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Monday, February 27, 2012

Hate Speech or a Courageous Warning?

By contributing writer, Lora Lucero.

Audience members assault protesters
Photo above: audience members assault protesters.

Hate speech or a courageous warning?   Depending on who you speak with, that’s what we heard at the University of New Mexico on Thursday, Feb. 23.  Nonie Darwish, an Egyptian-American who founded Arabs for Israel, was invited by the UNM Israel Alliance to talk about “Why the Arab Spring is Failing and How Israel is Involved.”  Her speech was interrupted half-way through by several young people in the back of the auditorium who attempted to “mic check” her in protest.  Yelling erupted as a number of audience members rushed to the protesters -- pushing, punching and pulling a protester’s hair. 

Young child cryingA young girl (I’m guessing 7-8 years old) started crying and found comfort in the arms of a UNM student because her parents had left her to join the melee in the back of the room.

I thought I was prepared.  Having read about Islamophobia for years, and followed high profile cases such as the Park 51 controversy in lower Manhattan, Darwish’s speech should not have shocked me.  As a land use lawyer, I’ve written and co-edited a book on religious intolerance and how it plays out in the local government permitting process.   RLUIPA Reader: Religious Land Uses, Zoning and the Courts.  Nonie Darwish’s speech, however, crossed the hate speech line for me.

What is hate speech?  I’m not a constitutional scholar, but I consider words (spoken or written), pictures or any type of communication that incites violence against an individual or group because of their race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation, for example, as hate speech.  Inciting violence doesn’t require an explicit call to violence. Sowing the seeds of fear, distrust and anger which can predictably lead to violence, constitutes hate speech in my book.

Keeping audience member off protester
Photo above: Keeping audience member off protester

Nonie Darwish never said “go kill Muslims” or “burn down the Mosque.”  She prefaced her remarks by saying that she was “not here to talk about people, not to criticize a religion, but an ideology.”  She said “if a religion expands itself so much that it becomes the state – a religious state which has a religious legal system (Sharia law), and the religious state has a military institution called jihad” – then it is fair game to expose it and offer criticism.  At that point, I wondered if the audience would listen respectfully to a presentation about Israel, a religious state with a military institution (the Israel Defense Forces) that wages war against civilians in the Occupied Territories.

The Arab Spring is destined to fail, Darwish asserts, because of what she calls the inherent conflict between the Islamic political system and Sharia law.  Although not introduced as a legal or religious scholar, Darwish frequently cited to page numbers of various texts as she proclaimed that Sharia law authorizes a violent overthrow of leaders, and a whole host of other really nasty things.

I came home after the presentation still shaking and started to post some of her more inflammatory comments on Facebook.  As soon as I typed the words, I erased them, concerned that I might unintentionally be the conduit for violence. I didn’t want to offend my Muslim friends, and I didn’t want to be tainted with that hateful speech which made me feel dirty after typing them.

Nonie DarwishWho is this woman?  Nonie Darwish was born in Egypt in 1949.  Her father was a high-ranking Egyptian military officer stationed with his family in Gaza and killed by Israel when Nonie was only eight. She immigrated to the United States in 1978 with her husband, became an Evangelical Christian and conservative Republican, and gained notoriety after she wrote “Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror.”  She regularly speaks on university campuses.

She says she wants to warn Westerners about the “dangers of Islam” and “expose Sharia law.”  She is very familiar with how her controversial remarks are received by some people, disclosing that there is a fatwa on her life for speaking against Islam, but her speaking tour is a way of “thanking America” for taking her in after she “escaped Egypt.”

A rational, thoughtful adult, even someone who has never been exposed to Islam, would hear her words and question “what’s the other side of the story?” Most people in the audience, however, appeared to be unquestioningly in support of Darwish’s worldview, giving her several standing ovations.

Every mainstream religion has its extremists, its radical fundamentalists who will resort to violence in the name of religion.  Google “Christian terrorism” or consider the Jewish settlers in Hebron in the West Bank or recall the Muslim hijackers who flew into the World Trade Center.  Each must be condemned, but Nonie Darwish goes far beyond that.

Darwish has painted all Muslims and the entire Islamic faith (at last count there are more than 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide) as extremists who want to make “war on the West.”  “A true Muslim must be an enemy of the West,” she declares.  “Jihad means a permanent war against Jews, Christians and non-Muslims. Jihad challenges the sovereignty of all non-Muslim countries.  Jihad against non-Muslims is required.”

“Lying to a non-Muslim is obligatory,” Darwish claims, “if the purpose [for lying] is obligatory [under Sharia law].”  She continues: “The Muslim religion hates the Jewish people. There are pure commandments in the Qur’an to kill Jews.” She also says there is “not one Muslim or Arab organization that teaches tolerance.”

Muslims are burning down churches in the Middle East, consummating marriage with young girls who are 8 years old, enjoying “pleasure marriages for a few hours” which is allowed under Sharia law. After sharing her interpretation of Sharia law as a fait accompli, she noted that “Islam has made Sharia law everything” and “all Muslims who live in the United States want to live under Sharia law.”  I found her wild claims were outrageous, but her opinions appeared to carry water with most everyone in this audience at UNM.

Darwish believes that the West is being deceived by its own intellectuals and politicians. She says that “Palestine never existed” (I can guess who she is supporting in the Republican primary).  In response to a question from the audience about the two-state solution, she advises that Gaza should be part of Egypt, and the West Bank should be part of Jordan. “If I was in Israel now,” she says, “I would build a fence higher and higher. It is a miracle that Israel can survive.”  A great applause from the audience followed this remark.

During the Q & A that followed her presentation (and Darwish said she appreciates challenging questions), one person asked her “if the problem is Sharia law, what is the solution?”  She said “first accept there is a problem” but gave no other “solutions.”

An audience member thanked her for “doing God’s work” and said she would go out and purchase all of her books. Another admirer remarked that universities “are not being taken over by the leftists, but by communists.”  A third audience member referred back to President Obama’s speech in Cairo when he spoke about “extremism not being the way – but did you see his face when he said it?”  This person thought Obama’s face became contorted and that he was tacitly giving his approval of extremism. “His policies are so anti-Israel.”

Professor Richard WoodProfessor Richard Wood, a recent past president of the faculty senate, stood to read a statement from Rabbi Flicker withdrawing the B’nai Israel Sisterhood’s support from this event, and rejecting all forms of hate speech.  The audience booed him down and even took the microphone away from him.

A young man stood and shared some gruesome details about how his family had been killed, and then revealed they were killed in Lebanon by Israeli soldiers.  He called Darwish a bigot and was booed down.

A recent UNM graduate stood and said she traveled to Israel and the West Bank last summer.  She saw the “Security Fence” that Israel has built in the West Bank and was sympathetic to the Palestinians living under occupation.  The audience booed her down.

Another audience member asked Darwish about her opinion of Israel attacking Iran.  She believes the West should be “acting powerfully” in response to the threat that Iran poses.  The audience enthusiastically clapped.

Hoping to dispel at least one statement Darwish made, I went to the microphone and shared that I had visited Egypt last summer, and was pleased to see both a Christian church and a Jewish synagogue, neither of which were burning.  In her forceful style, she laughed and dismissed my comment as an indication of my naivety.  I wish I had had the courage displayed by those young people who attempted the mic check. I should have told Darwish that her Islamophobia is unacceptable at UNM.

I wonder if UNM has a hate speech code. Gerald Uelmen, the former Dean of my law school in California, shared the that “[t]here were approximately 75 hate speech codes in place at U.S. colleges and universities in 1990; by 1991, the number grew to over 300. … [R]eports of campus harassment increased 400 percent between 1985 and 1990. Moreover, 80 percent of campus harassment incidents go unreported.” I suspect the statistics have skyrocketed since 2001.

Thankfully, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office is taking hate speech seriously.  In 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder established an Arab-American and Muslim Engagement Advisory Group.

Lynn ProvencioAs a witness, I’m going to make a report with the UNM Campus Police on Monday, and I’m going to write to the Department of Justice and file a grievance.  Hate speech and Islamophobia must not go unchallenged.  The sponsors of Nonie Darwish’s presentation, including the UNM Israel Alliance, the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and Congregation Albert Brotherhood, should renounce this fear-mongering.

Her remarks crossed the line between free speech and hate speech when she smeared an entire religious group (all Muslims worldwide) as fanatics and extremists.  She meant to sow fear and distrust of all Muslims.  She encouraged the “us versus them” dynamics in her audience, where several members were willing to use physical violence to eject protesters from the auditorium, and grab the microphone away from speakers.

I can’t help but wonder what my Jewish friends and family would think if a speaker was up on stage denouncing Judaism in the way that Darwish denounced Islam.  First, they would rightly shout “Anti-Semite!” and then, if they had their wits about them, leave the auditorium and go protest at the University President’s house. I hope those same friends and family will denounce Nonie Darwish as a fear-monger and Islamophobe.

On Sunday, the UNM Students for Justice in Palestine issued the following statement.  That same group is conducting a number of educational events this week on campus.

Free Screening of “BUDRUS”
Monday, February 27th @ 7:00PM
UNM Student Union Building Theater (Lower Level)
Budrus is an award-winning feature documentary film about a Palestinian community organizer, Ayed Morrar, who unites local Fatah and Hamas members along with Israeli supporters in an unarmed movement to save his village of Budrus from destruction by Israel’s Separation Barrier. Success eludes them until his 15-year-old daughter, Iltezam, launches a women’s contingent that quickly moves to the front lines. Struggling side by side, father and daughter unleash an inspiring, yet little-known, movement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories that is still gaining ground today. In an action-filled documentary chronicling this movement from its infancy, Budrus shines a light on people who choose nonviolence to confront a threat. The movie is directed by award-winning filmmaker Julia Bacha (co-writer and editor of Control Room and co-director Encounter Point), and produced by Bacha, Palestinian journalist Rula Salameh, and filmmaker and human rights advocate Ronit Avni (formerly of WITNESS, Director of Encounter Point). Read more information about the crew and cast.

Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hqYR7OkqL4&feature=player_embedded

Palestinian Field School Panel
Wednesday, February 29th @ 12:00PM
UNM Student Union Building, 3rd floor, Lobo A&B Room
A panel of UNM Students who recently had the chance to visit Palestine this summer as part of an American Studies & Anthropology class on Post-Settler Colonialism will present pictures and testimonies of what they have witnessed during the 14 days that they were there.

Normalization Workshop w/ BEKAH WOLF:
Wednesday, February 29th @ 6:30PM
UNM Student Union Building, 3rd floor, Acoma A&B Room
Palestine Solidarity activist, Bekah Wolf, will present a workshop on the dangers of Normalization. Wolf is a Jewish-American originally from Santa Fe, NM who was an active member of her local synagogue growing up and first visited Palestine as part of a Zionist youth trip in 1998. She became active around Arab, Muslim, and South Asian immigrant rights in New York City particularly in the direct aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. As part of a delegation of Jews Against the Occupation, Bekah returned to Palestine as a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement in 2003-2004. In the summer of 2006 she and her now-husband, former political prisoner Mousa Abu Maria, began the Palestine Solidarity Project.

STOP HATRED, STOP ISLAMAPHOBIA PANEL
Friday, March 2nd @ 12:00PM
UNM Student Union Building Atrium (Lower Level)
A panel will speak about the growing rhetoric of Islamaphobia in American Society. The speakers will include Graduate student of Sociology & SJP Member Becky Erickson, Founder of Muslim New Media Mustafa Dill, and the third panelist will be finalized shortly.

WHAT IS BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT, AND SANCTIONS?
Friday, March 2nd @ 1:30 PM
UNM Student Union Building Atrium (Lower Level)
Heard about the growing movement called Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions? Not sure what it is? Well come listen and learn about what BDS is and how we’re bringing it to UNM Campus!

For more information please visit: unmsjp.org/iaw or e-mail us at unmsjp@gmail.com

February 27, 2012 at 09:42 AM in Lora Lucero, Contributing Writer, Middle East | Permalink

Comments

Excellent information, Lora, and thank you so much for taking the time to write all of this.

It is daunting to work for peace, understanding and justice under these circumstances.

We all have to work together to undo the damages that are done in the name of Israel, particularly in the context of maintaining a place for Jews after what we know are centuries of injustice and intolerance, to the degree we know has historically been the case.

However, it is essential that we also oppose the ideology that is born from injustice when that ideology supports the exact injustices out of which it is born.

Free Palestine!

Posted by: bg | Feb 27, 2012 8:13:07 PM

Lucero is naive as well as ignorant.

Anyone who doesn't know:

* What the Muslims are doing to the Copts in Egypt daily

* What the Hamas supporters and others are doing to the very few remaining Christians in Gaza daily

* What the Iraqi Sunnis are doing to the Christians there daily

* What the Sudanese Muslims are doing to the Christians there daily

* What the Nigerian Muslims are doing to the Christians there daily

* What the Iranian Shia are doing to the Christians there daily (just one example is Youcef Nadarkhani, the Christian pastor who is being forced to either renounce Christianity for Islam or be put to death)

And so on, needs to learn.

And if they do know and still deny that there is a real issue, then they are even bigger fools.

Ms. Darwish grew up in that environment of hatred of 'infidels', overcame it, and is rightly speaking out against it.

Those who oppose her, de facto oppose freedom and support injustice, and they don't even attempt to refute what she says, because they can't. It is too self-evident.

God bless Israel; the only place in the entire Middle East where all citizens enjoy freedom and rights.

Posted by: James Meeker | Feb 28, 2012 12:43:47 AM

James,

There are cruel injustices happening all over the world, I agree. But your focus on Muslims as the perpetrators of all things evil is sadly a sign of the fear-mongering Islamophobia that Ms. Darwish whips up in her talks in college campuses.

The more rational world-view I believe is to recognize evil in all of its manifestations, but also look for the goodness in all religions and in every culture.

Posted by: Lora Lucero | Feb 28, 2012 2:12:02 AM

Lora,

It is specifically Muslim societies who perpetrate these injustices all over the world in the name of Islam.

This isn't fear-mongering. It is reality- and it is ugly.

Go spend a year or 2 or 3 in any of those places as an 'infidel' and you will come back speaking like Ms. Darwish- if you come back at all.

They will not be singing "Kumbaya" with you over there.

Posted by: James Meeker | Feb 28, 2012 7:57:31 AM

It seems to me that most, if not all religions, are vicious against non believers.

This woman probably does not see her attacks as attacks.

Christians are the same way. All seem to have been brainwashed.

Posted by: New Mexican | Feb 28, 2012 9:04:18 AM

James:

I hope to take you up on your challenge.

I don't know how many Americans believe as you do, and how many Americans are just uninformed about the Middle East generally, but I hope an American voice reporting back about the daily life in the Middle East might improve their understanding.

I suspect, however, that there is no information that could change your opinion about Muslims, and that worries me. People who believe as you do are the mirror image of the people you fear/hate.

You are convinced that Muslims (all Muslims or only Muslims in certain parts of the world?) are evil and that they cannot change their beliefs about non-Muslims. Can you change your beliefs about them?

Posted by: Lora Lucero | Feb 28, 2012 9:20:48 AM

Lora,

You can't even begin to "take me up on the challenge". I spent nearly 3 years living in Saudi and traveling throughout the Middle East; both business and pleasure.

Almost all of the Westerners living in the Middle East for business go in with open minds. 99% come out disgusted with the extreme prejudice that they see in those Islamic societies. The other 1% think that they're the modern incarnation of Lawrence of Arabia or are just plain amoral.

And what exactly is your experience living in Islamic societies? I will bet that you have never even read the Quran.

Are ALL Muslims bad and evil? Of course not. Are ALL Muslim societies intolerant? All that I have seen are.

The issue isn't with them as individuals, but as soon as there is critical mass, there is no society more intolerant on earth.

I did notice that you don't even attempt to refute what I wrote above- or the points that Ms. Darwish actually made. You try to put words in her mouth and avoid a point-by-point rebuttal of what we both say.

I hope you aren't a litigator.

The irony is that you extreme libs are the first ones that they would put up against a wall; without a blindfold. Gays? They kill them in their societies- by law. Women? They abuse them and put them down, sometimes killing them if they are raped. By law. And don't even get me started with how they view Blacks.

This is what you are defending.

Posted by: James Meeker | Feb 28, 2012 12:27:40 PM

James:

I am not about to refute the Islamophic rants I heard from Darwish last Thursday --- there is nothing to be gained by a spitting contest.

Your world-view doesn't coincide with mine, with the wonderful Muslims I have met in person and corresponded with from the Middle East, and with American colleagues (planners and lawyers) who have worked in the Middle East.

The anger and fear that fuels Islamophobes is dangerous. I hope you don't return to the Middle East, and I hope no one crosses your path of intolerance.

Masalama.

Posted by: Lora Lucero | Feb 28, 2012 1:18:00 PM

That's exactly the point: They were neither "racist" (after all, Ms. Darwish is the same race as those that she opposes) nor "rants"- because what she said was true and accurate.

What you are admitting is that you know nothing about Islamic societies and refuse to accept the truth about Islamic societies- because it isn't nice.

Oh, and you have *corresponded with* some nice Muslims. That sure does qualify you.

This self-imposed ignorance of yours is what separates you from mainstream America. Burying your head in the sand will not change the ugly, extreme intolerance of the Islamic world- intolerance for your values no less than mine.

Yes: I will return to the Middle East- to revisit Israel, the only bastion of freedom and true liberal (in the classical sense) thought and action.

Posted by: James Meeker | Feb 28, 2012 1:36:00 PM

It's important to note that Mr Meeker's analytical category has shifted - or, if not shifted, at least become clarified and more focussed.

The first comment said "What the Muslims are doing ..."

The last spoke of "Islamic societies"

The first category ("Muslims") is too large, diverse, and ill-defined to be useful. While it's possible to speak of the beliefs of the Catholic Church because it is organized, heirarchical, and there's one dude who speaks for the whole church, there's not such analytical clarity in the group "Muslims." There's no way to make meaningful generalizations about the category "Muslims".

The category "Islamic societies", on the other hand, might be useful. It's a couple of dozen identifiable countries, and it's possible to look at a couple of dozen instances and draw generalizations (although it's likely that the category "Islamic societies" is less clear than I imagine - we argue about whether the US is a Christian society, and I expect one sees the same argument in possibly Islamic societies).

As the accuracy of the generalizations drawn, I'm in no position to judge.

Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Feb 28, 2012 2:44:52 PM

When I wrote about "what the Muslims are doing", it was 100% clear that I am talking about Muslim societies. That is why I spoke of the countries specifically and how they treat 'infidels'- although their record on how they treat other Muslims is also atrocious by Western, progressive standards.

It is beyond me how those who claim to be 'progressives' continually refuse to accept these facts.

Let's take Nonnie Darwish's Egypt as a paradigm of the "Arab Spring", being as Egypt is the most populous Arab country, and this is her own frame of reference. How did the elections play out (and let's leave aside the repression during the elections, as well as the massive fraud)?

The Muslim Brotherhood coalition won 46% of the popular vote and have 59% of the seats on the Shura Council.

Their official platform calls for Islamic law to be imposed, and does not believe that Christian Copts or women are suitable to be President.

And the next largest party is the Salafi, Islamist Bloc; led by Al-Nour Party- even more Islamist and conservative. They won 29% of the popular vote and 25% of the seats.

The people have spoken: They have chosen Islamic repression. Ms. Darwish recognizes that.

Why don't you?

Posted by: James Meeker | Feb 29, 2012 2:23:24 AM

"When I wrote about "what the Muslims are doing", it was 100% clear that I am talking about Muslim societies."

Okay, let me try another approach to this.

What I think you are criticizing is religiously intolerant Muslim societies. That is, societies or groups or parties that are both religiously intolerant, and Muslim.

I would agree that religiously intolerant societies are abhorrent. I would agree that some Muslim societies are religiously intolerant.

I disagree that it's helpful or useful (or even safe) to conflate the terms 'Muslim' and 'religiously intolerant'.

The difficulty with conflating these terms is that it makes it too easy to say that Muslims are abhorrent, rather than saying that religious intolerance is abhorrent. It makes it too easy to hate even tolerant Muslims who are happy to live in pluralistic societies.

Remember, we live in a society where, within my lifetime, a large proportion of the electorate thought that Catholics were suitable to be president. Within my father's lifetime there were majorities who believed that Catholics and Jews were both unsuitable to be president, and that it was okay to refuse to hire or rent to Catholics or Jews. Within my lifetime it was still legal to sell a house upon the condition that it never, ever, in the future ever be sold to a Jew.

So I'm with you on religious intolerance. I'm with you that some Muslims are religiously intolerance. I draw the line, however, at attacking Muslim religious intolerance specially rather than attacking all religious intolerance. Let's attack religious intolerance in Muslim countries as religious intolerance, and leave aside the whole Muslim aspect because it just diverts attention from the fight against religious intolerance in general.

Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Feb 29, 2012 7:54:10 AM

The event with Nonie Darwish did not have to turn to disruption and a pushing and shoving match. The well staged protest by the Students for Justice in Palestine followed their typical protest format they carry out at many Universities. While they claim this protest was under the banner of free speech, it's important to remember that your right to freedom of speech no longer exists when it violates someone else's freedom of speech. Ms. Darwish was presenting her views and her freedom was violated. Why, I ask, did the Students for Justice in Palestine recruit Occupiers to take the brunt of the publicity, and blame? I am a progressive Democrat and a supporter of Democracy for New Mexico but I do not go along with the attempt to demonize the members of the audience who chased the protesters out of the room. The protesters were puching back, yelling profanities and swinging a skateboard around at people in the hallway. I wonder what Students for Justice in Palestine will do when someone interupts their anti-Israel Apartheid week activities?

Posted by: Jeff | Feb 29, 2012 8:31:04 AM

Jeff --

Freedom of speech ---- doesn't it mean the right to speak as well as the right to protest?

The mic check is a strong, nonviolent method of protest used around the world. It would not be effective if it was limited to only times when someone is NOT speaking.

I don't believe the Students for Justice in Palestine recruited the Occupy protesters to do a mic check as you state. And I didn't see any physical violence on the part of the students in response to the audience members who physically assaulted them. I'm going to meet with some of those folks and confirm what happened out of my view.

If members of Alliance for Israel want to attend one of the events during Israeli Apartheid week on campus and "mic check" the speaker or film, I think it would be an excellent lesson on peaceful protest. I would hope the Students for Justice in Palestine would keep their cool, watch and listen to the mic check, and then continue with their program.

Posted by: Lora Lucero | Feb 29, 2012 12:18:50 PM

Tonight I'm going to listen to this hour long audio program about "Punishing Protest"
"Summary: What is the justice system for? Activists from the Occupy movement to climate justice camps are regularly made examples of by courts while bank and oil company executives avoid prosecution for real crimes. During Orion's latest live web event, Patrick Shea, a lawyer who defended climate justice activist Tim DeChristopher (see "What Love Looks Like" in the January/February 2012 issue of Orion), and Heidi Boghosian, director of the National Lawyers Guild, discussed what activists engaging in nonviolent protest can expect from the justice system."
http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/audio-video/item/punishing_protest_patrick_shea_and_heidi_boghosian_discuss_law_and_civil_di/

Posted by: Lora Lucero | Feb 29, 2012 3:27:20 PM

Maybe some of the audience at the Darwish event last week would get a different perspective about Muslims and Christians by watching this video.

"DIALOGUE IN NIGERIA: Muslims & Christians Creating Their Future is a new 65-minute film on DVD -- http://traubman.igc.org/vidnigeria.htm
The 200 courageous Africans in the how-to documentary are exquisite exemplars of communication excellence -- so close at hand for humankind.
Released January 2012, the cost-free DVDs have already been requested from 35 nations, 12 in Africa, including many military bases."
READ early viewer responses at http://traubman.igc.org/vidnigeriaresponse.htm

Posted by: Lora Lucero | Feb 29, 2012 11:53:28 PM

Michael,

It may have been in your lifetime that there was religious intolerance (Kennedy was still elected President, and that was more than 50 years ago), but today- now, there is no such intolerance that even begins to compare with that in the Islamic world- in their countries.

Call it like it is.

Whitewashing it like Lora Lucero does- because it is politically incorrect or unpleasant to fathom, changes nothing.

Posted by: James Meeker | Mar 1, 2012 2:04:45 AM

Lora,

200 Nigerians; Wow.

Boko Haram alone has brutally murdered over 900 people since 2009, according to Human Rights Watch; over 300 alone in a spate of terrorist attacks last month.

Posted by: James Meeker | Mar 1, 2012 2:17:35 AM

Lora,

Freedom of speech means freedom to speak. Your friends attempted to deprive the invited guest of that right by shouting her down and interrupting her.

Didn't anyone teach you that in law school?

And didn't anyone ever teach any of you manners?

Posted by: James Meeker | Mar 1, 2012 3:03:50 AM

"And didn't anyone ever teach any of you manners?"

I did you the courtesy of addressing you by honorific and last name, to which you responded by addressing me by first name; and you ask about manners??

But enough of the personal insults and ad hominems, and back to the point.

"...there is no such intolerance [here] that even begins to compare with that in the Islamic world..."

Comparing the relative severity of religious intolerance in various places is a mug's game; it's a distraction, a red herring.

The nice thing about justice (and opposing religious intolerance is also promoting justice) is that it's not a zero sum game. Promoting justice in one place doesn't mean you can't also promote justice everywhere else, too.

So talking about whether or not there's more religious intolerance here rather than there is, itself, likely to hinder justice and promote injustice. Let's promote justice everywhere, rather than simply pointing your finger and saying "Them!. They's the bad 'uns!!". Motes and beams, don'tcha know. Let's recognize injustice everywhere, and not try to pretend that we show such perfect religious tolerance that it's not even worth mentioning.

So let's say 'religious intolerance is bad, and it's particularly bad in Egypt [or wherever]' without also trying to imply that it's only a concern in Muslim countries and that it's not a concern in non-Muslim countries.

Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Mar 1, 2012 11:51:39 AM

Time for this "discussion" to come to an end. I'll share these two quotes and ask everyone to create new stories and make new relationships that affirm our diversity.

E.F. Shumacher once told us not to try killing the dinosaur, but rather investing our limited juices to invent the gazelle.

Eli Weisel said: "People become the stories they hear and the stories they tell."

Posted by: Lora Lucero | Mar 1, 2012 2:05:34 PM

Michael,

Regarding manners, I wasn't at all referring to you. I was specifically referring to those who interrupted the speaker and didn't allow her to speak because they disagreed.

"Comparing the relative severity of religious intolerance in various places" is crucial.

We both agree that religious intolerance is bad, but it is important to understand how and where it manifests itself.

You brought up the issue of not wanting a Catholic (or Jewish) President as an example. I countered that Kennedy was elected more than 50 years ago, so it isn't a real issue. That would be called a red herring.

Where on earth is there extreme religious intolerance now- today? Not here.

The most prevalent, widespread, and lethal religious intolerance now- today, is in the Muslim world, and yet those who claim to be progressive are the same people who not only whitewash it; completely, but they also speak and act like the real problem is here. And it is not.

"Promote justice"? Absolutely. But that isn't what the ersatz progressives are doing.

They, of all people, should be the front lines in this issue, and they aren't. And sadly, if they are involved at all, it is bashing the free West (and Israel) while defending the real tyrants in the Islamic world- and their repressive, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian (Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, etc.) societies.

Posted by: James Meeker | Mar 1, 2012 11:40:01 PM

Lora,

You were the one who posted initially. You brought up the issue.

And you failed miserably in defending your position. Truth be told, you didn't even make an attempt. Facts and opinion based on wishful thinking aren't the same thing.

You said you would "take me up on the challenge". You claimed that you wanted "an American voice reporting back about the daily life in the Middle East might improve their understanding".

I gave you that and you turned and ran, trying to change the issue and obfuscate along the way.

And who appointed you as the one to decide when the discussion is over? Oh, right. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression only apply to those who agree with you.

Posted by: James Meeker | Mar 1, 2012 11:47:37 PM

Unfortunately as I expected: Some people never let facts get in the way of erroneous, preconceived notions.

At the first sight of these facts, they turn tail and run.

Posted by: James Meeker | Mar 4, 2012 1:21:07 PM

Thank you for providing a written account of what happened that day. It's nice to read a reasonable account of the events.

Posted by: Dr.Thunder | Mar 7, 2012 3:29:47 PM