They Don’t Simply Hate Us For Our Freedoms

A Gallup Poll performed for the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks which provides more reason to question the stock Republican line that the terrorists hate us for our freedom. Gallup considers this view analogous to the Cold War view situation of an ideological struggle between capitalism and Communism. They found that support for terrorism was more motivated by political factors such as “occupation and U.S. domination” than religious fanaticism.  They concluded that, “From many Muslims’ point of view, the conflict with West is about policy, not principles.  Through Muslim eyes, it looks like a global civil rights struggle much more than another clash between superpowers.” In other words, their data shows that Ron Paul was right and Rudy Giuliani was wrong in their confrontation during an earlier Republican debate. Following is from Gallup’s analysis of the findings:

At the heart of the Cold War analogy is the belief that religious fanaticism fuels extremism and therefore replacing Muslims’ worldview with Western liberalism is the path to victory against terrorism.  To begin to understand the danger of this diagnosis, we must first understand the factors that do and do not drive sympathy for violence.

As a starting point, Muslims do not hold a monopoly on extremist views. While 6% of Americans think attacks in which civilians are targets are “completely justified,” in both Lebanon and Iran, this figure is 2%, and in Saudi Arabia, it’s 4%. In Europe, Muslims in Paris and London were no more likely than were their counterparts in the general public to believe attacks on civilians are ever justified and at least as likely to reject violence, even for a “noble cause.”

After analyzing survey data representing more than 90% of the global Muslim population, Gallup found that despite widespread anti-American sentiment, only a small minority saw the 9/11 attacks as morally justified. Even more significant, there was no correlation between level of religiosity and extremism among respondents. Among the 7% of the population that fits in the politically radicalized category — those who saw the 9/11 attacks as completely justifiable and have an unfavorable view of the United States — 94% said religion is an important part of their daily lives, compared with 90% among those in the moderate majority. And no significant difference exists between radicals and moderates in mosque attendance.

Gallup probed respondents further and actually asked both those who condoned and condemned extremist acts why they said what they did.  The responses fly in the face of conventional wisdom. For example, in Indonesia, the largest Muslim majority country in the world, many of those who condemned terrorism cited humanitarian or religious justifications to support their response. For example, one woman said, “Killing one life is as sinful as killing the whole world,” paraphrasing verse 5:32 in the Quran.

On the other hand, not a single respondent in Indonesia who condoned the attacks of 9/11 cited the Quran for justification. Instead, this group’s responses were markedly secular and worldly. For example, one Indonesian respondent said, “The U.S. government is too controlling toward other countries, seems like colonizing.”

The real difference between those who condone terrorist acts and all others is about politics, not piety.  For example, the politically radicalized often cite “occupation and U.S. domination” as their greatest fear for their country and only a small minority of them agree the United States would allow people in the region to fashion their own political future or that it is serious about supporting democracy in the region.  Also, among this group’s top responses was the view that to better relations with the Muslim world, the West should respect Islam and stop imposing its beliefs and policies. In contrast, moderates most often mentioned economic problems as their greatest fear for their country, and along with respecting Islam, they see economic support and investments as a way for the West to better relations. Moderates are also more likely than the politically radicalized to say the United States is serious about promoting democracy.

While the politically radicalized are as likely as the moderate majority to say better relations with the West is of personal concern to them, they are much less likely to believe the West reciprocates this concern and therefore much less likely to believe improved relations will ever come.  In short, perceptions of being under siege characterize those who sympathize with extremism.

Letters to God Are Not Privileged Communication

While communication with a member of the clergy might be privileged, letters sent to God are not, as Ed Brayton reports in this case where the incriminating evidence was found in journal entries addressed to God:

The police seized copies of her journal, wherein she admitted to having hired someone to kill him, and used them as evidence to convict her. She appealed the conviction, arguing that because she addressed her journal entries to God, they should be protected under Michigan’s clergy-penitent privilege.

The appeals court rejected this argument:

In view of this function of the privilege, neither Michigan nor any other State (to our knowledge) treats the clergy-penitent privilege as a broad cloak protecting all religious communications. Because the objective of the privilege is to protect the human need to place total and absolute confidence in a spiritual counselor without risk that the law will extract those confidences from the counselor, the Michigan Court of Appeals had ample reason to hold that privilege does not apply to private writings. The privilege requires the communication to be directed to a member of the clergyjust as the other privileges require the communication to be directed to an attorney or doctorbecause it is the clergy who may be subpoenaed to testify against the individual. The same possibility does not exist with private writings to God, who may be petitioned but never subpoenaed.

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Political Correctness vs. Bureaucratic Laziness

A high school in North Carolina has banned the wearing of items with flags, which means that students cannot wear items with American flags. One report does mention a fight between two students wearing different flags. Right Wing News reports receiving email from someone involved which reports the problem as being related to gangs wearing flags.

There was opposition from this both the left and right. Liberal groups such as the ACLU defended the First Amendment right to expression, opposing restrictions on the wearing of any flags. From the ACLU’s press release:

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NC) sent a letter to the principal of Hobbton High School and the superintendent of the Sampson County school district today, urging the school to reverse its policy of banning students from wearing clothing that depicts the American flag or any other flag. According to news reports yesterday, a student was prohibited from wearing her Stars and Stripes commemorative t-shirt on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

“The school has no right to prevent this student – or any other student – from wearing a flag on her clothing,” said Jennifer Rudinger, Executive Director of the ACLU-NCLF. “Hobbton High School is violating students’ First Amendment rights to free expression.”

The ACLU-NCLF’s letter calls on the Sampson County school district to end its practice of censoring students’ wearing of flags and comply with the constitutional protection of student speech laid out in the landmark 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, which affirmed the right of students to wear black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War.

The school has subsequently rescinded the rule.

The reaction from many conservative blogs demonstrated their limited world view. They were justifiably upset that students could not wear items with the American flag but generally expressed no concern for the restrictions on flags of other nations, showing lack of consideration of the civil liberties ramifications of their views.

Many conservative blogs also labeled this a case of political correctness, demonstrating how easily this label is applied by conservatives who often fight exaggerated problems. This is also extended to claims of support for this ban by progressive bloggers, extrapolating an isolated viewpoint as being representative. Rather than representing political correctness, this sounds more like narrow bureaucratic thinking. They used a simplistic solution in banning flags. Even if there was a legitimate reason why foreign flags must be banned it would make more sense to have an exclusion for the American flag rather than a blanket ban, but removing any such restrictions would be the preferred response.