Friday, February 27, 2009

Egypt: Islamic lawyers urge death sentence for convert

Islamic law requires death for apostates, although the Quran only says that apostates will suffer death in the next world:
In Islamic law (sharia), the consensus view is that a male apostate must be put to death unless he suffers from a mental disorder or converted under duress, for example, due to an imminent danger of being killed. A female apostate must be either executed, according to Shafi'i, Maliki, and Hanbali schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), or imprisoned until she reverts to Islam as advocated by the Sunni Hanafi school and by Shi'a scholars.

This is a real problem for converts to Christianity in Muslim countries. For example, a recent report at Compass Direct News begins:
In the latest hearing of a Muslim-born Egyptian’s effort to officially convert to Christianity, opposing lawyers advocated he be convicted of “apostasy,” or leaving Islam, and sentenced to death.

More than 20 Islamic lawyers attended the hearing on Sunday (Feb. 22) in Maher Ahmad El-Mo’otahssem Bellah El-Gohary’s case to obtain identification papers with Christianity designated as his religious affiliation. Two lawyers led the charge, Ahmed Dia El-Din and Abdel Al-Migid El-Anani.

“[El-Din] started to talk about the Quran being in a higher position than the Bible,” one of El-Gohary’s lawyers, Said Fayez, told Compass. “[El-Din said] people can move to a higher religion but not down, so people cannot move away from Islam because it is highest in rank.”

Memos submitted by opposing lawyers asserted that cases such as El-Gohary’s form part of a U.S. Zionist attack on Islam in Egypt, that Christianity is an inferior religion to Islam and that Copts protect and defend converts from Islam at their own peril.

El-Gohary is not the only convert in danger:
But he also has received text messages, he said, of encouragement from other Muslim-born converts too fearful to take a similar stand.

“Everyday I get calls from people who have converted but are secret,” said El-Gohary. “They ask me every day about what is happening, because it affects their future.”

I highly recommend you read it all.

The Barnabus Fund has started a campaign to abolish the Islamic apostasy laws. They say:
The Islamic apostasy law also stands in stark contrast to Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, published sixty years ago this month, which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief...”
Please go to their website and sign the online petition. It reads:
We call on our national government to support all efforts by Muslims to have the apostasy law abolished, so that Muslims who choose to leave their faith are no longer liable to any penalty but are free to follow their new convictions without fear, in accordance with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Hat Tip Women Against Shariah

Thursday, February 26, 2009

++Rowan's support for Sharia inspires call for death penalty for women for adultery

A local UK paper, the Harrow Observer is reporting that the Archbishop of Canterbury's advocation of sharia has led to a local councillor defending the death penalty for women for adultery:
Politicians in Brent are calling for the resignation of a councillor after he advocated the introduction of Sharia law for British Muslims on a website, including the death penalty for women who commit adultery.

The remarks were a response to The Archbishop of Canterbury's comments made earlier this month in which he said the adoption of Sharia law in the UK seemed unavoidable.

You can see the comments posted on the UKPollingReport blog page for the town of Brent (first comment) and at the CentreRight website on the post The Archbishop should speak up for justice not sharia down among the comments posted on February 23 15:33.

Sharia Law will not apply to non Muslims. If Muslims living in UK are happy that there disputes be decided by Sharia Courts then what?

The reason why male gets more share then women is that male members of the family have the resposnibility to provide living expenses to female members of the family.

There are certain restrictions to marry 4 wives at any one time.

4. If a woman leaves her husband she can be forced to return to him (house of obedience)

She can apply for Khulla if she does not want to live with her husband.

5. The man gets any children aged over 7 from the marriage in the case of divorce.

Male over 7 and female over 10.

6. If a widow remarries, her children go to her husbands parents. What is wrong in it?

7. If an unmarried woman has an affair (sexual) she is lashed 100 times.

8. If a married woman has an affair (sexual) she is stoned to death.

What is wrong in it?

Stoning to death? Yeah, what's wrong with that? It's in the Quran. Well, actually not. The punishment of the lashes for premarital sex is in the Quran. But the stoning idea is in the hadiths.

Hat Tip Women Against Shariah

Obama Events Open with Prayers to God the Father

Us News and World Report has an interesting article on A New Tradition for Obama's Presidential Events: Opening With a Prayer. I listened to the recording of the prayers and was surprised that in two of three cases provided, the prayers specifically acknowledged God as Father.

Ryan Culp, a high school wellness teacher and evangelical Christian, began his prayer to open President Obama's February 9 appearance in Elkhart, Indiana with these words:
Dear Heavenly Father, we come to you this day thanking you for who you are, a God who cares about each of our needs our desires and our fears, ...

James Bing, a Baptist minister, began his prayer to open President Obama's February 10 appearance in Fort Myers, Fla with these words:
Our God and Heavenly Father, as we welcome our President, Governor, and various other dignitaries to this city and region,

It sounds as thought Rev. Bing is going to end the prayer with the name of Jesus,
This we ask in the only name that really matters,

but the recording ends on the word "matters" and we don't hear what the only name that really matters is.

Hat Tip Mollie Z at Get Religion

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Was Jesus a Bodhissatva?

As we contemplate the election of a practicing Buddhist to be Bishop of Northern Michigan, see here and here, I thought it might be interesting to consider:

Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, wrote two books, Living Buddha, Living Christ (1995) and Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers (2000) which effectively present Christianity in the language of philosophical Buddhism.

The Dalai Lama wrote The Good Heart: A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of Jesus (1998) which gives a Buddhist perspective on the Sermon on the Mount. (Note that the Dalai Lama had been careful to emphasize that the belief in reincarnation is a major difference between Christianity and Buddhism.)

Marcus Borg edited a bookin 2004 titled Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings which sought to show the "original" non-violent teachings of Jesus. The book claimed that "If Jesus and Buddha were to meet, they would recognize one another as fellow prophets because they were teaching the same truths."

This post from last summer in Wisdom Quarterly: American Buddhist Journal seems to be making the claim that Jesus was a Bodisattva.

Pakistan: Taliban Claim Umarried Women as War Booty in Swat

What more evidence do we need to understand that the Taliban has won in Swat? Dawn is reporting:

The Swat Taliban have also announced that families with unmarried females should come forward in mosques so that the women/girls may be married off – to the Taliban. Or else, they are to be forcibly married (read raped).

Hat Tip Women Against Shariah

Saudi Arabia: Gang Raped Woman Sentenced to 100 Lashes

The Saudi Gazette reports that a woman has been sentenced to one year in prison and 100 lashes for being the victim of a gang rape. The 23 year old unmarried woman said she was pregnant because she had accepted a ride from a strange man, who took her to a rest house and raped her along with four of his friends.

The man, the girl confessed, took her to a rest house, east of Jeddah, where he and four of friends assaulted her all night long.

Of course, where I live this would be a complaint, not a confession. It is a confession in Saudi Arabia, because it is her fault that she was gang raped. But in Saudi Arabia, a woman needs four witnesses to have seen the rape to call it a rape. Without the witnesses, she is assumed to have consented. Her only four witnesses participated in the rape. Guess they are not going to testify in her defense.

So without the witnesses, the court has only the pregnant woman. Her pregnancy is proof of her crime as she is unmarried. Thus, it is clear she has had illegal sexual relations as the only legal sexual relations are within marriage.

While the Saudi Gazette is saying her crime was "adultery", I think this is what we call "fornication". The woman is unmarried and her sentence is consistent with the punishment for fornication in strict applications of Sharia Law. The punishment for adultery in strict applications of Sharia Law is death by stoning.

Hat Tip The Sound of Truth

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mexico a Potential "Failed State"?

Way off topic: I am stunned by this article in the Wall Street Journal about the decline of the civil order in Mexico. I had seen No Country for Old Men, and various segments about Mexico, and the kidnappings in Phoenix, Arizona on Fox News, but I thought it was sensationalizing the problem. I do value the Wall Street Journal as a news source and this article, The Perilous State of Mexico, says that many fear the drug cartels have grown too powerful for the Mexican government to control and the the U.S. military has recently singled out Mexico and Pakistan as "the two countries where there is a risk the government could suffer a swift and catastrophic collapse, becoming a failed state."

Pakistan is the greater worry because the risk of collapse is higher and because it has nuclear weapons. But Mexico is also scary: It has 100 million people on the southern doorstep of the U.S., meaning any serious instability would flood the U.S. with refugees. Mexico is also the U.S.'s second biggest trading partner.

Mexico's cartels already have tentacles that stretch across the border. The U.S. Justice Department said recently that Mexican gangs are the "biggest organized crime threat to the United States," operating in at least 230 cities and towns. Crimes connected to Mexican cartels are spreading across the Southwest. Phoenix had more than 370 kidnapping cases last year, turning it into the kidnapping capital of the U.S. Most of the victims were illegal aliens or linked to the drugs trade.

Former U.S. antidrug czar Barry McCaffrey said Mexico risks becoming a "narco-state" within five years if things don't improve. Outgoing CIA director Michael Hayden listed Mexico alongside Iran as a possible top challenge for President Obama. Other analysts say the risk is not that the Mexican state collapses, but rather becomes like Russia, a state heavily influenced by mafias.

Is this scaremongering or another real threat?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Wondering about Crime and Unwed Mothers

The dilemma is that Christianity is a religion that begins with a pregnant unmarried woman. We honor pregnancy and childbirth and try to help unwed mothers so that they will not abort their babies.

But we also know that children of unwed mothers are significantly more likely to commit crimes. That's bad for society. Doug Ross has a great discussion of this on his blog and included this chart:

Our government wants to provide more support for unwed mothers in raising their children. That's good for society.

But we also know that increasing support for unwed mothers increases the number the children born our of wedlock. And decreasing support for unwed mothers decreases the number of children born out of wedlock.

What's a compassionate conservative Christian to think?

Is it possible that we need to go back to orphanages? Is it possible that the children of unwed mothers do better in that environment than in multi-generational public supported single mother households?

Friday, February 20, 2009

++Orombi responds to increase in child sacrifice in Uganda

Churches through out Uganda are planning 40 days of prayer and fasting over the increase in human sacrifice. Traditional African healers and herbalists have turned to sacrificing children in their rituals, the practice referred to as Muti, or medicine murder.

The Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi is joining with Pentecostal, Orthodox, Catholic and the Seventh Day Adventist churches in this united prayer campaign. The New Vision website reports:
He said the drive was aimed at making Ugandans repent and ask God to forgive and heal the land.

“There is greed, corruption and an inhuman thirst to spill innocent blood because our society is degenerating owing to greed, Godlessness and moral corruption,” he said.

Orombi appealed to head teachers to make convenient reporting time for children and let them go back home before dark.

The Ugandan government released statistics in January 2009 that showed a 600% increase in ritual murder:
The state minister for internal affairs, Matia Kasaija, regretted that there was a 600% increase in ritual murder, from the three reported in 2007, up to 18 cases last year.

Kasaija noted that the problem was compounded by the increase in other crimes affecting children like kidnapping, abduction and child stealing.

In 2006, there were 230 such cases. They dropped to 108 in 2007 but shot up to 318 last year. He said sensitisation of the public on the vice, team work, strengthening the child and family protection unit and setting up a dedicated counter-trafficking unit would curb child sacrifice and human trafficking.

In November, the Ugandan government reported that a ten year old girl had been abducted to be sacrificed by witch doctors, but was released:
According to the police spokesman Kampala extra region Simeo Nsubuga the child, Rebecca Sylvia 10 years old was abducted three weeks ago from Makula Foundation school in Mukono by Robinah who pretended to know her parents.

He says Robinah persuaded the child to go with her promising to take her to her aunt who wanted to see her.

She was taken to Nakasongola at night to a dark grass thatched house and given a mat to sleep on as she waited to be sacrificed.

At night two men examined the child but fortunately told the lady who had brought the girl that it was a bad deal.

She was later put on the Bodaboda to a trading center in Nakasongola where a Good Samaritan picked her to Central Police station in Kampala.

Nsubuga appealed to parents to be careful with children especially those who are ten years old and below because they are potential targets for witchdoctors.

Hat Tip: Virtue Online

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hitchens Attacked in Beirut

Christopher Hitchens was beat up in Beirut after defacing a poster of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. This group bases its flag on the Nazi swastika.

The poster was on an abandoned bagel shop. The Hitch wrote a vulgar epithet on the poster. And was accosted by a man whose job it was to watch the poster to be sure it wasn't removed or defaced. The man had texted for back-up and six more men showed up. Hitchens was on the ground, kicked and had his writing hand stomped.

Yes, I am a fan of Christopher Hitchens. I love his book reviews in the Atlantic Monthly. Yes, I know he wrote God is Not Great, and no, I haven't read it. Hitchens wrote a great piece for Vanity Fair on the long term effect of Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa on novelist Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses, Assassins of the Mind. I also highly recommend his article in City Journal Jefferson Versus the Muslim Pirates

Cornelia: "These are my jewels"

I have a friend, let's call her Rachel, who is friends with a very rich woman (over $100 million). Rachel is more of the first generation upper middle class. One time when Rachel went to Paris to stay at her friend's apartment, Rachel came back and told me that what she remembered most was a painting she had seen in a museum. Rachel said that the painting depicted a story about a woman who had been widowed and was poor. The widow was visited by a rich friend who was showing off her expensive jewelry. The widow had called for her children and showed them to the wealthy friend, saying "These are my jewels." I could understand why seeing that painting had meant a lot to Rachel during her visit with her wealthy friend at the Paris apartment.

I think the painting Rachel saw was a genre painting of Cornelia. This subject was very popular in the 18th and 19th century. Cornelia was a Roman noblewoman born almost 200 years before Christ. She was widowed and refused to remarry, devoting herself to raising her children. Cornelia is the origin of the "These are my jewels," quotation. I like theEncarta write-up on Cornelia, but I took this image from the Wikipedia article.

The idea of Cornelia and the rich woman has maintained its power over time, I think because our minds really do associate jewels with children. In Anglo-Saxon England, around 736 AD, Bede reports that the mother of the Abbess Hilda had a dream when she was pregnant that she pulled a most precious jewel from under her dress. This dream was understood to foretell the importance of the child in her womb. The metaphor of jewels for children even shows up in Freud's dream analysis. In Dora's first dream, she wants to save her jewelry box from a fire and Freud makes the association of the jewelry box with the woman's womb.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hamas Leader Calls for Jihad "Don't worry about casualties."

The BBC's Bill Law is reporting tonight on a meeting in Turkey between Hamas leaders and religious leaders and scholars from other Islamic countries. Using the Orwellian name "the Global Anti-Aggression Campaign", the meeting's purpose appears to be to call for the creation of a "third Jihadist front" in Gaza. (The first two being Afghanistan and Iraq). What really shocked me in this report is the casual way that one of the Hamas leader dismissed the danger of casualties to Palestinians in Gaza, especially children.
Mohammed Nazzal, a senior Hamas leader based in Damascus, challenged Arab governments to "open their borders and allow the fighters to come."

Delegates from all over the Middle East, and from Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan and Indonesia applauded as he stabbed the air with a raised finger and declared: "There will be no agreement with Israel... only weapons will bring respect."
Aftermath of Israeli bombing of Gaza
Gaza has opened a gulf between Arab people and their regims, the clerics say

Mr Nazzal told his audience: "Don't worry about casualties."

The 23 days of bombardment of Gaza, in which some 1,300 people, many of them civilians and nearly 300 of them children, are believed to have died, was "just the beginning" of the struggle, Mr Nazzal said.

To laughter in the audience, another speaker noted that twice as many babies were born as children were killed during the war.

Every death, I was told, was a martyrdom on the road to liberation.

Hat Tip Little Green Footballs

Monday, February 16, 2009

Social Class in America vs. Stand Firm in Faith Website

Over at Stand Firm in Faith there is a thread about Sarah Palin that has evolved in to a thread about social class in America. This reminded me of the interactive graphics from the 2005 New York Times series.

Stand Firm in Faith is a blog that appeals to a highly educated and affluent community according to QuantCast.

The New York Times interactive graphic on How Social Class Works is here. We can see that 68% of Stand Firm readers have bachelors degrees or more and are thus in the top 20% in education. And 58% have incomes of $60,000 or more and are thus in the top 20% on income. We don't get information from Quantcast about occupation or wealth, the other two measurements on the New York Times Interactive Graphic. But if the occupation and wealth tracks with education and income, about 60% of Stand Firm readers are in the top quintile.

The NYT graphic is from 2005 and I am not sure if the income numbers are applicable to today.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pakistan: Taliban's Sharia Law Now Official in Swat?

Last month I had a post on the Taliban imposing a parallel legal system in Swat of harsh Islamic law, in opposition to the local police, regional government and national military. Now it looks like the Islamic law will be official, as AP is reporting that the Pakistani government has made a "Peace deal" with the Taliban that is conditioned by the Taliban on imposition of Islamic law (Sharia) in Swat.
Provincial government leaders confirmed they were talking to a pro-Taliban group about ways to impose Islamic judicial practices in the Malakand division, which includes Swat.

The Swat Taliban's version of Islamic law is especially harsh. They have declared a ban on female education, forced women to stay mostly indoors and clamped down on many forms of entertainment.

Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan said the militants would adhere to any deal reached with the group if Islamic law is implemented in the region.
He also announced the 10-day cease-fire.

"We reserve the right to retaliate if we are fired upon," he said. "Once Islamic law is imposed, there will be no problems in Swat. The Taliban will lay down their arms."

Hat Tip Islam in Action

Friday, February 13, 2009

C of E votes 283 to 8 to Affirm Uniqueness of Christ

The General Synod of the Church of England is not in doubt about the uniqueness of Christ. They voted this week 283 to 8 with 10 abstentions for the following amended motion (amendment in italics):
That this Synod warmly welcome Dr Martin Davie’s background paper ‘The witness of Scripture, the Fathers and the historic formularies to the uniqueness of Christ’ attached to GS Misc 905B and request the House of Bishops to report to the Synod on their understanding of the uniqueness of Christ in Britain’s multi-faith society, and offer examples and commendations of good practice in sharing the gospel of salvation through Christ alone with people of other faiths and of none.
[approved amendment in italics]

The original motion was by Paul Eddy, a lay member, and the amendment, which was welcomed by Paul Eddy, was proposed by the Rev'd Chris Strain.

The Rev'd Peter Ould has a blow by blow of the discussion and vote here. Ruth Gledhill has a post on her blog that does not provide the specific vote tally and presents the motion in what seemed to me to be a negative light.

Gledhill has recently addressed a seminar in Oxford last week at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism on 'Muslims in the Media', and it appears to be her concern for the implications this motion may have on Muslims that has motivated her reporting. She noted near the op that "For Muslims, to convert to another religion is condemned as apostasy." She does not include, but certainly knows, that the punishment for apostasy from Islam is death.

In the first two sentences Gledhill gets in that the motion could "jeopardise carefully built-up relations with Muslims, Jews and other faiths," and that "one bishop condemn[ed] in anger the 'evangelistic rants'", and in the fourth paragraph characterized the motion as forcing the bishops, implying this is something that the bishops would not willingly do.

Further down she cites one of the opponents of the motion:
However, the Bishop of Hulme, Stephen Lowe, who leads the Church’s mission in urban life, told The Times that he was “saddened” by the debate.

Condemning the “evangelistic rants” of some members, he said: “There are one or two contributions that worried me because they did not seem to have any understanding of the nature of relationship that precedes good evangelism.” He added: “There’s an element of people who have not got experience of living and spreading the gospel in a multicultural, multifaith context telling those who do have that experience how to do it. That makes me very uneasy.”

Uhh, the motion asks the bishops to "offer examples and commendations of good practice in sharing the gospel of salvation through Christ alone with people of other faiths and of none," so instead of condemning people, why doesn't the leader of "the Church’s mission in urban life" welcome the motion as an opportunity to do just that?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Instone Brewer on 'Any Cause' Divorce

Anglican Pewster had an interesting post on God the Father and the Breakdown of the Family Analogy. This led us to today's reading in Mark on divorce and the parallel reading in Matthew. And thus to the pioneering work of the Rev. Dr. Instone-Brewer, a Senior Research Fellow in Rabbinics and the New Testament at Tyndale House, Cambridge.

Matthew 19:3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking,(F) "Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?"

This is a little disturbing for a couple of reasons:
1) it shows that what we would think is the ordinary sense of the words actually has a particular meaning for the culture of the time. The plain meaning of the text turns out to be wrong and
2) it reminds me of the easy divorce permitted in Islam.

Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization Recalled by Publisher

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization, released last fall at the American Academy of Religion annual conference in Chicago, has been recalled by the publisher Wiley-Blackwell for being "too christian". All copies of the print run are to be destroyed because they promote a Christian worldview. According to an email sent by the Editor-in-chief of the four volume set, George Thomas Kurian, a small group of scholars and contributors led by David Morgan and Bernard McGinn have required additions and deletions to make a new version acceptable:
Among the words or passages they want deleted are “ Antichrist”, “Enemy” (as referring to Satan), BC/AD (as chronological markers), “Beloved Disciple,” “Gates of Hell,” “Witness,” “Virgin Birth,” “Resurrection,” “Evangelism” “Harvest,” and any reference with an “evangelical tone” or citing the “uniqueness of Christ and Christianity”. They also object to historical references to the persecution and massacres of Christians by Muslims, but at the same time want references favorable to Islam. To make the treatment “more balanced”, they also want the insertion of material denigrating Christianity in some form or fashion. All these I have refused to do.

One of the contributors, Edward Feser, has a blog post about this at NRO and he concludes:
A representative of Wiley-Blackwell has sent an e-mail of his own to the encyclopedia’s contributors, insisting that Kurian’s charges are “completely without foundation.” The press’s actions, the representative claims, stem simply from a concern for “standards of appropriate scholarship.” This concern has led it to decide that the work’s articles require further review before publication. The publisher has not explained why its academic standards did not prevent it from granting final editorial approval and printing the encyclopedia. To paraphrase John Kerry, it would seem that Wiley-Blackwell was for publication before it was against it.

Here is a copy of the letter sent to contributors from Wiley-Blackwell.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Amnesty accuses Hamas of killing Palestinian opponents

Amnesty International has been a little slow to criticize Hamas, so this is a good start. These are the abuses by Hamas that we've been following on this blog because they intimidate fellow Palestinians from criticizing Hamas and may relate to the Shariah Law that was passed in December against "spying" and aiding the enemy. AFP reports:
GENEVA (AFP) — Amnesty International on Tuesday accused Hamas of waging a campaign to kill or maim scores of Palestinian opponents in the Gaza Strip since the end of December.

The human rights group said in a report that at least two dozen men have been shot dead by gunmen from the Palestinian militia that governs the Gaza Strip since December 27.

"Scores of others have been shot in the legs, knee-capped or inflicted with other injuries intended to cause severe disability, subjected to severe beatings ... or otherwise tortured or ill-treated," it added.

"Hamas forces and militias in the Gaza Strip have engaged in a campaign of abductions, deliberate and unlawful killings, torture and death threats against those they accuse of 'collaborating' with Israel, as well as opponents and critics," the report said.

The victims included members of Palestinian Authority security forces and members of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah party, Amnesty said.

The campaign began shortly after the beginning of the three-week Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip on December 27 and continued after the ceasefire on January 18, according to Amnesty.

Thank you, Amnesty International, for stating the obvious, because while it may be obvious to those who have been following this closely, most people have not been following closely. And because you, Amnesty International are a credible voice that whose confirmation of these accusations carries significant weight.

Amnesty International has been under criticism lately for favoring Hamas. Amnesty was one of the organizations that charged Israel with war crimes for the recent war in Gaza>. but Amnesty refused to investigate Hamas war crimes of shelling Israel because the violations are so blatant.

Hat Tip Little Green Footballs

Saturday, February 7, 2009

UN to probe Hamas for use of children as human shields

Interesting news story in the Jerusalem Post:
The United Nations is ready to address Hamas's use of children as human shields during last month's IDF offensive in Gaza, the UN special representative for children and armed conflict told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

"We have not yet dealt directly with the human shield issue, but we will now mention it in our reports," Radhika Coomaraswamy said in an exclusive interview following a four-day visit to the region.

"It is still very difficult for us to say that it was actually happening and we still need to conduct a full investigation into what exactly took place... but we are not denying that it happened; it is absolutely possible that Hamas was using its civilians as human shields," she said.

Towards the end of the story, Coomaraswamy talks about the children of Gaza and the children from Ashkelon, in the part of Israel most affected by Hamas rocket fire.
The situation in Gaza is still "very raw because it's only been two weeks," she said, adding that many of the children she met there on Tuesday were "obviously very angry at Israel, but they have been guided that way by their parents and others."
"My sense in Gaza is that after this conflict there seems to be greater identification with Hamas," she said.

However, she stressed, "my observations are based on only a one-day trip
to the area, and many times children surprise us."

Compare that with this regarding Ashkelon:
"The scale [of trauma and destruction] is nothing like in Gaza, but that does not take away from the fact that a lot of the children we met there expressed to me a great deal of fear," she said. "We met a lot of children who were so traumatized that they did not even want to go to school."

However, "While their speeches were quite tough at first, when I asked them if they were interested in meeting Palestinian children, the response was unbelievable. They said, 'Yes, of course we want to meet with them and play with them or hear their stories.' It was a response from the heart," Coomaraswamy said.

This reveals another way Hamas uses children, teaching them to hate. We can see it in the contrast between the children of Gaza and the children of Israel.

Hat Tip Little Green Footballs

Friday, February 6, 2009

University of California regents attempt to curtail Asian admissions.

A new admissions plan for the UC system was passed by the regents yesterday with a sole dissenting vote by Regent Judith L. Hopkinson, who has expressed concerns that the new rules will confuse students and may violate the state's master plan on higher education which requires that the UC schools should select students from the top 12.5% of students statewide, based on grades and test scores. The LA Times reports:
A much-debated plan by the University of California to expand its freshman applicant pool and reduce the tests required for admission won final approval Thursday from the Board of Regents.

The new rules, among other changes, mean that applicants will no longer be required to submit scores from two SAT subject exams but as before, must take the main SAT or ACT test, as well as 15 UC-approved college prep courses in high school and keep a minimum 3.0 grade-point average. The policy shift will take effect for current high school freshmen who seek UC admission for fall 2012.
The intention of the new rules is to make more low-income, rural, black and Latino students eligible. However, a Professor at Harvard University, Stephan Thernstrom has written an article posted at National Review Online that says the effect will be to increase white admissions at the expense of Asians.
In 1995, the regents of the University of California, at the urging of Ward Connerly and Gov. Pete Wilson, voted to bar racial preferences on all nine of the system’s campuses. A year later, the state’s voters passed Proposition 209, an amendment to the constitution that extended that ban to state and local governments. But today, the regents are expected to approve major changes in admissions policies that represent the most recent of many misguided attempts to circumvent Prop 209.

The move is breathtaking. It will drop the requirement that applicants take two SAT “subject tests”; if the students the school wants tend to do poorly on such tests, then it is best not to know just how poorly. The plan also sharply lowers the academic standards that applicants must meet to be eligible for a “full admissions review.” This review is where their distinctive “personal qualities” can be discerned and made to count for more than the weaknesses in their academic performance.

These changes are manifestly driven by the desire to bring in more black and Hispanic students. Remarkably, though, the university’s own projections indicate that the plan will do almost nothing to expand black enrollment and will be of very modest benefit to Hispanics. Even more remarkably, the prime beneficiaries of the changes will be non-Hispanic whites, whose share of total enrollments is predicted to rise by 20–30 percent. And the big losers will be Asian Americans, whose numbers will be reduced by 10–20 percent. The net effect will thus be to make the University of California substantially “whiter” than it has been.

That’s ironic, because when the battle for race-blind admissions began, opponents worried that Prop 209 would transform UC into a “lily white” institution. This dire prophecy proved ludicrously far from the mark. The big gainers were not white applicants; they were Asian Americans. Although only 12 percent of the state’s population, Asians accounted for 37 percent of UC admissions in 2008.

Also, while black and Hispanic enrollments at the most selective campuses (Berkeley and UCLA) did fall sharply, rises at places like Riverside and Irvine more than offset the declines. In fact, the Hispanic share of total UC enrollments has risen dramatically over the past dozen years, from 14 to 22 percent. Black students made gains too, though slight ones. More important, minority graduation rates have improved substantially, now that these students are no longer “mismatched” as a result of racial double standards.

Although these numbers indicate that blacks and Hispanics, particularly the latter, have fared well under race-blind admissions, university officials have long been tinkering with the rules in an effort to bring in more “underrepresented minorities.” Standardized tests have counted for less and less, and admissions have become more “holistic”—i.e., subjective. Demonstrating that an applicant has “overcome disadvantage” has become more important than demonstrating that he grasps quadratic equations and can write a literate essay.

It’s hard to believe that, as part of this mission, the regents are deliberately trying to do their bit to stave off the “yellow peril.” But proponents of racial preferences have let slip some highly unsavory attitudes on occasion. My wife, Abigail, appeared on Crossfire many years ago and was asked by liberal co-host Bob Beckel whether she would “like to see UCLA Law School 80 percent Asian.” In a 1995 interview, President Clinton said that “there are universities in California that could fill their entire freshman classes with nothing but Asian Americans.” In 1998, a writer for Newsday asked, “Since Asians outscore everyone, would we accept an all-Asian class?”

Nasty stuff, and not aberrational. If you truly believe that it is unjust that some groups are “underrepresented” at elite institutions, it follows inexorably that no groups may be “overrepresented.” Mathematically, when no one is underrepresented, no one is overrepresented. Since Asians have more than triple their “proper share” of places at the University of California, and quadruple their share at Berkeley and UCLA, they are the chief obstacle to “equity” in higher education.

A high-school counselor interviewed by Inside Higher Education denied that the university officials who dreamed up the new plan were motivated by anti-Asian prejudice. He contended that the drop in the number of Asians admitted is just “collateral damage.” The metaphor misleads. The new admissions policy is likely not motivated by a desire to cut back on Asian enrollments but by a desire to expand the enrollments of other groups. But if you can’t do much of the latter without a lot of the former, this is a distinction without a difference.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lawsuit says abortionist made mom watch 'murder'

The pro-life Thomas More Society is supporting a woman who sought an abortion in her wrongful death suit against the abortion clinic. The mother, Sycloria Williams, went to the clinic for her appointment and was given a drug to induce labor by the receptionist. She eventually went into labor and gave birth to a 23 week old live baby girl. The suit alleges:
Plantiff Sycloria witnessed the live birth and suffering of her daughter as she struggled for life in pain, moving and breathing on the recliner
. She witnessed Belkis Gonzalez enter the room and knock the live baby from the recliner seat where she had given birth to the floor. She then witnessed the murder of her daughter by Belkis Gonzalez before her eyes, as Belkis Gonzalez picked up a large pair of orange shears and cut the umbilical cord connecting mother and daughter. Belkis Gonzalez did not clamp the baby's umbilical cord allowing the baby to bleed out and also threw or by some accounts literally swept the breathing live child into a biohazard bag to suffocate and bleed to death. There are reports that Belkis Gonzalez also placed a caustic chemical in the bag with the live baby.

I don't understand why it is OK to kill the baby if it is in the mother's womb, but murder to kill the same baby once it is born. The Thomas Moore Society is trying to make a slightly different point:
Thomas More Society took an interest in the case when a local law school professor was quoted in The Miami Herald to the effect that if the baby wasn't "viable," then it "couldn't be a case of homicide."

"This case will trumpet to the world that abortion clinics are places of barbarism where mothers as well as their babies are at serious risk," says Brejcha. "Moreover, this case should put some sharp teeth into the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. As we struggle to end the scourge of legal abortion in this country, we must hold the line against infanticide!"

Hat Tip The Anchoress

Saudi Arabia: Boy Gets 350 Lashes for Rape Accusation

The Saudi Gazette is reporting that a boy who accused a teacher in his school of sodomizing him is going to be punished by being lashed 50 times as well as a jail term. The boy was 13 when the alleged sodomy occurred and is now 15. The boy is being punished for defamation because the accusation of sodomy was not confirmed.
ABHA – In the first of its kind sentence, a Shariah Court on Tuesday ordered a 15-year-old student be lashed 50 times in front of all students in an intermediate and secondary school in a village in Asir.
In addition, the student will also get 300 lashes and three months in prison for tarnishing the image of the school’s principal and teachers. The latter lashes will be administered at the correction home.
The court acquitted the principal and teachers of the school of the sodomy charge leveled against them by the student in his complaint two years ago. The student was instigated by a relative to lodge the complaint. Initially, the education officials cleared the principal and teachers of the charge, but the student and his relative filed a lawsuit against the principal (56 years) and four teachers who were detained along with seven students. All were later released except one teacher who remained in custody for about 180 days.
The General Court in Abha stopped pursuing the case after the defendant didn’t attend four sessions and the court’s verdict was approved by the Court of Cassation making it an irrevocable decision.
The teacher was released and transferred to the educational zone in Asir until the case was resolved. The teacher is intending to sue those who defamed him.
The principal, who retired last year, and three teachers filed a lawsuit against the student for defaming them. A judge at the General Court ordered imprisonment of the student who is now spending his jail term in the correction home.

Hat Tip Women Against Shariah

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Islamic Terrorists Rape to Create Suicide Bombers

Two news stories today are reporting Islamic terrorists use of rape and the fear of being the victim of an honor killing to motivate suicide bombers. The Sun reports Al Queda operatives in Algeria have been raping young men:
The intense social stigma and fear of more gay sex attacks leaves Muslims prepared to die.

The warped new tactic was revealed by a reformed Algerian militant. Abu Baçir El Assimi said: “The sexual act on young recruits aged between 16 to 19 was a means to urge them to commit suicide operations.”

A 22-year-old had suffered sexual injuries before being shot dead on a suicide mission in Tademaït, Algeria, three weeks ago. Samples taken from his body are being analysed in a bid to identify his torturer.

And the US military discovered two years ago that al-Qaeda were dishonouring women in Iraq to turn them into suicide bombers. A terror leader would marry, then let another man rape his wife.

It was also revealed yesterday how a 51-year-old woman militant had recruited more than 80 women as suicide bombers.

Samira Jassim, who calls herself “the mother of believers”, targeted the weak and troubled. Arrested after a tip-off, she admitted orchestrating 28 successful bombings.

The Times reports this regarding the Iraqi women mentioned above:
The arrest of a woman suspected of grooming rape victims to become female suicide bombers in Iraq has dealt a blow to the network of extremists that orchestrates such attacks, a senior Iraqi official said yesterday.

Samira Ahmed Jassim, 51, is accused of recruiting more than 80 women to become human bombs, including 28 who actually carried out attacks.

She has apparently confessed to helping to organise the rape of young Iraqi women.

She would then play on the shame associated with victims of rape in Iraqi society to convince the women to become suicide bombers as their only means of escape.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Al-Jazeera: Muslim Cleric's Dying Wish to Slaughter Jews Like Hitler

UPDATE: I just read at Debbie Schussel that Daniel Pearl wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal about A-Qaradawi in 2001, calling him a moderate.

Al-Jazeera's popular Muslim cleric, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, said on January 30 that Hitler had put the Jews in their place and that he wished to be given a chance to shoot at Jews so they would bomb him and he would die a martyr.

As Judea Pearl, Daniel Pearl's father, wrote in the Wall Street Journal Monday:
The media have played a major role in handing terrorism this victory of acceptability. Qatari-based Al Jazeera television, for example, is still providing Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi hours of free air time each week to spew his hateful interpretation of the Koran, authorize suicide bombing, and call for jihad against Jews and Americans.

Then came the August 2008 birthday of Samir Kuntar, the unrepentant killer who, in 1979, smashed the head of a four-year-old Israeli girl with his rifle after killing her father before her eyes. Al Jazeera elevated Kuntar to heroic heights with orchestras, fireworks and sword dances, presenting him to 50 million viewers as Arab society's role model. No mainstream Western media outlet dared to expose Al Jazeera efforts to warp its young viewers into the likes of Kuntar. Al Jazeera's management continues to receive royal treatment in all major press clubs.


Hat Tip Little Green Footballs

Monday, February 2, 2009

UN Admits Israel Didn't Bomb UN School in Gaza After All

Remember the big story of the Israeli bombing of a UN school? The Toronto Globe and Mail reports:
John Ging, UNRWA's operations director in Gaza, acknowledged in an interview this week that all three Israeli mortar shells landed outside the school and that "no one was killed in the school."

In case you don't remember, here are some examples of how this was covered at the time:
LA Times
Toll at U.N. school in Gaza reaches 43
Almost 150 were injured when Israeli troops, who say they were responding to mortar fire, shelled the Al Fakhoura School. U.N. staff says there were no militants there.

By Ashraf Khalil and Geraldine Baum
January 8, 2009
Reporting from Jerusalem and The United Nations -- Facts remained murky Wednesday on the Israeli tank shelling of a U.N. school in the Gaza Strip that U.N. relief officials said left 43 Palestinians dead and almost 150 injured.

Chicago Tribune
Gaza school hit; dozens dead
Israel says militants fired first
JERUSALEM - An Israeli mortar strike that killed about 40 Palestinians sheltering in a UN school Tuesday brought new urgency to diplomatic efforts to end Israel's military onslaught in the Gaza Strip, as the UN Security Council met to discuss the crisis.

Hat Tip: Women Against Shariah

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Berkeley Does Davos: Nerd's Dinner 2009

UPDATE: New information regarding the guest list is provided at the bottom

Way off topic -- but you may not know that on the final night of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, there is a black tie dinner for all the attendees and an alternative, invitation only, dinner for about 30 Nerds hosted by Joe Schoendorf of the venture capital firm Accel. In 2007, Peter Schwartz described the evolution of the Nerd's Dinner like this:
On Saturday evening the World Economic Forum holds a blacktie gala in the Kongress Hotel and it is a real drag. Imagine over 4000 people jammed in face to face in penguin suits and gowns, with men smoking cigars, drinking bad wine, fighting to get access to tables filled with bad food, irrelevant music blaring in the background with everyone shouting at the person next to them so that they can be heard…a nightmare to be avoided. And, oh by the way, the really cool people…CEOs, heads of state and major celebrities are not in the hall. They are having elegant private dinners. Well,about fifteen years ago Paul Saffo organized a dinner for the Silicon Valley types who weren’t cool enough yet and definitely did not want to be in the hall, which came to be known as the Nerds dinner. Joe Schoendorf of Accel Partners has really become the sponsor, organizer and provider of the really great wines.

This year, the nerds that Peter includes in his description of the dinner include:
High tech wizards: Larry Page of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Paul Jacobs of Qualcomm,
Health care cognicenti: Frances Colllins of the Human Genome Project, Mike Gazzaniga of rain-mind science fame and Tom Insel of the NIMH
Scientists: physicist Rich Muller and astronomer Sir Martin Rees
Enviros: Frances Beinecke and Daniel Sperling.

Peter's great description of the dinner this year ends:
The evening ended with our usual contest. Last year we were asked to make predictions for this year. Question one was the price of Gold at the end of the year which Sergay Brin got closest to. The second question was the Google stock price at the end of the year. I won it with a guess of the $325 when the right answer was S330. And the prize was one of those great bottles of wine.

Tonight’s dinner was one of the best. The quality of the conversation is what Davos is about. And while it is true that a fair number came from my neighborhood in Berkeley, the range and depth of the participants could only happen at Davos.

This makes me wish for a complete guest list. Who else was there from Berkeley? Well, Rich Muller is a Professor at UC Berkeley and may live near Peter. And Dan Sperling is a Professor at UC Davis, but he lives in the Berkeley hills near Peter. In Peter's 2007 description, it sounded like Orville Schell is always at the dinner:
Orville Schell always does a brilliant and hilarious poem about the participants and there are truly hysterical moments.

and he lives even closer to Peter than Dan. We know from Peter's 2008 blog that a Berkeley person who attended the 2008 Nerd's Dinner at Davos was Alice Waters. Was she there this year? And earlier in his 2009 Nerd's Dinner post, Peter had mentioned a panel on the politics of water with Peter Gleick and Peter live near by. Was he at the dinner? Those names (Schwartz, Muller, Sperling, Schell, Waters and Gleick) would be six, or 20% of the thirty at the Nerd's Dinner, coming from Berkeley.

UPDATE: I've received an email from one of the attendees regarding my speculations about the guest list. I am told that neither Orville Schell, Alice Waters or Peter Gleick were at this year's Nerd's Dinner at Davos. The email did not provide for release any additional names of those that did attend.