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Monday, January 19, 2015

Happy Civil Rights Day!

(An annual blog tradition continues.)

In 2006 I mulled over the idea that instead of having a Martin Luther King Day we should have a Civil Rights Day, so that we can have a single holiday for all civil rights crusaders, and, for symbolic reasons, it should be set on July 5, the day after we celebrate out nation's independence. As stated in that post, I had originally considered that Civil Rights Day replace Labor Day, but I have long since settled on the latter holiday giving way to Commerce Day, a day for celebrating all the contributors to our economy and not just labor.

A July 5 holiday for any reason is even a bigger pipe dream than Commerce Day, and the MLK Day tradition is already firmly entrenched, so from this day forward I will recognize the third Monday of January as Civil Rights Day. Dr. King will always get a little extra notice for being the one to inspire the holiday, but the table of honor will feature all civil rights leaders past and present.

Following is my original argument for the holiday:
For years I'd heard news stories about debates over whether or not to establish an official Martin Luther King holiday, and never did anyone report the arguments against. I always suspected that one was that we had way too many day-off-of-work holidays as it was. Having one three weeks after Christmas does seem a bit superfluous. MLK Day would be only the third national holiday named after a person, the others being Christmas and Columbus Day, commemorating the chief catalyst for Western culture and the chief catalyst for extending Western culture to the Americas. (In the case of the latter, make that Western cultures; English and Iberian influences were vastly different.) Some, I imagine, feel that only those rare individuals who have had such a radical impact should have holidays named for them. Dr. King isn't in that league; the only Americans who are are the Founders; their holiday is July 4.

Here's my argument against making January 15 [Update: MLK Day is celebrated on the third Monday of January, which happens to fall on the 15th in 2003] an official holiday: it's not fair to everyone else involved in the civil rights movement. Independence Day isn't just about one guy. We have a holiday for all those who made the Declaration of Independence happen. We should have a federal holiday called Civil Rights Day. It would be like Memorial Day, honoring leaders of past civil rights struggles instead of soldiers of past wars.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Charle Hebdo And The Bigger Issue

At, five Muslim academics expressed their outrage at the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Dr. Tariq Ramadan and Sheikh Omar Suleiman issued generic religion-of-peace platitudes. Dr. Wael Shihab appealed to Sura 5:32: "[W]hosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind." On the surface, it seems many jihadi supporters would find vindication for the attacks in this sura, based on an the assumption that mocking Mohammed qualifies as "corruption" (or "mischief," in some translations). Lacking the Quranic version of a Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, I can't tell you how that root Arabic word is commonly used.

Unlike the others, Drs. Khaled Hanafy and Yasir Qadhi seek to address a root issue: whether or not Islam prescribes punishment for mockery of Mohammed. Each claims that such mockery (and even direct harassment) is recorded in the Quran, and in no event did Mohammed ever order retaliation. This approach should be further expanded upon; if the claim is correct, it will be substantiated by a list of all the suras recording such prophet-mocking incidents.

But that addresses only a subset of Islamic terror attacks. Most commonly the terrorists just want to kill non-Muslims for being non-Muslims; Boko Haram serves as a classic example.

All modern jihadi movements operate under the assumptions that a) Mohammed instructed future generations of Muslims to wage war against infidels as long as there are unconquered infidels on Earth, and b) that Islam supports private parties not authorized by governments (i.e. vigilantes) to undertake such warfare. Does Islam support either of these principles? Both Muslims and non-Muslims say yes, both Muslims and non-Muslims say no.

This post will not seek to discern whose interpretations are correct. As a Christian and a humanitarian (the Muslim world historically lags behind the West re human rights) I would prefer that Islam just go away, but it isn't, so the next best thing to hope for is the defeat of the jihadi view in the war on ideas. Unfortunately, the people best equipped to engage in that war are an ill-focused, disorganized lot.

Who has any chance of swaying Muslim opinion away from the jihadi view? Robert Spencer and Bill Maher? No. Muslims will most likely be swayed by Muslim authorities - clerics, politicians, academics. These leaders who reject the jihadi view need to organize in a united front, and put together a substantive message supporting their opposition to the jihadi view. They're not doing that. If they were, the American press so desperate to push the Religion of Peace meme would have found them.

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