Saturday, September 02, 2006

John Harper: It's time for Jeter to get his MVP due

The New York Daily News
2 September 2006

He says he doesn't even think about it, but you know that can't be true. After all these years, there is plenty of evidence that Derek Jeter is genuine about putting winning above all individual pursuits, but that doesn't mean he isn't human.

That doesn't mean he didn't get a kick out of putting on a little show for Joe Mauer, the man he's chasing for what would be his first batting title.

It's not only that he went 3-for-5 last night, raising his average to .342 to inch a little closer the Twins' catcher. But he did it in classic Jeter style, killing the Twins not just with singles, but with a perfectly executed hit-and-run single that ignited the big fifth inning that put away an 8-1 victory last night.

It was another example of why maybe you need to watch Jeter play every day to understand how he can be a legitimate MVP candidate with just 12 home runs. Around the country, you still hear that Jeter is the beneficiary of New York hype, that he would just be another good player if he was playing in, say, Minnesota.

But it has never been further from the truth than in this season. For one thing, he is hitting .389 with runners in scoring position, second in the AL to Mauer. And he does have 83 RBI, which is no Punch-and-Judy season.

Perhaps most important, his clutch hitting was crucial in keeping the Yankees from sagging under the weight of the all their injuries in May, June and July.

Surely people who watch baseball are ready to embrace Jeter's day-to-day brilliance. We're supposed to be out of the steroids era, after all, and impact doesn't have to be about hitting home runs.

For all of his flaws, Alex Rodriguez will always get more oohs and aahs than Jeter when he suddenly finds his stroke again and hits two home runs, as he did last night. The first one was a laser to left field that gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead and also gave the suddenly caring Stadium fans another chance to embrace A-Rod with a huge ovation, as they now seem to be on a mission to nurse him back to health.

But the point is, neither of the home runs was the most important hit of the night. That came off Jeter's bat, and it was a jam shot that barely crawled through the right side of the infield.

The thing was, it wasn't lucky. Johnny Damon was running on the pitch, and with second baseman Nick Punto moving to cover second, Jeter fought off an inside fastball from Carlos Silva with an inside-out swing from the hit-and-run manual that squeaked through the spot that Punto had vacated.

"Derek's the best in the game at that," said Damon. "That was huge. Give us first and third with the big guys coming up, we'll take that any day."

The first "big guy" to bat was Bobby Abreu. Before the game, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was talking about Abreu, and how he has made the Yankee lineup, with its work-the-count philosophy, even more of a nightmare for pitchers, particularly young ones like he has.
"That's the Yankee way," Gardenhire said. "It seems like every Yankee at-bat takes five minutes."

Then Gardenhire sighed the sigh of a small-market manager.

"It's hard to believe you can go out and get Abreu," he said. "Not too many teams can. Abreu is like the rest of them. He's a very professional hitter.

"That's why we talk to our pitchers about pitching to contact, working ahead in the count. If you get behind against these guys, they'll eat you alive. You've gotta attack their hitters, and if they hit it, they hit it."

With runners at first and third, Silva didn't have any choice. And the Yankees made him pay. Abreu singled to center to drive in Damon, and before the inning was over, A-Rod and Robinson Cano had added RBI singles as well, to turn the game into a 6-0 rout.

But it was Jeter's ability to handle the bat that set up the entire inning. It wasn't his only contribution, either. In the third inning, he singled and stole second, setting up the Yankees' second run of the game as Abreu singled him home.

It was all the more noticeable because Mauer was at the ballpark. Mauer, who was 1-for-2 last night and remains at .350, has gradually come down from the .380 he was hitting during the first half of the season, and since even young catchers feel the wear and tear of a season in September, you have to like Jeter's chances of catching him.

Jeter has never won a batting title, and you believe him when he says that all he wants is another ring. But he's too competitive not to want the individual accolade, and what's wrong with that, anyway?

Perhaps most significant, the batting title might make people who don't see him every day take notice, and make them realize he doesn't have to hit home runs to deserve an MVP.

Originally published on September 2, 2006

Friday, September 01, 2006

Kathleen Parker: The Religion of Peace -- at Gunpoint

September 01, 2006
The Orlando Sentinel
Kathleen Parker

"... disbelievers will be cast into an eternal fire. But Allah is also ever merciful, and the West can change its ways and turn to the purifying power of Islam ..."-- Kidnapped Fox reporter Steve "Khaled'' Centanni, channeling his captors.

We don't often get to watch our media people convert to Islam, so the footage of Fox News' Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig has been riveting.

Some people can't get enough of watching planes fly into the World Trade Center towers; I can't get enough of Centanni and Wiig pledging allegiance to Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him.

The common thread between the two is disbelief. I keep rerunning the tapes, now posted on the Web, trying to read the kidnapped men's body language and translate the meaning of deep breaths and eye movements.

Trying, alas, to imagine being in their place.

As everyone knows, reporter Centanni and cameraman Wiig were released several days ago after being seized in Gaza City by masked gunmen and held hostage for 13 days.

It's not clear exactly who their kidnappers were, whether part of the Holy Jihad Brigades, as claimed, or whether they had ties to Hamas or the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah.

You need a scorecard to keep up with all the region's disaffected. Apparently, when three or more angry Muslims gather in a garage, a new jihadist group is born.

What's perfectly clear is that video is the new weapon of mass destruction. A billion people manipulated into religious frenzy is a formidable force. It is also clear that the West's continued existence -- at least from the perspective of Islamist militants -- depends upon our willingness to bow to Islam.

Those two conclusions are made possible by the images of Centanni and Wiig holding up an index finger and proclaiming allegiance to the Prophet Muhammad.

Says Centanni: "My name is Steve. I'm an American. After I entered Islam, I changed my name to Khaled. I have embraced Islam and say the word Allah, and my leader is the Prophet Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him.''

Wiig -- new name "Ya'aqob'' -- repeats the liturgy.

Then the two men proceed to read a script outlining all the reasons why the West is wrong -- from invading Afghanistan and Iraq to the tortures of Abu Ghraib. They also ask that all prisoners be released from Guantanamo and that President Bush cease referring to Islamic fascists as "Islamic fascists.''

It's not nice, and it makes the kidnappers mad.

"Yeah, they were very angry about that,'' said Wiig in an interview after his release.

In his role as Khaled, Centanni said he hoped to help Westerners see the light of Islam, which "helps people to love mercy, brotherhood, equality and justice.'' Especially -- we can't help filling in for him -- when a gun is pointed at one's head. Or a knife poised at one's throat.

One of Wiig's interrogators, a dark figure framed by two AK-47s and with a bayonet at his feet, provided a grim reminder that death is always an option for uncooperative infidels. Thus, the journalists did what they thought necessary to survive.

Obviously, none of us can imagine what we'd do under similar circumstances. Yet despite our empathy and relief at the men's release, there is nevertheless something about that video -- of seeing those two decent, open-hearted Western men surrendering to these lowlife fanatics -- that makes me want to take a shower.

How dare those thugs lecture Westerners about the loveliness of Islam while forcing religious conversion at gunpoint?

Their objective was clear from the beginning, according to Centanni and Wiig. They wanted a video. The two Fox journalists were far more valuable shown as cowardly Westerners converting to Islam than as severed heads on the tip of a dull knife.

Let me be clear: I don't think they were cowards. But those who are willing to strap explosives to their bodies -- or enlist their children to become suicide bombers -- surely see them, and us, that way. It is easy to imagine that rancorous Muslims are as attuned to the video as we are, watching replay after replay in the smug satisfaction that they have scored another victory against the infidel and the Great Satan.

Those few minutes of choreographed horror affirm for the Islamic world that Westerners are weak, while they reiterate the jihadist's message to the West:

Convert to Islam -- or die.

Daniel Pipes: CAIR's Twisted Stand on Academic Freedom

Daniel Pipes
September 1, 2006

Hark the ringing prose about academic freedom by Rima Kapitan, the volunteer attorney in CAIR’s Chicago office.

Another casualty in the war against civil liberties in this country since September 2001 is the right to academic freedom. Professors and students who diverge too much from the current political and economic orthodoxy are being silenced around the country. Among the most vulnerable have been adjunct professors, foreign professors and students, and professors and students who support Palestinian national rights or who oppose U.S. foreign policy decisions. …

CAIR-Chicago is joining other organizations and individuals in an effort to defend academic freedom. … CAIR-Chicago has also initiated the creation of an academic freedom coalition called the Free Campus Coalition, which will defend the academic freedom rights of students and professors as violations occur. The coalition will comprise of civil liberties organizations, professors and students.

Freedom on universities is especially important because of the formative role that universities play in the lives of students, and because of the essential role they play in their communities. Students should be exposed to a wide range of ideas, and learn to argue against ideas with which they do not agree.

The immediate beneficiary of this high-blown rhetoric, dated August 14, 2006, is one Douglas Giles of Roosevelt University, who lost his job supposedly for just mentioning Zionism in his “World Religions” class and for allowing students to speak about Zionism. According to Giles, a student in his course asked a question about Zionism, which he answered. Then, presto, he was fired by his department chair, Susan Weininger. The disagreement is scheduled for arbitration in September. Whatever the facts in this incident, CAIR’s Chicago office stands fully behind Giles.

But in Chicago’s other high-profile academic-freedom case concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict, and there, CAIR is exactly on the other side, seeking to have the instructor fired.

That would be the case of Thomas Klocek, a part-time adjunct professor since 1991 at DePaul University, the largest Catholic school in the United States. At a campus fair, Klocek expressed pro-Israel views, got into an altercation with two anti-Israel groups (Students for Justice in Palestine and United Muslims Moving Ahead), and, after they registered complaints against him, was suspended by the university. CAIR not only endorsed his suspension but, as articulated by Christina Abraham, CAIR-Chicago's civil rights coordinator (and a DePaul University law student), wanted him more severely punished.

Abraham gave a video interview in June 2006 concerning Klocek’s suspension, as revealed by John Ruberry, in the course of which she, speaking on behalf of CAIR explained the organization’s position on Klocek. About 1/8th of the way into the video, she says: “We were very concerned with the situation and we did request that he [Klocek] be terminated.” She confirmed this, later saying (about 1/6th of the way in) that CAIR-Chicago suggested to DePaul that “if the investigation were to have shown that he did make these statements that and he did act this way towards the students, yes, we did suggest that they should terminate him.”

Comments: (1) CAIR’s position on Klocek hardly fits the description of a group taking part in the Free Campus Coalition to defend “the academic freedom rights of students and professors as violations occur.”

(2) As Ruberry points out, CAIR fancies itself a civil rights organization, but is it the normal work of a civil rights organization to recommend that a private institution fire an employee, thereby depriving him of his livelihood (not to speak of the health insurance required for his serious kidney condition)? Some might conclude that CAIR is no civil rights organization; that would certainly fit with my own perception since 1999.

(3) The inconsistency documented here is par for the CAIR course; it routinely takes ostensibly principled positions that in fact adjust to its politics. (CAIR, for example, has jointly sponsored programs with United Muslims Moving Ahead.) For other examples of this pattern, see

· “CAIR’s Inconsistent Advice on Law Enforcement.”, 4 July 2004. CAIR’s advice: Help the police to protect you, but stiff them when they seek your help with counterterrorism.

· “Look Now Who’s Profiling – CAIR’s Staff Is.”, 1 August 2003. CAIR hates profiling, except when it does so itself.

· “Radical Islam’s Hypocrisy[: The Ehrgott & Okashah Cases].” The New York Sun, 18 January 2005. CAIR comes down hard on the foes of radical Islam but pleads for an understanding of Muslims in similar circumstances.

(4) More broadly, such behavior points to the unreliable quality of CAIR’s work, a theme that the reader can more fully explore at “Bibliography - My Writings on Not Trusting CAIR.”

Mr. Pipes ( is director of the Middle East Forum and author of Miniatures (Transaction Publishers).

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Obituary: Glenn Ford

Actor Glenn Ford, Known for 'Blackboard Jungle' and 'Teahouse of the August Moon' Dies at 90

From a Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 31, 2006

Glenn Ford, the rangy, laconic actor who in a long and prolific career in films and television portrayed characters from gallant leading men to saddle tramps, died Wednesday. He was 90.

Ford, a top box-office draw in the 1950s whose career spanned more than five decades and more than 100 films, was found dead at his Beverly Hills home by Fire Department paramedics just before 4 p.m.

Largely out of the public eye since the early 1990s, Ford was saluted by American Cinematheque at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre in May on his 90th birthday. Ford, who had suffered several strokes, had been expected to attend but ultimately missed the event because of fragile health.

In his prime, Ford posted a string of memorable credits that included "Gilda," "The Big Heat," "The Blackboard Jungle," "3:10 to Yuma," "The Teahouse of the August Moon," "Don't Go Near the Water," "The Courtship of Eddie's Father," "Pocketful of Miracles" and "The Rounders."

He could play an ambitious, crooked gambler with a soul-saving sense of honor ("Gilda") or an idealistic yet tough-minded teacher ("Blackboard Jungle"). As a youth, Ford portrayed a Depression-era store clerk who hitchhiked west in "Heaven With a Barbed Wire Fence," his first feature picture in 1939. As a middle-aged character actor, he was the surrogate father of "Superman" (1978) in the first feature-length film treatment of the comic book character. And although he was never nominated for an Oscar, he was a longtime Hollywood favorite.

Ford, who was under contract to Columbia Pictures for many years, got along well with studio chief Harry Cohn, who was famous for his parsimonious purse strings and flaming temper.

Ford recalled in a 1981 interview that Cohn had sent for him when he left Columbia after his contract had expired and that the studio boss shook his hand fondly and said: "You know why we always got along together, Glenn? Because you never were afraid of me."

In the 1970s, Ford began concentrating on television, portraying Sheriff Sam Cade in "Cade's County"; the narrator of the children's series "Friends of Man"; and the Rev. Tom Holvak, a poverty-stricken preacher, in "The Family Holvak."

The last character, in the 1975-77 series, was based, Ford told The Times in 1975, on his grandfather, Thomas Ford, a rural minister in Quebec, Canada, the actor's native land.

He was born Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford on May 1, 1916, the son of a railroad executive and mill owner and nephew of Sir John MacDonald, a former prime minister of Canada and a descendant of Martin Van Buren, eighth president of the United States.

Ford spent his earliest years in Glenford, site of the family's paper mill, from which Ford took his professional name. By the time his family moved to California when he was 7, he had already developed a taste for performing. At Santa Monica High School, he ran track, played lacrosse and excelled in English and drama.

Ford worked with numerous little theater groups and California touring companies as an actor and stage manager before joining the Broadway-bound play "Soliloquy," starring film actor John Beal, in 1938.

But when the play reached Broadway, it closed after only two performances. Ford returned to Los Angeles, and 20th Century Fox hired him for a fourth-billed role in the low-budget "Heaven With a Barbed Wire Fence."

It was not the most auspicious of debuts.

In a 1985 interview with The Times, Ford recalled that the film's director, Ricardo Cortez, told him he would never make it as a movie actor. But soon after, Ford was signed by Columbia. Roles in a string of B pictures followed, until World War II service intervened.

Ford enlisted in the Marine Corps in December 1942, after having been a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary for a year. After his discharge in 1945, he returned to the screen the next year in three notable pictures: "Gilda"; "A Stolen Life," in which he played opposite Bette Davis; and "Gallant Journey," a film biography of 19th century flight pioneer John Montgomery.

In "Gilda," where Rita Hayworth performs one of the steamiest dances in movie history, Ford was praised by Variety as "a far better actor than the tale permits."

In 1953, Ford had his Columbia contract rewritten so he could work for other studios. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer featured him as the doctor-husband in "Interrupted Melody," the story of opera star Marjorie Lawrence, a polio victim. That picture and others, such as "Ransom" and "Don't Go Near the Water," brought him rave notices about his "recent mature and thoughtful performances" and his "sly and adept" comedy.

Off-screen, Ford played polo — he had learned to ride while taking care of Will Rogers' polo ponies as a teenager in the 1930s — and was lifelong friends with William Holden and Hayworth. He also worked with Actors and Others for Animals, an animal-rights group.

He was married four times. The first marriage, to dancer Eleanor Powell in 1943, ended in divorce in 1959. They had a son, Peter. Ford married actress Kathryn Hays in 1966, but the marriage lasted only a year. In 1977, he wed actress Cynthia Hayward, a union that ended in divorce in 1984. In 1993, he married Jeanne Baus.

As a commander in the Naval Reserve, Ford spent a month in South Vietnam in 1967. Accompanied by a Marine Corps camera crew, he filmed combat locations for "Global Marine," a documentary training movie for recruits.

"People who come out here for a visit and go back with pat opinions about how the war is going to be won are fools," Ford told The Times at the end of his trip to the war zone. "This is a vicious war, a unique war, with no simple answer, but I think the complicated problem we face here cannot be appraised and judged by anyone who has not been here."

In the mid-to-late 1960s, Ford created three quality film roles that enriched his reputation: the footloose cowboy in "The Rounders," the good cop gone bad in "The Money Trap" and the frontiersman trying to recapture his family from Indians in "Day of the Evil Gun." If Ford gravitated toward a single genre in his later years, it was the western, where the simple plot lines and sparse dialogue suited him. "You don't have to speak English to understand what's going on," he once told The Times. "I've always said the talking pictures talk too much anyway." Besides, he added, "I'm out of place doing sophistication. I'm so uncomfortable in a tuxedo."

Information about survivors and funeral plans was unavailable late Wednesday.

Paul Sperry: The Terrorist Next Door

Paul Sperry
August 31, 2006

The recent terror case of a "gentle" third-grade teacher from the D.C. suburbs shows the danger is at once closer and harder to ID than you think. The enemy is hiding not in the shadows, but in plain sight, and may even wear a smile.

Hundreds of Muslims last week flocked to a federal courtroom to show their support for the affable and soft-spoken Ali Asad Chandia of Maryland as he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for supporting terrorists. Friends say anti-Muslim prosecutors railroaded a "law-abiding" and "peaceful" brother.

"He is a dedicated teacher," said one. "A great family man," said another. Another told the judge Chandia's so gentle he wouldn't hurt a tree branch in his yard. "I said to Ali that I may need to cut the branch (but) he asked that I not hurt the tree," the friend, a landscaper, said in a letter. "I was touched by Ali's insistence that the tree not be harmed in any way."

But prosecutors tell a different story.

They showed evidence that Chandia, 29, trained at a jihad camp in Lahore, Pakistan, run by the terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba, an al-Qaida subcontractor that also trained some of the London bombers. He helped Lashkar ship 50,000 paintball pellets, unmanned aerial vehicles, night-vision gear and wireless video cameras from the U.S. to Pakistan for paramilitary training. He even chauffeured a Lashkar lieutenant around Washington on trips the officer made here after 9-11. Within months of the attacks, Chandia joined the so-called Virginia jihad network dedicated to preparing for holy war against U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan. The gang's ringleader was the civil-rights coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, a Washington-based nonprofit leading the charge against airport and subway terror profiling.

Chandia, who graduated from the University of Maryland and once worked at Costco, also worked as a former personal assistant to the jihad gang's spiritual leader -- imam Ali al-Timimi, a native Washingtonian convicted last year for soliciting the Muslim men to levy war against the U.S. Al-Timimi praised the hijackers who carried out the 9-11 attacks and even cheered the crash of the space shuttle Columbia. Chandia helped al-Timimi schedule his sermons.

In Chandia's car, not surprisingly, federal investigators found a CD-ROM containing videos that glorified Osama bin Laden and the 19 hijackers.

All this took place in the shadow of the U.S. capital. And yet members of the large Muslim community there, many of whom work for the government, were unfazed by the evidence aligned against Chandia. After his conviction, some 350 Muslims including Islamic scholars, activists and other leaders, as well as government employees and contractors, donated generously to his defense fund.

"We ask Allah to reward everyone who supported this cause," gushed the head of the Ali Asad Support Committee. "We ask Allah to raise their ranks and to grant them goodness in this world and in the hereafter."

The local Muslim luminaries also wrote letters to the judge complaining of a U.S. witch hunt against "Brother Ali" and other "principled" Muslims who support "mujahideen" groups. And they mobbed the federal courtroom in Alexandria, Va., hoping for a lenient punishment.

But the judge wasn't buying it, and he imposed a fairly stiff sentence. Chandia, for his part, was unrepentant to the end. Upon his sentencing, Chandia lashed out at prosecutors, warning "their judgment is on the way."

U.S. marshals then led away a terrorist -- not a mild-mannered teacher or loving father -- but a terrorist.

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Paul Sperry is a Hoover Institution media fellow and author of "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington." He can be conacted at

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Daniel Pipes- Muslim Radicals: Piggybacking on Terrorism

Daniel Pipes
August 30, 2006

Two days after August 10 – when British authorities broke up an alleged plot to blow up multiple aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean – the "moderate" Muslim establishment in Britain published an aggressive open letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair.

It suggested that Blair could better fight terrorism if he recognized that current British government policy, especially with regard to "the debacle of Iraq," provides "ammunition to extremists." The letter writers demanded he change his foreign policy to "make us all safer." One prominent signatory, Labour MP Sadiq Khan, added that Blair's reluctance to criticize Israel increased the pool of people from which terrorists can recruit.

In other words, Islamists working within the system exploited the thwarted Islamist terror plot to pressure the British government to implement their joint wishes and reverse British policy in the Middle East. Lawful Islamists shamelessly leveraged the near-death of thousands to forward their agenda.

Despite its reported fears of Muslim street unrest, the Blair government heatedly rejected the letter. Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett called it "the gravest possible error." Foreign Office minister Kim Howells dismissed it as "facile." Home Secretary John Reid deemed it a "dreadful misjudgment [to think that the] foreign policy of this country should be shaped in part, or in whole, under the threat of terrorism activity." Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander rejected the letter as "dangerous and foolish."

Undaunted, the "moderate" Muslim establishment pushed even harder on the domestic front. In an August 14 meeting with high government representatives, including the deputy prime minister, it made two further demands: that a pair of Islamic religious festivals become official holidays and that Islamic laws pertaining to marriage and family life be applied in the United Kingdom. A Muslim present at the meeting later warned the government against any plans to profile airport passengers, lest this step further radicalize Muslim youths.

Why these ultimata and why at this time? The leader of the August 14 Muslim delegation, Syed Aziz Pasha, explained his group's logic: "We told [the politicians] if you give us religious rights, we will be in a better position to convince young people that they are being treated equally along with other citizens." More ominously, Pasha threatened the government leaders. "We are willing to co-operate but there should be a partnership. They should understand our problems, then we will understand their problems."

The press reacted furiously to these demands. The Guardian's Polly Toynbee condemned the open letter as "perilously close to suggesting the government had it coming." The Daily Mirror's Sue Carroll portrayed Pasha's position as "perilously close to blackmail."

This was not the first such attempt by "moderate" British Muslim leaders at political ju-jitsu, to translate Islamist violence into political clout. The same happened, if less aggressively, in the aftermath of the July 2005 London bombings, when they piggybacked on the death of 52 innocents to demand British forces out of Iraq.

That pressure did succeed, and in two main ways. First, the Home Office subsequently issued a report produced by "moderate" Muslims, "Preventing Extremism Together," that formally accepted this appeasing approach. As Dean Godson of Policy Exchange summarizes the document, Islamist terror "provided a wonderful, unexpected opportunity for these moderates to demand more power and money from the State."

Piggybacking on terror worked, second, in that a recent poll shows 72 percent of British subjects now accepting the Islamist view that Blair's "backing for action in Iraq and Afghanistan" has made Britain more of a target for terrorists, while a negligible 1 percent say the policies have improved the country's safety. The public solidly backs the Islamists, not the prime minister.

I have argued that terrorism generally obstructs the progress of radical Islam in the West by stimulating hostility to Muslims and bringing Islamic organizations under unwanted scrutiny. I must admit, however, that the evidence from Britain – where the 7/7 terrorism inspired more self-recrimination than it did fury against jihad – suggests that violence can also strengthen lawful Islamism.

And here's another reconsideration: while I maintain that the future of Europe – whether continuing in its historic Christian identity or becoming an adjunct of Muslim North Africa – is still an open question, the behavior of the British public, that weakest link in the Western chain, suggests that it, at least, may be too confused to resist its Londonistan destiny.

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Mr. Pipes ( is director of the Middle East Forum and author of Miniatures (Transaction Publishers).

Robert Spencer: Fox News and Forced Conversions

Robert Spencer
August 30, 2006

The most bizarre element of the two weeks of captivity suffered by Fox News reporter Steve Centanni and photographer Olaf Wiig at the hands of Gaza’s Holy Jihad Brigade was the video that surfaced depicting their conversion to Islam. Even before the journalists revealed that their conversions had been coerced, there were disturbing indications that they were not acting freely. While reading a statement he himself had ostensibly written, Centanni stumbled over words, appeared to puzzle over the handwriting, and seemed to grimace after pronouncing the words “peace be upon him” after the name of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Their messages as new converts to Islam were predictable denunciations of the United States and Israel, combined with emphasis on Islam’s universal call as the solution to the world’s problems. But most jarring was the video editor’s invocation of the favorite Qur’an verse of Western analysts of Islam and terrorism, “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256). The irony of featuring this verse in a video depicting two forced conversions has been widely noted. In fact, however, the juxtaposition of this verse with the video of Centanni and Wiig was probably not simply transparent deception, as strange as that may seem, and has far-reaching implications.

Islamic law forbids forced conversion, but as Andrew Bostom documented in a FrontPage article yesterday, this is a law that throughout Islamic history has all too often been honored in the breach. Nor is this yet another case of a “twisting” or “hijacking” of Islam; in fact, Islamic law regarding the presentation of Islam to non-Muslims manifests a quite different understanding of what constitutes freedom from coercion and freedom of conscience from that which prevails among non-Muslims.

Muhammad instructed his followers to call people to Islam before waging war against them – the warfare would follow from their refusal to accept Islam or to enter the Islamic social order as inferiors, required to pay a special tax:

Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war…When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them….If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya [the tax on non-Muslims specified in Qur’an 9:29]. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them. (Sahih Muslim 4294)

There is therefore an inescapable threat in this “invitation” to accept Islam. Would one who converted to Islam under the threat of war be considered to have converted under duress? By non-Muslim standards, yes, but not according to the view of this Islamic tradition. From the standpoint of the traditional schools of Islamic jurisprudence such a conversion would have resulted from “no compulsion.”

Muhammad reinforced these instructions on many occasions during his prophetic career. Late in his career, he wrote to Heraclius, the Eastern Roman Emperor in Constantinople:

Now then, I invite you to Islam (i.e., surrender to Allah), embrace Islam and you will be safe; embrace Islam and Allah will bestow on you a double reward. But if you reject this invitation of Islam, you shall be responsible for misguiding the peasants (i.e., your nation). (Bukhari, 4.52.191).

Heraclius did not accept Islam, and soon the Byzantines would know well that the warriors of jihad indeed granted no safety to those who rejected their “invitation.”

Muhammad did not get a satisfactory answer either from Chosroes, ruler of the Persians. After reading the letter of the Prophet of Islam, Chosroes contemptuously tore it to pieces. When news of this reached Muhammad, he called upon Allah to tear the Persian emperor and his followers to pieces (Bukhari, 5.59.708). He told the Muslims that they would conquer both empires: “When Khosrau [Chosroes] perishes, there will be no (more) Khosrau after him, and when Caesar perishes, there will be no more Caesar after him. By Him in Whose hands Muhammad’s life is, you will spend the treasures of both of them in Allah’s Cause” (Bukhari 4.53.349).

Muhammad did not limit his veiled threat only to rulers. Another hadith records that on one occasion he emerged from a mosque and told his men, “Let us go to the Jews.” Upon arriving at a nearby Arabian Jewish community, Muhammad told them: “If you embrace Islam, you will be safe. You should know that the earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle, and I want to expel you from this land. So, if anyone amongst you owns some property, he is permitted to sell it, otherwise you should know that the Earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle” (Bukhari, 4.53.392). In other words, if you accept Islam, you may keep your land and property, but if not, Muhammad and the Muslims would confiscate it.

Bostom notes: “Orders for conversion were decreed under all the early Islamic dynasties—Umayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids, and Mamluks. Additional extensive examples of forced conversion were recorded under both Seljuk and Ottoman Turkish rule (the latter until its collapse in the 20th century), the Shi’ite Safavid and Qajar dynasties of Persia/Iran, and during the jihad ravages on the Indian subcontinent, beginning with the early 11th century campaigns of Mahmud of Ghazni, and recurring under the Delhi Sultanate, and Moghul dynasty until the collapse of Muslim suzerainty in the 18th century following the British conquest of India.” Since these Muslim rulers and armies all revered Muhammad as an “excellent example of conduct” (Qur’an 33:21), this is not surprising.

After being freed, Centanni said: “We were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint. Don’t get me wrong here. I have the highest respect for Islam, and I learned a lot of good things about it, but it was something we felt we had to do because they had the guns, and we didn’t know what … was going on.”

Indeed, few in the West know what’s going on regarding the example of Muhammad and the stance of traditional Islam on conversion. The human rights should have the courage to recognize and denounce this conversion-or-else directive, and to recognize the plight of those who even today suffer from its scourge. Moreover, with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad operating according to Muhammad’s instructions, this now has geopolitical implications. In his letter to President Bush, Ahmadinejad invited him to accept Islam, and then echoed the Prophet of Islam in delivering a threat to Bush through Mike Wallace: “We are all free to choose. But please give him this message, sir: Those who refuse to accept an invitation will not have a good ending or fate.”

Ahmadinejad’s threat, as well as the ordeal of Centanni and Wiig, epitomizes the threat that the global jihad represents to the freedom of conscience. Analysts are increasingly beginning to note that the conflict has ideological dimensions, but these dimensions are still imperfectly understood in the public sphere. Were Western leaders courageous enough to speak forthrightly about the threat we face as an Islamic jihad, they could use the “conversions” of Centanni and Wiig to illustrate one of the elements of Western civilization that is being challenged and that we are resolved to defend. Unfortunately, mired as they are in denial about the nature of the “terror” threat itself, they have made as yet no such resolution.

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Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of six books, seven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World’s Fastest Growing Faith and the New York Times Bestseller The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). His latest book, The Truth About Muhammad, is coming October 9 from Regnery Publishing.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Arnaud de Borchgrave: Gathering Nuclear Storm

The Washington Times
August 29, 2006

Just days before the United Nations Security Council deadline for Iran to cease and desist enriching uranium, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave the West the Iranian bird. By inaugurating a "heavy-water" reactor, Iran instantly doubled its chances of acquiring nuclear weapons. Adding insult to injury, the military mullahs test-fired a new long-range missile -- the Thaqeb, or Saturn, a submarine-to-surface weapon.

The new reactor runs on natural uranium mined by Iran and skips the difficult enrichment phase to produce plutonium, which gives nukes the power to obliterate entire cities. Of course, all these efforts, says Iran's president, is to treat and diagnose AIDS and cancer patients. And -- we almost forgot -- to generate more power to improve agriculture. The fact Iran has sufficient oil reserves to generate electric power for generations to come is conveniently overlooked.

Iran is now confident neither Russia nor China will go along with meaningful economic sanctions. Moscow says sanctions have never worked, ignoring those that collapsed South Africa's apartheid regime. The handwriting on the geopolitical landscape has convinced Israel and its core support in the U.S., from the neoconservatives to the Christian Right, that a military solution is inescapable.

Leading conservatives have said World War III -- the ultimate clash of civilizations -- has been under way since September 11, 2001. Some neocons say it started when the mullahs forced the shah into exile and seized power in Iran in early 1979 -- and that President Bush and Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair are treading water among the appeasers. They remind Mr. Bush he vowed not to leave office without first ensuring that "the worst weapons will not fall into the worst hands" and thus Iran cannot become a nuclear power. Their ideological guide Richard Perle goes so far as to accuse Mr. Bush, who knows Iran has pursued a secret nuclear weapons program for the last 19 years, of opting for "ignominious retreat."

Overlooked in this calculus is Mr. Bush's burden of two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, and a much-diminished U.S. military. A third front against Iran, an ancient civilization of 70 million with global retaliatory capabilities (e.g., Hezbollah), is a frightening prospect that conjures up the nightmare of a return to the draft.

Mr. Bush believes deeply that Iran poses an existential threat to close ally Israel. Congress recently voted a resolution that said an attack on Israel is an attack on the United States. Mr. Bush also believes Iran is determined to sabotage American hopes of establishing a new democratic Middle East.

In Iraq, clandestine Iranian aid, from sophisticated "Improvised Explosive Devices" to funds and weapons to the two main Shi'ite militias, may be designed to maneuver the U.S. into a humiliating, Vietnamlike withdrawal from Iraq.

Given Mr. Bush's overarching dedication to "winning the Global War on Terrorism," said one former senior intelligence analyst, the neutralization of Iran has become a sine qua non, "equal if not higher on his list of priorities than 'victory' in Iraq, another impossibility that he is unwilling to recognize, even privately, much less acknowledge publicly."

Mr. Bush's national security advisers have also pointed out that an escalating danger of U.S.-Iran military confrontation automatically intensifies internal and regional opposition to U.S. objectives in Iraq. The president keeps reminding private interlocutors to think of how history will judge this critical period 15 to 20 years hence. He sees personal and national humiliation if he were to leave office having acquiesced to an embryonic Iranian nuclear arsenal.

So odds makers bet sometime before the end of his second term President Bush will order a massive air attack on a wide range of carefully selected targets in Iran, in partnership with Israel, and against the advice of many of his advisers. Mr. Bush is convinced a nuclear Iran would pose an intolerable threat to U.S. national security and, as one former intelligence topsider put it, "he is firm in his faith that God agrees with him on that point, and certain that history will eventually recognize and properly appreciate his courageous and visionary leadership."

This raises the question of congressional approval. As George Will said to CBS' George Stephanopoulos two Sundays ago, when was the last time this president ever worried about getting approval in advance from the Congress or the public?

In any event, Israel is not taking any chances. Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres said last week Israel would not be the first to attack Iran. Other Israeli voices say Israel will have to do just that. Israel recently added a new command to the IDF -- the "Iran Command." Its new commander is Maj. Gen. Elyezer Shkedy, Israel's Air Force chief. He is responsible for all conflicts with countries "not bordering Israel." The Jewish state's strategic thinkers and military planners take the diminutive Mr. Ahmadinejad at his word when he says Israel must be "wiped off the map."

Most worrisome for Israel is Hezbollah's recent military performance against the Israeli Defense Force in Lebanon. The perception is this Iranian surrogate resisted and repelled a mighty foe. The reality is Iran's new-mown conviction Israel can be defeated. So Israel will now have to prove, yet again, that it cannot.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Star Parker: Katrina, lies and videotape

Monday, August 28, 2006
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Spike Lee took his cameras and crew to New Orleans to film a documentary about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. The four-hour production, which aired on HBO, is, unfortunately, about as destructive as was the disaster it depicts.

At a time when we need light and understanding, Lee has delivered darkness, anger and hatred. Those who will be hurt the most by the distorted and untruthful picture that Lee has concocted are the poor blacks he purports to want to help.

It's clear that Lee did not go to Louisiana in search of truth. He went to Louisiana to carefully construct a documentary that would support the conclusion he had already reached. That conclusion: poor blacks suffered and died as result of the indifference of a detached and racist Bush administration in general and President Bush in particular.

The film commits egregious journalistic sins of commission and omission, carefully selecting and editing footage to indict Bush, including only commentators who support the conclusions that Lee had already reached, and selectively omitting reams of information relevant to the complex truth of what actually happened.

Since Lee already knew the truth, he didn't have much need to examine material such as "A Failure of Initiative," Congress' investigation into Katrina, which shows failure and breakdown at all levels of government _ local, state and federal. It also was of little interest to Lee that primary responsibility for disaster preparation and management is at the level of local and state government, not federal.

But New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin comes off in the production as just one cool dude. He shows up at regular intervals over the four-hour production, talking New Orleans jive and being one straightforward sincere guy who was trying to do his job.

No mention is made of the hurricane simulations and emergency evacuation plans that he totally ignored. No reference is made to the famous picture of the parking lot filled with flooded school buses that Nagin chose not to use to evacuate residents in poor areas.

Central to the Katrina story is the failure of the levees. Indeed, Lee's film is called "When the Levees Broke."

But who is responsible for ignoring the warnings over the years that the levees protecting New Orleans were inadequate? Bush? Of course not.

It was Louisiana's congressional delegation that was responsible to ensure that their constituents' interests were being represented and that funds were being appropriated to fix sub-standard levees. But not a single Louisiana senator or congressman is ever mentioned or appears in "When the Levees Broke."

William Jefferson, New Orleans' congressman for the last 16 years, has been under FBI investigation over the last year under bribery charges. However, Jefferson is a Democrat and a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. To shine a light on his possible, and likely, neglect of representing his constituents' interests would have distracted from the single message that Bush was the evil genius behind this tragedy.

Of course, no mention is made of Jefferson's trip home, when he commandeered a National Guard truck in the middle of rescue efforts to take him to his house to retrieve personal property.

Given what Lee leaves out, it's particularly cheap and sick that he felt it relevant to include footage of Condoleezza Rice supposedly shopping for designer shoes at the time the disaster was sweeping New Orleans. As we know, Condi is our secretary of state, who has no responsibility for any of these matters.

After showing what appears to be a disengaged Bush, assuring that help is on the way, Lee pans, in contrast, to Harry Belafonte, who talks about the generous offers of help that came from President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

I have written previously of the love of affair of the black left, particularly the Rev. Jesse Jackson, with Third World dictators. There is virtually no freedom of the press and speech in Venezuela. If Lee were a citizen of Venezuela and made a similar film attacking Chavez, he would disappear forever after the first showing.

Perhaps most sad is that in four hours Lee has nothing positive to say about America and Americans. No mention is made of the $700 million from private citizens and churches that were committed in the first few days of the tragedy. No mention is made of the thousands of homes across the nation that welcomed evacuees. No mention is made of the tens of thousands who have successfully rebuilt their lives.

Spike Lee clearly has little affection for the country that gives him free expression and has made him wealthy. He has produced a self-indulgent, deceitful and exploitive film about a tragedy. His message will give poor blacks more reasons to feel powerless, to feel lost, to feel that others bear responsibility for their lives, to hate, and to stay poor.