The French do not understand secularism

The French senate voted 246 to 1, with about 100 abstentions from mostly protesting left-wing parties, to ban face-covering Islamic headdress.

As an atheist with humanist pretensions, I have to describe this sort of secularism impoverished of tolerance worse than useless. It will almost certainly retard the assimilation of Muslim immigrants most of its proponents want to encourage. Muslims will recognize the arbitrariness with which they have been singled out, and respond with the same fear and distrust that they have been met with. Jihadist goons will use the law to indict the West as a whole, swaying more of their undecided kinsmen closer to their own position, or at least away from appreciating democratic ideals. This plays into their narrative.

The Eiffel Tower has already received a bomb threat; I can’t believe that is a coincidence.

Eloping couple stoned to death by Taliban

Via the New York Times:

 The Taliban on Sunday ordered their first public executions by stoning since their fall from power nine years ago, killing a young couple who had unsuccessfully tried to elope, according to Afghan officials and an eyewitness.

The punishment was carried out by hundreds of the victims’ neighbors and even their family members in a village in northern Kunduz Province, according to Nadir Khan, 40, a local farmer and Taliban sympathizer, who was interviewed by telephone.

As a Taliban mullah prepared to read the judgment of a religious “court,” Mr. Khan said the lovers, a 25-year-old man named Khayyam and a 19-year-old woman named Siddiqa, defiantly confessed in public to their relationship. “They said, ‘We love each other no matter what happens,’ ” Mr. Khan said.

The executions were the latest in a series of cases where the Taliban have imposed their harsh version of Shariah law for social crimes, reminiscent of their behavior during their decade-long rule of the country. In recent years Taliban officials have sought to play down their bloody punishments of the past as they concentrated on building up popular support.

“We see it as a sign of a new confidence on the part of the Taliban in the application of their rules, like they did in the ’90s,” said Nader Nadery, a senior commissioner on Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission. “We do see it as a trend, they’re showing more strength in recent months, not just in attacks, but including their own way of implementing laws, arbitrary and extrajudicial killings.”

The stoning deaths, along with similarly brazen attacks in northern Afghanistan, were also a sign of growing Taliban strength in parts of the country where until recently they had been weak or absent. In their home regions in southern Afghanistan, Mr. Nadery said, the Taliban have already been cracking down. “We’ve seen a big increase in intimidation of women and more strict rules on women,” he said.

Afghanistan is hell now. But it would probably be worse if we left.

Obama backpedals on Cordoba

When is an endorsement not an endorsement? When your loudest opponents whose respect you will never have give you grief for it.

One of the genuine moments of courage in Obama’s presidency has given way to one of his most cowardly.

“This is America. Our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.”

Obama finally comments on the Cordoba House:

It strikes me as illiberal that not only does our culture need a discussion about the facility; but we also need our president to mediate it. It’s another illustration of the cult of the presidency, the elevation of what was conceived as a fairly humble office into an avatar of the Geist of the whole nation and unitary power onto himself (or, hypothetically, herself). But that’s where we are. And though some have criticized Obama for taking his time in commenting on the issue, one can at least say he chose an ideal venue–an iftar for DC Muslim leaders–and came down on the right side and did so gracefully, acknowledging the “hollowness” of Ground Zero, but also the hollowness of the first freedom.

An unequivocal denunciation

As if our side needed a Jonah Goldberg of its own:

America’s primary international enemy—Islamic radicalism—insists on government by theocracy, curtails civil liberties, embraces torture, represses women, wants to eradicate homosexuals from society, and insists on the use of force over diplomacy. Remind you of a certain American political party? In American Taliban, Markos Moulitsas pulls no punches as he compares how the Republican Party and Islamic radicals maintain similar worldviews and tactics.

This is (one of the multifarious reasons) why I dislike the array of web subcultures bound by a family resemblance called The Netroots. They have no rhetoric, and will never have any because they don’t much care to reconstruct how their opponents think. If they did, they would recognize the genuine qualitative differences between millenarian jihadism and the City on the Hill theoconservatism of the contemporary right–one doesn’t see Young Republicans shaving their chest hair to tape explosives under their shirt before walking onto a San Francisco marketplace; there are reasons for this. As Jonathan Chait wrote, the comparison is so broad and tenuous as to be considered intellectualy and morally “obscene” :

There are certainly tendencies on the American right that are less extreme versions of Talibanism — intolerance toward religious minorities, an insistence of shaping public policy according to religious dogma, hostility to science that contradicts religious texts — but the differences in degree are so vast that they are a difference in kind.The Taliban enforces totalitarian law through wanton torture and violence. Whatever you want to say about the GOP’s policies toward women and gays, it’s not this:

 Moreover, they would recognize skimming over these distinctions is tactical suicide, a means by which to alienate moderates and make enemies ignore you.

I consider myself to be of a different strand of left-of-center politics than Moulitsas and his Netroots allies. Their worldview is populist, idealistic if not radical, doctrinaire and fixated upon fixed principles. I am a technocrat, a realist tending towards pessimism, and a skeptic of creeds and given to pragmatic utilitarian calculation. But at the end of the day, Moulitsas and I vote for the same party, and advocate on behalf of the same. The manner in which Moulitsas does so, I think, paints our side in a bad light. In publishing this book under this title, he does its subjects more good than his allies.

Honor killing thugs firebomb bystanders

Via the Daily Mail:

An ‘honour killing’ gang murdered a married couple in their home when they set fire to the wrong house.

Abdullah Mohammed and wife Aysha suffocated after petrol was poured through their letterbox and set alight by the gang of young men. The Mohammeds’ nine-year-old son and daughter, 14, were also at home during the attack but survived.

Four men were yesterday found guilty of murdering the husband and wife, including 21-year-old gang leader Hisamuddin Ibrahim who had intended to attack a man who was having an affair with his married sister.

Ibrahim ordered three accomplices to set a fire at the home of Mo Ibrahim, who is not related, in the early hours of the morning. But Habib Iqbal, Sadek Miah and Mohammed Miah mistakenly targeted the Mohammeds’ house on the same terrace street in Blackburn as their intended victim. As the gang fled, neighbours tried in vain to break into the burning home before the fire brigade arrived on October 21 last year.

Mr Mohammed, 41, died after being found unconscious in his bedroom with his wife and two of their three children. His 39-yearold wife died in hospital days later.

London Underground worker Ibrahim was enraged when he discovered his 22-year-old sister Hafija Gorji was having an affair with the man she had met at a wedding. As rumours circulated a month before the fire, Mrs Gorji’s lover had lied as he swore on the Koran in front of her relatives that the pair were just good friends, Preston Crown Court heard.

Ibrahim, from East London, had then asked best friend 25-year-old Iqbal, Miah, 19, and Sadek Miah, 23, to drive up from the capital overnight and carry out the attack. He had been inspired by a story on the BBC’s Crimewatch website about an unsolved late-night arson in Eastbourne.

There were no witnesses to the start of the blaze in Blackburn but CCTV captured a vehicle circling the surrounding streets three times shortly before the fire. Three figures left the car, one carrying a container, before the trio ran back and drove off with the vehicle’s headlights turned off. The car, a black Volskwagen Golf registered to Sadek Miah’s mother, was then driven straight back to London.

The gang, from Manor Park and Tower Hamlets in East London, had all denied murder and face long jail terms. They will be sentenced later.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Australia’s Dateline