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:: Friday, April 29, 2011 ::

Atlas Shrugged, Part I: Or, Cortlandt Homes, Redux 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 1:18 PM

It was startling to see the title, Atlas Shrugged, on the theater marquee. I did not expect to live long enough to witness it. Unfortunately, “Atlas Shrugged, Part I,” the movie, has little or nothing to do with the novel. It is a badly made template, with a lot of doodling in the film outside the stencil.

I have seen few movies that are one hundred percent successful translations of a novel to the screen. Even rarer are the movies that are superior to the novels. “Love Letters” (1945), with Joseph Cotton and Jennifer Jones, whose screenplay was written by Ayn Rand, bears little resemblance to Christopher Massie’s Love Letters, which is a literary and moral abomination. She was assigned the task of rendering the story into a shootable script. Kenneth Fearing’s The Big Clock was vastly improved on in the film version (1948) by Jonathan Lattimer, who removed most of the sociological and anti-business content and focused on the suspense. One could cite dozens of other instances of successful or near-successful book-to-screen adaptations.

The key to the successful translation of a novel to the screen is to essentialize the given plot. To essentialize a plot is to identify the key conflict or conflicts, ensure that the characters, dialogue, and action mesh with the plot, and to maintain the integration throughout. Thus the integrity of a novel (if it has one) can be honored. If a fiction writer’s task is to include only what contributes to a story, and to leave out what is not essential or what does not advance a story, then the screenwriter’s task is to repeat the process for transfer of the story to the audiovisual medium.

The credits state that “Atlas Shrugged, Part I” was based on Rand’s novel. Well, Steve Martin’s “Roxanne” was “based” on Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac. But was the movie little else but a farce that cashed in on Rostand’s story? Massie’s novel and “Love Letters” also did that, but Rand’s screenplay added a theme to the Rostand story. “Atlas Shrugged, Part I” is not a farce, but a serious attempt intended to reduce a mountain to what its makers presumed would be a comprehensible molehill. The molehill was not the goal, but it was inevitable because of a failure to grasp, take seriously, and essentialize the governing elements of the novel.

There are only two fundamental ways to approach a viewing of “Atlas Shrugged, Part I”: With an intimate knowledge, love, and technical appreciation of the novel – its plot, its characters, its events, and its theme – or from either an ignorance of the novel Atlas Shrugged or a vague recollection of it from having read it long ago. The fortunate members of the audience are those who see the movie with absolutely no knowledge of Rand or the novel; they are pleasantly shocked to hear so much anti-government dialogue.

Most Americans who have seen or will see the movie fall into the second category. They have heard of the novel, and of Ayn Rand, its author, and have a foggy notion that she foretold the future – now their present. They recollect a very long story but have forgotten its details, or have never read it, and are now boosting sales of the novel over half a century after its publication. But most have a glimmering that she was right, and that the crisis and disasters confronting them in the news every day are too real to dismiss as fantasy or a matter of opinion, and are replicated in the novel and partly shown in the movie.

An intimate knowledge of the novel, however, should clash violently with what transpires on the screen. An ignorance or vague recollection of the novel’s story will not clash in the same manner with what happens (or does not happen) on the screen, but engender confusion and bewilderment. That should cause people who do read the novel, once they are deep into it, whether for a first time or after a long hiatus from it, to wonder what the movie’s makers were thinking.

If one is intellectually honest, the clash between the novel and the movie should lead one to conclude that the makers of the movie did not understand the novel, were consequently incapable of translating it successfully for the screen, and possibly did not think they needed to know either the novel or how to dramatize it. They had a budget, a cast, props, cameramen and digital capabilities for special effects, and all the other paraphernalia for making a movie. And a script written by a person who understood neither the theme, nor the spirit, nor the purpose of the novel, working with a director and producer who did not understand them, either. If the theme of the novel Atlas Shrugged is the role of man’s mind in existence, then the movie’s makers discarded the novel’s mind, its theme, and everything else. If they could not understand these things, then neither could they genuinely appreciate the novel.

If intellectuals have any purpose in the context of evaluating this movie, they will point out its many shortcomings and failings. But conservative intellectuals have used the debut of the movie as an excuse to (again) attack Rand and her philosophy without much critiquing the movie. So have leftist critics. These intellectuals and critics will not be discussed at length here. Most conservative critics are aghast by the public response to the movie. They treat it as an affront to their moral and political philosophy, and take their anger out on Rand herself. Their petulance is futile, and it must be especially enervating when they read that the movie has boosted sales of the novel, a development they could not have ever wished for. Leftists are in the same conundrum. All conservatives and leftists can do is throw printable and unprintable tantrums. This allegedly “badly written” novel has been trumping their malice, ad hominems, and bile for fifty-four years. They are feeling their own irrelevancy, and it hurts. That is some kind of justice.

My approach to the movie falls into the first category. I have read all manner of reasons, in the most benign mainstream reviews and also in personal correspondence, why I should like the movie, or at least not condemn it or subject it to any but the most superficial and irrelevant tiers of critical examination. These reasons fall into two main categories, as well: That, given the state of the culture, it is the best that can be expected from Hollywood; and that seeing it makes one feel good.

My reasoning in the first instance is: If one can be critical of the culture, why should the movie’s makers and the movie itself be exempt from such criticism? After all, they are products of the culture. In the spirit of pragmatism and anxious expediency, they took a priceless value and twisted it out of recognition for the sake of “the message.” The producers, director, and screenwriter all attempted a task that was beyond their talents and vision to successfully complete. What they produced was an entertaining polemic.

In the second instance, if one holds Atlas Shrugged as a supreme literary, moral, and philosophical value, then one cannot respond emotionally to “Atlas Shrugged, Part I” as a value that in any way complements the novel. One could not honestly be “entertained” by it and also hold the novel in the highest esteem. If one does, therein lurks a grave conflict in the valuer. The standard critical appraisal of the novel, however, one that has been repeated for decades by Left and Right alike, is that it is an anti-government polemic, which is not what Rand wrote.

Esthetically, the difference between the novel and the movie is the difference between Michelangelo’s “David” and a Hummel figurine. Or, in terms of literary accomplishment, the difference between the Empire State Building and a 7-11 convenience store.

To understand what Ayn Rand did write, see Essays on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged (Lexington Books, 2009).

An anonymous, non-Objectivist critic wrote one of the best appreciations of Rand’s abilities as a writer, and focuses on her writing craft in the novel. Towards the end of his appreciation, he notes:

Too often, amateurs are too obvious and throw out too few questions and reveal answers too quickly. I think many great authors are more disciplined about waiting until much later before revealing the big and little answers. They also toss up interesting developments to make you keep guessing and asking more questions.

Which is what the movie does not do, but that is a venial offence when compared with what other offences the movie commits.

Brian O’Toole, the chief screenwriter for the movie, in an interview offered a number of excuses and rationalizations for why the movie does not follow the novel, even though he claims it does.

When the pre-production screenplay was done, it was a very strong representation of the spirit of Ayn Rand’s novel.

Since we stayed very close to the structure of the novel, there was little reason for us to play fast and loose with the material. Except for the very beginning, fans of the novel will hopefully find themselves in very comfortable territory as we tell the story cinematically.

The “spirit” of Rand’s novel is not a gussied-up, big-budget daytime soap opera, and the movie is nowhere near the structure of the novel. It indeed plays “fast and loose” with that structure, as anyone familiar with the novel will attest to. In fact, the movie completely abandons it.

Among other obfuscations uttered by O’Toole is his repeated assurance that “purists” and “Rand fans” will like the movie even for its not following the structure of the novel and for omitting “small” details from the novel.

Since our production was modestly budgeted, we certainly couldn’t create a period piece (although the book was really a near-future story) nor create a Metropolis-type movie with big sets and futuristic props and vehicles. Luckily, the book is set in a realistic world. We have small updates like cell phones and no smoking, and the freight train on the John Galt Line may be a bit flashier than we see chugging along today, but I really think audiences will quickly ease into our world and be spellbound by the story being told.

Luck had nothing to do with it. Fantasy and horror appear to be O’Toole’s chief genres, so dealing with a “realistic world” must have been an educational experience for him. Cell phones? I once saw a stage production of Othello in which the principal characters produced cell phones to conduct the dialogue; this was the director’s way of saving himself the trouble of actually staging the play. It was also a way of saving the movie’s director the trouble of shooting crucial scenes (in which Rand’s dialogue does not appear anyway) in which it is critical that the characters are face-to-face.

No smoking? Hollywood, always the vehicle of political correctness in virtually all matters, has adopted an anti-smoking policy in its films that requires that smoking is done by villains only. In the movie, the character of Wesley Mouch lights up a stogie in a restaurant (but not in the novel, of course, and the restaurant is not the dark cellar on top of a skyscraper where the villains plot their next moves, as described by Rand in the novel, but a brightly lit, 21 Club-style restaurant), while the bizarre character of Hugh Akston is having a “dollar sign” cigarette in the back of a diner (one had to be quick to recognize the symbol on his cigarette; or was it a diner, and if so, was it his? No explanation). O’Toole boasts that he has big plans for “Atlas Shrugged, Part II.” How does he plan to handle the significant device of the dollar sign cigarettes in the novel, and not violate Hollywood’s anti-smoking rule? Replace them with Chia pottery planters that “grow” dollar signs? And once he gets to Galt’s Gulch, will Midas Mulligan’s tobacco patch be replaced with an avocado ranch?

O’Toole brazenly claims in the interview that he both remained true to the novel and did not.

It was decided early on in the development stage that we should try to personify Part I’s “spiriting-away” of the world’s producers. Producers Harmon Kaslow and John Aglialoro wanted audiences to know what John Galt said to the “men of mind” that convinced them to go to Atlantis—before the speech in Part III. Again, all of the deviations made from the book were done to make the film as entertaining as possible. Not everyone will agree with these changes. To them, I just want to say that we were always respectful to the novel. The job of the film is to, hopefully, intrigue people enough to pick up the book.

So, it was decided early on to discard all the suspense, mystery, and intrigue in the novel in favor of introducing Galt in the beginning. In the novel, we never learn what Galt actually says to any of the men he persuades to vanish; it is only when he has Dagny in Galt’s Gulch that he makes any statements. O’Toole’s assertions to the contrary notwithstanding, neither he nor Aglialoro nor Kaslow were “respectful” of the novel. One supposes that their notion of being “respectful” would be, for example, to transform someone like Audrey Hepburn into a Lady Gaga.

What follows is a list, by no means exhaustive, of randomly recalled blunders, gaffes, and outrages in the movie. These include plot-spoilers.

• The John Galt Line: The train running through Colorado. Okay. Nice scenery, great special effects. Should that salvage the movie? No.

• The Ellis Wyatt character was an overweight, obnoxious bozo who could have just as well been bragging about his lottery ticket wins. There is a difference between the genuine anger Wyatt shows in the novel and the bullying language of the movie. Further, there are no expletives in Rand’s novel (just a suggestion of one, by Rearden), but in the movie the Wyatt character utters them.

• The Francisco character, alleged owner of copper mines, behaved like Hugh Hefner, and looked like a scraggly, bearded Che Guevara clone with an entourage of bimbos. He displayed none of the elegance, style, panache, intensity, or any evidence that he was an aristocrat of the mind whom one encounters in the novel.

• The Orren Boyle character was a third-rate impersonation of a rival Godfather gangster.

• The "romantic" scene between Rearden and Dagny after the John Galt train run was reminiscent of a bar pick-up episode on "Two and a Half Men." What was lacking was any credible build-up to such a relationship between the characters. All one saw was some ambiguous eye contact between the characters.

• One of the most jarring scenes occurred in what looked like a church (the State Science Institute), between Dagny and Dr. Robert Stadler -- I guess it was supposed to be Stadler, because the character's name was never given, except perhaps once. They sit in a pew and try to have an earnest conversation. When Dagny rises to leave after some contextless chitchat, Stadler wishes her "good luck” in her search for the motor’s inventor. Excuse me?

• There is the Galt character showing up and accosting industrialists, looking like Freddie Kruger. I half expected him to whip out steel fingernails. I can imagine Rand’s Galt in a sports shirt and a tuxedo, but she would never have garbed him in a cheesy, thrift-store fedora and trench coat. Throughout the novel Galt is the invisible “immovable mover”; in the movie, he is introduced early on and thus was destroyed any suspense. At the film’s end the Galt character in a voice-over states who he is and why he is causing the industrialists to disappear. End of story.

• When Rearden and Dagny go to the abandoned factory of the 20th Century Motor Company to search for and find the incredible motor, they are all over the map in search of the inventor in no particular sequence that makes any sense.

• In the anniversary party segment, in the novel, Lillian wishes that Francisco hadn't come to the party, because she dislikes him. In the movie, they are shown as old friends and she busses him in welcome.

• In the anniversary party segment, there is little tension between Lillian and Dagny during their bracelet/necklace exchange; it could have been a friendly trade during a yard sale, or a mild spat between characters in “Desperate Housewives.”

• For a reason known only to the screenwriter, also in the Rearden anniversary party segment, one character tells another that "Balph Eubank" is at the party. But Eubank, a popular composer in the novel who appropriates Richard Halley’s music, is not a character in the movie, so there was no reason for his name to be mentioned.

• The guy (I will not call him an actor) who plays Hugh Akston, the vanished advocate of reason, was a diffident, middle-aged, rude slob in what looks like a white jump suit. He was no more a philosopher on strike than I am a retired astronaut. He played the part like Jim Carrey on medication. Alec Guinness he is not.

Another critique contradicts the movie- makers’ assertions that they were compelled to make all the changes they made for budgetary and length reasons. Film School Rejects published a convincing critique of the movie that blasts those assumptions to smithereens.

….[S]ince the biggest problem with the adaptation was buried in the structure of the movie, there’s one thing that would have made Atlas Shrugged: Part I a far, far better film.

Ready for it? Here it is:

Going By the Book

It seems achingly simple, but for some reason the writers, producers, director and editors of Atlas Shrugged took the elements of the book, jumbled them up slightly and turned John Galt into a shadowy, living non sequitur.

I could not agree more, except that the book’s elements were not “slightly” jumbled up, but tossed into a Cuisinart food mixer set on high, which created a pitcher of unappetizing glop. FSR demonstrates, scene by scene for “Part I,” that Aglialoro and O’Toole could have faithfully followed the sequence of events and still produced a great movie near budget and only half an hour longer. To wit:

…[T]he production hobbled itself by creating a foolishly short hour and forty-two minute runtime. They’re adapting a beast of a book, and didn’t even shoot for a full two hours. It’s baffling. A healthy portion of these plot moments exist in the movie, but the connective tissue isn’t there….

The production stripped the novel so far down that great character moments like the cigarette discussion, Halley’s music (as the first sign of the Galt mystery), the juxtaposition of the talks with Conway and Wyatt, Hank rebuking his mother (finally), and the announcement of everyone volunteering for the first run were left out while incredibly long shots of Colorado countryside and a nearly pointless dinner party languished on screen. There are signs that the production simply didn’t understand what made certain scenes important.

The heroes of Atlas Shrugged the novel command reverence, solemnity, and joy. The non-villain characters in “Atlas Shrugged, Part I” ask only that one tolerate their non-distinctive and belabored averageness.

In conclusion, producers Aglialoro and Kaslow have done what should not have been done: produced an adulterated product for the sake of “getting it out there,” regardless of its condition, to cash in on Rand’s growing popularity and relevance to what is going on in today’s world. It is irrelevant that Aglialoro invested $20 million of his own money in the project. If he and his colleagues had understood the novel, they should have “gone on strike” and not went through with the movie. But, they have appropriated the Rearden Metal of Ayn Rand’s novel and produced, not a “Lawrence of Arabia” or a “Gone with the Wind,” but something that is not even a reasonable facsimile of the novel.

They have employed a forged Gift Certificate that Rand never signed.

:: Permalink | 45 Comments ::

 

:: Sunday, April 24, 2011 ::

Off With Their Heads: Islamic “Lawfare” 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 7:17 AM

“And who are these?” said the Queen, pointing to the three gardeners who were lying round the rose-tree; for, you see, as they were lying on their faces, and the pattern on their backs was the same as the rest of the pack, she could not tell whether they were gardeners, or soldiers, or courtiers, or three of her own children.

“How should I know!” said Alice, surprised at her own courage. “It’s no business of mine.”

The Queen turned crimson with fury, and, after glaring at her for a moment like a wild beast, began screaming, “Off with her head! Off with—”

“Nonsense!” said Alice, very loudly and decidedly, and the Queen was silent.
Lewis Carroll, for all his imagination, could not have imagined that he would make some relevant points in Alice in Wonderland about speaking up against those who would silence criticisms.

Your freedom of speech, in America and abroad, is undergoing the same kind of treatment that airline passengers now undergo at the literal hands of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). If nothing dangerous or controversial or offensive is found on your person, you may go about your business and board your flight. But if you complain, or give the TSA employee a dirty look, you will be subjected to special groping, feel-ups, and molestation just to show you who is boss. You may be ordered to wait in a glass cage as punishment until someone is ready to subject you to more invasive molestation. If you assault a legally sanctioned groper in retaliation, you will be assailed by airport police, regardless of your gender, arrested, handcuffed, gagged, and jailed. You should have known that speaking, or freedom of speech, like flying, is a “privilege.” That is what you have been told.

The parallels are appropriate. Your freedom of speech is held hostage until you submit to censorship. Obviously a contradiction, but one not grasped or recognized by the government, our courts, or civil rights advocates. Power does not need to recognize reason. The Bill of Rights to the contrary notwithstanding, the government and judicial stance on freedom of expression is that it is a permission granted by government, by society, by “God,” by anything but the right to protect yourself from initiated force. Frown at a TSA cipher, and that will be seen as offensive and hostile. Frown at Islam, and that will be interpreted as offensive, hurtful, bigoted, or hostile.

Criticize communism in a communist country, and you will be jailed and sentenced to slave labor. Criticize Nazism in Nazi Germany, and you will be imprisoned and sent to a concentration camp. Criticize fascism in Putin’s Russia, and you will die by a bullet in an elevator, in your car, in a public park. Criticize Islam in Britain in any form, and you will be subjected to due process, tried, fined, and jailed. In Britain, only Muslims may indulge in “hate speech” without penalty or worrisome legal consequences.

Criticize CAIR in the U.S., and you will learn what a ton of bricks feels like when it falls on your head. Like Molly Norris, the makers of “South Park,” like Salman Rushdie, you will either have a fatwa issued for your death, or you will be harassed and/or sued by an organization with terrorist ties.

Freedom of expression is being assailed, not only by our own government, but by our safely entrenched enemy, prominently led by The Council on American/Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other Islamic “civil rights” organizations. This is not news, of course. In Europe, one must be careful about what one says about Islam – such as Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who is being tried in Amsterdam for “hate speech” – and what one shows – such as the Turkish-German model, Sila Sahin, who posed semi-nude on the cover of the German edition of Playboy as a statement of her freedom from Islam.

Sila Sahin discarded the burqa, and to the delight of anyone who admires the female body, some of her other attire, as well. Her family is scandalized. Their “honor” has been besmirched. Off with her head. Aaron Proctor, a writer for the Philadelphia edition of Examiner.com, dared to mention in a column that CAIR is an unindicted party of the Hamas-linked Holy Land Foundation, Hamas being an FBI-designated terrorist organization. The Pennsylvania chapter of CAIR, upon reading that, sharpened the blade of its scimitar and called its lawyers to prayer. Off with his head.

And when one is censored, either by a government or by a ruinous lawsuit, or when one thinks twice before saying anything critical about Islam or its adherents, and says nothing, because the consequences would be too terrible, one may as well have been beheaded. Because once that happens, one’s mind is shackled, as well. Rendered useless. Speechless. As silent as Sidney Carton’s head after the guillotine has lopped it off.

There are ways to fight Islamic censorship (also known as “lawfare” and “libel tourism”) in this country. But the way of the Freedom From Religion Foundation is not the right way. This organization filed suit against President Barack Obama for declaring a National Day of Prayer because the decree excluded atheists. The court properly dismissed the suit because “a feeling of alienation cannot suffice as injury.” No branch of government, and particularly not the executive branch, has any business establishing or promoting religion. It is a violation of the First Amendment. And that is the argument that the FFR should have made central in its suit. If the suit was a ploy to persuade the court that Muslims were doing exactly what the FFR was doing, suing over “hurt feelings” or “alienation," and getting away with it, the ruse failed. A USA Today article reported:

"If anyone suffers injury ... that person is the president, who is not complaining," ruled a three-judge panel of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"Those who do not agree with a president's statement may speak in opposition to it; they are not entitled to silence the speech of which they disapprove," the court said.

But neither the president, nor the Senate, nor the House, nor any government department or agency has any Constitutional business proclaiming any religious observance, whether or not the observance is voluntary. Such a proclamation sets a precedent, one to be followed by others. The president is not entitled to that brand of free speech.

On the other hand, Muslims disapprove of any criticism of Islam or Muslims in any form – by word or by caricature – and have repeatedly sought injunctions against anyone speaking freely about Islam and Muslims. And it is fear of those expensive and entangling suits, and the risk of inviting demonstrations and even violence, that have silenced most critics of Islam.

Only the courageous will speak their minds and answer “Off with their heads!” with a reaffirmation of their right to say what they think must be said.

:: Permalink | 2 Comments ::

 

:: Friday, April 15, 2011 ::

April Fools’ Day: Imam Rauf Addresses the Nation 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 8:18 AM

Appropriately, on April 1st, The Washington Post, in its continuing state of dhimmitude, allowed Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of the Cordoba Initiative and promoter of the Park51 mosque near Ground Zero, to serve Americans a smorgasbord of Islamic taqiyya, “Five myths about Muslims in America.” Taqiyya is the Islamic practice of saying one thing in English, and another in Arabic. His article was reprinted in numerous newspapers across the country. This commentary will serve as a rebuttal to his principal assertions.

At the very beginning, Rauf plays the race card. In his rebuttal of the “myth” that American Muslims are foreigners, he writes:

Islam was in America even before there was a United States. But Muslims didn’t peaceably emigrate — slave-traders brought them here. Historians estimate that up to 30 percent of enslaved blacks were Muslims. West African prince Abdul Rahman, freed by President John Quincy Adams in 1828 after 40 years in captivity, was only one of many African Muslims kidnapped and sold into servitude in the New World.

And who rounded up and sold blacks – whether or not they were princes – to the European and American slave traders? Arab Muslims. Funny how Rauf omits inconvenient truths. And, was Prince Abdul Rahman a “good” Muslim, or was he just as feckless and venal as those who captured him and sold him into bondage? Nor does he hint at the much larger slave trade in eastern Africa, where blacks were captured and sold in North African and Mid-Eastern Islamic regimes – by Muslim slavers.

Rauf goes on:

Muslim names could be found in reports of runaway slaves as well as among rosters of soldiers in the Revolutionary War. Muslims fought to preserve American independence in the War of 1812 and for the Union in the Civil War. And more than a century later, thousands of African Americans, including Cassius Clay and Malcolm Little, converted to Islam.

It is irrelevant that “Muslim names” can be found in the rosters of the past wars of the United States. If one has an Irish, Russian, or Scottish surname, would it be valid for someone else to assume that one is Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Presbyterian? It would be interesting to learn why these individuals came to America. Perhaps it was to escape the suffocating regime of Islam? Boxing champion Cassius Clay took the name of Mohammad Ali, while Malcolm Little is none other than El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, or Malcolm X, a member of the racist Nation of Islam who learned the hard way what happens to apostates who dare question Islam or disagree with its ideology. They are assassinated.

Yes, Muslims are foreigners in this country, even if they are Caucasian, black or Asian converts, because their creed is foreign, alien, and hostile to the principles of individual rights, among them freedom of speech. One cannot be an obedient, subservient, mindless manqué and follower of a brutish, primitive religion and also be an individualist at the same time. In other terms, you cannot revere the Founders and Framers and also Mohammad. If Allah is the highest value, then one cannot revere oneself, either. That would be self-love, and the Koran does not permit any values higher than Allah and the word of Mohammad. The Founders, according to Mohammad’s words, would have fallen under the sword of his successors, as many Americans did in the Founders’ lifetimes, or held in bondage as slaves.

In his rebuttal to the “myth” that American Muslims are ethnically, culturally, and politically monolithic, Rauf writes:

U.S. Muslims believe different things and honor their faith in different ways. When it comes to politics, a 2007 Pew study found that 63 percent of Muslim Americans “lean Democratic,” 11 percent “lean Republican” and 26 percent “lean independent.” Ethnically, despite the popular misperception, the majority of Muslims in the United States (and in the world, for that matter) are not Arabs — about 88 percent check a different box on their U.S. census form. At least one-quarter, for example, are African American. Anyone who thinks otherwise need look no further than the July 30, 2007, cover of Newsweek magazine, which featured a multicultural portrait of Islam in America.

Nor is this relevant. The issue is the ideology of Islam, not its racial or ethnic “diversity” or representation. It is Islam the “benign” ideology that Rauf is shilling for, not the make-up of its following. Rauf offers this Newsweek cover to prove his point. In essence, Islam is not only monolithic, but totalitarian.

Muslim Americans are also diverse in their sectarian affiliation. And whether they are Sunni or Shiite, their attendance at religious services varies. According to the State Department publication “Muslims in America – A Statistical Portrait,” Muslim Americans range from highly conservative to moderate to secular in their religious devotion, just like members of other faith communities.

And in the countries ruled or dominated by Muslims, there is continual sectarian and bloody strife between Sunnis and Shiites over whose interpretation of Mohammad is the truer. This is when either sect is not busy massacring or persecuting Jews, Christians, Copts, Hindus, Buddhists, and members of that smallest Islamic sect, the Bai’at. Oh, and Western infidels in their own countries and worldwide, and also hapless Muslims unlucky enough to be around when another Muslim blows himself up.

Rauf’s next rebuttal concerns the oppression of women by American Muslims. In this one he completely omits mention of not only the growing number of Koran-inspired honor killings of girls and women in this country, but also the second-class status of women in Islam wherever it is practiced. Muslim men commit the crimes and see to it that “their” women obey the diktats of Mohammad. One never hears a discussion or reads an article about Muslim women who oppress or brutalize Muslim men, although many Muslim women have abetted the murders of their own daughters, sisters and other female relatives.

According to a 2009 study by Gallup,, Muslim American women are not only more educated than Muslim women in Western Europe, but are also more educated than the average American. U.S. Muslim women report incomes closer to their male counterparts than American women of any other religion. They are at the helm of many key religious and civic organizations, such as the Arab-American Family Support Center, Azizah magazine, Karamah, Turning Point, the Islamic Networks Group and the American Society for Muslim Advancement.

Again, Rauf presents a stew of irrelevancies buttressed by an appeal to “authority.” Education is no guarantee that a Muslim will not suddenly become a bomb-making or gun-toting jihadist. Major Nidal Hassan proved that. It has been demonstrated numerous times, regardless of the perpetrator’s gender. But note that Rauf boasts of Muslim women “at the helm” of what are essentially non-productive Muslim organizations and charities. What? Where’s the Muslim Dagny Taggart? Not a chance.

In his next rebuttal, to the “myth” that “American Muslims often become ‘homegrown’ terrorists,” Rauf wins a silver medal for verisimilitude. He does not outright deny that Muslims, “homegrown” or “imported,” have committed acts of terrorism. He simply diverts the reader’s attention to a questionable allegation by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security that

…more non-Muslims than Muslims were involved in terrorist plots on U.S. soil in 2010. In a country in the grip of Islamophobia — where Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) can convene hearings on the radicalization of American Muslims— this has been overlooked. In 2010, the Triangle Center also found, the largest single source of initial information on planned terrorist attacks by Muslims in the United States was the Muslim American community.

Rauf uses these two paragraphs to attack the anemic Peter King hearings on Muslim radicalization in this country, and to assure readers that Americans should not associate terrorism with Islam. And what “non-Muslims” have been involved in terrorist plots or committed or attempted terrorist acts? Catholics? Atheists? Scientologists? Druids? Rauf does not say.

If you wish to read through a densely-packed, 64-page “study” of how Muslims are helping to prevent terrorism, “Anti-Terror Lessons of Muslim American Communities,” written by two sociologists and a Muslim divinity professor (and partly underwritten by the Department of Justice), go here. It was written under the aegis of the Triangle Center. An excerpt from its Executive Summary clearly reveals that if any effective anti-terrorist programs are ever adopted, it must be on Muslim terms, not on objective ones. Anything else would be condemned as “profiling,” and unfairly discriminatory.

Increased Anti-Muslim Bias. Since 9/11, there has been increased tension among Muslim-Americans about their acceptance in mainstream American society. Muslim-Americans perceive a stronger anti-Muslim bias from both their day-to-day interactions and the media, a bias that is confirmed in public opinion polling. While Muslim-Americans understand and support the need for enhanced security and counterterrorism initiatives, they believe that some of these efforts are discriminatory, and they are angered that innocent Muslim-Americans bear the brunt of the impact of these policies.

Muslim Americans “perceive” an anti-Muslim bias (a.k.a., “Islamophobia”); ergo it is. “Cogito ergo sum”? Has not René Descartes’s proposition, adopted by the Left, statist politicians, and humanitarians, done enough damage to the West? But it is not surprising that Muslims would adopt it to further that destruction in the name of establishing a caliphate.

As a side note, political correctness decrees that when anyone dares criticize Islam or upbraid Muslims for being mindless conformists to an irrational creed, he is displaying signs of “Islamophobia.” But when Muslims go on a binge of murder and destruction at the drop of a Koran, it is never called “Lifephobia,” or “Westernphobia” or “Americaphobia,” or “Toleranophobia,” even though Islam inculcates an unreasoning fear in all things un-Islam. Islam requires and nurtures institutionalized paranoia.

The Triangle Center, however, is a left-wing non-profit operating out of Duke University and the University of North Carolina. It has close links with the equally left-wing Center for American Progress Action Fund and the National Security Network, both organizations dedicated to “progressive” policies. So, the Triangle Center is hardly an authoritative source for “facts.” It is not surprising that Rauf would turn to it for “authority,” given the Left’s alliance with Islam, united by a hatred for freedom and a desire to see it perish in the name of “progress.”

At the end, Rauf challenges the “myth” that Muslims wish to bring Sharia law to America. Here he is at his most bald-faced taqiyya, and has the insolence of bringing the Constitution and John Adams into his argument. The average, inconspicuous Muslim might not want to bring Sharia to the U.S. But, then again, he will not oppose it if his more activist brethren manage to achieve that goal, regardless of whether it is mandating foot baths or prayer rooms on private or public property or getting local judges to admit Sharia as a legitimate arbitration venue. Islam requires that Muslims submit to the diktats of the Koran. This includes obeying commands deemed, in Western, secular, non-religious law, criminal in intent and commission.

Ibrahim (born Doug) Hooper, National Communications Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said it all, in direct contradiction to Rauf’s assertion:

"I wouldn't want to create the impression that I wouldn't like the government of the United States to be Islamic sometime in the future."

Thank you, Rauf, but I will take Hooper’s word over yours.

Finally, Rauf stoops to introducing two irrelevancies, a mention of John Adams, and the image of Mohammad at the Supreme Court building in a frieze of seventeen other lawgivers above the justices’ bench.

In his 1776 publication “Thoughts on Government,” John Adams praised Muhammad as a “sober inquirer after truth.” And the Supreme Court building contains a likeness of the prophet, whose vision of justice is cited as an important precedent to the U.S. Constitution.

CAIR objected to the imagined likeness of Mohammad in the Supreme Court building. Rauf does not remind us of that. Others do.

In 1997, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, protested the Supreme Court's Muhammad sculpture, saying, according to its annual report for that year, "While appreciating the fact that Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) was included in the court's pantheon of 18 prominent lawgivers of history, CAIR noted that Islam discouraged its followers from portraying any prophet in paintings, sculptures or other artistic representations."

CAIR also said it was concerned that Muhammad "was shown with the Quran, Islam's Holy Book, in one hand and a sword in the other, reinforcing long-held stereotypes of Muslims as intolerant conquerors."

If it is a ‘stereotype,” then Muslims worldwide are not doing much to correct or combat it.

Rauf does not quote Adams. Here is what Adams wrote, in a brief essay to others about what kind of governments the new states should form “to best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular and America in general”:

"All sober inquirers after truth, ancient and modern, pagan and Christian, have declared that the happiness of man, as well as his dignity, consists in virtue. Confucius, Zoroaster, Socrates, Mahomet, not to mention authorities really sacred, have agreed in this."*

It is not likely that Adams had then as comprehensive a knowledge of Islam and Mohammad other than what he might have gleaned from other, contemporary but inadequate sources, at least not the depth of understanding we have today about the true nature of Islam. Otherwise he would not have included, what he realized was a conquest-thirsty barbarian, in a roster of “inquirers after truth,” a creature who sanctioned taqiyya, or lying or deceiving those he wished to conquer. And undoubtedly Adams revised his appraisal of Mohammad when he served as ambassador to France and during his administration, when he had to deal with the Barbary pirates. His son and also president, John Quincy Adams, entertained no illusions about the Muslim faith. Rauf writes;

In Islam, sharia is the divine ideal of justice and compassion, similar to the concept of natural law in the Western tradition. Though radicals exist on the fringes of Islam, as in every religion, most Muslim jurists agree on the principal objectives of sharia: the protection and promotion of life, religion, intellect, property, family and dignity. None of this includes turning the United States into a caliphate. For centuries, most Islamic scholars around the world have agreed that Muslims must follow the laws of the land in which they live.

Oh, yes, the scholars encourage following the laws of the lands in which Muslims settle – until those laws can be replaced with Sharia. And “natural law in the Western tradition” has nothing to do with justice and compassion, and “natural law” itself would be abrogated by Sharia, as well. If “natural law” concerns itself with man’s nature as a being of volitional consciousness responsible for his own life and value choices, Sharia is not the religious ideology that would encourage either of those attributes.

Rauf writes:

Not only do American Muslims have no scriptural, historical or political grounds to oppose the U.S. Constitution, but the U.S. Constitution is in line with the objectives and ideals of sharia. Muslims already practice sharia in the United States when they worship freely and follow U.S. laws.

The U.S. Constitution was written to limit the power of the federal government, to preserve the individual’s right to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness from the wishes of politicians and majorities. Sharia law is an all-encompassing, totalitarian system that governs the minds and actions of the individual, from his diet to his relationships with others to his purpose and primary duty in life, which is to advance Islam regardless of the wishes of those who do not want to be Muslim or who abhor Islam. Sharia is absolutely antithetical to the Constitution on two levels: the conceptual and the perceptual.

For a detailed but by no means exhaustive discussion of the brutal and inimical meaning of Sharia law, see James Arlandson’s “Ten top reasons why Sharia is bad for all societies” from 2005 on American Thinker. It is just one of dozens of critical examinations of the Islamic code. Or, listen to this marvelous word cloud on Islam, “Three Things About Islam You Didn’t Know.” I call it “A Brief Lesson on Islam for Those Who Do Not Wish to Become Dhimmis.”

And that was Imam Feisal Rauf’s April Fools’ Day prank, played on a national audience.

*”Thoughts on Government” in The Revolutionary Writings of John Adams. Ed. by C. Bradley Thompson. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000. pp. 288-289.

:: Permalink | 9 Comments ::

 

:: Tuesday, April 05, 2011 ::

Ashes for Allah: New Calls for Censorship 

:: Posted by Edward Cline at 4:31 PM

In the 21st century, on the lunatic fringe of American religion, a man decided to revive the medieval practice of putting an animal or inanimate object on trial for some grave offense, which was usually for witchcraft or being an instrument of the devil. The medievalist man is Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida, who announced plans to hold a “trial” of the Islamic Koran, charging it with “inciting murder, rape and terrorism.” Mr. Jones’s capacity for intellectual discourse on the evil of the ideas contained in the book being severely limited (he is a Baptist), burning an inanimate object was all that is left to him in the way of rebuttal and protest.

On the evening of March 20, the “trial” went ahead with Jones presiding. It ended with another pastor setting alight a kerosene-soaked copy of the Qur’an.

A brief Agence France Presse (AFP) report said that although the event was open to the public fewer than 30 people attended. A subsequent local media report said the only journalists who turned up on the day were an AFP stringer, several students and an unassigned photographer. A video clip was posted online, however.

The news media paid the event little or no attention. Jones had promised to burn a copy of the Koran last September 11, on the anniversary of 9/11, but was talked out of it by officials who feared a repetition of the Danish Mohammad cartoon riots. They feared in vain. The riots occurred anyway. For Muslims, knowledge is a dangerous thing. If it doesn’t fit, they throw a fit.

Everyone underestimated the determination of Jones to make some statement, however addled it might be, and presumed that his apparent thirst for publicity had been slaked.

The “trial” served as an excuse for another round of riots, murder and mayhem by Muslims. Warring Muslim factions, however, have burned or destroyed more copies of the Koran than have any group of Westerners, but this fact is an unthinkable thought to Muslims. As with Jones’s original broadcast intention to burn a copy of the Koran, together with the publication of the Danish cartoons, there was also this time a measurable delayed reaction that went unnoticed. Time passed between knowledge of the “offenses” and Muslim reaction. This was to give the doyens of “anger management” time to whip their predisposed flocks and armies of manqués into a frenzy.

As of April 5th, the riots and protests against Jones and a potpourri of things Western continue.

A unique train of events ensued, one that led to the latest blathering of American politicians.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who last week drew Afghan public attention to the burning, an event that initially gained little media coverage, on Sunday called on the U.S. Houses of Congress to join in the condemnation and prevent a repeat incident.

Several Muslim clerics seized on this unsolicited piece of Constitutional advice by our alleged “ally” to give their humble congregations double doses of feverish outrage.

Karzai was abetted in this by Pakistan.

On March 22, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, in a speech to the federal parliament, condemned the incident “in the strongest possible words,” and Pakistan’s foreign ministry called the burning a “despicable act.” Dozens of reports on the Qur’an burning appeared in Pakistani media outlets on March 22-23, but the story received negligible coverage elsewhere in the Islamic world.

The klaxon of hurt Muslim feelings was also sounded by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) at the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

On March 31, 2011, Pakistan’s United Nations ambassador, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, spoke to reporters at UN headquarters on behalf of the 56 member state Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Ambassadorial Group, condemning the recent burning of a copy of the Koran by the pastors of a small Baptist Church in Gainesville, Florida. He highlighted the OIC’s “grave concern that the despicable act had severely hurt the feelings of 1.5 billion Muslims around the world” and warned reporters that it could lead to “incidents that are uncontrollable.”

Was that a “prophecy,” a hope, or a threat?

The very next day Ambassador Haroon’s warning turned into a tragic, self-fulfilling prophesy. A large mob of demonstrators in Afghanistan, angry at the Koran burning and apparently responding to calls for revenge by three mullahs who had addressed worshippers at Friday prayer in one of Afghanistan’s holiest mosques, stormed a United Nations compound in the northern region of the country and killed a number of innocent people, including at least seven UN staff members - two reportedly by beheading.

Not to be outdone in condemning Jones for “causing” the Afghan riots, a number of American politicians, a Supreme Court justice, and one American general chimed in with their own “anger.” South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, Senate majority leader Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, one Supreme Court justice, Steven Breyer, and General David H. Petraeus, commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, all piled on the hapless Jones.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says congressional lawmakers are discussing taking some action in response to the Koran burnings of a Tennessee [sic] pastor that led to killings at the U.N. facility in Afghanistan and sparked protests across the Middle East, Politico reports. “Ten to 20 people have been killed," Reid said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “We’ll take a look at this of course. As to whether we need hearings or not, I don’t know.”

Lindsey Graham was more specific, but just as ignorant.

Senator Lindsey Graham said Congress might need to explore the need to limit some forms of freedom of speech, in light of Tennessee [sic] pastor Terry Jones’ Quran burning, and how such actions result in enabling U.S. enemies. "I wish we could find a way to hold people accountable. Free speech is a great idea, but we're in a war," Graham told CBS' Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation” Sunday.

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos of “Good Morning America” reported these interesting instances of ignorance.

We also saw Democrats and Republicans alike assume that Pastor Jones had a Constitutional right to burn those Korans. But Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer told me on “GMA” that he's not prepared to conclude that -- in the internet age -- the First Amendment condones Koran burning.

Last week President Obama told me that Pastor Jones could be cited for public burning – but that was “the extent of the laws that we have available to us.” Rep. John Boehner said on “GMA” that “just because you have a right to do something in America does not mean it is the right thing to do.”

General Petraeus offered his own politically correct obloquy:

"We condemn, in particular, the action of an individual in the United States who recently burned the Holy Quran. We also offer condolences to the families of all those injured and killed in violence which occurred in the wake of the burning of the Holy Quran.

We further hope the Afghan people understand that the actions of a small number of individuals, who have been extremely disrespectful to the Holy Quran, are not representative of any of the countries of the international community who are in Afghanistan to help the Afghan people."

Where have all the great generals gone? Can you imagine George Patton being outraged over a desecration of Mein Kampf, or William Sherman frowning on a mocking rendition of “Dixie”? Lastly, President Barack Obama consulted his script writer and had this to say:

The desecration of any holy text, including the Koran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry. However, to attack and kill innocent people in response is outrageous, and an affront to human decency and dignity. No religion tolerates the slaughter and beheading of innocent people, and there is no justification for such a dishonorable and deplorable act.

Empty but ominous words. In Indonesia, as a boy, Obama reputedly studied the Koran, and should know better than any other politician that the Koran indeed tolerates – nay, encourages – the slaughter and beheading of non-Muslims and other infidels. Note that he specified the “text,” and not the physical object. The “text” contains ideas that sanction a brutal ideology. Mr. Obama is certainly smarter than Terry Jones.

Daniel Greenfield summed it up neatly on Sultan Knish. Citing the incident of a German propagandist jailed during WWI, he notes:

Today we aren't jailing filmmakers who traffic in anti-American propaganda in wartime. If we did then half of Hollywood would be behind bars. Instead Democratic and Republican Senators are discussing banning speech offensive to the enemy. Because even though they're killing us already-- we had better not provoke them or who knows how much worse it will become.

What it will all lead up to is a kind of selective censorship that will insulate Islam from any criticism. Politicians, generals and pundits do not become overwrought about the burning of bibles, Torahs, or other religious documents. Only about Korans. This is because Islam is always in the news, in some form or another, and that is because Muslims are always being “provoked” by the least criticism of them and their creed to throw bloody tantrums. Islam is another “culture,” another religion, another “way of life,” and by the criteria of political correctness and an affinity for dhimmitude, it must be protected from all forms of offense.

And that selective, privilege-granting censorship will serve as a precedent and lead to other brands of censorship, including prohibiting the kind of writing you are reading here. Calm, reasoned, and deserved criticism of Islam must sooner or later be classified as a “hate crime,” as “injurious,” “hurtful,” and “bigoted” as burning a Koran. Observe the intellectual and moral stature of Americans who attempt to establish a causal relationship between the Afghan riots and Jones’s publicity stunt-cum-protest.

These people are not going to defend the First Amendment. They are unable to. They are intellectual troglodytes. For evidence of the fishbowls of swirling, floating abstractions their minds are, I invite anyone to read the transcript of an interview of Lindsey Graham by The National Review and to reach his own conclusion. The interview was conducted to give Graham a chance to expand and qualify his weekend statements on the Afghan riots and Jones’s Koran-burning. I challenge anyone to find an operating principle in his illiterate, emotionalist gibberish, the kind of equivocating rhetoric that can justify the kind of fascism that is congealing around American life. To wit:

"Let me tell you, the First Amendment means nothing without people like General Petraeus. I don’t believe that the First Amendment allows you to burn the flag or picket the funeral of a slain service member. I am going to continue to speak out and say that’s wrong. The First Amendment does allow you to express yourself and burn a Koran. I’m sure that’s the law, but I don’t think it’s a responsible use of our First Amendment right."

And if Graham, Boehner, Reid, Petraeus, and Obama do not think my writing here is a “responsible” use of my First Amendment right, what do they propose to do about it? How do they propose to make me “accountable”? The menacing growl is in their words. The First Amendment has already been whittled down to a splinter of what it once meant. It would be nothing to them to reduce it to a sliver.

What distinguishes their position on freedom of speech from that of the United Nations? Nothing. A U.N. spokesman felt compelled to add his own two cents about freedom of speech as he recounted the murders of the U.N. staff by the Muslim mob in Mazar-i-Sharif. Staffan de Mistura, the U.N’s Envoy to Afghanistan, described the Koran-burning as an “insane and totally despicable gesture.”

"Freedom of speech does not mean freedom of offending culture, religion or traditions," de Mistura said. "Those who entered our building were actually furiously angry about the issue about the Quran. There was nothing political there."

Oh, but there was, Mr. Mistura. Freedom of speech now stands to be sacrificed on the altar of pragmatic accommodation to Muslims and Islam. And as a Graham or Reid or Boehner touch a match to a compromise-soaked Constitution, Muslims, gathering after their prayers, will watch the ashes and smoke rise in the sky, and chant: “Burn, baby! Burn!”

They will not need to chant, “Death to America!” America will already be dead.

:: Permalink | 13 Comments ::

 

 

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