Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Terrorism: their and our

May 21, 2017

Instead of writing a final word on terrorism of today, I am trying to define the problem and discuss a possible way out. I leave “celebrity” terrorism aside since that is a different problem.

By terrorism I mean here attacks on civilians. In the middle east Muslims are attacked by Islamists and by Western (including russian and japanese) forces of ”law and order”. In parts of the middle east Muslims are killed as part of a civil war between sunni and shia and as part of resistance against western aggression. The West is there to protect access to raw materials and to prevent religious fanatics, instead of Western corporations, from controlling the region.  Both parties are killing innocent Muslim civilians.In other words a perfect whirlpool of mixed motives:

I don’t intend to give a complete rundown of terrorist activities or discuss the rights and wrongs of the situation. The main point is that civilians are being killed as a routine matter.

The difference is that Muslim fanatics are killing other Muslims to assert their power. The Western forces of “law and order” are killing Muslims because they simply don’t care. It is clear that in crowded cities and in firefights there is no automatic immunity for civilians, but weddings and funerals are bombed, schools and hospitals are attacked without anyone held responsible. Western state terrorists are not targeting Muslim civilians; they simply do not care. To the inhabitants of these areas the difference, between the two parties, is irrelevant. Dead is dead.

Considering the historical lessons of successful antiterrorist actions, I will outline a policy. When actions against terrorism have been successful (the British against IRA for exemple) this has been based on legality. This does not mean that brute force and extermination have not also been successful. But the cost to the host society and the incompleteness of the results has made this a very chancy proposition in a world where nuclear weapons are getting cheaper, more portable and finding disturbed fanatics to carry them easier all the time.

Legality has the following parts.

  1. A clear dividing line between legal and illegal activities
  2. Those that are innocent are generally acquitted
  3. No punishment greater than the crime committed
  4. Members of military and paramilitary forces of “law and order” who have gone over the line are put on trial

The first time any officer is put on trial for “carelessness” resulting in civilian casualties will be  the el alamein of the fight against terrorism.

The first time any officer will be charged in an international court for the breach of point 4 will be the D-day of counterterrorism.

Legality is the first element but there is another element which the terrorists completely lack. The second element is kindness, which can be shown in many ways. Here is how you can think of kindness in today’s world, even if I hope you will find a better way. Apart of the manipulators, most terrorists are not very well acquainted with the Koran and its meaning.  One suggestion is that captured terrorists on the fringes of atrocities will serve their prison sentence building a mosque and their evenings studying Koran under a moderate mulla. The purpose of the studies is not to convert them but leave them informed.

The conflict between the muslim world and the west won’t be solved by violence.

 

Religion, the Supreme Court and Public Schools.

July 16, 2016

If we could bring the signers of the Constitution to the present day and show them the place of religion in public schools they would be flabbergasted.  None of the signers were openly against religion and very few if any were antireligious at all.  Where is it?

The Bill of Rights says two things. The government can’t make any law that forces the citizens to follow any form of worship. It also stops the government from hindering any form of worship. And that includes religious instruction. Usually we call this the right of the citizens to liberty of conscience.

How does this apply to tax supported schools (public education) and what is all the commotion about?

In the past if parents were well off they could hire people to supply religious instruction if they themselves were busy working etc. If not, most of the population were farmers working with their children which meant that during the day, by exemple and by word, they could let them know what was the right way for contact with the eternal. But gradually during the years parents and minors were separated during the day and religion had a smaller and smaller place in public education in contrast to the case in the world outside the school. The reason: people should be able to send their children to school without being told what to think about religion. That is the first part of the first amendment to the constitution. The result has been the mess that exists today, not because people are less religious but because trying to be fair.

But what of the second part liberty of conscience which means the parental responsibility towards their minors to get what they consider is the proper religious instruction.?

I therefore propose that every public school could have a Spiritual Center built close by. How would it be run and financed? A Spiritual Center is simply a building with class rooms for worship and religious instruction to be carried out by reverends, priests and rabbis etc during the schoolday for students in public schools. The instructors will be paid by parents and the religious organizations that want the students to have religious instruction during the school week. The adjustment to the school demands will not be greater than the adjustment for football and the like. If there are not enough who want to follow a particular form of worship it will be up to the parents to cooperate (presbyterians and methodists for ex)

Those who are opposed to worship will have their own presentation of religion.

An Spiritual Center doesn’t have to be there but if there are enough parents who want it they will have to pay for it. (the free exercise of religion again). One way is to do it by fundraising from the public, another by issuing bonds. Labor can also be contributed as part of or instead of money. None of these involves government efforts or tax money. Payment for instruction and upkeep will be collected from the parents. Then the question arises. Is there going to be a money bar for those who can’t afford or will the religious organizations make up the deficit. In other words is religious instruction (or instruction about religion) something only  for the rich or for all children. This is a fundamental question but one for the parents involved and not for the Supreme Court.

The constitution forbids the government to favor one religious expression over another which means using tax money for this purpose. But it also forbids the government from interfering with liberty of conscience. In other words religion in schools is not allowed but religion at schools is.

China gains by granting autonomy to Tibet

November 2, 2009


There are major questions. Why now? What will it involve for China and Tibet? Why should China do it?

I. Why now?

The Dalai Lama is still alive and is world renowned. An agreement where he is involved will have greater effect in Tibet than his replacement and China will reap maximum benefits.

II.What does autonomy mean for China and Tibet

Any autonomy agreement depends on the parties involved, not on general principles or foreign ideas. But to show that that autonomy is not unthinkable I present the following proposal to get the discussion started.

a. No interference with Tibetan religious practices except as stated out in the AA (autonomy agreement) nor involving the abuse of human beings.

Komment: On the one hand many abuses of human rights can be covered up as a religious practice. Forced employment in monasteries as an exempel. On the other hand meddling with religious practices can be camouflaged as a defense of human rights.

b. The status of the Dalai Lama will be respected and the succession a Tibetan matter.

c. Defence and foreign relations will be reserved for the Chinese government

Komment: This means that Tibetans will not be armed, and that they will undergo civil conscription served within Tibet. Also that no foreigners will be admitted to Tibet without the consent of the Chinese government and after discussions with the Tibetan autonumous authority.

d. The presence of non-tibetan speakers in the government (this includes scientific and health services) or in private equivalents will be reduced with a measurable reduction each year.

e. No commercial activities will be carried out except by Tibetan nationals and with the consent of the Chinese governmnt.

Komment: This will be the hardest part to accept by either side. What does it mean? First Tibet will not, by the AA, be allowed to be a base for commercial penetration of China and that Chinese commercial law, with due consideration of RP (religious practices) will be the rule for business activities aimed at China or abroad. On the other hand Tibetan commercial law modified by RP will be the rule in autonomous Tibet itself. This to prevent religious symbols or places to be exploited by ruthless businessmen native to Tibet

For another that Han nationals will not be allowed to own property or engage in commercial activities in Tibet itself and thus by economic weight subvert the AA.

Either part can delay decisions or subvert the AA but then why make it in the first place.

One fundamental problem is that China is so large so that local officials out of greed or ambition can subvert the AA despite the intentions or the interest of the Chinese government. Even if not there may be differences of opinion between Han and Tibetans . To create an impartial tribunal to resolve such differences is one of the important task of the AA negotiators.

III. What does China gain?

The major question for China is whether it will exchange the semblance of power for the the substance of power. A necessary ingredient in both is military strength. This exists. However the substance of power is a well ordered society supported by its citizens and respected by the international community. By its present policy towards Tibet, China signals that it is an unjust society and a danger to its neighbors.

The disadvantages to China of a truly autonomous Tibet are trivial and the benefits great. And in this world of predators, Tibet, protected by the might of China could become one of the brightest jewels in the dragon’s crown and both make their contribution to world harmony.