pageok
pageok
pageok
Choice of Blogging Topics:

A commenter on the Conversion to Christianity Earns Death Threats, Risk of Incarceration thread agrees that the story is quite troubling ("As to the post itself I am horrified at this practice," but goes on to ask:

However, I do have to wonder what purpose is served by posting this particular example in such detail. Human rights abuses suck but they are happening all the time. Why pick this one about islam rather than the jailing of Chinese dissidents or oppressive actions by other governments? (Do third world christian nations behave differently or does the influence of first world churches keep them in check?)

If the poster feels that this sort of inhuman treatment goes underreported/uncondemned out of fear of offending religious sensibilities then, assuming his assesment is correct, I share his goals. However, I am skeptical of the appropriatness of this particular incident to accomplish this purpose. Jailing people for conversion to christianity is clearly no worse than jailing them for conversion to any other religion, advocacy of heretical islamic views or violation of any other religious law. Choosing an example where the individual wishes to convert to christianity when the mention of prison camps in the article suggests a wealth of other examples seems designed to inflame a christian audience.

I realize that you probably didn't run across any of the other stories so I don't want to cast blame. However, I do feel that the choice of examples is unfortunate and more good could be done with examples that don't encourage people to view this as a religious conflict.

Another reader likewise asks (with a good deal of detailed discussion following), "What is the purpose of picking up stories about the horrors of repressive Islamic regimes?"

A few thoughts:

1. "This" in the sense of "this story" does involve a religious conflict. "This" in the sense of the broader issue of "jailing ... for conversion to any other religion [or] advocacy of hereitcal islamic views" also involves religious conflicts, albeit ones with other religions.

2. I'm quite sure that the Chinese government represses people's human rights, too; I don't blog much about Chinese repression because I don't get a lot of e-mails about them, and at least some of those stories are complex enough that it's hard to opine on them without investing more time than I have to invest. This story struck me as pretty simple; there'll always be a bias in favor of such stories, especially among part-time writers (though I suspect among full-time writers as well).

3. While some balance of perspective is valuable, insisting that people not complain about the misbehavior of one country (or ideological movement) unless they somehow evenly calibrate their condemnation among all countries, in proportion to the countries' actual misconduct, is a recipe for total silence. Seems to me better that some people point out the misbehavior of some groups and others of other groups (depending on the speakers' knowledge base, interests, and so on), than that no-one point out anything out of an attempt at pure balance.

4. I agree that if you fault country X for doing something and defend country Y for doing the same thing, you could be faulted for inconsistency. Likewise, if X and Y are adversaries, and you fault X for certain behavior in the conflict without noting Y's misbehavior, you can be faulted for partiality. And if you fault country or movement X harshly for doing something that lots of other comparable countries do, without noting that this misbehavior is very common, you can be faulted for lack of perspective. Yet I don't think that any of these problems are present here.

5. The sad fact is that, as best I can tell, many Islamic regimes are indeed quite repressive of religious freedom, as well as of other freedoms. That's important for us to know, and to know in some detail.

6. However, I'm happy to say that if anyone can point me to a non-Islamic country in which religious conversion leads to private death threats, and threat of governmentally authorized incarceration, I'll be glad to note that as well. (I've certainly noted what seem to me improper religious discrimination in my own country, albeit a less egregious discrimination than we're discussing here.) I'm interested in such matters, and it's always good to get interesting blogfodder.

But no need to tell me that revealing accurate information will somehow "inflame a Christian audience," or suggest that it's somehow not "appropriate"; that's not going to go far with me.

UPDATE: The second commenter I quote above posts a follow-up comment, which asks, in part, "Why this story now?"

Well, because a former student (actually, a very liberal former student) e-mailed me this story, and this story was published -- in the New York Times, mind you -- now. What was I supposed to do? Not post it? Sit on it for months until someone sent me some story about a Christian country doing the same to converts to Islam (a story that might never come)? Sit on it until I could spend a week researching all the ways in which a wide range of countries violate a wide range of rights and then post a paper on the subject?

The commenter also writes, "I think one or two of your points above erect strawmen. I don't think anyone -- at least, not anyone that need be taken seriously -- is trying to 'insist that people not complain' about one country or movement unless it is done evenly according to some schedule." I wonder about that. It's hard to figure out what's in my commenters' minds, but the comments as I read them point precisely in that direction: They're suggesting that there was something wrong with posting about the Malaysian government's misbehavior, apparently because I don't comment enough on misbehavior of other governments and therefore because my post somehow paints an unfairly grim picture of Islamic law. Isn't that an argument that people shouldn't be complaining about Islamic misconduct unless one somehow finds some matching set of misconduct by non-Islamic countries that one can serve up as some supposed balance?

Blogfan:
Doesn't Israel also repress freedoms? For example for the millions of Palestinians they have under occupation?

Why don't you ever post about that? (sarcasm)
8.24.2006 6:45pm
Ex-Fed (mail) (www):
It's funny that I was ploddingly composing sort of the same idea as logicnazi and he beat me to the post.

I think one or two of your points above erect strawmen. I don't think anyone -- at least, not anyone that need be taken seriously -- is trying to "insist that people not complain" about one country or movement unless it is done evenly according to some schedule.

However, I think it is always appropriate to ask -- why this story now? In this particular instance, the question has the effect of suggesting a liberal looking for conservative bias. But it could just as easily be used by a conservative seeking out liberal bias. And besides conscious bias, it raises the issue of how the commentariat's focus on a particular issue or topic can serve to frame debate and change opinion in ways independent of the content of the comments.
8.24.2006 6:50pm
liberty (mail) (www):
The Chinese (who are not Islamic) jail practitioners of minority religious groups; seems to be a common theme among communist countries.
http://usinfo.state.gov/dhr/Archive/2005/Nov/08-459840.html
8.24.2006 6:52pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Blogfan: If you look closely at my posts, you'll actually find that I post next to nothing about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, chiefly because the whole topic is pretty complex -- civil rights generally in a war zone is a more complex matter than the freedom to convert religion in a peaceful country -- and fact-intensive enough that I leave it to others. I likewise generally don't post about alleged Sri Lankan misconduct in the Tamil conflict, Russian misconduct in Chechnya (though sources I trust report generally and in my view quite plausibly that Russia has indeed misbehaved there), or about searches, seizures, detentions, and other such matters in other war zones.

But more broadly, if you're looking for someone who covers all alleged foreign rights violations -- and with an ideological perspective that matches yours -- you had best look elsewhere. Actually, if you do look elsewhere and find a blog that does cover restrictions on speech, religion, privacy, personal security, and so on in Israel, Malaysia, Russia, Sri Lanka, China, Europe, Canada, the U.S., and everywhere else, please post a link. It would be quite a find, I think.
8.24.2006 6:54pm
liberty (mail) (www):
can't we all just get along? maybe; maybe all religions are true anyway: http://www.townhall.com/talkradio/Show.aspx?RadioShowID=10
8.24.2006 7:10pm
BGates (mail) (www):
Do third world christian nations behave differently or does the influence of first world churches keep them in check?

Another possibility is that third world Christian nations manage to avoid religious oppression due to their own sense of morality, just like the grown-ups in the first world.
8.24.2006 7:14pm
Gordo:
THe most important aspect of this story, and the reason it stands out, is that it has occurred in a "moderate" Islamic nation, Malaysia.

I agree that this would not be news if it occurred in Saudi Arabia or Iran. But if enlightened Muslim nations tolerate this kind of repression, it's not a good omen for dealing with Islam on a worldwide basis.
8.24.2006 7:45pm
Gordo:
To follow up, I, for one, was quite surprised and dismayed to find out that this kind of repression os going on in a moderate Muslim nation like Malaysia. And I'm sure I am not alone in this reaction. THAT's what makes this story news.
8.24.2006 7:47pm
srp (mail):
Ex-Fed is kidding, isn't he? We have a huge problem fighting self-proclaimed Islamist terrorists who want to impose sharia on the whole world, destroying our entire liberal democratic tradition and culture. A key empirical issue in deciding how to deal with this problem is gauging to what extent moderate, mainstream Muslims are our allies or our enemies in this fight. Any evidence pointing one way or the other is likely to be pretty important. The news that "moderate" Malaysia acts this way unfortunately disconfirms my preferred position that moderate Muslims are our allies, but it is another data point and one I am grateful to have.
8.24.2006 7:53pm
Greedy Clerk (mail):
While some balance of perspective is valuable, insisting that people not complain about the misbehavior of one country (or ideological movement) unless they somehow evenly calibrate their condemnation among all countries, in proportion to the countries' actual misconduct, is a recipe for total silence. Seems to me better that some people point out the misbehavior of some groups and others of other groups (depending on the speakers' knowledge base, interests, and so on), than that no-one point out anything out of an attempt at pure balance.

I agree wholeheartedly with this statement. I do note that David Bernstein, however, has spilled a lot of virtual ink making precisely such complaints vis-a-vis criticism of Israel relative to criticisms of other countries. Of course, you and DB may just disagree but under his logic (both express and implied), your posts about Islam show a serious prejudice towards Islam; otherwise you would be posting about China, Congo, etc.
8.24.2006 7:54pm
CJColucci:
On the "why this story" point, doesn't Adam Smith have some good things to say about the division of labor? Unless you think that EV is pushing some unsavory agenda -- and if so, tell us what it is and how this pushes it -- by picking this particular story, why isn't specialization in moral outrage a more effective means of production?
8.24.2006 7:55pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Greedy Clerk: I think Eugene covers the Eugene/David point when he says:

I agree that if you fault country X for doing something and defend country Y for doing the same thing, you could be faulted for inconsistency. Likewise, if X and Y are adversaries, and you fault X for certain behavior in the conflict without noting Y's misbehavior, you can be faulted for partiality. And if you fault country or movement X harshly for doing something that lots of other comparable countries do, without noting that this misbehavior is very common, you can be faulted for lack of perspective. Yet I don't think that any of these problems are present here.

David Bernstein's complaints about people's criticisms of Israel, as I recall them, often fit into this pattern. For instance, when he asks whether Japan should exist as a Japanese country, that's him noting "lack of perspective" among those who fault Israel for doing what other countries do all the time. When he comments about a supposed double-standard as between Israelis and Palestinians, that's partiality.

And so on.... I can't look into Eugene's or David's heads to see what they think of each other's points, but on its face Eugene's view here and David's practice in his various posts seem to be consistent.
8.24.2006 8:02pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
I can think of one reason for sitting on this story, or wishing somebody had:
Kevin Drum, a mostly non-nutty liberal, recently ruminated about why he doesn't speak out about Iran's abysmal human rights issues. They are anathema to all he believes.
He answers himself, saying that if he speaks out on this, it could help George Bush.
The worse Islamists--or, in this case, what appears to be normal non-Islamist Muslims--look, the more urgent a vigorous WOT appears. Bush and the republicans look better on this issue.

Complaining about Sri Lanka or the PRC doesn't have the same possibility of pointing out that we need to Do Something, and that Bush is likely to actually Do Something.

It's sort of like the feminists pointing with alarm at the abuses by the Taliban until Bush actually did something, at which time it became a non-issue. Because it might have looked like they supported Bush.

Same same.
8.24.2006 8:11pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Read your own blog lately?

Sorry, just kind of funny timing, on the same day as Bernstein's column re: unbalanced criticism of Israel. No mention?

I'll have to try that one on Bernstein: Maybe I just criticize Israel because I find it interesting...

Or maybe you're just proving your point, that you really don't have to mention anything you don't want to.
*nods head*
8.24.2006 8:13pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Well, I don't see anybody (aside from a few lunatic fringers) defending the religious policies of the PRC, but I see millions and millions of idiots (I choose the word advisedly) saying Islam is a religion of peace, that the war on terror is bogus and a distraction from our real problems, that we have to understand the legitimate complaints of this religion of peace and that our western materialism, capitalism, what have you are the root cause of this non-problem.

Stories about how Muslims behave ought to be on page one of every paper in the country, every day, until some people start getting a clue.
8.24.2006 8:14pm
A.S.:
I think Richard Aubrey is getting to the point here. Pointing these things out supports the Bush/neocon agenda. And that's the worst of all possible sins. So better you shut up about whatever allegedly bad things are happening in Malaysia (since pointing them out isn't helping anybody anyway) than potentially help the Bush/neocons.
8.24.2006 8:16pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Over the past decade, India has had trouble over the question of conversions. Hindu fundamentalists have, in fact, killed Indians for the sin of converting to Christianity or Islam. They have also killed missionaries and their families for their efforts to convert.

This editorial from The Hindu puts it in perspective. At least the perspective of a moderate Hindu.

This article from Catholic World News talks only about Catholic missionaries. (26 Killed in 2005) The number of Protestant missionaries killed is higher. As Judaism does not support proselytizing, I can't find any numbers there.

Islam is a religion that, in its stricted interpretation, says the religion is a one-way door: you can enter, but you can't leave. That, of course, is against human rights as we see them. Clearly, some Muslims don't see human rights in the same way. In fact, as I've noted before, one can fruitfully compare the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Man and the Islamic Declaration on the Rights of Man. They differ substantially. I know Muslims only represent 1/6 of the world's population, and the majority of them aren't "strict" in their interpretations. But this is an intersection between religion and individual liberty. Not everyone agrees how it should be played out.
8.24.2006 8:31pm
SG:
I would guess that when ChiComms kill 3000 Americans some clear September morning, the activities of the Chinese government will become a much more interesting topic.
8.24.2006 8:33pm
Christopher Cooke (mail):
Professor, I think some believe that this blog routinely bashes Islam, Arab countries, and foes of Israel. So, that is probably why you got the "why now?" criticism.

Personally, I found your post helpful and worthwhile. For other human rights abuses involving religion, on a much greater scale, I would suggest looking into the PRC's treatment of Falun Gong and the Tibetans. For abuses that are going on right now, and worse than any of these examples (because the abuses are tantamount to genocide and involve many more victims) I would suggest the Darfur-Sudan conflict and the Sudanese government's treatment of the largely black muslims in southern Sudan.
8.24.2006 8:39pm
Ex-Fed (mail) (www):
Somebody else might be arguing that a blogger must dole out his outrage demographically, to each nation according to its population or something. That's not me.

But look -- are people actually saying that the choice of issues to discuss doesn't have meaning? Take, for instance, NPR. You really don't need to listen to HOW the stories are reported to detect a liberal agenda, in my opinion. You only need to listen to which stories they choose to run -- an awful lot of stories on environmental issues, poverty issues, etc. Those choices have an impact on framing the debate -- because by framing what issues are important, they suggest ultimate value judgments.

And avoiding issues can be just as meaning-filled, as Kevin Drum's admission suggests.

I don't think there can be much doubt that pointing out attrocities associated with Islam helps the Bush Administration agenda -- in connection with Iraq, in connection with terrorism, and perhaps in connection with Iran. I'm not leaping to the conclusion that therefore the stories should not be told. But I advocate an awareness of the context of the telling of the stories, as well as a healthy skepticism about why they are told. Asking "why" doesn't imply "how can you justify this." Asking "why" can also involve wondering whether there are non-apparent reasons that the story is being circulated.

Would this be such a controversial point if I said, for instance, that a resurgence of Abramoff/corruption stories just before midterm elections might have meaning beyond the direct meaning of the articles? Say a Republican takes a hard corruption fall next month. Say suddenly it seems that the media and many bloggers are suddenly very, very concerned with highlighting every corruption story that comes up. Corruption is a very important issue and corruption of our public officials is unacceptable. But would it be unreasonable to ask why the emphasis then?
8.24.2006 8:39pm
maiken (www):
I don't have a problem with your post, but I can venture a guess about what's going on.

In the model you propose, there is no problem with an individual author being unbalanced in the topics s/he chooses, since s/he trusts that "some people [will] point out the misbehavior of some groups and others of other groups (depending on the speakers' knowledge base, interests, and so on)".

But now suppose you are a member of a minority group (say, Muslims) and you feel that the sins of your group are called out disproportionately often, and the sins of others are passed over silently. Each author may individually be fairly innocent, but as a whole, authors are committing one of the sins you identify: a lack of "perspective" by the act of "fault[ing] country or movement X harshly for doing something that lots of other comparable countries do, without noting that this misbehavior is very common".

In this case, what is to be done? One option is to pick up a microphone and try to balance things out yourself. Another is to press individual authors to focus more of their attention on other groups, to restore balance.

Might your objectors not be legitimately attempting approach #2?
8.24.2006 8:42pm
Kazinski:
I love it when blog commentors endevor to pick and choose the topics that bloggers choose to blog about. Despite the fact that EV and his blog do a better job on many topics than the NYT does, they do not hold themselves out as the "Blog of Record". I thought that was what a blog was about, picking and choosing the topics that interest the blogger. Its too bad there are such barriers to entry to keep all the dissatisfied commentors from having their own blog.

But while we are on subject, I am disapointed, and wish register my censorous disaproval that neither EV or the other conspiritors blogged about this:


The principles of Islam cannot be altered and and there is no democracy in Islam or nonsense like 'democratic Islam'. Democracy is shirik (unbelief) and haram. Here we do not compromise. Those who claim to be Muslims and do not support Shariah one hundred per cent are all munafik and kafirs, they are out of Islam. No need to discuss with these people, they are not part of the ummat anymore.

There is no need to listen to public opinion: kafirs, apostates, liberals, atheists - they are all non-believers …


Bernstein has been wasting all his time on the real estate market, Juan-non hasn't blogged anything for at least few days, Orin only cares about FISA and the 4th amendment. What about the topics I care about?
8.24.2006 8:44pm
FlimFlam:
I have it on good authority some christians in New England burned a witch once, maybe even twice.

So sir, I ask you - Where is the outrage over that!

Are you pro-christian or are you just anti-witch?
8.24.2006 9:04pm
Lively:
FlimFlam:
I know you're being sarcastic, but if you have to reach back 300 years for an example of Christian murder, then you're making the point for the cause of alarm in regards to Islam.

It was only yesterday in Narathiwat, Thailand, a school teacher was gunned down by an Islamist. More people (including Muslims killing other Muslims) are killed by Islamists each year than in all 350 years of the Spanish Inquisition combined.

I know it's impolite to speak ill of another person's religion/mythical beliefs...but we need to wake up. Islamists are telling to our face that they want to kill us.
8.24.2006 9:31pm
Scott W. Somerville (mail) (www):
I agree with other commenters who picked up on "moderate Malaysia." If we rank the Marxist countries from "Marxist tyranny" to "moderate Marxism," we'd a spectrum of some sort. If we ranked Muslim countries in the same way, Malaysia would be on the moderate end of the scale. If the most moderate Marxists were threatening the most harmless converts the way Malaysia seems to be going over this poor girl, wouldn't it be news?
8.24.2006 9:38pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
The problems come when the word "Islamist" gets simplified into "Muslim", as has happened in this comment thread. There's a huge difference.

Most Christians are not pleased to be held responsible for the fatuous remarks of a Pat Robertson or the hateful remarks of a Fred Phelps. They repudiate them, but the repudiations don't generally lead the news.

In exactly the same way, whenever people like Abu Bakir Bashir pop off, the majority of Muslims--if they even hear of it--are cringing. The moderate's repudiation of extremist Islam don't lead the news either, if it's even mentioned. The repudiations are out there, if you look.

Recent killings by Christians, for Christian values? How about the bombings and shootings at abortion clinics. Or are these "ancient history?" Sure, the numbers aren't comparable, but the acts certainly are.
8.24.2006 10:21pm
johnt (mail):
Maybe islamist repression gets priority because we are at war with the oppressors, or they are at war with us. When we are war with Belgravia or whomever we will probably notice more of their human rights warts. War can do funny things to your moods.
8.24.2006 11:32pm
Lively:
John Burgess
In exactly the same way, whenever people like Abu Bakir Bashir pop off, the majority of Muslims--if they even hear of it--are cringing.

Have you ever listened to the Friday sermons that are broadcasted on state-run TV in Islamic countries? They regularly call for our death. They are endorsed by Islamic Governments and Sharia. People who slaughter Westerners are encouraged and commended by the religious leaders.


Recent killings by Christians, for Christian values? How about the bombings and shootings at abortion clinics. Or are these "ancient history?" Sure, the numbers aren't comparable, but the acts certainly are.

Paul Hill, the latest man executed for killing an abortion doctor was excommunicated from the church. Unlike Islam, his actions are against the teachings of Jesus. I challenge you to find a church leader anywhere (whose pastor is not a felon) to go along with what Paul Hill did.
8.24.2006 11:32pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Lively. John Burgess knows this. He just hopes--and on this board, for heaven's sake--that we don't.

Also, we might be graced with some pix of Muslim cringing, if JB would be so kind.

And the reason for conflating Islamist with Muslim is, in this case, because the morons behind this atrocity don't show any other signs of being Islamist. They're just Muslim.

Of course, every Muslim is just a Muslim, no matter what, until they commit some nutso atrocity and get caught. My question is how do you tell an Islamist from a mere Muslim before he commits some vile act?

The interesting thing about this particular case is that it doesn't seem to be Islamists. Just regular guys.
8.25.2006 12:33am
Lev:

Bernstein has been wasting all his time on the real estate market, Juan-non hasn't blogged anything for at least few days, Orin only cares about FISA and the 4th amendment. What about the topics I care about?


Carpenter only blogs about gay marriage.
8.25.2006 12:45am
Ted Frank (www):
The critics just have to admit that this is one of the top five gay-marriage-/ DC-real-estate-market-bubble-/ second-amendment-/ FISA-/ Bushism-refutation-/ Israel-defending -/ German-pun-blogs on the Internet. I, for one, am glad that it doesn't offset its comparative advantage in this niche with discussions of Falun Gong.
8.25.2006 1:10am
Lev:
Yeah. And I don't understand why anyone would pick on Muslem regimes, as it is well known that Islam is a religion of peace and Muslems are, well, as peaceloving as Quakers.

Why just today, the WashPost had a story about how peaceloving they are:

WAshPost story about peaceloving Muslims.
8.25.2006 1:24am
therut:
I keep hearing that only a very small number of muslims are fundamentalists.(or believe in the domination of shria law or their religon, ie forceful conversion or oppression) How do we know this???????? Is there any info on this or is this just a MSM motto or a bumper sticker. I would like to know the truth if anyone knows. I hear it said alot but never backed up with any known data besides a PEW poll???????? I just do not see how anyone can KNOW this.
8.25.2006 4:13am
randal (mail):
Eugene... your defense rings hollow. This blog is rougly three parts law, two parts pro-Israel, and one part anti-Jacob-Weisberg. You don't post anti-Israel news items because they're "too complex", but pro-Israel items are a-ok simple and straightforward? Who do you think you're fooling?

I don't care if your blog has a pro-Israel slant, but it's ridiculous for you to pretend it doesn't.
8.25.2006 4:19am
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Will say more latter but just a few quick points.

First of all my worry was not so much about critisizing muslim countries as opposed to christian or other countries. I have no reason to believe religious repression in christian areas is as extreme or pervasive as it is in muslim countries. My concern is the selection of the story of a christian victim as opposed to a believer in heretical islam or some other religion.

I also agree that one is not obligated to refrain from criticism unless one makes sure you have distributed it perfectly evenly. However, if there is reason to believe that some sort of bias is present in the selection of criticism it would be preferable not to propogate that bias.

For instance if you just happened to be interested in chinese culture or whatever random country it would be perfectly reasonable to post those criticisms that you come across in your area of interest without trying to balance them with criticisms of other countries. But if you like to post about say atrocities committed by israelis or palestinians and have some good reason to believe that there is significant media bias in terms of which atrocities get reported it would be preferable not to merely amplify this disparity by echoing the same biased selection of stories.

In other words there is no general rule of equal criticism but once you have good reason to believe there is a pernecious bias in the choose of stories you have a responsibility not to be too complicity in the propogation of that bias. If this was the only story I had heard from the media (and I believe this blog) about the horrible problems of people trying to leave islam I would have let it pass without comment. However, given I heard a huge amount about some christian convert in afghanistan some time ago and have yet to hear more than a blip about anyone but christians in this sort of situation leads me to suspect parts of the media are delibratly playing these stories up as attacks on christianity to their christian audience.

Still in a case like this you almost certainly don't have the resources to go out and research other examples yourself and it is a reasonable belief to think that posting an unfair selection of stories is better than posting none at all. So really my complaint is with the news organizations which have the time and resources to choose the stories they wish to print but select an unrepresentative sample to appeal to christian's sense of outrage.

In short I certainly have a problem with the media's choice of story. I am uncomfortable with posting these stories as it seems almost complicit in spreading the bias but I don't know if there is any better option.
8.25.2006 4:58am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Randal, you're confused. You seem to think the blog is a collective entity, rather than a bunch of independent bloggers. If you re-read Eugene's post, but use as your starting point the understanding that Eugene Volokh and David Bernstein are different people, you'll understand why your comment doesn't make sense.
8.25.2006 6:46am
Veritas:
What was noteworthy and valuable about the post is that it's surprising to many that this is happening in Maylaysia, an allegedly moderate Muslim nation.

Moreover, those of us who are not 'ostriches' are keenly aware that a significant portion of the Muslim world endorses what has become a 21st Century Jihad against the West, (and perhaps the rest of the world, e.g., Africa).

Only those with a political agenda to cover up what's going on in the world would think that what Eugene wrote was not eminently postworthy.
8.25.2006 8:45am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Back in the days of the Cold War, which by the way some of us may remember, an occasional professor would 'fess up to downplaying the horrors of communism because it might make his students mad or think about war or support republicans or something awful.

The post-war scenario, "The Day After" was highly recommended by liberal Christians. I was plugged into that bunch at the time, saw it happening, and went looking to see if what I saw was an aberration. Wasn't. The reason, as far as I could tell, was that a Ronald Reagan-like figure could be blamed. The later TV movie about the UN/USSR occupation with Kris Kristofferson was condemned because it demonized the UN/USSR. I once asked an activist if, instead of demonizing the Soviets, it would be okay to refer instead to their record. Nope. That, too, could get people upset.

You don't have to be a liberal Christian to be interested in which stories should be deep-sixed.

I get the impression that some of the impulse is now a fingers-in-the-ear thing, rather than an attempt to keep some of us from getting mad and starting a war. Or making President Bush look good, if only by default.

These guys are scary and if we don't hear bad things about them, we won't be so scared.
8.25.2006 9:01am
DK:
Why do people think that pointing out Islamist and Iranian abuses somehow helps Bush? I don't get that at all. Every story I hear about Iran makes me angrier at Bush for the bizarre choice to help Iran by invading Iraq, and to then bungle the invasion so badly that he's left Iran free to develop nukes, start wars with Israel, etc. Even Howard Dean understood that pointing out that the world is getting more dangerous is an attack on Bush -- why doesn't Kevin Drum get that?
8.25.2006 10:39am
MDJD2B (mail):
Doesn't Israel also repress freedoms? For example for the millions of Palestinians they have under occupation?

Why don't you ever post about that? (sarcasm)


Blogfan,

Is your point that Israel incarcerates people for converting to Islam? If so, that is untrue. Israel allows Jews to convert to Islam, and Jews who marry Moslems occasionally do so without criminal sanction.
8.25.2006 10:58am
MDJD2B (mail):
Recent killings by Christians, for Christian values? How about the bombings and shootings at abortion clinics. Or are these "ancient history?" Sure, the numbers aren't comparable, but the acts certainly are.

Yes-- and these acts of bombings are always prosecuted, even in the reddest of red states. An analogy to the Malaysia story would be if South Dakota sent a woman who had an abortion to an indoctrination camp.
8.25.2006 11:03am
Duncan Frissell (mail):

the sins of your group are called out disproportionately often,

I hyesitate to mention it but some groups sin a bit more than others.

The commies, for example, murdered >100 megs of their own civilians during the 20th century. No one else manged quite that kill rate.

Saudi Arabia got around to abolishing slavery in 1962. Sudan has still negelected to do so.

There are mosques in Rome, Canterbury, Geneva, Moscow, Athens, and even Salt Lake City but there are no churches (or infidels period) in Mecca.

In the 150 years after the death of the Prophet in 632, the Religion of Peace conquered 2/3 of Christendom including 3 of its 5 holiest cities (the 4th fell in 1453).

After failed attempts to conquer the rest of Europe in the 8th and the 16th centuries the Caliphate (its revenues sapped by a reduction in overland trade after the development of water routes to the Indies and China) settled into somnolence until a new revenue source appeared in the 20th century.

The study of Islam was neglected during the 500 years since Lepanto. We're just trying to make up for lost time.

The presence of "concentrated camps" in Malaysia for apostates is a very interesting story. One which should be as widely known as possible.
8.25.2006 11:19am
Houston Lawyer:
Every day I see moderate Muslims out in the street protesting the horrible acts allegedly committed in the defense of their faith. Not

I do hear a lot of whining on web sites by those who prefer we not look to closely at Muslim societies. You'd think the conspirators were leaking state secrets or something. Oh wait, leaking of state secrets is just fine and protected by the constitution. I keep forgetting that.
8.25.2006 11:26am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
DK. Even Kevin Drum knows the difference between BDS and reality.

The possibility that you and your friends would be thinking, "Go, George!" if we were doing something effective about Iran is zero. You'd be whining about that murderous Iraqi dictator who, with the end of sanctions, was making all those WMD Kay and Duelfer said he was ready to do.

Howard Dean is not a good source for strategic thinking.
8.25.2006 11:39am
angela (mail) (www):
The best reason to post this story, as opposed to other stories about religious persecution in other parts of the world, is that it is unique from a legal perspective.

Malaysia is ruled by constitutional law that institutes principles similar to what we have here in America. That has been eroded by a Syariah law system that was supposed to have limited, legislatively defined jurisdiction over Muslims only. Over the last decade or so, Syariah has expanded further and further on the constitutional law system that was supposed to be the highest law of the land through various judicial rulings on the rights of those who do not wish to live under Syariah law or be known as Muslims. Lina Joy's case is truly a landmark moment for a country that has generally been a stabilizing influence in its geographical region.

Malaysia has a history of generally peaceful religious diversity (but there has been severe race rioting--of course the race division almost mirrors the religious division--see a discussion here or here of how religion is usually a proxy for other things) and economic advancement that robbed it of the discontent of the unemployed that has plagued other countries in the region. So with that balance being challenged now, it's at a crossroads.

I've discussed Malaysia's legal system in further detail before here, and as mentioned in that post, you can take a look at my blog (here are search results for Lina Joy) for more detailed discussion.

Anyone who monitors religious freedom news (and doublechecks sources to make sure reports are correct) is aware that the vast majority of persecution is taking place in largely Islamic societies, and largely against professing Christians. This is not a happy fact, but it's true. There are severe and notable exceptions: repression in Sri Lanka, which is governed largely by militant Buddhists; in states of India ruled by the Hindu nationalist BJP; and in former Soviet bloc Central Asian "stan" countries or China, where any sort of non-state controlled religion has been put down. Some would also argue that Israel's laws, as has been explored here at Volokh, create religious persecution for Palestinians, although I view the situation there as more about race.

Christianity has its own gory history where man used God to do cruel, cruel things, but that's (for the most part) not its moment right now. As much religious conflict as you believe there is in America, where the majority calls itself Christian (even if they don't really believe or practice according to its founding document, the Bible), it pales in comparison to what is happening to non-Muslims (including non-Christians) in Somalia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other countries that have instituted some form of Islamic rule. That's why there is so much attention going to the institution of Islamic (as opposed to Jewish, or Catholic, or other religious) law around the world.

The reason Malaysia is important is that in contrast to those other countries, it is not yet under Islamic rule; it has a stable, advanced rule of law culture that makes for a different analysis; it is on the cusp of having all of that change. If you feel like people are just picking on Islam, I'm sure that the Volokh posters would welcome a story about a non-Islamic problem that is representative of such an important shift and moment in a country's time. Also if you want to know what is really going on, try taking a look at the Religious Freedom series on my blog. I try to post a good smattering of what is happening around the world on a regular basis, and I try to make the stories proportionately representative in terms of religion of the information I get in from multiple sources (including Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, papers, etc.). You will note that there is disproportionate discussion of Malaysia, because I've been following that case closely.
8.25.2006 12:13pm
Mark P. (mail):
My first impression is that the Christian reading this thread should look at the logs in their eyes before pointing out the speck in others'. And then they should turn the other cheek.

But another part of me says that the specks in others' eyes really seem to big freakin' logs -- whole forests of logs, in fact. Also, while I'm happy to turn my own cheek, I wonder what obligation I have to innocent third parties: My neighbor who worked in the WTC? Democrats in Iraq? The people in Israel? That little girl in Malaysia?

So I end up happy that information about this incident in Malaysia was posted, for my own knowledge and the knowledge of the world. And then I'm glad for our soldiers in Iraq, as well as the soldiers of the IDF, for standing against the Ba'athists in Iraq and Syria as well as the Party of Allah in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and (eventually) Iran.

In the end, the pacifists may turn out to be morally pure and ethically right, I don't know, but I've got a funny feeling that the strong have a moral obligation to protect the weak against evil.

As for the French, moderate Muslims, and, apparently, the Left Wing of the Democratic Party, I don't think they care about any of these things.

Markp
8.25.2006 1:00pm
Gino:
Why are you posting about repressive Islamic regimes? Don't you know that innocent people are dying in Lebanon?

There really is no end to that logic.
8.25.2006 1:04pm
BJGuckian (mail):
I think it has less to do with a demonstrated bias against repressive Islamic government practices in favor of those practiced by other, similarly repressive governments; and, more to do with repressive Islamic governments and their desire to expand such practices on a global scale -- to you and me.

After all, it is currently Islam that is making noise about imposing a global caliphate and sharia law around the world. If this is the case, it would be wise to be aware of what that might entail. No?

China is, for the most part (Taiwan notwithstanding), confining its humanitarian practices within it's border. Currently, there is no fear of a Communist Chines assaut on the West. That kind of makes it an internal matter subject to that whole U.N. argument about not fiddling with the internal affairs of a sovereign nation.

I believe this to be the case with most other despotic, inhumane, forms of government save one -- those based on the religion of Islam and operated, to any extent, under Islamic law.
8.25.2006 2:35pm
poster child (mail):

Eugene... your defense rings hollow. This blog is rougly three parts law, two parts pro-Israel, and one part anti-Jacob-Weisberg. You don't post anti-Israel news items because they're "too complex", but pro-Israel items are a-ok simple and straightforward? Who do you think you're fooling?

I don't care if your blog has a pro-Israel slant, but it's ridiculous for you to pretend it doesn't.


Or maybe the blog just has pro-rationality, pro-liberty, pro-truth and pro-America slants, all of which tend to naturally overlap--to a great extent--with being pro-Israel.

Nonetheless, and I think this is what Prof. V. means when he says that the issues are "complex," it's not a perfect overlap and there is some room for good faith criticism of Israel. Yet given the breadth and depth of good faith criticism that Israel's enemies so justly deserve, one wonders why so many are so focused on Israel's perceived faults.
8.25.2006 2:57pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Fact check for Christopher: the residents of southern Sudan are black but not Muslims. They are Christians and animists (the PC name for pagans).

One reason for publishing stories such as the one out of Malaysia is that most Americans know damn-all about how Muslim societies actually work. These days, you'd get more atrocity stories than stories about how pious Muslims donate land to waqf for the support of the poor.

The atrocity stories are more valuable, since pious support of the poor is not much of a threat to our way of life -- except, of course, when the assets of the waqf are used to finance attempts to kill us.

Complex, no?

When it comes to conversion atrocities, the Hindu extremists (RSS etc.) claim that Catholics and Catholic Communists (whatever those may be) have murdered 1 million Hindus in recent years.

I don't believe this to be true, but millions of Hindus apparently believe it to be true.

I do not believe that Muslims have killed thousands and thousands of Muslims who became Christians, although I believe Muslims have killed thousands and thousands of Baha`is.

I also believe it to be true that NOT ONE Muslim anywhere has started unequivocally that the Koranic rule about killing apostates is somehow in error and ought to be expunged from the religion.

If anybody can contradict that last statement, I'd be glad of a pointer.
8.25.2006 3:01pm
magoo (mail):
Dear Mr. John Burgess:

God bless you.

Magoo

PS -- I'm not troubled by Volokh's posting, but his willingness to tolerate some of the comments on this thread (and many other threads) suggests that he has a singularly warped view of civil, dinner-table conversation (see civility policy below).
8.25.2006 3:19pm
A.C.:
Freedom to change religions is as fundamental to the American psyche as freedom to change social class. The vast majority of people never bother to do either (although lots of people improve their material circumstances without changing their notions of what class they're in), but it's important to know that someone who really wants to is allowed to.

Just out of curiousity (and I realize I'm opening a giant can of worms here), which horrifies you more, a government that kills people for changing religions or a government that kills people for trying to change their economic circumstances? I'm actually more horrified by the religion one, although the other is dreadful too. This tells me that I'm not as much of a materialist as I thought.
8.25.2006 5:34pm
YaskY (mail):
I guess this is totally off-topic, or maybe not. . .

I've long had a theory as to why leftists are particularly careful about criticism of
Arabs, and to a slightly lesser extent of Islam generally (and especially, especially of Palestinians). You point out a criticism of something in the Arab and/or Muslim world and they immediately point out why should not be pointing it out.

Anyway, this is my theory: it all goes back to Sirhan Sirhan.

The assasination of Robert Kennedy was so traumatic, so horrific that most leftists (like the wonderful, departed Rosemary Clooney, who was not a leftist by any means, but a good friend of RFK) literally had a nervous breakdown. If an Arab/Muslim can murder RFK (the closest thing leftists ever had to a supernatural, mythic American) then they must themselves be awe-worthy. Or at the least we should be afraid of them. I never hear people talking about Sirhan Sirhan, who he was and what motivated him - even though you hear plenty of that when it comes to Lee Harvey Oswald.

The left has been Sirhanized. Nothing left but cowardice and moral equivalency.
8.25.2006 7:57pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Maybe the "why don't you blog about this?" criticism should simply be reinterpreted as "yeah, well doesn't this throw a wrench in your theory?" That way, there could be an actual discussion.

Of course, a person has the right to write about whatever they want... but then, a person also has a right to criticize it. I'd say either side can be taken overboard. The choice of what to cover can be taken as an argument in itself just like anything else, after all.
8.25.2006 11:39pm
Elais:
YaskY,

I am a lefty. I think I bear little resemblence to Sirhan Sirhan. I am no coward or moral equivalencer.

Perhaps you can stop making generalizations about lefties when you accuse lefties of being generalists?

Or you one of those nasty righties who think the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim?
8.27.2006 6:37pm