Did you ever wonder how all that hysteria got going in August and September about mosque-building in the United States, in which Americans demonstrated themselves mostly ignoramuses about Islam and behaved often in an un-Christian manner toward their fellow Americans?
The Pew Charitable Trust has done a poll, the results of which demonstrate that most Americans don’t know very much about the world religions, and indeed very large numbers of them don’t even know very much about Christianity.
So there you have it. We could have that circus, provoked by rightwing politicians like Rick Lazio and Newt Gingrich, only because they and most of their followings did not have the faintest idea what they were talking about. Religion is important in America in a way it is not, in say, France. But I guess it is only the idea of religion that matters– it isn’t necessary to actually know, like, facts.
Only about half of Americans even know that the Quran (Koran) is the holy book of Muslims! Almost no one has ever heard of Maimonides or can place him as a great medieval Jewish thinker.
Less than half can name the four Gospels, or know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist. Over a fourth don’t know that Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt or that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
Among Christians, Evangelicals and Mormons scored highest on knowledge of the Bible and Christianity, but they didn’t know much about the other world religions (a.k.a. for many of them “works of the devil”).
Those who did best on the quiz across the board were Jews, atheists and agnostics. They didn’t know quite as much about Christianity as the Evangelicals and Mormons, but they knew as much or more than mainstream Christians, and then they knew way more about the world religions and about the place of religion in American life according to the constitution.
It isn’t odd that atheists and agnostics know a lot about religion. They’ve looked into it in order to come by their doubts honestly. People willing to inherit their religion and just quietly accept tradition typically don’t need to do much active searching or studying. Atheists and agnostics are more educated than the general run of the public, and so would know more about a lot of subjects. The same is true of Jewish Americans, who are typically highly educated. Moreover, since holding on to one’s religious beliefs as a minority is tough, according to the American Religious Identification Survey, [pdf] many Jewish Americans are atheists or agnostics, so that is another way that they overlap with those groups. (The number of self-reported believing adult Jews in the US has shrunk from an estimated 3.1 million in 1990 to 2.6 million in 2008, with many in the younger generation losing faith; there are about 6.5 million ethnic Jewish Americans).
Adrienne Redd writes in a guest column for Informed Comment
After remaining silent for the first month of the semester, a student in my seminar entitled “Understanding Global News” spoke up after I presented historical context pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He first acknowledged to the rest of the class that he is of Palestinian ancestry and then asked (regarding my optimism about peace in the Middle East) “What about Jerusalem? How can it be partitioned?”
What about Jerusalem? If frantic efforts on the part of the U.S. and the other three representatives in the quartet the European Union, United Nations, and the Russian Federation) persuade the Palestinians to remain at the negotiating table, Jerusalem is the next crucial hurdle to a peace accord. The city is arguably the plot of territory most ancestrally precious to the three Abrahamic religious groups—perhaps a billion Muslims, more than two billion Christians, and 13 million Jews.
In my new book, Fallen Walls and Fallen Towers: The Fate of the Nation in a Global World, I argue that that in order to successfully navigate international disputes, the conception of the nation-state must move beyond the 350-year old Westphalian principle of sovereignty. As a relatively recent political concept, its genesis lies in the principle of (religious) non-interference that ended the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-1648. Later, the word “sovereignty” came (problematically) to mean overreaching control of national interests and even pre-emptive self-defense. However, both the expansion and hardening of “sovereignty” have gotten the world into trouble.
A Mumbai-style attack is inexpensive and logistically unchallenging. If the attackers are willing to die, they can shoot up hotels and malls and set off some bombs. Doing several cities at once would spread panic and is an al-Qaeda MO. The whole thing seems perfectly plausible to me, and while I understand the GWOT fatigue among analysts and commentators, I don’t think it can be dismissed.
It can be said that such operations are hard to forestall and that also they are a comedown for al-Qaeda, since they don’t accomplish anything at all. You will note that Mumbai is doing just fine and PM Manmohan Singh declined to take the bait and go to war with Pakistan, as the Lashkar-i Tayyiba had hoped.
But CBS says the reason for the increase is that the US military in Afghanistan has come to the conclusion that Pakistan simply is not going to curb some of the insurgent groups (probably a reference to the Haqqani Network).
I am not entirely sure how drone strikes on North Waziristan would disrupt bombing attacks in the capitals of Western Europe. Presumably the cells have sleepers already in Europe who can be deployed even if the cell leader in Pakistan is killed. The drone strikes could interfere with planning meetings and travel to the region by European jihadis. But if the plan were advanced, there wouldn’t be that much of these activities any more.
Anti-government guerrillas attacked the convoy of the deputy governor of Ghazni province on Tuesday. According to Pajhwok, “Deputy governor of Ghazni province Mohammad Kazem Allahyar, his son, two of his nephews and a guard were killed in the attack in the provincial capital Ghazni, said Zamarai Bashary, spokesman for the interior ministry.”
Karzai also announced Tuesday the formation of a 68-member ‘Council of Peace’ charged with conducting negotiations with the Taliban and other insurgents in hopes of bringing them in from the cold. Karzai is banking on President Obama’s troop escalation and counter-insurgency project inflicting such pain on the guerrillas that they will come to the negotiating table. But the council may also be a palliative to prominent Northern Alliance Afghans who feel marginalized by Karzai’s government. Pajhwok reports, “Two prominent political oppositions of the government, Burhanuddiin Rabbani and Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq are also believed to be part of the council.” These old-time Mujahidin fought the Taliban and it is difficult to imagine them getting much traction with them. Though it is true that some of what Washington now calls Taliban are just anti-American Mujahidin, Ronald Reagan’s ‘freedom fighters,’ who object to their country being occupied, and someone like Rabbani could maybe do some negotiating with them.
It sounds to me less significant a development than some in the US press are making it. Karzai has been talking to some of the insurgents for some time, and occasionally when he feels too pressured by the US he threatens to join them.
The USG Open Source Center translated a Pashto article from the Afghan Islamic Press for September 28, 2010, denying Petraeus’s assertion.
‘ The Salafi mojahedin (Wahabi fighters) have rejected reports of talks.
The Salafi group which operates within the framework of the Islamic Emirate of the Taleban in a statement on Tuesday (28 September) rejected reports that they had held talks with the Americans.
The statement says that the Salafi Taleban who has declared strongly allegiance to the Islamic Emirate has neither held any talks nor will hold talks in the presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan.
The statement adds that when foreign forces leave Afghanistan, all sides will take this decision under the leadership of the Islamic Emirate and will accept the decision of Islamic Emirate in this regard. ‘
Of course, the Salafis (revivalists) could reject the talks without that disproving Petreaus’s assertions.
President Barack Obama has just gotten the Netanyahu treatment. Obama came into office saying that a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the Israeli one is key to American security.
He had his special envoy cajole Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of the far right Likud Party for over a year, pressuring him to freeze further Israeli theft of Palestinian land so that Mahmoud Abbas, caretaker president of the Palestine Authority, would agree to come to the negotiating table.
Now Netanyahu has reneged on his pledge to negotiate in good faith, and has let the settlement freeze expire while making no effort to extend it. In other words, he humiliated the United States and let them know who is boss.
If this story, sourced to a high administration official in Washington who declined to be named, is true, it bespeaks diplomatic amateurism on Obama’s part. Obama should not have put himself in a position where he had to plead with Netanyahu! Now that the United States has been arrogantly blown off by Tel Aviv, it just looks weak and pathetic, a helpless giant — a posture that could well encourage its enemies to attempt to inflict their own humiliations on it.
Netanyahu doesn’t care about US security or US needs. At a time when many Americans have slipped into poverty, we send Netanyahu billions in aid every year, even though Israel is a relatively affluent society.
Netanyahu says most of his cabinet members were against extending the freeze. But obviously he got them to go along with the freeze before, he could have done it again if he wanted to. Besides, the Kadima Party, although in the opposition, has pledged to support the peace talks, so Netanyahu’s hawkish partners likely could not cause the government to collapse through a vote of no confidence. Netanyahu could have done it if he had wanted to.
Abbas had only agreed to begin face to face talks with Netanyahu after the settlement freeze was announced. As it was, Israel widely violated its own announced policy in this regard and Abbas held his nose and forged ahead.
Israel militarily occupied the Palestinian West Bank in 1967 and has been mistreating its residents, cooping them up, stealing their land and resources, controlling their borders, imprisoning them in cantons and generally making their lives miserable ever since. The United Nations Charter, to which Israel is signatory, forbids the annexation of land through warfare. The Geneva Conventions forbid occupying states to settle their own citizens in occupied territory. The West Bank and Gaza were never awarded to Israel by the United Nations and simply don’t belong to it, nor do their 4 million inhabitants, whom Israel has kept as stateless colonial subjects.
Americans, who rebelled against King George for taxing them without representation and for billeting troops in their houses without permission, ought to be able to sympathize with Palestinians, who are being treated by Israel the way King George III treated George Washington and the other Virginians.
Since Israel concluded the Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians in the early 1990s, it has poured hundreds of thousands of squatters into the Palestinian West Bank (which it had pledged to give back) and usurped large amounts of Palestinian land and other resources, which its politicians now say they will never give back.
Abbas had insisted that he wasn’t falling for those sorts of “peace negotiations” again, since likely at the end of them there would be no Palestinian territory left at all. Netanyahu’s insolence toward the United States, whose security depends on a resolution of this issue, has put Abbas in an impossible position.