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Juan Williams and the Million-to-1 Fear


25 Oct 2010 10:4363 Comments
GreensAtMontazeriFuneral.jpgMuslims as putative guinea pigs of a "nervous" America's rejection of political correctness.

[ opinion ] Let's face it, Juan Williams said nothing that a lot of other Americans didn't already think. That is the one saving grace of this sorry episode. If we look at it closely, Williams was not sanctioned for climbing the pedestal of "punditry" while "nervous," but for descending it to confess the insecurity he shares with the average Joe, warts and all.

As a pundit, Williams has written and spoken against stereotyping minorities. He has decried the fact that blacks were denied entry into the posh jewelry establishments of Washington, D.C., on account of the presumed risk a small minority of them posed to these stores. As an average Juan, however, he suspects that Muslims on his flight are more likely to come from a 1,000 or so Islamic terrorists than from the 1,000 million or so peaceful adherents of the faith. But this same mind is never prompted to caution against middle-class white man, although 85 percent of serial killers are white, middle-class, clean-cut Americans. Although nearly two-thirds of them exclusively target strangers. Although at any given time dozens of these psychopathic killers are on the prowl. As Dan Ariely observes in his bestseller Predictably Irrational, people routinely ignore logic, jump to ridiculous conclusions, and fear the wrong things.

Those of us who are on the receiving end of such pernicious racial images pay for them in the currency of dehumanization. Even though there has been no Iranian terrorist in recent memory either before or after the events of September 2001, and despite the fact that the Green grassroots of Iran are firmly opposed to fanaticism and violence, diaspora Iranians find themselves tarred and feathered by the kind of prejudice to which Williams has given prominent voice. One of the authors of this commentary was once expelled from a United Airlines flight and then barred from reboarding after he was cleared of all suspicion on the grounds that his presence would make passengers and crew uncomfortable.

Like the mythical Sisyphus, stigmatized minorities are constantly rolling the rock of their humanity up the hill of public mistrust. Then one of them, one in a million in the case of Muslims associated with terrorism, fulfills the dark prophecy and the rock is back where it was. Dealing with this pressure in humorous ways is the leitmotif of the wildly successful "Axis of Evil" comedy tour. Arabs, Muslims, Middle Easterners, even Sikhs, have learned to endure the burden of guilt by association. We attempt to deflect suspicion by changing the subject, turning to humor, advertising our benign intentions, hiding our identities.

Three years ago, the Washington Post published a series of articles under the rubric "Being Black in America." The widespread expressions of support for Juan Williams confirm that few care about the difficulties of being Muslim in America. As the conventions of civility afforded to other religious and racial minorities (Hispanics, Jews, and blacks) erode in our case, we are for the most part laying low and waiting, hopefully, for the storm to subside.

But we should do more. We should decry our defamation and insist on being treated with civility. It goes without saying that we ought to take responsibility for the abuses of our religion and debate these issues with courage and in the spirit of open self-criticism. But that doesn't mean that we can lie supine in the face of racist profiling.

After Williams's expectoration that revealed his anti-Muslim "nervousness," may we not expect a bevy of blonde, red-clad Fox commentators who applaud his defiance of political correctness to come forth and open up about their own fear of entering an empty elevator or subway car with a burly black man? If this doesn't happen, and it will not, we must point out the inconsistency. Muslims are not the guinea pigs of a "nervous" America's rejection of political correctness.

Mahmoud Sadri is a professor of sociology at Texas Woman's University and with the Federation of North Texas Area Universities. Ahmad Sadri is a professor of sociology and James P. Gorter Chair of Islamic World Studies at Lake Forest College, Chicago.

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Prof. Sadri,

"...there has been no Iranian terrorist in recent memory either before or after the events of September 2001..."

Where does one start? There are a number of Iranian terrorist groups which constantly bomb and shoot their way around Iran (and you surely must have heard about them – I certainly have).

Also, much more importantly, the entire Iranian government structure resembles a terrorist organization in the way it has an authoritarian hierarchy, uses plainclothes militia to inspire fear in the local population and dispenses extra-judicial punishments to anyone it considers to be a nuisance. The terrorist's principal occupation – murdering civilians and real-or-imagined spies – is clearly happening inside Iran but is also being exported to Israel and other countries by the IRGC's Quds Force, which apparently provides training, finance and operational support to Hezbollah in an overtly anti-Jewish campaign (could you call this an example of the "racist profiling" involving Muslims which so angers you?). And needless to say, there is also the slight matter of Iran making it look for all the world like they could be trying to build a really big bomb in secret; which is, of course, a typical terrorist activity.

But apart from those examples, I agree that has been "no Iranian terrorist in recent memory", as long as one defines the terms "terrorist" and "recent" extremely carefully; which means we probably don't need to worry whether or not (as Juan Williams noted) "political correctness can lead to a kind of paralysis where you don't address reality". And we certainly have no need to address the racism, violence and misogyny which is at the heart of Islam; we can simply brush it under the carpet whilst we concentrate on more serious things such as the thought-crime of "nervousness".

Ian / October 25, 2010 3:28 PM

Did either of you even watch the entire interview with Juan Williams, or just the Think Progress snippets used to bully NPR into firing him?

Mr. Williams made it clear his concerns and emotions stemmed from specific terrorist acts and extremism and were not directed at Muslims generally.

So let me get this straight: you state your opinion about other social groups on an NPR website and it's OK. Juan Williams does so on a different media outlet and gets fired?

You point to the "Green grassroots of Iran." How many of that movement are dead or in prison?

Further, you presumably include yourselves as part of the "diaspora Iranians [who] find themselves tarred and feathered by the kind of prejudice to which Williams has given prominent voice."

Diaspora with great full-time teaching gigs that allow you to write stuff like this, with the occasional sabbatical thrown in.

You have the good fortune to live and work in a country that tries to promote free expression. You both also bask in the glow of academic tenure, supported in part by taxpayer dollars.

I feel for what your students must endure in class.

Joe / October 25, 2010 5:46 PM

Ian, I believe the professor was using "terrorist" (a political term) in reference to potential attacks on civilian attacks, particularly American civilian attacks.

Keep in mind, there are plenty of holes in the case against Iran committing the terrorist attack in Argentina. Consider this:


As for the cases you cite, these all have a military context. And when considering civilian casualties in conflict, one has only to tabulate the 100,000+ civilian casualties of the Iraq and Afghanistan war, as well as the thousands of civilian casualties involved in the 33-day war and Operation Cast Lead. Should we establish the governments behind these ferocious civilian casualties as "terrorist" the way you have for the Islamic Republic of Iran?

I submit, your thinking is a product of Western media hype, and its incessant agenda-driven, anti-Iran narratives. I mean, what else could it be? You've never visited or lived in Iran. You simply regurgitate what you've been spoon fed by this media.

Pirouz / October 25, 2010 7:22 PM

Dear Mr. Sadri:

After your meeting with Mesbah Yazdi recently, and your extremely unprofessional note to Mr. Hubermas regarding Mr. Dustdar, one can hardly bring oneself to believe your lack of any particular "agenda". I do question how your undemocratic reaction towards Dustdar's letter to Hubermas would play out in a larger scenario, let's say you were to hold some governmental position based on your eslame rahmani; would you have beheaded Mr. Dustdar for only voicing his opinion and views to Mr. Hubermas?
As a young Iranian I must express my concerns towards your dogmatic stance. I do not want a future Iran with so-called Islamic reformists like you and Soroush disparaging and labeling the rest of us for having opposing views.
There is not an ounce of eslame rahmani, or benevolent Islam, in your arguments or stance; please answer one question, how could you sit next to a man (Mesbah Yazdi) who was RESPONSIBLE in every sense of the word for killing my young compatriots in 2009 uprising?
Shame shame shame

Raha / October 25, 2010 7:24 PM

Dear anonymous poster: "racism and misogyny at the heart of Islam"....Wow, you should really take the time to spruce up a little on Islam 101 in reference to those very two subject-matters.
F.Y.I.: Prophet Muhammad was historically one of the greatest reformers of women's right, yet you erroneously label the faith as misogynist. Wow!!!

Anonymous / October 25, 2010 7:49 PM

Dear Ian:

If you follow our writings you will realize that we do not need a lecture from you about the misdeeds of the Iranian regime. We are not Iran apologists. We are, indeed, blacklisted by the Iranian government as dissidents. But we also believe that it does not serve anyone’s interest or our collective security to mix up various activities (war crimes, state repression, violation of human rights, developing atomic technology, support for this or that group that we dislike, etc.) with the specific menace of international terrorism.

Indeed we plead guilty to your charge of defining terrorism “extremely carefully.” We do need a parsimonious and universally applicable definition for the specific phenomenon of terrorism. Terrorism ought not be used as a curse word to be hurled at anyone we dislike – however justified we might be in our dislike. It is myopic and irresponsible to define a specific set of nationalist interests (Israeli/American in your case) as normative and then call all of their enemies “terrorist.” If everybody does this (and many, including the current rulers of Iran are trying just this tactic) we will get stuck in the false formula of “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.” A sentimental and sloppy definition of terrorism can never yield an international consensus to pursue and eliminate the danger of international terrorism. Many governments (including Israel and the United States) are currently practicing political assassinations and targeted killing. Even if we define this kind of activity as “state terrorism” then Iran (whose last such misadventure ended in disaster in the so called Mikonos Affair) would have 'good' company. So, who is a terrorist and what is terrorism? We define the term as focused attack on noncombatant civilians for political gain or to sow fear.

Now to the specific import of this article. There has not been an Iranian terrorist in recent memory. That is, if we don't count domestic terrorism. If we do, there would be, of course, Iranian terrorists operating in Iran. There would also be American terrorists blowing up federal buildings, Olympic events, abortion clinics, and gay bars. They also engage in assassination of doctors. We can generalize and substantiate the same arguments to other countries as well. Now lets turn to what you call the "crime of nervousness” about other groups. We did not use the epithet crime. We indeed saw the pathos in the spectacle of a pundit admitting to irrational fear. We called it: "the only saving grace of this sorry episode". Be that as it may, let us remember that Juan Williams himself has admitted that the understandable nervousness about black people can be both a matter of common sense and racist. Our point has been: what is sauce for goose is sauce for gander. In other words, it is good for our moral and civic health to overcome our knee jerk reactions towards other racial and religious minorities (or majorities) based on the actions of a small number of them. This curtsey should not be applied selectively.

Ahmad and Mahmoud Sadri

Ahmad Sadri / October 25, 2010 8:55 PM

Dear Raha,
Sorry I can’t preface this with Mr. or Ms. as it is not clear which to use. I would like you to know three things. 1- It is a lie that I met Mr. Mesbah Yazdi recently. You have made this up and posted it before. I hope this will settle the issue. The article you have quoted was the transcript of a public debate (not a meeting) and it occurred in 1992, which before Mr. Mesbah Yazdi decided to venture out of his obscure school and take public political positions. Although you keep saying that it was a recent event, unfortunately for you, there is a reference in the trascript that substantiates when it occurred: approximately 15 years after the revolution, which is some fifteen years ago. 2- I have never espoused the concept of “Compassionate Islam.” Both Mr. Ganji and you are wrong to associate me with this idea that was developed by Dr. Kadivar. 3- I have no ambitions to hold office in a future Iranian government. There is enough clamor in LA exile circles for these fictitious positions. They are welcome to it. I already have a job.

Ahmad Sadri / October 25, 2010 9:31 PM

There is no accounting for the irrational in American public life, I wouldn't even try. It certainly shouldn't be celebrated.

pirooz / October 25, 2010 9:42 PM

To paraphrase comedian Carlos Mencina:

When terrorists flew the planes into the world trade ctr, every Hispanic, black, Homosexual and Jew went to the Muslems and said 'tag Mo__er F___er ... you are it'.

The authors very correctly point out the irony of an African American displaying prejudice to other minorities.
yet if I were to rate the cause on a 1-10 scale, I would put average Joe's ignorance and prejudice at 2 or 3, and Islamic fanaticism at 9.999.

Ahvaz / October 25, 2010 11:21 PM

Support for a person subjected to a horrible and unjust firing does not mean that "few care about the difficulties of being Muslim in America."

I am against the death penalty, "Professor". That does not mean I favor murder.

Better "Professors" please.

anon / October 26, 2010 12:15 AM

Its disheartening to know not only the early settlers of America, but educators at this level feel the same as Mr.Williams..being Lakota Indian we were judged by our appearance savages,uneducated now this "Muslim garb" terrorist,radical..Sad to listen,read and watch the educated Juan Williams and the professor express themselves this way; as human beings with self realization they have not evolved very much since the early settlers.

Lakotatribe / October 26, 2010 1:54 AM

I think Juan's comments was similar to the statements by the Apostle Paul, who confessed that he did acts that were wrong in the eyes of God. Paul knew they were wrong, but he did them anyway.

Juan stated that he had this reaction, he knows it is wrong, but he still has the reaction. I guess NPR does not want employees to freely discuss their own flaws. They would rather their listeners believe that everyone is impartial, while only management knows otherwise.

I do not like being deceived. I hope Muslims feel the same way. These looks of suspicion toward anyone need to be brought out into the open, and the fear relieved.

How can I trust NPR again, not knowing how a reporter really feels? Start a dialog. Who are you suspicious of?

Scott / October 26, 2010 2:01 AM

I think many people should read a book by Gavin DeBecker called "FearLess." I always think who benefits from getting Americans (an anyone) to "be afraid." Women are far more likely to be attacked by someone they know, but the news is about "terrorism."

Who benefits from all this chatter: the military, the "security sector" and the government in general as we are more likely to comply with what actions they take.

Sarah / October 26, 2010 2:03 AM

Blame it all on Political Correctness.Evolution is on hold at the moment. I think that is the lesson of the Bush years and the current tempest in a tea party.

pirooz / October 26, 2010 2:38 AM

In principle I have no disagreement with your well-reasoned post Scott. I have never been in favor of political correctness. Many of us, nay, all of us, prejudge. I also agree that in an ideal world it is better to air and share these views than hide them. But in the real world such airing of hidden views are selective. Can an NPR anchor profess that s/he is sincerely afraid of black people; a fear that council him or her to cross the street or clutch a purse at the approach of a black man? I can imagine you saying: yes, it would be good for the common weal (and cathartic to boot) if a forum existed where we could share our hidden irrational fears, prejudices and marginally rational concerns about other groups. But you know very well that such a forum does not exist. Juan Williams would be the first to call such feelings (no matter how sincerely felt and how deeply based on benign common sense) racist. Conventions of civility and all kinds of formal and informal sanctions protect established minorities against defamation. These days only Muslims appear to be fare game. And that is not fair.

Anonymous / October 26, 2010 3:20 AM


Rick Sanchez got fired last month for this comment on a radio show. just curious. Do you think Sanchez's firing was unfair as well? He was also expressing his feelings, no?

Host: "John Stewart could understand, being part of an oppressed minority group because he is Jewish"

Sanchez: "Very powerless people... He's such a minority, I mean, you know ,Please, what are you kidding? ... I'm telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they -- the people in this country who are Jewish -- are an oppressed minority? Yeah. [sarcastically]"


Ahvaz / October 26, 2010 4:04 AM

Mr. Sadri,
It is surprising how a person in your position, with the expertise you claim to have, has never attempted to refute what Mr. Ganji said about your "Eslame Rahmani" or your meeting with Mr. Mesbah Yazdi, dated two months ago according to an Iranian journal named Marefat. It explicitly states that you met with Mesbah Yazdi in Ghom and had rather fond view of each other and friendly exchanges. Well, you claim you met 15 years after the revolution. How in the world were you in Mesbah Yazdi's circle to have the opportunity to meet with him personally and be admired by him, as stated in the article, even 15 years ago? My valid question to you is how come you never refuted any of these two false points (as you claim their fallacy)? Yet, take the time to defame Mr. Dustdar for stating his opinions?
Personally, if I had met with Mesbah Yazdi at any point in my life and then suddenly claimed myself to be a member of the opposition, I would definitely feel the responsibility to clear this pertinent matter. Your failure to publicly clarify such meeting whether it occurred 100 years ago or not, reeks of hypocrisy. Before accusing any one of "lying" you must have your evidence of such a lie. To do so, you may want to not be offensive, as has been your sole mode of communication, but CLEAR and TRANSPARENT about the nature of your meeting with Mesbah, goals, and results of your meeting and if you have been in touch with him since.
Mr. Sadri, whether the Iranian exiles in LA have their fictitious leaders or not, the educated and thoughtful Iranians today would never fall for fictitious scholars such as yourself. "Los Angeles" might be an emblem for the non-thinking idealogues who are too immersed in their wishful idiosyncrasies, in this sense, it would be an ideal location for you.
Again you did not give a straight answer and beat around the bush. Let me ask the question clearly now. Why did you EVER meet with Mesbah Yazdi? Have you met with him since? What happened to the project you had discussed together (as alluded to in the article).?
thanks Mr. non-LA professor.

Raha / October 26, 2010 6:33 AM

Juan Williams gets nervous when he sees moslems on his flight? Would someone please remind me what a moslem even looks like (?????) The last time I checked islam was a religion not a race.

Wes / October 26, 2010 11:55 AM

All of us are conditioned to some degree by our environment. That is some of our thoughts develop and come from our environment and the experiences we have had in our lives. The world trade center attacks on 9/11/2001 and the terrorist attacks since that time have conditioned many of us to be more sensitive and aware of our surroundings and who we are around, for our own safety and security, not for the intent of being prejudicial toward innocent people.

We all have negative and/or fearful thoughts at times. It doesn't mean we act on those thoughts are give them credibility, it just means we have them, perhaps based upon negative experiences we have had in the past. In my opinion, prejudice is not having the thought or expressing the thought of being fearful of someone and not feeling safe around them. To me prejudice is when you give the thought credibility and power by acting on the thought.

I sympathize with the author of this opinion as far as the discrimination he has experienced. However, I don't believe Juan Williams is prejudiced against Muslims in general. I don't believe he allows his behavior and decisions to be governed by the thoughts he expressed concerning Muslim garb.

Based upon what I have heard from Mr. Williams, both on PBS and the Fox network, I believe he is of a liberal slant. I do not agree with the decision that NPR made. I think it was unjust, unfair, and that the firing process as well as words expressed about his firing from NPR was very unprofessional.

That does not mean that I don't care about discrimination against Muslims in the U.S. To believe that is to believe a lie,as it relates to me. In my opinion, to believe that ANYONE who supports Juan Williams doesn't care about the plight or discrimination of Muslims in the U.S. is to believe a cognitive distortion, an over-generalization about an entire population of people and it is totally false.

Don / October 26, 2010 12:29 PM

A few months ago I was in a Sears close to my house and there was a woman walking around in full black muslim garb, where you could only see her eyes through small slits. First of all, she was either an extremely huge woman or there was a man under those clothes. I thought this was very scary and strange and I kept my eye on this person. I noticed that other people in the store did, too. After 9/11 and hearing about the frequent suicide bomers in the middleast, who disguise in muslim garb and pass as women, I don't blame anyone for being suspicious of someone who to me, is hiding their identity. This is the world we live in today. As a New Yorker, there was a time when I would look the other way, no matter how bizarre someone's attire was, but not any more. We lost our innocence on 9/11. We even have been told by those in charge of protecting us that we shouldn't overlook something that doesn't look or feel right. I'm sorry, but someone who is completely covered from head to toe, where I can't even distinguish their sex or what they are carrying under all those clothes is frightening to me. I respect the Muslims who are peaceful and practice their religion without the radical implications that the extremists have applied to it. The truth of the matter is we're going to be attacked when we least expect it and that makes people paranoid.

Nell / October 26, 2010 2:35 PM

Profs. Sadri,

I agree with your definition of terrorism as being attacks on non-combatants for political ends, and I point once again to the fact that there has been, and is, Iranian state support for precisely this in the Middle East. The Lockerbie bombing is one example which implicates the late Ayatollah Montazeri – that hero of the Green movement!

I don’t think targeted assassinations of combatants by the USA counts under this definition: those people have chosen to join a war, which makes them targets; and this (or Israel’s covert killing of people whom nobody argues are terrorists) is very similar to Iran’s execution of Abdulmalik Rigi, which was not terrorism but justice. There are, however, unquestionable examples of US state support for terrorism in its fight against communism (I might mention Luis Posada Carriles), and I don’t think there will be any disagreement over the fact that blowing up aircraft with civilian passengers on board is always wrong and should be condemned regardless of one’s country of origin (which, in my case, is neither the USA nor Israel).

However, it is simply not correct – in fact it is rather twisted in my view – to equate fear of Islamic terrorism (or fear of Muslims generally) with racism, as you have attempted to do in your article. The difference is that racism is an ideology which has at its heart a premise about a superficial difference in physical characteristics that has been shown to be false, whereas a belief in the existence of Islamic terrorism is neither false nor ideological; moreover, fear of any form of Islam is in fact a reaction against an ideology: Islam being a totalitarian ideology which contains at its heart a form of discrimination that situates non-Muslims as being fundamentally wrong and unjust, to be shunned and treated as inferior people, if not killed outright. There are innumerable examples of people who take this seriously (although many Muslims don’t, of course), including in modern day Iran; i.e., very many Iranians practice religious discrimination, which I oppose. Furthermore, Iranian state support for terrorism is a direct consequence of the beliefs of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in much the same way that the USA supports Carriles, fundamentally, because of their anti-communistic political beliefs (which are, on their own, extremely laudable).

Now, I don’t particularly blame people for being Muslim (or communist), even converts. I know how fatally easy it is to be drawn into such things (including by accident of birth), and even fanatical Muslims are, I believe, motivated primarily by a desire to be good. And nor do I object to religion per se, in fact I regard spirituality as an essential component of life which is real and not imaginary, and in fact my entire life has been devoted to it (in a non-traditional way). I believe in dialogue, and in engaging with sincerity and honesty with all forms of ideology, and that is why I find your reductionist approach – which ignores the real issues and puts everything down to racism – to be unhelpful, tortuously manipulative and false. There is a lot of racism in the world, but fear of ideologies (whether irrational fear or not) is fundamentally not the same thing, because ideologies like Islam or communism do determine people’s actions whereas skin colour does not. And the mere fact that Islam is a long-established religious ideology does not excuse it, nor entitle those who voluntarily choose to adopt its bigoted tenets to delegitimize those who are fearful of them, especially not by employing loaded terms like “racism”.

Also, you imply that all Iranians are Muslims, which is just the sort of casual stereotyping that you so detest. Some people might even regard that as (to use your term) “racial” stereotyping, but again not all Iranians are of the same race of people, contrary to what you imply by your use of that term and in spite of the best efforts of the Iranian government. But far be it from me to suggest that those in government in Iran (and, by extension, some Iranians) could be malevolent thoroughbred racists as well as religiously intolerant bigots, and that maybe the reason some Americans are fearful of Iranians is because of the hateful government that decent Iranians have to endure and which some of us here are determined to help them overcome.

And incidentally, since you (and Ali from Tehran) seek to situate me as primarily espousing an American or Israeli viewpoint, let me state for the record that whilst I do believe in many of the principles of the founders of the USA and of Israel, such as democracy and freedom of speech and religion, I am also espousing sentiments that I share with all those Iranians living in Iran who see these same problems inherent in Islam but who can’t speak freely for fear of being killed by the regime (how many Islamic terrorists are there, did you say?); and that fear is certainly not irrational in their case.

Ian / October 26, 2010 3:42 PM

I find Mr. Williams comments refreshingly honest. In the interview he expressed his fears and also the irrationality of these fears. If one actually listened before passing judgement it is difficult to condemn someone sharing this inner-conflict. This is part of the human condition.

What is really sad is that we are so quick to label and condemn a deep personal expression that in turn we lose the opportunity to better understand each other. Let's restore freedom of speech in America and condemn these media outlets and special interest groups whose superficiality is evident in their efforts to stifle expression and selfishly turn it into foder for their cause

Douglas Crawford / October 26, 2010 7:22 PM

It would have been wiser for NPR to "promote" Mr. Williams to solely a commentator or editorialist position, taking away his news reporting duties rather than to fire him. Let him quit if he is unhappy, but allow him to confess, as the Professors Sadri say, an insecurity he "shares with the average Joe." Mr. Williams fear is irrational, but are irrational fears ever vanquished by keeping them hidden in the dark, or does the dark strenghen them?

I'm not foolish enough to say that discussing irrational fears similar to Mr. Williams' will root them out of our society, only that it would be a first step in accomplishing that. I have yet to meet a person who lacks an irrational fear in some aspect of his or her life. Condemnation for such beliefs never helped anyone overcome them. Condemn and decry Mr. Williams when he suggests irrational ACTIONS be taken upon Muslims because of his irrational fears, but until then, ask the media, and society as a whole, to show tolerance and to take time to discuss these fears, in periods longer than two-minute segments between commercial breaks.

Adam / October 26, 2010 8:20 PM

@ Nell: LOL at your "We lost our innocence on 9/11" comment. You are very amusing. There was no time when you were "innocent" - at least not in your lifetime. (Unless you are 70+ years old, in which case I salute you for being such a savvy internet user!)

Houshang / October 26, 2010 9:22 PM

Mr. Williams should be far more fearful at some of the political trends taking place ( a sort of Return of the Undead) but with a $12million contract at Fox, he probably feels somewhat cushioned. I would call that pretty dishonest.

pirooz / October 26, 2010 9:35 PM

Juan's feeling is entirely normal. His sin was to say it publicly in FOX while also employed by NPR. Really, how one feels, rightly or wrongly, is nobody's business. He was fired simply because he is not liberal enough for NPR, judged by how personal this was to the president of NPR. It was as though she could not wait for one minute to do it and took a great pleasure of doing it. And we do not need to link this with Muslim at all. I was at Sea-Tac airport one evening sitting on a long bench waiting for the bus. Suddenly a white woman about 30 years old walked over and sat next to me. I felt odd because there is no one else sitting on the 6 foot bench. I turned around and looked at her. She said that a black man stared at her and followed her. So we sat together till the bus came. Was she a racist? I think not. It was just a natural response from anyone based on one's perception and judgment of the situation, environment and people. Some may make a big deal out of this saying "racial profiling". (I am an Asian BTW.) She would have responded the exact same way if the person is Asian, white, Muslim, teenager, etc. It is a fundamental human survival instinct. How she thought, how she felt, how she acted, what she said was entirely her business. We would have no business placing judgment and second guessing her "motive". This is a free country. We should be able to feel, or fear however we want whether it is "right" or "wrong". It is OK to talk about the "Muslim issues", but most, if not all of the issues related to Mr. Williams firing are that of left against right and liberal against conservative. It has little to do with race, religion, etc. Some time in the history, "Christian" was a dirty word in the Muslim world as some Christian extremists killed lots of Muslims. People feared Christian. The history turns and now people "fear Muslims". Where do we begin, or end in terms of blaming people and arguing right or wrong, and what to say or not to say.

indi / October 26, 2010 11:13 PM

I know that Iowa Public Television will not miss my $250 a yr donation to them during the annual fundraising.

I do believe - even a "Small Hick" from Iowa - can see this is nothing more than "censorship" on behalf of Public Television.

And why should we as taxpayers continue to support this? Even better - who ever fired him - should be fired themselves. Maybe it is time to clean house in Public Television as a whole?!

I am certain you will not respond - Sincerely - "Small Town Hick"- Traer, Iowa

PS.... Let Frontline do a special on PBS - and how they censor..

Dirk / October 26, 2010 11:44 PM

Whether the anti-Muslim comments made on Fox were/are what many Americans think or believe, it's a question of responsibility in journalism, which FoxNews consistently answers with intolerant, conservative and divisive subject matter. FoxNews' ability to prey on fear and ignorance is not new, and I believe NPR's strict stance on this issue is what keeps it from being affected by the rightward trend in news and public opinion.

It's neutral, and anyone who calls it "liberal" has a skewed perspective.

R Coker / October 27, 2010 12:51 AM

Nice posts Ian.

As for me, I dislike the usage of “knee jerk reactions”. If the same societies that have within a few generations have been so open to change, now suddenly fear and reject the increasing Muslim numbers within their borders, why are they too blame? How can these cultures which have shifted so fast without any internal political turmoil of great significance, be the erroneous element in the equation?

It just seems reflection is avoided, the cook blaming the diner for the foul taste.

What better way to judge a society then by how many want to leave it, or join it? I don’t have any figures handy, but given the drastic increase in numbers of Muslims in the western world I don’t really think them too necessary to showcase the point that very few Muslim countries, like the old Soviet bloc, are areas anyone wants to be members; so the skittishness of some in the western countries about Muslims is in part in agreement with them, that a Muslim country may not be a place they want to live in.

This doesn’t mean that Islam is a problem, but that the emotion felt over its growth cannot be blamed without serious questions of it. In my country a court just decided that a person needn’t show their face in court when they accuse someone of a crime, because religious freedoms need to be protected too. Forgive some for being emotional over a development that facing one's accuser isn't a stalwart unchanging practice.

My parents also emigrated out their country, but they did so with vehement hatred of the regime in power, overthrowing them was their obsession, once that regime was gone, people stopped leaving. And they never wanted to change their host countries to anything like the places they left. Quite the opposite in fact. But with Muslim expatriates their new countries seem to get their ire. So many people leaving and with seemingly no great reason.

And please don’t cite some articles, or stances a few take that oppose some regimes. I’ve never heard any regular member being disgusted with their homeland the way Soviet runaways did with theirs. So please stop blaming us.

John / October 27, 2010 2:02 AM

You mention what percent of serial killers are white, but fail to mention it's not much higher than the % of the population that is white. If 85% of serial killers are white, and 75% of the population is- that is not much of a discrepency. If Muslims make up 20% of the planet but 90% of aviation terrorists, well, that kind of is, right?

jane / October 27, 2010 4:39 AM

Dirk: You can give your $250 to Fox. Rupert Murdoch needs more and he'll make good use of it.

pirooz / October 27, 2010 6:47 AM

Life has worked out nicely for Juan. For $1 mill a year, he can just take private jets now for his air travels. No reason to be scared anymore.

In the meanwhile, I'll keep avoiding that subway car with only Juan in it.

Sean / October 27, 2010 6:54 AM

What is horrifying to me that hardly anybody bothers to find out what Williams actually said. And yet thousands are discussing it passionately.
Yes, Mr. Williams started with his "Muslim garb/fear" confession but only as an introduction to his subsequent statement where he argued that it is as WRONG to blame Muslims for 9/11 as it would be to blame Christians for OKC bombing.

This readiness to take his words out of context is especially bothersome in the CEO of NPR. One would expect that she would study the video very carefully -- after all she used it as a reason for his termination. And yet she thought nothing of obfuscating --if not falsifying -- the intent of Williams' statement. This approach: "Just quote the damaging remarks -- and never mention the second half" was adopted by the blogosphere. Partly because of ignorance, partly because it found it useful to perpetrate this omission. It allows the right to show that the black liberal has those not so kosher thoughts too--and justify their bigotry; and it allows the left to show their uncompromising vigilance. As to Ms. Schiller, the NPR CEO, she engaged in obfuscation because she wanted to fire him for something. It was very personal and she enjoyed it-as displayed later when she playfully chirped about Mr. Willams' psychiatrist. Her callousness and absolute unawareness of the damage she was unleashing on NPR is truly stunning.
Almost as surprising is that professors of sociology who should be familiar with checking their sources -- did not follow the basic rules of scholarship and engaged in a long tirade which --although rich in many well taken points -- is useless in the sense that they argue about something that is not. It has never happened. Williams is not guilty of what they accuse him of. Please go back to the video. See it. In its entirety.

Janina / October 27, 2010 9:27 AM

I am embarassed that you are a professor at TWU. Having read this article and researched your past positions (one of which is condoning the bombing of the marine barracks in beruit) I would request you presently stop wasting my tax dollars - quit your post- and move to lebanon or iran to exercise your academic freedom.

Denton Conservative / October 27, 2010 4:07 PM

Dear Denton et. al,

It is wonderful to see you exercise your right of free speech!

If you'd be so kind to provide a link to the material in which the author condones the bombing of the barracks in Beirut (I think you did not mean beruit), it would be very much appreciated.

On the larger issue, what Juan Williams said as a private citizen on an opinion program should have been taken for what it was worth: a statement of prejudice and insecurity which we all share to varying degrees in different arenas of our lives.

However, as a public personality affiliated with NPR, the context changes - just as it did in the case of Rick Sanchez and just as it did in the case of Helen Thomas, and many others.

What Mr. Sadri points out is on the mark! The issue is not Mr. Williams or Sanchez, or Ms. Thomas. At issue is vigilance to counter racist tendencies in order to avert their institutionalization.

Jay / October 27, 2010 8:13 PM

I get "nervous", as does most everyone else, when I see a package or backpack abandoned at the Mall of America.

Not long after such a package is spotted and reported to Mall Security a bomb squad arrives with their protective suits and a robot to "handle" a situation that is either the result of someone's forgetfulness or is (odds a million to one?) some kind of plot to frighten shoppers or blow them up.

I guess, according to NPR, if I reported the presence of such a "suspicious" package, I would be branded as profiling abandoned packages.

The truth is that, in a profound way, Bin Laden, et al, have already won. All they would need to do now is place abandoned packages full of explosives in every mall or government building in the "western world".

This would be a far more effective and pervasively devastating way for Bin Ladenists to
attack all the infidels. Frankly, I confess a bias and phobia regarding abandoned packages.

However, I don't at all feel the same way about someone who may fit the media-created stereotype
of a fanatic Muslim.

Ashley Wilkes / October 27, 2010 8:23 PM


Denton Conservative apparently refers to this article by Mahmoud Sadri. In addition to the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, Prof. Sadri refers to the Al Qaeda attack on the USS Cole as another example that does not fit his definition of terrorism as “attacks on non-combatants for political ends”.

This illustrates why he is so keen to use that definition of terrorism. Unfortunately, Prof. Sadri fails to recognise that merely because a particular act in a terrorist campaign may not conform strictly to this definition of “terrorism” when considered separately, that does not afford it (or the terrorists) any level of legality or legitimacy (i.e., as “irregulars” in a war, as he seems to imply). On the contrary, the USS Cole attack was (at the very least) not irregular warfare but a criminal act of mass murder, since there can be no de jure state of war between a non-state actor like Al Qaeda and a state under international law. Hence, the concept of a “military target” in these circumstances has precisely zero significance – if I murder a US soldier at his post, it’s still just murder, even if my buddies and I have made a “declaration of war” against the USA; something which renders his argument nonsensical, although I have to be somewhat cautious because I am relying on Google Translate to read his article.

Of course, there is an argument that (e.g.) Al Qaeda is now engaged in a war with NATO and the USA in Afghanistan, however they apparently aren’t fighting according to the Geneva Convention (which the Taliban government was supposedly a party to) in their failure to wear uniforms or identifiable insignia (as well as in their beheading of prisoners), which fact makes them illegal combatants entitled to be shot even when captured, without trial. One must note, therefore, that they actually gain something by being labelled terrorists, since it entitles them to receive a criminal trial when captured: something which NATO and the USA afford them, and which they (of course) deny to their captives.

In the end, attempting to make the case that terrorists are irregular soldiers when they attack military targets is of no use to them except as building ideological support for their terrorist campaign, and with that in mind I can only condemn Prof. Sadri’s article as being – whether he realises it or not – propaganda in support of cowardly murderers. Of course, if I have misunderstood him then I would hope he might be able to offer some clarification. And of course, he is entitled to try to make this case if he feels there is justification for it: that is the benefit of living in a free society.

Furthermore, since I previously accepted Prof. Sadri’s definition of terrorism for the sake of argument, I must add that upon examination I find that this definition must be inadequate on practical grounds as the basis for academic agreement, since it serves neither the interests of the terrorists (who, as I have pointed out, possess greater rights in a civilized society as terrorists than as illegal combatants in an “irregular war”) nor the interests of those “reasonable people” who view all incidents (such as the attack on the USS Cole) in a terrorist campaign to be sui generis terrorism and who seek to defeat it by capturing and bringing terrorists to trial rather than killing them, which is the best way of defeating it (as happened in Northern Ireland).

Ian / October 27, 2010 10:57 PM

Dear Ian,

I appreciate your suggestion for the reference but I will wait to hear from Denton et. al regarding the reference. I must also admit that I am not as fluent as you or Denton in Farsi and reading the referenced article will take some time and help from friends.

In the meantime, I thought it prudent to read Sadri's scholarly work. It is of note that a scan of several scholarly writings by the authors (Sadri) seem to suggest a viewpoint diametrically opposed to what you and some others seem to be attributing to the authors by implication.

As far as I can tell, what is being asserted about Sadri's is merely claims at this point. It could be the case that Mr. Sadri is being attacked for reasons unrelated to this article and the article is merely serving as a medium. Alternatively, it could be an emotional response by some.

With regards to your elaborated response, I subscribe to the dictum of clarity. Sans self-defense in the face of mortal danger, killing is murder. Admittedly, the gravity of murder is compounded when, for instance, an innocent bystander is hurt or murdered - the so called collateral damage. The intellectual pretzel one is knotted to in order to defend sanctioned forms of murder is outrageously humorous if it was not outrageous.

Your implied suggestion that wearing of uniforms or identifiable insignia somehow mediates the cruelty of murderers is imaginative but absurd nonetheless.

Jay / October 28, 2010 6:27 AM

Dear Jay,

You ought to recall Ian as the undercover British historian-cum-lawyer who advanced the curious notion that the Green Movement's opposition to Anglo-American bombing of Iran was inspired by leftist media in the West, who in turn were acting as a mere cat's paw for evil masterminds in the Kremlin!

If not, you can reacquaint yourself with his very peculiar mindset here:

(Ian, August 19, 2010 @ 11:11PM)

In earlier posts, he has traced the "excellent qualities" and "exceedingly high moral principles" of the 'Jewish people' to the central tenets of Hebraic religion, and "broadly" endorsed the wish of messianic Israeli zealots to destroy the Islamic shrines in Jerusalem in order to build the Third Temple, thus providing colorful context to his present observations on the "racism, violence and misogyny at the heart of Islam":

(Ian, Aug 7, 12:15 AM)

Ian had agreed to prepare for TehranBureau a definitive rebuttal of Dr. Sahimi's arguments on Iran's nuclear program, taking care to "dot all the 'i's and cross all the 't's", but has apparently though the better of it despite his bluster that he was not one to shirk a challenge.

If you remember all this and still try to engage this professional hasbarist in intelligent debate, I must say your apparent faith in the inherent goodness of human beings is refreshing and admirable.

Ali from Tehran / October 28, 2010 9:04 AM

Let's face it this whole issue was a knee-jerk reaction by NPR. Mr. Williams, whom I generally don't agree with, merely stated an opinion that the vast majority of the public agree with. As a passenger in an air terminal he has no authority or power to stop, detain or investigate his "hunch". Nor to my knowledge has he ever acted upon this "feeling". This "feeling" is the primal instinct that kept man alive from cave dwelling days. Situational awareness if you will. This type of awareness pays dividends when traversing an armed, violent society. I don't think anyone could ever accuse Mr. Williams of bigotry...he has dedicated much of his life exposing such behavior. Mr. Williams just happended to be that rare American who had the vehicle to announce his fears to millions of people via the media. If the FBI or CIA had had Mr. Williams instincts, based upon the intelligence developed prior to 9-11, the tragedy might never have occured - but we will never know that now. So instead our antennae goes into hyperdrive when we enter an airport.

Tom Manning / October 28, 2010 11:09 AM


For reference, I note that my view of Mahmoud Sadri’s article (that it represents ideological support for terrorism) is largely shared by Prof. Masoud Kazemzadeh in an article at iranian.com (thankfully in English). I should once again note, however, that in reading Prof. Sadri’s article I was relying on Google Translate.

Your pacifist stance is undoubtedly a highly principled one, but not in my view a practical one. Wars and conflicts are inevitable, at least for the foreseeable future – we cannot simply wish them away; and given that premise, there should (at least) be rules governing their conduct. Mahmoud Sadri’s stance would seem to be in support of a relaxation of such rules, which would (and does) make things much worse for everyone, especially non-combatants.

Ali from Tehran,

The article to which you allude is still in progress, although for the avoidance of doubt it's actually intended as a broad discussion of the nuclear issue, rather than a refutation of a particular person's views. However, the issues you refer to will be covered, and I would remind you that I have also covered some of them in previous discussions.

Ian / October 28, 2010 4:49 PM

I'll have to agree with Juan Williams. I probably wouldn't get on a plane knowing there were muslims on board. It's also getting kind of old that immigrants come to this country and want to change it into the kind of country they just fled. If they want sharia law why can't they just go to a country where it is practiced? Same way with illegals from mexico..if they don't like the atmosphere in the United States they can always leave..I'm sure nobody would object! Why come here anyway, we already sent the jobs out of the USA. The only things left are government programs to mooch from!

a. palmer jr. / October 28, 2010 7:18 PM

Dear Ali From Tehran,

Having in mind Ian's previous postings and acknowledging your observations, I thought it useful and important for Ian to continue writing. His ongoing articulation of what he stands for serves to clarify his real positions.

The attempt to paint Mr. Sadri as something that is not reflected in his writing (as a whole and to the extent that I can see), seemed inappropriate to me - I felt it needed a response.

Jay / October 28, 2010 10:46 PM

Dear Ian,

I make it a practice to rely on my own understanding of someone else's writings in its original form before I pass judgement - then again, such practices may be impractical from your viewpoint.

It would be helpful to know which specific laws of war do you find worthy of adherence to. Given your studies in history, you are probably aware of the extensive legal writings on "laws of war" and how impractical and unenforceable they have been proven to be as a whole - particularly from the viewpoint of the losers or the non-combatants.

I suspect that your appeal to practicality must have been a slip and you may wish to resort to other reasoning to advocate "rules" for a future conflict.

Jay / October 28, 2010 11:27 PM

A. Palmer Jr.,

Weren't your grandparents/great grandparents at one point-and time immigrants in this nation too? So you might be a 3rd or 4th generation American, but nonetheless originated from an immigrant source. Unless your full-blooded Native American please don't go claiming ownership over the entire nation.


I accidentally, previously labeled you as an anonymous poster, but to you was directed my previous posting on your erroneous labeling of Islam as a misogynist faith. The religion is NOT to blame for the non-egalitarian traditions the pre-Islamic pagan Arabs imposed and unfortunately amongst some is still promulgated.

To everyone,

I am truly appalled at the lack of disrespect being exhibited in this thread toward Dr. Sadri (Mahmoud), a professor I deeply admire. FYI, to all those making remarks about paying tax-dollars and insulting his professorship...Dr. Sadri is literally one of the best professors (if not the best professor) we hold at our TWU Denton campus. His intelligence, eloquence, and ability to articulate complex sociological concepts into comprehensible ones is beyond commendable. So quite the contrary dear sir/madam- your tax dollars are being (more than) adequately spent to retain such a knowledgeable and charismatic professor, such as Dr. Sadri. There were many-a-times when my classmates and I exited the confines of his classroom, after a lecture, completely captivated and actually deeply impressed by his knowledge and the format in which he managed to so finely engage us all into the daily discourse.

TWU Alumni / October 29, 2010 12:05 AM

"I thought it useful and important for Ian to continue writing. His ongoing articulation of what he stands for serves to clarify his real positions."

I would hope for more of a mutual exchange. It does seem that, sometimes, there is a rigid dogmatism that shirks debate and conceals true motives. I have come to my views over time, and, like Margaret Thatcher, use the technique of staking out my position and seeing if others can argue the ground from under me. What I dislike -- and what fails to convince -- are attempts to misconstrue my position ("destroy Islamic shrines"?!) and make silly accusations, as Ali from Tehran has done above, and frequently before: that does not constitute a "response", so he doesn't get one from me.

Ian / October 29, 2010 12:18 AM


My previous post was written before I saw your latest.

Your question about the “laws of war” is a little too general to answer in any depth, but I would say first of all that if war could be made illegal altogether then that would be the ideal.

Short of that, the only laws of war likely to be adhered to are those that apply to such weapons and tactics that both sides in a conflict are capable, politically and militarily, of deploying (so there is the credible threat that “if you do that to me, I’ll do that back to you”), but which neither side wishes to deploy because of the consequences if both sides used them.

As to your question about those laws worthy of adherence, I would think anything that prevents unnecessary suffering either to military personnel or civilians, including laws relating to protection of property and the environment in general, would be worthy of adherence (the Geneva Conventions are basically an extrapolation of these notions).

In relation to this topic, wearing of uniforms counts as “worthy” because if combatants can’t be properly identified then civilians end up getting killed (“Bloody Sunday” being a famous example, but it happens all the time). The Taliban choose not to do this because they are more interested in having the tactical advantage (but hell, I think we’d all be tempted to do the same, although very successful guerilla campaigns have been waged in uniform). On the other side, there was the case of a couple of SAS men getting captured out of uniform in Basra, although they were rescued before they were executed (that would have been a technically legal execution in my book, and the SAS men would obviously have known the risks).

“I suspect that your appeal to practicality must have been a slip and you may wish to resort to other reasoning to advocate “rules” for a future conflict.”

I can only think you’re referring to the way I disagreed with the Sadris’ definition of terrorism, which I did on account of the fact that terrorists have fewer rights if they’re regarded as fighting in a war as illegal combatants (which I infer is their position from the iranian.com article), and because that might (in turn) tempt the other side to use harsher measures than are suitable for the situation (such as summary executions rather than criminal trials). I should point out that this doesn’t refer to the conflict in Afghanistan – we were talking about incidents outside of a war-zone like the USS Cole and 9/11 and so on, as I hope I made clear – so I see no reason to resile from this position. Of course, as I’ve said, I may be misinterpreting Mahmoud Sadri’s argument in the iranian.com article, but I can’t see any other coherent way of interpreting it.

TWU Alumni,

Ah, I didn't notice your previous post. OK, Islam as a misogynist faith. Firstly, let's just note that the Qur’an is positively dripping with misogyny, e.g. “men are a step above them [women]”, (to quote just one tiny piece from only the second Sura). Now, I perfectly well understand that, doubtless, Mohammed’s views were informed by the Arabian culture of 1400 years ago, but that is precisely the problem: it’s obsolete. And I don’t see how you can separate Islam from the Qur’an, which is what you would have to do if you wanted to claim it as being amenable to equality of the sexes. To be fair, however, the problem of misogyny is hardly unique to Islam, and although notions of equality existed in (e.g.) Egypt and Sparta, misogyny was, and is, widespread. However, it remains an extremely serious problem for Islam today, and the first step in addressing the problem is to acknowledge it. There are some really ghastly things going on in Iran today, justified by clerics (see “Prostitution: Behind the Veil”), and similar problems unfortunately tend to spread wherever Islam spreads, although most people are too “polite” to mention it.

Re: Prof. Mahmoud Sadri and your feeling that he (and by extension his brother) has been unfairly treated, I think that if you publicly criticise others (suggesting that Juan Williams’s confession of irrational nervousness is not inconsistent with racism) then you ought to be prepared to accept public criticism too. The concept of “moral equivalence” will doubtless be familiar to you.

Ian / October 29, 2010 2:15 AM

Dear Jay,

I refer to your post of 28 October @ 10:46 PM, where you point out that engaging the hasbara artist Ian serves the purpose of clarifying his position.

True, provided you are willing to parse thru the entirety of his long-winded, digressive writings to mark out inconsistencies and expose his slippery guile.

His post of October 29 @ 12:18 AM is a case in point. There, he contends:

"What I dislike -- and what fails to convince -- are attempts to misconstrue my position ("destroy Islamic shrines"?!) and make silly accusations, as Ali from Tehran has done above, and frequently before..."

Setting aside his amusing conceit that we ought to devote ourselves to the quixotic quest of 'convincing' a shifty polemicist, do glance at Ian's earlier statement on restoring the Temple, and compare it with his contention above:

"As for rebuilding the temple, I think it's pretty uncontroversial to state that this is a key aim for many Jews, although obviously some Jews are more religious than others and it is a controversial subject for reasons too obvious to mention. [...] The incredibly controversial nature of the project will, I am sure, be fully illustrated by a certain participant in this discussion if I state that I'm broadly in support of the project. My view is that they have the prior claim and that the site is more important to them than it is to Muslims, so in the interests of long-term peace it should be allowed to go ahead. Otherwise we'll never hear the end of it. It's akin to the situation that would exist if the Jews had built on the site of the Kaaba and refused to give it up. And remember, whilst the Jewish conquest of Israel is recent, and still an open sore for some Muslims, nevertheless both "sides" have used the same military methods throughout history to their own advantage, so one has to be careful about trying to argue too many technicalities if and when the Jewish people eventually decide to act by building on the site."

(Ian, 06 August 2010 @ 12:49 AM)


Interesting, no?

Moreover, it is quite revealing that this self-proclaimed Western stalwart of international legality and human rights is "broadly in support" of such fateful and incendiary action, despite multiple UNSC resolutions (see S/RES/476, dtd 30 June 1980) voiding Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, and calling on that apartheid state to cease its attempts to alter the geography, demography and historical character of the Holy City.

Behold how blithely he dismisses international law (including the Geneva Conventions) in favor of Talmudic exegesis, and inveighs against "arguing too many technicalities" where his own illegal pet projects are concerned.

[Moderator, this is a re-transmission of an earlier message which apparently failed to go thru a few minutes ago. If the first one was received, please disregard this repost.]

Ali from Tehran / October 30, 2010 12:55 AM

Ali From Tehran,

:sigh: This is getting very off-topic and I probably won't respond further, however it's necessary to counter your imputations. Did you spot the reference to you in that quote of mine? I do wish you could be a bit more constructive and a bit less demagogic: politeness costs nothing.

When I refer to rebuilding the Jewish temple and saying “it should be allowed to go ahead”, I mean by common consent of the interested parties and by moving the existing Islamic buildings elsewhere; i.e., not by disregarding international law and not by destroying anything if at all possible. It’s only important in Islam because of its earlier connections, so I think the gentlemanly thing to do would be to return it.

But of course, there is such racial/religious enmity (inherent in the Qur’an against the Jews) and such sense of injustice at the return of Jews to the area of Palestine that this isn’t likely to happen anytime soon; and additionally any observer who has an opinion on the best solution is (in the eyes of Muslims, it seems) either evil conspirators or saintly and wise, depending on whether they agree with the position of Muslims or not.

For myself, I don’t believe I am either of those things; I merely believe (and am willing to state) that, on balance, the Jewish claim is just. If, in an imaginary universe, the boot were on the other foot and some people had built on your most holy site, my views would be mutatis mutandis the same, since history has a habit of coming back to haunt those who choose to ignore it.

Ian / October 30, 2010 3:53 AM

Dear Ali from Tehran,

Thank you for your remarks. I do find the points of discussion very interesting - and, it does take some parsing through indeed.

Dear Ian,

I am intrigued by your statement that "But of course, there is such racial/religious enmity (inherent in the Qur’an against the Jews) and such ...".

Would you kindly point to the source of such enmity in the Qur'an? Since the book is organized by Surah, it is sufficient if you identify the Surah and the section within it.

Jay / October 30, 2010 6:22 PM


It’s probably not such a good idea to get into a discussion of the precise meaning of individual Qur’anic quotes (although I will refer you to one section later). Perhaps better to refer you first to the Wikipedia article, which covers a variety of sources and opinions although it’s light on actual Qur’anic quotes. It’s worth noting that the current upsurge of anti-Jewish sentiment in the Middle East seems to spring more from Nazi and earlier propaganda (esp. The Protocols of Zion) and only draws in part from the Qur’an and the Hadith.

However, the recently deceased Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi (the foremost Sunni authority), noted in a treatise on the subject of the Jews in the Qur’an that “[The] Qur’an describes the Jews with their own particular degenerate characteristics, i.e. killing the prophets of Allah, corrupting His words by putting them in the wrong places, consuming the people’s wealth frivolously, refusal to distance themselves from the evil they do, and other ugly characteristics caused by their deep-rooted lasciviousness … only a minority of the Jews keep their word. … [A]ll Jews are not the same. The good ones become Muslims, the bad ones do not.” [The Wikipedia article doesn’t use this quote, but refers only to Tantawi’s rather ferocious 2002 statement about apes and pigs, apparently reflected in statements by many others in the Islamic world.]

The point I’m making is that, whatever my view as a non-Muslim and however one might like to interpret individual verses, authorities on the subject can certainly find sustenance in the Qur’an and the Hadith for anti-Jewish sentiment. However, just in case you find this response unsatisfactory, I will just conclude with one Qur’anic quote, Sura 3:87–88:

“Of such [the Jews] the reward is that on them (rests) the curse of Allah, of His angels, and of all men, all together. In that will they dwell; nor will their penalty of doom be lightened.” (Unless they repent, that is!)

This is part of a longer diatribe against the Jews, or sometimes merely sections of the Jewish community of the time (3:49–90, essentially), in which you can find many of the sentiments expressed by Tantawi. And again, I note that this sort of sentiment is hardly unique to Islam.

Ian / October 31, 2010 1:59 AM

Dear Jay,

Observe how our slippery human-rights gadfly Ian clarifies one preposterous narrative with an equally nonsensical one:

So when he forewarned us this past August that "one has to be careful about trying to argue too many technicalities if and when the Jewish people eventually decide to act" on their millenarian wish to rebuild sacred structures reduced by Valerian and Hadrian on the Temple Mount five centuries before Islam inconsiderately arrived on the scene, he simply meant "by common consent of the interested parties"!

Apart from the glaring discrepancy above, he conveniently elides the basic fact that one of these parties is unlawfully occupied by the other, and any "mutual consent" finagled under such circumstances would be more in the nature of a hostage's bargain under duress or forced confession than an expression of free will.

And he did not mean that the Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques should be destroyed; no, no, no, he was merely suggesting to "[move] the existing Islamic buildings elsewhere; i.e., not by disregarding international law and not by destroying anything if at all possible"!

But international law (see S/RES/476, 30 June 1980) is unequivocal on this matter: all attempts to change the physical, geographic, institutional and demographic character of occupied Jerusalem are illegal. And I love the sleepy but ominous "if at all possible" modifier dangling at the tail end of his serpentine sentence. Talked about speaking with forked tongue!

The only concrete idea I extract from Ian’s latest fudge is that, "on balance," ancient Jewish revivalist aspirations trump current international law in his personal Book of Justice.

It would be interesting to see whether Ian applies this concept of 'justness trumps international law' to his forthcoming monograph on the Iranian nuclear program, scheduled for publication in TehranBureau within our lifetimes. But don’t hold your breath, Jay; I suspect he treats the Israeli case as sui generis.

I also believe that his denigration of Islam as violent and racist to the core serves as a tactical expedient, because a literal reading of the Old Testament imputes that the Hebrew God was not entirely averse to sectarian violence either. Here, for example, Yahweh enjoins the Israelites to exterminate the Amalekite race:

"Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass."
(Book of Samuel, 15:3, King James Version)

Not exactly conducive to the "exceedingly high moral principles" which Ian attributes to core Hebraic scripture, eh?

And it may interest readers to know that Netanyahu has reportedly identified Iran as the contemporary Amalek, which, considering Yahweh’s eternal injunction and Israel’s allegedly ample stockpile of hydrogen bombs, has quite an ominous portent -- if portent and religious point-scoring are to be legitimate markers for reader commentary on this site.

Ali from Tehran / October 31, 2010 3:21 AM

Ali from Tehran,

Your struggles to pick apart my statements so as to find fault with me on some aspect of morality or law are, if not edifying, certainly time-consuming.

It is not unreasonable to point out that there is an inconsistency between the principles of Islamic and Jewish conquest and the modern notions of law; hence when I said “both ‘sides’ have used the same military methods throughout history to their own advantage, [and] one has to be careful about trying to argue too many technicalities if and when the Jewish people eventually decide to act by building on the site”, the context was significant. Far from being a renunciation of modern notions of law, it was a warning against hypocrisy: if Muslims accept that military conquest is valid for them (as do the Jews), then they must (by that same token) accept that it might not always go their way. The “discrepancy” with international law is not with me.

As to current SC Resolutions re: Jerusalem, those are always subject to change, as would be possible if there were any agreement on the part of Palestinians. The current peace process would not be possible if all parties assumed all previous rulings or “facts on the ground” were irrevocable. There is no moral or legal issue with proposing a solution that would require amendment of current provisions: to suggest otherwise is deeply disingenuous.

Re: the Old Testament and its situation of Jews in relation to other tribes and peoples: as I have repeatedly pointed out, the problems inherent in Islam are not unique to Islam, and in particular there is much talk of Jewish supremacy within that religion; but I don’t see any recognition of the similar problems within Islam coming from your direction.

Ian / October 31, 2010 4:47 AM

Dear Ian,

Your response leaves me with a sense of puzzlement!

In response to my earlier request that you clarify the "laws of war" you use as a basis of your argument, you mentioned that "...question about the “laws of war” is a little too general to answer in any depth, ...".

I had expected that you could simply answer by listing, for example, all Geneva conventions and additional protocols. You having opted for a more malleable definition without committing to specifics was interesting to me.

In my latest question asking for a specific reference to Qu'ran for the source of malice against the jewish religion, you responded: "It’s probably not such a good idea to get into a discussion of the precise meaning of individual Qur’anic quotes (although I will refer you to one section later)."

A direct reference would have been sufficient and no discussion of "precise meaning" would have been unnecessary.

Your later quote: "Of such [the Jews] the reward is that on them (rests) the curse of Allah, of His angels, and of all men, all together..." was easy to locate and the entire context was easy to read and follow.

I understand why you placed [the Jews] in brackets as it does not appear directly in the text. The context of the section is admonition of non-believers and the specific example of a group of non-believer Jews is referenced in the same section in the quote you provided. A reading of the entire section leaves one with the feeling that Islam is accepting of Jews and "believers". In fact, welcoming! Your selection is curious!

As an individual with scant knowledge of the history of religions I was able to discern quickly that your reference would fall very short in the task of convincing Qu'ran's enmity toward the Jews.

Having observed the same approach in response to my request for direct references to Sadri's work that would support your assertions about Sadri, I have to wonder how strongly rooted your positions are.

I realize that you have now readdressed many of your argument. For example, you now target your criticism toward individuals that practice hate speech and happen to be muslim rather than the Qu'ran itself.

As Ali from Tehran points out, this trend of what may be called "judgement of convenience or utility" is a common thread that is present in your earlier posts.

Would it not be the case that a practice of exceeding high moral principles would suggest a more careful and just use of the language in describing what you really know about, while being more equivocal about things you have heard but do not really know?

Jay / October 31, 2010 8:46 AM


“I had expected that you could simply answer by listing, for example, all Geneva conventions and additional protocols.”
I did in fact cite the Geneva Conventions as exemplary of what I believe are worthy principles of law, so I’m not quite sure what point you’re trying to make, and I wonder why you asked the question in the first place.

“I understand why you placed [the Jews] in brackets as it does not appear directly in the text.”
Indeed, the phrases used to denote the Jews in that section are “Children of Israel” and “People of the Book” (or just “them”). The context is of a discussion about the Jews and how they didn’t accept Jesus (see, e.g., verses 55 & 86) or Mohammed, and the verses I quoted clearly and specifically – and despite your assertion to the contrary – refer to them alone. I provided an identical interpretation by the foremost Sunni authority, so I don’t think my position is unorthodox in the slightest.

“A reading of the entire section leaves one with the feeling that Islam is accepting of Jews and ‘believers’. In fact, welcoming!”
Apart from the whole damnation thing, of course. Islam, Christianity and Judaism all treat non-adherents as second-class people: there’s simply no getting around it, despite what bien pensant apologists might claim; although the precise nature of sectarian vilification varies in quality and degree.

“Having observed the same approach in response to my request for direct references to Sadri’s work that would support your assertions about Sadri, I have to wonder how strongly rooted your positions are.”
I referred you to a specific article written by Mahmoud Sadri, which you refused to discuss except to say that you thought I had misrepresented it; but you didn’t say why, and you didn’t acknowledge that another Professor clearly agreed with my view that Prof. Sadri was attempting to justify acts of terrorism on account of his conveniently narrow definition of that term.

Let me, however, provide you with another example (this time in English), written just after 9/11, which includes the following:

“American marines who died in bombing of their barracks in Lebanon would not be called victims of terrorism [...] What distinguishes guerrilla warfare from terrorism is not the ends but whether innocent non-combatant civilians are sacrificed to achieve them.” – The Only Survivor, iranian.com

I trust this now makes things crystal clear, and I would refer you back to my previous critique of his argument.

“I realize that you have now readdressed many of your argument. For example, you now target your criticism toward individuals that practice hate speech and happen to be muslim rather than the Qu’ran itself.”
No, I have addressed your question about the Qur’an – and your other questions – directly.

I shan't respond any further on this topic.

Ian / October 31, 2010 7:54 PM

Dear all:

We are delighted by the amount of attention and enlightening debate our article has occasioned, ad hominem and -- as a rule -- anonymous attacks and insults notwithstanding. They are par for the course in a medium such as this. We believe that, given time, the norms of civility and etiquette will eventually prevail in this space as well.

Also, we apologize for the delay in getting back to this page and the plethora of responses and opinions expressed here. We assure you this is not a result of lack of interest. The fact is, the life of a professor is much less leisurely than some tax-payers assume.

Although we disagree with Ian, our first and main interlocutor in this debate, we appreciate his ability to offer nuanced counterarguments as well as his willingness to be persuaded. We owe him and a few others who have evinced their honest and often passionate pro or con opinions a response. We are practically invited in a few posts to do so. For now, let us start by one major disclaimer:

We do not agree with the NPR’s decision to terminate Juan Williams. We have lived long enough, to distrust bureaucracies and decisions made by committees, those of NPR included.

Secondly, we think some of our critics have neglected to recognize that we do not fault Williams for expressing his nervousness. Indeed, we see pathos in it and describe it as "the only saving grace of this sorry episode". We do find it irrational and prejudicial, however, for reasons, some of which are proferred in the piece.

Our forthcoming response will clarify our positions on the pernicious nature of prejudice and the deleterious effects of terrorism on the global community. It will, also, provide more direct references to our previous findings and opinions. You don't need to know Persian to learn about what we have written on the subject, though we thank Ian for providing one such reference. Actually, the bulk and the first draft of most of our arguments on the nature and the ways to encounter terrorism are published in English and in professional (and therefore obscure!) journals and books.

Finally, Jay is right: some of our detractors are bleeding in irrelevant (and patently false) issues into this debate. Some of these need to be addressed directly to clear the air. Thus, the next post will be addressed to the contributor with the pseudonym “Raha” concerning the baseless charges of our clandestine affiliations with the right wing elements in Iran. Please stay tuned.


Mahmoud Sadri and Ahmad Sadri

Mahmoud Sadri / November 1, 2010 1:27 AM

Dear Raha,
1- My old friend, Akbar Ganji made an honest mistake when he associated me with the idea of “Compassionate Islam (Islam-e Rahmani.) I have never written on the subject. In other words, there is no hay to be made at this issue for you or anyone else.
2- The same goes for the fictitious “recent meeting” where I supposedly debated Mr. Mesbah Yazdi on September 3rd, 2010. This is not hard to ascertain as, unlike those who snipe at others from the cover of pseudonyms, my life is an open book. Those who know me know that, like many Iranians abroad, I have not been to Iran since the summer of 2008. After the stolen election of 2009 I was unable to go to Iran even to attend my mother’s deathbed. Do you wonder why the sources you quote would lie about the date of my debate with Mesbah Yazdi? Here is the reason:
3- Like those active in my generation I knew a lot of people who later ended up either at the helm of the Iranian Revolution (for instance Dr. Beheshti) as well as some who joined the opposition groups, and were subsequently executed by the government. Mr. Mesbah Yazdi was among the people I knew before the Revolution. At this time he was an apolitical teacher of philosophy in Qum. And Mesbah remained an obscure, traditionalist philosopher with deep suspicious toward religious intellectuals (e.g., Shariati and Soroush) and social sciences up until the election of President Khatami.
4- It was at this time (1997) that Mesbah started to make a series of extreme rightwing public statements. But his real career as the ideologue of the Ahmadinejad administration started in 2005. That is why most people had never even heard Mesbah’s name before this time. Up until then Mesbah Yazdi’s ambitions were mainly in setting up a graduate school in Qum and his main preoccupation at his time he was grappling with the issue of the compatibility of social sciences and Islam. It was in this connection that he invited me to visit his newly established school in 1992 while I was there on different business. At his school I was asked to give an impromptu lecture. I proposed to instead have a public debate with Mr. Mesbah. I later learned that transcript of our public debate had been published. My interlocutor at that time was not the right wing Mesbah Yazdi of today. That is why these mudslingers have fabricated a recent date for that meeting in order to pretend it happened two months, rather than 18 years ago.

Ahmad Sadri / November 1, 2010 1:28 AM

Let us now deal with a topic that was not germane to our piece but has become central to the ensuing debate: terrorism.
The thrust of Ian's criticism of our position on terrorism is our precise and narrow definition. We believe, as bitter a pill such a definition may be for every nation that has lost precious lives in what she considers a just cause; all nations must refrain from attributing the term "terrorism" to what happens to their armed forces at home or abroad. Instead, they should reserve the term for focused (not unintended) forays on their unarmed civilian citizens and populations anywhere. Let us have the word terrorism mean something rather than using it promiscuously as a slur. Why? Because this trajectory leads every nation and faction in the world to condemn its opponents as terrorists while dubbing its own unconventional and guerilla campaigns as acts of freedom fighting, heroism, or patriotism. This practice reduces the debate on terrorism to unending bickering and untrue claims such as: “one side's terrorist in the other side's freedom fighter”. We believe this is an insidious and false statement. A terrorist is a terrorist, regardless of the ends he or she serves or the side she or he takes. These views are detailed in two publications. You can find their abstracts in the following sites:
We would be glad to furnish complete versions of these articles to all who are interested.
The two instances Ian culls from my other writings, however, are accurate. I do believe that the suicide bombing of the marine barracks in Lebanon and the Al-Qaida attack on USS Cole were not acts of terrorism but paramilitary operations. Ian or anyone else is free to describe them by any other sympathetic adjective. We certainly do believe they were tragic events. However, in order to keep within our definition of terrorism, we will have to abstain from calling them terrorist incidents.
Let us assume what the great political philosopher John Rawls called “original position”. This means trying to look at social conflicts without the stakes that partisan debaters bring in. In other words, let us consider the conflict not as Americans or Lebanese for a few minutes. How would we then distinguish terrorism from acts of war?
In the first case, one side enters the territory of the other as a peacekeeping force; then it takes sides in the internecine conflict and has its battleships bombard the positions of one of the sides in the civil war. The beleaguered side in order to dislodge the attacking third party from the conflict, (suicide) bombs the barracks of the new enemy. If we are to call this terrorism, then how many other military or paramilitary suicide missions on the enemy’s military installations and personnel concentration sites would have to be called terrorism? Mind you, we are not suggesting neglecting or condoning such attacks. By all means, anticipate them, neutralize them, retaliate against them, and call them inhuman and dastardly. But do not call them terrorism. Do not sap the meaning out of this one word. Because it would come in handy when we need to arrive at a global consensus on what it means so we can suppress it and defend our civilians everywhere. By now we know that we need such a global consensus because only such concerted effort can eradicate the scourge of terrorism.
The same goes for USS Cole incident. Military cargo and support ships, much less battleship are considered fair game as targets, whether at port or at sea. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor it was called (deservedly) many things but not a terrorist nation. Why should Al Qaida be named one (for this incident alone, we mean). Al Qaida is certainly a terrorist and deadly group, a criminal and bloodthirsty organization for its attack on the American embassies in Africa, for its attacks on twin towers and elsewhere and deserves the epithet: Terrorist for them but not for its attack on USS Cole. The same goes for Israeli and Palestinian conflicts. The Palestinian who lands in an Israel barrack using a hand glider and kills Israeli soldiers until killed is not a terrorist. Neither is a Hezbollah warrior who attacks Israeli military convoys advancing in Lebanon. But the Palestinian who detonates a bomb in a Pizzeria is a terrorist. The goals, whether they are achieving an honorable peace, recovery of homeland, or fight against an invader, do not justify crossing the line into acts of terrorism. In other words, ends do not justify the means.
Finally, contrary to Ian’s assumption, acts of terrorism do not have to actually serve the political aims for which they are committed in order to qualify as terrorist acts. Terrorists are often driven by religious fantasies, blinded by aggressive sentiments, and motivated to disregard the logic of the day to day world. This does not make their acts less deadly or dangerous. We stand by our definition.

Mahmoud Sadri and Ahmad Sadri

Mahmoud Sadri / November 1, 2010 6:40 PM

Dear Ian,

I will choose one instance to highlight why that manner of your responses are what some may call "slippery".

In response to the "laws of war" question I had raised with you, you made oblique references to the Geneva convention [ "(the Geneva Conventions are basically an extrapolation of these notions)" ] without making a commitment, and without specifying parts and protocols of the convention you specifically agree or disagree with - at least the elements in the convention that are germane to the particular thread of conversation.

Why that is important you ask? Follow this one example. Geneva conventions, as it stands today, does not require a uniform or insignia in order to afford protection to combatants. As a historian I assumed that you knew this and it was hard to tell wether you were conveniently omitting this, or simply thought that this is a reasonable exception that you could apply in your version of the Geneva conventions. Therefore, I had given you the opportunity to be specific and to say state with clarity that you were in favor of "your version" of the Geneva convention. Instead, you elected to discuss examples and generalities.

Examples and generalities are useful as long as one can commit to core concepts as well. Committing to core concepts is important because international law is not a chinese buffet! For example, we in the US withheld ratification of the first part of The Geneva Protocol, and we have since made numerous other "exceptions". That is the chinese buffet approach, but it is at least somewhat transparent (although entirely unsatisfactory!).

It appears that you follow the same philosophy of "judgement of convenience or utility" in numerous areas - which is your right. But then why not just be transparent and say "I play by my own rules as I see fit"?

Jay / November 1, 2010 7:20 PM

Dear M. Sadri and A. Sadri,

I appreciate your principled stance in your response regarding the use of the "terrorism" label.

As you have articulated, when words, rules, laws are treated "chinese buffet" style, they become meaningless and potentially dangerous.

Jay / November 2, 2010 1:45 AM

@ Jay,
It is true that non=military combatant are not required to wear uniform to be protected by Geneva Convention protocol bu at the same time under the same protocol they are required to be clearly distinguishable from the civilian population. Her is a copy paste from G.C regarding the article:

>>Convention I offers protections to wounded combatants, who are defined as members of the armed forces of a party to an international conflict, members of militias or volunteer corps including members of organized resistance movements as long as they have a well-defined chain of command, are clearly distinguishable from the civilian population, carry their arms openly, and obey the laws of war. (Convention I, Art. 13, Sec. 1 and Sec. 2)>>

@ Chemical Ali from Baghdad,

Rather than casting aspersions on the intellect and motives of the others, it might benefit you if you work to enhance your own.

Aryajet / November 2, 2010 9:10 AM

Dear Jay,

Having admonished us earlier against "arguing too many technicalities if and when the Jewish people eventually decide" to rebuild their Temple on the site occupied by the Dome of the Rock, Ian now contextualizes his statement with the mother of all false analogies: Moslems took Jerusalem by force of arms in the mid-7th century, hence it would be hypocritical of them to complain when Jews do likewise.

His exact words are as follows:

"... hence when I said “both ‘sides’ have used the same military methods throughout history to their own advantage, [and] one has to be careful about trying to argue too many technicalities if and when the Jewish people eventually decide to act by building on the site”, the context was significant. Far from being a renunciation of modern notions of law, it was a warning against hypocrisy: if Muslims accept that military conquest is valid for them (as do the Jews), then they must (by that same token) accept that it might not always go their way. The “discrepancy” with international law is not with me."

In making this facile 'what-goes-around-comes-around' argument, Ian must expect the TehranBureau readership (professor Aryajet excepted) to be obtuse enough not to realize that the Israeli conquests have taken place in the post-war era of international law, while the Islamic one precedes the establishment of this global regulatory framework by a paltry thirteen centuries.

Concerning UNSC resolutions voiding Israel's annexation of Jerusalem, Ian claims:

"As to current SC Resolutions re: Jerusalem, those are always subject to change, as would be possible if there were any agreement on the part of Palestinians. The current peace process would not be possible if all parties assumed all previous rulings or “facts on the ground” were irrevocable. There is no moral or legal issue with proposing a solution that would require amendment of current provisions: to suggest otherwise is deeply disingenuous."

In other words, the transgressor should ignore UNSC resolutions for decades until salutary developments in the global balance of forces (ie., the advent of unipolar American imperium) permit him to consolidate ill-gotten gains.

When Ian's elusive treatise on Iran's nuclear program appears, do you reckon he will endorse a similar waiting-out strategy for Iran? Most probably not.

Ian's dissembling reaches Biblical proportions in the extract below:

"... as I have repeatedly pointed out, the problems inherent in Islam are not unique to Islam, and in particular there is much talk of Jewish supremacy within that religion; but I don’t see any recognition of the similar problems within Islam coming from your direction."

Indeed, in his most recent post, he allows that the supremacist impulse exists in all Abrahamic religions, Judaism included, but qualifies that tepid concession by hinting that the "precise nature of sectarian vilification varies in quality and degree." (And note also that he now substitutes the elastic terms "vilification" and "supremacy" for the hard-edged terms "racism" and "violence" he employed earlier when only discussing Islam. Slippery man, indeed.)

Compare his extempore eulogy of August 6 on the "exceedingly high moral principles" of the 'Jewish people' (and their unrivalled love of peace and tranquility) with his denunciation of Islam as inherently racist and violent, and you get a fair glimpse of the crude hierarchy he favors.

I gave an example in an earlier post of Yahweh enjoining the Israelites to exterminate the Amalekites:

"Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass."
(Book of Samuel, 15:3, King James Version)

In the interest of parsing Ian's glib observation that the "precise nature of sectarian vilification varies in quality and degree" amongst the three Abrahamic religions, perhaps our resident Islamophobe can be prodded to identify a Quranic injunction quite as bloody-minded as Samuel 15:3?

This Biblical passage could be dismissed by apologists as mere historical trivia were it not for the penchant of nuclear-armed Israeli leaders to finger Iran as the modern reincarnation of Amalek.

Ali from Tehran / November 3, 2010 4:30 AM

Dear Ali from Tehran,

I had noted the elasticity of responses from Ian in his earlier posts. I wanted to learn more about his "core values" and the firmness of the foundation these values rest upon. My natural impulse was to assume that Ian is simply confused or that he does not articulate his message with clarity. It was not a level of comfort or agreement I was looking for - a sincere and intelligent discussion would have sufficed. Needless to say that the results were disappointing!

Jay / November 4, 2010 2:36 AM