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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Riots Plague Paris Suburbs for Sixth Night
Good gravy! Rioting in Paris for six straight nights?!? What's the world coming to? I bet it's those troublesome Presbyterians. Once they dominate a neighborhood, it's nothing but rioting. Let's read…

PARIS — Unrest spread across troubled suburbs around Paris in a sixth night of violence Tuesday as police clashed with angry youths and scores of vehicles were torched in at least nine towns, local officials said.

Police in riot gear fired rubber bullets at advancing gangs of youths in Aulnay-sous-Bois — one of the worst-hit suburbs — where 15 cars were burned, said the prefecture that runs the Seine-Saint-Denis region. Youths lobbed Molotov cocktails at an annex to the town hall and threw stones at the firehouse. It was not immediately clear whether there were injuries from the clashes.
Crikey! It sounds like the action scene from a special effects thriller. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe these are marauding Buddhists. You can never turn your back on a group of Buddhists. They're always liable to riot.

The area, home mainly to families of immigrant origin, often from Muslim North Africa, is marked by soaring unemployment and delinquency. Anger and despair thrive in the tall cinder-block towers and long "bars" that typically make up housing projects in France.
Oh! Muslims! Causing trouble in France?!? Huh! Who would have guessed? They're probably just misunderstood.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy — blamed by many for fanning the violence with tough talk and harsh tactics — met Tuesday night in Paris with youths and officials from Clichy-sous-Bois in a bid to cap days of rioting. But the unrest spread even as they met. Sarkozy recently referred to the troublemakers as "scum" and "riffraff."
Whoa there Nick! Calling young rioting gangsters names? Why this is all your fault! I know that if you called me names the first thing I would do is get on a plane to Paris and riot. You're practically forcing them to riot.

Unrest was triggered by the deaths of two teenagers electrocuted in a power substation where they hid to escape police. A third was injured. Officials have said police were not pursuing the boys, aged 15 and 17.
Ahhh, the heavy hand of the fascist Islamophobic police is to blame, electrocuting innocent teens for their sadistic fun. If that happened in my neighborhood, I'd be sure to riot.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin met Tuesday with the parents of the three families, promising a full investigation of the deaths and insisting on "the need to restore calm," the prime minister's office said.
Has he considered surrender?
Umm... how about actually *arresting* people? How about curfew? And, um, pepper spray, and perhaps real bullets to show you mean business? My goodness, when will they learn!
As Mr Porretto has repeated many times: Islam is toxic to human life. Life on earth will be in peril until Islam is eliminated.
Look, Islam doesn't need to be eliminated. Its radical, out-of-control Middle-Eastern version needs to be taken seriously, and its adherents dealt with.

On another note, has the UN condemned the French for using rubber bullets against the Muslim rioters, or do they just save that for when Israelis do it?

(No need to answer, of course)
Irina: You are suggesting oppressing the downtrodden and misunderstood for the sake of protecting the man. Which is of course why we love you.

Og: Ditto what Ralphie said. Leave it to you to agree with my point and take it four blocks farther than I intended.

Ralphie: Thanks for minding the store.
Ralphie. Read the Koran. The "radical out of control" elements of Islam are the ones who espouse peace. The ones with whom we are at war are faithful to the word of Mahomet.
The best part of these riots is all of the news coverage they are getting. Everyone is being made aware of just how nice these folks are.
by the way: I have no problem mwith Anyone Anywhere worshiping how they see fit, so long as it doesn't involve KILLING ME. Remove that from the core of islam? It's all good.

The whole "my God says I have to kill you" thing has to stop.
Jack: A little negative press is a beutiful thing.

Og & Ralphie: I agree that what we call radical Islam is perfectly consistent with the Quran. I also agree that no Muslim society has ever lived at peace with a non Muslim neighbor. Having said that I don't think it makes since to define all Muslims as the enemy. Islam needs a reformation, much as Christianity and Judaism went through. Logistically it's a lot easier to focus on the Islamofascists as our enemy and attempt to enlist Muslim reformers as our allies.
"enlist Muslim reformers as our allies."

I've been following the Islamic conflicts with the rest of the judeo-christian world since about 14, when I first entered the seminary. I have seen many things in my life, and am no longer ever surprised by anything. I will be surprised if I see this happen in my lifetime.
Og: If you read the Bible ("Old Testament" at least) straight-up, it ain't always so peaceful, either. But I think we're in agreement, since I pretty much mean take out the "kill the infidel" thing in the first place.

Beanie: I don't know too much about the history of world religions, but I don't think a reformation can be imposed on a religion. It kinda has to come from the ground up. Also, I have to say that I don't think the post-reformation religions of Judaism are necessarily too legit. But I admit that could be because the vast majority of the members of those movements don't prescribe to the tenets of the movements, per se, but more likely just feel more comfortable within them.

But I think basically religious extremists and extremists in general could stand to chill out a bit.
Ralphie: I have read the OT cover to cover, paying especial attention to the Torah. (the pentateuch) I have also read the Koran cover to cover. the Koran is replete with reference to the enslavement and murder of the infidel (that would be you and I) The OT has it's moments of gore, but at no point does The G-d of Abraham direct him to inflict genocide on non-adherents. Mahomet specifically calls upon his followers to enslave EVERYONE and murder those who will not submit.
btw, Ralphie: I'm not trying to be argumentative, nor to piss you off at all. I have a lot of research into this, and from experience,the more you learn, the less likely you are to believe that any kind of peace can ever exist with Islam. I don't make generalizations easily, I don't tend to say anything bad about anyone.. (well, other than doctors or liberals) and I tend to not ever get in anyone's face about their beliefs. At all. So it's painful to me to have these discussions, but I feel the need to jump in, just because I've seen the racial hatred, and it is very ugly, and I don't believe it can ever be "fixed" Just remember I'm smiling, ok?
One of the concepts of Islam which I don't hear too much about is the dhimmi. This basically refers to the status of Christians and Jews vis a vis Muslims. The dhimmi hold a special place in Islam as people of the Book. They are not necessarily to be killed like other infidels, they are to be tolerated, but in a subjugated class. So, for instance, in a Muslim town the tallest house of worship must be the mosque, no synagogue or church can be taller and so on. The dhimmi are only tolerated to the extent that they don't get too much in the way of the Muslims, and hopefully will become Muslims some day as well. If they get to be too rambunctious, they should be killed along with the other infidels. The point is that at its core, Islam cannot tolerate anything but being the topdog religion.

I think the problem boils down to literalists interpreting the Koran (or Bible or Torah, for that matter) based on the letter of the law, rather than the spirit. More sophisticated "enlightened" religious people are able to filter the letter of the law and distill a more peace-loving, "friendly" religion. Problem is the shebab or street kids are being fed this literalist crap and this drives them to violence whether in Paris suburbs, Falujah, Gaza or in attacks on the World Trade Center and London Underground. The entire religion doesn't need to be reformed just a delegitimitazation (sp?) of the fundamentalist imams who preach violence, who largely are being financed by the Iranians (Bush's enemies) and the Saudis (Bush's buddies). I don't know what we can do about the Iranians, but the Saudis need a little more pushing...
It's all due to the French occupation of Alsace and Lorraine. If they would end the occupation, there would be no riots.

Down with the oppressing Frenchies!
The wily Presbyterians will have their day, just not in France. The French are Catholics.

Og: The God of Abraham is not a good example of "live and let live." Remember, God asked Abraham to kill his son.
Og - I ain't pissed - no worries. I've just read a little here and there suggesting that it's Wahabi interpretations of the Koran that have led to much of the current global extermism. By the way, why do you use "Mahomet" instead of the more common Muhammed or Mohammed?

Oven: God definitely orders some cold=blooded killing - take the extermination of the tribe of Amalek, for example. But, to be fair, that was not because they were non-believers. It was because they targeted the weak.

But the Abraham son-sacrifice thing was a test - not a simple thing, to be sure, but it's clear from the plain meaning of the text that He never meant for it to be completed.
Og: I can't really argue with you.

Wanderer: That's right. There is no concept of equality under the law with another religion in Islam. There's even no concept of secular law in Islam. Unlike Judaism which has the rule of "dina d'malchuta dina" (the law of the kingdom is the law) which states that it's a religious obligation to obey the secular law of the land in which you live (within limits) and Christianity which states basically the same thing with "give unto Caesar what is Caesar's…", Islam takes no account of secular law. Sharia, Muslim religious law, is all-encompasing.

Psychotoddler: Sure. The Jewish occupation of Tel Aviv really bugs them too.

Oven: The French are Catholic for now. Unfortunately Christianity is having a tough time in Europe. Most French are Catholic only in self-identification, but in terms of church attendance or practicing the teachings of the church, most of Europe has been declining for the last several decades in all denominations of Christianity. Adding to the bad news is that native-born Europeans have a fertility rate that is under the replacement rate of two children per woman. The only source of population growth is immigration, which in France is largely Muslim. So Catholic France is practicing Catholicism less and making fewer babies, but Muslim France is devout and reproducing well. It's not insane to predict that in a hundred years (that's three generations) Islam will be a dominant force in France.

Re the story of the binding of Isaac. There are several stories in the Hebrew Bible that one might use to support the thesis that "the God of Abraham is not a good example of 'live and let live'". (I reject that thesis. I think the God of Abraham is THE example of 'live and let live' but we can have that argument later.) The commandment for the Israelites to kill all of the Canaanites strikes me as a good example you could have used. But the story of the binding of Isaac is one of the climactic episodes in the 'live and let live' theme in the Bible. It makes exactly the opposite point you're arguing (at least the way I learned it). The point is in the punch line of the story. In a world in which religious child sacrifice was absolutely universal, Abraham is asked to demonstrate that he would kill his son, but then told not to and told never to sacrifice humans to God again. Get it? The shocker isn't that he was asked to kill him. That's just our shock reading with modern eyes, but in pre-biblical times every god demanded child sacrifice. The shocker back then was that God ended religious human sacrifice. That totally transformed religion. How much more "live and let live" can you be than that? It is only the near universal knowledge of the Bible that now makes that story seem shocking at the beginning and not at the end. "God asking him to kill his son?! Barbaric!" But it only strikes us as barbaric because that story's revolution was successful.
Ralphie: We cross-posted. Yeah, what you said.
You're right. God said "Just kidding" before the deed was done. What a happy ending!

What is the moral of this story? God does not say "Don't sacrifice humans again." Rather, He says "Because you did not withhold your son from me, I will bless you."

So - if God tells you to kill your son and you do it (or attempt to do it), then you are blessed and revered by future generations for your great faith.

However - if God tells you to kill Christians and Jews, and you do it (or attempt to do it), then you suck. Let's be clear about this.

Obviously, I'm not a big fan of the Command to Sacrifice Isaac story. I'm not a big fan of any God-Tells-Someone-To-Kill story.
Ralphie: i can't post the arabic letters here- and in any event, they don't translate well- but Mahomet is, more or less, how it is spelled in a (again, more or less) direct translation from Arabic. Muhammed and Mahommed and others are europeanizations. On the other hand, Quran is only a politically correct "new" spelling, Koran is (supposedly) more accurate. Again, there's an inherent difficultyu translating.

As far as the story of Abe and Ike, it is clear to anyone who reads this that The Lord is testing Abraham. Abe passes. Can anyone imagine the hideous strength required to do that?

it's also interesting that the rift between Isaac and Ishmael is at the core of Islam. Islam believes the "only son" of Abraham was Ishmael, and Ishmael was the one the Lord asked Abraham (or as they call him, Ibrahim) to sacrifice.
One of the major problems is the fear people have of offending others. It is good to be tolerant and that is something that I teach my children, but there are boundaries that need to be set and sometimes you have to spell that out in a way that will piss others off.

And sometimes there is not much reason to feel badly about who you are pissing off.
Og - Odd they would think that, considering the text reads, "Take your son, your only son, the one you love, Isaac." True, Isaac wasn't his only son, so that might cause some confusion, but once you name names, I think things are pretty much set. Or I guess it's possible that J, E, P or D just heard it wrong or something.

--lightning strikes--

Oven - nothing you've said refutes Bean's analysis, which I wasn't saying originally, but I like it. In the Jewish tradition, we understand that God does not speak to us directly any more, and that his test was not a call to future generations to do the same thing (unlike, say, his treatment of strangers and guests). Clearly, any nutjob could pick up the bible, read that story, and then go kill his child. I mean, he'd have to pretty much already be a monster. But, nevertheless, it's hard to blame a book based on a cursory reading, not in depth study. Which is why I am hesitant to condemn the Koran as opposed to, say, certain commentaries and interpretations of it. At the same time, I am willing to defer to Og, who seems to have done some serious book-learnin'.

I should point out that the rabbis of the Talmudic era certainly had the same type of reservations about the Isaac story as you have. They composed various extra-biblical stories (called Midrash) that express such reservations in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. For example, some say that when Sarah heard what was going on, she died of dispair (indeed, in the Bible itself, the next we hear of Sarah is about her burial). Of course, others say completely opposite things but, hey, what do you expect, we're Jews.
Ralphie: Mahomet preaches that just as Ishmael's birthright was "stolen" from him, so was the truth about Ishmael being the "real" son of Abraham.

Makes you wonder where we'd all be had Sarah not wrapped that goatskin around Isaac's arms, doesn't it? This simple act is at the core of the hatred Arabs feel for Jews: Mahomet and his followers feeling that they were cheated from their birthright by Sarah, and that instead of taking their place as one of the twelve tribes, they were outcast. And just as Martin Luther disliked the church of the day, so Mahomet disliked Judaisim of the day, saying (more out of contempt than fact) that the Jews were unfaithful (infidels, get it?) to the G-d of Abraham.
Wow. Makes it all seem so, well, real.

The problem is, of course, that if it is all real, then it's pretty clear that this is what God wanted... I mean, hey, if you're going by the text and all...

Any idea how that sorta thing is explained?
Well one way to explain it is not to, just accept it and become a "true believer" --> a Muslim.

But remember that the Torah/Bible preceded the Koran by at least a thousand years (whether it was written, spoken or dictated by a burning bush). Remember that the sequel is always worse than the original, and the story may have been changed to make Mohammed and his buddies feel better about themselves. (You can also look at the Christian Bible as the extended director's cut with added footage and unedited scenes if you want, which is what Christians do. Don't want to offend anyone!)
No offense. The NT is, to Christians, a way of condensing Hebrew law to it's simplest principles: Be decent to one another. G-d is everything.

Christ himself said “Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets; I came not to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished” (Mt. 5:17-18).
This is great reading. Where's Q when you need him?
You haven't met Q? He's also a former seminarian who lives in Canada. He comments here occassionally and usually has very intelligent things to say.
Og, just to clarify, I think you're thinking of Rebekkah and Jacob stealing the blessings from Esau. G-d makes it pretty clear from the text that Isaak will inherit from Abraham. There was no subterfuge involved there.
PT - good point.

Og - on that note, do Muslims consider themselves descended from Esau as well as Ishmael? (for the record, traditional Judaism considers Rome to be the heirs of Esau - and they haven't really caused much trouble for the past 1500 years or so...)
Dry Bones on the riots.

"The French, who refused to fight Islamic terror in Iraq, are now fighting it in Paris."

Poignant, indeed.

...but are they really fighting it?
Thanks for the compliment, Dr. Bean. Ralphie notified me that I was being paged over here. In fact, I had read the original post and about two thirds of the comments … but I was AWOL at the critical moment.

Re Abraham and Isaac — I posted on the text some while ago (When God commands an immoral act), and shared my pastor's attempt to make sense of the passage. Jack came in with a few sage remarks, too.

But I must say that I was very impressed by Dr. Bean's interpretation, above. I appreciate the way he expressed it: that we are shocked by the beginning of the story, but the original hearers/readers would have been shocked by the ending. ("G-d doesn't want us to sacrifice our children to Him?!!!")

Personally, liberal that I am, I doubt that the account is historical. I don't believe God would command such a thing, even if He intended to retract the command before Abraham executed it (and Isaac). My pastor made a point of emphasizing how traumatic the experience must have been for Isaac, and suggested that Isaac and Abraham were permanently estranged from one another as a consequence. That's a pretty bold interpretation, since he thinks the Bible is inerrant.

Og's interpretation of Christianity is quite compatible with mine. But I believe there was a schism in the Church way back in the first century. St. Paul advocated a complete break with Judaism, but others wanted to maintain their Jewish identity and make at least the Noahic laws binding on all Christians. The relatively Jewish branch of Christianity is reflected in Mt. 5:17-18, quoted by Og.

I've also posted on the need for a Reformation in Islam. (Fuel for antisemitism in the Qur'an.) I quote two Muslim authorities, one who is brazenly antisemitic and one who would embrace Jews as fellow "people of the book". I think there is hope for the tolerant version of Islam to prevail, but the struggle among Muslims may play out for generations before we'll know.

The strongest argument in favour of Wanderer's position is not what the Qur'an itself says. It is the fact that Muhammad (unlike Jesus) was a warrior, and the first generation after him decided it was normative for Islam to propagate the faith at the point of a sword.

In other words, the radicals represent the more orthodox position. That historic commitment will not be easily overturned.
Nice to meet you, Q.

Always good to have another intelligent voice in the discussion, willing to spread light without adding heat. Psycho, you're absolutely correct, I've irretrievably mixed metaphors there. I only have about four functioning brain cells at any given time, so that is bound to happen, Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Vah! Denuone latine loquebar? Me ineptum. Interdum modo elabitur.
Um... I think I've wondered into the wrong coffeehouse. Veni, vidi, panicki.
Wow, what an erudite discussion we've got going here.

Irina: You were the first regular customer here. It'll never be the wrong coffeehouse. If those mean men are bothering you with their pointy-headed Latin, Ralphie will ask them to leave. ;-)
Antimeridian, Uncle Meridian, and all the little Meridians...
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