Saturday, January 02, 2016

Why ‘Draw Mohammed’? The Artist Explains

By Andrew C. McCarthy — January 2, 2016

Bosch Fawstin (Image via YouTube)

"Mohammed cartoons don’t inspire Islamic violence. Islamic violence inspires Mohammed cartoons.” That is what Bosch Fawstin tells me. And he knows whereof he speaks.

Fawstin is the award-winning cartoonist thrust into international notoriety in May when he won a “Draw Muhammad” contest in Garland, Texas — a contest that became the first terrorist target of the Islamic State on American soil.

The event was intended to be less a competition than a celebration of free-expression principles. Because those principles undergird Western civilization, they have become the prime target of Islamic supremacists. And when we talk about Islamic supremacists, we are not talking only about violent jihadists, such as the two ISIS-inspired terrorists who were killed in a firefight with police while attempting a mass murder of Fawstin and his fellow contestants.

There are also the “moderates” who specialize in exploiting the atmosphere of intimidation created by jihadist organizations: the Muslim Brotherhood’s international web of Islamic activist groups and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the 57-government bloc that claims to represent Muslim interests globally.

The methods of the “moderates” might differ from those of ISIS and al-Qaeda — and given the extensive promotion of jihadist violence by the Brotherhood and several OIC member states, we say “might” with tongue firmly in cheek. The “moderate” goal, however, is the same: the imposition of sharia, which is Islam’s societal framework and legal code. As Fawstin explains it: “Devout Muslims want their laws to be our laws. In essence, they want us to be de facto Muslims.”

In that vein, priority No. 1 has been pressuring the United States and its Western allies to stifle free expression, to supplant our free marketplace of ideas with Islam’s repressive blasphemy standards. This imperative has received a major boost from the Obama administration: from the president, who is sworn to preserve, protect, and defend the First Amendment, and also from his former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who would like to be the next to make a mockery of that solemn oath. Colluding with the Brotherhood and the OIC, Obama and Clinton sponsored United Nations Human Rights Resolution 16-18: a blatantly unconstitutional provision that calls on all member states to ban speech that could “incite” not just violence but “hostility” to Islam.

This goes to the heart of why the Garland event has been widely misunderstood. With Obama and Clinton working with anti-American Islamists to attack free speech, it is no surprise that the administration’s slavish media are portraying Islam’s critics as wild-eyed bigots, and their “Draw Muhammad” contest as an exercise in gratuitous insult — the kind of expression that even free-speech advocates often shy from defending.

The narrative betrays ignorance of Islam’s blasphemy proscriptions. Insulting speech barely scratches the surface of all that is forbidden. Classical sharia prohibits all artistic expression that depicts animate life — deeming it an offensive imitation of Allah’s creative act. Far beyond insult, moreover, sharia forbids speech that subjects Islam to any objective examination that could result in negative criticism. Also forbidden are words that imply unbelief; that could be taken to rebuke Allah or Mohammed (even if gently or in jest); or that appear to deny a principle established by authoritative sharia scholarship. Islamic supremacists would apply prohibitions to non-Muslims as well as Muslims, because they believe that Allah has commanded them to impose sharia on the unwilling. And as for Muslims, speech that announces or implies apostasy is punishable by death.

This is what drives Fawstin’s work. “I draw Mohammed,” he says, “because the enemy tells me I can’t.” In Garland, that meant not just a rendering, but a rendering of the act of rendering. Describing his winning cartoon, he explains: “I draw myself drawing Mohammed, and Mohammed with his sword in hand, yells at me, ‘You Can’t Draw Me!’ to which I reply (in a word balloon), ‘That’s why I draw you.’”

The idea was to underscore the free-speech purpose of the contest. The imposition of Islamic law “includes banning much of our music, art, and literature,” Fawstin observes. “Look at how ISIS has been destroying antiquities, for example.” The way to fight back, he believes, is with open and unwavering dedication to free expression:
The way I see it, if drawing Mohammad can get you killed, then he should be drawn again and again and again and again, until drawing him loses all power. And, within reason, doing something that an enemy doesn’t want you to do is reason enough to do it, on sheer principle. 
Unlike many Americans, particularly in Washington, who believe in fighting fire with accommodation, Fawstin grasps that steely resolve is the only way to face down this enemy. Perhaps it has something to do with being raised in the Bronx — as a Muslim. His Albanian family was what would today be called “moderate Muslims,” although they identified themselves simply as Muslims, Fawstin recounts. Interestingly, this echoes Turkey’s Islamist president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who rejects the notion of “moderate Muslims” —  he maintains that “Islam is Islam, and that’s it.”

Growing up, Fawstin increasingly sensed incongruity: His family was “moderate” in their adherence to Islam, rarely going to mosque and selectively following sharia strictures; yet the Jew-hatred and misogyny that are hallmarks of Islamic supremacism ran rampant among his “moderate” relatives. As he recalls:
I phased out of Islam in my mid teens when I began to think about morality in a serious way, when I saw the contrast between Islamic values and American values, and when I was beginning to really recognize what was good and true in the world.
For Fawstin, the 9/11 attacks were a call to arms — in the “pen is mightier than the sword” sense. He had “fallen in love with superhero comic books” during childhood and was already embarked on a career as a cartoonist. His rage over the atrocity merged with his professional passion to forge a determination to respond in a comic-book and graphic-novel form.

The semi-biographical result is The Infidel, Featuring Pigman, a comic book that is part of a graphic novel. The plot revolves around twin brothers who react to 9/11 in opposite ways: One dives deeper into his Islamic roots; the other, a Muslim apostate, creates “an ex-Muslim counter-jihad superhero comic book.” It is a story within a story: As the superhero, Pigman, battles his jihadist nemesis, the conflict between the twins escalates.

Naturally, I ask Fawstin, “Why Pigman?” The idea, he quips, is to exploit the enemy’s “pigotry.” It is a concept quite at odds with Western governments’ “outreach” style of counterterrorism. Rather than attempting to placate jihadists, Fawstin prefers to study their ideology, find out what they fear and loathe, and use it against them. He recalled from his Muslim childhood the strictures against eating pork or “coming into contact with pig, in any way,” along with the fact that being called a “pig” was considered the worse of insults. Thus he decided that pigskin leather was the perfect costume for his protagonist, who is moved to combat after witnessing the 9/11 attacks from New York’s Ground Zero.

Fawstin would not have created the cartoon series or drawn Mohammed at Garland had it not been for 9/11. Contrary to the blame-America-first storyline, it was the jihad that provoked his determined response, not the other way around. And it is the threats he’s received because of his work that inspire him to persevere.

The enemy is no match for America on the military battlefield. Nor can they compete in the battle of ideas, where their tactic is suppression precisely because their repugnant ideas cannot bear examination. As terrorists, their only power lies in paralyzing us, instilling in us a fear to defend our principles, like free speech. Obama and Clinton loudly signal a readiness to surrender those principles, theorizing that the enemy will be appeased. Bosch Fawstin defiantly lives those principles, reckoning that if we all did, the enemy would not stand a chance.

I like his plan better.

— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.

What Muslims Really Believe

An illuminating look at the key research on this subject.

December 31, 2015

A Kashmiri Muslim reads the Quran on the first day of Ramadan at the landmark Jamia Masjid in Srinagar on August 2, 2011. 
Eric Holder once called the United States “a nation of cowards,” when he claimed that Americans are largely afraid to have an honest discussion about race. He was partially correct: Leftists like Holder are fearful of discussing race in any manner that depicts African Americans as something other than the perpetual, pathetic victims of white bloodlust and simpleminded bigotry. The meek responses that Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, and Hillary Clinton recently bleated out when confronted by some of the aggressive racists in the Black Lives Matter movement, were classic illustrations of this cowardice.

Equally pitiful has been the Left's propensity for turning two blind eyes to the very obvious problems posed by Islam and the value system inherent in its scriptures. For the most part, leftists are content to simply depict anyone who's willing to have a substantive conversation about those problems, as a dimwit, a Nazi, or both. Thus, when Donald Trump recently suggested that it would be advisable to temporarily stop Muslim immigration into the U.S. until the government is able to get its woefully deficient vetting process in order, he was instantly ridiculed and excoriated by a conga line of glib, self-congratulating know-nothings. Hillary Clinton, for instance, called Trump's remarks “reprehensible, prejudiced and divisive.” Dawud Walid of the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relationscharacterized Trump's proposal as “fascist.” Martin O'Malley called Trump “a fascist demagogue.” CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen saw, in Trump, “the traits of a proto-fascist.” And White House spokesman Josh Earnest informed us that Trump's remarks “disqualif[y] him from serving as president.”

Not to be outdone, numerous high-profile Republicans showed themselves to be just as cowardly, and just as dumb, as the aforementioned leftists. House Speaker Paul Ryan said that Trump's views are “not what this party stands for and more importantly … not what this country stands for,” given that “freedom of religion is a fundamental constitutional principle.” Jeb Bush's assessment was more pithy, calling Trump “unhinged.” Chris Christie portrayed Trump's remarks as “the kind of thing that people say when they have no experience and don't know what they're talking about.” Lindsey Graham warned that Trump's “bombastic rhetoric” was “downright dangerous.” And John Kasich cited Trump's words as proof that he “is entirely unsuited to lead the United States.”

Implicit in each of these criticisms is the premise that newcomers from all faith traditions are more-or-less equally able, and equally willing, to assimilate into Western society, embrace Western values, and abide by Western laws; in other words, that it ultimately makes no difference what religion is practiced by those who immigrate to America. But quite frankly, no informed individual could possibly believe such a thing, particularly in light of the fact that in recent years researchers have accumulated a great deal of data regarding the attitudes, beliefs, and allegiances of Muslims around the world. Consider just a few of these vital facts, and contemplate whether you think they should at least be factored into the formulation of American immigration and refugee policy:
  • 39% of people in Afghanistan believe that suicide bombings are “often or sometimes” justified, as do 25% of Egyptians, 26% of Bangladeshis, and 62% of Palestinians.
  • Fewer than half of Pakistanis and Malaysians have a negative view of al Qaeda. Barely half of Nigerians and Tunisians have negative opinions about the Taliban. And a mere 16% of Pakistanis hold Hamas in low regard.
  • In a 2011 survey of Muslims in seven Middle Eastern countries, nowhere did any more than 28% of respondents accept the notion that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were carried out by Arabs.
  • In most of these same Middle Eastern countries, significant majorities of Muslims view Westerners generally as being “selfish,” “violent,” “greedy,” “immoral,” “arrogant,” and “fanatical.”
  • In Indonesia, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, and Pakistan, the proportion of Muslims who hold Jews in low regard is nearly 100%.
  • In every sub-Saharan African nation where the Pew Research Center has conducted polls in recent years, a majority of Muslims believe that women should not be permitted to decide for themselves whether or not to wear a veil. The same is true of Muslims in Afghanistan, Egypt, and Iraq.
  • Overwhelming majorities of Muslims throughout South and Southeast Asia, as well as in the Middle East, believe that wives should “always” obey their husbands. And in almost all of these same countries, solid majorities oppose the idea that daughters and sons should be entitled to equal inheritance rights.
  • In Islamic strongholds like Malaysia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq, Morocco, and the Palestinian Territories, more than 80% of survey respondents believe that their respective governments should be based on strict Sharia Law. And among those who favor Sharia, anywhere from 29% to 61% wish to impose it not only on fellow Muslims, but on all citizens regardless of their faith.
  • Among Sharia supporters throughout South Asia and the Middle East: (a) a majority believe in employing the types of severe corporal punishment mandated by Islamic Law—e.g., whipping criminals or amputating the hands of thieves; (b) between 80 and 90 percent of Afghanis, Pakistanis, and Egyptians favor the death penalty for apostates (those who leave Islam); and (c) more than 80% of Jordanians and Egyptians believe that stoning is the appropriate punishment for adultery.
  • It is common for majorities of Muslims in South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa to believe that honor killings are sometimes justified as punishment for pre- or extra-marital sex.
  • More than 70% of Muslims in Malaysia, Indonesia, Afghanistan, the Palestinian Territories, and Jordan believethat religious leaders should have much, or at least some, influence in politics.
  • In many Islamic countries, very small minorities of the population view polygamy as morally unacceptable. For example, only 8% of Egyptians, 6% of Jordanians, 5% of Nigerians, 11% of Malians, 8% of Senegalese, and 18% of Iraqis object to the practice.
  • Among Muslims throughout Asia, Africa, and Southern and Eastern Europe, the percentage of Muslims who say that homosexuality is morally acceptable rarely exceeds 3%.
To what degree can we reasonably expect newcomers from places like these to assimilate into Western society? What problems, if any, are likely to arise from their views regarding the use of suicide bombings against civilians; their support for genocidal terror groups; their low regard for Westerners generally; their profound hatred of Jews; their unwavering rejection of women's rights; their opposition to freedom of religion and freedom of thought; their preferred criminal-justice practices; their support for varying degrees of authoritarian theocracy; and their views regarding marriage and sexuality? Do such considerations even merit a conversation? Or should we simply be content to console ourselves with soothing bromides about the unquestioned importance of “diversity”—until the values and traditions that have long bound our society together are entirely dissolved by the multiculturalist delusions and fairy tales of the Left?
For an in-depth look at the key research that has been conducted regarding these beliefs, click here.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Today's Tune: Bastille - Pompeii - (Live, VEVO Halloween)

Book Review: ‘Russell Kirk: American Conservative’ by Bradley J. Birzer

December 27, 2015
In Dublin, Russell Kirk once wrote, there stands a “roofless wreck of an eighteenth-century house.” Since 1729 this crumbling place has served as many things, including a shop and a government office “of the meaner sort.” But these ruins have a forgotten significance: they are what remains of the birthplace of Edmund Burke, who Kirk saw as the epitome of “conservatism, justice, and prudence.”
Kirk’s use of this image to describe the modern world as one that “damns tradition, exalts equality, and welcomes change” is the opening of his magnum opus, The Conservative Mind, in which Kirk compiled and examined the thought of conservative thinkers since the 18th century, from Burke through T.S. Eliot. The author of the latest biography on Kirk, Bradley J. Birzer (appropriately, the Russell Amos Kirk Chair in History at Hillsdale College) writes that in placing these great thinkers side-by-side, The Conservative Mind brings “unity to nearly ten years of disparately articulated thought offered by a number of Anglo-American conservative, Christian humanist, and libertarian voices after World War II.”
Russell Kirk has long been a polarizing figure. Many hold him to be a great American writer, fundamental to establishing conservatism “as a valid intellectual enterprise,” while others believe him to be an anti-Semite, a wannabe aristocrat, or a phony. Birzer’s 400-page biography shows a different Kirk—a Kirk that is sometimes whiny, sometimes a curmudgeon, and always eccentric, but also genuine, a family man, and brilliant. Though confusingly organized—important details of Kirk’s personal life are kept from the reader until the end of the book—and at times displaying curious judgment about what receives careful analysis (Kirk’s fiction) and what gets only cursory attention (the concept of the moral imagination), Birzer nonetheless ably traces Kirk’s thought and professional history, from his youth as a “Stoic Prophet” to his old age as a “Married Bohemian.”
Kirk was born in Michigan in 1918. He attended Michigan State College (now Michigan State University) as an undergraduate and went on to Duke for graduate school. There, he wrote his thesis on John Randolph of Roanoke, a man he dubbed “the American Burke.” Randolph, he believed, “promoted a republic of excellence” and mourned “the lack of aristocratic leisure” and the resulting mediocrity.
Kirk would spend his career writing on such themes. His time at Duke also solidified his intense dislike of modern social sciences, which he believed mistook “fact accumulation for wisdom” and did not appreciate the mysterious complexity of human life. In a letter to one undergraduate professor he recalled a particularly irritating incident during his oral thesis defense:
“The chief battle was with a political science man. […]
“Your title is deceptive and false. ‘Political thought’ has a special technical meaning. To be political thought, it has to be unique. What contribution did Randolph make that was unique?”
“None,” said I. “Nothing has been unique since Aristotle.”
After graduate school Kirk spent four years in the army, which he loathed because he believed the institution bred “indolence” and “servitude.” He was first stationed in the Great Salt Desert in Utah, a desolate place that reminded him at first only of “death and futility and eternal emptiness.” Kirk’s hatred of his surroundings drove him further into his books, and (somewhat understandably) into Stoicism.
He began teaching at Michigan State University in 1946, but did not feel any more at home in academia than in the army. Birzer writes that Kirk mourned the “drastic decline in the meaning of the liberal arts and academic standards.” It seems Kirk had quite a bit to say about the idea of a liberal arts education; he later founded a journal titled University Bookman that was meant to “restore and improve the standards of high education in America.”
Dissatisfied at Michigan State, Kirk went on leave to pursue his D. Litt. at St. Andrews University in Scotland, a somewhat mystical setting he described as “the apotheosis of coziness.” Here Kirk wrote the first edition of The Conservative Mind, a book that proved (wrote publisher Henry Regnery) “that conservatism was an honorable and intellectually respectable position,” as well as “an integral part of the American tradition.” He saw the book as offering a poetic history of conservatism that saw “timeless” truths “uniquely manifested” in each profiled thinker. Kirk published numerous editions of the book throughout his life, making The Conservative Mind reflective of his own “living, growing view of conservatism.”
For Kirk, conservatism was not an ideology but an understanding. The conservative believes not in revolution but in the careful preservation of the ‘permanent things’—the traditions and institutions left behind by one’s ancestors, as well as the prudent (in other words, possible, rather than idealistic), gradual reform of imperfect things. Kirk saw conservatism more in terms of “the poetic, literary, and theological” than the political; “religion, ethics, and beauty” took precedence over the ephemerality of politics. He believed in “orders and classes,” “a transcendent moral order,” “affection for” the diversity of ways of life, and “a divine intent” that “rule[d] society,” linking “living and dead.”
Kirk objected to everything that contributed to the spiritual decay of modern society, including television, New York City, and, at times, politics, an activity that he often said was for the “quarter-educated.” Still, he engaged in politics, most notably backing Barry Goldwater against Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1964 presidential election. Birzer elaborates upon the intimate connection between the two, writing that Kirk “offered the ideas” and Goldwater “provided the public vision and figure.” Those who saw Kirk’s political work noted that he did not get “caught up in the superficial hoopla of a political campaign.” Rather, Birzer writes, Kirk “represented an older and idealized notion of politics as an arena for gentlemanly debate.”
Still, Kirk fought most of his battles in the intellectual arena. He formed a republic of letters, or a network of scholars, philosophers, and “bookmen,” in order to preserve excellence and nobility in modernity. Such a network, Kirk hoped, would promote the pursuit of leisure and curb the unqualified pursuit of equality. To this end, Kirk made many friends, including political philosophers Leo Strauss and Eric Voegelin and author Ray Bradbury. He founded a journal, Modern Age, penned articles for National Review, and wrote dozens of other works of fiction and political theory with his apparently super-human efficiency.
Kirk felt a deep admiration and respect for T.S. Eliot, so much so that “Eliot’s view of the universe became Kirk’s view.” Their friendship originated, wrote Kirk, because “a conscience spoke to a conscience.” From Eliot, Kirk inherited the ideas of “permanent things,” “a spiritual inheritance from Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, and London,” and “the mystical notions of “timeless moments” (to name a few).
Kirk’s personal life is not the focus of this biography, and Birzer leaves revealing details for his final chapter, such as Kirk’s relationship with his wife Annette and his embrace of Catholicism. It also seems that in the last 50 pages of the biography, an optimistic, charitable, weird side of Kirk more clearly emerges. Kirk was aware of the flavor of his intellect. “Mine was not an Enlightened mind,” he wrote in his 1963 autobiography. “I did not love cold harmony and perfect regularity … what I sought was variety, mystery, tradition, the venerable, and the awful.” One sees that Kirk “lived what he wrote”—his gothic-style, self-designed home, Piety Hill, served the entirety of Kirk’s community—not only him, his wife, and his four daughters. It was a shelter for the needy, the abandoned, or just the strange. It also served as a classroom where he hosted seminars. He often wore a cape and carried a sword cane, and his fervent belief in ghosts and mysterious forces earned him nicknames like “the Wizard of Mecosta” and “the Last of the Romantics.”
“Burke failed,” Kirk wrote in the introduction to The Conservative Mind. “From the day of his death onward, history was to record the trampling of Burke’s society beneath the feet of our epoch.” But Burkean conservatism survives in modernity due to the work of men like Kirk, who believed that restoring the ideas of our ancestors could restore America to greatness.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Died: Ed Dobson, Pastor and One-Time Moral Majority Leader

After he was diagnosed with ALS in 2000, Dobson spoke and wrote on how to die—and live—well.

By Morgan Lee
December 29, 2015

Ed's Story screenshot

“Ed Dobson is now healed and with his Lord.”
That’s how the Facebook page chronicling the life of the former Religious Right leader since his diagnosis with ALS announced his death on Saturday.
Dobson, 65, was the former senior pastor at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Born on December 29, 1949, in Northern Ireland, Dobson immigrated to the US at the age of 14. He attended Bob Jones University and earned his doctorate from University of Virginia. In the early part of his career, Dobson worked closely with Jerry Falwell, became a Liberty University administrator, and served on the Moral Majority board.
“I graduated from Bob Jones and couldn't get a job, and Falwell offered me to come work. It was the second year they had a college, and I figured that was better than what I was doing, which was digging graves,” Dobson told PBS in 2009. “So I ended up going to Lynchburg till I found something better, which took 14 and a half years.”
He became the pastor of the non-denominational Calvary Church in 1987.
In 1999, Dobson and Cal Thomas co-authored Blinded by Might, which criticized Falwell and the Religious Right movement. (Read CT’s review.)
Dobson later felt he’d been too harsh.
"I was an outspoken critic of Jerry Falwell and others. Recently, I've changed my mind," he told CT after Falwell’s death in 2007. "I think he was doing what he felt God was leading him to do, and I was doing what I felt God was leading me to do. The ultimate judgment is up to God, not me or Jerry."
Click on the link below to read the rest of the article:

Today's Laugh Track: Merry New Year! (Trading Places)

Why Would Anyone Want a Firearm?

By Charles C. W. Cooke — December 31, 2015
From the December 31, 2015, issue of NR

The "spectacularly unhelpful" Second Amendment
(Credit: Mike Flippoa_v_d via Shutterstock/Salon)

Of all the ill-considered tropes that are trotted out in anger during our ongoing debate over gun control, perhaps the most irritating is the claim that the Constitution may indeed protect firearms, but it says “nothing at all about bullets.”

On its face, this is flatly incorrect. Quite deliberately, the Bill of Rights is worded so as to shield categories and not specifics, which is why the First Amendment protects the “press” and not “ink”; why the Fourth covers “papers” and “effects” instead of listing every item that might be worn about one’s person; and why the Fifth insists broadly that one may not be deprived of “life, liberty, or property” and leaves the language there. The “right of the people” that is mentioned in the Second Amendment is not “to keep and bear guns” or “to keep and bear ammunition” but “to keep and bear arms,” which, per Black’s Law Dictionary, was understood in the 18th century to include the “musket and bayonet”; “sabre, holster pistols, and carbine”; an array of “side arms”; and any accoutrements necessary for their operation. To propose that a government could restrict access to ammunition without gutting the Second Amendment is akin to proposing that a government could ban churches without hollowing out the First. If a free people are to enjoy their liberties without encumbrance, the prerequisite tools must be let well alone.

Without doubt, the vast majority of those who offer up the “But bullets!” talking point are doing little more than repeating memes that they have encountered. Yet at the root of their provocation is a serious misconception that needs to be seriously reckoned with. In most of the world’s countries, firearms are regulated in much the same way as are, say, cars, radios, and lawnmowers: as everyday tools whose utility can be evaluated without prejudice. In the United States, by contrast, the government’s hands are tied tight. To those who are unfamiliar with the contours of Anglo-American history, this can be understandably confusing. “Why,” we often hear it asked, “would the architects of the Constitution put a public policy question into the national charter? Do we really have to stick with a regulatory scheme that originated before the invention of the light bulb?”

The answer to this question is a simple one: “Yes.” Why? Because, our contemporary rhetorical habits notwithstanding, the right to keep and bear arms is not so much a right in and of itself as an auxiliary mechanism that protects the real unalienable right underneath: that of self-defense. By placing a prohibition on strict gun control into the Constitution, the Founders did not accidentally insert a matter of quotidian rulemaking into a statement of foundational law; rather, they sought to secure a fundamental liberty whose explicit recognition was the price of the state’s construction. To understand this, I’d venture, is to understand immediately why the people of these United States remain so doggedly attached to their weapons. At bottom, the salient question during any gun-control debate is less “Do you think people should be allowed to have rifles?” and more “Do you think you should be permitted to take care of your own security?”

A five-foot-tall, 110-pound woman is in a certain sense “armed” if she has a kitchen knife or a baseball bat at her disposal. But if the six-foot-four, 250-pound man who has broken into her apartment has one, too, she is not likely to overwhelm him. If that same woman has a nine-millimeter Glock, however? Well, then there is a good chance of her walking out unharmed. From the perspective of our petite woman, there is really no way for the state to endorse her right to defend herself if it deprives her of the tools she needs for the job.

In the sixth century, the Byzantine emperor Justinian compiled the monumental Digest of Roman Law, cataloguing the laws that had developed over centuries of Roman jurisprudence — among which was this rule of thumb: “That which someone does for the safety of his body, let it be regarded as having been done legally.” When it comes to the police and the armed forces, this principle is widely acknowledged, which is why most nations are happy to let their cops walk around with semi-automatic handguns and an array of advanced tactical gear. Within the civilian context, however, the same idea has become strangely controversial. Think of how often you hear Second Amendment advocates being asked with irritation why they “need” a particular firearm. Think, too, of how infrequently gun controllers focus on keeping weapons out of the hands of ne’er-do-wells rather than on limiting the efficacy of those available to the good guys. This makes no sense whatsoever. If a 15-round magazine and a one-shot-per-trigger-pull sidearm are necessary to give a trained police officer a fighting chance against a man who wishes him harm, there is no good reason that my sister shouldn’t have them, too.

As it happens, exactly this parity is presumed by America’s founding documents. The Declaration of Independence establishes that all men are born in possession of certain unchallengeable rights, and that among them are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This phrase, as with so many promulgated during the revolutionary era, is lightly adapted from John Locke, the English Enlightenment intellectual on whose philosophical presumptions the United States was in large part built. Inter alia, Locke held that every individual has a right to control and to defend his body, and that any government that attempted to deny that right was by necessity unjust. “Self defense,” Locke wrote in his Two Treatises of Government, “is a part of the law of nature” and in consequence cannot be “denied the community, even against the king himself.” In Locke’s view, this principle could be applied both on an individual level — against, say, intruders and other attackers — and on a collective level, against governments that turn tyrannical. Crucially, unlike Rousseau, Locke and his ideological heirs did not consider the establishment of the state to be a justification for the restriction of this principle.

To peruse the explanatory strictures of the Founders’ era is to discover just how seriously the right to protect oneself was taken in the early Anglo-American world. Writing in his 1768 Commentaries on the Laws of England, the great jurist William Blackstone contended that “self-defence” was “justly called the primary law of nature” and confirmed the Lockean contention that it could not be “taken away by the law of society.” In most instances, Blackstone observed, injuries inflicted by one citizen on another could wait to be mediated by the “future process of law.” But if those “injuries [are] accompanied with force . . . it is impossible to say, to what wanton lengths of rapine or cruelty outrages of this sort might be carried, unless it were permitted a man immediately to oppose one violence with another.”

These conceptions were carried over wholesale into the American colonies and cherished long after independence had been won. In Federalist No. 28, Alexander Hamilton affirmed the importance of the “original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government” and conceded that, in extreme circumstances, it may even be asserted legitimately “against the usurpations of the national rulers.” This conceit was explicitly established in New Hampshire’s constitution of 1784, which, astonishingly enough, included an enumerated right to revolution: “The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression,” its signatories acknowledged, “is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.” Similar statements were subsequently added to the charters of Kentucky, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Texas, and Tennessee.

For almost all of American history, this idea remained uncontroversial. When, in the early 19th century, certain large cities took it upon themselves to establish police forces, they presented their initiatives as complementary to, not in lieu of, the status quo. Likewise, when the architects of Reconstruction wondered aloud how free blacks would defend themselves against the hostile white majority, their first instinct, to paraphrase Yale law professor Akhil Reed Amar, was to make minutemen out of freedmen. Today, the Supreme Court continues to affirm the right to defend oneself, refusing to hand that task over exclusively to the armed agents of the state, even in the age of the standing army and militarized police departments. Despite progressivism’s endless march, the spirit of John Locke is alive and well.

But not, alas, omnipresent. Unfortunately, it has become commonplace over the last few decades to hear opponents of the right to keep and bear arms recite aggregate statistics as their case against individual liberties. A particularly egregious example of this came with Colorado’s post-Aurora gun-control debate, during which a state legislator named Evie Hudak casually informed a female survivor of rape that, mathematically speaking, she was more likely to hurt herself with her concealed firearm than to forestall another attack. “Actually, statistics are not on your side even if you had a gun,” Hudak told the stunned hearing. “Chances are that if you had had a gun, then he would have been able to get that from you and possibly use it against you.”

This approach is entirely inconsistent with America’s founding ideals. If it is the case that free people have the right to defend themselves regardless of whether they are likely to prevail, then what their elected representatives think of their endeavors is irrelevant. To take any other approach is to strip from mankind what the great American jurist Henry St. George Tucker, echoing Blackstone, termed the “first law of nature,” and to do so in the name of unwarranted superintendence.

That those who would engage in such supervision do so with good intentions is neither here nor there. When, in their infinite wisdom, the legislators of New Jersey passed the draconian permitting requirements that have led to their constituents’ waiting months for the chance to buy a gun, they presumably believed that they were striking a strong blow for public safety. In truth, however, they were overstepping their legitimate bounds and condemning a handful of American citizens to ignominious death. One such citizen, a diminutive woman named Carol Bowne, found this out firsthand in June of this year, when, having waited long beyond the statutory processing window, she watched her stalker of an ex-boyfriend come into her driveway with a knife and stab her to death. “Who does not see that self-defense is a duty superior to every precept?” asked Montesquieu in his magisterial Spirit of the Laws. Judging by our present debate, the answer to this question is “Too many.”

— Charles C. W. Cooke is a staff writer at National Review. This article originally appeared in the December 31, 2015, issue of National Review.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Lumping together violence with “hateful rhetoric” is a call to destroy the freedom of speech.

December 29, 2015

December 17, 2015 ought henceforth to be a date which will live in infamy, as that was the day that some of the leading Democrats in the House of Representatives came out in favor of the destruction of the First Amendment. Sponsored by among others, Muslim Congressmen Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, as well as Eleanor Holmes Norton, Loretta Sanchez, Charles Rangel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Joe Kennedy, Al Green, Judy Chu, Debbie Dingell, Niki Tsongas, John Conyers, José Serrano, Hank Johnson, and many others, House Resolution 569 condemns “violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States.” The Resolution has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.
That’s right: “violence, bigotry and hateful rhetoric.” The implications of those five words will fly by most people who read them, and the mainstream media, of course, will do nothing to elucidate them. But what H. Res. 569 does is conflate violence -- attacks on innocent civilians, which have no justification under any circumstances – with “bigotry” and “hateful rhetoric,” which are identified on the basis of subjective judgments. The inclusion of condemnations of “bigotry” and “hateful rhetoric” in this Resolution, while appearing to be high-minded, take on an ominous character when one recalls the fact that for years, Ellison, Carson, and his allies (including groups such as the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR) have been smearing any and all honest examination of how Islamic jihadists use the texts and teachings of Islam to incite hatred and violence as “bigotry” and “hateful rhetoric.” This Resolution is using the specter of violence against Muslims to try to quash legitimate research into the motives and goals of those who have vowed to destroy us, which will have the effect of allowing the jihad to advance unimpeded and unopposed.
That’s not what this H. Res. 569 would do, you say? It’s just about condemning “hate speech,” not free speech? That kind of sloppy reasoning may pass for thought on most campuses today, but there is really no excuse for it. Take, for example, the wife of Paris jihad murderer Samy Amimour – please. It was recently revealed that she happily boasted about his role in the murder of 130 Paris infidels: “I encouraged my husband to leave in order to terrorize the people of France who have so much blood on their hands […] I’m so proud of my husband and to boast about his virtue, ah la la, I am so happy.” Proud wifey added: “As long as you continue to offend Islam and Muslims, you will be potential targets, and not just cops and Jews but everyone.”
Now Samy Amimour’s wife sounds as if she would be very happy with H. Res. 569, and its sponsors would no doubt gladly avow that we should stop offending Islam and Muslims – that is, cut out the “bigotry” and “hateful rhetoric.” If we are going to be “potential targets” even if we’re not “cops” or “Jews,” as long as we “continue to offend Islam and Muslims,” then the obvious solution, according to the Western intelligentsia, is to stop doing anything that might offend Islam and Muslims – oh, and stop being cops and Jews. Barack “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam” says it. Hillary “We’re going to have that filmmaker arrested” Clinton says it. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, certain that anyone who speaks honestly about Islam and jihad is a continuing danger to the Church, says it.
And it should be easy. What offends Islam and Muslims? It ought to be a simple matter to cross those things off our list, right? Making a few sacrifices for the sake of our future of glorious diversity should be a no-brainer for every millennial, and everyone of every age who is concerned about “hate,” right? So let’s see. Drawing Muhammad – that’s right out. And of course, Christmas celebrations, officially banned this year in three Muslim countries and frowned upon (at best) in many others, will have to go as well. Alcohol and pork? Not in public, at least.Conversion from Islam to Christianity? No more of that. Building churches? Come on, you’ve got to be more multicultural!
Everyone agrees. The leaders of free societies are eagerly lining up to relinquish those freedoms. The glorious diversity of our multicultural future demands it. And that future will be grand indeed, a gorgeous mosaic, as everyone assures us, once those horrible “Islamophobes” are forcibly silenced. Everyone will applaud that. Most won’t even remember, once the jihad agenda becomes clear and undeniable to everyone in the U.S. on a daily basis and no one is able to say a single thing about it, that there used to be some people around who tried to warn them.
 Tags: CriticismhouseIslam