Monthly Archives: January 2009

2009: Governor Romney’s Remarks to the House Republican Conference Retreat

Governor Romney’s Remarks to the House Republican Conference Retreat
Jan 30, 2009

As prepared by Mitt Romney for delivery to the House Republican Conference Retreat

Thank you for the warm welcome. And thank you for the vote you took this week. You stood strong. You stood for principle. You put the best interests of the American people ahead of politics. I got some calls yesterday, after the news. They said what I feel. We want you to know that we’re proud of you. It sure feels good to be in a room full of Republicans who came out ahead on Election Day. You can be proud of your success. And don’t be afraid to remind the President of this: you, too, won your election.

After my own campaign was over, Ann and I just wanted to get away from it all. We ended up in Beijing, about as far away as you can get. We went to the Olympic Games, and one of the events we attended was women’s beach volleyball. I noticed a lot of people looking in our direction, pointing toward us and taking pictures. It’s always nice to be recognized, and I told Ann, let’s be sure to smile and look our best. Ann said, they might like us even more if we got out of the way—Kobe Bryant is standing right behind you.

A few months have passed since the election. It’s enough time to consider the outcome and take stock of our party’s future. I want to make clear that I’m optimistic: our ideas are good, our agenda will make America stronger, and your action this week showed that we have the kind of leaders who will stand up for what they believe in.

I have often been asked what I think the Republican Party must do to recover. What I’ve said is this: My first concern isn’t about our party—it’s about our country. In fact, the two are closely related. The best way for us to advance the prospects of our party is to do what we know is right for the country. This is what the American people expect of us. And that’s what we should expect of ourselves.

This is a time of hardship and uncertainty for millions of Americans. The question is: whose leadership and ideas will turn things around. And in such a moment, it’s our job to offer the clear answers, the proven solutions, and resolute leadership that will make this country strong again. The new President and the Congressional majority are having a difficult time doing that. After all, they have a lot of campaign rhetoric to make good on. And they’ve got plenty of special interests to pay back.

As the opposition party, we’re entirely free to do what is right for the country. There are certain advantages to that kind of freedom, and I suggest we make the most of them. That begins with a clear analysis of what’s needed to get the economy moving again. Predictions that we are almost out of the woods, based on the length of prior recessions, are wishful thinking. Americans have lost some 11 trillion dollars in net worth. That translates into about 400 billion dollars less annual consumer spending in the economy. T

here’s something else people don’t talk much about: The pool of investment capital—all the money available for new investments, business start-ups, business expansions, capital expenditures, and new hiring. The size of that pool has shrunk by trillions of dollars. This was a huge loss in value, and the effect could be felt for years—in businesses that don’t start up or grow, in jobs that don’t get created.

Given these extraordinary conditions, I am convinced that a stimulus is needed. So why not just spend and borrow with reckless abandon? Because we’re in a very delicate situation that could easily get worse if Washington does the wrong thing.

The package which passed the House is a huge increase in the amount of government borrowing. And we’ve borrowed so much already, that if we add too much more debt, or spend foolishly, we could invite an even bigger crisis. We could precipitate a worldwide crisis of confidence in America, leading to a run on the dollar … or hyper-inflation that wipes out family savings and devastates the middle class. We’re on an economic tightrope. That’s why it is so important to exercise extreme care and good judgment. S

o far, the Democratic leadership hasn’t shown a great deal of that. They’ve passed 355 billion in infrastructure spending, 60% of which won’t be spent by the end of 2010. Billions for electronic medical health records—it’s a fine idea, but it won’t produce jobs for years and years.

Even worse are the liberal payoffs—50 million dollars for the National Endowment for the Arts, hundreds of millions of dollars to the states for STD prevention and education. Until your loud protests got it dropped from the bill, there even was 200 million dollars for the DC Mall. That might have grown some grass, but it wouldn’t have grown the economy. And they’re doing this when the economy is on a tightrope.

It’s still early in the administration of President Obama. Like everyone who loves this country, I want him to adopt correct principles and then to succeed. He still has a chance to step in and insist on spending discipline among the members of his own party. It’s his job to set priorities. I hope for America’s sake that he knows that a Chief Executive can’t vote “present.” He can’t let others run the show. He has to say yes to some things and no to a lot of others.

We need to stimulate the economy, not the government. A true stimulus package, one that respects the productivity and genius of the American people, could lift this country out of recession. And experience shows us what it should look like.

First, there are two ways you can put money into the economy, by spending more or by taxing less. But if it’s stimulus you want, taxing less works best. That’s why permanent tax cuts should be the centerpiece of the economic stimulus. Even Christine Romer, the President’s own choice to lead the Council of Economic Advisors, found in her research that tax cuts are twice as effective as new spending.

Second, any new spending must be strictly limited to projects that are essential. How do we define essential? Well, a good rule is that the projects we fund in a stimulus should be legitimate government priorities that would have been carried out in the future anyway, and are simply being moved up to create those jobs now. As we take out non-essential projects, we should focus on funding the real needs of government that will have immediate impact. And what better place to begin than repairing and replacing military equipment that was damaged or destroyed in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan?

Third, sending out rebate checks to citizens and businesses is not a tax cut. The media bought this line so far, but they’ve got it wrong. Checks in the mail are refunds, not tax cuts. We tried rebate checks last year and they did virtually nothing to jump-start the economy. Disposable income went up, but consumption hardly moved. Businesses aren’t stupid. They’re not going to invest in equipment and new hires for a one time, short term blip.

You know, by proposing tax rebates, the Democrats are admitting that relief to families and employers works. Why can’t they shed their ideological bias and give the American people the kind of permanent, broad based tax relief that even they must know will relieve the suffering our country is going through?

Fourth, if we’re going to tax less and spend more to get the economy moving, then we have to make another commitment as well. As soon as this economy recovers, we have to regain control over the federal budget, and above all, over entitlement spending. This is more important than most people are willing to admit. I mentioned the economic tightrope before. There is a real danger that with trillions of additional borrowing—from the budget deficit and from the stimulus—that world investors will begin to fear that the dollars won’t be worth much in the future. They may fear hyper-inflation. It is essential that we demonstrate our commitment to maintaining the value of the dollar. That means showing the world that we will put a stop to runaway spending and borrowing. Senator Judd Gregg is rightly proposing a new bipartisan approach. It should be part of this bill.

Fifth, we must begin to recover from the enormous losses in the capital investment pool. And the surest, most obvious way to get that done is to send a clear signal that there will be no tax increases on investment and capital gains. The 2001 and 2003 tax cuts should be extended permanently, or at least temporarily. A

nd finally, let’s exercise restraint in the size of the stimulus package. Without restraint, it may grow as the days go by. Last year, with the economy already faltering, I proposed a stimulus of 233 billion dollars. The Washington Post said, and I quote: “Romney’s plan is way too big.” So what critique do they have for the size of the Democrat’s package? I’m afraid they’ve caught a bad case of liberal laryngitis. It’s everywhere these days. In the final analysis, we know that only the private sector—entrepreneurs and businesses large and small—can create the millions of jobs our country needs. The invisible hand of the market always moves faster and better than the heavy hand of government.

The difference between us and the Democrats is this: they want to stimulate the government, and we want to stimulate the economy.

Government does have an obligation to address some of the abuses we’ve seen in the markets, particularly in the mortgage finance market and the mortgage guarantee sector. But when markets work as they should, when they are effectively and efficiently regulated, free markets create jobs and boost incomes. As Republicans, we remain the confident voice of limited government and free enterprise.

These principles are going to face another test when it comes to healthcare. We should be first to propose a Republican plan to bring health insurance to all Americans, one based on market dynamics, free choice, and personal responsibility. I think what we did in Massachusetts is a good model to start from, but whatever direction we take, let’s not simply react to what the Democrats do. Their own plan would undoubtedly create a vast new system of costly entitlements and bureaucratic dictates, burdening the people and threatening the economy. Americans will be looking for a better alternative. Let’s give it to them. Let’s also defend the rights of workers—against coercion and intimidation. The working people of this country should be able to unionize the way their fathers and mothers did – by free choice and secret ballot.

The Democrats’ plan to take away those rights would result in economic calamity. More than that, it’s an insult to the dignity and common sense of working people. We’re going to defend the freedom of workers and the rights of labor. Interesting, isn’t it, which party stands up for workers and which one jumps for union bosses.

Ours is the party of freedom and enterprise, and we are the party of life. I know that I’m not alone in wondering why our new president, in the earliest hours of his administration, directed that international groups that promote and provide abortions be funded with American taxpayer dollars. Is that really what the world needs, more abortions? In our party, we don’t have perfect agreement on the life issue. But with an administration that is firmly on the side of abortion, that answers to the most extreme wing of the abortion lobby, our duty is clear. We should be a voice for moderation and compassion. And even if the administration will say nothing on behalf of the child waiting to be born, we must take the side of life.

The new administration has also gained the favor of liberal commentators by pledging what it calls reform in the treatment of detainees who have taken up arms against America. And of course, President Obama says he will close Guantanamo. But I wonder if he noticed that some of the men already released from Guantanamo have turned up in new al Qaeda tapes? I also wonder where the President now intends to send the terrorists we capture. Will he send them to nations that will release them to kill Americans? Or will he send them to US prisons, to infect our own criminal population?

There may be more steps like closing Guantanamo—and they will receive the predictable applause from law professors, editorial boards, and others who have no responsibility for protecting American lives. The Washington Post last week announced President Obama’s actions with this headline: “Bush’s War on Terror Comes to a Sudden End.” I hope this President knows that the terrorists are still fighting and killing Americans, and that they plan to keep killing Americans.

Here, too, our party will speak confidently. We have no greater duty than a vigilant defense. This great party of ours has seen setbacks before. They have never defined us. For our party, I believe this will be remembered as the time when we demonstrated the strength of our convictions, when we defended the foundations of America’s prosperity, security and liberty.

America will be tested. It’s not for us to choose every new test that may arise. But we’re entirely free to choose how we will face those tests. We’ll face them as you did this week. And we’ll face them as Republicans have done before in our finest moments—with the clarity and the confidence of those who put their country first. That is the work you have undertaken as Republican members of the 111th Congress. You gather in smaller numbers than last year, but you have ideas, energy, and convictions—and the resolve to lead America to a better future.

The comeback for our nation and for our party starts with you. You can count me as an ally in the work ahead. Thank you.

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1995: Origin of the Myth of a Tolerant Pluralistic Islamic Society / Bat Ye’or

This speech, given by Bat Ye’or at a scholarly conference on the Baltics in 1995, provides the quickest and most concise account of the origions of the myth of the Tolerant Islamic society for the last hundred years and continuing unabated today.

We need to wake up.

See the original article on the Dhimmi Watch website at this link.

Love & thanks,
Steve St.Clair

SYMPOSIUM ON THE BALKAN WAR (Ramada Congress Hotel – Chicago, Illinois)
Dinner Address delivered on 31 August 1995 by

Ladies and gentlemen:

My subject this evening is “Myths and Politics: Origin of the Myth of a Tolerant Pluralistic Islamic Society”.

Ten years ago when I came to America for the launching of my book The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam, I was struck by the inscription on the Archives Building in Washington: “Past is Prologue”. I had thought – at least at the beginning of my research – that my subject related to a remote past, but I realized that contemporary events were rapidly modernizing this past. Muslim countries, where Islamic law – the shari’a – had been replaced by modern juridiction imposed by the European colonizing powers, were abandoning the secularizing trend, replacing it with Islamization in numerous sectors of life. This impression of the return of the past became even more acute when I was working on my next book, published in 1991, whose English edition will appear in early 1996 under the title: The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam – 7th to 20th century: from Jihad to Dhimmitude (Associated University Presses).

In this study, I tried to analyze the numerous processes that had transformed rich, powerful Christian civilizations into Islamic lands, and their long-term effects, which had reduced native Christian majorities into scattered small religious minorities, on the way to total disappearence. This complex Islamization process affecting Christian lands and civilizations on both shores of the Mediterranean – and in Irak and Armenia – I have called: the process of “dhimmitude”; and the civilization of those peoples who underwent such transformation, I have named the civilization of “dhimmitude”. The indigenous native peoples were Jews and Christians (Orthodox, Catholics, or from other Eastern Christian Churches). They are all referred to by Muslim jurists as the “Peoples of the Book” – the Book being the Bible – and they were subjected to the same condition according to Islamic law. They are called by the Arabic term, dhimmis: “protected peoples”, because Islamic law protects their life and goods on condition that they submit to Islamic rule. But it is this very Islamic law that generates the processes of dhimmitude and of self-destruction.

I will not go into details here for this is a very long and complex subject, but in order to understand the Serbian situation one should know that the Serbs were treated during half a millenium just like the other Christian and Jewish dhimmis. They participated in this civilization of dhimmitude. It is important to understand that the civilization of dhimmitude grows from two major and interconnected religious institutions: jihad and shari’a, which establish a particular ideological system that makes it mandatory – during the jihad operation – to use terror, mass killings, deportation and slavery. And the Serbs – because I am speaking of them tonight – did not escape from this fate, which was the same for all those peoples around the Mediterranean basin, vanquished by jihad. For centuries, the Serbs fought to liberate their land from the laws of jihad, and dhimmitude, which had legalized their condition of oppression on their own lands.

So while I was analyzing and writing about the processes of dhimmitude and the civilization of dhimmitude – while listening to the radio, watching television, reading the newspapers – I had the uncomfortable feeling that the clock was being turned back. Modern politicians, sophisticated writers – using phones, planes, computers and all the modern techniques – seemed to be returning several centuries back, with wigs or stiff collars, using exactly the same corrupting arguments, the same tortuous short-term politics that had previously contributed to the gradual Islamization of numerous non-Muslim peoples. I had to shake myself in an effort to distinguish the past from the present.

So, is the past always prologue? Are we doomed to remain perpetually prisoners of the same errors? Certainly, if we do not know the past. And this past – the long and agonizing process of Christian annihilation by the laws of jihad and dhimmitude – is a taboo history, not only in Islamic lands, but above all in the West. It has been buried beneath a myth, fabricated by Western politicians, religious leaders and scholars, in order to promote their own national, strategic, economic and personal interests.

Curiously, this myth started in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 19th century. It alleges that Turkish rule over Christians in its European provinces was just and lawful. That the Ottoman regime, being Islamic, was naturally “tolerant” and well disposed toward its Christian subjects; that its justice was fair, and that safety for life and goods was guaranteed to Christians by Islamic laws. Ottoman rule was brandished as the most suitable regime to rule Christians of the Balkans.

This theory was advanced by European politicians in order to safeguard the balance of power in Europe, and in order to block the Russian advance towards the Mediterranean. To justify the maintenance of the Turkish yoke on the Slavs, this yoke had to be presented to the public opinion as a just government. The Ottoman Empire was painted by Turkophiles as a model for a multi-ethnical, multi-religious empire. Of course, the reality was totally different! First the Ottoman Empire was created by centuries of jihad against Christian populations; consequently the rules of jihad, elaborated by Arab-Muslim theologians from the 8th to the 10th centuries, applied to the subjected Christian and Jewish populations of the Turkish-Islamic dominions. Those regulations are integrated into the Islamic legislation concerning the non-Muslim vanquished peoples and therefore they present a certain homogeneity throughout the Arab and Turkish empires – and, apparently, in Muslim Asia too.

The civilization of dhimmitude, in which the Serbs participated, had many aspects that evolved with changing political situations. They suffered from the same oppressive laws and prejudices that concerned all Christians and Jews in the Islamic Empire. From the 1830s, the Ottomans embarked on reforms (Tanzimat), aimed at the emancipation of their Christian raya (dhimmi) populations. They didn’t act on their own volition, rather they were forced to accept them by the European powers. It was not out of humanity that European politicians wished to abolish the degrading condition of the Christians; they promoted these reforms in order to prevent their seeking Russian help to liberate themselves from Ottoman oppression.

In the Serbian regions, the most fanatical opponents of Christian emancipation were the Muslims Bosniacs. They fought against the right of Christians to possess lands, and – in legal matters – to have rights equal to theirs. They opposed these reforms on the bases that under the old system, which gave them full domination over the Christians rayas, Muslims and Christians had lived for centuries in a convivial fraternity. And this argument is still used today by Bosniac President Izetbegovic, and others. He repeatedly affirms that the half millenium of Christian dhimmitude was a period of peace and religious harmony. Let us now confront the myth with reality. I shall now quote a few facts from some of the documents in my forthcoming book. A systematic enquiry into the condition of the Christians was conducted in the 1860s by British consuls throughout the Ottoman Empire. Britain was then Turkey’s strongest ally; it was in its interest to see that oppression of the Christians was eliminated, in order to prevent Russian or Austrian interference. On July 22, 1860, Consul James Zohrab sent a lengthy report from Bosna-Serai (Sarajevo) to his ambassador in Constantinople, Sir Henry Bulwer, in which he analyzed the administration of the provinces of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He stated that from 1463 to 1850 the Bosniac Muslims enjoyed all the privileges of feudalism: “During a period of nearly 300 years Christians were subjected to much oppression and cruelty. For them no other law but the caprice of their masters existed.”

Here we should remember the devshirme system, which is well known. Initiated by the Ottoman Sultan Orkhan (1326-1359), it existed for about 300 years. It consisted of a regular levy of Christian children from the Christian population of the Balkans. These youngsters, aged from fourteen to twenty, were Islamized and enslaved for military purposes. The periodic levies, which took place in contingents of a thousand, subsequently became annual. To discourage runaways, children were transferred to remote provinces and entrusted to Muslim masters, soldiers who treated them harshly, as slaves. Another parallel recruitment system operated: It provided for the levy of Christian children aged six to ten (ichoghlani), reserved for the sultan’s palace. Entrusted to eunuchs, they underwent a tyrannical training for fourteen years. In Africa, a system of enslaving Black Christian and Animist children, similar to the devshirme existed, as is shown from documents to be published in my book. A sort of devshirme system still exists today in the Sudan and has been described and denounced by the United Nations Special Rapporteur Mr Gaspar Biro in his 1994 report, and by an article in The Times of London (Sudanese Christians ‘sold as slaves’, August 25, 1995) In 1850, the Bosniac chiefs opposed the authority of the Porte and the reforms. They were defeated by the Sultan’s army commanded by Omer Pasha, aided by the Christians. The corvées imposed by the Bosniac lords over their subjected Christian populations were abolished, as well as their feudal privileges. The Christians hoped that the direct administration of the Porte would ameliorate their position, but they hardly benefited from it. Moreover, in spite of their assistance to the sultan’s army they were disarmed, while the Muslims who fought the sultan could retain their weapons. Christians remained oppressed as before, although it was not permitted to treat them as formerly. Referring to the reform, Zohrab states: “I can safely say, (it) practically remains a dead letter”.

Discussing the impunity granted to the Muslims by the sultan, Consul Zohrab writes in the same report: “This impunity, while it does not extend to permitting the Christians to be treated as they formerly were treated, is so far unbearable and unjust in that it permits the Mussulmans to despoil them with heavy exactions. False imprisonments (imprisonment under false accusation) are of daily occurence. A Christian has but a small chance of exculpating himself when his opponent is a Mussulman (…) Christian evidence, as a rule, is still refused (…) Christians are now permitted to possess real property, but the obstacles which they meet with when they attempt to acquire it are so many and vexatious that very few have as yet dared to brave them.” “Such being, generally speaking, the course pursued by the Government towards the Christians in the capital (Sarajevo) of the province where the Consular Agents of the different Powers reside and can exercise some degree of control, it may easily be guessed to what extend the Christians, in the remoter districts, suffer who are governed by Mudirs (governors) generally fanatical and unacquainted with the (new reforms of the) law.”

Concerning the acquisition of land – a new right for the Christians – he states: “(Although) a Christian can buy and take possession; it is when he has got his land into order, or when the Mussulman who has sold has overcome the pecuniary difficulties which compelled him to sell, that the Christian feels the helplessness of his position and the insincerity of the Government. Steps are then taken by the original proprietor, or some relatives of his, to reclaim the land from the Christian, generally on one of the following pleas: (…) that the deeds of transfer being defective, the sale had not been legally made. Under one or other of these pleas the Christian is in nineteen cases out of twenty dispossessed, and he may then deem himself fortunate if he gets back the price he gave. Few, a very few, have been able to obtain justice; but I must say that the majority of these owe their good fortune not to the justice of their cause, but to the influence of some powerful Mussulman.” “Christian evidence in the Medjlises (provincial councils) is occasionally received, but as a rule is refused, either directly or indirectly, by reference to the Mehkemeh.

Knowing this, the Christians generally come forward prepared with Mussulman witnesses. The cases in which Christian evidence has been refused are numerous”. But, comments Zohrab, “twenty years ago, it is true, they had no laws beyond the caprice of their landlords (…) Cases of oppression are frequently the result of Mussulman fanaticism, but for these the (Turkish) Government must be held responsible, for if offenders were punished, oppression would of necessity become rare.”

By proclamation, in the spring of 1861, the sultan announced new reforms in Herzegovina, promising among other things freedom to build churches, the use of church bells and the opportunity for Christians to acquire land. Commenting on this from Bosna-Serai, Consul William Holmes wrote to Sir Henry Bulwer on May 21, l861, that those promises had been given often, without being applied. He mentions that the Serbs, the largest community, were refused the right to build a church in Bosna-Serai. Concerning the right to buy land, he wrote: “Every possible obstacle is still thrown in the way of the purchase of lands by Christians, and very often, after they have succeeded in purchasing and improving land, it is no secret that on one unjust pretext or another, it has been taken from them.” From Belgrade, Consul Longworth wrote to Sir Henry Bulwer on July 14, 1860: “The Government may by its Edicts and Hatti-humayouns hasten and advance such a reform; but I question very much whether more evil than good will not arise from proclaiming a social equality which is, in the present stage of things and relations of society, morally impossible.”

“Equality before the law is that which must be first established; the only sort of equality, in fact, which can under existing circumstances, be realized. And in connection with this, we come to the complaint in the petition – the only tangible point in it – relative to the rejection of Christian evidence in the Ottoman tribunals. In this respect, it cannot be denied there is room for amendment, not only at Widdin, but in every province of the Empire.”

He then comments on “(…) the lax and vicious principle acted upon in the Mussulman Courts, where, as the only means of securing justice to Christians, Mussulman false witnesses are permitted to give evidence on their behalf. The abolition of this practice would do more than anything else to purify these tribunals; but this can only be effectually accomplished by the admission of Christian evidence, instead of Mussulman perjury, as a matter of legal necessity.”

He goes on to say that the forcible abduction of Christians girls by Mahometans, “and the question of Christian evidence are the two main points to which, as sources of bitter feeling and discussion, the attention of the Porte should now be directed.”

Comparing the condition of Christians in the different provinces, he states, ” but in Bosnia the question of privilege was complicated by religious considerations, the nobles having, at a former period, embraced Mahometanism to preserve their estates, which were thus conditionally assured to them. Each of the other provinces had passed through its peculiar ordeal.”

From Consul Blunt – writing from Pristina on July 14, 1860, to his Ambassador, Sir Henry Bulwer, about the condition of the province of Macedonia – we learn that: “For a long time the province (of Uscup:Skopje) has been a prey to brigandage: Christian churches and monasteries, towns and inhabitants, are not now pillaged, massacred, and burnt by Albanian hordes as used to be done ten years ago.” (…) “They (the Christians) are not allowed to carry arms. This, considering the want of a good police, exposes them the more to attacks from brigands.” “Christian evidence in law-suits between a Mussulman and a non-Mussulman is not admitted in the Local Courts.” With a few examples, he then illustrated the consequences of such a system in everyday life: “About seventeen months ago a Turkish soldier murdered a Mahometan, an old man, who was working in his field. The only persons, two in number, who witnessed the deed are Christians. The Medjlis of Uscup would not take their evidence.” “About the same time, a Zaptieh (soldier) tried by force to convert a Bulgarian girl to Islamism. As she declared before the Medjlis of Camanova (Kumanovo, near Skopje) that she would not abjure her religion, he killed her in the very precincts of the Mudir’s house. This tragedy created great sensation in the province. The Medjlises of Camanova and Prisrend (near Kosovo) would not accept Christian evidence, and every effort was made to save the Zaptieh.” “Six months ago a Bulgarian in the district of Camanova was attacked, without provocation on his part, by two Albanians. They wounded him severely; on the case being referred to Prisrend, the Medjlis refused to take congnizance of it, as the only evidence produced was Christian.”

Ten years ago, writes the consul: “Churches were not allowed to be built; and one can judge of the measure of toleration practised at that time by having had to creep under doors scarcely four feet high. It was an offence to smoke and ride before a Turk; to cross his path, or not stand up before him, was equally wrong.” In his report from Constantinople of October 10, 1873, Sir Henry Elliot wrote to Foreign Secretary Earl Granville, “that the nominal equality of Mussulmans and Christians before the law, which had never thoroughly existed in practice, was now in most provinces more illusory than it had been a few years ago.”

In another report from Consul Edward Freeman in Bosna-Serai, dated December 30, 1875, we learn that the Bosnian Muslims had sent a petition to the sultan stating that, before the reforms, “they lived as brothers with the Rayah (Christian) population. In fact their aim appears to reduce the Christians to their former ancient state of serfdom.” So once again we are brought back to the myth. The situation didn’t change, and in 1875 the Grand Vizier Mahmed Pasha admitted to the British ambassador in Constantinople, the “impossibility of allowing Christian testimony at courts of justice in Bosnia.” Thus, the ambassador noted: “The professed equality of Christians and Mussulmans is, however, so illusory so long as this distinction is maintained.”

This juridical situation had serious consequences due to the system of justice, as he explained: “This is a point of much importance to the Christians for as the (Muslim) religious courts neither admit documentary nor written evidence, nor receive Christian evidence, they could hope for little justice from them.”

The difficulty of imposing reforms in such a vast empire provoked this disillusioned comment (December 12, 1875) from Sir P. Francis, consul-general and judge at the British Consular Court in Constantinople: “Indeed, the modern perversion of the Oriental idea of justice is a concession to a suitor through grace and favour, and not the declaration of a right, on principles of law, and in pursuance of equity.”

When reading the literature of the time, we see that the obstruction to Serbian, Greek and other Christians movements of liberation was rooted in two main arguments:

1) Christian dhimmis (rayas) are congenitally unfitted for independance and self-government. They should therefore remain under Islamic rule.

2) The Ottoman rule is a perfect model for a multi-religious and multi-ethnical society.

Indeed, these are theological, Islamic arguments that justify the jihad, since all non-Muslim peoples should not retain political independance because their laws are evil and must eventually be replaced by Islamic rule. We find the same type of reasoning in the Palestinian 1988 Covenant of the Hamas movement, which affirms that only Islamic rule can give peace and security to Jews and Christians. Those arguments are very common in legal and theological literature and are advanced by modern Islamists. We have seen the origin of the myth, its political function and usefulness – and we have confronted this myth with the reality, described by contemporary observers in the nineteenth century.

It is interesting to note the collusion between – on the one hand, the European powers defending the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire, for their own national interest; and on the other hand, the Muslim policy aiming at keeping under subjection the Christian population.

The myth didn’t die with the collapse of the Turkish Empire after World War I. Rather, it took another form: that of the National Arab Movement, which promoted an Arab society, in which Christians and Muslims would live in perfect harmony. Once again, this was the fabrication of European politicians, writers and clergyman. And, in the same way as the myth of the Ottoman political paradise was created to block the independence of the Balkan nations, so the Arab multi-religious fraternity was an argument to destroy the national liberation movements of non-Arab peoples of the Middle East (the Kurds, Armenians, Assyrians, Maronites, as well as that of the Jews).

And although from the beginning of this century until the 1930s, a stream of Christian refugees were fleeing massacres and genocide on the roads of Turkey, Irak and Syria, the myth continued to flourish, sustained mostly by Arab Christians writers and clergyman. After the Israelis had succeeded in liberating their land from the laws of jihad and dhimmitude, the myth reappeared in the form of a multi-cultural and multi-religious, fraternal Palestine which had to replace the State of Israel (Arafat’s 1975 UN speech). Its pernicious effects led to the destruction of the Christians in Lebanon. One might have thought that the myth would end there, but suddenly the recent crisis in Yugoslavia offered a new chance for its reincarnation in a Muslim-dominated, multi-religious, multi-ethnic state.

What a chance! A Muslim state again in the heartland of Europe. And we know the rest, the sufferings, the miseries, the trials of the war that this myth once again brought in its wake. The 1992 UN decision to recognize a “multi-ethnic”, “multi-religious”, Muslim state in the former Yugoslavia appears to have been a compensation offered to the Islamic world for the devastating 1991 Gulf War. The destruction of Iraq’s nuclear, chemical and bacteriological arsenal, as well as its economic infrastructure, appears to be “equitably” counterbalanced by NATO’s massive bombing of the Bosnian Serbs, even though the two situations cannot be compared.

To conclude, I would like to say a few last words. The civilization of dhimmitude does not develop all at once. It is a long process that involves many elements and a specific mental conditioning. It happens when peoples replace history by myths, when they fight to uphold these destructive myths, more than their own values because they are confused by having transformed lies into truth. They hold to those myths as if they were the only garantee for their survival, when, in fact, they are the path to destruction. Terrorized by the evidence and teaching of history, those peoples prefer to destroy it rather than to face it. They replace history with childish tales, thus living in amnesia, inventing moral justification for their own self-destruction.

* Author of Le Dhimmi, Profil de l’Opprimé en Orient et en Afrique du Nord depuis la conquête arabe (Paris, Anthropos, 1980). Enlarged English edition, The Dhimmi: Jews & Christians under Islam, preface by Jacques Ellul (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press/Associated University Presses, Cranbury, N.J./London/ Toronto, 1985); Les Chrétientés d’Orient entre Jihad et Dhimmitude: VIIe-XXe siècle, préface de Jacques Ellul (Paris, Le Cerf, 1991) English edition, The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam. From Jihad to Dhimmitude, AUP, 1996; Juifs et Chrétiens sous l’Islam: les dhimmis face au défi intégriste (Paris, Berg international, 1994).

© Bat Ye’or 2001

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2009: CAIR’s Hamas Ties Prompt FBI Cut Off / Investigative Project on Terrorism

My God! The Latter-day Saint’s “CAIR” connection is going to hurt us, if we don’t quickly repudiate their activities and our involvement with them.

See the original of the website of the Investigative Project at this link.

Thank much,

Steve St.Clair
Investigative Project on Terrorism:
CAIR’s Hamas Ties Prompt FBI Cut Off
WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire
The FBI has cut off communications with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the wake of damning court evidence that ties the group’s founders to a Hamas-support network in America, the Investigative Project on Terrorism has learned.

It is a stunning rebuke to the organization which promotes itself as “arguably the most visible and public American Muslim organization.” The decision to end contacts with CAIR was made quietly last summer as federal prosecutors prepared for a second trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), an Islamic charity convicted in November for illegally routing money to Hamas. CAIR was named as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the case.
Its name appears on a roster of “Palestine Committee” members. Evidence in the case shows the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s parent organization, created the Palestine Committee to help Hamas politically and financially. CAIR founders Omar Ahmad and Nihad Awad, who remains the executive director, also appear on a telephone list of Palestine Committee members. The men also participated in a secret 1993 gathering of Hamas members and supporters called to discuss ways to “derail” U.S.-led peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians.

The IPT obtained a letter from the FBI’s Oklahoma City field office, which explained that a meeting with local Muslim groups had to be postponed due to restrictions on CAIR’s access. For that to change, wrote James E. Finch, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Oklahoma City field office, “certain issues must be addressed to the satisfaction of the FBI. Unfortunately, these issues cannot be addressed at the local level and must be addressed by the CAIR National Office in Washington, D.C.”

FBI spokesman John Miller confirmed the letter’s existence. Sources indicate similar correspondence was issued by other field offices.

The Investigative Project on Terrorism is a non-profit research group founded by Steven Emerson in 1995. It is recognized as the world’s most comprehensive data center on radical Islamic terrorist groups. For more than a decade, the IPT has investigated the operations, funding, activities and front groups of Islamic terrorist and extremist groups in the United States and around the world. Website:

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2009: Why Darwin was Wrong about the Tree of Life / New Scientist Magazine

I was very interested in this article on the subject of Darwin’s concept of the Tree of Life, no doubt because many interesting things are being written about Darwin in this year of the 150th Anniversary of his theory of evolution.

The comprehension of the tree or web of life is greatly complicated the the discovery of the genome and the ability to map the actual descents of species rather than best guesses of biologists. I especially like the changes in thinking described in this article. Such biological phenomona as hybridization among species, the likely origin of species undergoing metamorphosis as the combination of two species, and the transformation and reformulation of DNA by viruses, reminds me that, each time a “scientific” answer seems definitive, real life and real science re-introduce the complexities that are really there. In spite of my constant viral infections, I finally really appreciate those viruses for the first time in my life. I have always wondered why God created such destructive elements, and I now know.

Intelligent Design has been called a belief in a “God of the gaps,” with an ever-shrinking world of scientific ignorance leaving Him in charge of an ever-dwindling gap.

I disagree. For me, each new flood of understanding about greater scope in the cosmos and greater complexity in the microscopic world leave me more and more convinced that only a very great God could understand the marvelous mechanisms involved, whether he used them to facilitate creation or set the extremely demanding laws and constants of the universe and then lets the cosmos and life run according to their perfection of their own accord.

See the original of this article on the website of the New Science Magazine at this link.

Thanks much,

Steve St.Clair
Why Darwin was Wrong about the Tree of Life
Graham Lawton
New Scientist Magazine 21 January 2009

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Uprooting Darwin’s tree

IN JULY 1837, Charles Darwin had a flash of inspiration. In his study at his house in London, he turned to a new page in his red leather notebook and wrote, “I think”. Then he drew a spindly sketch of a tree.

As far as we know, this was the first time Darwin toyed with the concept of a “tree of life” to explain the evolutionary relationships between different species. It was to prove a fruitful idea: by the time he published On The Origin of Species 22 years later, Darwin’s spindly tree had grown into a mighty oak. The book contains numerous references to the tree and its only diagram is of a branching structure showing how one species can evolve into many.

The affinities of all the beings of the same class have sometimes been represented by a great tree. I believe this simile largely speaks the truth.

The tree-of-life concept was absolutely central to Darwin’s thinking, equal in importance to natural selection, according to biologist W. Ford Doolittle of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Without it the theory of evolution would never have happened. The tree also helped carry the day for evolution. Darwin argued successfully that the tree of life was a fact of nature, plain for all to see though in need of explanation. The explanation he came up with was evolution by natural selection.

Ever since Darwin the tree has been the unifying principle for understanding the history of life on Earth. At its base is LUCA, the Last Universal Common Ancestor of all living things, and out of LUCA grows a trunk, which splits again and again to create a vast, bifurcating tree. Each branch represents a single species; branching points are where one species becomes two. Most branches eventually come to a dead end as species go extinct, but some reach right to the top – these are living species. The tree is thus a record of how every species that ever lived is related to all others right back to the origin of life.

The green and budding twigs may represent existing species, and those produced during each former year may represent the long succession of extinct species

For much of the past 150 years, biology has largely concerned itself with filling in the details of the tree. “For a long time the holy grail was to build a tree of life,” says Eric Bapteste, an evolutionary biologist at the Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, France. A few years ago it looked as though the grail was within reach. But today the project lies in tatters, torn to pieces by an onslaught of negative evidence. Many biologists now argue that the tree concept is obsolete and needs to be discarded. “We have no evidence at all that the tree of life is a reality,” says Bapteste. That bombshell has even persuaded some that our fundamental view of biology needs to change.

So what happened? In a nutshell, DNA. The discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953 opened up new vistas for evolutionary biology. Here, at last, was the very stuff of inheritance into which was surely written the history of life, if only we knew how to decode it. Thus was born the field of molecular evolution, and as techniques became available to read DNA sequences and those of other biomolecules such as RNA and proteins, its pioneers came to believe that it would provide proof positive of Darwin’s tree of life. The basic idea was simple: the more closely related two species are (or the more recently their branches on the tree split), the more alike their DNA, RNA and protein sequences ought to be.

It started well. The first molecules to be sequenced were RNAs found in ribosomes, the cell’s protein-making machines. In the 1970s, by comparing RNA sequences from various plants, animals and microorganisms, molecular biologists began to sketch the outlines of a tree. This led to, among other successes, the unexpected discovery of a previously unknown major branch of the tree of life, the unicellular archaea, which were previously thought to be bacteria.

By the mid-1980s there was great optimism that molecular techniques would finally reveal the universal tree of life in all its glory. Ironically, the opposite happened.

The problems began in the early 1990s when it became possible to sequence actual bacterial and archaeal genes rather than just RNA. Everybody expected these DNA sequences to confirm the RNA tree, and sometimes they did but, crucially, sometimes they did not. RNA, for example, might suggest that species A was more closely related to species B than species C, but a tree made from DNA would suggest the reverse.

Which was correct? Paradoxically, both – but only if the main premise underpinning Darwin’s tree was incorrect. Darwin assumed that descent was exclusively “vertical”, with organisms passing traits down to their offspring. But what if species also routinely swapped genetic material with other species, or hybridised with them? Then that neat branching pattern would quickly degenerate into an impenetrable thicket of interrelatedness, with species being closely related in some respects but not others.

We now know that this is exactly what happens. As more and more genes were sequenced, it became clear that the patterns of relatedness could only be explained if bacteria and archaea were routinely swapping genetic material with other species – often across huge taxonomic distances – in a process called horizontal gene transfer (HGT).

At first HGT was assumed to be a minor player, transferring only “optional extra” functions such as antibiotic resistance. Core biological functions such as DNA replication and protein synthesis were still thought to be passed on vertically. For a while, this allowed evolutionary biologists to accept HGT without jeopardising their precious tree of life; HGT was merely noise blurring its edges. We now know that view is wrong. “There’s promiscuous exchange of genetic information across diverse groups,” says Michael Rose, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Irvine.

From Tree to Web
As it became clear that HGT was a major factor, biologists started to realise the implications for the tree concept. As early as 1993, some were proposing that for bacteria and archaea the tree of life was more like a web. In 1999, Doolittle made the provocative claim that “the history of life cannot properly be represented as a tree” (Science, vol 284, p 2124). “The tree of life is not something that exists in nature, it’s a way that humans classify nature,” he says.

Thus began the final battle over the tree. Many researchers stuck resolutely to their guns, creating ever more sophisticated computer programs to cut through the noise and recover the One True Tree. Others argued just as forcefully that the quest was quixotic and should be abandoned.

The battle came to a head in 2006. In an ambitious study, a team led by Peer Bork of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany, examined 191 sequenced genomes from all three domains of life – bacteria, archaea and eukaryotes (complex organisms with their genetic material packaged in a nucleus) – and identified 31 genes that all the species possessed and which showed no signs of ever having been horizontally transferred. They then generated a tree by comparing the sequences of these “core” genes in everything from E. coli to elephants. The result was the closest thing yet to the perfect tree, Bork claimed (Science, vol 311, p 1283).

Other researchers begged to differ. Among them were Tal Dagan and William Martin at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany, who pointed out that in numerical terms a core of 31 genes is almost insignificant, representing just 1 per cent of a typical bacterial genome and more like 0.1 per cent of an animal’s. That hardly constitutes a mighty oak or even a feeble sapling – more like a tiny twig completely buried by a giant web. Dagan dubbed Bork’s result “the tree of 1 per cent” and argued that the study inadvertently provided some of the best evidence yet that the tree-of-life concept was redundant (Genome Biology, vol 7, p 118).

The debate remains polarised today. Bork’s group continue to work on the tree of life and he continues to defend the concept. “Our point of view is that yes, there has been lots of HGT, but the majority of genes contain this tree signal,” Bork says. The real problem is that our techniques are not yet good enough to tease that signal out, he says.

Meanwhile, those who would chop down the tree of life continue to make progress. The true extent of HGT in bacteria and archaea (collectively known as prokaryotes) has now been firmly established. Last year, Dagan and colleagues examined more than half a million genes from 181 prokaryotes and found that 80 per cent of them showed signs of horizontal transfer (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 105, p 10039).

Surprisingly, HGT also turns out to be the rule rather than the exception in the third great domain of life, the eukaryotes. For a start, it is increasingly accepted that the eukaryotes originated by the fusion of two prokaryotes, one bacterial and the other archaeal, forming this part of the tree into a ring rather than a branch (Nature, vol 41, p 152).

The neat picture of a branching tree is further blurred by a process called endosymbiosis. Early on in their evolution, eukaryotes are thought to have engulfed two free-living prokaryotes. One of these gave rise to the cellular power generators called mitochondria while the other was the precursor of the chloroplasts, in which photosynthesis takes place. These “endosymbionts” later transferred large chunks of their genomes into those of their eukaryote hosts, creating hybrid genomes. As if that weren’t complicated enough, some early eukaryotic lineages apparently swallowed one another and amalgamated their genomes, creating yet another layer of horizontal transfer (Trends in Ecology and Evolution, vol, 23, p 268).

This genetic free-for-all continues to this day. The vast majority of eukaryote species are unicellular – amoebas, algae and the rest of what used to be known as “protists” (Journal of Systematics and Evolution, vol 46, p263). These microscopic beasties have lifestyles that resemble prokaryotes and, according to Jan Andersson of the University of Uppsala in Sweden, their rates of HGT are often comparable to those in bacteria. The more we learn about microbes, the clearer it becomes that the history of life cannot be adequately represented by a tree.

Hang on, you may be thinking. Microbes might be swapping genes left, right and centre, what does that matter? Surely the stuff we care about – animals and plants – can still be accurately represented by a tree, so what’s the problem?

Well, for a start, biology is the science of life, and to a first approximation life is unicellular. Microbes have been living on Earth for at least 3.8 billion years; multicellular organisms didn’t appear until about 630 million years ago. Even today bacteria, archaea and unicellular eukaryotes make up at least 90 per cent of all known species, and by sheer weight of numbers almost all of the living things on Earth are microbes. It would be perverse to claim that the evolution of life on Earth resembles a tree just because multicellular life evolved that way. “If there is a tree of life, it’s a small anomalous structure growing out of the web of life,” says John Dupré, a philosopher of biology at the University of Exeter, UK.

More fundamentally, recent research suggests that the evolution of animals and plants isn’t exactly tree-like either. “There are problems even in that little corner,” says Dupré. Having uprooted the tree of unicellular life, biologists are now taking their axes to the remaining branches.

For example, hybridisation clearly plays an important role in the evolution of plants. According to Loren Rieseberg, a botanist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, around 14 per cent of living plant species are the product of the fusion of two separate lineages.

Hybrid Humans
Some researchers are also convinced that hybridisation has been a major driving force in animal evolution (see “Natural born chimeras”, and “Two into one”), and that the process is ongoing. “It is really common,” says James Mallet, an evolutionary biologist at University College London. “Ten per cent of all animals regularly hybridise with other species.” This is especially true in rapidly evolving lineages with lots of recently diverged species – including our own. There is evidence that early modern humans hybridised with our extinct relatives, such as Homo erectus and the Neanderthals (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, vol 363, p 2813).

Hybridisation isn’t the only force undermining the multicellular tree: it is becoming increasingly apparent that HGT plays an unexpectedly big role in animals too. As ever more multicellular genomes are sequenced, ever more incongruous bits of DNA are turning up. Last year, for example, a team at the University of Texas at Arlington found a peculiar chunk of DNA in the genomes of eight animals – the mouse, rat, bushbaby, little brown bat, tenrec, opossum, anole lizard and African clawed frog – but not in 25 others, including humans, elephants, chickens and fish. This patchy distribution suggests that the sequence must have entered each genome independently by horizontal transfer (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 105, p 17023).

Other cases of HGT in multicellular organisms are coming in thick and fast. HGT has been documented in insects, fish and plants, and a few years ago a piece of snake DNA was found in cows. The most likely agents of this genetic shuffling are viruses, which constantly cut and paste DNA from one genome into another, often across great taxonomic distances. In fact, by some reckonings, 40 to 50 per cent of the human genome consists of DNA imported horizontally by viruses, some of which has taken on vital biological functions (New Scientist, 27 August 2008, p 38). The same is probably true of the genomes of other big animals. “The number of horizontal transfers in animals is not as high as in microbes, but it can be evolutionarily significant,” says Bapteste.

Nobody is arguing – yet – that the tree concept has outlived its usefulness in animals and plants. While vertical descent is no longer the only game in town, it is still the best way of explaining how multicellular organisms are related to one another – a tree of 51 per cent, maybe. In that respect, Darwin’s vision has triumphed: he knew nothing of micro-organisms and built his theory on the plants and animals he could see around him.

Even so, it is clear that the Darwinian tree is no longer an adequate description of how evolution in general works. “If you don’t have a tree of life, what does it mean for evolutionary biology?” asks Bapteste. “At first it’s very scary… but in the past couple of years people have begun to free their minds.” Both he and Doolittle are at pains to stress that downgrading the tree of life doesn’t mean that the theory of evolution is wrong – just that evolution is not as tidy as we would like to believe. Some evolutionary relationships are tree-like; many others are not. “We should relax a bit on this,” says Doolittle. “We understand evolution pretty well – it’s just that it is more complex than Darwin imagined. The tree isn’t the only pattern.”

Others, however, don’t think it is time to relax. Instead, they see the uprooting of the tree of life as the start of something bigger. “It’s part of a revolutionary change in biology,” says Dupré. “Our standard model of evolution is under enormous pressure. We’re clearly going to see evolution as much more about mergers and collaboration than change within isolated lineages.”

Rose goes even further. “The tree of life is being politely buried, we all know that,” he says. “What’s less accepted is that our whole fundamental view of biology needs to change.” Biology is vastly more complex than we thought, he says, and facing up to this complexity will be as scary as the conceptual upheavals physicists had to take on board in the early 20th century.

If he is right, the tree concept could become biology’s equivalent of Newtonian mechanics: revolutionary and hugely successful in its time, but ultimately too simplistic to deal with the messy real world. “The tree of life was useful,” says Bapteste. “It helped us to understand that evolution was real. But now we know more about evolution, it’s time to move on.”

Two Species Become One
It could be time to ditch the old idea that hybrids are sterile individuals that cannot possibly have played a role in shaping the history of life on Earth. Hybridisation is a significant force in animal evolution, according to retired marine biologist Donald Williamson, formerly of the University of Liverpool, UK. His conclusion comes from a lifetime studying marine animals such as starfish, sea urchins and molluscs, many of which lead a strange double life, starting out as larvae and metamorphosing into adult forms.

The conventional explanation for metamorphosis is that it evolved gradually, with the juvenile form becoming specialised for feeding and the adult for mating, until they barely resembled each other. Williamson thinks otherwise. He points out that marine larvae have five basic forms and can be organised into a family tree based on shared characteristics. Yet this tree bears no relationship to the family tree of adults: near-identical larvae often give rise to adults from different lineages, while some closely related adults have utterly unrelated larvae.

Biological Mash-Up
It’s as if each species was randomly assigned one of the larval forms – which is exactly what Williamson argues happened. He believes metamorphosis arose repeatedly during evolution by the random fusion of two separate species, with one of the partners assuming the role of the larva and the other that of the adult.

If that sounds unlikely, Williamson points out that many marine species breed by casting their eggs and sperm into the sea and hoping for the best, giving ample opportunity for cross-species hybridisation. Normally nothing comes of this, he says, but “once in a million years it works: the sperm of one species fertilises another and two species become one”. The most likely way for this biological mash-up to function is if the resulting chimera expresses its two genomes sequentially, producing a two-stage life history with metamorphosis in the middle.

This explains many anomalies in marine biology, says Williamson. His star witness is the starfish Luidia sarsi, which starts life as a small larva with a tiny starfish inside. As the larva grows, the starfish migrates to the outside and when the larva settles on the seabed, they separate. This is perfectly normal for starfish, but in Luidia something remarkable then happens. Instead of degenerating, the larva swims off and lives for several months as an independent animal. “I can’t see how one animal with one genome could do that,” says Williamson. “I think the larval genome and the adult genome are different.”

Natural Born Chimeras
The idea that microbes regularly swap portions of genetic code with individuals from another species doesn’t seem so far-fetched (see main story). But could the same process also have shaped the evolution of multicellular animals? In 1985, biologist Michael Syvanen of the University of California, Davis, predicted that it did (Journal of Theoretical Biology, vol 112, p 333). Back then there was no way to test that claim, but there is now.

Syvanen recently compared 2000 genes that are common to humans, frogs, sea squirts, sea urchins, fruit flies and nematodes. In theory, he should have been able to use the gene sequences to construct an evolutionary tree showing the relationships between the six animals.

He failed. The problem was that different genes told contradictory evolutionary stories. This was especially true of sea-squirt genes.

Conventionally, sea squirts – also known as tunicates – are lumped together with frogs, humans and other vertebrates in the phylum Chordata, but the genes were sending mixed signals. Some genes did indeed cluster within the chordates, but others indicated that tunicates should be placed with sea urchins, which aren’t chordates. “Roughly 50 per cent of its genes have one evolutionary history and 50 per cent another,” Syvanen says.

The most likely explanation for this, he argues, is that tunicates are chimeras, created by the fusion of an early chordate and an ancestor of the sea urchins around 600 million years ago.

“We’ve just annihilated the tree of life. It’s not a tree any more, it’s a different topology entirely,” says Syvanen. “What would Darwin have made of that?”

Graham Lawton is features editor of New Scientist

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2007: Faith and Feeling in a World Besieged / Philosopher Roger Scruton

Roger Scruton is one of the brightest Catholic scholars, and one of the most insiteful on the subject of the decline of Western civilization and … most importantly … how to undertake the steps needed to reverse its decline and restore our culture to its true strength.

This post is exerpts from the preface of his book “Culture Counts: Faith and Feeling in a World Besieged”, published in 2007 and available at at this link.

Thanks very much,

Steve St.Clair

Culture Counts: Faith and Feeling in a World Besieged
Roger Scruton

CHALLENGED FROM OUTSIDE by radical Islam and from within by “multiculturalism,” Western societies are experi­encing an acute crisis of identity. By what right do they exist, and by what achievement should they define them­selves? In the nineteenth century they might have framed their answer in Christian terms. But most Westerners today —Christians included—hesitate to stress the religion that was once the primary source of their moral norms. Christi­anity has more the character of an intimate memory than a conquering gospel, and those who raise the cross in public are now subject to disheartening sarcasm and even open contempt. When Oswald Spengler published The Decline of the West in 1921, he saw Christianity as the heart of Western culture. But he argued that our once rich and living culture had been replaced by the lifeless precepts of a mere “civi­lization.” When culture gives way to civilization, Spengler argued, we enter an age of decline.

There is much to deplore but also much to admire in Spengler, and no one can doubt that the thesis of his book has gained in plausibility since he first announced it. At the same time, his vision, like that of Marx, is deeply parochial, fixed on the events that made the European continent great, and ignoring those that made it small—smaller by far than the Western civilization which Spengler claimed to be discussing. For Spengler, the great event that brought West­ern culture to an end and launched it on the path of civiliza­tion was the French Revolution—the very same one whose image of turmoil had fascinated Marx. The American Revo­lution, which preceded the French and which inaugurated two hundred years of increasingly stable government, is not even noticed in The Decline of the West. This event was not drastic enough for Spengler, who was uninterested in the normal flow of human happiness. As a result he overlooked the event which led to the creation of the modern world: the transformation of the European rule of law into a constitu­tional democracy, implanted in a land that was both free from history and isolated from the social norms of the Euro­pean city. Here was a triumph that was to fascinate the world and, in our own time, to inspire a bitter and destructive envy.

It is because of America, its success, its conflicts, and its symbolic importance in the world, that the question raised by Spengler is still with us: the question of Western identity. Take away America, its freedom, its optimism, its institu­tions, its Judeo-Christian beliefs, and its educational tradition, and little would remain of the West, besides the geriatric routines of a now toothless Europe. Add America to the dis­cussion, and all the dire prophecies and mournful valedic­tions of the twentieth century seem faintly ridiculous. Yet, precisely because the West now depends upon America, a country launched on a path that recognizes no place and no time as its own, Western identity has become an urgent matter of debate. In referring to Western civilization we are not, like Spengler, describing some localized and time-bound fragment of human history. We are describing a project, which grew from great events in the Mediterranean basin two millennia ago, and which now engages the aspirations and the antipathies of all mankind.

This project can endure, it seems to me, only if it can win a place in our emotions. The American experiment has placed two great gifts at the feet of mankind: viable democ­racy and masterful technology. But those benefits, which attract our praise and our pride, do not conquer the heart. They do not, in themselves, create the deep attachment on which the future of our civilization depends. They provide no outlook on human life and its meaning that can stand up either to the sarcastic nihilism of the West’s internal critics or to the humorless bigotry of Islam. In the face of such ene­mies we need to affirm not our achievements, but our right to exist. Christianity enabled us to do this, by providing a vision of God’s grace and our salvation. And so long as our civilization endures that vision will have force for us. But it is no longer a militant vision. Such strength as it has derives from the shared meanings conveyed to us by our culture—meanings conveyed equally to the one who believes and the one who doubts. For that very reason, however, culture has begun to have a new importance for us, as the repository of a threatened store of moral knowledge. Perhaps one day our culture will no longer be taught. If that happens, then the ideals and attachments that have come down to us will dis­appear, and our civilization will stand unprotected against the rising flood of the world’s resentment.

Such, at least, is my belief. But you don’t have to share that belief in order to follow the argument of this book. In it I defend what is sometimes called the “high culture” of Western civilization, by which I mean the literary, artistic, and philosophical inheritance that has been taught in departments of humanities both in Europe and in America, and which has recently been subject to contemptuous dis­missal (especially in America) as the product of “dead white European males.”

I offer a definition of culture, and rebut the suggestion that cultures cannot be judged, either from inside or from outside, by objective standards. I argue that a culture is in a certain sense composed of judgments, and exists so as to pass on the habit of judgment from genera­tion to generation. This habit of judgment is vital to moral development, and is the foundation of the rites of passage whereby young people leave the state of adolescence and undertake the burdens of adult life. A healthy society there­fore requires a healthy culture, and this is so, even if culture, as I define it, is the possession not of the many but of the few.

Unlike science, culture is not a repository of factual information or theoretical truth, nor is it a kind of training in skills, whether rhetorical or practical. Yet it is a source of knowledge: emotional knowledge, concerning what to do and what to feel. We transmit this knowledge through ideals and examples, through images, narratives, and symbols. We transmit it through the forms and rhythms of music, and through the orders and patterns of our built environment. Such cultural expressions come about as a response to the perceived fragility of human life, and embody a collective recognition that we depend on things outside our control. Every culture therefore has its root in religion, and from this root the sap of moral knowledge spreads through all the branches of speculation and art. Our civilization has been uprooted. But when a tree is uprooted it does not always die.

Sap may find its way to the branches, which break into leaf each spring with the perennial hope of living things. Such is our condition, and it is for this reason that culture has become not just precious to us, but a genuine political cause, the primary way of conserving our moral heritage and of standing firm in the face of a clouded future.

At the same time, the decline in religious faith means that many people, both skeptics and vacillators, begin to repudiate their cultural inheritance. The burden of this in­heritance, without the consolations on offer to the believer, becomes intolerable, and creates the motive to scoff at those who seek to hand it on. Our educational institutions offer privileged positions to those who disparage the old values, old hierarchies and old forms of social order that lie hidden in the curriculum that has come down to us. There is nothing to teach in the name of culture, they tell us, except the prej­udices of other ages. And they support this position with a variety of arguments, seized from the armory of philosophi­cal skepticism, and put forward in proof of the view that there is no objective procedure, no authority, no secure canon of classics that would entitle us to judge one cultural product as superior to another. In the field of culture, they argue, anything goes, and also nothing.

Paradoxically, this new relativism, which has invaded every area of the humanities, goes hand in hand with an equally obstinate censoriousness. Many teachers are angry at the traditional works of our culture, and seek either to remove them from the curriculum or to hedge them around with prohibitions, seeing them as mere survivals of patriar­chal, aristocratic, bourgeois, or theocratic attitudes that no longer have a claim on us. This posture of skepticism towards the classics displays a profound misjudgment. For the great works of Western culture are remarkable for the distance that they maintained from the norms and orthodoxies that gave birth to them. Only a very shallow reading of Chaucer or Shakespeare would see those writers as endorsing the societies in which they lived, or would overlook the far more important fact that their works hold mankind to the light of moral judgment, and examine, with all the love and all the pity that it calls for, the frailty of human nature. It is precisely the aspiration towards universal truth, towards a God’s-eye perspective on the human condition, that is the hallmark of Western culture. And it is for that reason that we should see the American Revolution, rather than the French, as the turning point in our history, the moment when Western civilization became identical with the mod­ern world—for that was the moment when Enlightenment took power.

The new curriculum in the humanities, which is relativist in favor of transgression and absolutist against authority, is one of the most striking phenomena of the modern univer­sity, and in this book I do my best to explain it. It presents an obstacle to cultural renewal and a challenge to those, like myself, who hope to indicate some methods of objective study that will vindicate the continuing place of the arts in the university curriculum. I therefore try to show that there is such a thing as the critical study of works of art and literature, and that this study discovers and transmits a legacy of moral knowledge. I explore some of the ways in which people, by judging works of art, become judges of themselves.

This kind of judging has nothing to do with those fashionable “theories,” from deconstruction to postmodernism, which have served to create such an impenetrable wall of jargon around our artistic heritage. It does not empty works of their life and meaning, or strive, like deconstruction, to show that meaning is impossible. It is a way of making works live in the imagination of their audience, so that art and audience belong together. And that relation of belonging is what we acquire through culture.

There is no point in studying culture, however, if you cannot also renew it. It is the failure to renew—indeed, the refusal to renew—that leads to the habit of repudiation, and to the attempt, through stultifying “theory,” to set our liter­ary and artistic heritage at an impassable distance from its intended audience. If we truly believed that this audience no longer exists, or that it could not be re-created, then we might reasonably give up on culture. Art, literature, music, and the humanities would be, for us, curious bundles deposited in the halls of scholarship. They would command no special discipline of study, and yield no special knowl­edge. We might turn upon them the frozen stare of “theory,” but we would thereby discover only the dissected remnants of a corpse.

If culture is to be a valid subject of study, therefore, and a vehicle for judgment, it must be possible to identify the places, the people, and the practices in which it lives. I have tried to indicate a few developments, in which we can (with­out undue optimism) discern a new dawn after the night of repudiation, and a new attempt to recapture the ideals and emotions that have distinguished our civilization and justi­fied its being in the world. I point to some of the ways in which the disasters of modernism and its postmodern after­math are being overcome, as the old ways of simplicity and humility are recovered. This small scale work of renewal isfar more important, it seems to me, than all the loud­mouthed blather of repudiation. It benefits those whose interests and education direct them towards art, literature, and philosophy. But it also benefits the entire civilization to which those people belong, and which depends in a thou­sand secret and not-so-secret ways on the transmission of cultural knowledge. To those who doubt this, I point to the example of Islam, contrasting what it was when it had a genuine culture with what it is today, when that culture is remembered only by powerless scholars, and belligerent ignorance is without the voices that might have corrected it.

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2009: Hopefully, President Obama’s Message to the Muslim World: Walk the Walk and then We’ll Talk the Talk / Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser is the President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander, a community activist, and a physician in private practice. As Latter-day Saints, we should be building relationships with this moderate Muslim in the United States, whose wise voice should come to speak for them instead of the tainted voices of C.A.I.R. and the Muslim Students Association.

See the original of this post in the website of the Investigative Project on Terrorism at this link.

Love and Thanks,
Steve St.Clair

Hopefully, President Obama’s Message to the Muslim World:
Walk the walk and then we’ll talk the talk

by M. Zuhdi Jasser
For IPT News
January 23, 2009

Recently, President Obama’s transition staff announced that he would like to deliver a speech in the first 100 days of his administration in an Islamic capital to improve America’s image in the Muslim world. The best venue for this speech is certainly Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The following is the speech President Obama will never give to the Muslim world. But it never hurts to dream…

President Obama:
Thank you. As we begin to lay the groundwork of my administration, I have been looking forward to this, my maiden voyage as President of the United States into the Muslim world. As the son of a Kenyan immigrant to the United States, I cannot help but understand the plight of minorities in the Muslim world and the desire of so many who live in Muslim majority nations to flee to the United States in order to live in freedom. I have fond memories of my childhood years in Indonesia but still thank God every day for my family’s desire to live in the land of freedom in the United States.

But I know we can see a day when Muslim-majority nations can be lands of freedom. Yes we can. But first we must usher in change. Change from the despotism and militant Islamism which has ravaged the human rights of those living in Muslim nations. But the first step is doing away with denial. On my inaugural I said, ‘To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” I am here to extend a hand to all of your citizens and especially those who believe in freedom.

The Saudi royal family has certainly been generous to our universities and Presidential libraries. But it is not a surprise how little criticism of Wahhabism or political Islam comes out of those universities. How can we be a beacon of freedom for your people, for the world, when our human rights standards vary with the highest bidder? The opportunity I have had in America to become President is the sign of a nation which honors the rights of every citizen equally before the law.

Yes, you can see a day where every Saudi, every Egyptian, Syrian, Iranian, and Pakistani has the same opportunity. But that needs real change, real education, real human rights. It is time for the Muslim world and its nations to honor the rights and opportunities of every one of its citizens who happen to come from outside the tribes in control.

Every human being living in Saudi Arabia should have the right to build a house of worship, not only Muslims. Theocrats have enabled a shar’ia based legal system which is an anathema to liberty and basic human rights –all in the name of the religion of Islam. Your Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has tried to make any discussion in the United Nations on this subject illegal by pretending to just want to protect the name of Islam through what are clearly blasphemy laws. I will not stand idly by as the OIC turns the UN into an Inquisition. I am here to tell you that I will do what I can to stop U.S. funding of the U.N., which dishonors its charter and what Eleanor Roosevelt and her colleagues in 1948 described as “the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all people.”

I will also remind you of another warning uttered by Eleanor Roosevelt, “we must not be deluded by the efforts of the forces of reaction to prostitute the great words of our free tradition and thereby to confuse the struggle.”

Many of you have lost faith in the United States because we have in fact been hypocritical to our ideals of freedom by catering to the oppressors of so many Muslim-majority nations. We will no longer abandon dissidents in nations of the OIC because of fear of diplomatic or economic repercussions. Abraham Lincoln described the United States as the “last best hope on earth” because so many had fought valiantly for the ideals of freedom which founded our nation. From the victims of the genocide in Sudan to the female victims in Saudi Arabia, to all those victims of oppression in the liberty-deprived nations of the OIC, I will dedicate my foreign policy strategy to letting the world hear your voices, while we no longer cater to the voices of your oppressors. I am putting them on notice that until they walk the walk of freedom, we will listen first to the talk of those who want freedom from them.

My administration will hold every nation in the Muslim world accountable globally for the human rights in their nations. It saddens me that, according to Islamic legal experts of fiqh, I should have been tried in an Islamic court for apostasy when I chose to be Christian early in my life rather than choosing the faith of my father–Islam. I will not countenance the barbarity of laws of apostasy by ignoring them. By ignoring them I am tacitly supporting them now from the bully pulpit of the U.S. Presidency.

After the Cold War ended in 1989 and we witnessed the fall of communism, it became obvious to many of us that we had to abandon our hypocritical support of Islamists. Our enemy’s enemies will no longer be our friends unless they first share our ideas of liberty or can demonstrate a genuine desire to liberalize their society for all citizens. In a bipartisan American spirit, I recall the words of former President Reagan and envision liberation and “peace through strength.”

We will no longer compartmentalize our interactions with Muslims and non-Muslims in the world, where we ask for vastly different standards of human rights depending upon the nation and our fear of oil prices or of Al Qaeda. From this time forward, faith is irrelevant. What matters to me as President of the United States is the human rights of every individual in your countries. Full diplomatic relations will be predicated upon a respect for your citizens’ freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom from blasphemy laws, freedom of assembly, freedom from apostasy laws, and equality of the sexes.

I am told by my predecessors that my idealistic dream of freedom and liberty for the citizens of the Muslim world is laudable but simply impossible. I was told that your influence upon the cost of oil makes your apologetics for terrorism and the Wahhabi-Salafi inspiration of that terror immune from criticism. I cannot live with that hypocrisy, and neither should you.

King Abdullah’s recent interfaith initiative in New York was good enough on the surface of American soil, but until the women of Saudi Arabia have equal rights on your soil the window dressing of interfaith work will mean nothing to us. Reform your laws, reform your treatment of minorities and then I’ll begin to believe that there is some truth in the King’s interfaith work.

Walk the walk and then we’ll talk the talk.

I have spoken to many Muslims who dream of someday making their pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca in what is the most spiritual journey for a Muslim. But their bright spiritual dream is constantly overshadowed by the fact that their dream takes place in a nation in which not one of them would ever want to live or work. The abuse of human rights in Saudi Arabia is so great it makes the most holy of sites for their faith an anathema to them. It is truly sad for any human being of faith to find that their most holy site to visit is not even close to being their most holy of places to live.

I hope I am not being too forward. But when I spoke of change – I meant real change and not a veneer. I am talking about the type of change in which the standards we set for our citizens inside the United States are the same we advocate for all human beings outside the United States. Our foreign policy for decades has been too much about short-term gains and not enough about the long term. I will not be another President in the long line of those who come to the Middle East and do photo opportunities with leaders, only to stay silent to the inhuman injustices perpetrated by your governments. Almost three generations have been lost since World War II. We need change before the fourth.

Terrorism is just a tactic. We are fighting an enemy who cannot be defeated on the battlefield alone, but must be combated with ideas. We must marginalize and defeat the ideas of political Islam which ultimately drive the dreams of militant Islamists. They seek a theocratic Islamist state. I truly believe that change will not come from democratic reforms alone which will only usher in a government of the majority- a ‘mobocracy.’ But real change will come when, in addition to democracy, we see the ushering in of the ideas of minority rights and of equality of all before the law.

I believe there is an innate human preference of liberty over Islamism. Yes, you heard me correct—Islamism. I will be canceling the administrative policy which bizarrely prohibited the use of that term and other appropriate terms like jihadist or Salafist by our governmental personnel. We will never win a contest of ideas against an ideology we cannot name. If you disagree, begin the debate, but don’t kill the debate.

I truly believe that you will welcome this change since the majority of Muslims in your nations, if left to their own devices, would not want to live under political Islam. Most people want to live under governments based upon reason and the rule of law, rather than under theocracies based in oligarchy.

It is time for the United States through my leadership to usher in a new Marshall Plan for the Muslim world – ‘a Jefferson Project,’ if you will. We will no longer sit idly by as the Muslim Brotherhood spreads the ideologies of political Islam across the Middle East and into the West with little to no competition – no counter-project. I hope the legacy of my administration will be a global movement to counter political Islam. I know this will gain bipartisan support in the United States since the vast majority of Americans can ultimately appreciate the dangers of shar’ia and its driving theocracy.

Just as you have pumped oil and Wahhabi literature into the West, we will begin an initiative to share equally with our Muslim global neighbors the ideas and scholars of liberty. Every diplomat will now begin handing out translated versions of classics books on liberty written by Bastiat, deTocqueville, Hayek, Rand, Jefferson, Madison, Freidman, or Adam Smith. We will translate book after book of ideas which carry the ideals of liberty, and reverse the project which the Brotherhood has tried to spread to the west. We will find your leading anti-Islamist and liberty-minded reformers and give them every opportunity to spread their ideas.

We will begin women’s rights and equality programs in every nation and lift up those leaders as icons of your next generations. We will begin translating many western liberty minded websites and videos for distribution in the Muslim world. We will also begin to help all the political dissidents who are prisoners of conscience and not leave them to forgotten diplomacy.

Domestically, I am going to ask American Muslim organizations to make their thoughts clear on where they stand regarding the ideology of political Islam and its impact upon radicalization and its obvious conflict with secular liberal democracies. We will no longer cater to apologists unwilling to join us in this ideological debate on the side of liberty. I will ask them to unequivocally condemn the freedom deficits in their motherlands from Libya to Pakistan, while also calling out terror groups, networks and individuals by name.

Having listened to Reverend Jeremiah Wright for many years, I know too well the impact of a fiery minister who mixes religion and politics. I will call for all interfaith work to be predicated on our imams, rabbis, and priests coming together to call out hate, intolerance, Islamism, and violence in Muslim sermons around the world. I will call for Muslim leaders around the world to begin the painful process of creating a post-modern Islam not at odds with modernity.

The OIC has had an American Muslim representative for a little over a year now, and I am committed to making that position more meaningful and representative of real change. It will no longer just be a ‘listening’ post. I call upon the OIC to repudiate laws which restrict freedom in the name of Islamic law–sharia. I call upon the OIC members to declare unequivocally that they reject the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights and reaffirm their signatory status to the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. The two are inherently incompatible.

The security of all free-minded nations and their citizens demands that our greatest minds and strongest personalities come together and counter the daily dose of despotism, monarchy, tribalism, corruption, conspiracy theories, anti-Americanism, anti-Westernism and political Islam which has become a staple for so much of the “Muslim” media. If I, as a minority in the United States who now stands before you as President of the United States, cannot advocate for real religious freedom and liberty for everyone who lives in your nations, then who can?

Yes, you can change. Yes, we can all change and defeat Islamism, the greatest threat of the 21st century, together.

M. Zuhdi Jasser is the President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a former U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander, a community activist, and a physician in private practice

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2009: Clues from the past: Former LDS apostle’s papers figured in 20th-century murder / Salt Lake Tribune

I’m intrigued by the descriptions of this additional journal by William E. McClellan, who was an early Apostle and later turned from and against the Church and its founder, Joseph Smith.

Written in 1871-72, but with recollections about what was happening in 1834, it is clear that one of the most intellectually-gifted early leaders thought highly of Joseph Smith’s mind. This quote from the news article is inspiring:

The 266-page journal, penned by McLellin in 1871-72, chronicles his leadership position as an apostle in the early LDS Church and his interaction with church founder Joseph Smith. It may be significant to Mormons because McLellin in the journal describes his affection for Smith and affirms his belief in the Book of Mormon.

McLellin, for example, wrote of Smith: “He attended my high school during the winter of 1834. He attended and learned science all winter. I learned the strength of his mind as to the study and principles of science. Hence I think I knew him. And I here say that he had one of the strongest, well-balanced, penetrating and retentive minds of any man with whom I ever formed an acquaintance, among the thousands of my observation.”

See the original of this post on the Salt Lake Tribune website at this link.

Love and thanks,
Steve St.Clair

William McLellin
By Dawn House
The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated:01/23/2009 01:50:30 PM MST

Rare-documents collector Brent Ashworth has found the long-lost journal of a 19th-century Mormon critic whose papers became the focus of a hoax perpetrated by modern-day forger and murderer Mark Hofmann.

On Thursday, Ashworth showed off the journal that had last been featured in a 1920s newspaper published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now known as the Community of Christ.

Ashworth said he verified the authenticity of the journal by comparing the newspaper photographs, which match pages 166 and 167 of the notebook. He located the owners after a getting a tip from a woman who walked into his rare books store in Provo three years ago. He bought the journal for an undisclosed sum in September.

“The journal is a nice capstone to the story of William McLellin,” an early Mormon apostle who later broke with the church over doctrinal issues, Ashworth said. “And it’s ironic that I would be the one to find it.”

Ashworth, 60, is among Hofmann’s victims who unwittingly purchased forgeries supposedly written by 19th-century Mormons. Hofmann had been selling bogus documents for years, taking more than $300,000 from Ashworth in cash and trades.

Hofmann’s schemes grew more elaborate by the 1980s, when he falsely claimed he had located McLellin’s journals and contended they included material that would embarrass The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He sold the collection to two people, sight unseen, before he was able to forge enough documents to pull off the scam.

To divert attention from the hoax, Hofmann set off pipe bombs in October 1985, killing Steve Christensen and Kathleen Sheets, and hoping police would suspect a disgruntled business investor. But when Hofmann became the prime suspect in the murder, the McLellin collection he had been hawking became part of the investigation.

Hofmann based his forgeries on a 1901 letter written by John Traughber, who at the time was trying to sell McLellin papers and journals he had collected over the years. In the letter, Traughber, a devotee of McLellin, provided a list of the documents he owned — which Hofmann used as a template for his forgeries.

The LDS Church had purchased portions of the actual collection from Traughber, who lived in Texas at the time. His descendants retained many of the remaining documents. During the police investigation, The Salt Lake Tribune tracked down the owners, verifying they had the real documents and indicating that Hofmann had been lying about his discovery of the collection. He is now serving a life sentence at the Utah State Prison.

Traughber’s descendants sold the collection to the University of Utah, and in 2007, Signature Books published the documents in the book The William E. McLellin Papers 1854-1880 . McLellin documents owned by the LDS Church became the basis of The Journals of William E. McLellin 1831-1836 , published in 1994 by BYU Studies and the University of Illinois Press.

Ashworth said he hopes to sell the McLellin journal he located to the LDS Church or to the U. to round out the respective collections.

The 266-page journal, penned by McLellin in 1871-72, chronicles his leadership position as an apostle in the early LDS Church and his interaction with church founder Joseph Smith. It may be significant to Mormons because McLellin in the journal describes his affection for Smith and affirms his belief in the Book of Mormon.

McLellin, for example, wrote of Smith: “He attended my high school during the winter of 1834. He attended and learned science all winter. I learned the strength of his mind as to the study and principles of science. Hence I think I knew him. And I here say that he had one of the strongest, well-balanced, penetrating and retentive minds of any man with whom I ever formed an acquaintance, among the thousands of my observation.”

McLellin’s description in the journal of his faith in the Book of Mormon is based on discussions he had with men who said they saw an angel who told them of the truth of the book’s translation.

Gary Bergera, managing director of the Smith-Pettit Foundation and a former Signature Books senior editor, agrees the journal is interesting.

“There’s been this kind of aura and mystery about the McLellin papers because of Hofmann, but as for the significance to history [of the notebook’s discovery] I don’t know if it’s that significant to history,” he said.

Tribune editor Lisa Carricaburu contributed to this story.

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2008: What Really Happened at Vatican II / Richard John Neuhaus, First Things

See the original of this article as a post by Richard John Neuhaus at the First things blog site at this link.

Thanks much,

Steve St.Clair
What Really Happened at Vatican II
by Richard John Neuhaus
October 2008

Father Neuhaus’s review of two new Books on Vatican II, with his own comments:

What Happened at Vatican II by John W. O’Malley, Harvard University Press, 372 pages, $29.95

Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition edited by Matthew Lamb and Matthew Levering, Oxford University Press, 462 pages, $29.95
When asked what he thought about the French Revolution, Zhou Enlai, China’s urbane premier under Chairman Mao, is reported to have replied, “It is too early to say.”

Such reticence has been in short supply when it comes to explaining the significance of the Second Vatican Council. Yet hundreds of books and tens of thousands of articles have not yet arrived at a settled consensus. The two books under review nicely represent the depth and sharpness of disagreements.

The Catholic Church counts twenty-one ecumenical councils, beginning with the First Council of Nicea in 325. Shortly after he was elected pope in 2005, Benedict XVI reflected on the confusion that sometimes attends the aftermath of a council. He quotes that great doctor of the Church, Saint Basil, who compared the period after Nicea to a naval battle fought in the darkness of a great storm. Basil wrote: “The raucous shouting of those who through disagreement rise up against one another, the incomprehensible chatter, the confused din of uninterrupted clamoring, has now filled almost the whole of the Church, falsifying through excess or failure the right doctrine of the faith.” Those who have lived through the years since Vatican II will recognize the description. “The question arises,” says Benedict, “Why has the implementation of the council, in large parts of the Church, thus far been so difficult?” A very good question, that.

At the end of their introduction to Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition, Lamb and Levering quote George Weigel: “No one knows whether, in the twenty-fifth century, Vatican II will be remembered as another Lateran V—a reforming council that failed—or another Trent—a reforming council that was so successful that it set the course of Catholic life for more than four hundred years.” Of course no one knows for sure. But Lateran V was small potatoes compared with Vatican II. Convened by Julius II in 1512 and concluded by Leo X in 1517, it was an off-again on-again gathering of mainly Italian bishops aimed against Louis XII of France, who had tried to convene an antipapal council at Pisa. In a parody of Lateran V, Erasmus put these words into the mouth of the dead Julius: “I told it what to say. We had two Masses to show that we were acting under Divine inspiration, and then there was a speech in honor of myself. At the next session I cursed the schismatic cardinals. At the third I laid France under an interdict. Then the Acts of the council were drafted into a bull and sent around Europe.” Papal historian Eamon Duffy says that Erasmus’ account “is a caricature, but not all that far wide of the mark.”

There would seem to be little chance of Vatican II being forgotten, even five hundred years from now. Unless, of course, the twentieth century is forgotten, an idea that some may think is not without its merits. It is commonly said, and with good reason, that the Second Vatican Council was the most important religious event of the twentieth century. If media coverage is a measure, it was second only to the war in Vietnam during the four council sessions from 1962 to 1965. It is also said to have been the largest deliberative meeting in history, with more than two thousand participating bishops from around the world, along with hundreds of theological experts (periti) and ecumenical observers who did much more than observe.

Four decades later, the arguments are still hot and heavy over what the council said and did. The two books under review represent the main lines of the argument. The very titles are revealing. O’Malley’s What Happened at Vatican II accents that it was a multifaceted event with viewpoints, personalities, and interests in frequently tumultuous conflict, and it makes for a rollicking good story. The important thing, he believes, is to understand the “spirit” of the council. Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition, by way of sharpest contrast, consists of twenty-two essays on the documents approved by the council. Here the important thing is to understand what the council actually said. (Full disclosure: I have a minor essay in the book.)

The main story line of the council was established from the beginning by Xavier Rynne (the pseudonym of the late Fr. Francis X. Murphy) in a series of “Letters from Vatican City” published in the New Yorker. The council, according to Rynne, was an epic battle between stuck-in-the-chancel conservatives and enlightened liberals who were striving mightily to bring a tradition-bound Catholicism into the light of the modern world. In this telling of the story, the key to understanding the council is aggiornamento—usually translated as updating. Rynne and the thousands of reporters who followed his lead left no doubt that the Second Vatican Council was a great liberal triumph.

O’Malley calls Rynne’s account “delicious” and “gossipy but engrossing,” yet he wants to rise above its strident partisanship. And so, for instance, he eschews references to “conservatives” and “liberals,” preferring to speak of the minority and the majority, while not disguising that he is rooting for the liberal majority. From beginning to end, says O’Malley, the great question was whether the council would “confirm the status quo or move notably beyond it.” He says his purpose is “to provide a sense of before and after.”

“Before and after”—that gets to the heart of most of the disputes about the council. Up through the 1980s, self-identified liberals routinely spoke of the pre- Vatican II Church and the post- Vatican II Church, almost as though they were two churches, with the clear implication that a very large part of the preceding centuries had been consigned to the dustbin of history. To describe that depiction of the council, philosopher Robert Sokolowski employs a football metaphor: “The impression was given that the tradition of the Church was not a continuous handing on through the centuries of something received; it was more like a long pass from the apostolic age to the Second Vatican Council, with only distortions in between, whether Byzantine, medieval, or baroque.” That’s an exaggeration, of course, but an exaggeration in the service of an important part of the truth.

In the decades following the council, many liberals made no secret of their belief that aggiornamento was a mandate for radical change, even revolution. They excitedly hailed as renewal what others saw as destabilization and confusion. Some traditionalists farther to the right of center blamed the council itself, employing the logic of post hoc ergo propter hoc—after which, therefore because of which. Liberals, on the other hand, demanded an early convening of Vatican Council III in order to, as they said, complete the revolution. Given the changed climate in the Church after thirty years of the pontificates of John Paul the Great and Benedict XVI, it is not surprising that it has been a long time since we’ve heard progressives calling for Vatican III.

The confusions in the aftermath of Vatican II are beyond denying. O’Malley says he wants to treat the “before and after” of the council, but in fact he limits himself to the before and at the council. Slight attention is paid to the consequences of the changes that he celebrates. Theologians openly dissented from Church teaching and did so with impunity, indeed often being rewarded by the guild of academic theology for their putative courage. Tens of thousands of priests abandoned their ministries, convents were emptied as sisters embraced the vaunted freedoms of the secular world, Gregorian chant was replaced by Kumbaya, the number of seminarians preparing for priesthood plummeted, and not a few of the priests who remained decided on their own that celibacy is optional.

Not incidentally, a majority of Catholics stopped going to Mass every week and decided, or were given to understand by progressive priests, that moral truths taught from the beginning are, at most, advisory in nature. What happened after the council, if not because of the council, is a familiar and mainly depressing story, perhaps too familiar and too depressing in its telling. One wishes Fr. O’Malley had addressed the after in “before and after,” since there were also constructive changes usually ignored in conservative accounts.

A few years ago, Francis Cardinal George of Chicago declared, “Liberal Catholicism is an exhausted project.” There has been surprisingly little dissent from that judgment on the part of the aging members of the Boomer generation who still dare speak the name of their liberal love. They spent their lives pinning their hopes on “the next pope” or “the next council,” but now they seem resigned to the fact that it is not to be. A measure of bitterness is understandable as they contemplate the “reactionary” takeover by John Paul and Benedict.

Perhaps most galling is the spectacle of a younger generation of Catholics inspired by these supposed troglodytes to dream dreams of radical discipleship. As witness, among many other signs, the stunning success of World Youth Day, most recently in Sydney, Australia. The youth were supposed to belong to the progressives, who are now left wondering what went wrong with their children and grandchildren. Then there are the bishops once or twice or thrice in succession to the bishops of those heady days at the council. Whether by conviction or by an astute reading of “the signs of the times”—a much quoted phrase from the council—they recognize the need for a re-stabilizing of the Church’s teaching and life. Some are reluctant to call this conservatism, preferring to speak of a “reform of the reform.”

Enter Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition. The book shamelessly pulls rank on O’Malley by opening with a reflection by Pope Benedict XVI on the proper interpretation of the council. The question is one of hermeneutics, says the pope. There are, he suggests, two quite different ways of understanding the council: “On the one hand, there is an interpretation that I would call ‘a hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture’; it has frequently availed itself of the sympathies of the mass media, and also one trend of modern theology. On the other, there is the ‘hermeneutic of reform,’ of renewal in the continuity of the one subject, the Church that the Lord has given us. She is a subject that increases in time and develops, yet always remains the same, the one subject of the journeying People of God.”

The distinction between conservative and liberal does not quite catch the difference between a hermeneutic of reform and a hermeneutic of rupture. The teaching of the council as advanced by John Paul and Benedict is emphatically liberal in, for instance, its embrace of democracy and its call for a new way of engagement between faith and reason. A great difference between the Lamb and Levering hermeneutic and the O’Malley hermeneutic is that the former is primarily theological and attuned to what is believed to be divinely revealed truth as it has been handed on and its understanding faithfully developed over the centuries. The O’Malley interpretation is dominantly sociological, psychological, and linguistic, aimed at demonstrating how the council moved beyond “the status quo.” For instance, O’Malley rightly notes the council’s vigorous condemnation of anti-Semitism but fails to connect that with its theological treatment of the unique relationship in God’s universal plan of salvation between the Church and the people of Israel.

There are other differences of great consequence. Whether, with Lamb and Levering, one focuses on the texts of the council or, with O’Malley, on the spirit of the council, there are interesting parallels with American legal debates between proponents of “original meaning” and proponents of “the living Constitution.” O’Malley’s living council, so to speak, is wondrously malleable in response to the spirit of the times, or what he takes to be the spirit of the times. Moreover, O’Malley’s interpretation tends to reflect a particular moment in the progressive thought of Europe and America, while Lamb and Levering have in view a universal community through time with now more than 1.2 billion members, and with most of them in the Global South. Thus O’Malley’s account is preoccupied with somewhat parochial European and North American discontents over relationships of power within the Church, while Lamb and Levering keep in view the universal mission of the Church through the centuries.

All that having been said, however, O’Malley’s book is much the better read. As Xavier Rynne and the editors of the New Yorker understood, personalities, politics, factional fights, and dark conspiracies make for high drama. Especially when combatants are cast as good liberals versus bad conservatives. More than forty years later, however, the hermeneutic of reform in continuity is prevailing, and serious readers who want to understand the significance of the council will be better served by Lamb and Levering.

This is not to deny, however, that O’Malley’s account is instructive on several scores. In the long history of church councils, Vatican II was different. While there is continuity in teaching, something remarkable really did happen at the council. The liberal proponents of a hermeneutic of rupture are not making up their argument out of whole cloth. The very calling for a council by John XXIII struck many as strange and puzzling. Unlike the reasons for earlier councils, O’Malley notes, there was no obvious crisis troubling the Church. “In fact, except in those parts of the world where Christianity was undergoing overt persecution, mainly in countries under Communist domination, the Church in the decade and a half since the end of World War II projected an image of vigor and self-confidence.” It is no secret that some at higher levels of the Roman curia thought the pope was making a big mistake, and maybe was becoming just a little dotty.

Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani was the perfect foil for the liberal interpretation of the council. His enthusiasm for the council was conspicuously contained. He was secretary of the Holy Office, later called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. (Until Paul VI changed it, the pope was head of that supreme congregation, an arrangement that Benedict has de facto, if not de jure, restored.) The motto that Ottaviani chose for his coat of arms was Semper Idem—”always the same.” Like Rynne, O’Malley, and many others, Ottaviani recognized “the spirit” of the council and he didn’t like it one little bit.

As O’Malley tells it, Ottaviani and those of like mind represented a “long nineteenth century,” going back to Pius IX’s war against modernity and extending through a “reign of terror” during which Catholic thinkers trembled in fear of ecclesiastical censure for having a thought of their own. To be sure, O’Malley exaggerates, but even so orthodox a thinker as George Cardinal Pell of Australia acknowledges that something was very wrong. In the foreword to a recent book on the theology of Joseph Ratzinger, Pell writes: “Certainly most of the Scholastic manuals, written in Latin, which we studied in philosophy in the 1960s, were arid, out of date, impersonal, and mechanistic. . . . Ratzinger’s skepticism about the Thomism of the manuals was shared almost universally among the seminarians of the sixties.” That skepticism was no doubt shared by many, if not most, of the bishops who gathered for the first session of the council in 1962.

Soon the drafts for conciliar texts prepared by Ottaviani and his curial colleagues, which steadfastly adhered to the spirit of Semper Idem, were being sharply criticized, and then rejected one after another. By the second session, in 1963, O’Malley says, the assembled bishops were beginning to feel their oats, having gotten a taste of real “collegiality.” A central theme in his account is that the council witnessed a movement of authority from “the center to the periphery.” The center, of course, is the pope and the curia, with the periphery being the pastors of local churches, the bishops. He emphasizes that Vatican II eschewed the “power language” of earlier councils, with their juridical pronouncements and condemnations, preferring the “humility words” of shared responsibility in the government of the Church. At the same time, O’Malley’s story is all about power struggles between entrenched Roman conservatism and the bishops who were more accurately reading the signs of the times.

In this view, the conservatives were resisting the birth of nothing less than the third epoch of Christian history. O’Malley approvingly quotes the German Jesuit Karl Rahner, who said the first epoch was the brief period of Jewish Christianity; the second, including Hellenism and European Christianity, ran up to Vatican II; and third period, the post-council present, is the epoch of the world Church.

This is presentism on speed. It is also, and despite the global language, a very Eurocentric view of Christian history, ignoring the pre-Islamic Christianity of the Middle East and, along with it, Byzantium and most of the patristic tradition, which figures such as Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar were so mightily laboring to restore under the banner of ressourcement, or renewal. In What Happened at Vatican II, O’Malley acknowledges three dominant themes of the council—aggiornamento, ressourcement, and development of doctrine—but, in his telling, the latter two are always in the service of the first, with aggiornamento bearing a convenient resemblance to the dominant habits of thought in the Society of Jesus as embodied in institutions “in the Jesuit tradition” such as Georgetown University.

O’Malley neatly sums up the reading of Vatican II according to the hermeneutics of rupture:

It suggests, indeed, that at stake were almost two different visions of Catholicism: from commands to invitations, from laws to ideals, from definition to mystery, from threats to persuasion, from coercion to conscience, from monologue to dialogue, from ruling to serving, from withdrawn to integrated, from vertical to horizontal, from exclusion to inclusion, from hostility to friendship, from rivalry to partnership, from suspicion to trust, from static to ongoing, from passive acceptance to active engagement, from fault-finding to appreciation, from prescriptive to principled, from behavior modification to
inner appropriation.

In almost all those pairings of different visions of Catholicism, who would not vote for the second? Clearly, the “post-Vatican II Church” wins hands down. O’Malley does not claim that the bishops in council actually voted to launch a new Catholicism. In this version of the spirit over the letter, what the council said is far less important than how it was said. The council was, he says, a “language-event.” The style is the substance is the spirit of the council. Eschewing scholastic language, “it thus moved from the dialectic of winning an argument to the dialogue of finding common ground.” In documents such as Gaudium et Spes, the council employed the genre that ancient Roman authors called ars laudandi, or the panegyric. “Panegyric,” O’Malley explains, “is the painting of an idealized portrait in order to excite admiration and appropriation.”

The modern world as portrayed by the council is one with which the Church should want to get in tune. There is merit in O’Malley’s linguistic analysis. It is striking, for instance, that, in the aftermath of the slaughters of world wars and while much of the world and of the Church was dominated by the evil empire of Soviet Communism, the council could speak in such serene terms of approbation about the modern circumstance. But it is quite another matter how or whether the language employed bears on the doctrine taught.

Some essays in the Lamb and Levering volume weigh in so heavily on the side of the hermeneutics of continuity that one might get the impression that not much happened at Vatican II. Obviously, that is not the case. After allowing that the liberal leaders at the council were sometimes elitist and manipulative, O’Malley gives this telling reflection on how the council is interpreted:

During the council, the media often pilloried “the conservatives” for obscurantism, intransigence for being out of touch, and even for dirty tricks. One thing can surely be said in their favor. They saw, or at least more straightforwardly named, the novel character and heavy consequences of some of the council’s decisions. The leaders of the majority, on the contrary, generally tried to minimize the novelty of some of their positions by insisting on their continuity with tradition. It is ironic that after Vatican II, conservative voices began insisting on the council’s continuity, whereas so-called liberals stressed its novelty.

There is indeed irony, but it is not the irony that O’Malley proposes. What Happened at Vatican II is a 372-page brief for the party of novelty and discontinuity. Its author comes very close to saying explicitly what is frequently implied: that the innovationists practiced subterfuge, and they got away with it. Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and his Society of St. Pius X are right: The council was a radical break from tradition and proposed what is, in effect, a different Catholicism. The irony is in the agreement between Lefebvre and the liberal party of discontinuity. O’Malley and those of like mind might be described as the Lefebvrists of the left.

It is almost half a century after the council. The pontificates of Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, along with the scholarly arguments represented by books such as Vatican II: Renewal Within Tradition, make it evident that the hermeneutics of continuity is prevailing, if it has not already definitively prevailed. Fr. O’Malley may suspect that is the case. His book has about it the feel of a last-ditch effort to defend the story line of the post-Vatican II Church vs. the pre-Vatican II Church that was popularized by Xavier Rynne all these many years ago. The final irony is that if, in the twenty-fifth century, the Second Vatican Council is remembered as a reform council that failed, it will be the result of the combined, if unintended, efforts of the likes of Marcel Lefebvre and John O’Malley in advancing the argument that the council was a radical break from the tradition that is Catholicism. I do not expect they will succeed.


Richard John Neuhaus was editor in chief of First Things.

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2004: Andalusian Myth, Eurabian Reality – Inventing the past, and denying the present / Bat Ye’or, Andrew G. Bostom

See the original of this outstanding article by Bat Ye’or and Andrew G. Bostom on the issue of a supposed “golden age of tolerance” in Islamic Spain. Great job! Great scholarship!

See the original of this post on the Dimmi Watch website at this link.

Love & Thanks,

Steve St.Clair
Andalusian Myth, Eurabian Reality
Inventing the past, and denying the present.
A Jihad Watch EXCLUSIVE essay by Bat Ye’or and Andrew G. Bostom:
April 21, 2004

On Sunday, April 18, 2004, this revealing exchange took place between outgoing Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, and interviewer Chris Wallace of FoxNews:

Chris Wallace:

In the apartment that was blown up, police found a videotape in which the bombers referred to Spain as Andalusia, what it was called by the Muslim Moors before they were driven out in 1492.

Jose Maria Aznar (through the translator):

So this means that Iraq, for them, was just a pretext. In the eyes of Islamic terrorism, it looks at the West, and Spain is a very special part of this parcel, because they feel that to recover Spain is to get back some of their territory.

Islamic scholar Mordechai Nisan recently discussed the contention by the founder of the Institute of Islamic Education, M. Amir Ali, that Medieval Spain had actually been “liberated” by Muslim forces, who “deposed its tyrants”. Nisan extrapolated this ahistorical narrative line, and pondered:

Reflecting on March 11, as Muslim terrorism killed 200 and wounded 1,400 in Madrid, one wonders whether one day this event will also not be commemorated as a liberating moment.

Events surrounding the completion of the new Granada Mosque, which was marked by celebratory announcements July 10, 2003 of a “…return of Islam to Spain”, were also consistent with Nisan’s dark musings. At a conference entitled “Islam in Europe” that accompanied the opening of the mosque, disconcerting statements were made by European Muslim leaders. Specifically, the keynote speaker at this conference, Umar Ibrahim Vadillo, a Spanish Muslim leader, encouraged Muslims to cause an economic collapse of Western economies (by ceasing to use Western currencies, and switching to gold dinars), while the German Muslim leader Abu Bakr Rieger told Muslim attendees to avoid adapting their Islamic religious practices to accommodate European (i.e., Western Enlightenment?) values.

Shortly after this event, a Wall Street Journal editorialist in a grossly distorted encomium to Muslim Spain, mentioned the “pan-confessional humanism” of Andalusian Islam, and even asserted: “one could argue that the oft-bewailed missing ‘reformation’ of Islam was under way there until it was aborted by the Inquisition.”

María Rosa Menocal, Yale Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, in her 2002 hagiography of Muslim Spain, The Ornament of the World, has further maintained that

the new Islamic polity not only allowed Jews and Christians to survive, but following Qur’anic mandate, by and large protected them.

We believe that reiterating these ahistorical, roseate claims about Muslim Spain abets the contemporary Islamist agenda, and retards the evolution of a liberal, reformed “Euro-Islam” fully compatible with post-Enlightenment Western values.

Iberia (Spain) was conquered in 710-716 AD by Arab tribes originating from northern, central and southern Arabia. Massive Berber and Arab immigration, and the colonization of the Iberian peninsula, followed the conquest. Most churches were converted into mosques. Although the conquest had been planned and conducted jointly with a strong faction of royal Iberian Christian dissidents, including a bishop, it proceeded as a classical jihad with massive pillages, enslavement, deportations and killings.

Toledo, which had first submitted to the Arabs in 711 or 712, revolted in 713. The town was punished by pillage and all the notables had their throats cut. In 730, the Cerdagne (in Septimania, near Barcelona) was ravaged and a bishop burned alive. In the regions under stable Islamic control, Jews and Christians were tolerated as dhimmis – like elsewhere in other Islamic lands – and could not build new churches or synagogues nor restore the old ones. Segregated in special quarters, they had to wear discriminatory clothing. Subjected to heavy taxes, the Christian peasantry formed a servile class attached to the Arab domains; many abandoned their land and fled to the towns. Harsh reprisals with mutilations and crucifixions* would sanction the Mozarab (Christian dhimmis) calls for help from the Christian kings. Moreover, if one dhimmi harmed a Muslim, the whole community would lose its status of protection, leaving it open to pillage, enslavement and arbitrary killing.

By the end of the eighth century, the rulers of North Africa and of Andalusia had introduced Malikism, one of the most rigorous schools of Islamic jurisprudence, and subsequently repressed the other Muslim schools of law. Three quarters of a century ago, at a time when political correctness was not dominating historical publication and discourse, Evariste Lévi-Provençal, the pre-eminent scholar of Andalusia, wrote: “The Muslim Andalusian state thus appears from its earliest origins as the defender and champion of a jealous orthodoxy, more and more ossified in a blind respect for a rigid doctrine, suspecting and condemning in advance the least effort of rational speculation.”

The humiliating status imposed on the dhimmis and the confiscation of their land provoked many revolts, punished by massacres, as in Toledo (761, 784-86, 797). After another Toledan revolt in 806, seven hundred inhabitants were executed. Insurrections erupted in Saragossa from 781 to 881, Cordova (805), Merida (805-813, 828 and the following year, and later in 868), and yet again in Toledo (811-819); the insurgents were crucified, as prescribed in Qur’an 5:33*.

The revolt in Cordova of 818 was crushed by three days of massacres and pillage, with 300 notables crucified and 20 000 families expelled. Feuding was endemic in the Andalusian cities between the different sectors of the population: Arab and Berber colonizers, Iberian Muslim converts (Muwalladun) and Christian dhimmis (Mozarabs). There were rarely periods of peace in the Amirate of Cordova (756-912), nor later.

Al-Andalus represented the land of jihad par excellence. Every year, sometimes twice a year, raiding expeditions were sent to ravage the Christian Spanish kingdoms to the north, the Basque regions, or France and the Rhone valley, bringing back booty and slaves. Andalusian corsairs attacked and invaded along the Sicilian and Italian coasts, even as far as the Aegean Islands, looting and burning as they went. Thousands of people were deported to slavery in Andalusia, where the caliph kept a militia of tens of thousand of Christian slaves brought from all parts of Christian Europe (the Saqaliba), and a harem filled with captured Christian women. Society was sharply divided along ethnic and religious lines, with the Arab tribes at the top of the hierarchy, followed by the Berbers who were never recognized as equals, despite their Islamization; lower in the scale came the mullawadun converts and, at the very bottom, the dhimmi Christians and Jews.

The Andalusian Maliki jurist Ibn Abdun (d. 1134) offered these telling legal opinions regarding Jews and Christians in Seville around 1100 C.E.: “No…Jew or Christian may be allowed to wear the dress of an aristocrat, nor of a jurist, nor of a wealthy individual; on the contrary they must be detested and avoided. It is forbidden to [greet] them with the [expression], ‘Peace be upon you’. In effect, ‘Satan has gained possession of them, and caused them to forget God’s warning. They are the confederates of Satan’s party; Satan’s confederates will surely be the losers!’ (Qur’an 58:19 [modern Dawood translation]). A distinctive sign must be imposed upon them in order that they may be recognized and this will be for them a form of disgrace.”

Ibn Abdun also forbade the selling of scientific books to dhimmis, under the pretext that they translated them and attributed them to their co-religionists and bishops. In fact, plagiarism is difficult to prove since whole Jewish and Christian libraries were looted and destroyed. Another prominent Andalusian jurist, Ibn Hazm of Cordoba (d. 1064), wrote that Allah has established the infidels’ ownership of their property merely to provide booty for Muslims.

In Granada, the Jewish viziers Samuel Ibn Naghrela and his son Joseph, who protected the Jewish community, were both assassinated between 1056 to 1066, followed by the annihilation of the Jewish population by the local Muslims. It is estimated that up to five thousand Jews perished in the pogrom by Muslims that accompanied the 1066 assassination. This figure equals or exceeds the number of Jews reportedly killed by the Crusaders during their pillage of the Rhineland, some thirty years later, at the outset of the First Crusade.

The Granada pogrom was likely to have been incited, in part, by the bitter anti-Jewish ode of Abu Ishaq, a well known Muslim jurist and poet of the times, who wrote: “Put them back where they belong and reduce them to the lowest of the low..turn your eyes to other [Muslim] countries and you will find the Jews there are outcast dogs…Do not consider it a breach of faith to kill them…They have violated our covenant with them so how can you be held guilty against the violators?”

The Muslim Berber Almohads in Spain and North Africa (1130-1232) wreaked enormous destruction on both the Jewish and Christian populations. This devastation- massacre, captivity, and forced conversion- was described by the Jewish chronicler Abraham Ibn Daud, and the poet Abraham Ibn Ezra. Suspicious of the sincerity of the Jewish converts to Islam, Muslim “inquisitors” (i.e., antedating their Christian Spanish counterparts by three centuries) removed the children from such families, placing them in the care of Muslim educators. Maimonides, the renowned philosopher and physician, experienced the Almohad persecutions, and had to flee Cordoba with his entire family in 1148, temporarily residing in Fez — disguised as a Muslim — before finding asylum in Fatimid Egypt.

Indeed, although Maimonides is frequently referred to as a paragon of Jewish achievement facilitated by the enlightened rule of Andalusia, his own words debunk this utopian view of the Islamic treatment of Jews:

The Arabs have persecuted us severely, and passed baneful and discriminatory legislation against us…Never did a nation molest, degrade, debase, and hate us as much as they.

A valid summary assessment of interfaith relationships in Muslim Spain, and the contemporary currents responsible for obfuscating that history, can be found in Richard Fletcher’s engaging Moorish Spain. Mr. Fletcher offers these sobering, unassailable observations:

The witness of those who lived through the horrors of the Berber conquest, of the Andalusian fitnah in the early eleventh century, of the Almoravid invasion- to mention only a few disruptive episodes- must give it [i.e., the roseate view of Muslim Spain] the lie. The simple and verifiable historical truth is that Moorish Spain was more often a land of turmoil than it was of tranquility…Tolerance? Ask the Jews of Granada who were massacred in 1066, or the Christians who were deported by the Almoravids to Morocco in 1126 (like the Moriscos five centuries later)…In the second half of the twentieth century a new agent of obfuscation makes its appearance: the guilt of the liberal conscience, which sees the evils of colonialism- assumed rather than demonstrated- foreshadowed in the Christian conquest of al-Andalus and the persecution of the Moriscos (but not, oddly, in the Moorish conquest and colonization). Stir the mix well together and issue it free to credulous academics and media persons throughout the western world. Then pour it generously over the truth…in the cultural conditions that prevail in the west today the past has to be marketed, and to be successfully marketed it has to be attractively packaged. Medieval Spain in a state of nature lacks wide appeal. Self-indulgent fantasies of glamour…do wonders for sharpening up its image. But Moorish Spain was not a tolerant and enlightened society even in its most cultivated epoch.

The socio-political history of Andalusia was characterized by a particularly oppressive dhimmitude that is completely incompatible with modern notions of equality between individuals, regardless of religious faith. At the dawn of the 21st century, we must insist that Muslims in the West adopt post-Enlightenment societal standards of equality, not “tolerance,” abandoning forever their hagiography of the brutal, discriminatory standards practiced by the classical Maliki jurists of “enlightened” Andalusia.

*The Noble Qur’an- Three esteemed translations, online:Sura 005, Verse 033


The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.


The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom.


The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement

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2005: A Voice in the Relativistic Wilderness: The Pope (John Paul II) crusaded for "moral truth." We should welcome his help / Richard John Neuhaus

This article by Catholic Father Richard John Neuhaus in the Evangelical “Christianity Today” magazine is about a Catholic Pope whose teachings and actions made him feel very close and useful to Evangelical leaders. But this was in 2005, and the Pope being described here is the PREDECESSOR to Pope Benedict XVI, His Holiness Pope John Paul II. Of course, serving as his closest confidant at the time was his Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Father Joseph Ratzinger, who would shortly succeed him as Pope Benedict XVI. Thus, for the durations of the terms of these two magnificant Popes, they have been working furiously to ensure that the Catholic Church would return to its more conservative roots and correct the series of massive problems that came in the wake of Vatican II in the 1960’s, including the loss of much of Catholic higher education in the U.S. to secularly-oriented academics, and the flocking of gay men and pedofiles to the priesthood which resulted in the many billions of dollars of costs in the sexual abuse crisis in the U.S.

Find the original of this brilliant article on the Christianity Today website at this link.

Father RJN, rest in peace! We will welcome you to exhaltation in our Celestial Kingdom; or (if you are correct) I’ll gladly spend time in Purgatory beside you!!!

Steve St.Clair
A Voice in the Relativistic Wilderness
The Pope (John Paul II) crusaded for “moral truth.” We should welcome his help.
By Richard John Neuhaus posted 4/04/2005 12:00AM

Theologian and social critic Richard John Neuhaus gave us the phrase the naked public square, in a 1984 book of that name, to describe the secular ideal of civic discourse without the benefit of religious and moral insight. First as an inner-city Missouri Synod Lutheran pastor, and more recently as a Catholic priest, Neuhaus has served as a rallying point for moral and theological conservatives from a variety of backgrounds—Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, and Jewish—to reintroduce religion into the cultural debates.

Toward that end, Neuhaus, now editor-in-chief of
First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life , here explains for Christians outside the Roman church the significance of John Paul II’s recent writing on morality.

“You guys have a pope who sure knows how to pope.” That is the admiring comment of a friend, a Southern Baptist who is surprised, and just a bit uneasy, about finding that he and John Paul II are on the same side in the great moral conflicts of our time.

My friend does not agree with Catholic teaching about the continuing office of Peter in the church, and he is not sure what to do with his childhood belief that the pope is Antichrist; but he will accept help from wherever he can get it, and, increasingly, he discovers he is getting it from this pope. The recent encyclical Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth) is a case in point. The encyclical has provoked widespread and generally favorable comment from sources not usually sympathetic to Catholic moral teaching.

When it appeared in October, some newspapers blazoned that the pope is clamping down on sexual ethics. And it indeed turns out that he has not changed his mind on, for instance, fornication and adultery; but that is rather to miss the point of this extended argument on the nature of morality. Other reports focused on his criticism of moral theories that go by awkward names such as proportionalism and consequentialism. That is closer to the point, but it still does not quite get it.

In this encyclical (encyclical means simply a letter to be circulated), the pope does not so much analyze the sorry moral condition of the contemporary world as he asks us to reflect on the meaning of “moral truth.” The sorry truth of the matter is that many people today think “moral truth” is a contradiction in terms. You have your “values” and I have mine, and that’s that. Beyond the individual assertion of values,” there is nothing left to discuss. “What is truth?” asked Pilate. Like many of our contemporaries, he took that question to be a discussion-stopper. John Paul II argues that ought to be a discussion-starter.

He notes that the modern world has had a great deal to say about freedom, and that is good. But freedom must be grounded in truth. Freedom is not enough. Freedom standing by itself inevitably degenerates into license. License, which is unbridled freedom, quickly becomes the enemy of freedom. Friedrich Nietzsche, the brilliantly mad philosopher of the nineteenth century, well understood this. He saw that, once the reality of absolute truth is denied, all arguments—indeed, all human relationships—become nothing more than the exercise of “the will to power.” Against Nietzsche and those of like mind, John Paul contends that power—and freedom itself—can be made and must be made accountable to truth. “Authentic freedom,” he says repeatedly, “is ordered to truth.” Not my truth, your truth, or her truth, not the truth of a class or a tribe or a nation, but truth. As in “absolute truth.”

The central text of the pope’s argument is John 8:32—”You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” The claim that there is a necessary connection between freedom and truth is hardly new. Aristotle understood that, as did the American founders who signed a Declaration of Independence that begins, “We hold these truths to be self-evident … ” The apparently new thing about our time is the idea that freedom can get along without truth. In this encyclical, John Paul attempts to explain why that is a very bad idea intellectually unpersuasive, spiritually incoherent, and morally disastrous.

Clear thinking about moral truth has enemies. The enemies are often called relativism and subjectivism. Ours is a radically individualistic culture in which it is hard to make the case that we must discern and obey what is objectively true. Rather, each of us decides what is “true for me.” In other words, says John Paul, we arrogate to ourselves the right to create the truth. Biblical believers will recognize that this way of thinking and acting began with the serpent’s temptation in the garden and has resulted in herds of so-called independent minds marching toward moral oblivion with Frank Sinatra’s witless boast on their lips, “I did it my way.”

Many intellectuals today argue that everything, including ideas about morality, is created by culture. We are, they say, “socially constructed all the way down”—truth has no foundation in either reason or revelation. This is called “antifoundationalism,” and it is a cherished theory of those who call themselves “postmodernists.” According to this theory, freedom may be high among your “values,” but that is only because you are the product of a culture that values freedom. Put bluntly, what you call your freedom is a delusion. You are as captive to your culture as somebody else who is the product of a culture that values collectivism, or child sacrifice, or the worship of Baal, or whatever. John Paul knows these arguments inside out. He recognizes that they are very clever, very intriguing, and very false.

The human person, he contends, truly is free—created for freedom and, although wounded by the depravity of sin, capable of freedom. Without a firm understanding of human freedom, talk about morality makes no sense. John Paul appreciates the insights of psychology, anthropology, and the behavioral sciences into the ways we are “conditioned” by culture, genes, and factors yet unknown. But deep within each “acting person” (a key phrase in this pope’s thought) is an aspiration toward the good, which is finally an aspiration toward God, that we either follow or defy.

Veritatis Splendor opens with an extended reflection on the rich young man who comes to Jesus and asks, “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?” (Matt. 19:16). That, says John Paul, is really the question of every man, no matter how tentatively or confusedly it is asked. And the answer of Jesus is the answer to every man: “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” Life is to know the truth and do the truth. Life is ultimately fulfilled in following the One who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

Many of our contemporaries will object that all this is very nice; it may even be true in some sense of the word. But, they say, there is no going back to “simpler days” when it was possible to assert that “we hold these truths” as though there are actually truths to hold and to be held by. Nowadays we live in a “pluralistic society,” don’t you know? There is no agreement on what truths we hold, we must not impose our values on others, and on and on.

John Paul turns the usual talk about pluralism on its head. Precisely because we live in a pluralistic world, he says, it is all the more urgent that we engage one another in civil argument about the truth that undergirds human freedom and dignity. Our differences notwithstanding, we can make sense to one another because we have in common our human nature and the capacity to reason, and these are universal. Here enters the important concept of “natural law”—or, as some Protestant theologians prefer, the order of creation as distinct from the order of redemption. In this encyclical, the pope makes a very close connection between creation and redemption, insisting that the latter does not negate but fulfills the former.

John Paul is keenly aware that in contending for universal nature and reason he is going up against dominant views in universities and other elite institutions. As freedom has turned against itself, so also reason has turned against itself. Some of our most clever philosophers have “rationally” demonstrated that reason is an illusion. What people call reason, they say, is only a veneer of “rationalization” that disguises the irrational factors determining who we are and how we behave. The result is that confidence in what is distinctively human has been severely undermined. We are, it is said, no more rational than the animals.

John Paul’s defense of reason should not be confused with the truncated and reductionist rationalism of the secular Enlightenment. He is for sure no friend of “secular humanism.” True humanism, he contends, is directed toward the transcendent, toward the ultimate good, who is God. And reason participates in the fullness of truth through revelation. But to people who are made nervous by references to God and revelation, the pope is saying that we still have a lot to talk about. And we had better get on with it before humanity staggers more deeply into the night of moral nothingness.

Like Paul, John Paul is confident that we can engage the question of moral truth with nonbelievers because, when “Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves. … They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them” (Rom. 2:14-15). In other words, reason and nature are universal.

It follows, says the pope, that human rights and duties are “universal and immutable.” This, not so incidentally, is the position taken by the United States against countries that claim that the idea of universal human rights reflects Western “cultural imperialism.” In fact, such countries may have a case. The human rights agenda is no more than an ideological imposition by the West, if the cause of freedom is divorced from the claims of truth. The same applies also in our life together in society. If what you call your rights is no more than an assertion of your interests, I can counter your interests with my interests. If I can muster greater force, you lose. So much for your vaunted rights. Again, in the absence of truth, power is the only game in town.

The idea that there is no objective or universal truth has achieved a measure of official status among us by fiat of the Supreme Court. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, for example, the court declared that it is up to each individual to determine “the concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” It is an astonishing piece of “theology” cooked up by lawyers to justify the abortion license. John Paul, by contrast, warns against “the risk of an alliance between democracy and ethical relativism.” This means that when truth itself is democratized—when truth is no more than the will of each individual or a majority of individuals—democracy is deprived of the claim to truth and stands naked to its enemies. Thus does freedom, when not “ordered to truth,” undo freedom. If there is no objective truth that compels you to respect my freedom, why should you? Especially when my freedom gets in the way of your doing what you want with your freedom?

Moral truth that is evident in a natural law that is accessible to all reasonable persons includes commands both positive and negative. But it is not for nothing that the Ten Commandments delivered at Sinai are framed in the negative. We cannot always do the good that we would, but we are called always to refuse to do evil. In our actual life situations, we discover with Paul, “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Rom. 7:18-19). Moral responsibility means never fudging the reality of evil.

Some acts are intrinsically evil, evil per se—always and everywhere. As examples, John Paul cites homicide, genocide, abortion, slavery, prostitution, and trafficking in women and children. He quotes Paul VI: “Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it.” Evil must never be called good, nor good evil. If good and evil are confused, not only are we more likely to do evil, but we are deprived of the highest freedom of being forgiven sinners who can declare with Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Here John Paul II takes on those moralists, including some Catholic theologians, who say that an evil act may be justified by the end to which it is directed or by weighing the other goods at stake. Liberal Protestants have been plagued with similarly deviant theories, such as the late Joseph Fletcher’s “situation ethics.” To call evil good is morally incoherent and, equally important, undercuts the gospel of forgiveness. To be excused is not the same thing as to be forgiven. In fact, they are opposites. An act that is excused cannot be forgiven. Only evil, as in “sin,” can be forgiven. If we are to be clear about the grace of God, we must be clear about the law of God.

John Paul is adamant on this: It is never right to do evil in order to achieve good. To those of a contrary view, the question might be put: When is rape morally justified? Or the torture of children? Or Auschwitz? Or, to get it down to the everyday, slandering your neighbor? John Paul’s answer is never. Intentions may be noble, people may claim that they are acting “in good conscience,” circumstances may mitigate personal responsibility, but the act remains, always and everywhere, evil.

The moral person is prepared to die rather than do evil. The word of Jesus could not be more explicit: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). This moral wisdom is not limited to Christians. John Paul cites the pagan poet Juvenal, saying that his words apply to everyone: “Consider it the greatest of crimes to prefer survival to honor and, out of love of physical life, to lose the very reason for living.” That conviction should not be alien to those for whom the very reason for living is to follow the One who is the way, the truth, and the life.

The encyclical concludes with an extended meditation on the meaning of martyrdom, drawing examples from the Scriptures and the history of courageous resistance to tyranny. Martyr, of course, means witness. We are not all called to martyrdom, but we are called to bear witness to the truth that makes, and keeps, us free. And that, according to Verita Splendor, is the splendor of living in the truth.

It is a splendor splendidly articulated in this document that is not only for Catholics and not only for Christians, but is directed to all who, at the bottom-most base of their being, intuit the call to live a life of moral meaning. My Baptist friend who says that this pope sure knows how to pope adds, “He’s your pope, but I hope you don’t mind if we borrow him from time to time.”

Not at all.

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