Combating Fudamentalism

The Independent has a story entitled Speaking up: Young muslims take on the extremists–Young Muslims have a forum where they’re learning to combat fundamentalism.

How can mainstream young Muslim students get heard when fundamentalists often have a stranglehold on their groups and societies? Saniya Gour, 17, an east London A-level student, has struggled. “Everyone where I live is so extreme. There are very few who are not hardline about things. And, as a girl, they don’t want to hear what you have to say. I go to Leyton Sixth Form College and when I asked one of the heads of Isoc (the Islamic Society) if I could speak, he said no. They don’t even like me talking to guys. They say: ‘You’re wearing a headscarf, you shouldn’t be talking to boys’.”

However, Saniya and other young Muslims now have a national forum where they can learn leadership skills and how to speak up. The Young Muslim Leadership Network (YMLN), funded by the Government as part of its controversial Prevent programme designed to stop violent extremism, is working hard to make its mark. It needs to. Early soundings by some of its two dozen members show that it is up against powerful forces.

The network was founded last year for young people aged 16 to 21, and has three groups – two in London and one in Birmingham. The central London group is researching university Islamic societies, and members have been shocked at what they have found. Hazura Bazeer, 18, a member of the central London branch of the YMLN, is in her final year at Coombe Girls’ School in New Malden, Surrey, and has a place to study medicine at King’s College, London. She says: “In one case that we heard of, a girl was slapped in the face for not wearing a headscarf, and, in one society, women were not allowed to speak and had to hold up their questions in writing.”

(Hat tip to the Richard Dawkins Foundation.)

Sounds like a good idea and a worthy effort from the British government. It’s a shame we can’t have something like this here. We really could use a forum for young Republicans to combat the fundamentalism which has taken over that party.

When Leonard Met Sheldon

Here’s a clip from Monday’s episode of Big Bang Theory showing when Sheldon and Leonard first met. Needless to say, Star Trek comes up.

Media Again Creates False Equivalency Between Democrats And Republicans

There is a tendency of the media to confuse equal favorable or unfavorable comments about each party with objective reporting. We often see the media take a comment from the Republican and a Democrat and act as if the truth is somewhere in the middle, even if there is strong evidence that one party is lying (typically the Republicans in recent years) and one is telling the truth. Factcheckers for newspapers similarly try to present equal scores by finding errors on the part of both parties. Often they show huge whoppers coming from Republicans and counter them with cases where a comment from the Democrat is generally true but there are occasional exceptions which were beyond the scope of the limited interviews usually conducted.

The Washington Post has an example of creating a false equivalency between the parties in this editorial on the parties purging their members. Steve Benen explains the error in their comparison between the two parties:

There’s quite a few problems here. The most obvious is the flawed effort to draw a parallel between Bennett and Lincoln. In the former, Bennett has been a reliably conservative senator from a reliably conservative state for nearly two decades. He was purged by the GOP’s right-wing base for only being rigidly dogmatic most of the time.

Lincoln, on the other hand, really has proven herself to be a disappointment to most Democrats, not because of a handful of isolated votes, but because of her departures from party priorities on a wide range of issues, over the course of several years. Utah Republicans had no such beef with Bennett.

There’s also a pragmatic angle — Bennett was a shoo-in for re-election, but was primaried for purely ideological reasons. Lincoln has struggled badly in the polls, prompting Dems who want to hold the seat to consider alternatives.

But it’s the bigger picture that the Post‘s editorial board gets especially wrong, with its description of “the ideological purification of both parties.” I realize that major media outlets have an unwritten rule — all criticism of Republicans has to include related criticism of Democrats, whether it makes sense or not — but the evidence to bolster the Post‘s observation is lacking.

Even if we concede that Blanche Lincoln is facing a competitive primary, at least in part for her lack of commitment to progressive goals, one primary for a vulnerable incumbent does not an “ideological purification” make. If Dems were seriously trying to drive those who strayed from the party line from the ranks, Blue Dogs would be under heavy fire, and the party wouldn’t have rallied behind Brad Ellsworth in Indiana and Charlie Melacon in Louisiana, neither of whom represent the bold, progressive wing of the party.

In contrast, there’s an actual“ideological purification” underway in the Republican Party. Florida’s Charlie Crist was deemed insufficiently right wing. So was Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter and New York’s Dede Scozzafava. In Utah, Bob Bennett was handed a pink slip by his own party, and in Arizona, Sen. John McCain (R) is facing a tough primary challenge for nearly identical reasons.

There are occasional cases of Democrats trying to replace conservative Democrats with more liberal Democrats. The key difference is that the Democrats continue to have large numbers of moderate and conservatives, while the Republicans are trying to eliminate not only liberals and moderates but conservatives who they find are not conservative enough.

Sarah Palin’s Imaginary History

Sarah Palin really needs to read the actual writings of the founding fathers on religion when she makes ridiculous claims such as that the United States was founded as a Christian nation.