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May 01, 2016

Sunday Morning Book Thread 05-01-2016: Simply Irreformable [OregonMuse]


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Good morning to all of you morons and moronettes and bartenders everywhere and all the ships at sea. Welcome to AoSHQ's stately, prestigious, internationally acclaimed and high-class Sunday Morning Book Thread, where men are men, space isn't safe, and snowflakes will melt. The Sunday Morning Book Thread is the only AoSHQ thread that is so hoity-toity, pants are required. Except if you feel like you're going to shart.

“Be as careful of the books you read, as of the company you keep; for your habits and character will be as much influenced by the former as the latter.”

― Paxton Hood


Help Fight SOJS (Sudden Onset Jihadi Syndrome)

One of the most pressing questions of the 21st century is, why do acclimated, peaceful, law-abiding Muslims suddenly go nuts and run off to join ISIS? Or, worse, show up one day at work and start shooting people?

Nabeel Qureshi is a Christian convert from Islam, and his best-selling book is Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity. In a USA Today article, he writes about his own upbringing:

As a Muslim growing up in the United States, I was taught by my imams and the community around me that Islam is a religion of peace. My family modeled love for others and love for country, and not just by their words. My father served in the U.S. Navy throughout my childhood, starting as a seaman and retiring as a lieutenant commander. I believed wholeheartedly a slogan often repeated at my mosque after 9/11: “The terrorists who hijacked the planes also hijacked Islam.”

Yet as I began to investigate the Quran and the traditions of Muhammad’s life for myself in college, I found to my genuine surprise that the pages of Islamic history are filled with violence. How could I reconcile this with what I had always been taught about Islam?

So, in other words, he actually read the Qur'an for himself. Hmmm...

Others have argued that what Islam needs to have happen to it is the equivalent of the Protestant Reformation. In fact, this is the specific argument of Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book, Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now:

[Ali] identifies five key amendments to Islamic doctrine that Muslims have to make to bring their religion out of the seventh century and into the twenty-first. And she calls on the Western world to end its appeasement of the Islamists. “Islam is not a religion of peace,” she writes. It is the Muslim reformers who need our backing, not the opponents of free speech.

But from what I can tell, her suggestions on how to "fix" Islam would turn it into something that really wouldn't be Islam. Also, if the Protestant Reformation was just Christians reading the Bible for themselves (and I think for the most part it was), then Al-Qaeda and ISIS are what you get when Muslims start reading the Qur'an for themselves.

Now, that weird rustling sound you're hearing is coming from all the lame equivocations being constructed out of straw: "But the Bible has violent passages, too." Yes, it does. But do you know what the Bible doesn't have? Specific instructions for Christians to go out and kill unbelievers. That many have done so throughout the history of the Church (and in the name of Christ) is to our shame, not glory. Because such actions go against the specific scriptural injunctions *against* violence and attempts at establishing the Kingdom of God by force of arms, by fighting and killing. These injunctions are so strong that there developed an absolute pacifist stream of Christian thought, where no fighting or taking up of arms can ever by justified. I don't much agree with it, but I can appreciate its pedigree, from the Church's earliest days. There's nothing comparable to this in the Islamic world, is there?

Christianity and Islam are not symmetrical in this manner. The Reformation was helped along by increasing rates of literacy in Europe. And now, literacy is spreading throughout the Islamic world and ordinary believers are reading the Qur'an for the first time in their lives, and they're finding what Dr. Quereshi has found. I read an article earlier this week, which link I forgot to save, about a Palestinian writer who was interviewed on Palestinian TV and he asked, "so why do I have to hate the Jew?" He cited times past in history where Muslims and Jews lived peaceably together. And he repeated his question, then added, "Why now? Why do I have to hate the Jew now?"

And the answer is, of course, because the whole Islamic world is under pressure from the jihadis to conform. They're not "hijacking" Islam, they're exploiting characteristics that have been in Islam since the very beginning.

Because of this, the Qur'an is kind of like the Muslim version of a headcrab. All of a sudden, it will overwhelm an unsuspecting Muslim and then they show up at work with weapons and murderous intent and officials can say nothing but gee, how could that have happened, when the answer is right there in front of them.

Fortunately for us, not all Muslims who read the Qur'an get bitten by the headcrab. Who does and who doesn't, at least in this country, is the subject of United States of Jihad: Investigating America's Homegrown Terrorists by Peter Bergen, which

...tells the entwined stories of the key actors on the American front. Among the perpetrators are Anwar al-Awlaki, the New Mexico-born radical cleric who became the first American citizen killed by a CIA drone and who mentored the Charlie Hebdo shooters; Samir Khan, whose Inspire webzine has rallied terrorists around the world, including the Tsarnaev brothers; and Omar Hammami, an Alabama native and hip hop fan who became a fixture in al Shabaab’s propaganda videos until fatally displeasing his superiors

But as one review notes, "Bergen’s position that conservatives have overblown the Jihadist threat for political gain and the focus should be on climate change and gun control mirrors the position of the Obama administration. Whether Bergen is echoing the administration, the reverse or both arrived at the same conclusion is not known." So there's that.

Me, I figure that the guys who suddenly run off to join ISIS are probably the Mulsim equivalents of the same type of people who, back in the 70s, would disappear and then reappear some months later selling flowers on the street corner as members of some religious cult, i.e. they're mostly middle class, bored, with an excess of leisure time on their hands.

The jihadis have raised hard questions about how the Qur'an should be read and interpreted. I'm not sure how the more moderate Muslims answer these interpretive questions. I have heard, for example, that moderate imams have been brought to Gitmo to talk with the detainees about how Al-Qaeda distorts and misuses the Qur'an, but I don't know what is said, or how the interpretive issues are dealt with.

And who gets to say authoritatively what the Qur'an does or does not say?

And while we're at it, here's a woman who's not down with the whole ISIS/Al-Qaeda "let's make all the women wear Hefty Bags" schtick: Brigitte Gabriel, a Maronite Christian who was born in Lebanon, has written Because They Hate: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America, which

is a political wake-up call told through a very personal memoir frame. Brigitte warns that the US is threatened by fundamentalist Islamic theology in the same way Lebanon was— radical Islam will stop at nothing short of domination of all non-Muslim countries. Gabriel saw this mission start in Lebanon, and she refuses to stand silently by while it happens here.

I'm old enough to remember when Beirut was known as "The Paris of the Middle East". It was very modern, very cosmopolitan, where Muslims, Christians, and Jews all lived together and more or less got all lone. And then one day the jihadis showed up, and that was the end of that.


Hugos There?

The controversy over the Hugo Awards has been jacked up a notch:

For the second year in a row, nominations for the prestigious Hugo Awards for science fiction & fantasy have been swept by the Sad Puppies & Rabid Puppies, two groups of authors and fans who oppose left-wing domination of the community.

There are actually two slates, a Sad Puppy slate, and a Rabid Puppy slate, put together by Vox Day, which is a separate entity, even though there is a lot of overlap. You can read the full list in the Breitbart article I linked.

The response of the CHORFs and SJW crybullies has been exactly what you would expect, that is, a cavalcade of stupid:

The puppies oppose diversity initiatives and support lists that are dominated by white men. Their targets, which they call SJW for "social justice warriors," are women, people of color, LGBT writers, editors and artists and the people who support them, including L.A. Times Critic at Large John Scalzi.

I'm not going to even bother to fisk this. They never tired of repeating the same lies. Oh, and notice that they don't mention, as I noted a few weeks ago, that the Sad Puppies recommendations were solicited and collated by women authors this year.

In a related development, this will be the first year of the Dragon Awards:

Welcome to the first annual Dragon Awards! As a part of our 30th Anniversary as the nation's largest fan run convention, we are introducing a new way to recognize excellence in all things Science Fiction and Fantasy. These awards will be by the fans, for the fans, and are your chance to reward those who have made real contributions to SF, books, games, comics, and shows. There is no qualification for voting – no convention fees or other memberships are needed. The only requirement is that you register, confirm your email address for voting purposes, and agree to the rules. This ensures that all votes count equally.

Dragon Con, which advertises itself as "the largest, multi-media, popular culture convention focusing on science fiction & fantasy, gaming, comics, literature, art, music, film in the universe" will be held this year in Atlanta, GA on Sept 2-5.

The emergence of the Dragon Awards is interesting. When the market is broken, you get alternate markets. It remains to be seen whether the Dragons will last, and whether they will acquire the prestige that the Hugos have long held.


When Words Mattered

When did neo-conservatism start? Well, maybe right here:

On November 10, 1975, the General Assembly of United Nations passed Resolution 3379, which declared Zionism a form of racism. Afterward, a tall man with long, graying hair, horned-rim glasses, and a bow-tie stood to speak. He pronounced his words with the rounded tones of a Harvard academic, but his voice shook with outrage: "The United States rises to declare, before the General Assembly of the United Nations, and before the world, that it does not acknowledge, it will not abide by, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act."

Resolution 3379 was engineered by the Soviet Union and filtered through its various proxies, so this is just another aspect of the Cold War. And instead of presenting some kind of Kissingeresque "détente" kind of response, the US Ambasssardor to the UN Daniel Patrick Moynihan got up and loudly said oh hells no.

These events are recounted in detail in Moynihan's Moment: America's Fight Against Zionism as Racism by Gil Troy. And it goes on to argue that from that point on, America lifted itself out of the crisis of self-confidence brought about by a slumping economy and failure in Vietnam, toward a more robust foreign policy and fearlessness in asserting and defending American interests.

Of course, Obama has pretty much peed it all away, which is something that even Jimmy Carter was unable to do.

As this review notes:

Resolution 3379 was eventually repealed on Dec. 16, 1991, with a clear majority. Moynihan’s doggedly delivered 750 speeches against the resolution made the difference in the final outcome.

Moynihan was a Democrat, but even so, he was one of the good guys.


Moron Recommendations

Veteran moron commenter Skandia Recluse has a couple of recommendations that he believes might interest the readers of this Smart Military Blog™:

First, The Boer War by Winston Churchill,

Churchill's book, a series of letters written for publication in English newspapers, catalogs troop movements here and there, and the battles fought...more a recounting of his own personal adventures and observations than a comprehensive history of the conflict.

In particular, it recounts the episode where

...Churchill is captured in Pretoria not long after he arrives to join the British forces -- and is frustrated not by the conditions in the prison, but by the fact that he was missing the action. Churchill tells the story of how he escaped and made a daring overland crossing, traveling only at night to avoid detection.

And then there's The Memoirs of Colonel John S. Mosby, one of the most effective (Southern) military leaders of the Civil War.

He writes of 'foraging' for rations, capturing enemy supply wagon trains, gathering intelligence, spying, holding and breaking lines of communication and supply lines. He also writes about inspiring leadership and leaders not so inspiring and how that affects the outcome.

And get this:

[Mosby] also suggests that written documentation might have been falsified after the fact. Mosby then mentions the conflicting conclusions of expert historians, and their efforts to rewrite history to protect a favored leader, or place blame on another leader who may or may not be at fault for disaster.

Make me wonder whether we really know anything about history at all.

Mosby's memoirs are available for 99 cents on Kindle. While looking at the Amazon page for this, the Amazon algorithm popped up a number of other cheap Civil War histories that appear to be first-person accounts, such as War Years with Jeb Stuart by W.W. Blackford, Hardtack & Coffee or The Unwritten Story of Army Life by John D. Billings and Rebel Private: Front And Rear: Memoirs Of A Confederate Soldier by William A. Fletcher. There's also The Passing of the Armies: An Account Of The Final Campaign Of The Army Of The Potomac by Joshua Chamberlain, who commanded the 1st Brigade of the Union Army’s V Corps.

All of these are 99 cents.


What I'm Reading

I've just started Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges as part of my church's reading recommendations.

"The motivation for this book stems from a growing conviction that those of us whom I call conservative evangelicals may have become so preoccupied with some of the major sins of society around us that we have lost sight of the need to deal with our own more `refined' or subtle sins." And in the book Bridges addresses these "respectable sins"--sins, that though they bring dishonor to God, are too often overlooked among Christians. We are apt to focus on the obvious ills of society and our attention to those seemingly great sins somehow convinces us that our small sins are acceptable.

Anger, discontentment, unthankfulness, selfishness, and lack of self-control are some of the personal sins Bridges specifically discusses. You know, actually, I probably don't want to read this book. It's probably going to make me think about things I'd rather not have to think about.


___________

Moronette 'votermom' is putting together a list of moron authors over on the Goodreads site which is intended to be acessible to non-members. Here is the list she has compiled so far. Let her know if there's an author she's missing.

http://www.bookhorde.org/p/aoshq-authors.html

___________

Don't forget the AoSHQ reading group on Goodreads. It's meant to support horde writers and to talk about the great books that come up on the book thread. It's called AoSHQ Moron Horde and the link to it is here: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/175335-aoshq-moron-horde.

___________

So that's all for this week. As always, book thread tips, suggestions, bribes, rumors, threats, and insults may be sent to OregonMuse, Proprietor, AoSHQ Book Thread, at the book thread e-mail address: aoshqbookthread, followed by the 'at' sign, and then 'G' mail, and then dot cee oh emm.

What have you all been reading this week? Hopefully something good, because, as you all know, life is too short to be reading lousy books.

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