Friday, September 29, 2006

What's Your Beer Personality?

You Are Guinness

You know beer well, and you'll only drink the best beers in the world. Watered down beers disgust you, as do the people who drink them. When you drink, you tend to become a bit of a know it all - especially about subjects you don't know well. But your friends tolerate your drunken ways, because you introduce them to the best beers around.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Imprimis article

These are snippets from the longish original article, which can be found by following the linked title of the post.

“Freedom and Justice in Islam”

Bernard Lewis
Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University

By common consent among historians, the modern history of the Middle East begins in the year 1798, when the French Revolution arrived in Egypt in the form of a small expeditionary force led by a young general called Napoleon Bonaparte—who conquered and then ruled it for a while with appalling ease. General Bonaparte—he wasn't yet Emperor—proclaimed to the Egyptians that he had come to them on behalf of a French Republic built on the principles of liberty and equality. We know something about the reactions to this proclamation from the extensive literature of the Middle Eastern Arab world. The idea of equality posed no great problem. Equality is very basic in Islamic belief: All true believers are equal. Of course, that still leaves three “inferior” categories of people—slaves, unbelievers and women. But in general, the concept of equality was understood. Islam never developed anything like the caste system of India to the east or the privileged aristocracies of Christian Europe to the west. Equality was something they knew, respected, and in large measure practiced. But liberty was something else.

As used in Arabic at that time, liberty was not a political but a legal term: You were free if you were not a slave. The word liberty was not used as we use it in the Western world, as a metaphor for good government. So the idea of a republic founded on principles of freedom caused some puzzlement. Some years later an Egyptian sheikh—Sheikh Rifa'a Rafi' al-Tahtawi, who went to Paris as chaplain to the first group of Egyptian students sent to Europe—wrote a book about his adventures and explained his discovery of the meaning of freedom. He wrote that when the French talk about freedom they mean what Muslims mean when they talk about justice. By equating freedom with justice, he opened a whole new phase in the political and public discourse of the Arab world, and then, more broadly, the Islamic world.


What happened on 9/11 was seen by its perpetrators and sponsors as the culmination of the previous phase and the inauguration of the next phase—taking the war into the enemy camp to achieve final victory. The response to 9/11 came as a nasty surprise. They were expecting more of the same—bleating and apologies—instead of which they got a vigorous reaction, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq. And as they used to say in Moscow: It is no accident, comrades, that there has been no successful attack in the United States since then. But if one follows the discourse, one can see that the debate in this country since then has caused many of the perpetrators and sponsors to return to their previous diagnosis. Because remember, they have no experience, and therefore no understanding, of the free debate of an open society. What we see as free debate, they see as weakness, fear and division. Thus they prepare for the final victory, the final triumph and the final Jihad.

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Stratfor Geopolitical Intelligence: Pope Benedict's possible motives

Faith, Reason and Politics: Parsing the Pope's Remarks

By George Friedman

On Sept. 12, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a lecture on "Faith, Reason and the University" at the University of Regensburg. In his discussion (full text available on the Vatican Web site) the pope appeared to be trying to define a course between dogmatic faith and cultural relativism -- making his personal contribution to the old debate about faith and reason. In the course of the lecture, he made reference to a "part of the dialogue carried on -- perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara -- by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both."

Benedict went on to say -- and it is important to read a long passage to understand his point -- that:

"In the seventh conversation edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that Sura 2,256 reads: 'There is no compulsion in religion.' According to the experts, this is one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Quran, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the 'Book' and the 'infidels,' he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness which leaves us astounded, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: 'Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.' The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. 'God,' he says, 'is not pleased by blood -- and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats ... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death ...'

"The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: Not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: 'For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent.'"

The reaction of the Muslim world -- outrage -- came swift and sharp over the passage citing Manuel II: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." Obviously, this passage is a quote from a previous text -- but equally obviously, the pope was making a critical point that has little to do with this passage.

The essence of this passage is about forced conversion. It begins by pointing out that Mohammed spoke of faith without compulsion when he lacked political power, but that when he became strong, his perspective changed. Benedict goes on to make the argument that violent conversion -- from the standpoint of a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, and therefore shaped by the priority of reason -- is unacceptable. For someone who believes that God is absolutely transcendent and beyond reason, the argument goes, it is acceptable.

Clearly, Benedict knows that Christians also practiced forced conversion in their history. He also knows that the Aristotelian tendency is not unique to Christianity. In fact, that same tendency exists in the Muslim tradition, through thinkers such as al-Farabi or Avicenna. These stand in relation to Islam as Thomas Aquinas does to Christianity or Maimonides to Judaism. And all three religions struggle not only with the problem of God versus science, but with the more complex and interesting tripolar relationship of religion as revelation, reason and dogmatism. There is always that scriptural scholar, the philosopher troubled by faith and the local clergyman who claims to speak for God personally.

Benedict's thoughtful discussion of this problem needs to be considered. Also to be considered is why the pope chose to throw a hand grenade into a powder keg, and why he chose to do it at this moment in history. The other discussion might well be more worthy of the ages, but this question -- what did Benedict do, and why did he do it -- is of more immediate concern, for he could have no doubt what the response, in today's politically charged environment, was going to be.

A Deliberate Move

Let's begin with the obvious: Benedict's words were purposely chosen. The quotation of Manuel II was not a one-liner, accidentally blurted out. The pope was giving a prepared lecture that he may have written himself -- and if it was written for him, it was one that he carefully read. Moreover, each of the pope's public utterances are thoughtfully reviewed by his staff, and there is no question that anyone who read this speech before it was delivered would recognize the explosive nature of discussing anything about Islam in the current climate. There is not one war going on in the world today, but a series of wars, some of them placing Catholics at risk.

It is true that Benedict was making reference to an obscure text, but that makes the remark all the more striking; even the pope had to work hard to come up with this dialogue. There are many other fine examples of the problem of reason and faith that he could have drawn from that did not involve Muslims, let alone one involving such an incendiary quote. But he chose this citation and, contrary to some media reports, it was not a short passage in the speech. It was about 15 percent of the full text and was the entry point to the rest of the lecture. Thus, this was a deliberate choice, not a slip of the tongue.

As a deliberate choice, the effect of these remarks could be anticipated. Even apart from the particular phrase, the text of the speech is a criticism of the practice of conversion by violence, with a particular emphasis on Islam. Clearly, the pope intended to make the point that Islam is currently engaged in violence on behalf of religion, and that it is driven by a view of God that engenders such belief. Given Muslims' protests (including some violent reactions) over cartoons that were printed in a Danish newspaper, the pope and his advisers certainly must have been aware that the Muslim world would go ballistic over this. Benedict said what he said intentionally, and he was aware of the consequences. Subsequently, he has not apologized for what he said -- only for any offense he might have caused. He has not retracted his statement.

So, why this, and why now?

Political Readings

Consider the fact that the pope is not only a scholar but a politician -- and a good one, or he wouldn't have become the pope. He is not only a head of state, but the head of a global church with a billion members. The church is no stranger to geopolitics. Muslims claim that they brought down communism in Afghanistan. That may be true, but there certainly is something to be said also for the efforts of the Catholic Church, which helped to undermine the communism in Poland and to break the Soviet grip on Eastern Europe. Popes know how to play power politics.

Thus, there are at least two ways to view Benedict's speech politically.

One view derives from the fact that the pope is watching the U.S.-jihadist war. He can see it is going badly for the United States in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He witnessed the recent success of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas' political victory among the Palestinians. Islamists may not have the fundamental strength to threaten the West at this point, but they are certainly on a roll. Also, it should be remembered that Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II, was clearly not happy about the U.S. decision to invade Iraq, but it does not follow that his successor is eager to see a U.S. defeat there.

The statement that Benedict made certainly did not hurt U.S. President George W. Bush in American politics. Bush has been trying to portray the war against Islamist militants as a clash of civilizations, one that will last for generations and will determine the future of mankind. Benedict, whether he accepts Bush's view or not, offered an intellectual foundation for Bush's position. He drew a sharp distinction between Islam and Christianity and then tied Christianity to rationality -- a move to overcome the tension between religion and science in the West. But he did not include Islam in that matrix. Given that there is a war on and that the pope recognizes Bush is on the defensive, not only in the war but also in domestic American politics, Benedict very likely weighed the impact of his words on the scale of war and U.S. politics. What he said certainly could be read as words of comfort for Bush. We cannot read Benedict's mind on this, of course, but he seemed to provide some backing for Bush's position.

It is not entirely clear that Pope Benedict intended an intellectual intervention in the war. The church obviously did not support the invasion of Iraq, having criticized it at the time. On the other hand, it would not be in the church's interests to see the United States simply routed. The Catholic Church has substantial membership throughout the region, and a wave of Islamist self-confidence could put those members and the church at risk. From the Vatican's perspective, the ideal outcome of the war would be for the United States to succeed -- or at least not fail -- but for the church to remain free to criticize Washington's policies and to serve as conciliator and peacemaker. Given the events of the past months, Benedict may have felt the need for a relatively gentle intervention -- in a way that warned the Muslim world that the church's willingness to endure vilification as a Crusader has its limits, and that he is prepared, at least rhetorically, to strike back. Again, we cannot read his mind, but neither can we believe that he was oblivious to events in the region and that, in making his remarks, he was simply engaged in an academic exercise.

This perspective would explain the timing of the pope's statement, but the general thrust of his remarks has more to do with Europe.

There is an intensifying tension in Europe over the powerful wave of Muslim immigration. Frictions are high on both sides. Europeans fear that the Muslim immigrants will overwhelm their native culture or form an unassimilated and destabilizing mass. Muslims feel unwelcome, and some extreme groups have threatened to work for the conversion of Europe. In general, the Vatican's position has ranged from quiet to calls for tolerance. As a result, the Vatican was becoming increasingly estranged from the church body -- particularly working and middle-class Catholics -- and its fears.

As has been established, the pope knew that his remarks at Regensburg would come under heavy criticism from Muslims. He also knew that this criticism would continue despite any gestures of contrition. Thus, with his remarks, he moved toward closer alignment with those who are uneasy about Europe's Muslim community -- without adopting their own, more extreme, sentiments. That move increases his political strength among these groups and could cause them to rally around the church. At the same time, the pope has not locked himself into any particular position. And he has delivered his own warning to Europe's Muslims about the limits of tolerance.

It is obvious that Benedict delivered a well-thought-out statement. It is also obvious that the Vatican had no illusions as to how the Muslim world would respond. The statement contained a verbal blast, crafted in a way that allowed Benedict to maintain plausible deniability. Indeed, the pope already has taken the exit, noting that these were not his thoughts but those of another scholar. The pope and his staff were certainly aware that this would make no difference in the grand scheme of things, save for giving Benedict the means for distancing himself from the statement when the inevitable backlash occurred. Indeed, the anger in the Muslim world remained intense, and there also have been emerging pockets of anger among Catholics over the Muslim world's reaction to the pope, considering the history of Islamic attacks against Christianity. Because he reads the newspapers -- not to mention the fact that the Vatican maintains a highly capable intelligence service of its own -- Benedict also had to have known how the war was going, and that his statement likely would aid Bush politically, at least indirectly. Finally, he would be aware of the political dynamics in Europe and that the statement would strengthen his position with the church's base there.

The question is how far Benedict is going to go with this. His predecessor took on the Soviet Union and then, after the collapse of communism, started sniping at the United States over its materialism and foreign policy. Benedict may have decided that the time has come to throw the weight of the church against radical Islamists. In fact, there is a logic here: If the Muslims reject Benedict's statement, they have to acknowledge the rationalist aspects of Islam. The burden is on the Ummah to lift the religion out of the hands of radicals and extremist scholars by demonstrating that Muslims can adhere to reason.

From an intellectual and political standpoint, therefore, Benedict's statement was an elegant move. He has strengthened his political base and perhaps legitimized a stronger response to anti-Catholic rhetoric in the Muslim world. And he has done it with superb misdirection. His options are open: He now can move away from the statement and let nature take its course, repudiate it and challenge Muslim leaders to do the same with regard to anti-Catholic statements or extend and expand the criticism of Islam that was implicit in the dialogue.

The pope has thrown a hand grenade and is now observing the response. We are assuming that he knew what he was doing; in fact, we find it impossible to imagine that he did not. He is too careful not to have known. Therefore, he must have anticipated the response and planned his partial retreat.

It will be interesting to see if he has a next move. The answer to that may be something he doesn't know himself yet.

Send questions or comments on this article to

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Stratfor Terrorism Report: Pope Benedict's controversial speech

The Pope as a High-Value Target

By Fred Burton

For the past several days, Muslim governments and religious leaders from both the Sunni and Shiite realms have been expressing their outrage over Pope Benedict XVI's controversial speech at Regensburg University. Reactions have varied from strictly political moves, such as the recalling of ambassadors, to more emotional statements and acts: The pope has been burned in effigy in India and Iraq, publicly likened to Hitler in Turkey and made the subject of fatwas -- issued by some marginal radical leaders in the United Kingdom and Somalia -- calling for his death. Not surprisingly, al Qaeda in Iraq has pledged a war against the "worshippers of the cross" in response to Benedict's speech.

This last threat has little significance in and of itself, as al Qaeda long ago declared war against "crusaders," and its node in Iraq has been attacking American, British, Australian, U.N. and other foreign targets for the past three years. But the statement is nevertheless a valid representation of wider jihadist sentiment concerning the Christian world in general and the pope in particular.

Jihadist attacks against Christian targets can be expected to continue in Muslim lands. This was to be expected even had the pope not quoted a passage from history that described the teachings of Mohammed as "evil and inhuman" -- though the violence may have been a factor in Benedict's decision to include this quote. However, the risks to Christian and Catholic targets in Muslim lands, like the risk to the pope personally, likely has ticked upward in the wake of the comments at Regensburg.

Given the symbolism of his position, the pontiff -- whoever that individual might be at a given time -- was already in the jihadist crosshairs, but the recent speech likely has moved Benedict to the forefront of jihadist consciousness and up a notch or two on the target lists of al Qaeda, its sympathizers and grassroots jihadists. We anticipate that attempts will be made on Benedict's life and -- should plots actually reach the execution phase -- they will, given the nature of the pope's public activities, be quite bloody.

The Backlash

Criticism of the pope's speech has come from all quarters of the Islamic world. Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, a Lebanese cleric who is Hezbollah's spiritual leader, said Sept. 15 that Benedict should personally retract his "false statements" about Islam. A Sunni leader, Sheikh Youssef al-Qardawi -- the head of the Islamic Scholars Association -- said, "We call on the pope, the pontiff, to apologize to the Islamic nation because he has insulted its religion and Prophet, its faith and Shariah without any justification."

Governments from Iraq to Indonesia have also expressed their anger. The deputy leader of Turkey's Justice and Development Party, Salih Kapusuz, compared the pontiff to Hitler and Mussolini. Malaysian Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Sept. 18 that Benedict's apology was insufficient and echoed Fadlallah's call for a retraction.

Toward the other end of the spectrum, some radical leaders have issued fatwas calling for the pope's death. So far, none have been issued by widely recognized Islamic scholars -- but since many radical religious leaders believe that insult to the Prophet Mohammed (and thus to Islam) is an offense warranting the death sentence, and it is widely held that the pope's words were in fact an insult to the Prophet and Islam, it seems only a matter of time before more prominent clerics and leaders issue similar fatwas. In the eyes of a radical jihadist, however, the issue of sourcing would carry little weight; the mere fact that a fatwa exists, regardless of who issued it, would likely be sufficient justification to act. Along these same lines, we would expect a statement from al Qaeda's senior leadership to be issued in the near future, likely transmitting a call for the group's supporters to strike at the pope or, possibly, a wider array of targets.

One of the fatwas -- issued by Sheikh Abu Bakar Hassan Malin of Somalia -- is worth examining. Malin said the pope's statement is as offensive to Islam as Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses was, and called for Muslims to "hunt down" and kill the pope. The reference to Rushdie is a reminder of the lingering power of fatwas: Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's edict against Rushdie was issued shortly after his book was published in 1988 and remains in effect today. The author, of course, has maintained a high level of personal security since the fatwa was issued -- something the pope, as the leader of a billion Catholics worldwide, could never do.

The anti-papal backlash has encompassed violent acts as well as words. At least seven Christian churches were either firebombed or shot at in the West Bank and Gaza; another church was bombed in Basra, Iraq. And a nun who worked in a hospital in Somalia was shot and killed in the days following Benedict's speech.

Violent protests of the pope's statement thus far have not reached the magnitude of the cartoon controversy that erupted earlier this year. That said, it must be noted that the massive reaction to the cartoons lagged their initial publication in a Danish newspaper by several months; during the interim, groups of Muslims who had objected to the cartoons played up the issue in Muslim countries. In other words, using the cartoon controversy as a precedent, it is too early to judge the total reaction to Benedict's statements. It is possible that a second wave of responses, more violent than the first, could be set off.

Anti-pope demonstrations that are expected this week in numerous parts of the Middle East and South Asia could give important indications about the trajectory of the popular response. This trajectory could be in keeping with the tone of the initial fatwas -- which have been directed at the pope personally rather than more generally at Christians or Catholics -- or it could be more encompassing. It will be important to read the wording of any future fatwas carefully for indications of a change in emphasis or authorized targets.

A History of Violence

Whatever the future may bring, Christians living in Muslim areas clearly have been at some risk from jihadists for years. Jihadist attacks against Christians in places like Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Bangladesh and the Philippines clearly predate the pope's speech and, in some respects, may have played into the motivations for giving it. This history also demonstrates that a certain threshold of risk would have persisted, independent of the pontiff's controversial statement.

There also is a clear history of jihadists having targeted the pope himself.

The most serious attack in recent memory, of course, came -- not from a jihadist, but from a Turkish gunman -- on May 13, 1981, when Pope John Paul II was shot twice in the abdomen as he entered St. Peter's Square, riding in an open-air convertible. There have been competing claims about the motives and actors involved in the assassination attempt: Some say it was orchestrated by the Bulgarian intelligence service because of John Paul's activism against communism; others claim the gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca, was associated with a Turkish nationalist group called the Gray Wolves. No definitive proof has ever been produced, however, that Agca was acting in conjunction with a group.

Another assassination attempt came almost exactly a year later: On May 12, 1982, an ultraconservative Spanish priest in Fatima, Portugal, approached John Paul with the intent of stabbing him with a bayonet. The priest, who later said he felt the pope was an agent of Moscow, was stopped and arrested before he could reach the pontiff.

Jihadists with links to al Qaeda also play a role in the history of plots against the pope.

In 1994 and early January 1995, a militant cell in Manila, led by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his nephew Abdel Basit, was planning a number of operations, including Operation Bojinka. Their plans came to light on Jan. 6, 1995, when a batch of improvised explosives they were brewing set their apartment on fire. Philippine authorities arrested Abdul Hakim Murad, one of Basit's co-conspirators, while he was trying to re-enter the apartment and retrieve a laptop computer. The computer, it was later found, contained a trove of information; the files and other evidence retrieved in the investigation brought Philippine authorities to the conclusion that the cell not only was developing an ambitious plot to take down multiple U.S. airlines, but also had plans in the works to assassinate U.S. President Bill Clinton and Pope John Paul II.

The pope was scheduled to visit the Philippines on Jan. 12, 1995.

It likely was no coincidence that the apartment where the fire broke out was situated only a few hundred meters from the Papal Nuncio in Manila (where the pope stayed during his trip) and along the route the papal motorcade logically would take to reach and depart from the nuncio. (The pope's visit took place as scheduled, but he traveled by helicopter rather than motorcade as a result of the findings.) Other evidence in the investigation showed that the suspects had collected garb worn by Catholic priests, Bibles, rosaries, a large crucifix and a photo poster of the pope. From the interrogation of Murad and another cell member, Wali Amin Shah, it is believed that the group planned to kill the pontiff by placing a large bomb under the road, but the priestly clothing and other evidence indicates that a backup plan might have involved a suicide bomber or gunman disguised as a priest.

Philippine police reported that shortly after his arrest, Murad said there were "two Satans that must be destroyed: the pope and America." The statements of Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda figures, with their frequent references to "Crusaders," is evidence that this mindset remains unchanged.

Hardened Targets and Collateral Damage

Following the assassination attempts in the 1980s, personal security measures for the pontiff were stepped up. For instance, travel in an open-air convertible was abandoned in favor of the so-called "Popemobile," a mobile, raised platform protected by bullet-resistant glass. This increased security against lightly armed assailants is likely what caused the Manila cell to consider using a large bomb in their later plot.

Security for the pope's residential quarters and around the Vatican as a whole also was increased in the 1980s, and further upgraded following the 9/11 attacks and growing recognition of the scope of the jihadist threat in Europe. Today, visitors who want to enter St. Peter's Basilica must pass through screening points equipped with magnetometers. Physical security measures have been visibly ratcheted up in the wake of last week's speech as well, with the addition of random bag searches for visitors.

Unlike many high-profile figures, the pope does not truly have the option of avoiding public appearances when he is believed to be under threat. And due to the nature of his office, he can be expected to draw large crowds whenever he makes a scheduled public appearance. As past assassination attempts have shown, it is at precisely these moments that the pope's movements are most predictable -- and therefore, when he is the most vulnerable to attack.

As the situation stands now, the increase in the pontiff's personal security measures means any serious attempt on his life would have to include steps to overcome security -- either by stealth or, more likely, with overwhelming force. That, combined with the notion that his appearance inevitably will draw large crowds, means that any actual moves to assassinate the pope likely would result in many collateral deaths -- a valuable secondary consideration, from a jihadist perspective.

An inflection point in the threat environment may come in November, when Benedict plans to visit Turkey. Presumably, tensions would be running high during this visit regardless of recent events: As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict developed a reputation as a Vatican hard-liner who spoke out against Turkey's admission to the European Union. The papal security team would also be very mindful of the fact that John Paul's would-be assassin, Agca, is Turkish.

The reaction to Benedict's recent speech has done nothing but add to such concerns. Politically, it is never comfortable visiting a country whose ruling party has compared you to Hitler. And, in fact, Agca on Sept. 20 issued a statement through his lawyer, urging the pope to cancel his visit: "As someone who knows these matters well, I say your life is in danger. Don't come to Turkey."

This is not to say that the pontiff would be demonstrably safer if he confined himself to predominantly Christian or Western countries. As the plans discovered in the mostly Catholic Philippines showed, the jihadist threat can crop up in seemingly unlikely locales. This is true even for Italy. Since 9/11, Italian authorities have disrupted several jihadist plots. One of these, discovered last summer, reportedly involved plans to attack cathedrals in Cremona and Milan; another, thwarted earlier this year, allegedly would have targeted the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna.

Clearly, jihadists are interested in hitting symbolic Catholic targets in a number of regions, and there is perhaps no target more symbolic than the pope himself. Benedict's statements and the media coverage and outrage they have generated might already have moved the pontiff higher on jihadist hit-lists, and the risk might increase still further if prominent Muslim leaders issue fatwas in the near future.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Excerpt from Der Spiegel interview: Wolfgang Schaeuble

Schäuble: During the cartoon controversy, some very credible and smart people debated whether it was a good idea to publish the images, because as they claimed, even freedom of the press should have its limits. That was a mixture of do-good idealism and fear. My view on this issue is quite clear: There are tasteful and less tasteful cartoons, but we must tolerate them, and we cannot start qualifying them. Those who constantly qualify everything and have no opinions of their own are ultimately just as incapable of tolerance.

SPIEGEL: You had no objections to the publishing of the cartoons?

Schäuble: I didn't like the cartoons, but the fact that they were printed, also in the German media, is legitimate. I will always defend the right to do this.

SPIEGEL: Do you agree with your predecessor, Otto Schily, who wanted to see Islam subjected to a period of enlightenment?

Schäuble: I don't want to change Islam, but if there is to be a European Islam, it must incorporate European values. During the centuries-long process of Reformation and Enlightenment, Christian churches had to accept some things they didn't like. Islam will have to do the same; otherwise it isn't part of Europe.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pope Benedict's actual speech

The more reactions I see in the Islamic world, the more I'm convinced that the Enlightenment is the place to look.

Cheers to the Pope for his appropriate response.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

opinion piece in Der Spiegel

This is another Der Spiegel article. It has the usual warnings, such as, "Bending to this demand would be a mistake -- indeed it would be
tantamount to turning one's back on freedom of expression and opinion," but it also has some nice insights.

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Cardinal Walter Kasper in Der Spiegel

A major Catholic Church figure is talking about the same things I've been writing about. Never thought I'd be happy to see a cardinal agreeing with me.

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Isis, as if it could be anyone else

I promise, I really will write some more serious items soon. I've made a huge amount of progress on the next set of Rammstein essays, for instance, and there's a fruitful discussion of the Islamic stuff on a Mensa email list (GenX-Ms, if anyone from it reads this blog). But I do love me some quiz goodness.


Indeed, you are 87% erudite, 83% sensual, 45% martial, and 54% saturnine.

This Egyptian supreme Goddess is certainly the most influential deity on subsequent cultures. She was the ideal figure of womanhood, usually compared with the Greek Goddess Demeter or her Roman version, Ceres.

Isis was one element of a Holy Trinity, the remaining two figures being her brother and husband Osiris and their heroic son Horus. She was the Goddess of Magic for her brilliance, as well as the Goddess of Love because of her tenacious devotion.

She is often shown with wings, curving to caress coffins and sarcophagi of many a king. In certain papyri she is shown with her falcon wing headdress, covering her ears. One of her sacred symbols is the sistrum, a musical instrument that was believed to ward off evil spirits. Isis' sistrum was carved bearing the image of a cat and was representative of the Moon.

Isis was the High Priestess and an omnipotent magician as well as the only being ever to discover the secret name of Ra. She invariably carries the ankh, the symbol for eternal life. Her name is, by the rules of numerology, adding up to the number “2” and she just so happens to be depicted on the tarot card “Key 2 – The High Priestess”.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on erudite
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on sensual
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on martial
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on saturnine