Thanks, Again

Filed under:Blogging — posted by Anwyn on June 27, 2007 @ 1:21 pm

Many thanks to whichever member of the Watcher’s Council nominated my post on the interfaith talk for this week’s Council vote. I’m honored to be in company with the other entries in the non-Council category.

If this is your first visit to this site, you may be interested in my take on slanted editors, my various musings on the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, and my minutely analytical approach to children’s books. Thanks again for visiting.

Welcome, and Thanks

Filed under:Blogging — posted by Anwyn on June 26, 2007 @ 6:47 pm

Welcome, Little Green Footballs and Patterico readers. Thanks for clicking through, and I hope you’ll look around and check back in future for some good conversation.

Muslim Speaks at My Church, Calls Me “Naive.” Also “Tough.”

Filed under:Religion — posted by Anwyn on June 25, 2007 @ 1:09 pm

None of my friends or acquaintances are Muslim. Maybe none of yours are, either. So when a speaker from Bilal Mosque was invited to speak at my church to “introduce us to Islam,” quoting from our church newsletter, I was interested in hearing what he would say and in asking him a few questions, since I’ve never had the opportunity to ask an individual Muslim how he or she views the gulf between the henchmen of radical, violent Islam and the rest of the world. His presentation consisted largely of a few facts about Islam guaranteed to appeal to liberal hearts, such as that “Allah” is used to name God because the word has no indication of gender, and some rambling stories, supposed to be heartwarming, about how the Muslim faith of people he knows is helping them through a horrific life situation and he’s not worthy of their belief. Here’s a brief recap of a few of our exchanges in the discussion period, the ones where I (or somebody else at my church) asked him a question and he responded.

I asked him about Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Dutch MP, former Muslim and self-described “Muslim atheist” who left Holland after being evicted from her apartment so that her neighbors would be safer from Islamic threats to her life. He responded that her situation is “contrived,” that she’s not in any danger, “it’s all to sell books,” “you watch,” she’ll live long and make lots of money. And on further reflection, he decided that I am “naive” for believing her tales. Who would bother with her, he asked rhetorically.

Well, obviously, the same people who killed Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker with whom Ali collaborated on the film for which he was killed by a second-generation Muslim Dutchman. From the above-linked article:

Ms. Hirsi Ali first got police protection in 2002 and then went into hiding in November 2004, following the murder in Amsterdam of Mr. van Gogh by a second-generation Dutchman of Moroccan descent. The killer plunged into Mr. van Gogh’s chest a long knife, which pinned to the corpse a rambling and venomous note addressed to Ms. Hirsi Ali. It vowed that she, too, would die.

Naturally I then asked about the murder of van Gogh. Our speaker’s response: “An aberration.” Surely the stated target for murder of even an “aberration,” as Ms. Ali was targeted by van Gogh’s killer and has been publicly marked for death in the last three months, must be in danger? No, it’s all contrived.

But how can it be contrived or an aberration when so many rioted over the Danish cartoons? His answer: “Touch Mohammed and there will be riots.” He went on to stipulate that it’s fine with him if I then turn around and say that Islam is not a religion of peace, but nevertheless, touch Mohammed and riots will happen.

So let me get this straight: Riots of thousands are the natural consequence of offensive newspaper cartoons, but a brutal murder is an aberration, and danger to the murderer’s stated next target, who has been driven out of her home because all her neighbors believe the danger to her was dangerous to them, is contrived? Hirsi Ali has gained traction in part because of the riots that are threatened because of her presence and the riots that actually took place around the cartoons and the death of Theo Van Gogh. But instead of disassociating himself or Islam itself from those acts, our speaker denied their existence, wrote them off as an anomaly or preached that we must accept them as a matter of routine when Mohammed is insulted. Which is it: anomaly or routine?

A member of our church asked why we don’t hear more from Muslims who condemn violence committed in the name of Allah. His pat answer: “Where are you, during the illegal occupation of Palestine?” Me: “But it doesn’t justify people strapping bombs to their chests and blowing up innocent people.” Him: “If that’s what you think, that Palestinians are always going in and killing Israelis, then I can’t change your mind.” He flatly stated that CNN and our other internal news sources, as opposed to CNN International, are basically a web of lies and propaganda. Yeah: propaganda against the Palestinians. Chew on that one for a minute. At this point I was fairly sickened at the way a few members of my church spoke up eagerly to, basically, agree with him on the point of Jewish lies and propaganda.

On the subject of Islam’s treatment of women, he told the story of Mohammed’s first wife, Hadijah, and how she had built up a vast caravan business, how she proposed marriage to him, how it was she whom he went to when the angel visited him, etc. I asked how this prominence of woman squares with their treatment in, say, Saudi Arabia. His instant answer: “Saudi Arabia is a problem.” He compared it unfavorably to Bangladesh (where he is originally from, I believe) in oppression of women, etc. I asked if this is because of the government structure; his response was “it’s cultural. Mostly cultural.” I had previously asked about supporting governments that suppress freedoms, such as the freedom of women to dress how they choose, and he had countered with Turkey, where, he said, women are not allowed to veil. Actually, though, according to The Economist, it’s only women who work for the state who are barred from veiling.

He told the story of Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael. In the Bible, Abraham’s twitchy, childless wife, Sarah, told Abraham to take her servant, Hagar, as another wife and get children from her. When Hagar’s son, Ishmael, was about fourteen (according to the Bible), upon Sarah’s insistence, Abraham took Hagar and Ishmael out into the desert and left them. I asked how Muslims interpret God telling Abraham to take Hagar and Ishmael out and abandon them. He replied, basically, so what, or why does that bother you. I started: “Because I’m a mother–” he got animated. “You are a mother through the mercy of God. … He could snuff you out” *snapped his fingers.* I.E. there is no explanation needed–God said to do it, Abraham was therefore justified in doing it, end of story. Whereas I always look on the story of Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael as a shameful example of the frailty of humanity in both Sarah and Abraham–and Hagar and Ishmael as well, since it was their open contempt of Sarah and Isaac that got under Sarah’s collar to begin with. To my further question of how Muslims interpret God deliberately setting Isaac and Ishmael on paths that were bound to clash, he answered that the Koran says that God could have made us all one people, one brotherhood, all hugging all the time, all loving all the time, and what would be the meaning in that? He says it’s to test us, and may you never be tested. I wonder how he supposes one is to get an “A” in this particular test.

So, I asked, if God created us differently on purpose, then in the same way you resent Christians asking you to convert (something he’d mentioned before), you’re not in favor of Muslims asking Christians or others to convert? His response was, essentially, an appalled God, no. There is no missionary component to Islam, he said–our faith and our souls are our business. He’s to take care of his own. Later, after the discussion of Hirsi Ali, I went back to this regarding Muslims who leave the faith. He said that of course they’re not happy when somebody leaves the faith, that he’s been introduced before to people who have become Christian from Muslim and “…I’m supposed to be happy about this?” (he most clearly was decidedly UNhappy). Me: “So how does that square with ‘take care of yourself and let others do the same?'” His instant, honest response: “It doesn’t.”

He even had his own Muslim version of Truthernut salad. With no prior question or mention, he brought up Chechnya, which, he said, has been trying to “break free” for hundreds of years. Me: “What about Beslan?” He said that was unacceptable, or wrong, or words to that effect, but followed it up with the idea that Beslan may have been orchestrated by Putin. A “school of thought,” he said. I alluded obliquely to “schools of thought” cropping up their ugly heads in the U.S. but didn’t really want to go down the Truther road any farther.

While our speaker is of Bangladeshi origin and I do not know how long he has lived in America, he is a PhD in electrical engineering and works for Intel. When our pastor, on his “feel-good” side of the agenda, asked if “we should be afraid of Muslims,” our speaker’s response was “It’s up to you.” There was more to it, and he went on that he hoped we wouldn’t, that he makes efforts like this (the interfaith sessions) to overcome that fear, but that response in itself is in no way reassuring. If the violence, other than the riots over Mohammed, is aberrant as he says, why is the answer not “Of course not”? It must be because we infidels will eventually again “touch Mohammed” and invite it on ourselves.

Some of this took place in the general group, some afterwards when me, my pastor, and two other people stayed around to discuss some more. During that small discussion after some semi-pointed exchanges, he shook my hand (he was preparing to leave but ended up staying for more discussion), said “We’ll get through this” (meaning the larger strife), paused and added, “She’s tough,” indicating me. I walked with him to his car after it was over–we were parked next to each other. He said he appreciated being at our church and having the discussion and talking about the hard questions; he said he thought feel-good fluff was a waste of time, that nothing can be solved that way. On that point he has my total agreement.


The stated purpose of the visit, from my church’s perspective, was printed in the newsletter: “In an increasingly fragmented world in which followers of other religions are often viewed with fear – how wonderful it would be to build bridges.” But when we’re told flatly, “Touch Mohammed and there will be riots,” it’s obvious that it’s less about bridge building and more about schooling us as to how we are and are not to behave to avoid what Muslims who think like our speaker believe are the reasonable consequences of offending Islam–or even the more “aberrant” consequences. Ironically, this pattern reminds me of radical feminists, whose aim is to curtail the behavior and speech of people, particularly men, whom they deem offensive. In both cases, this reveals an absolutely infantile grasp of human relations that insists you tightly align your behavior with their proscriptions because they simply cannot handle, or respond appropriately to, what you might say or do. Our speaker, in answering my questions about the Mohammed cartoons, asked vehemently and self-pityingly why we could not leave Mohammed alone, why Islam cannot have even one thing that is sacred from the opinions of others (my words). I remember pathetically wondering this myself when my sister wanted to play with my toys–when I was about eight. But this begs for control of the behavior of others rather than planning for measured responses of one’s own.

Confronting this rigid insistence on speech and behavior control, Christians, atheists, and Jews should be making common cause to resist this backwards thought process. But I watched while at least three members of my church eagerly attempted to make common cause with the speaker who had essentially just told us we were not entitled to publicly express our own opinions of Mohammed, who repeatedly gave himself away with anecdotes about being introduced to non-Muslims whom he was sure he would hate until he actually met them, and who tried to make jokes about the wives he knows ruling the roost over their husbands, but told several stories of their actual subservience and dependence on their husbands’ pronouncements.

You cannot build a bridge from only one side of the river–but too many Muslims expect non-Muslims to bridge 100 percent of the gulf between our “offensive” behavior and their delicate sensibilities.


Many thanks to See-Dub of the ol’ JunkYardBlog, who provided encouragement and assistance as I wrote this up.

As If

Filed under:Language Barrier,Politics — posted by Anwyn on June 24, 2007 @ 11:38 am


“That’s pretty sick,” said Norm Whipple, 59, of Los Angeles, offering a wry grin about the presidential prospects of Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, Republican Rudy Giuliani and unaffiliated New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “Someone has to keep an eye on those New Yorkers.”

As if Hillary Clinton counts as “a New Yorker.” And Michael Bloomberg’s not much closer to it than she is, born and raised as he was in Massachussetts.

“I think basically they are the same candidate,” said Bob House, a Republican from Des Moines, Iowa. “We all love New York. But when our options are New York, New York, New York, I think people want to see a different life experience.”

You want lifetime politicians to have differentiated life experiences? Good look with that, buddy, no matter where they live or were raised.

The article acknowledges near the end the widely disparate geographical backgrounds of the candidates. So what’s this about? Their place of residence, or their “life experience” of being fairly well off?

Angeles Perry, 65, feeding the slot machines in Las Vegas, saw more similarities than differences among the New York triumvirate.

“They have the money,” said the retiree from California’s Silicon Valley. “And they all have big egos.”

She’s right.

Billionaire Bloomberg spent more than $155 million for his two mayoral campaigns, and reports indicated he could drop $500 million on a presidential campaign — despite his repeated and coy refusals to announce a candidacy.

Giuliani and Clinton have millions of dollars on hand. None shrinks from the national spotlight, although it’s shone a little brighter on some than others.

As far as I know, Bloomberg is the only one of the three who’s independently wealthy. “Millions of dollars on hand” had to come from campaign donations, right? You know, like every other lifetime politician campaigning for high office.

What a dumb, misleading article. It took six AP writers to cover that, presumably to garner the uninformed quotes from different geographical areas. What a waste of their time. Did they get into journalism to shovel dirt on molehills?

Still Amazing

Filed under:Cool — posted by Anwyn on June 22, 2007 @ 9:03 am

Julian Beever, amazing artist. Rick Lee, amazing photographer, captures Beever at work.

Girl from Indiana

Filed under:9/11,Cool — posted by Anwyn on June 21, 2007 @ 10:07 pm

I heart Purdue University.

Via Fark.

Scenes, Day Two in New York, Part the Second

Filed under:9/11,It's My Life,Photoblogging — posted by Anwyn @ 8:18 pm

Day two was the day of the subway system. I dived down into the station two blocks from my hotel, snaked my MetroCard out of the machine, and proceeded to slide it through the slot to the left of my turnstile rather than the right. When I realized my error and slid it through the correct slot, the computer naturally thought I was trying to game it (at $7.00 for an all-day pass, it doesn’t account for individual rides but for more than one use of the same card within 18 minutes) and refused me entry. I pleaded my case to the attendant, who let me through the gate. Down the island, first stop Trinity Church as aforementioned, then onto the ferry for Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. I didn’t get off at Liberty Island; only took some pictures from the boat. Exhibits at Ellis Island were quite moving. My feelings on the current immigration hoo-ha can be summed up in a few sentences: I am in favor of allowing in almost any sound, sane, upstanding, law-abiding person who wants a) to become a U.S. citizen or b) to be educated at one of our universities. But the fact that our immigration policies in the past have stilted this ideal is no excuse for circumventing them. Secure the border first. Decide what to do about illegals afterward. Make the whole process more streamlined for future applicants. And screen the immigration status of all those who are arrested for any reason and deport immediately all such who are here illegally. But Ellis was a grand sight and quite moving in its depiction of those who came here seeking both to stay and make a better life.

After a brief stop at the Fraunces Tavern Museum, also as aforementioned, where you can see the Long Room where Washington said goodbye to his officers, I visited St. Paul’s Chapel. Impressive, but its native architectural beauty is marred by the ugly pink and powder blue interior decorating scheme.

St. Paul’s served as a rally point and aid-and-comfort zone during the atrocity of 9/11, located as it is adjacent to Ground Zero, my next focus. Ladder/Engine Company No. 10, also adjacent to the WTC, which took multiple hits in personnel and building that day:

My favorite sight at Ground Zero is the new WTC 7, rising serenely over the rather tortured landscape of whatever construction is evidently taking place, though not very quickly, on the site of the Twin Towers:

Finally, my last church of the day: over the threshold into St. Patrick’s Cathedral:

While I was inside this awe-inspiring structure, the sun came out:

The day ended with a trip up the Empire State Building at about 11 p.m., after I’d found my Italian restaurant from the previous night and, if you can believe it, was let through the gate again by a subway attendant after scurrying into the station, swiping my card, and realizing I’d left my cell phone back at the hotel. Back to the hotel, back to the station, where again the computer thought I was trying to cheat the subway out of $7. The attendant wasn’t as forgiving as the morning one, but he let me through eventually, thinking: Rube.

Molasses Blog

Filed under:Blogging,It's My Life — posted by Anwyn on June 19, 2007 @ 9:23 pm

I have a bit more NYC stuff to toss out, but I’m using a family visit as an excuse for extra laziness. Regular blogging, including, I swear, what should now be called the Whenever Tolkien, resumes soon.

A Modest Proposal

Filed under:Miscellaneous — posted by Anwyn @ 9:22 pm

Tonight I listened to my sister describe how the baby daughter of a friend of hers died after a prolonged illness, many hospital stays, and several surgeries. For the funeral, the parents requested, in lieu of flowers, donations to offset their medical expenses.

I agree with those who think that the combination of medical fees and medical insurance has gone off the rails in this country, but state control is not the way to fix it. Instead, why not make medical insurance a whole hell of a lot more like car insurance? First, divorce health insurance forever from employment. We don’t get car insurance as an employment benefit. It’s compelled by the state, but we still pay for out ourselves. Why should medical coverage be so wedded to employment status? Something like the current health savings accounts could be used to put money away to continue paying for coverage in case of reduced income or loss of job.

We also don’t use auto insurance to get our oil changed, our cars washed, or our tires rotated. We likewise shouldn’t use health insurance for routine doctor visits like checkups or to see about a winter illness that drags on too long. Think $100 is too much for an office visit? Try seeing how much those routine visits would drop in price if people quit coming in so much because those visits were no longer covered. Then insurance, now on a supply-and-demand system that lowered premiums for high deductibles, etc., like auto insurance pricing, could be used to pay for catastrophic, unforeseen “car crashes”–real ones, causing serious injury, or debilitating diseases that require much treatment and hospitalization. Planning to have a child whose routine visits will run every three months or so? Beef up your coverage beforehand if you don’t want to pay for those routine visits at the time they occur.

The added flexibility and cost savings could then be used in possible scenarios for state subsidies of the poor and unemployed. Keep the flexibility of the market. Socialized medicine will be the death knell, figuratively and literally, for a major part of our way of life in the U.S.

Scenes, Day Two in New York

Filed under:It's My Life,Photoblogging — posted by Anwyn on June 14, 2007 @ 10:51 pm

Trinity Church, in whose graveyard lie buried Alexander Hamilton and Robert Fulton:

PetiteDov Made Me Laugh

Filed under:Heh — posted by Anwyn on June 13, 2007 @ 10:19 pm

Because Angelina Jolie made her throw up.

Scenes, Day One in New York, Part the Second

Filed under:It's My Life,Photoblogging — posted by Anwyn @ 9:06 pm

The Met. My guidebook advised me to “pick one or two galleries and just see a few other things on your way to and from them so you don’t get burned out.” It’s good advice though disheartening if you ever want to see the whole or even most of the museum. I saw the Temple of Dendur:

and the American Wing, where I liked Winslow Homer somewhat less than I expected to and totally fell in love with one Elijah Boardman, as painted by Ralph Earl. The other American painters were uneven for me–no one painter got my unqualified recommendation, but I liked several of the individual works very much. I was amused by the information card for Washington Crossing the Delaware, though the blurb in the link is different from the one on the wall at the Met–did you know that painting was a success because it appealed to the strong feeling of nationalism in the country at the time? Silly me, I thought that sectionalism was by far the stronger force in the country in 1851, the time of the painting, and that its success might be due to the fact that nobody didn’t like George Washington, North or South.

My favorite painting may have been, ironically for the American Wing, of Queen Victoria, by Thomas Sully. Again the blurb in the link doesn’t match what’s on the wall, and the wall blurb was interesting. Paraphrased: “Sully chose the moment of her physical and literal ascension [in the finished painting, she was climbing the stairs to the throne] to show her humanity and femininity”–she looks beautiful and delicate, but strong.

What I really liked in the American Wing was the furniture, especially a little Greek Revival chair called a “klismos chair.” Greek Revival furniture was quite the thing during the Revolution and for a while afterward, and I enjoyed seeing the chairs again when I visited the Fraunces Tavern Museum the next day:

More tomorrow …

Scenes, Day One in New York

Filed under:It's My Life,Photoblogging — posted by Anwyn on June 12, 2007 @ 9:38 pm

Walking through Manhattan on a sunny day:

That’s 77th St. east of Broadway, on the way to Central Park, where apparently you can fish, which would please my mother no end:

What pleases me is being able to get so many places you want to go in Manhattan by walking. I didn’t step in a cab or a subway the first day, although later in the afternoon I got living proof that normal people are able and allowed to drive in Manhattan when I rode with PetiteDov and her oh-so-preppy boyfriend from the Met to an Italian restaurant, the Trattoria, which is such a common name that you must have a location, but the exact location of which I’ve forgotten after misremembering the street corner when I wanted to go back to it on my last night. (Yeah, I was all wound up before I went about where I would eat dinner on the various nights, but in the end I spent my time on the sights and went back to the same convenient finds for food.) I found it, on the east side of Columbus and 80-something St. Good food, rather nonchalant service. Right, the walking–I walked through Central Park shortwise:

and after perusing the various sidewalk vendors, bought The Bean a little elephant carved out of soapstone, I think. The sculptor had many different animals in various sizes–I commented on the work it must take to carve the tiny ones, no bigger than half an inch wide. He was pleased–“People don’t usually get that the little ones are the hardest”–and remarked of my elephant choice that all his elephants have their trunks aloft because it’s a symbol of “removing barriers to forward progress.” On we go, then. The Metropolitan Museum of Art:

I just love this place, despite having been there only twice in my life now (thrice if you count the fact that I went twice on this day in question) and despite being enough of a rube not to notice that the surprising $20 entrance fee is a suggested donation. Ah well. It’s worth it. It has a mystique from my childhood regardless of the fact that I never saw it in my childhood: Didn’t you ever read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler? Claudia, tired of being taken for granted at home, saves her allowance, packs her clothes into her violin case, recruits her brother Jamie, who supplements his income by cheating at cards, and they run away to live in the Metropolitan for a good many days, living on Automat food and bathing in the museum fountain, before they’re lured out by the mystery of Angel, a statue that might have been carved by Michaelangelo but nobody knows for sure. Oh, boloney, Claude. Why do you always pick on my gra[mmar]… / Boloney, boloney! That’s it, Jamie! She bought Angel in Bologna, Italy …

Great book. Great museum. More tomorrow.

next page

image: detail of installation by Bronwyn Lace