including the Obama administration, partisan DOJ/FBI officials and Democrats salivating at the notion of impeaching Trump — to steal the election from Republicans — with an ethically challenged left-wing media pushing fake news regularly. Add establishment Republicans such as U.S. Sen. John McCain, who helped fuel the fake scandal by giving the now-discredited Russia dossier to the FBI to investigate.

Not only has there been zero credible evidence to warrant any of the costly investigations to date — despite a year of digging by anti-Trump forces — we now learn the widely debunked dossier published by BuzzFeed — with an assist by CNN — was commissioned by a pro-Hillary Clinton oppo research group to take down Trump.

The slanted dossier not only sparked the whole Russiagate investigation, it also provided a bogus excuse for the Obama administration, DOJ and intel agencies to engage in improper surveillance of Trump associates, unmasking of Trump officials as well as the illegal leaking of sensitive information gathered from the sketchy spying to complicit media in a deliberate attempt to smear Trump.

If this doesn’t scream corruption and collusion at the highest echelons of our government — what does?

Fusion GPS, which commissioned the crazy Russian Dossier, claim they’re former journalists, but they are better described as political activists hired by Democrats to damage Republicans. ­Fusion GPS was also hired to dig up dirt against Mitt Romney in 2012 and go after pro-lifers causing headaches for Planned Parenthood.

The New York Post reported, “In September 2016 while Fusion GPS was quietly shopping the dirty dossier on Trump around, its co-founder and partner ­Peter R. Fritsch contributed at least $1,000 to the Hillary Clinton campaign. His wife also donated money to Hillary’s campaign.”

Worse, the FBI reportedly paid the discredited British spy Christopher Steele — whose report full of false rumors about Trump were spread to the media — $50,000 and then may have relied on Steele’s fake dossier to advance its Russian/Trump investigation.

Forget the fake Russian collusion. Congress and the special counsel should turn their attention to what the Democrats — from the Obama administration to the Clinton campaign — have been doing to undermine democracy in America.

What we know so far stinks to High Heaven.

Adriana Cohen is host of “The Adriana Cohen Show,” heard Wednesdays at noon on Boston Herald Radio. Follow her on Twitter @AdrianaCohen16.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Book Review: ‘On Human Nature’ by Roger Scruton

May 17, 2017

On Earth Day, April 22, tens of thousands of activists held the first “March for Science” in cities around the world. “Science brings out the best in us,” Bill Nye, the star of two eponymous television programs about science, told the assembly in Washington. “Together we can – dare I say it – save the world!” he said, earning the enthusiastic approval of an estimated 40,000 people. Many of the participants – in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, even in the Eternal City of Rome – carried signs saying, “In Science We Trust.”
The marchers’ slogan is misguided from a philosophical, not to mention a theological, standpoint. Science is mechanistic and analytic, not ethical and prescriptive. That makes it, at best, an incomplete guide and at worst, corrosive to human dignity. Yet increasingly, Western society turns to science as a panacea for statecraft and soulcraft. Secularists maintain that their idealized version of “science” offers irrefutable solutions to everything from contentious policy disagreements to longstanding moral and ethical quandaries. Some researchers, such as Harvard’s Marc Hauser and former National Institutes of Health scholar Dean Hamer, contend that evolution hardwired human neurological circuitry with the very notions of morality and religious belief in the first place.
Edward O. Wilson, the apostle of sociobiology, popularized this school of thought. “The brain is a product of evolution,” he wrote in his 1978 book, On Human Nature. All “higher ethical values” are merely “the circuitous technique by which human genetic material has been and will be kept intact. Morality has no other demonstrable ultimate function.”
Can all human nature be reduced to assuring reproduction? Are we no more than the curvature of our grey matter and the neurological links between synapses?
Almost 40 years after Wilson, Roger Scruton explores the interplay of science and self in the first chapter of his new book, also titled On Human Nature. For Scruton, humanity is not to be found apart from our physical reality but arises from its fulness and complexity. “The personal is not an addition to the biological: it emerges fromitin something like the way the face emerges from the colored patches on a canvas.” (Emphases in original.)
Humanity expresses itself above all in self-awareness, the ability to treat others as subjects and not objects, and our sense of responsibility – the moral culpability which we accept and ascribe to our actions and those of others. Persons are “free, self-conscious, rational agents, obedient to reason and bound by the moral law,” he writes. The human formula may be expressed in its simplest form as “first-person perspective, and responsibility,” a notion he explored in his 1986 book Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation(chapters 3 and 4).
The essence of our common human nature buds forth as a “social product,” lived out in a myriad of I-You relationships (a phrase he borrows from Martin Buber), including that of citizen of a nation. Many of these are unchosen and not necessarily preferred. Yet fidelity to these obligations, which he designates “piety,” determines our moral character. It is in these contexts that our ability to treat others as co-equal persons is exercised.
The nature of liberty
Those tempted to say the abstract definition of human nature is too esoteric to be of value would do well to ponder its practical consequences. Scruton writes that I-You relationships, exercised within these contexts, have created “all that is most important in the human condition … responsibility, morality, law, institutions, religion, love, and art.” Not least among these considerations is the kind of society that subsists, germ-like, within each worldview.
Biological determinism has produced Nazi Germany, the society and ideology of Senator Theodore Bilbo, and the miasma of theirmodern-day disciples. Significantly, Martin Luther King Jr. cited Buber in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to say that segregation “substitutes an ‘I-it’ relationship for an ‘I-thou’ relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful.”
Scruton dedicates another lengthy discussion to consequentialism, the notion that the ends justify any means. Moral good reduces to an arithmetic formula: The correct decision brings the greatest good to the greatest number of people, irrespective of any properties inherent in the act itself. But its proponents, such as Peter Singer, overlook “the actual record of consequentialist reasoning. Modern history presents case after case of inspired people led by visions of ‘the best’ and argues that all would work for it, the bourgeoisie included, if only they understood the impeccable arguments for its implementation.” Since privilege cloaks their benighted eyes, “violent revolution is both necessary and inevitable.”
As a result, Scruton writes, Vladmir Lenin and Mao Tse-tung brought about “the total destruction of two great societies and irreversible damage to the rest of us. Why suppose that we, applying our minds to the question of what might be best in the long run, would make a better job of it?” Instead of learning this lesson, he notes, generations of consequentialists have “regretted the ‘mistakes’ of Lenin and Mao.”
Juxtaposed to these two systems is human nature rooted in the moral interaction of equal persons. An accusation of wrongdoing yields an investigation, not an annihilation. Mutually agreed rights and responsibilities carve out a zone of autonomy inaccessible to anyone, even the State, and expedite social harmony.
This conception of human nature facilitates a free and virtuous society. “Cooperation rather than command is the first principle of collective action,” Scruton writes. “Morality exists in part because it enables us to live on negotiated terms with others,” both accountable to the tenets of right reason. He regards the “principles that underlie common-law justice in the English-speaking tradition” as “a natural adjunct to the moral order” and latent within natural law. He explicitly names six principles:
  1. Considerations that justify or impugn one person will, in identical circumstances, justify or impugn another.
  2. Rights are to be respected.
  3. Obligations are to be fulfilled.
  4. Agreements are to be honored.
  5. Disputes are to be settled by negotiation, not by force.
  6. Those who do not respect the rights of others forfeit rights of their own.
Although he does not elaborate on the kind of economic life that flows from this, it is noteworthy that he cites Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments explicitly in this context.
The role of religion
While he holds these truths to be self-evident apart from any supernatural origin, he finds believers their natural repository. “Religious people … have no difficulty in understanding that human beings are distinguished from other animals by their freedom, self-consciousness, and responsibility,” he writes:
Take away religion, however, take away philosophy, take away the higher aims of art, and you deprive ordinary people of the ways in which they can represent their apartness. Human nature, once something to live up to, becomes something to live down to instead. Biological reductionism nurtures this ‘living down,’ which is why people so readily fall for it. It makes cynicism respectable and degeneracy chic. And abolishes our kind – and with it our kindness.
In four brief chapters Scruton, with characteristically elegant prose and clarity of thought, furnishes theists with an introductory grammar to defend their deeply held beliefs without relying upon special revelation. Believers, and society, are the better for it.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Political Odyssey Of William F. Buckley Jr: 'One Cannot Exaggerate Infinity.'

June 17, 2017

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Comes now Alvin Felzenberg, with whom I am socially acquainted, with a marvelous biography of the man who perhaps more than any other public intellectual shaped the modern conservative movement and, thereby, modern politics: A Man and His Presidents: The Political Odyssey of William F. Buckley Jr.
This beautifully rendered book is making waves, drawing highest profile reviews. Deservedly so.
Coming from a different wing and a different generation of the conservative movement I met Bill Buckley in person exactly once. It was at a soirée, if memory serves, staged by Dr. Arthur Laffer in Washington, DC.
I was struck by how, in person, WFB was as suave as Roger Moore's James Bond. On TV, during his several decades as host of Firing Line, Buckley’s face presented a panoply of nonstop tics and odd mannerisms, almost a signature of his public persona. This anomaly is perhaps the only mystery that Felzenberg fails to probe.
For most of the youth who Occupy Conservatism today Buckley is a remote figure. He perhaps is mostly remembered as the most erudite of conservatives, from Firing Line and for the National Review, which he founded and for which he coined a suitably whimsical, borderline flamboyant, Mission Statement: “It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.”
Buckley went on, in a way that remains as true today as it was in 1955:
It is out of place because, in its maturity, literate America rejected conservatism in favor of radical social experimentation. … Radical conservatives in this country have an interesting time of it, for when they are not being suppressed or mutilated by the Liberals, they are being ignored or humiliated by a great many of those of the well-fed Right, whose ignorance and amorality have never been exaggerated for the same reason that one cannot exaggerate infinity.
Buckley, in ways large and small, whimsical and earnest, made an impact. He arguably played a material role in stopping history by providing a critical assist to the defeat of the USSR, thus earning a place in The Pantheon.
And although even Buckley could not prevent the subsidence of world culture and politics into “radical social experimentation,” something still very much besetting Western culture, perhaps he slowed it somewhat. And his legacy, foremost the National Review, remains one of the great ramparts of civilization.
Felzenberg lucidly tells the story of precisely how Buckley stood athwart history, yelling Stop. It’s a charming, consistently fascinating, story. Buckley's persona and life shaped and helps explain the circumstances of both the conservative movement (if something so still still can be called a movement) and our larger political culture today.
For me the highlight of the book is the recounting of Buckley’s 1965 Conservative Party mayoral candidacy against nominal Republican John Lindsay (who won) and machine Democrat Abe Beame (who succeeded Lindsay). Buckley's candidacy was, of course, a symbolic one. A reporter asked him what he would do if he won. Buckley answered: “Demand a recount.”
Still, this jeu d’esprit of a race did wonders for conservative morale after the setback of Barry Goldwater's presidential loss. Buckley, perhaps more than anyone, provided the "secret sauce" that powers movements: a narrative.
Buckley more than wove a narrative. He lived one. His life was an adventure. Felzenberg astutely calls it an odyssey. Be prepared to be immersed in an epic tale.
Felzenberg’s book has drawn handsome notice. It was featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review and, almost simultaneously, reviewed by the Wall Street Journal wherein reviewer Lee Edwards recounts how President Reagan, at a public dinner, called Buckley "perhaps the most influential intellectual and journalist in our era." This is an important book about an important man.  And it has drawn due praise:
“A gracefully written and richly informative book.”—Damon Linker, New York Times 
“Deeply researched and smoothly written . . . a superb political biography… [a] fresh account of a much-chronicled figure.”—Lee Edwards, Wall Street Journal 
“A magisterial biography . . . . Felzenberg captures the toute ensemble, telling the story of modern America’s most vital conservative force in prose that is as enlivening as it is illuminating.  No one with an interest in the past six decades of American history will want to miss this wonderful and irreplaceable book.”—The New Criterion
There seems, however, something mischievous in the prominence given to it by the liberal New York Times. There, reviewer Damon Linker observes:
Reading the book in light of events since Buckley’s death — including the Sarah Palin sensation of 2008, the Anybody but Romney procession during the Republican primaries of 2012, but most of all Donald Trump’s shockingly successful populist insurrection in 2016 — one realizes the passages that provide the most illumination are those in which Felzenberg highlights what Buckley himself described as his greatest achievement: purging the conservative movement of “extremists, bigots, kooks, anti-Semites and racists.”
Nor is such use of this book as a bludgeon against what Buckley called "radical conservatives" -- among whom he properly counted himself --  limited to the left.
In Buckley’s own National Review -- itself a bastion of #NeverTrumpism -- prominent #NeverTrumper George Will (who resigned his membership in the Republican Party upon realization of the inevitability of Trump’s nomination) published a meditation on Felzenberg’s book under the headline Buckley Captained Conservatism Before It Was Hijacked:
“Today, conservatism is soiled by scowling primitives whose irritable gestures lack mental ingredients. America needs a reminder of conservatism before vulgarians hijacked it, and a hint of how it became susceptible to hijacking.” … “His true ideal,” Felzenberg writes, “was governance by a new conservative elite in which he played a prominent role.” And for which he would play the harpsichord.”
Using this book as a bludgeon against some of the more vivid Republican Party populist figures does not do the book, or such figures, justice. Felzenberg, especially in writing about Buckley’s 1965 mayoral race, makes it very clear that WFB appealed to many of the same kind of of blue collar voters who elected Trump. Felzenberg trenchantly quotes James Q. Wilson’s distinction between Democrats who championed the cause of workers, especially ethnic blue collars, and those who he called “amateurs,” the progressives who had, and have, hijacked my father’s (and, long ago, my very own) Democratic Party.

Buckley’s erudition, Ivy League pedigree, and personal wealth did not estrange working class voters. Workers sensed his respect for their values and dignity. They sensed the same in Trump, despite his foibles. This is no small thing.

There have long been tensions and rivalries, some more friendly than others, within the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy to which I belong. Damon Linker:
Those were the factions of the right that Buckley aimed to exclude from the conservative movement: proudly plutocratic libertarians; conspiracy theorists; angry, race-baiting populists; and paleocons dabbling in ethnic demonization.
Sound familiar?
Well, no. We paleocons do expect to be caricatured as very deplorable indeed. The picture drawn of us represents a rather grotesque caricature, relying on the amplification of tiny, immaterial, factions of a school of thought that is firmly rooted in classical liberal republican thought. Mischievous, sometimes malicious, journalists can always find, and exaggerate, an outlier. Few, virtually none, of us “dabble in ethnic demonization.” Those are opportunistic hangers-on.

But yes, By George!  Many of us outer borough bridge-and-tunnel Morlocks are vulgarians. Perhaps we, made irate that our jobs and economic security have been so eviscerated by the ruling elites, our values mocked, might at times justly be called “scowling primitives.” That said, the vast majority of us are not tools of plutocratic libertarians, nor conspiracy theorists, nor race-baiters, nor ethnic demonizers.  Few of us are “extremists, bigots, kooks, anti-Semites and racists” and those few unwelcome in our midst.

It’s sad that the Pretty People do not like us. But in a way that works to our political advantage. As the New York Times’s own Frank Bruni -- an honest and rigorous liberal -- wrote recently in Can Democrats Save Themselves:
They’re still not sure how much of Trump’s victory had to do with Hillary Clinton’s flaws versus the party’s poor grasp of America, and the more they focus on the former, tattling for the tell-all book “Shattered” and then tittering over its revelations, the less they own up to the latter. 
They’re still searching for a concise, coherent message. They’re still feuding: the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren wing versus the moderates. And they’re still indulging in elitist optics at odds with the lessons of 2016. Although new research commissioned by Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC, concluded that many Obama-to-Trump voters believed that Democrats are out of touch with less affluent Americans, a recent, high-profile Democratic brainstorming session in Washington was held at the opulent Four Seasons Hotel.
 Somewhere in a dresser drawer I may still have my “Eat An Eloi” t-shirt. Time to take it out of mothballs.

Buckley considered Eisenhower a miserable president and had ticklish relations with nominally conservative Republican leaders throughout most of his career. The signal exception, of course, was the truly conservative Ronald Reagan, with whom Buckley was on close terms and served, somewhat, as a mentor. The Buckley political rule, as recorded by Barry Popik, was “I’d be for the most right, viable candidate who could win.”

It’s not quite Kristol Clear to this reader what William F. Buckley would have made of Donald J. Trump. He is not around to say. But in his day, Buckley served as a provocateur who aligned more with populists and with "radical conservatives" than with Establishment Republicans or "the well-fed Right, whose ignorance and amorality have never been exaggerated for the same reason that one cannot exaggerate infinity."

It is highly likely that Buckley, at very least, would have been in full sympathy with Kellyanne Conway's observation that “I thank God every day. I click my heels three times and say ‘[Hillary Clinton] is not the president, she is not the president, she is not the president.” Those who present WFB's life and work as an indictment of contemporary conservatism clearly have misread this book.

WFB, may he rest in peace, is no longer with us to tell us what he thinks in his invariably witty, erudite, way. That said, thanks be to Alvin Felzenberg for bringing to life the epic story -- the political odyssey -- of a radical conservative overflowing with wit and elan. Felzenberg distills the essence of Buckley's life and thought in ways thoroughly enjoyable and magnificently helpful for understanding the architecture of contemporary conservatism and national politics. It's an indispensable work.

Friday, June 23, 2017

They Brushed Off Kamala Harris. Then She Brushed Us Off.

June 22, 2017

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Democratic California senator Kamala Harris. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Last week, Senator Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California, made headlines when Republican senators interrupted her at a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee while she interrogated Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The clip of the exchange went viral; journalists, politicians and everyday Americans debated what the shushing signified about our still sexist culture.

The very next day, Senator Harris took her seat in front of us as a member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. We were there to testify about the ideology of political Islam, or Islamism.

Both of us were on edge. Earlier that day, across the Potomac River, a man had shot a Republican lawmaker and others on a baseball diamond in Alexandria, Va. And just moments before the hearing began, a man wearing a Muslim prayer cap had stood up and heckled us, putting Capitol police officers on high alert. We were girding ourselves for tough questions.

But they never came. The Democrats on the panel, including Senator Harris and three other Democratic female senators — North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan and Missouri’s Claire McCaskill — did not ask either of us a single question.

This wasn’t a case of benign neglect. At one point, Senator McCaskill said that she took issue with the theme of the hearing itself. “Anyone who twists or distorts religion to a place of evil is an exception to the rule,” she said. “We should not focus on religion,” she said, adding that she was “worried” that the hearing, organized by Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, would “underline that.” In the end, the only questions asked of us about Islamist ideologies came from Senator Johnson and his Republican colleague, Senator Steve Daines from Montana.

Just as we are invisible to the mullahs at the mosque, we were invisible to the Democratic women in the Senate.

How to explain this experience? Perhaps Senators Heitkamp, Harris, Hassan and McCaskill are simply uninterested in sexism and misogyny. But obviously, given their outspoken support of critical women’s issues, such as the kidnapping of girls in Nigeria and campus sexual assault, that’s far from the case.

No, what happened that day was emblematic of a deeply troubling trend among progressives when it comes to confronting the brutal reality of Islamist extremism and what it means for women in many Muslim communities here at home and around the world. When it comes to the pay gap, abortion access and workplace discrimination, progressives have much to say. But we’re still waiting for a march against honor killings, child marriages, polygamy, sex slavery or female genital mutilation.

Sitting before the senators that day were two women of color: Ayaan is from Somalia; Asra is from India. Both of us were born into deeply conservative Muslim families. Ayaan is a survivor of female genital mutilation and forced marriage. Asra defied Shariah by having a baby while unmarried. And we have both been threatened with death by jihadists for things we have said and done. Ayaan cannot appear in public without armed guards.

In other words, when we speak about Islamist oppression, we bring personal experience to the table in addition to our scholarly expertise. Yet the feminist mantra so popular when it comes to victims of sexual assault — believe women first — isn’t extended to us. Neither is the notion that the personal is political. Our political conclusions are dismissed as personal; our personal experiences dismissed as political.

That’s because in the rubric of identity politics, our status as women of color is canceled out by our ideas, which are labeled “conservative” — as if opposition to violent jihad, sex slavery, genital mutilation or child marriage were a matter of left or right. This not only silences us, it also puts beyond the pale of liberalism a basic concern for human rights and the individual rights of women abused in the name of Islam.

There is a real discomfort among progressives on the left with calling out Islamic extremism. Partly they fear offending members of a “minority” religion and being labeled racist, bigoted or Islamophobic. There is also the idea, which has tremendous strength on the left, that non-Western women don’t need “saving” — and that the suggestion that they do is patronizing at best. After all, the thinking goes, if women in America still earn less than men for equivalent work, who are we to criticize other cultures?

This is extreme moral relativism disguised as cultural sensitivity. And it leads good people to make excuses for the inexcusable. The silence of the Democratic senators is a reflection of contemporary cultural pressures. Call it identity politics, moral relativism or political correctness — it is shortsighted, dangerous and, ultimately, a betrayal of liberal values.

The hard truth is that there are fundamental conflicts between universal human rights and the principle of Shariah, or Islamic law, which holds that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s; between freedom of religion and the Islamist idea that artists, writers, poets and bloggers should be subject to blasphemy laws; between secular governance and the Islamist goal of a caliphate; between United States law and Islamist promotion of polygamy, child marriage and marital rape; and between freedom of thought and the methods of indoctrination, or dawa, with which Islamists propagate their ideas.

Defending universal principles against Islamist ideology, not denying that these conflicts exist, is surely the first step in a fight whose natural leaders in Washington should be women like Kamala Harris and Claire McCaskill — both outspoken advocates for American women.

We believe feminism is for everyone. Our goals — not least the equality of the sexes — are deeply liberal. We know these are values that the Democratic senators at our hearing share. Will they find their voices and join us in opposing Islamist extremism and its war on women?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali (@ayaan) is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and founder of the AHA Foundation. Asra Q. Nomani (@asranomani), an author and former Wall Street Journal reporter, is a co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement.


Ibn Warraq takes on the apologists' lies.

June 23, 2017

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Douglas Murray, whose book The Strange Death of Europe applauded here the other day, has called him “one of the great heroes of our time.” I fully agree. His name – or, at least, his pen name – is Ibn Warraq, and he's the author of such important and eloquent works as Why I Am Not a Muslim (which I wrote about here eleven years ago), Why the West Is Best (which I reviewed here five years ago), and What the Koran Really Says. Born in India and educated in Britain, Warraq began criticizing Islam in print during the 1988-89 Satanic Verses controversy, when he was appalled by the failure of celebrated writers and intellectuals to defend Salman Rushdie's freedom of speech. Warraq, who was then based in France and now lives in the U.S., has been publishing books on Islam ever since, and is one of the essential contemporary authors on the subject, courageously telling ugly truths about a religion – an ideology – that has been swathed in pretty lies.
His new book, The Islam in Islamic Terrorism: The Importance of Beliefs, Ideas, and Ideology, is (if it doesn't sound a bit odd to put it this way) a godsend – a comprehensive answer to every one of those duplicitous politicians, lily-livered journalists, and slimy professional “experts” and “consultants” who tirelessly insist that Muslim terrorists have hijacked a peaceful faith. Some of us don't need to be told that this “Religion of Peace” stuff is arrant nonsense; but innumerable apologists continue to absolve Islam itself of guilt for violent terror, and tens of millions of people in the West continue to buy their bull – some because they are themselves so pure of heart that they simply can't believe any religion would actually preach violence, and others because admitting the facts would make them feel like bigots.
Many apologists insist that violence in the name of Islam is a relatively recent development; Warraq makes it crystal clear that it's prescribed in the Koran and has been practiced from the outset. Since 9/11, apologists have attributed Islamic terrorism to such “root causes” as poverty, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, U.S. foreign policy, Western imperialism, and the Crusades – anything but Islam itself. About this determination to formulate sophisticated answers to a question that the terrorists themselves have already answered repeatedly and definitively, Warraq observes that “[t]he centrality of religion in the Islamic world is something that Western liberals fail to understand or take seriously.” This isn't just true; it's one of the tragic realities of our time.
One by one, Warraq expertly shreds every one of the apologists' fake “explanations” for terror. Imperialism? Warraq reminds us that Muslims, too, have been imperialists, destroying “thousands of churches, synagogues, and temples...in a most brutal fashion” and exterminating “whole civilizations such as the Pre-Islamic cultures of Iran (Zoroastrians) and the Assyrians.” Saudi Arabia, homeland of fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 hijackers, “was never colonized by the West” but was, rather, part of an Islamic empire – namely the Ottoman Empire, governed by Turks from Constantinople. If those Saudis were spurred by a rage at empire, why not fly a plane into the Hagia Sophia?
No, as Warraq demonstrates, there's no way around it: Islamic terrorism is jihad. And jihad is a founding Islamic concept. The apologists, of course, have their own line on this one, too: under true Islam, they say, the word jihaddenotes an inner spiritual process, and has nothing to do with violence; when terrorists use the word to describe their depredations, they're distorting the word and the faith. Warraq, citing a wide range of scholarly sources – both Western and Islamic, some recent and some dating back to the eighth century – puts that fulsome falsehood firmly in its place: yes, jihad can be used to mean an inner struggle, but in the Koran and Hadith, and in key texts ever since, italways refers, above all, to the sacred obligation to advance Islam by means of armed action against unbelievers.
Warraq also gives us a sweeping – but succinct – lesson in the history of jihad, beginning with Muhammed's own conquests, then moving on to ninth- through eleventh-century Baghdad, seventeenth-century Constantinople, eighteenth-century Saudi Arabia, and so on, right up to today's Muslim Brotherhood. Of course the apologists (Barack Obama among them) would have us believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is moderate and non-violent; Warraq establishes that throughout its existence, to the contrary, the Brotherhood has preached Holy War, period. Then there's the Nazis. Some apologists argue that Islam was just peachy until some of its leaders got chummy with Hitler and were infected by his love of violent world conquest and Jew-hatred; Warraq establishes that if Islamic higher-ups cozied up to the Nazis, it was because their totalitarian, exterminationist doctrines were already extremely similar.
Warraq also introduces us to a 1979 book that has been called “the most influential treatise on why Jihad is necessary and how it must be fought.” Written by one Brigadier S. K. Malik, The Qur'anic Concept of War won the endorsement of no less a jihad enthusiast than the late Pakistani president Zia al-Haq. A brief sample: “The Quranic military strategy...enjoins us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost in order to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies....[The Koran] gives us a distinctive concept of total war. It wants both the nation and the individual to be at war 'in toto,' that is, with all their spiritual moral and physical resources.” In addition to Malik's tome, Warraq reads (so we don't have to) several other vile works that have also inspired the suicide-vest set – a veritable library of holy hate.
Warraq sums up his book's point as follows: “jihad is essential for the spread of Islam, and it is a duty incumbent on all Muslims until Islam covers the whole surface of the earth.” And what's essential for the West's survival is for us infidels to face up to the fact that nothing is more integral to Islam than that monstrous duty. If Islamic terror is, as apologists assert, a reaction to some action by the West, that action is, as Warraq points out, nothing more or less than our failure to “accept the Koran as a blueprint for a model society.” However much the talking heads may insist otherwise, it was Islam's explicit call for jihadist conquest, and nothing else, that motivated 9/11 and 7/7, Atocha and Nice, Bataclan and Ariana Grande. If we insist on clinging to lies about these atrocities – and thereby lose our freedom – it won't be because Ibn Warraq hasn't nobly and bravely shouted the truth from the rooftops.