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The real star of this particular entry is not the USNews and World Report “Culture Clash in Denmark” story, but rather the preceding post by Hugh Fitzgerald, one of the writers who assists in maintaining the Dhimmi Watch blog site (the other writer being controversial Islam scholar, Robert Spencer.)

It is interesting to see how many “officials” in the upper echelons of our government (or most people in America) continue to view the United States as a perspicacious entity detached from the rest of the world–“officials” filled with so much hubris (or stupidity) that we need not overly concern ourselves with something so exotic and incongruous because we tend to view it from our own fixed macrocosm as something manageable (Iraq anyone?) Silvestre Reyes proved that one need not even possess any semblance of intelligence, let alone the needed expertise, on subjects that lie directly in the road of one’s own perceived specialty. Of course, public perception of expertise is often more important than verified proficiency. Why? Because most people either don’t want to know, or they only want to know the viewpoint that coincides with their blindly accepted political belief system.

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Fitzgerald: What they learn — and don’t learn

“There’s kind of an unspoken assumption that they’re not really Dutch, not really Danes, and so forth,” reasons one senior U.S. official who follows the phenomenon. “Europeans are uncomfortable with Islam, and they see it as an alien body in their midst. … Europe’s got a huge problem, and they’re just getting their minds around it now.” — from this article

The tone of this “senior U.S. offical who follows the phenomenon” is troubling. He appears to think the problem is that of the Europeans, who are “uncomfortable with Islam” — as opposed, perhaps, to Americans, who have such a much more extensive experience with Islam than do the people of Europe? When he says of the Europeans that “they see it as an alien body in their midst,” does he think that is wrong? Does he think it is the fault of those bad old Europeans, or does he think they made a terrible, a colossal, a life-threatening error in their heedlessness about Islam, when they let Muslims in in such numbers?

And does he think that there is a lesson here for the United States? And does he think that perhaps the doctrines of Islam itself might be worth looking into? After all, they uncompromisingly divide the world between Believer and Infidel, and between Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb, and preach the doctrine of endless war — not necessarily by open combat, for the money weapon also comes into play, as well as “pen, speech” and Da’wa, and now demographic conquest (discussed endlessly at Muslim sites and in the Muslim media, for everyone is keenly aware of this instrument of conquest in the Camp of Islam, even as they are amazingly unaware of it in the Camp of the Infidels). They view Europe as a land to be taken over, won for Islam, not a place where Muslims are to embrace, in the slightest, the doctrines or beliefs or legal and political and social institutions of permanently inferior Infidels. Does this “senior U.S. official” understand that?

The distant, almost unsympathetic tone, suggests that he does not. And if that is true, he needs a short but intense course in Islam and in the history of Islamic conquest — and not from John Esposito, and not from Karen Armstrong, and not from anyone certified as a “Muslim Sensitivity Trainer” by CAIR.

But the course he would most likely take, or has already taken, would probably be like the one now being given in a Virginia public school. That one is taught by one more useful idiot with the usual nonsense about “finding out about Islam” — and then limiting that finding out to the most obvious and the most innocuous: the rituals of worship that tell non-Muslims nothing about the effect on Muslims of the texts of Islam. Students will get the Shehada (and possibly be asked to recite it), the five daily prayers, the zakat or charity (but only toward fellow Muslims), Ramadan and other dietary rituals. What fun not to eat this, not to eat that! What fun, and how completely worthless as a guide to what Islam is all about, unless the students are told that in Islam everything is regulated, not merely food: including hairdos, wiping yourself, and of course how to speak to Infidels. They’ll also learn about the hajj, with pictures of a million pilgrims as they walk widdershins round the Magic Wonderstone, but no discussion of the Stoning of the Devil and what that is all about.

There will be no real study of the Qur’an, no look at 9.5 or 9.29 or 5.82 or a hundred other key verses. No discussion of why the date of Sura 9 matters (it was either the last or the second to last to be composed). No discussion of “naskh” or abrogation. No discussion of the hadith — why, I’ll bet the poor students in Virginia never find out what the Hadith are, much less will be given a website or two where, to their increasing horror, they can read a few hundred of the most important. Nor will they learn the real details of Muhammad’s life, or his significance as the Main Actor in Islam, far more real to Muslims than distant and whimsical Allah, and a guide, a Perfect Man, uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil. None of that.

It will be a guide to nothing and nowhere. Possibly the students will come out radiant that they have “learned all about Islam.” Possibly some self-satisfied parents or some ACLU group or some school committee panjandrums will offer self-congratulations all around for this exercise in “dispelling myths” and “ending stereotypes.”

And a good time, an idiotically good time, will be had by all.

And nothing will have been learned. Nothing.

It will be a worthless course by an ill-informed naif. It should be condemned by everyone. Instead, it is very likely just the kind of thing this “senior U.S. official” has attended.

Photograph by Joachim Ladefoged VII for USN&WR

Friday prayer at the mosque run by Imam Ahmed Abu Laban, who helped spur anti-Denmark protests

Culture Clash in Denmark

The close-knit Danes find their liberal ideals tested by a growing, alienated Muslim population

By Thomas Omestad

Posted Sunday, December 31, 2006

COPENHAGEN–This, a recent study concluded, is the happiest country on Earth. With Denmark’s cradle-to-grave social welfare, highly regarded healthcare and education, prosperity, and small-country ethnic cohesion, the land that gave us Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales also excels at producing a good life in reality.

And yet, over the past year or so, the contented Danes have been forced to face both their greatest international crisis since World War II and the rise here of separate Muslim communities where many are unable or unwilling to enter the Danish mainstream. The international uproar over publication of 12 prophet Muhammad cartoons in a Danish newspaper triggered violence that left at least 139 people dead, Danish diplomatic outposts torched in Lebanon and Syria, and Danish goods boycotted. Suddenly, Denmark felt dangerously exposed–a country of just 5.4 million people facing the wrath of an Islamic world exceeding a billion people.

The violence outside Denmark ultimately quieted down, though the country’s security-threat level remains elevated. At home, the bitter disputes over the cartoons have highlighted an unhealed–and potentially hazardous–rift between the dominant Danes and the Muslim immigrants living in what are being called “parallel societies.” Ask Danes and Muslim immigrants alike, and many will say there is something a bit rotten in the Kingdom of Denmark.

The legacy of the cartoon uproar is not all bad. Private efforts at building bridges between Muslims and non-Muslim Danes have accelerated. Secular Danish Muslims condemned the violence overseas and appealed for dialogue. That, say Danes, has encouraged a greater appreciation of the differences–political and otherwise-among Muslims here.

“Time bomb.” Still, the cartoon crisis itself did not prompt any basic rethinking of how to integrate Muslims more deeply into Danish society. And the country is now preoccupied with things Muslim. Attention is riveted on any controversy linked to its Muslim residents–so-called honor killings of female relatives, street crime, terrorism probes, unemployment, forced marriages, use of veils, and so on. Denmark is pondering the specter of ever more young Muslims–unemployed and undereducated–finding their identities not as coolly secularized Danes but as fervent or even radical Muslims. “We are sitting on a time bomb,” warns Eva Smith, a law professor and racism expert at the University of Copenhagen.

The ferment in Denmark is especially striking because of its progressive traditions, but it also reflects the broader tremors rattling western Europe, where tangled issues of national identity, culture, religion, and security arising from Muslim immigration have bolted to the fore. Old, ethnically grounded societies are being roiled by the presence of Muslim newcomers–or at least by the reaction to them. “There’s kind of an unspoken assumption that they’re not really Dutch, not really Danes, and so forth,” reasons one senior U.S. official who follows the phenomenon. “Europeans are uncomfortable with Islam, and they see it as an alien body in their midst. … Europe’s got a huge problem, and they’re just getting their minds around it now.”

The cartoon controversy, along with frustration over the slow pace of Muslim integration, is leading some Danes to question their prized image as an open and tolerant nation. This, after all, is a people who under Nazi occupation spirited nearly all of their 7,000-some Jews to safety in Sweden. In the 1960s and 1970s, Denmark sought to offer one of Europe’s most liberal immigration policies. Many came as guest workers and were later joined by family members and asylum seekers. Even so, Denmark remained remarkably mono-ethnic; only about 4 percent of the population is Muslim. Coming mostly from Arab states, Iran, and Pakistan, the immigrants have clustered in a few neighborhoods in Copenhagen and other cities.

Yet as the preoccupation with Muslims has deepened in recent years, Denmark has swung in the opposite direction, erecting perhaps Europe’s most restrictive set of rules. A rightist, anti-immigration party sits not in government but at its side; the ruling coalition relies on its votes to govern. The mood toward immigrants has, with exceptions, soured. The share of Danes who view Islam as incompatible with democracy has shot up. And Muslims are often portrayed as troublemakers who sup at the table of Danish generosity–all the while rejecting what makes Denmark special. “They create ghettos. … There are a lot of criminals,” says Henrik Pedersen, a Dane who runs a Copenhagen trucking business. “Muslim people should be in a Muslim country.”

More sophisticated immigration skeptics worry that “Danish values” are under threat by politicized Muslims who resist assimilation. These values include democracy, far-reaching personal freedoms, equality between the sexes, and the trust born of unusually strong social bonds. One government minister frankly called the Danes a “tribe” in describing their group identity. “The whole quality of Danish life stands or falls with this community of values,” adds Ralf Pittelkow, a newspaper columnist and coauthor of a bestselling book on the Islamist challenge. “Danes need to feel reassured that the main features of Danish society remain unchanged. … We are at a crunch point.”

Some Danes argue that evading the impact of immigration is impossible. “Some people want to keep Denmark as a kind of museum,” says Helle Stenum, the chairwoman of MixEurope, a pro-integration group. “We are a rich, safe society that is scared.” Adds Copenhagen schoolteacher Maia Lisa Petersen as she rushes to a subway station, “These other cultures, other values force us to wake up. … We can’t hide anymore in this nice, perfect little Scandinavian world.”

Nor can the Muslim immigrants easily hide in enclaves that insulate them from the culture that surrounds them. They say that the political and media atmosphere has turned against them–particularly since the cartoon crisis. “It totally changed my view of Danish society,” says Mustafa Kucukyild, 26, who came from Turkey as a 1-year-old boy. “The spotlight is on Muslims. I’m much more cautious about what I say.” As the kebab and pizza restaurant where he works fills up with blond-haired college students, he is talking about his estrangement from the Danes. Kucukyild is asked if, having spent nearly all his life here, he feels Danish. “Definitely, no,” he replies. “No matter how much you want to be, you always have this black hair,” he says, grabbing at a lock of his own. “I will always be a foreigner.”

The alienation is pervasive, and it goes well beyond the discomfort some Muslims feel toward Denmark’s permissive atmosphere. “Danish people are very hard people, very cold,” claims Hassan, a middle-aged, Iraqi-born businessman in the Copenhagen district of Norrebro, where Danes often mix with immigrants. Hassan says that his children are adapting better than he is, though his 15-year-old daughter has faced problems in class–a teacher has chided her about her head scarf. Other immigrants report occasional hassles of other sorts: snide comments or being bumped on buses, being barred from nightclubs or followed by department store security officers–or the “what are you doing here?” stares in coffee shops. (Some Danes counter that Muslims are being overly sensitive, playing up an image of victimhood.)

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“Politicians are dumb everywhere. There are very few smart, well-meaning politicians.”
– Hecubus

That is a quote from little old me from this story concerning Chicago’s ban on The Nativity Story advertising. As much as I believe that statement, little did I predict that a politician would emerge this quickly and demonstrate so thoroughly his lack of knowledge in matters he had better well have a near-expert understanding. Please meet your new Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Silvestre Reyes, Democrat from Texas, a man who possesses an obvious flair for the obtuse.

Below is an interview conducted by Jeff Stein for the Congressional Quarterly. In his time with the incoming HIC Chairman, Stein asked some fairly basic, and fairly simple questions concerning Islam, Iraq, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda. Reyes’ mental acuity is shocking–not in what he knows, but in what he doesn’t (but certainly should) know.

[Of course, Republicans prooved just as moronic in a previous interview under similar circumstances, but they don’t head the House Intelligence Committee either. ]

Now you may say to yourself, “Well, I don’t know all the answers,” or “those are some pretty tough questions.” That’s fine. But your job doesn’t likely require you to know all of the answers to the questions posed by Stein. It’s disturbing that the soon to be leader of the House Intelligence Committee, whose job it is to be intimately familiar with subjects and issues such as Islam, Iraq, Shiites vs. Sunnis, and al-Qaeda, has barely a clue as to what those concepts and entities entail. Reyes doesn’t even do a passable job stumbling his way through the interview with the typical politicized pat answers that all politicians practice religiously when standing in front of a mirror.

But in all honesty, the questions in the interview are not difficult to anyone who keeps up with current world events, and I found myself becoming very angry with Reyes and the intellectual vacuum in which he resides . This man has no clue, and he has no right to sit as Chairman for a committee whose expertise lies in the areas in which he was queried.

Oh well, Nancy Pelosi picks another winner to lead the nation. She would have been much better off choosing Reps. Jane Harman (Calif.), who does have the understanding and expertise necessary for the Chairman post, but Pelosi’s personal issues with Harman prevented her from making the right choice. Way to go, Pelosi.

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Democrats’ New Intelligence Chairman Needs a Crash Course on al Qaeda

Forty years ago, Sgt.
Silvestre Reyes was a helicopter crew chief flying dangerous combat missions in South Vietnam from the top of a soaring rocky outcrop near the sea called Marble Mountain.

After the war, it turned out that the communist Viet Cong had tunneled into the hill and built a combat hospital right beneath the skids of Reyes’ UH-1 Huey gunship.

Now the five-term Texas Democrat, 62, is facing similar unpleasant surprises about the enemy, this time as the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

That’s because, like a number of his colleagues and top counterterrorism officials that I’ve interviewed over the past several months, Reyes can’t answer some fundamental questions about the powerful forces arrayed against us in the Middle East.

It begs the question, of course: How can the Intelligence Committee do effective oversight of U.S. spy agencies when its leaders don’t know basics about the battlefield?

To his credit, Reyes, a kindly, thoughtful man who also sits on the Armed Service Committee, does see the undertows drawing the region into chaos.

For example, he knows that the 1,400- year-old split in Islam between Sunnis and Shiites not only fuels the militias and death squads in Iraq, it drives the competition for supremacy across the Middle East between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.

That’s more than two key Republicans on the Intelligence Committee knew when I interviewed them last summer. Rep.
Jo Ann Davis, R-Va., and
Terry Everett, R-Ala., both back for another term, were flummoxed by such basic questions, as were several top counterterrorism officials at the FBI.

I thought it only right now to pose the same questions to a Democrat, especially one who will take charge of the Intelligence panel come January. The former border patrol agent also sits on the Armed Services Committee.

Reyes stumbled when I asked him a simple question about al Qaeda at the end of a 40-minute interview in his office last week. Members of the Intelligence Committee, mind you, are paid $165,200 a year to know more than basic facts about our foes in the Middle East.

We warmed up with a long discussion about intelligence issues and Iraq. And then we veered into terrorism’s major players.

To me, it’s like asking about Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland: Who’s on what side?

The dialogue went like this:

Al Qaeda is what, I asked, Sunni or Shia?

“Al Qaeda, they have both,” Reyes said. “You’re talking about predominately?”

“Sure,” I said, not knowing what else to say.

“Predominantly — probably Shiite,” he ventured.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an al Qaeda club house, they’d slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball.

That’s because the extremist Sunnis who make up a l Qaeda consider all Shiites to be heretics.

Al Qaeda’s Sunni roots account for its very existence. Osama bin Laden and his followers believe the Saudi Royal family besmirched the true faith through their corruption and alliance with the United States, particularly allowing U.S. troops on Saudi soil.

It’s been five years since these Muslim extremists flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center.

Is it too much to ask that our intelligence overseers know who they are?

Civil War

And Hezbollah? I asked him. What are they?

“Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah…”

He laughed again, shifting in his seat.

“Why do you ask me these questions at five o’clock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?”

“Poquito,” I said—a little.

“Poquito?! “ He laughed again.

“Go ahead,” I said, talk to me about Sunnis and Shia in Spanish.

Reyes: “Well, I, uh….”

I apologized for putting him “on the spot a little.” But I reminded him that the people who have killed thousands of Americans on U.S. soil and in the Middle East have been front page news for a long time now.

It’s been 23 years since a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed over 200 U.S. military personnel in Beirut, mostly Marines.

Hezbollah, a creature of Iran, is close to taking over in Lebanon. Reports say they are helping train Iraqi Shiites to kill Sunnis in the spiralling civil war.

“Yeah,” Reyes said, rightly observing, “but . . . it’s not like the Hatfields and the McCoys. It’s a heck of a lot more complex.

“And I agree with you — we ought to expend some effort into understanding them. But speaking only for myself, it’s hard to keep things in perspective and in the categories.”

Reyes is not alone.

The best argument for needing to understand who’s what in the Middle East is probably the mistaken invasion itself, despite the preponderance of expert opinion that it was a terrible idea — including that of Bush’s father and his advisers. On the day in 2003 when Iraqi mobs toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, Bush was said to be unaware of the possibility that a Sunni-Shia civil war could fill the power vacuum, according to a reliable source with good White House connections.

If President Bush and some of his closest associates, not to mention top counterterrorism officials, have demonstrated their own ignorance about who the players are in the Middle East, why should we expect the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee to get it right?
Trent Lott, the veteran Republican senator from Mississippi, said only last September that “It’s hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what’s wrong with these people.”

“Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion?” wondered Lott, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, after a meeting with Bush.

“Why do they hate the Israelis and despise their right to exist? Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference?

“They all look the same to me,” Lott said.

Haunting

The administration’s disinterest in the Arab world has rattled down the chain of command.

Only six people in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad are fluent in Arabic, according to last week’s report of the Iraq Study Group. Only about two dozen of the embassy’s thousand employees have some familiarity with the language, the report said.

The Iraq Study Group was amazed to find that, despite spending $2 billion on Iraq in 2006, more wasn’t being done to try “to understand the people who fabricate, plant and explode roadside bombs.”

Rare is the military unit with an American soldier who can read a captured document or interrogate a prisoner, my own sources tell me.

It was that way in Vietnam, too, Reyes says, which “haunts us.”

“If you substitute Arabization for Vietnamization, if you substitute . . . our guys going in and taking over a place then leaving it and the bad guys come back in. . . .”

He trails off, despairing.

“I could draw many more analogies.”

Yet Reyes says he favors sending more troops there.

“If it’s going to target the militias and eliminate them, I think that’s a worthwhile investment,” he said.

It’s hard to find anybody in Iraq who thinks the U.S. can do that.

On “a temporary basis, I’m willing to ramp them up by twenty or thirty thousand . . . for, I don’t know, two months, four months, six months — but certainly that would be an exception,” Reyes said.

Meanwhile, the killing is going on below decks, too, within Sunni and Shiite groups and factions.

Anybody who pays serious attention to Iraq knows that.

Reyes says his first hearings come January will focus on how U.S. intelligence can do a better job helping the troops in Iraq.

It may be way too late for that.

“Stop giving me tests!” Reyes exclaimed, half kidding.

“I’m not going to talk to you any more!”

Queries Vex New Chair of Intelligence

Reuters
Tuesday, December 12, 2006; Page A07

The incoming Democratic chairman of the House intelligence committee could not describe Hezbollah and incorrectly described al-Qaeda‘s Islamic roots in a recent interview.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), whom incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) named earlier this month to chair the panel, formally known as the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was asked by a reporter from Congressional Quarterly whether al-Qaeda was Sunni or Shiite. “Predominantly — probably Shiite,” Reyes replied.

From Osama bin Laden down, al-Qaeda’s leadership is comprehensively Sunni and subscribes to a form of Sunni Islam known for not tolerating theological deviation.

In fact, U.S. officials blame al-Qaeda’s late leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, for the surge in sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites.

Asked to describe the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, according to a story published online Friday, Reyes responded “Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah” and then said, “Why do you ask me these questions at 5 o’clock?”

The Texas congressman later added: “Speaking only for myself, it’s hard to keep things in perspective and in the categories.”

Reyes, a former Border Patrol agent and an opponent of the Iraq war, was chosen for the intelligence committee post over the panel’s two top-ranking Democrats, Reps. Jane Harman (Calif.) and Alcee L. Hastings (Fla.).

Reyes’s office issued a statement yesterday noting that the interview covered a wide range of topics.

“As a member of the intelligence committee since before 9/11, I’m acutely aware of al-Qaeda’s desire to harm Americans. The intelligence committee will keep its eye on the ball and focus on the pressing security and intelligence issues facing us,” Reyes said in the statement.

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