A Philosopher's Blog

The Security Show

Posted in Law, Technology by Michael LaBossiere on July 28, 2012
English: A TSA officer screens a piece of luggage.

English: A TSA officer screens a piece of luggage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently flew home to Maine for my vacation, thus giving me my yearly exposure to the security procedures designed to save us from terror.

While I do not travel much, I do have the security process down. I put my watch and belt into my carry on (because, you know, belts presumably do bad things to the security hardware or out of concern that a passenger might hang himself out of frustration). I made sure that I had dark socks, because of the need to walk along the floor without shoes. Because, of course, some fool tried to put a bomb in his shoes one time. In a weird concession to age, people who are old enough can keep their shoes and light jackets on. I guess the logic is that people too old to work an iPad would not know how to bomb their shoes.

My ID was ready for the deep screening it goes through and, of course, as anyone knows, no terrorist would have a valid ID. I also had my laptop out because that presumably makes a big difference. My liquids (well, those outside of my body) were safely in the size limit and in the plastic bag. That way the screeners could glance at the bag and see that the containers were not labeled “high explosive” or “nitroglycerin.”

After that, I got my first ride in the full body scanner. It was rather like the scenes in the Fifth Element when the police make people stand and put their hands and feet on the yellow circles. Interestingly, the massively expensive scanner was baffled by my shorts-I had to be patted down anyway because the machine could not properly scan my pockets. As might be imagined, I was impressed to see my tax dollars being funneled to the corporation that makes these super expensive machines that can be apparently be defeated by a pair of $30 cargo shorts.

While they claim that the images don’t show any detail, I could see that the ladies (and some guys) gathered around the screen when I was going through. Yes, I have been working out ladies…and gentlemen.

After my stuff had been irradiated, I then put on my shoes, belt, watch and packed up my stuff so I could go and wait for my flight.

The flight back was basically the same, with one addition. While waiting, I saw some TSA folks roll up with their mobile testing stations. They waited around for about forty minutes until people were boarding and, for some reason, they pull people out of line as they were about the get on the plane rather than screening people while we are all waiting around. Presumably this way is more annoying and inconvenient. This is consistent with my hypothesis that much of the security procedures are the result of drunken wagers between government officials about how much bullshit Americans will put up with as long as they say “security” and “terror” enough.

As I was about to board, someone cut ahead of me and (of course) the TSA picked me for the special attention. As I watched people boarding ahead of me with their giant sized “carry-on” luggage I figured I’d have to check my properly sized carry on thanks to the TSA and the folks who think that anything they can carry (or wheel) counts as a carry on.

They explained the process to me and then rooted through my possessions looking for stuff I might have smuggled in between the time I was scanned and arrived at the gate. Interestingly, they were unarmed-so I am not sure what they would do if they found a real terrorist. Before I got the full body pat down I had the following conversation:

TSA Guy:”Do you have any sensitive areas?”
Me: “Just the usual ones.”

Then I got the full pat down, which was as degrading and as violating of my privacy and personal space as one would imagine. I do have sympathy for the TSA folks, of course. Just imagine spending your day caressing man-boobs and chubby thighs and you will probably feel for them, too.  Fortunately, I work out regularly, so the agent got to run his hands over some grade A man flesh. Or maybe grade A-, after all I am pushing towards 50 and I had been eating lobster, bacon and steak all week. Okay,so maybe B+. After determining that I did not have any items that might be used by a philosopher professor to destroy or seize the plane that was taking me to Atlanta, I was allowed to board and jam my carry on under the seat, thus ending that episode of security theater.

 

 

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45 Responses

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  1. FRE said, on July 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    You described the reason that I have not flown since 2004. Unless there is some really pressing need to fly, I will not submit to those procedures. The safety of the X-ray scanner is questionable and people should not have to submit to being irradiated. I would be tempted to wear an athletic supporter with a plastic cup to see how they deal with that. Then, if they insisted on removing it, I could insist that it be done out in the open so I would have witnesses. I have kept myself in first-class physical condition and tend to be somewhat of an exhibitionist anyway, so I wouldn’t care.

    Regarding removing shoes, I could have a back problem which would make it impossible so the security personnel would have to do it. Or, I could state that I have a foot fungus infection which could be spread to the other passengers.

    Another problem is that they search the luggage without permitting its owner to watch. That means that there is inadequate protection against theft and damage. If they really have to open suitcases and examine the contents, at least they should permit the owner to watch.

    If more people rebelled and reduced the amount of flying they do because of the intrusive procedures, probably changes would be made. It may be unfair to be hard on the scanning personnel, but if enough people were hard on them, it would become impossible to hire scanning personnel and the procedures would have to be changed.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 28, 2012 at 4:03 pm

      Interestingly, on that flight I sat beside a retired Air Force intelligence officer. We talked about the security methods the Israelis and Germans use and their effectiveness relative to our theater. I am fine with security-provided that it actually works and is necessary. However, we seem to have been given the illusion of security rather than the real thing.

      I should also note that I have nothing against the TSA people. In fact, I have a family member who worked for the TSA and I have friends who currently work for them. They are fine people and take their jobs seriously. So, I am always polite and friendly to the TSA folks-after all, I see them as people first.

      • magus71 said, on August 6, 2012 at 8:46 am

        Mike,

        The Germans pat people down and carry MP5s in the terminal. So do the Israelis. I’m all for that kind of security.

  2. FRE said, on July 28, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Here’s a post I found on another web site:

    “And when the crazies start putting the real bombs in body cavities you are going to say that cavity searches are OK too? ‘Can you please step over here Nicole and would you like the optional PAP smear with your cavity check today?’
    Raw Story (http://s.tt/1ddVY)”

  3. T. J. Babson said, on July 29, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Just remember that the gloves are for their protection, not yours.

    • FRE said, on July 29, 2012 at 1:31 pm

      If the gloves are not also for our protection, then probably they don’t change them after each inspection in which case passengers would not be protected.

  4. magus71 said, on July 29, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    ‘Then I got the full pat down, which was as degrading and as violating of my privacy and personal space as one would imagine.’

    Really? What about the time Guptil fondled your Doritoes?

    How do thousands of people a day willingly submit themselves to such humiliation? Why are liberals so thin-skinned? No wonder water-boarding and Gitmo amounted to the end of democracy to them.

    “Or maybe grade A-, after all I am pushing towards 50 and I had been eating lobster, bacon and steak all week.”

    So you were eating food that’s halthy for you. Just hide from the liberals who’ll assure you you’ve doomed yourelf to an early heart attack.

    • FRE said, on July 29, 2012 at 5:24 pm

      This has nothing to do with liberal vs conservative. I do not understand why so many people assume that all issues are a matter of liberal vs conservative. There are principals which are universal. One of those principles is not to subject people to degrading searches. It would seem to me that both liberals and conservatives could agree on that.

      It is also irrational to assume that only liberals are concerned about heart attacks and healthful diets.

      • WTP said, on July 29, 2012 at 8:38 pm

        You’re right, this is not lib/con but it is philosophical/practical. The objections to the security measures are irrefutable from a philosophical standpoint. However, to say something is bad without presenting a viable alternative is a cop-out. And by viable, I mean a plan or approach that one does not run away from when it fails by claiming “well they didn’t implement it properly”. There is a real threat to our security and while we may mock some of the absurdities, there have been some very seemingly absurd threats from shoe bombers to underwear bombers who nearly succeeded.

        I find it interesting that you say you won’t fly due to these procedures, not that I don’t see your point, but would you be more comfortable flying if there were no such procedures?

        • FRE said, on July 30, 2012 at 3:36 am

          Compared with the other risks in life, the danger of flying without the security measures would be very small indeed. It’s interesting that although hijacking became a problem in the late 1950s, and the usual MO was to break into the cockpit, nothing whatever was done to harden the cockpits to make it impossible to break in. Then, after the World Trade Center destruction, they finally, finally, finally, decided to do something, but went totally overboard.

          If the amount being spent on making traveling by air inconvenient and frustrating were instead spent on road safety and improving sanitation in hospitals, probably far more lives would be saved. But for some reason, a few deaths via an airplane crash is considered more serious than 35,000 deaths per year in road accidents and even more deaths by avoidable infections in hospitals.

          A rational approach would be to list the causes of avoidable deaths and carry out a careful analysis to determine where it would be most effective to spend the money to reduce the avoidable deaths. That has not been done. Apparently people are more dead when they die in an airplane crash then when they die in an automobile accident.

          The current fear is that Islamist extremists (and the vast majority of Muslims strongly disapprove of killing people) will kill us Americans and others. It would be helpful to determine why they hate us so much. Are the drones we are using in Pakistan, which sometimes kill innocent people, partly responsible? If so, is using the drones a mistake? Perhaps it isn’t a mistake to use the drones, but I wonder whether we have carefully considered the unintended consequences of using them. Are we doing as much as possible to avoid irritating the Muslim extremists? Of course it is not actually our fault when Muslim extremists engage in terrorism; it is their fault. But that does not mean that we should ignore their motives. Instead, we should seek, to the extent that is reasonable, to avoid inflame their hatred.

          Fairly recently, there was controversy over opening an Islamic center near the site of the World Trade Center; opening it was said to be “insensitive.” Why? That was totally irrational. Mosques in the U.S. have been vandalized. Building permits to construct mosques have been denied for no good reason. Constitutional amendments have been proposed to make Sharia law unconstitutional even in the total absence of attempts to enact Sharia law. Surely that sort of hateful and irrational behavior helps the Islamist extremists to recruit more members.

          There are elements of Islam that are behaving the way Christians behaved centuries ago; they have not been brought into the 21st century. Let us hope that the Muslim extremists, and those who hate Muslims, both come to their senses so we can live together in peace.

          • Douglas Moore said, on July 30, 2012 at 5:22 am

            “It would be helpful to determine why they hate us so much.”

            I can tell from this statement that you will never understand. As much as you want to think that they have reasons along the lines of average people walkinga around in the US, you are wrong.

            Magus

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 30, 2012 at 1:56 pm

              They hate us because of our foreign policy.

            • magus71 said, on July 31, 2012 at 6:25 am

              Do they hate women because of their foreign policy?

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 31, 2012 at 3:52 pm

              No. They can hate for different reasons. The view of women held by fundamentalists crosses faith and could be linked to the mental traits that play a causal role in those views,

            • FRE said, on July 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm

              Culture and religion are so intertwined that it can be difficult to tell which has the greater influence on behavior. I’ve known a number of Muslims and the ones I’ve known have been very rational and reasonable. The women have never totally covered themselves except when going to a mosque. In all religions and ethnicities, one can fine both wonderful and horrible people.

          • WTP said, on July 30, 2012 at 7:57 am

            As it has been, so shall it always be? If you don’t think a reduction or even elimination of security would not result in a significant increase in terrorist bombings you are terribly naive.

            The hijackings you speak of did lead to the use of metal detectors, air marshals, and a significant increase in security awareness sufficient to meet the level of threat of the times. Note also that the level of threat from hijacking is nowhere near the concerns for terrorist bombings. With hijackings (at that time) there was no concern that the hijacker would use the airplane as a suicide weapon. The worst-case scenario at the time was that the airplane would land somewhere and the hijacking threat could be dealt with the airplane on the ground.

            “If the amount being spent on making traveling by air inconvenient and frustrating were instead spent on road safety and improving sanitation in hospitals, probably far more lives would be saved.” Putting aside the fact that the money is not being spent for the purpose of making traveling by air inconvenient (who benefits from that?), as Mike might say, nice false dilemma.

            “It would be helpful to determine why they hate us so much.” Looking at the violent attitudes that a significantly large part of Muslim world has with Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, gays, cartoonists, etc. perhaps it would be more rational to ask why they hate so much.

            • Douglas Moore said, on July 30, 2012 at 8:41 am

              One only need look at the hijacking numbers in the 70s and 80s, when security was very lax, to know that security efforts have made a very big difference and saved people’s lives.

              I want the security for very selfish reasons, or at least for reasons that are personal: I don’t want my kids to have to fly on a plane that may blow up. They are not in the least offended by the security.

            • magus71 said, on August 1, 2012 at 10:09 am

              FRE,

              Religion is an aspect of culture. Samuel Huntington said that the two most important things that make up a culture are religion and language.

              Huntington also did a study that shows that all muslim nations are about 5 times (*from memory) more likely to be at war of some sort with a bordering country than are non-muslim nations.

              As far as talk about a “small percentage of muslims”, this is not entirely accurate. A look at the math shows us that a small percentage can still amount to millions of jihadists. And let’s consider that only about 1% of the American population serves in the military. A very large number of muslims tacitly support the jihadists. Polls throughout Europe show that muslims support the idea of sharia law in European nations. And these are the best chance we have of finding muslims who have similar values to us. There are of course muslim countries that do not present a problem for westerners, but in many, many areas of the world, muslims desire something greater for themselves, and this involves crushing the infidel. The nations we criticize the most,a re of course countries that gice us oil, because that gives some the opportunity to attack oil companies. But in many of those countries, hordes of jihadists are kept at bay by a police state and conciliatory sharia laws that pacify extremists. But that method is ceasing to work. The Arab Spring showed jihadists how they can fight and beat nation states quite easily. In other nations like Pakistan, the the government has conceded nearly half its country to muslim “extremists”. But how extreme are they when large portions of the country believe as they do?

              Read this:

              http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/18/world/asia/18hostage.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 30, 2012 at 1:55 pm

          I’m fine with security that works and balances rights against necessity. In the case of those expensive scanners, I was dismayed that my tax dollars had been used to buy them, yet they were unable to handle my cargo shorts. It is not like shorts are an exotic and rare article of clothing that will not be encountered.

          Patting down random passengers also does not seem to enhance security. Of course, intelligent security is limited by what Magnus would call “political correctness”-that is, focusing on people who are likely to bomb a plane would be seen as profiling.

        • WTP said, on July 30, 2012 at 2:50 pm

          See FRE, Mike provides a beautiful rendition of the sort of thing I might call a non-viable alternative…

          “I’m fine with security that works and balances rights against necessity”

          in fact this goes beyond the call of duty as it lacks even the gravitas of castles-in-the-air…castles which themselves I’m sure would be fine with Mike so long as they don’t block his view or the view of anyone he’s friendly with, or provide too much shade, or block the rain, or fail to block the rain, depending on the conditions, post-construction, of his perception of a castle tolerant environment.

          • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 30, 2012 at 4:15 pm

            Which part(s) go beyond castles in the air? The expectation that security actually works? The expectation that rights should be balanced against necessity? Or the whole thing?

            It seems reasonable to expect security to work. After all, if it does not work, why spend the money and time on it?

            It also seems reasonable to balance rights against necessity. After all, if we do have rights that limit what the agents of the state can do to us, then it seems reasonable to expect said rights to be honored. It also seems reasonable to allow encroachments on rights that can be justified as necessary for a legitimate purpose, such as effective security.

            If I had demanded perfect security or effective security that allowed no intrusions on privacy, then I could be fairly accused of the unreasonable. But asking for security that 1) works and 2) does not needlessly violate rights hardly seems unreasonable.

            • WTP said, on July 30, 2012 at 8:59 pm

              Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

        • magus71 said, on August 1, 2012 at 10:10 am

          Mike,

          I see a pattern forming. They seem to hate a lot of things.

      • Douglas Moore said, on July 30, 2012 at 5:11 am

        I disagree. I can usually predict what a person’s views are on any issue based on their politics. You’re right, the desire for heart health is not a liberal/conservative issue–but do you think vegans are liberal or conservative, generally speaking?

        But for the most part I was just being snarky with Mike. Because that’s fun.

        The differences in liberal/conservative thought is actually fascinating to me, though.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 30, 2012 at 1:56 pm

          Any issue? You have a rare gift.

          • magus71 said, on July 31, 2012 at 5:37 am

            I repeat for your benefit:

            “I can usually predict…”
            For instance, you are a liberal, and prety much fall in with the party line on everything but gun rights.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 31, 2012 at 3:59 pm

              I also favor a strong military, a balanced budget, small government, and so on. I don’t drink lattes, talk about my feelings, or fear a good steak.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 30, 2012 at 1:51 pm

      I didn’t say it was the most degrading. I haven’t been able to eat Doritoes since then.

      People submit to it because the alternatives are 1) getting the rules changed or 2) not flying.

      I don’t think that disliking having a stranger run his hands over me is a liberal thing.

      • FRE said, on July 30, 2012 at 4:16 pm

        Actually, I would think that conservatives would be more likely to object to being felt up.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 30, 2012 at 7:27 pm

          True-liberals are supposed to be all touchy-feely.

          At the very least, the TSA should hire hot people and allow the passengers to pick between a man and a woman to give them their pat down. They could even be allowed to accept modest tips for a really good pat.

          • magus71 said, on July 31, 2012 at 1:04 pm

            I like to think for myself. Should I try to get really offended by the security measures at airports? Because right now, I’m really not.

            • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 31, 2012 at 3:55 pm

              Offense is often a personal matter. I take no offense when people question my views, but some folks find dissent to be grounds for violence. I find being touched by strangers offensive, but others do not.

  5. FRE said, on July 30, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    We should consider how we got into this mess in the first place. The roots of the problem go back for centuries. We are paying for the actions of our ancestors.

    In medieval times, Jews were subjected to horrible discrimination. In many areas, they were not permitted to own land. There were pogroms. In 1492, the Jews, along with the Muslims, were expelled from Spain as the king and queen of Spain followed orders from the pope. There was the holocaust in Nazi Germany. Instead of implementing adequate efforts to make the world safe for Jews, the state of Israel was recreated. In the process of recreating the state of Israel, many Muslims were forced out of their homes. Until that time, Jews and Muslims generally got along reasonably well. After that, the Muslims who were deprived of their homes, and the Muslims who supported them, developed a white-hot hatred for Jews. In addition to low key conflicts, that resulted in a war in about 1965 (I don’t remember the exact year) and there has been continuing hostility since then with no end in sight.

    When Israel was recreated, many people accurately predicted what the results would be, i.e., never ending hostilities which would make lasting peace impossible. Now we are stuck with an untenable situation with no end in sight, all because of a chain of events started by our ancestors in medieval times. This situation includes the terrorism which we are now facing. The unnecessary invasion of Iraq exacerbated the problem in two ways: 1) Many Muslims hated us for invading Iraq, and 2) The invasion of Iraq took resources away from our military action in Afghanistan thereby enabling the Taliban to recover strength. To suppress the resurgence of the Taliban, we took actions which resulted in collateral damage, i.e., the deaths of civilians, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, making it easier for al-Qaeda to recruit more terrorists.

    The problem of terrorism will not be easy to solve. But if we make an effort to understand the history behind it, we will have a better chance of finding effective ways to deal with it.

    • WTP said, on July 31, 2012 at 9:28 am

      It’s a quibble and yet at the same time, a tell. I believe what you refer to is the 6 Day War, aka the 1967 War which led to what was and has been referred to as the 1967 Boundaries.

      You gloss over centuries here so delving into that will mushroom into too many topics to keep the discussion rational. Let me just comment on this…”Instead of implementing adequate efforts to make the world safe for Jews, the state of Israel was recreated.” This is exactly what I’m talking about. Do you not think that those who created the state of Israel were trying to make the world safe for Jews? Do you not understand that “better ways” in abstract will always sound better than any implemented plan? Talk is cheap but at the end of the day, decisions must be made and lived with. There is a real world out there that must be addressed by people making concrete decisions with imperfect information and with the pride and prejudices that come with being human. One can always look back with the 20/20 hindsight of history and find flaws or build conspiracy theories. I’m not saying this to excuse or support all of the decisions that were made, I’m just saying to use such vague language such as “implementing adequate efforts” is really not addressing the issue. And again, as I say above, the solution to the problem is not asking “why do they hate us”, they’ve hated us long before we invaded Iraq. That’s partly why we invaded Iraq in the first place. As I say above, given the deep hatred that much of the Muslim world has for Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, gays, cartoonists, etc. not to mention Sunni for Shia for Alawi for Sufi perhaps it would be more rational to ask why they hate so much.

      • FRE said, on July 31, 2012 at 2:04 pm

        “One can always look back with the 20/20 hindsight of history and find flaws or build conspiracy theories.”

        THIS IS NOT 20/20 HINDSIGHT!! It was predicted. Even my own parents anticipated the problems that would be caused by the re-creation of Israel. From what happened, we should have learned to consider carefully the likely ramifications of “solutions” so that we would not create additional problems. Obviously we failed to learn that. Working to make the world safe for Jews where they lived would have been a better solution and would have avoided the problems resulting from the re-creation of Israel. Forcing both Christian and Muslim jews to move to make way for Israel was obviously a serious social injustice the ramifications of which should not have been surprising. Of course there are those who deny that Arabs were forced to move, but in fact many were forced to move. England’s actions towards other Muslim countries contributed to the hatred of many Muslims towards foreigners.

        Certainly decisions must be made and lived with, but there is no excuse for being insufficiently careful when making decisions. President George I refrained from invading Iraq when he had the opportunity to do so, the reason being that he anticipated the problems which would result from the invasion. He carefully considered the consequences and listened to good advice; George II did not but instead, created problems with which we are still dealing and which wiser people anticipated.

        Although it is certainly true that we cannot go back and undo the serious mistakes of the past, at least we can study the mistakes to give us a better understanding of how we got where we are to avoid repeating the same mistakes. We are failing to do that.

        We can also learn from the behavior of the radical fundamentalist Muslims. There are radical fundamentalist Christians (who fortunately are a minority of Christians) who, if given the opportunity, would behave just as badly as their Muslim counterparts. Already they are exacerbating our conflicts with radical Muslims thereby contributing to terrorism. Obviously the burning of Korans by a radical fundamentalist pastor contributed to the problem. Other incidents of expressed hatred of Muslims is throwing fuel onto the fire.

        It is not cheap talk to review history to gain a greater understanding of how we got where we are. Doing so enables us to make better decisions in the future. We fail to review and learn from history at our own peril.

        • WTP said, on July 31, 2012 at 6:17 pm

          OK, there’s no need to yell. I’m sitting right here. My reference to history was simply to say that you had only put forward the proposition that what has been done has been shown to have resulted in significant problems. Now, I believe you are offering an alternative solution that the Jews just stay where they are. From a Jew’s perspective, as you demonstrate here, historically that hadn’t worked out very well. Say what you will but given the times at which the decision to establish a Jewish state was made, one could very well argue that the decision was a result of an attempt by those who had reviewed history, understood how they got there, and decided to take a different path. While you can well argue it has not been easy, on the other hand looking back at the history of how Jews have been treated, it hasn’t been a failure either.

          And again, while you can argue that there are extremists in every culture, they are nowhere near the problem or the magnitude that Islamic extremism is. You mention the Koran burnings. Where were the riots and killings when crucifixes were dropped in jars of urine or the Virgin Mary painted in elephant dung? And as I’ve pointed out several times now, it’s not just that radical Islam does not agree with Westerners or Jews, radical Islam is at war with every culture it touches, including itself.

  6. FRE said, on August 1, 2012 at 1:45 am

    “And again, while you can argue that there are extremists in every culture, they are nowhere near the problem or the magnitude that Islamic extremism is. ”

    True enough, but only because extremists in other cultures happen to be in situations where exercising that extremism is not possible. In earlier times when it was possible, people were burned alive at the stake and tortured by various diabolical means. There were crusades and other wars fought over religion. There was even a war fought over the fiiloque after which thousands of soldiers on the losing side had their eyes gouged out. Dissension over the filioque even contributed to the fall of the Byzantium empire.

    I am well aware of the problems of radical Islam. I am also well aware that the vast majority of Muslims are not radical and oppose the actions of the radicals, a fact which receives little or no publicity here in the U.S.

    It is possible to pick and choose from the Koran, just as it is possible to pick and choose from the Bible. To find things in the Bible which few would accept, visit http://www.evilbible.com. However, the Koran, which I read during the first Persian Gulf War to give me a better understanding of Muslims, prohibits fighting except to defend one’s own home and the right to practice one’s own religion. It also requires Muslims to respect Christians and Jews as “people of the book,” i.e., the Bible. Those of us who have read the Koran are in a better position to determine when Muslims are actually following their own religion or violating it. I wonder how many people saying things about Islam have actually studied it. Perhaps it is considered “liberal” to make an honest attempt to understand people with whom one disagrees. Many people confuse understanding with accepting.

    Obviously when a cartoonist drew a picture of Mr. Mustafa (PBUH) with a turbine resembling a bomb, there should have been no riots even though it was a very rude and insensitive things to do, just as it was rude, insensitive, and in gross bad taste to exhibit a crucifix in a glass of urine as if it were art. In earlier times, that work of “art” would have resulted in riots and probably prosecutions for blasphemy.

    Many Muslims are still living in primitive cultures that are centuries behind the times. And, many people living in those cultures are constantly frustrated by the primitive nature of their cultures and are continually trying to make changes to bring it into the 21st century.

    When I lived in Fiji, I met a couple in which the husband was a Muslim of Indian ancestry; his wife was an indigenous Fijian Methodist. Their sons went to the mosque; their daughters went to the Methodist church. Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs even attended each others’ weddings, funerals, etc. So again, religion and culture are often so intertwined that it can be difficult to determine which is more influential and how a religion expresses itself is strongly dependent on culture.

    • WTP said, on August 1, 2012 at 9:30 am

      You seem quite unaware of the reality that the Muslims that you bump into in day-to-day life in Western society are, by choosing to distance themselves from the more “extreme” culture in the indigenous Muslim world, atypical relative to said indigenous cultures?

      “Perhaps it is considered “liberal” to make an honest attempt to understand people with whom one disagrees”. Not anymore. From what I can see the term “liberal” has been hijacked to mean a reactionary, knee-jerk response to those who, rightly in my opinion, look upon the advancements that Western civilization in general and the US specifically, have made as a good thing in this world. The values and doctrines of the West have contributed significantly to pulling mankind out of the morass of ignorance, tribalism, and inbreeding of ideas that are at the root of the very problems of which we speak.

      Yes, I am well aware of the violence and incongruities of both the Bible and past civilizations, Western and otherwise. But such are marginalized and/or eclipsed because we refuse to tolerate such behavior to such a degree that we now treat some Christians, Jews, Sarah Palin, Clarenct Thomas, or even Mitt Romney, etc. with the kind of prejudice that would be farce were it not so dangerous to a true liberal culture. Meanwhile, simple critical thinking about Islam, or any leftist sacred cow, causes the politcal left to break out in hives.

      And really…”Mr. Mustafa (PBUH)”…are you serious? Perhaps Magus is right. Such a statement makes me suspect that you will never understand.

      • FRE said, on August 1, 2012 at 6:49 pm

        There are a number of countries which are predominately Muslim and are not dominated by fundamentalists and extremists, although the fundamentalists and extremists do try to exert influence. Turkey, Malaysia, and Indonesia are among the Muslim countries that are not dominated by extremists, although the Muslim secularists there have to be on their guard constantly to prevent extremists from gaining excessive influence. To a lesser degree, that is also true here in the U.S.; the “Christian” extremists want to change the curricula in the public schools so that evolution will be replaced by “scientific” creationism (or have it taught as an alternative to evolution) and change history to teach that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation.

        It appears that Muslims from Pakistan are especially problematic. In Australia there was a case in which three Muslim brothers from Pakistan lured a young Australian woman into a house and repeatedly gang raped her; the case received considerable publicity in Australia. In court, the brothers and their father asserted that no wrong had been done since the woman was obviously of low morals as evidenced by the fact that she was scantily dressed. That was not the only such case in Australia, although it was more egregious than the others. There have been similar problems in Norway with Muslims from Pakistan. In fact, people migrating to Norway are explicitly told, by the orientation literature, that locals may dress more scantily than the migrants are accustomed to but that does not reflect on their morals and that sexual harassment is illegal. Muslims who see some women as fair game are violating the principals of their own religion; the Koran specifically proscribes any sexual contact outside of marriage. So, the problem isn’t with Islam; rather, it is with the failure of professed Muslims to follow their own religion. That is also true were terrorism is concerned.

        Recently my sister took a university course on understanding Islam. The instructor, who was a Muslim woman, explicitly stated that many Muslims live in primitive cultures which are centuries behind the times and that it will be challenging to bring them into the 21st century. Many Muslims themselves are aware of that situation. And, there is nothing wrong with critical thinking about Islam. The problem is that what purports to be critical thinking is often an excoriation of all Islam and assertion that Islam = terrorist extremism.

        Actually, I am much more concerned with how people treat each other than with what they profess to believe. If that makes me unorthodox, so be it.

        • WTP said, on August 1, 2012 at 8:23 pm

          I’m not sure if you’re trying to educate me, so let me inform you that I am fairly familiar with muslim societies. I even own a Koran, though I was tempted to throw it on the barbeque myself a while back. I have worked with many a Muslim. Some were pleasant, most were boring. Some were good at their jobs, others stank. Boy did they stink. I mean literally, smelled awful from not bathing. It became an issue in the workplace that required some delicately worded emails we never should have had to ask management to address. But such is our PC world that things fester and get out of hand because everyone is afraid to state the obvious.

          When one of my bosses was on a business trip to Jakarta, his hotel was blown up. Just missed being a victim by 20 minutes. Another co-worker decided he wouldn’t be taking any more trips to Pakistan after his hotel was blown up. On the other hand, one of the wimpiest people I ever worked with was a Pakistani. Not sure why I felt the need to add that last part, but WTH.

          If you think the threat to US culture by fundamentalist Christians is in any way proportional to what is going on in places like Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, etc., I’m not sure which cultures you understand less, ours or theirs. “The problem is that what purports to be critical thinking is often an excoriation of all Islam and assertion that Islam = terrorist extremism.” Well the way I see it, what purports to be “liberal” thinking is often excoriation of all legitimate critical thinking about Islamic society and that criticism = bigotry and hatred.


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