Cinnamon Stillwell

I’m the West Coast Representative for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum that focuses on Middle East studies. I was a political columnist for SFGate.com (San Francisco Chronicle online) from 2004-2008. I've written for the American Thinker, Frontpage Magazine, Family Security Matters, Accuracy In Media, Newsbusters, Israel National News, The Jewish Policy Center, J-The Jewish News Weekly of N. CA, Intellectual Conservative and many others. More info at CinnamonStillwell.com.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Washington Post/Newsweek Blog "On Faith" Brings On Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I've been very critical lately about the the Washington Post/Newsweek "Muslims Speak Out" forum that took place last week via the On Faith blog. I wrote about the subject here, here and here. And, as noted in my last post on the matter, I am not alone in my criticism. On Faith contributor Susan Jacoby said much the same thing in a recent blog post, looking at it from a secularist perspective.

Now it seems Jacoby has been joined in the On Faith "Secularist Corner" by none other than Ayaan Hirsi Ali, one of the very figures suggested by myself and other critics for inclusion in the "Muslims Speak Out" forum, if not the On Faith lineup.

Hirsi Ali currently has a "Guest Voices" piece up at On Faith titled "My View of Islam." While she takes an uncompromising position towards Islam, her criticism, and that of other ex-Muslims and scholars of Islam unafraid to get at the truth, is the true path towards reform. Only through self-examination and self-reflection, even when it entails offending religious sensibilities and breaking down taboos, can progress be achieved.

My hat's off to On Faith for contributing to the process. And I can only hope that voices of the blogosphere had a little something to do with that.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"So You Think You Can Dance" Goes Political

Being a regular viewer of the Fox network TV show "So Think You Can Dance," I meant to comment on last week's utterly inappropriate display of anti-war preaching, but never got around to it. Luckily, Michelle Malkin has done the honors in "Anti-war dance and slash" and, in the process, links to Newsbusters and Duty In the Desert on the same subject.

In addition to judge Mia Michaels' disrespectful fashion statement (Marine Corps Dress Blues with upside-down emblems), all ten contestants performed the same number choreographed by the insipid Wade Robson and set to John Mayer's pitiful anthem "Waiting on the World to Change" (keep waiting, John). And in case the message was lost on the audience, the dancers all wore T-shirts with peace signs on them.

Apparently, unhappy viewers let their thoughts be known for both Michaels and producer Nigel Lythgoe apologized the following night for any offense caused. But Robson refused to apologize, maintaining that the piece was simply a "cry for peace" and, similarly, Lythgoe's semi-apology reeked of highhandedness. As he put it, "Art should be allowed to make statements."

Making statements about "peace" (a condition that's never entirely existed in the history of humankind) is all well and good, but doing so in a setting and manner that assumes one's audience is on the same political page (how many military personnel or their family members watch the show?) is thoughtless and arrogant. Not to mention just a tad unbalanced. Would that the self-proclaimed do-gooders of "So You Think You Can Dance" would expend as much energy exposing the barbarity of Islamic terrorism.

Considering its new found politics, occasional displays of inappropriate smuttiness (something I commented on last month at SFGate), and the elevation of hip-hop dancers over the classically-trained (sort of an affirmative action for dancing), "So You Think You Can Dance" is really starting to wear out its welcome.

Monday, July 30, 2007

"Muslims Speak Out" Forum Attracts Further Criticism

It seems I'm not alone in my criticism (which can be read here and here) of the Washington Post/Newsweek "Muslims Speak Out" forum that took place last week via the On Faith blog. Under the guise of putting forth a "diversity of opinion" from the Muslim world and related experts, organizers, in fact, ended up providing a platform for Islamists and their apologists.

Along with the problematic panelists I discussed earlier, Little Green Footballs provides some rather revealing information about panelist Muzzamil Siddiqi, "chairman of the Fiqh Council of North America, and former president of the ISNA (one of the organizations named as unindicted co-conspirators in the Hamas funding trial in Dallas)." Far from being a moderate, Siddiqi, according to author Kenneth Timmerman, has "called for a wider application of sharia law in the United States, and in a 1995 speech praised suicide bombers," among other shining moments.

In addition, none other than On Faith panelist Susan Jacoby has broken ranks with her colleagues, criticizing "Muslims Speak Out" for being "unbalanced." She elaborates:
As a regular member of the On Faith panel, I am reluctant to bite the hand that publishes me. Nevertheless, I must point out that the "Muslims Speak Out" forum represents a gamut of opinion stretching, roughly, from A to C. This forum includes only a few women--an oversight that, in itself, disqualifies the panel as a representative group--and the voices of secular Islam, stressing the need for a Muslim Enlightenment, are also virtually inaudible.

The forum consists entirely of observant Muslims, ranging from theological reactionaries to those who advocate a more liberal, and less literal, interpretation of the Koran.
To be sure, Jacobs, who is the author of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism, (2004), brings a fervently atheistic perspective to the table. But, in doing so, she sheds light on a very important aspect of this forum--the lack of participation by apostates. Apostates being those who have left Islam, either for secularism or to convert to another faith.

Under sharia law, apostasy is a "crime" punishible by prison and, in some cases, death, which explains why public adherents tend to travel with a 24-hour bodyguard in tow. Jacobs refers to Salman Rushdie, Wafa Sultan, and Ibn Warraq, to which I would add Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Ali Sina of Faith Freedom International.

The very essence of religious reform is the ability to tolerate disbelief. By leaving such territory unexplored, On Faith organizers did a disservice to the self-professed cause at hand.

In closing, it might be instructive to look to the outcome of another meeting of the minds earlier this year in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Secular Islam Summit. Featuring several of the figures referenced above, the summit produced a significant document that's been largely overlooked by the mainstream media. It's called the St. Petersburg Declaration and it has important implications, both for the secular and the devout. It reads:
We are secular Muslims, and secular persons of Muslim societies. We are believers, doubters, and unbelievers, brought together by a great struggle, not between the West and Islam, but between the free and the unfree.

We affirm the inviolable freedom of the individual conscience. We believe in the equality of all human persons.

We insist upon the separation of religion from state and the observance of universal human rights.We find traditions of liberty, rationality, and tolerancein the rich histories of pre-Islamic and Islamic societies. These values do not belong to the West or the East; they are the common moral heritage of humankind.

We see no colonialism, racism, or so-called “Islamaphobia” in submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights.

We call on the governments of the world to:
reject Sharia law, fatwa courts, clerical rule, and state-sanctioned religion in all their forms; oppose all penalties for blasphemy and apostasy, in accordance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights;

eliminate practices, such as female circumcision, honor killing, forced veiling, and forced marriage, that further the oppression of women;

protect sexual and gender minorities from persecution and violence;

reform sectarian education that teaches intolerance and bigotry towards non-Muslims;

and foster an open public sphere in which all matters may be discussed
without coercion or intimidation.
We demand the release of Islam from its captivity to the totalitarian ambitions of power-hungry men and the rigid strictures of orthodoxy.

We enjoin academics and thinkers everywhere to embark on a fearless examination of the origins and sources of Islam, and to promulgate the ideals of free scientific and spiritual inquiry through cross-cultural translation, publishing, and the mass media.

We say to Muslim believers: there is a noble future for Islam as a personal faith, not a political doctrine;

to Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’is, and all members of non-Muslim faith communities: we stand with you as free and equal citizens;

and to nonbelievers: we defend your unqualified liberty to question and dissent.

Before any of us is a member of the Umma, the Body of Christ, or the Chosen, we are all members of the community of conscience, the people who must choose for themselves.
Amen to that.