Islam on Trial

"Prophetic Justice," by Amy Waldman (The Atlantic Monthly, Oct 2006) is a fascinating article about terrorism trials in the U.S. where the prosecution attempts to prove that the defendant was planning on committing an act of terrorism. Very often, the trials hinge on different interpretations of Islam, Islamic scripture, and Islamic belief -- and often we are essentially putting the religion on trial.

Reading it, I was struck with the eliminationist rhetoric coming out of the Christian Right in the U.S. today, and how it would fare under the same level of scrutiny.

It's a long article, but well worth reading. There are many problems with prosecuting people for thoughtcrimes, and the article discusses some of them.

Posted on January 29, 2007 at 6:55 AM • 118 Comments

Comments

Ralph Waldo EmersonJanuary 29, 2007 7:56 AM

Bruce,

When the Christians in the US begin summarily executing the citizen's of the US on a grand scale, you can ask how they "would fare under the same level of scrutiny."

You stripes show again.

KashmarekJanuary 29, 2007 8:09 AM

The eliminationist theory is already fact in many Islamic nations. How do Christians fare under Islamic control? Badly. The difference is that under Islam, that is their basis. Our basis was different not too many years ago.

LisaJanuary 29, 2007 8:12 AM

"When the Christians in the US begin summarily executing the citizen's of the US on a grand scale, you can ask how they "would fare under the same level of scrutiny.""

I think the more parallel situation would be if Christians in the US began to summarily execute citizens of other countries.

Do they have to be Christians *in* the US, or merely Christians *from* the US? And does it have to involve executing, or would merely unlawfully depriving people of freedom, dignity, and all the things that make life worth living be enough?

Do I have to say Gitmo?

JeffJanuary 29, 2007 8:29 AM

@Ralph

I think Bruce's point is that a defendant's religion is being used as evidence of "intent" to commit a crime. That is a bit scary.

Traditionally, you could only prosecute someone for intent to commit a crime if (a) the crime is attempted, that is, the acts necessary to commit the crime were performed, but the crime didn't occur (such as attempted murder -- shooting the gun, but missing) or (b) conspiracy to commit the crime -- that is, two or more people planning and taking preparatory steps toward the crime.

One reason that intent (by itself) has not been criminally punished is that it is so hard to prove. (There is also the humane justification that people should be given the chance to get control of their negative thoughts, control their behavior, and act in conformance with social norms and that punishing intent would punish many people who would naturally shy away from crime as the actual act got closer).

If the government is now punishing merely based on vague notions of intent to commit jihad, that is a major shift in our legal system. Personally, I think its a bad shift. Once this theory of punishable intent is accepted by the legal system as normal, it'll be applied to other crimes as well.

Lourens VeenJanuary 29, 2007 8:31 AM

"When the Christians in the US begin summarily executing the citizen's of the US on a grand scale, you can ask how they "would fare under the same level of scrutiny.""

Could the stripes be yours? Note that these people haven't summarily executed anyone. They are alleged to have planned to do so, and the question is whether that can be proven by interpreting scripture and belief. If so, then where does it end? Could scripture and belief of other religions be used as proof in criminal cases as well? Does knowing that Cain slew Abel prove that you're planning to murder your brother?

That's an interesting issue, and it has nothing to do with any particular religion and/or whether some of its followers have committed crimes.

NathanJanuary 29, 2007 8:35 AM

I'm not sure what this blog entry has to do with security but I'll certainly echo what "Ralph Waldo Emerson" said. Additionally, I'm removing my subscription to the RSS feed.

SteveJJanuary 29, 2007 8:39 AM

Waldo: "When the Christians in the US begin summarily executing the citizen's of the US"

Timothy McVeigh was a Christian (or an agnostic, depending which interview with him you read).

So there you go: "Christians" started executing Americans before "Muslims" did. And since I'm British, presumably I can likewise argue that "Christians" were executing British citizens throughout the 80s, and hence that "Christians" ought to have been scrutinised in order to root out the IRA.

Or, alternatively: individuals and small groups commit crimes. The rest is the inherent prejudice of small minds.

Lisa: "I think the more parallel situation would be if Christians in the US began to summarily execute citizens of other countries."

They do summarily execute, it's just called "warfare" or "collateral damage" instead of "terrorism". Which I'm sure makes all the difference to the corpses.

But there's little point arguing it: imperialists (and American imperialists aren't much different from the British 150 years ago) always believe that extending their power base is a noble cause. So whether they're funding the CONTRAS or the Mujahadeen (bin Laden), or invading Iraq, or defending Vietnam, or assassinating Lumumba, or installing client dictators in Iraq (Saddam Hussein) or Iran (the Shah over Mossadegh) or Chile (Pinochet over Allende), it's all the same - the deaths they cause are justified, and the deaths which the other side causes are criminal.

Bruce SchneierJanuary 29, 2007 8:43 AM

"When the Christians in the US begin summarily executing the citizen's of the US on a grand scale, you can ask how they 'would fare under the same level of scrutiny.'"

Actually, that's not true. The article isn't about the actions of religious extremists, such that only the actions of religious extremists are comparible. The article is about the culpability of religious speech, which can reasonably be compared with other religious speech.

The article is about thoughtcrime.

Bruce SchneierJanuary 29, 2007 8:45 AM

"I'm not sure what this blog entry has to do with security...."

Prosecutions for thoughtcrimes. I'm certainly not feeling any more secure because of it.

nzrussJanuary 29, 2007 8:56 AM

Thanks for the article Bruce,

And don't mind Nathan, he probably believes what they say on Fox News.

Fred SmedJanuary 29, 2007 9:02 AM

"When the Christians in the US begin summarily executing the citizen's of the US on a grand scale, you can ask how they "would fare under the same level of scrutiny."

Remember the crusades? The Inquisition? We Christians have done our fare share of murder, rape, and genocide in the name of religion.

The best way to keep the US secure is to give people hope. When people have hope for their and their children's future they are less likely to be convinced that their only purpose in life is to blow themselves up.

JBCJanuary 29, 2007 9:17 AM

@SteveJ

"Timothy McVeigh was a Christian (or an agnostic, depending which interview with him you read)."

Mcveigh's last statement is below:
My head is bloody but unbowed," it reads, before concluding: "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul."

Do these sound like the words of a Christian to you? If I could find them I'd post some links to various interviews he took before his death. Whatever he was, the man didn't believe in any kind of orthodox Christian theology. He's on record as believing in "a God", which at most suggests a deist-type of belief. If anything, his final interviews seem to point to a Nietzschean outlook on life.

frimbleJanuary 29, 2007 9:22 AM

"You stripes show again." -- Pseudo-Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I believe RWE may have hit on something here. The Schneier super-secret doubleplusungood agenda. But he's not a secret jihadi, or pinko scum, or part of the Protocols of Zion.

No, his "stripes" are literally showing. After a series of comic mis-adventures in Madagascar, a certain zebra, let's call him Marty, decided that the great threat to global peace and prosperity was oppression by World Carnivorism. He quickly educated himself in cryptography, and bought a middle-aged man suit, entering human society as "Bruce Schneier."

His interest in civil liberties and privacy mainly emanate from his desire to keep his underground network, the Ungulate Network of Terror (UNTER), hidden from prying, meat-eating eyes.

Unfortunately for him, his "Bruce" suit is not aging well, and his black & white stripes have begun to show through -- just look closely at his beard. If he is not stopped quickly, he will force the human race, and other predatory species, to switch to sushi as their main protein source (excepting of course the Japanese).

HE MUST BE STOPPED! (Unless you have investments in deep sea trawling, or cow-patty conversion). And let's thank the divine forces for RWEs timely warning.

Ralph Waldo EmersonJanuary 29, 2007 9:34 AM

Bruce,

The comment was not directed at the article as much as it was directed at you. You are comparing US Christians to Muslims extremists, and I believe it is unfair in almost any context. You are supposed to be a man of intellect, yet you keep showing your political stripes with main-stream media-types of attacks and comments.

To others, it is not surprising that you bring up things like McVeigh and the Crusades. However, it IS disappointing because I expect people reading this blog to have better arguments than these old rants.

Christians and Jesus are attacked on a daily basis, and it because we try to hold to a moral high ground (Jesus didn't TRY, He succeeded). The world doesn't like people to take a stand.

Jesus' likeness is shown on South Park, Rolling Stone, etc. in a demeaning manner. Yet you do not see a mass crowd of Christians running around shouting for people's heads to be lopped from their necks.

You don't have car bombings and terrorist attacks perpetrated by Christians. You don't have Baptists running around killing Methodists because they disagree on the method of Baptism.

Christians are attacked because it is convenient and easy. This type of attack does not suit you, Mr. Schneier. This is for people who have not thought things to their conclusion, and you have never struck me as this type of person. I beg you, please stop thinking with emotion and politics.

AlanJanuary 29, 2007 9:40 AM

We know there are people who want to attack us. Apparently there are training camps adding to this population on a continual basis, and empowering them to carry it out. It is not an imaginary threat.

Preventing a future attack requires examination of intent. That is inherently an inexact science. It will always be open to criticism. Should we therefore stop examining intent, and only prosecute those who actually carry out attacks? I don't think so.

J. McCarthyJanuary 29, 2007 9:48 AM

Are you now, or have you ever been a member of a group interested in cryptographic hash functions?

T. PaineJanuary 29, 2007 9:56 AM

@Alan

"Should we therefore stop examining intent, and only prosecute those who actually carry out attacks? I don't think so."

That is, should we only prosecute people who have committed crimes? And you think we should prosecute people who haven't? I confess myself unable to understand the thought process leading to this belief.

Read what Jeff says above about the difference between intent, attempted crime, and conspiracy to commit crime, and why we don't prosecute intent. Basically, prosecuting intent is prosecuting thoughtcrime.

frimbleJanuary 29, 2007 9:58 AM

RWE - "To others, it is not surprising that you bring up things like McVeigh and the Crusades. However, it IS disappointing because I expect people reading this blog to have better arguments than these old rants."

So we'll forget that McVeigh's last contacts were with Elohim City, a fundamentalist compound that holds the same relationship to mainstream Christian Fundamentalism as Al Qaeda does to Salafiya.

And we'll pass by the 30 years war, the 100 years war, the massacres of the Cathars in southern France ("Kill 'em all, and let God sort them out" -- Pope Urbane the something or other). We should also eliminate the Phlangist movements of 20cent also, since they weren't Methodists. Hell, let's make every cult, group and individual responsible for their own actions, and not for the actions of everyone who happens to speak the same language; or their neighbors, ancestors, descendants, and fellow-travelers. We shouldn't blame Christians and Christianity for the actions of others who claim to be Christians.

Oh wait, that was the point of the article -- Dear me, please ignore the rant.

Gary in DCJanuary 29, 2007 10:00 AM

> You don't have car bombings and terrorist attacks perpetrated by Christians.
> You don't have Baptists running around killing Methodists because they disagree on the method of Baptism.

We don't even have to go back to the 17th-century religious wars - or go to U.S. "identity" christians - for this one. Northern Ireland, perhaps? Does anyone actually pay attention to what goes on in the world?

If things follow the trend in the original article - are we headed for me at trial after passover, with dueling experts testifying on what I really wanted my matzo to be made from? "He ate the cracker, ladies and gentlemen of the jury - and while it may seem like just water and flour, we know that he _wanted_ it to be made out of the blood of christian children. We found him just a few yards from a school, just waiting for children to emerge.... How can we wait for him to commit this monstrous crime? We have all the proof we need."

frimbleJanuary 29, 2007 10:01 AM

Oh, by the way, that's Pope 'Urban' not 'Urbane' the something-or-other. I wouldn't want my vague allusions to dark age papacies to be incorrect. I also doubt he was urbane.

AleJanuary 29, 2007 10:11 AM

When a defendant has to be tried in relation to a theological debate, it is pretty clear that there is very little in terms of factual evidence that can be brought forward - Either that, or the prosecution believes that the jury is more likely to be driven to a particular veredict by examination of religious doctrine than by the actual components, planning and execution related to the crime in question.

Of course, if the offense is thoughtcrime, the proceedings must naturally center on exactly what the defendant believes, and how closely aligned this is with what is considered legal thought.

I agree with Bruce. The religious tones are incidental; the worrying bit is how easily thoughtcrime is being punished under the "war on terror".

UNTERJanuary 29, 2007 10:19 AM

Alan -- "We know there are people who want to attack us. Apparently there are training camps adding to this population on a continual basis, and empowering them to carry it out. It is not an imaginary threat."

There are currently camps in the deep dark swamps of the Everglades, teeming with men training to attack the Castro regime in Cuba. Some groups have been convicted of spraying bullets at tourists on the beach in Cuba ("Terrorism"). The US is currently holding a well-known terrorist, who bombed a civilian airliner in the '70's, in addition to suspicions of planning numerous other terrorist attacks and assassinations. We are refusing to extradite him for trial.

Clearly, Cuba would then be justified in trying any Cuban-American with a desire to see Castro deposed as a potential "terrorist." That desire means that given the opportunity, they might think about committing a crime. Many folks in the Cuban community of S. Florida may have trained at one of those camps, or had relatives who trained there, and most have said nasty things about Castro at some point or other. Ergo, given the history of terrorism in that community, including airliners blown out of the sky, desire = intent = action = crime. Cuba must protect herself from potential threats!

As a matter of fact, by our own policy, they would be justified in grabbing folks of our shores, and holding them in secret facilities (maybe somewhere near Myrtle Beach?)

George WestmanJanuary 29, 2007 10:20 AM

Pick a nice sunny day. Try out your new digital camera by standing in public places and photographing major power plants, bridges, public meeting places, etc. Such "acts of photography" will get you on a watch list, likely get your memory card seized or destroyed, and possibly land you in a scary place. What were you thinking? What is your intent? And, by the way, I notice you drive a Prius.

AlanJanuary 29, 2007 10:27 AM

Responding to T. Payne:

Labeling it as thougthcrime does not address whether we should or shouldn't prosecute it.

Our government has the constitutional mandate to provide for the common defense. That means they must prevent attacks. Prosecution after the fact is either punishment or revenge, not defense. After the fact is too late for those citizens who were killed in an attack.

LKMJanuary 29, 2007 10:28 AM

Newsflash: US Christians are already summarily executing the citizens of other countries. Which is one of the reasons why islamic terrorism even exists.

Another newsflash: There are many muslim countries with secular governments, where christans can live without any trouble - Turkey, for example. Christians also used to live without trouble in Iraq, believe it or not. Before the US changed that.

Andre LePlumeJanuary 29, 2007 10:30 AM

"Labeling it as thougthcrime does not address whether we should or shouldn't prosecute it."


-ac-January 29, 2007 10:44 AM

@Bruce,
Thank for another thought-provoking post. Methinks "Ralph Waldo Emerson" doth protest too much.

AleJanuary 29, 2007 10:46 AM

Alan .- "After the fact is too late for those citizens who were killed in an attack."

This is just the old 'we do not want the evidence to be a mushroom cloud' argument.

Terrorist acts require planning: gathering of materials, processing/placement, transportation, etc. Any of these activities can be followed and intercepted as being part of a conspiracy to commit a crime. Focusing on any of these is much more cost effective than identifying and pursuing ill-defined notions of fundamentalist thoughtcrime.

That is, if the objective is indeed thwarting terrorism.

If the objective is to combat thoughtcrime itself, the way things are being done now seems right on target.

SuomynonaJanuary 29, 2007 10:52 AM

This reminds me of the fight against Communism, where being 'a Communist' automatically made you 'the enemy'.

Holding a set of beliefs does not make you a threat to the State. Taking peaceful action to express your beliefs is not a threat to the State. Voting for someone who's beliefs are aligned to yours, is not a threat to the State. Peaceful gathering with like-minded people and expressing your beliefs is not a threat to the State.

_Threating_ the State, or _planning_to_harm_others is a threat. Only then should action be taken.

McGavinJanuary 29, 2007 10:56 AM

Oh, silly silly religion.

But this discussion isn't really about religion, is it? We aren't discussing biblical texts and superstition.

Bruce's post is very relevant to security. We have to be careful about witch hunting -- it doesn't improve security, but it wastes resources and diminishes our credibility.

DuardJanuary 29, 2007 11:10 AM

The point to be made here is not that all Christians support terrorism or that their religion deserves ridicule. The point is that our system works because it is a pluralistic system. Whenever one segment of our society (even if - ESPECIALLY if it's a majority segment) begins shading and carving away at the pluralism, they will threaten the very system that protects their own selves.

By way of illustration I offer the Christian-led American Congress for Truth whose membership is open to "Jews, Arabs, Christians, and non-Muslims from all backgrounds . . ." (http://americancongressfortruth.com)

RWE - do you agree with me that there's something terribly wrong here and can you see that this contributes to the backlash that you find so troublesome?

RoyJanuary 29, 2007 11:12 AM

When the Ku Klux Klan's screed says 'Kill all the [fill in the blank]' the US prosecutors always take this as freedom of expression, not intent to commit crimes.

Is the US government perhaps trying to foment religious warfare?

SteveJJanuary 29, 2007 11:32 AM

"Kill 'em all, and let God sort them out"

For information, the instruction "Kill them all. God will know His own." ("Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoscet") is attributed by Caesarius of Heisterbach to Arnald Amalaricus, Abbot of Citeaux, who was the Papal Legate in charge of the Albigensian Crusade in 1209 when Beziers (a Cathar stronghold) was sacked (and all the little splines murdered in their beds).

So not actually direct from the Pope (Innocent III, not any of the Urbans), just his hatchet-man in the region.

In any case, I'm not sure that it reflects much on the character of modern fundamentalist Christians, who surely are far more interested these days in, for example, banning abortion, than massacring heretics.

Keeping my eyes openJanuary 29, 2007 11:38 AM

Within a short interval from my world line you can find the "Christian" minister praying for the death of his political opponents, and the Muslim who told his eager girlfriend that they had to wait until marriage.

Zoom out a bit. Ponder Christian militias in Lebanon, particularly focusing on Sabra and Shatila. Or stick closer to Bruce's point and ask whether religious fanaticism is evidence of criminal intent. Should Pat Robertson be imprisoned for calling for the bombing of the Truman building?

Realistic security is looking at actual intent. When someone announces at a prayer meeting that a doctor will be "with Jesus" soon, stop him before he blows up the clinic. Don't blind yourself with a chant of "Christian good, Muslim baa-aad!"

AnonymousJanuary 29, 2007 12:10 PM

@JBC at J: "Do these sound like the words of a Christian to you?"

From http://ask.yahoo.com/20010622.html:

William Earnest Henley (1849-1903) was an English poet, playwright, and editor who steered several important literary magazines. He was a friend of Robert Louis Stevenson and was well respected in Victorian literary circles of the 1890s. But he is probably most famous for his sixteen-line poem "Invictus," a testament to self-determination that gives us the phrase "My head is bloody, but unbowed."
...
His poem has since become an inspiration to many who have fallen on hard times -- "invictus" is Latin for unconquerable or undefeated. The closing lines sum up Henley's philosophy best:

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

-------

I dunno, JBC , quoting famous British poets of the 17th century must be a particularly un-Christian act, in your view.

I guess Baptists (a relatively numerous mainstream Christian sect) must be questionable, too, since a main defining tenet of their faith is that the state of their soul is a matter between them and God only. According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptist, the first of the "Four Freedoms" articulated by Baptist historian Walter B. Shurden is:

* Soul freedom: the soul is competent before God, and capable of making decisions in matters of faith without coercion or compulsion by any larger religious or civil body.

Sounds a lot like being the "...captain of my soul."

Michael AshJanuary 29, 2007 12:38 PM

The level of misunderstanding in these comments is spectacular.

The question was not comparing ordinary Christians to fanatics who blow up buildings.

The question is, what would happen if you were to take a Christian defendant and start prosecuting him based on interpretations of the Bible and the official beliefs of his church? The Bible is full of crazy things, as are the the official beliefs of many Christian churches, and yet the vast majority of Christians are decent people who lead good lives. They shouldn't be prosecuted based on religious interpretations of their holy texts, and neither should the people in this story.

Imagine somebody on trial for murder, and the defendant was caught on tape saying, "damn that person to Hell!" The prosecution presents this evidence as a literal wish for the death of the victim, since in Christian theology the only way to get to Hell is to die.

To pretty much any Westerner, this interpretation is ridiculous and bears no consideration. A major point of the article is that similar Arabic phrases based on Islam are being treated as true evidence of criminal intent.

X the UnknownJanuary 29, 2007 12:46 PM

@Ralph Waldo Emerson: "The comment was not directed at the article as much as it was directed at you. You are comparing US Christians to Muslims extremists, and I believe it is unfair in almost any context."

Excuse me? Isn't the comparison *exactly* what you want? Their ideals can't be judged "wrong" *except* in comparison to others. If the fact that a chosen extremist minority of your preferred group seems rather similar to your own chosen extremist minority of your reviled group upsets you, then maybe you ought to reconsider your arguments.

Remember, the God of Moses (shared by Jews, Christians, and Moslems) apparently not only sanctioned, but *demanded* genocide during the relocation of the Israelites out of Egypt

Deuteronomy 20:13-17
13 - And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword:
14 - But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee.
15 - Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations.
16 - But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth:
17 - But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:

-----------------

Sounds an awful lot like jihadist, terrorist-inciting rhetoric to me: "Kill all the men, rape all the women, and enslave all the children - except the ones we don't like; them, just kill 'em all!"

AlanJanuary 29, 2007 12:48 PM

ALE wrote:
> This is just the old 'we do not want the
> evidence to be a mushroom cloud' argument.

If we can move from labeling to intelligent discussion we might make progress.

> Any of these activities can be followed and
> intercepted as being part of a conspiracy to
> commit a crime.

Ok I can work with that. Now we're talking about the threshold for proving intent. That is a useful discussion.

Reader XJanuary 29, 2007 12:51 PM

I agree with Mcihael Ash and others; I think Ralph Waldo Emerson and others have jumped to the wrong conclusion about Bruce's remarks.

That being said, I would not be so quick as some to dismiss the importance of extremist religious statements, from those of any faith, in determining criminal intent.

AnonymousJanuary 29, 2007 12:52 PM

@Ralph Waldo Emerson
"When the Christians in the US begin summarily executing the citizen's of the US on a grand scale, you can ask how they "would fare under the same level of scrutiny.""

I'm certain various Native American and FIrst Nations people can provide you with ample examples.

X the UnknownJanuary 29, 2007 1:00 PM

And, lest you prevaricate that "True Christians" have moved beyond the Old Testament, I give you Matthew 5:18

18 - I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

The "Law" being, of course, the Law of Moses. Deuteronomy 20:13-17 is part of the Law directly propounded by Moses.

=========

Clearly, indicting people based upon some arbitrary (or even worse, literal) interpretation of the books and rheteric of their espoused religion is a very dangerous precedent. By that standard, the vast majority of US citizens (Christians, Jews, and Moslems) are "potential war criminals". Even worse than terrorists!

acJanuary 29, 2007 1:03 PM

Bruce,

Check your HTTP referers. The rapid reponse by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Kashmarek, Nathan indicates you may have been discovered by your friendly neighborhood white supremacist group.

And if Ralph Waldo Emerson is still reading, what happened in Davenport Iowa on the fifth anneversary of the Sept 11th attacks? Attempted car-firebombing. Now don't you want to know the religion of the suspect? [hint: you're an idiot]

jbJanuary 29, 2007 1:08 PM

"You don't have car bombings and terrorist attacks perpetrated by Christians. You don't have Baptists running around killing Methodists because they disagree on the method of Baptism."
-- RWE

Actually, if you look at the PIRAs decades long campaign against the English, and the ongoing war between the Protestant and Catholic Irish, you do.

Until the mid-90s, they were fairly actively murdering and killing civilians, using them to drive car-bombs by taking their families hostage, and generally acting in a very un-Christian manner.

Ignoring anything outside of the 20th and 21st century, you have some very strong examples of Christian-on-Christian violence and use of terror tactics.

Before the post-industrial era, you see ongoing disagreements between various sects of Christianity. The slaughter of non-Holy Roman Church members in Europe, the execution of Protestants, and the confiscation of their property. And, yes, you did have Baptists being killed for dunking vs anointing in the Catholic manner.

So, if you're going to state it "doesn't happen" you're conveniently ignoring facts and history.

I doubt Schneier is anti-Christian, so much as anti-thoughtcrime. Being a member of a religion does not make you more likely to be a terrorist, and using the religion of the person charged with a crime as "proof of being a criminal" opens up a giant can of worms that can only lead to issues with any religion.

AnonymousJanuary 29, 2007 1:19 PM

Hmmm .. let's alter that a little.

"Very often, the trials hinge on different interpretations of National Socialism, Nazi Wrirings, and Nazi belief -- and very often we are putting the ideology on trial."

A word to the wise: the parallel is very much worth thinking about, as the Pakistani thinker, Ibn Warraq, brought up in a madrassa himself, shows:

http://www.newenglishreview.org/custpage.cfm?...

The point will *not* be taken, because people have too much invested in too many entrenched attitudes to care.

After all one's good opinion of oneself trumps an honest and clear-eyed appraisal of reality every time--something that Bruce Schneier, if he were a *real* thinker, and genuinely interested in the topics he writes about in disinterested manner (not a not a pseduo-intellectual, with comfortable, poltically-motivated postions to defend) would spend some time thinking about.

That also will not happen.

SteveJanuary 29, 2007 1:20 PM

Hmmm .. let's alter that a little.

"Very often, the trials hinge on different interpretations of National Socialism, Nazi Wrirings, and Nazi belief -- and very often we are putting the ideology on trial."

A word to the wise: the parallel is very much worth thinking about, as the Pakistani thinker, Ibn Warraq, brought up in a madrassa himself, shows:

http://www.newenglishreview.org/custpage.cfm?...

The point will *not* be taken, because people have too much invested in too many entrenched attitudes to care.

After all one's good opinion of oneself trumps an honest and clear-eyed appraisal of reality every time--something that Bruce Schneier, if he were a *real* thinker, and genuinely interested in the topics he writes about in disinterested manner (not a not a pseduo-intellectual, with comfortable, politically-motivated postions to defend) would spend some time thinking about.

That also will not happen.

SteveJanuary 29, 2007 1:22 PM

Hmmm .. let's alter that a little.

"Very often, the trials hinge on different interpretations of National Socialism, Nazi Writings, and Nazi belief -- and very often we are putting the ideology on trial."

A word to the wise: the parallel is very much worth thinking about, as the Pakistani thinker, Ibn Warraq, brought up in a madrassa himself, shows:

http://www.newenglishreview.org/custpage.cfm?...

The point will *not* be taken, because people have too much invested in too many entrenched attitudes to care.

After all one's good opinion of oneself trumps an honest and clear-eyed appraisal of reality every time--something that Bruce Schneier, if he were a *real* thinker, and genuinely interested in the topics he writes about in disinterested manner (not a not a pseduo-intellectual, with comfortable, politically-motivated postions to defend) would spend some time thinking about.

That also will not happen.

dimitrisJanuary 29, 2007 1:31 PM

Discussion drift, sorry; but I had to reply...

RWE: About popular culture re:christianity: It is not Jesus that is shown in a "disrespectful" manner. It is, quite consistently, his hypocrite "followers".

You mentioned South Park, so consider the Jesus vs. Satan boxing match episode, where all the "God-fearing" folk are caught betting against Jesus himself - and lose, which is as it should be, non?

Rent Monty Python's Life Of Brian one day. Watch it at least 2 times, it's quite layered. Reflect a little on the "cheesemakers" scene, then consider that Pat Robertson is part of the Christian Right in the US. Spot the trend?

AleJanuary 29, 2007 1:36 PM

Alan .-
"If we can move from labeling to intelligent discussion we might make progress."

Your argument has been addressed in this blog a large number of times, thus warranting its own label.

"Ok I can work with that. Now we're talking about the threshold for proving intent. That is a useful discussion."

As far as I know, in both criminal and civil law intent is irrelevant if there is no act to punish. Thus, if intent is the only element in a criminal or civil trial, we are talking about punishing thought - thoughtcrime.

With regards to the "threshold" you mention, I am unable to understand what you mean. The critical word is "proving". Only evidence-based hypotheses can be proved (falsified). Intent does not fit in this definition (yet), as all evidence for it must be necessarily circumstantial - a virtually unlimited multiplicity of mental states can be behind any given set of tapes, books, notes in wallets or religious discourses.

That is why trials based on this kind of evidence quickly degenerate into theological/philosophical debates: thoughts can not be "proved" beyond the benefit of doubt.

I really do not see how could there be any kind of threshold for proving intent.

derfJanuary 29, 2007 1:38 PM

If an Imam at an American mosque gave a sermon to his congregation about how they should be hard at work destroying the Great Satan that is the United States of America and its Zionist ally Israel - is that illegal or is it covered as religious free speech?

How about if the Imam produces and distributes a religious video showing how his followers can step-by-step, prayerfully create the most devastating suicide bomb vests?

Bruce SchneierJanuary 29, 2007 1:39 PM

"The comment was not directed at the article as much as it was directed at you. You are comparing US Christians to Muslims extremists, and I believe it is unfair in almost any context."

In general, I reject the "comparison is unfair" rhetoric. Comparisons are useful in highlighting similarities and differences, and aren't inherently "fair" or "unfair." What is interesting to me about the article is how religious speech -- and not action -- is being "put on trial" in these prosecutions, and whether less foreign religious speech can undergo the same scrutiny.

AnonymousJanuary 29, 2007 1:50 PM

@ Steve

So, aside from invoking Godwin's law, you haven't provided an arguments on any of the pertinent questions. To wit:

- does adherence to any ideology - an extreme sect of Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, etc., Communism, Veganism, or if you insist National Socialism - constitute evidence of intent to commit a crime?

- Should the above intent to commit a crime be made into a crime on its own, overthrowing centuries-long common law traditions? We're not talking about using intent as supporting evidence in a charge of conspiracy, where the illegal action is the actual preparations and laying of plans. We're talking about deciding, silently, that you would like to commit the crime, even though you haven't lifted a finger to actually do so.

In other words, does the following sound to you like the reasoning of a sound legal system: "(a) Neo-nazis have firebombed synagogues. (b) This fellow has a shaved head, jackboots and a swastika tattoo. Ergo (c) he must have the intent to firebomb a synagogue, even though he has never conspired with anyone to do so, nor has he prepared any firebombs. Into the slammer with him!"

dragonfrogJanuary 29, 2007 1:51 PM

The above comment re Godwin's law etc. was from me. Just forgot to fill in the name field

Pat CahalanJanuary 29, 2007 1:54 PM

I'll hazard a guess that this thread will be shut down within 4 hours as being hopelessly off topic. Under/over bets?

Irwin SolomonJanuary 29, 2007 1:55 PM

@Nathan
> I'm removing my subscription
> to the RSS feed.

I see you haven't unsubscribed yet. Has your righteous indignation subsided?

AlanJanuary 29, 2007 2:04 PM

Ale wrote:

> I really do not see how could there be any kind
> of threshold for proving intent.

You provided a perfectly workable threshold yourself in an earlier post:

"Terrorist acts require planning: gathering of materials, processing/placement, transportation, etc. Any of these activities can be followed and intercepted as being part of a conspiracy to commit a crime. Focusing on any of these is much more cost effective than identifying and pursuing ill-defined notions of fundamentalist thoughtcrime."

A conspiracy is simply a group of people with intent to do something. Proof of that intent might include any of the things you described.

> Your argument has been addressed in this
> blog a large number of times, thus
> warranting its own label.

Not really. Most of the discussion here is about fundamentalism, both Muslim and Christian. I have not said anything on that subject.

My point is that it is the constitutional responsibility of the US government to prevent crimes before they occur whenever possible. Conspiracy to commit a crime is itself a crime. It is possible to prove conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt (and has been so proven, countless times.) Proving conspiracy requires proof of intent. We don't have to wait until the gunman pulls the trigger to arrest him for attempted murder.

DougJanuary 29, 2007 2:06 PM

The article is long, and the author's malignity towards Christianity is not hard to see.

Bruce, to believe that you can find any parallel in the Christian faith to Islamic jihad is nutty. Simply nutty. Good grief!

As has been said, when Christians read and get serious about their holy book they are fired with desire to talk to people about Jesus, to tell them the "good news" and seek to serve God by making disciples. When Muslims read and get serious about their holy book they find the numerous verses in it which tell them to hate, subdue, kill, dominate and plunder the world for Allah and have an eternal sex orgy with 72 heavenly hotties if they die in the process. They have been behaving this way for 1,300-some years now. Have you noticed?

Are you really incapable of seeing this slight difference?

Pat CahalanJanuary 29, 2007 2:09 PM

As a side note, "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland (which could be argued were more of a struggle between the IRA and UDR &/or UVF than between the IRA and the Brits), are not really a good example of religious conflict - although one side was almost uniformly Catholic and one side was almost uniformly Protestant, motivations were largely political and/or based upon class more than religion.

In addition, most members of the IRA/UVF would not, at the time, have been classified as particularly driven by religious zealotry. Most of them were either driven by politics or personal experience ("They broke into our home and shot me dad when I was young").

I suspect that with 20 years hindsight, it will be much more popular (from a scholastic standpoint) to examine "Islamofacism" as a sociopolitical entity than a religious one, as well. As the linked article shows, the understanding of Islam in the West is hardly robust enough for us to reasonably attribute root causes entirely to religious fanaticism.

QJanuary 29, 2007 2:19 PM

@Bruce

Thanks for taking on a tough topic. Yes, you will (and have already) get a lot of flak for taking an unpopular position. Nobody likes to see an ugly reflection in the mirror, truth or not. At the end of the day, humanity as a whole has a pretty hideous mug.

@The rest

Read 1984. No, really; if you haven't you must. If you have, sit down and read it again.

Prosecuting based on what someone is thinking is not OK. Ever wish someone was dead? Oh no! You need to go to prison. That's mind-murder. Ever wish you had enough money to retire? Golly gee! A _potential_ mind-bank-robber! It's prison for you! Ever wish those damn [Atheists|Christians|Jews|Muslims|Other] would all just go away? Thought-genocide, you thought-Hitler! Until an actual (that's ACTual, not fantastic) crime is committed, there is nothing to prosecute on. It's persecution, not prosecution.

But hey, it makes us safer right? What are a few innocent people in jail? And since more people in jail means fewer _potential_ criminals on the street, anyone who wants to help fight crime would volunteer to go to jail, right? And you want to help the police fight crime, right? Hey, you can even help them meet their quota for arrests -- in fact, I insist you volunteer! If everybody lived in the cells, we'd even be able to solve hunger, poverty, and homelessness, right along with crime!

Can we all agree this is silly and have some pie, now?

- Q

Bruce SchneierJanuary 29, 2007 2:19 PM

"Bruce, to believe that you can find any parallel in the Christian faith to Islamic jihad is nutty. Simply nutty. Good grief!"

First, we're talking parallels between Christian and Islamic religious teaching, preachings, and rhetoric.

And you can't be serious. Parallel #1: They're both religions. Parallel #2: They're both religions with roots in ancient Judaism.

There are all sorts of parallels between the two religions.

Honestly, information is how you figure out what to do.

AleJanuary 29, 2007 2:21 PM

Alan .-

"Most of the discussion here is about fundamentalism"...

No, actually it is on Information Security. And the 'mushroom cloud' argument has beed discussed before - you might want to search the blog.

"We don't have to wait until the gunman pulls the trigger to arrest him for attempted murder."

Indeed. However, you have quite correctly stated that conspiracy to commit murder is punishable by law. Fantasizing about it, or thinking about it, or meaning to do it while having taken no steps in that direction is not - until now. And sorting out these details in court is a very expensive and fruitless can of worms, as the article that Bruce links to explains.

Putting aside any personal opinions on the subject (I abhor the sole idea of thoughtcrime), it still does not make good economic sense to focus on intent rather than action to stop terrorist attacks. Much better to stop actual terrorist conspirators (which *are* dangerous), rather than fundamentalist thought-criminals (that *might* be).

Bruce SchneierJanuary 29, 2007 2:22 PM

"I'll hazard a guess that this thread will be shut down within 4 hours as being hopelessly off topic. Under/over bets?"

I'm still hanging in there.

Pat CahalanJanuary 29, 2007 2:24 PM

@ Alan

> My point is that it is the constitutional responsibility of the US government
> to prevent crimes before they occur whenever possible.

Remember that there are several other sections of the constitution (27 of them that I can think of offhand) which quite explicitly limit the powers of the government in the execution of this responsibility. Those limits exist for a reason.

@ Doug

> Bruce, to believe that you can find any parallel in the Christian faith
> to Islamic jihad is nutty.

Bruce's point is that the rhetoric and literature of several denominations of Christianity (all of them, if you take the Bible in toto) and examine it under the same rules proposed for examination of Islamic rhetoric and writings, you will see parallel failures.

Put another way, if you assembled a jury composed entirely of followers of Islam (or Buddhists or Zoroastrians for that matter) and asked them to evaluate the likelihood that Pat Robertson was capable of terrorism, given his public statements and writings, it's not unreasonable for someone unfamiliar with Christianity (as the jury would be) to find such statements and writings to be reasonable evidence of intent.

Asking a jury of non-Islamic people to come to a judgment on Islamic teachings is similarly fraught with danger -> the initial body of knowledge is lacking.

> When Christians read and get serious about their holy book they are fired
> with desire to talk to people about Jesus, to tell them the "good news"
> and seek to serve God by making disciples.

Some of them also firebomb abortion clinics, which can definitely be called terrorist activity.

> When Muslims read and get serious about their holy book they find
> the numerous verses in it which tell them to hate, subdue, kill,
> dominate and plunder the world for Allah

Have you *read* the Bible?

QJanuary 29, 2007 2:53 PM

The issue here isn't really even about religion. It's about crazy people [http://idrewthis.org/d/20070116.html] who use religion as an excuse to do crazy things. Or, alternately, unstable people who are manipulated into executing a crazy agenda by someone wielding religion as a weapon.

A better security measure would be to look at psychosis, independent of what religion it's attached to -- because it's the psychotics that are dangerous. Religion (which deity the killing is done in the name of) is irrelevant; it's merely the outlet for the underlying psychosis.

The question then becomes: how do we safely deal with unstable individuals? How can we positively identify them? How can we manage the risk that they pose? Better health care might actually help here, as well as making therapy a more acceptable treatment (presently, there's somewhat of a stigma around seeing therapists).

In any case, we can't let fear or lack of understanding make decisions for us. We can't let irrelevant factors (e.g., religion) change how we weigh our decisions. Remember: profiling based on traits doesn't work. Just because you have dark skin, or speak Spanish, doesn't mean that you're a carjacker, anymore than being Muslim or Christian makes you a mad bomber -- even if you took classes on how to hotwire a car or make bombs (for the respective stereotypes).

- Q

an_atheistJanuary 29, 2007 2:58 PM

I don't think Islam is any different from any other religion, I find them all equally disturbing. I think everyone needs to read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Intent is irrelevant, I question the judgement/sanity of anyone who's own logic doesn't override the need to believe in a God, let alone to kill or go to war on his behalf (George W. anyone?). Quite off-topic I know but I think the world would be a better place without religion. Full stop.

AlanJanuary 29, 2007 3:01 PM

Ale,

We are not as far apart as it might seem. There is a semantic difference between us regarding the meaning of intent and conspiracy. I don't know (and don't care) which of us has the more formally correct definition. But here is what I mean when I say intent. To me, imagining a crime without any further action is not intent--it is just imagination. Intent acts on the idea. To demonstrate intent you need to show the suspect laying plans, acquiring means, and taking steps toward accomplishing the crime. Without evidence of plans, means, and those steps, you don't have proof of intent (IMO).

LenJanuary 29, 2007 3:02 PM

I think the fundamental underlying issue here isn't some trial on Islam. It is more of a a trial on the judiciaryies belief that due to stereotypical precedents someone is going to commit a crime.

The fact that the evidence for this one was based on a piece of Arabic scripture, and the terrorist de jure happens to be mainly Islamic is purely coinicdental to this discussion.

The issue is, as Bruce so rightly puts it, whether thought-crimes are criminal and therefore punishable under the law.

That issue alone affects everyones security.

How about this for a scenario:

You live close to the US-Canada border, and you THINK about going on a shopping trip without your passport. You tell your friends you are going to do it, and one of them tapes you.

This would mean that you are not just going into Canada without a passport, but worse still were attempting to re-enter to US without a passport, surely something akin to a terrorist act.

It can be proved because you have a shopping list and on it are some Tim Hortons donuts. Plus there's that illicit tape your (ex) friend made.

So the Department of homeland security see that you are not really a real threat to security, but just in case put your details on the watchlist, and the no-fly list. Hey presto that you buggered for the next n+ years.

With the scene already set in this court case this could come about without you actually having done anything at all, just planning it, with no reall intention of ever going on the trip anyway.

The evidence may be stronger in the case reported in The Atlantic, but the principle is the same.

I always thought that in the US you were innocent until proven guilty, and guilty in this instance was that you had done something illegal. Not having done something, but thought about it, and being found guilty of a criminal act is following the principles the French have, guilty until you can prove yourself innocent or rot in jail trying. A thought on personal security we should all care about.

Michael AshJanuary 29, 2007 3:07 PM

@Alan

"My point is that it is the constitutional responsibility of the US government to prevent crimes before they occur whenever possible."

Seriously? Could you please quote the appropriate section of the US Constitution which states this?

AlanJanuary 29, 2007 3:17 PM

Michael Ash wrote:
>Seriously? Could you please quote the
> appropriate section of the US Constitution
> which states this?

"We the people of the United States, in order to ... provide for the common defense ... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

JBCJanuary 29, 2007 3:23 PM

@Anonymous
"I dunno, JBC , quoting famous British poets of the 17th century must be a particularly un-Christian act, in your view."

The point wasn't the quote, per se. The point was that for a supposed Christian to use his last opportunity on earth to say anything, and completely neglect any mention of Jesus, or the Bible, or even God...I dunno. To me, that indicates that orthodox Christian belief wasn't a large influence in his life. Anyways, go look up some of his final interviews if you don't believe me. You won't find much (if any) talk about Christianity.

DavidJanuary 29, 2007 3:27 PM

Christians have bombed abortion clinics and shot at doctors who perform abortions. There's nothing Jesus said that would condone such behavior, so it's not Jesus's fault that dumb humans confuse themselves into acts of violence.

We're reminded (mistakenly) on a daily basis how we're a Christian nation, so all wars and supported dictators and revolutions in which the U.S. was involved could easily be associated with Christians. The imperialism of the British empire would also match since they have Christian nation (on a more formal basis than the U.S.), too.

Nobody here is supporting terrorism by pointing out the evil committed by the USA. The problem is that too many people see problems in others long before they'll admit to their own problems.

In the end, had the USA stood for freedom and human rights in ALL of its dealings, it wouldn't be in as many messes as it finds itself. Instead, it chooses tyrants to lead supported countries because they have a common enemy (Iran) or common fear (communism, terrorism), etc.

Preemptive military strikes against Iraq, suggesting that Saddam was a clear liar for reporting that he had no WMD, etc. have shown the folly of misusing force before a crime can be shown to exist. Every time a convicted felon is released for DNA evidence, we see the problems of convictions AFTER the evidence is in, so assuming we can get it right before a crime takes place is purely absurd.

People in the world need to know that the USA has ideals that it lives by and supports. We don't need to support tyrants we like and then criticize tyrants we don't. We should not support tyrants and instead lead by example: showing that we are not afraid, that we believe in the rule of law, that people are innocent until proven guilty, that we apologize and make amends when we do wrong, that we provide aid to those who need it (and not to the governments that simply steal it all), etc.

dragonfrogJanuary 29, 2007 3:45 PM

@ Alan

And the most effective method for the government to do this is to make wrongful imprisonment legal, as long as it is performed by people in the appropriate uniforms.

Then they imprison everyone in the entire country in solitary confinement.

There. All crimes are now prevented, by dint of having made a horrible injustice "not a crime".

I meant for that to be funny, but rereading it, I see I'm just describing what is happening.

AnonymousJanuary 29, 2007 3:46 PM

@David
>The problem is that too many people see problems in others long before they'll admit to their own problems.

Matt 7:3.

@Pat Cahalan.

More than 4 hrs, less than 8.

Gary in DCJanuary 29, 2007 4:26 PM

If we (public, prosecutors, police) could accept that in a free society you actually face a tradeoff between the prevention of bad stuff (interdiction) and the punishment of people who do bad stuff (prosecution) it would go a long way to letting us actually have a conversation about that tradeoff.

As it stands, we have folks who want to prosecute people for participating in crimes that haven't occurred ... this occurs on both sides, by the way, from both those who insist that preventing terror is entirely a "law enforcement" issue, and from those who insist on prosecuting those whose plots they break up long before they actually happen.

It's like people who want to torture _and_ get legal immunity for it. If there's a bomb ticking and it's so important to torture someone to stop it - if it's worth breaking the law to do that - then accept the consequences, which might include your own punishment. There's a reasonably direct analog- if an unfolding plot is so dire it needs to be intercepted now, then accept the consequences that in a free society you can't punish that person. You saved the world. Great. Move on.

Lawyers want to codify all this and make it _all_ legal. Well, you can't. Make your choice. Live with it.

the other GregJanuary 29, 2007 4:31 PM

Nothing new here.

Recall the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Richard Nixon, Sen Joe McCarthy, the Blacklist.

DougJanuary 29, 2007 4:41 PM

Interesting discussion. If what Bruce really wanted was to generate some commenting, well ... it worked.

Chestnuts. "The Crusades were bad, so Christianity is no better than Islam." Please. It was wrong, and had no real foundation in the scriptures. Get over it.

The difference I noted before remains. the Koran is a collection of thoughts including some with explicit and enduring violent impact on non-Muslims. Imams do not have to make anything up to agitate their congregants. To say it is figurative, they don't really mean it, given the bloody history of Islam, is mendacious. I know a man, a Coptic Orthodox Egyptian who put it this way: 'When the imam tells them at the mosque to destroy the infidels, they come running out into the street, and God help the first few they catch. They may stop at just beating you up.'

Now with due respect, I've been through a few "dynamic" sermons, and I've never yet been told to go out and beat anyone up. Or worse. There is a difference, if you have eyes to see it.

Bottom line: There is no parallel in the Jewish or Christian scriptures. The OT has a one-time conquest of Canaan at the instigation of God. There are various prophetic maledictions against nations with which Israel had grievances. There is literally nothing instigating Jews or Christians to engage in unending, general murderous activity. It is foolish and immoral to suggest so.

Michael AshJanuary 29, 2007 5:03 PM

@ Doug

"Now with due respect, I've been through a few 'dynamic' sermons, and I've never yet been told to go out and beat anyone up. Or worse. There is a difference, if you have eyes to see it."

The difference is that the Christian churches which do tell their followers to go out and commit crimes are less visible than the Muslim equivalents. And quite possible less common. But you're fooling yourself if you don't think the Bible can be used to justify murder.

The two obvious examples that come to mind are homosexuality and witchcraft. The Bible contains fairly clear statements, as clear as anything gets in such an old and badly translated work, to kill these groups of people. How is the Bible better than the Koran in this respect?

(Note: don't bother to come back saying that these verses don't really mean that, or they're obsolete, or superseded by other passages, or anything like that. The same is true of any similar wording you find in the Koran, with the result that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and tolerant, just like the vast majority of Christians.)

Bruce SchneierJanuary 29, 2007 5:23 PM

"Interesting discussion. If what Bruce really wanted was to generate some commenting, well ... it worked."

I'm less interested in a debate about which religion is better, which says what, or anything like that. I am far more interested in the use of religious rhetoric, teachings, pronouncements, etc being used to convict people who have them in their posession. I certainly couldn't stand up to being accused of believing everything in my library, and am worried about this creeping thoughtcrime in U.S. law.

X the UnknownJanuary 29, 2007 5:39 PM

@Alan: "My point is that it is the constitutional responsibility of the US government to prevent crimes before they occur whenever possible."

Unfortunately, many of the actions required in order to "prevent all crime" are themselves criminal. Except for crimes committed by the government and its agents, we could guarantee NO CRIME by just shooting everybody in the country.

Obviously, not a satisfactory solution - and, even though the Constitution says very little about the right of the government to shoot everybody in the country (non-discriminatorily), it would probably still be considered unconstitutional by most.

Crime-prevention obviously cannot be an overriding governmental responsibility, in this case. In particular, and most expressly, our fundamental legal document (the Constitution) DENIES the government the power to arbitrarily abrogate the rights of people (including citizens) in order to further its goals du jour. Furthermore, our Constitution has repeatedly been legally interpreted as explicitly disallowing persecution based on religious beliefs.

Rob MayfieldJanuary 29, 2007 5:43 PM

Do people confuse the so called "eliminationist rhetoric coming out of the Christian Right" with a view that reflects Christianity? - it has a lot to do with religion and politics and arguably little to do with being a Christian.

It comes down to the politics of people who claim to be Christians, not the "Christianity" of politicians (mutual exclusivity?) ...

sooth_sayerJanuary 29, 2007 6:12 PM

Once again Bruce your nutty readers show up in droves.

Is it a crime to think of a crime?

If the answer is negative then there is no premeditated crime .. let's open the jails .. and gitmo

X the UnknownJanuary 29, 2007 6:22 PM

@Doug: "The OT has a one-time conquest of Canaan at the instigation of God. There are various prophetic maledictions against nations with which Israel had grievances."

Actually, even in the passage I presented earlier, it has an open-ended edict on dealing with the conquest of Cities outside of Canaan. Furthermore, there are many other passages prescribing the ongoing behavior of conquering soldiers.

For example, it is permissible to rape any conquered woman, but then you can't kill her as well. One or the other. Completely open-ended.

People are to be stoned to death for adultery, and a number of other crimes. The severest set of crimes seems to be the worship of other gods. Deuteronomy 13:13 is NOT dealing with the occupation of Canaan, but rather an ongoing proscription about life in "God's Society":

13 - Certain men, the children of Belial, are gone out from among you, and have withdrawn the inhabitants of their city, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which ye have not known;
14 - Then shalt thou enquire, and make search, and ask diligently; and, behold, if it be truth, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought among you;
15 - Thou shalt surely smite the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword, destroying it utterly, and all that is therein, and the cattle thereof, with the edge of the sword.
16 - And thou shalt gather all the spoil of it into the midst of the street thereof, and shalt burn with fire the city, and all the spoil thereof every whit, for the LORD thy God: and it shall be an heap for ever; it shall not be built again.

This is collective punishment of the most extreme form - if evidence of "backsliding" and worshiping of other gods is found in a city, then the entire city, and everyone in it, are to be utterly destroyed. Not just in Canaan, but anywhere, forever.

Furthermore, the Laws of Moses apply equally to Jews, Christians, and Moslems. All three major religions are fundamentally based on the five books of Moses.

The Koran explicitly details the proper civil treatment of non-Moslems under sharia law. For "people of the Book", anyway, it is NOT particularly repressive. Jews thrived in Moslem Spain, much better than they did elsewhere in Europe at the time. However, once someone converts to Islam, "backsliding" even to one of the other Religions of the Book is a crime punishable by death. At least, the Koran doesn't prescribe the utter annihilation of the entire city that the "crime" occurred in.

"Though Crimes", particularly religious ones, have been such an important and influential part of our history that there is actually a well-known word for them: heresy. Entire nations have been torn asunder by movements to suppress one heresy or another. Few of us can look back at the Inquisition and say: "Those were the good ol' days!"

I, for one, think that it is a measure of civilization's progress that though-crime persecution becomes rarer. The legal travesties that abounded in our own Wester societies whenever we have historically promulgated the prosecution of heresy or other thought-crimes should definitely be a clue that this is not a good thing for a legal system.

UK ResidentJanuary 29, 2007 6:24 PM

@Bruce

"the only direct proof of any of this was Hayat’s videotaped confession, which was as irresolute as his life. The slender, deferential young man repeatedly contradicted himself. He parroted the answers that agents suggested. And the details of any terrorist plan were scant and fuzzy."

Upon reflection, I do not think that there is a problem with prosecuting somebody for intent to commit a crime but the charge surely must be something specific? Hating the Western world is not a crime in itself (though it's kind of sad but that's another story).

"McGregor Scott, the U.S. attorney who brought the case, believes the jury did find that Hayat had the intent to act—or at least that he possessed the intent at some point in time."

In case you haven't guessed, I enjoy living in a (fairly) liberal society and I am coming to appreciate that more as I hear about life in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Egypt ... Let's play a game of supposing. Supposing I grow disgusted at the nature of Radical Islam in the UK and get acquainted with some of the more thuggish elements of the British National Party. Perhaps I might become involved in ... well use your imagination. I am glad to say that this isn't the case (so far) but, strictly speaking, I cannot rule out the possibility that I might drift into a criminal conspiracy "at some point in time" if I become unhappy about the influence of Islam in the UK.

Can I be charged with a criminal offence for this?

The really nasty thing about this is that there appears to be no way to disprove the charge, if it happens.

mastmakerJanuary 29, 2007 6:32 PM

I thought Jesus taught humility. But the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson prove that they didn't take THAT from His teachings, rather they are 'smug in their self-righteousness, damn the world!'.

And in this self-righteousness, they show that they are not really above the very people they despise. What goes around must come around.

Serbian CanadianJanuary 29, 2007 6:49 PM

A related article in Canadian newspapers from Saturday - the head of CSIS talk...
http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/...

Choice quotes:

"The most important factor for radicalization is the perception that Islam is under attack from the West. Jihadists also feel they must pre-emptively and violently defend Islam from these perceived enemies,"

"We therefore have to avoid falling prey to the terrorist propaganda which would have people believe that this is a clash of civilizations or cultures or religions," he said. "Our own response therefore has to be carefully modulated and very focused.... And we have to be very careful in our use of language on these issues.

"Over-reaction to terrorism, it should be remembered, is a fundamental objective of most terrorists in history. We should not accommodate their goals in this regard."

JessJanuary 29, 2007 7:12 PM

@Alan:

Those ellipses are telling. You're not so concerned with Justice, general Welfare, or the Blessings of Liberty, are you?

Misinterpret the Bible or Koran all you want, but please have some respect for the Constitution.

Ashar, PakistanJanuary 29, 2007 9:14 PM

Ralph Wald Emerson: "Jesus' likeness is shown on South Park, Rolling Stone, etc. in a demeaning manner."

A bit OT, but FYI showing Jesus' likeness (in a any manner) would be illegal in most Muslim countries. There were 125,000 prophets and of course Mohammed would be the most important and revered, but Jesus is second placed.

Also, his name is Isa (the 'J' was originally supposed to be silent). You could at least get his name right.

AaronJanuary 29, 2007 9:20 PM

This is a security forum, and it's important to keep that in mind. The question is really this: do selective prosecutions based on specific philosophical criteria contribute to public safety?

I say selective because we know about several traits that serial murderers have in common, yet we don't work to engage in pretextual preemptive prosecutions of people who show those traits, if they are found purchasing weapons.

GopiJanuary 29, 2007 9:39 PM

Bruce brings up a really interesting question question...

If you've taken _specific_ action towards a _specific_ target and have expressed a definite desire to attack the target, that would seem to be enough to throw you in jail.

If I build a mock-up of a specific person's house, and practice storming it, that's probably pretty reasonable evidence that I intend to do something bad.

How general does my training have to be before it's innocent? Knowing where to parachute in to on the roof of Bruce's house, and how to sneak in to his basement to steal his PGP keys is knowledge that can't be legitimately used.

Perhaps borrowing some ideas from the concept, "substantial non-infringing uses" could be helpful.

If the skill in question is, "hitting the center of a bulls-eye using a handgun," there's an _extremely_ high burden on the prosecution to demonstrate my intent. If the skill is, "the ability to run from one side of the LAX airport to the other blindfolded," then more of the burden is on the accused to demonstrate the intended non-criminal purpose.

I think that level of target-specificity in your concrete actions is really just a way to demonstrate intent more robustly. If you practice with a mock-up of Bruce's house, it seems reasonable to use that fact to show your intent.

However, if you practice in a generic house, the prosecution needs to demonstrate intent in some other manner. That's a lot harder to do, but it is by no means impossible.

If the prosecution can demonstrate that you took concrete steps in the direction of criminal acts, I think it's reasonable for you to be imprisoned for that - even if you weren't precisely sure in the details of how you'd commit your criminal acts.

The problem as I see it is that it seems like the standard of evidence is too low. If you can't provide reasonable evidence of specific, planned acts, then you need to provide _extremely_ strong evidence of an attempt to search out a plan.

Perhaps an analogy would be some people sitting around talking about how they want to steal a huge amount of money - without any specificity. If they talk about how they'd spend it, that's innocent banter. If they discuss ideas like, "well, most theft involves using guns, let's all figure out how to use weapons," is that actionable? If you can _prove_ that they said, "Let's all learn how to use weapons so we're ready when an opportunity to steal money shows up", I think that is actionable.

anti-JihadistJanuary 29, 2007 9:55 PM

Lisa,

What happened at "Gitmo" was wrong on many levels, however it's troubling to hear it being used as if it's a synonym for "Auschwitz". Yes prisoners were humiliated, their religious beliefs were in some cases mocked and they were definitely abused. Unlike many Allied prisoners during World War 2 however, they were not brutally tortured or executed. The conditions at Gitmo were symptomatic of a negligent command structure and having the wrong, unqualified, people to do a very hard job. I've been reading through some texts on the history of popular journalism and one must go back to the frenzied era of Red Scare in the '50s to find the press so apoplectic and obsessed with one single issue as they are now with Iraq. Yes Iraq is a serious problem, but not more so and certainly much less than other CRITICAL issues the United States and the world as a whole is facing. I wish everyone could get a longer view of the world and not be so reactionary. I've personally talked to at least a dozen Arab/Middle-east born Christians who converted from Islam and have suffered the most appalling mistreatment which eclipses anything that went on in Gitmo. Where is the sustained voice from the mainstream press on the mistreatment of minorities in Muslim majority nations? Or even the harsh conditions many Muslims must face every day from the strictures of a Muslim theocracy ideologically dominated regime? It would be nice to see more balance in the news. You may disagree with the Christian Right on some issues, however at least in America you have the right to voice your objections without fear of being raped, losing your job, beaten, tortured or executed as happens to many women throughout the Muslim world. Islam is in the midst of a great internal struggle. We will see if the medieval Wahabbism of a 7th century mindset prevails or a more moderate enlightened one of modernity.

PS: The Crusades were a reaction to centuries of brutal unchecked Muslim expansion into and domination of historically non-Muslim lands.

Zach

Stefan WagnerJanuary 29, 2007 10:14 PM

“Lord, let us be at their throats, ..."

Psalms 110, 1:
"The LORD said unto my Lord,
Sit thou at my right hand,
until I make thine enemies thy footstool."

Psalms 110, 6:
"He shall judge among the heathen,
he shall fill the places with the dead bodies;
he shall wound the heads over many countries."

Expurgate your bookshelfs...

invidiousJanuary 29, 2007 10:16 PM

@Gopi

"Perhaps an analogy would be some people sitting around talking about how they want to steal a huge amount of money - without any specificity."

Maybe they're working on a screenplay for "Ocean's 13".

Years ago, when I worked on video games, we would often discuss weaponry and attack/defense tactics over lunch at a local restaurant. More than once we got strange looks from passers-by. Good thing none of us looked "furren" or we might have had a visit from the friendly SWAT team.

TemplarJanuary 29, 2007 10:58 PM

@ Zach/anti-Jihadist

"The Crusades were a reaction to centuries of brutal unchecked Muslim expansion into and domination of historically non-Muslim lands."

While this is not a history forum, that statement is not correct. No effort was made to reduce Moslem influence anywhere but the Holy Land. At no point were Crusades launched into North Africa, and many of the later Crusades never left Christendom, being content to loot and pillage closer to home. The continued effort to cast Islam as violent and expansionist as a way of justifying violence or pre-emptive sanctioning from us is beneath us. And when we get our facts wrong, we undermine our own security through projecting the sense that we're looking for a pretext to action, which creates a risk of triggering pre-emptive strikes against us. It also alienates allies, who would otherwise be willing to intervene on our behalf.

Besides, didn't Christianity spread into "historically" non-Christian lands, and sometimes by the sword? We can compare the "crimes" of the long dead forever - and it won't make us any safer today...

JarekJanuary 30, 2007 2:39 AM

@SteveJ

"[...] Albigensian Crusade in 1209 when Beziers (a Cathar stronghold) was sacked (and all the little splines murdered in their beds)."

I'm not sure Beziers may be called "a Cathar stronghold". According to books I read, there were more than 10 000 people in the city, and only several hundreds of them was Cathars. Vast majority just didn't want Languedoc to be conquered by (Northern) France and their neighbours, Cathars, murdered.
Probably Montsegur was more a Cathar stronghold.

SteveJJanuary 30, 2007 4:38 AM

'centuries of brutal unchecked Muslim expansion'

Prior to the Crusades, Christians and Jews could live and work in Jerusalem (look up the "Pact of Umar"), albeit under highly discriminatory terms. Note that the Christians who controlled Jerusalem prior to the Muslim capture, did not allow Jews to live in Jerusalem, and that at the time, Jews in many European Christian countries likewise suffered discrimination under the law or were outright persecuted.

Similarly, prior to the Reconquista, Jews and Christians were tolerated in al-Andalus. The Muslims were killed/expelled by the Reconquistas, and later the Jews were also expelled from Spain, in 1492 by Christian monarchs.

The Crusades were not, at all, in any sense, the result of the Christians standing up and saying "these Muslims are far too brutal, it really isn't on, we must fight them in order to protect our on values of non-brutality". Everyone was brutal by modern democratic standards - some more than others - and the Crusades were about who was going to be in charge. Those who were in charge, whatever their religion, were always keen to make life difficult for the other lot.

Again, you cannot create good security by deciding for yourself that Islam is historically or currently inferior to Christianity, and hence that acts against Muslims are justified which would not be justified against Christians.

Your injustice will be clearly seen by everyone who doesn't share your assessment of Muslims as "bad sorts" who "deserve a good Crusade up the backside", or who should be tortured and religiously humiliated when they're captured by US authorities, or whatever. You will lose sympathy and support even when dealing with those Muslims who *are* malign, because you will be seen as motivated by prejudice rather than a serious attempt to assess the risk posed by the particular person currently being abused.

@Jarek: 'I'm not sure Beziers may be called "a Cathar stronghold"'

Fair enough. But I understand that the attack was motivated primarily as a means to kill the Cathars, rather than anything else. Is that incorrect?

I suppose that in some sense it might be seen as worse to kill 10,000 people in order to kill several hundred Cathars, than it would be to kill 10,000 people in order to kill several thousand Cathars. The point is that the Crusaders weren't bothered how much "collateral damage" they caused. Their response to the presence of non-heretic civilians was to kill them anyway. Hence a moral high ground (for that Crusade) is a bit lacking, even by the standards of the time.

JarekJanuary 30, 2007 5:28 AM

@SteveJ:

"Fair enough. But I understand that the attack was motivated primarily as a means to kill the Cathars, rather than anything else. Is that incorrect?"

Yes, that was the primary and official goal. Although it was also good pretext for northern France to conquer Languedoc (which was largely independent at the time).

"I suppose that in some sense it might be seen as worse to kill 10,000 people in order to kill several hundred Cathars, than it would be to kill 10,000 people in order to kill several thousand Cathars. The point is that the Crusaders weren't bothered how much "collateral damage" they caused. Their response to the presence of non-heretic civilians was to kill them anyway. Hence a moral high ground (for that Crusade) is a bit lacking, even by the standards of the time."

Absolutely.


UNTERJanuary 30, 2007 7:45 AM

@SteveJ

"Kill 'em all, and let God sort them out"

For information, the instruction "Kill them all. God will know His own." ("Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoscet") is attributed by Caesarius of Heisterbach to Arnald Amalaricus, Abbot of Citeaux, who was the Papal Legate in charge of the Albigensian Crusade in 1209 when Beziers (a Cathar stronghold) was sacked (and all the little splines murdered in their beds).

====

Thanks Steve, it's been a few years since I've looked into medieval atrocities. The point, however, is that historically, from the fourth century through the 21st (aka "Lord's Army"), "Christian" groups have been implicated in the most extreme forms of war-crimes, with religious sanction. Jewish equivalents are mostly pre-CE. Muslim examples are contemporaneous with the Christian.

You'll get the same response from members of those communities, that they weren't real "x" or "y," or that those event were exceptional for some reason. It isn't limited to religious groups, of course. Communists still say that the Soviet Union wasn't "real" communism. Capitalists always exempt the holy market forces from the direct, visible effects of industrial leadership, from the potato famine to AIDS deaths in Africa.

Mankind makes one despair. The apologists makes one rage.

AlanJanuary 30, 2007 8:24 AM

Jess wrote:
> Those ellipses are telling.

Well, I was answering a question and I can't use bold or underlining to indicate which part I'm talking about.

Those other elements of the preamble direct us to set an appropriate threshold for proof. They do not prevent us from prosecuting a conspiracy that has not yet come to fruition.

UNTERJanuary 30, 2007 8:43 AM

@Alan

Well, the question is of course threshold. You continue to posit that "thoughtcrime" is sufficient, and the rest of the human race shudders in fear.

"Labeling it as thougthcrime does not address whether we should or shouldn't prosecute it." -- Alan

No one doubts that a set of serious steps in a conspiracy, clearly supported by evidence of acts, should lead to prosecution. The question, as you are clearly aware, is whether belief is evidence of a conspiracy.

There's a huge step between "not yet come to fruition" and jus' thinkin'. The rhetorical device of collapsing the two is not appreciated.

no one specialJanuary 30, 2007 9:46 AM

Regarding McVeigh's last words quoted above: I read that he recited the entire poem "Invictus" by W.E. Henley, a popular poet of the Victorian era. At any rate, the poem is about having free will and taking responsibility for one's actions.

I was required to learn the poem as a child. (And was less than happy that McVeigh chose to recite it as his last words.) The full line you quoted is "It matters not how strait [narrow] the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul."

I took McVeigh's quotation of the poem to mean that he was unrepentant-- that he continued to believe that he had done the right thing by blowing up a building-- but willingly accepting his execution as the consequence of his action. What difference is there between that attitude and that of someone planning religious martyrdom in terms of the difficulty of detering the person?

X the UnknownJanuary 30, 2007 10:22 AM

@Zach: "Unlike many Allied prisoners during World War 2 however, they were not brutally tortured or executed. The conditions at Gitmo were symptomatic of a negligent command structure and having the wrong, unqualified, people to do a very hard job."

How to you (or we) know? No impartial observers or auditors have ever been allowed to examine the operations of the facility, or even get a guaranteed full list of the personnel incarcerated, "for reasons of National Security." Given the recent track-record of the Administration, I think it is safer to "assume the worst until proven otherwise."

X the UnknownJanuary 30, 2007 10:44 AM

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crusades gives a concise history and description of the Crusades. Of particular note to the comparison between Radical Islam and Militant Christianity are:

The First Crusade: "Pope Urban II called upon all Christians to join a war against the Turks, promising those who died in the endeavor immediate remission of their sins," Sounds a whole lot like being guaranteed a place in heaven if one will engage in "Holy War" for Allah.

The Second Crusade: "St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who in his preachings had encouraged the Second Crusade, was upset with the amount of misdirected violence and slaughter of the innocent." Even the proponents of this Christian Jihad were dismayed at the unexpected death toll among innocent civilians; Church-sponsored terrorism at its best.

The Fourth Crusade: "The Venetians, under Doge Enrico Dandolo, gained control of this crusade and diverted it first to the Christian city of Zara (Zadar), then to Constantinople, where they attempted to place a Byzantine exile on the throne. After a series of misunderstandings and outbreaks of violence, the crusaders sacked the city in 1204." While the original and "official" target may have been Islamic states, the operation instead turned into a frenzy of acquisition at the expense of a rival Christian power. Something like Shiites -vs- Sunnis.

Albigensian Crusade: As previously remarked, this was officially a Church-sanctioned operation against a group of Christian heretics, the Cathars. Fanatical religious intolerance at work.

We could go on, but won't. Look it up yourselves. The point is, that Christianity - just like almost any other major religion (including Hinduism and Buddhism) - has its share of religiously-inspired atrocities as a matter of historical record.

Bruce's very valid point is that few could pass the test, if (prosecutorily selected) aspects of their chosen religion were used to "definitively" ascribe motivation and intent to any particular believer. This is a very scary standard to be applying, and is not only unconstitutional, but inherently "Un-American".

just the messengerJanuary 30, 2007 10:54 AM

FYI to SteveJ and everyone:

"madrassa" is simply a word meaning school in Arabic, nothing more than that. The Western Media use this term as if everyone in a Madrassa is a fundamentalist in training, on the contrary; my Wife is a Muslim and attanded a "Madrassa": it was just the Baptist school she and her friends attended in Jordan.
(a Muslim country where Christians practice there religion freely, as they once could in Iraq under Saddam incidentally)

CoreyJanuary 30, 2007 3:07 PM

For another analogy, this time without involving religion at all:

Suppose I were an 18-year-old black man living in the projects. I'm a big fan of gangsta rap, and my music collection has a disproportionately high number of songs glorifying the killing of cops. I also own a handgun.

Should those three facts alone be enough to convict me of "intent to murder a police officer"?

UK ResidentJanuary 30, 2007 6:01 PM

@Corey

"Should those three facts alone be enough to convict me of "intent to murder a police officer"?"

No, but it sounds as if your postulated potential criminal has moved closer to real intent than mine (earlier posting). I think a white, middle-class juror might be more predisposed to convict than in my scenario. After a day of being obliged to listen to gangsta-rap music evidence by the prosecution, I might be inclined to judge you guilty as well.

(Just joking)

...January 30, 2007 11:06 PM

If you've taken a substantial step in a conspiracy or plan to commit an act of terrorism, then you've committed a crime.

Just thinking about something is usually not a substantial step, and it takes a jury to decide what a substantial step is. But, if someone takes steps towards commiting a large scale terrorist attack, then yes that is a crime.

And since terrorism is the lowest form of crime against humanity... illegal warfare conducted on illegal civilian targets... I don't really consider terrorists human. They've given up any notion of rights.

AsharJanuary 30, 2007 11:32 PM

"illegal warfare conducted on illegal civilian targets... I don't really consider terrorists human"

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden (the firebombing of) , London (the Blitz), Falluja.... what was the question again?

Gabriel GayhartJanuary 31, 2007 1:34 AM

sheesh and then we get into the whole what is terrorism debate. I mean some in ohter parts of the world would say that the US is engaged in terrorist activity in iraq. Or the debate between palestine and israel. Is it more terrorist for an impoverished citizen of the world to fight back an oppressive force in the there country by blowing themselves up? or is the terrorist the powerful force yielding its power to impose its agenda with pause for human life? ... tough. The bottom line that iwish religon could highlight are the similarities opposed to the differences. I dont understand how faith divides people. Afterall biblically the father of christanity and Islam is abraham- Isaac (christian lineage) and Ishmael(muslim lineage) are brothers. The Angel Gabriel, (shameless plug for myself, Gabriel Gayhart) serves as a messenger of god in both. Koran is written because Gabriel told Mohaamad what god wanted him to write... i can go on, the point is One god, same general principles, common players like Gabriel and abraham bring alot more together than a part. Terrorism ... is the cause of someone looking at differences opposed to similarites. Thanks i had to get that off of my chest

JDThompsonJanuary 31, 2007 9:47 AM

... wrote:

"If you've taken a substantial step in a conspiracy or plan to commit an act of terrorism, then you've committed a crime. Just thinking about something is usually not a substantial step, and it takes a jury to decide what a substantial step is. But, if someone takes steps towards commiting a large scale terrorist attack, then yes that is a crime."

Aye, there's the rub. Under current policy in the USA, if you are suspected of being a terrorist you can be imprisoned indefinitely without charges or trial.

GeoffJanuary 31, 2007 2:31 PM

Christians who are serious about their faith spend less time worrying about how we are perceived and more time loving people. Jesus wasn't all that worried about perception.

Unfortunately there are Christian extremists. They have killed people. We are guilty. As little authority as I have, I apologize for that. So it seems to me it's a fair comparison to make. If we're too touchy to engage, and play the 'Quit persecuting us' card, that's our problem...

And the point is, and it is very much a security issue, nobody should be persecuted for something they believe or something they've thought. Using the Christian argument, what if God did that to us??

RvnPhnxJanuary 31, 2007 3:07 PM

I will kindly note that he whom is claiming to be the intellectual decendent of the great Mr. Emerson needs to go back and read some of the original. "RWE" was one of the founding members of the UU church--which was itself a response to the oppression of the Congregationalists and others.
In any case, the original Mr. Emerson would not spend time in this case defending Jesus of Nazareth when indeed said individual is not being attacked here. Mr. Emerson and his contemporaries expressed their horror and disapproval toward the predessors to "thoughtcrime"--and would probably have taken the comments of Mr. Schneier for what they are.

AnonymousFebruary 5, 2007 12:01 PM

All religion should be persecuted, in all its forms, everywhere in the world, until it is systematically removed from the public eye and the world's political forums.

It is not a beautiful thing.

That is *my 'extremist' view, a belief stating that no matter how you try to 'jazz' it up, religion, as a whole, could never be placed in a positive light after the millennia of prejudice, ignorance, and murder it has fostered, encouraged, and executed.

No one's religious beliefs should be on trial, religion itself should be on trial. It has been the motive behind the murder of more innocent lives than all other motives combined... by factors of ungodly proportions.

Argue all you want, but if you believe that your religion belongs *anywhere* aside from your own mind/heart/body/soul and place of worship, you are part of the disease. Leave the rest of us alone.

AlexFebruary 6, 2007 8:48 AM

Wasn't the Provisional Irish Republican Army a Muslim organisation? They sure killed enough Protestants and Catholics in their time.

As any Christian you know about how closely their beliefs align with their chosen church. Don't you think the same will apply to Muslims?

Go through that article and replace "Muslim" with "Christian", and "terrorist training camp" with "Paintball" or "National Rifle Association". Doesn't make sense to be judging people by the content of the Holy Bible, does it?

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