Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Time to Act in Afghanistan

Afghani writer was jailed for being critical of Islam. In a serious blow to the future of liberal democracy, Afghanistan has now eliminated any discussion of substantial reform. Unless the Coalition acts to put pressure on Karzai, we should distance ourselves from his regime. If the intention in Afghanistan and Iraq was to move beyond immediate self-defense and invest for the long-term by supporting the ideals of freedom, we’ve failed to convey what freedom itself actually means. We’ve seen far too little intellectual effort to insure that freedom of speech and freedom of religion are the core elements of the new regimes. Both of these are extremely important.

Freedom of speech is vital to the debate of ideas for a functioning democracy. Freedom of religion is equally important. It is not a superfluous notion of a by-gone era. It goes to the core of an individual’s being. If the individual is to be respected, his most precious thoughts, beliefs, and values must be freely chosen, his character has to be cultivate through exercising his liberty and living his beliefs, and finally he has to be able to proudly express his being without fear of retribution. These may be religious; or they may be one’s philosophy, way of looking at the world, or innermost core values.

One doesn’t have to be religious – and I am not – to understand that the issue is the sanctity of individual life and sovereignty of each individual in his being. The concept of rights is an absolute that says “my person is off limits; I am a human being.” There can be no greater concern than advocating freedoms of religion and speech. Without these freedoms, democracy is little more than a murdering mob trampling others in their path. Without these freedoms, the spirit of democracy turns into the nightmare of totalitarianism.

Nation-building cannot come at the cost of the individual. It's the lesson of the 20th century.


Blogger Pastorius said...

The Value and Dignity of the Individual, in his mind, body, and spirit requires

1) Freedom of Speech (and I would argue we will also need a real definition of Freedom of Privacy as computers and human thinking will surely meld over time),

2) Freedom to own property, and freedom from illegal search and seizure,

3) Freedom of religion.

Great post again, Jason. It seems as if we don't have the courage of our convictions. Too bad, because the Islamists are testing them.

Question, the other day I talked about the Jyllands-Posten story on my blog. Jyllands-Posten decided they would test whether free speech is being impeded by Islamic extremism, by publishing cartoons which made fun of Mohammed.

Well, of course, Islamists got all in an uproar, and threatened to burn their building to the ground. I commented that, now that Jyllands-Posten has challenged the Islamists, and the Islamists have, predictably, threatened Jyllands-Posten, if they back down, then they have surrendered free speech.

For a brief period, it even looked as if the government might step in, in which case I would say that Denmark itself had ceded free speech.

Is that an overstatement?

10/25/05, 7:22 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

I think they should double the effort under pressure. Even if they were finished with the series of articles or pictures, I'd follow-up with more to make sure that there is no mistaken impression of capitulation.

If the government doesn't limit free speech we still have these rights ... on paper. They are no good unless we use them. It's important to practice. Holding oneself back from cultivating virtues only makes them atrophy. Little by little, one surrenders oneself.

One personal note: I hate being manipulated or threatened. It gets my Irish up ... even if my ancestors are from the other end of Europe.

10/25/05, 9:29 PM  
Blogger Pastorius said...

Well, I notice you use what appears to be your real name. Do you get threatened for your work here on this blog?

I read some comments by my IJPP blog brother, Titus, today. He says he gets threatening phone calls at his home from Muslims fanatics who are angry at him for this site (which he created and maintains):


10/25/05, 9:35 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

I hope that I get to speak with that Afghan fellow again. We may be able to get together in December. If so, I'll try to remember to ask him about the Afghan writer.

10/25/05, 10:35 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

The Value and Dignity of the individual
Should not be exclusive to the Western ethos.

I don't know about Jason's receiving any threats, but when I get pushed, I tend to get angry instead of afraid.

10/25/05, 10:39 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

2005/10/24/AR2005102401555_pf.html :

Ali Mohaqiq Nasab was convicted Saturday after his magazine, Haqooq-i-Zan, or Women's Rights, published a series of articles on Islam. One challenged a belief that Muslims who convert to other religions should be stoned to death -- as sanctioned by some interpretations of sharia , or Islamic law -- while another criticized the practice of punishing adultery with 100 lashes.

10/25/05, 11:13 PM  
Blogger LA Sunset said...

Another good job, Jason. All basic freedoms must be preserved, in any society.

If Afghanistan doesn't preserve freedom of speech, we have sent people to die in vain.

10/26/05, 4:46 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Just wanted to comment that what you write about freedom of speech and religion is a beautiful description of what western civilization has achieved after literally centuries of bloody struggle. Rather moving actually and makes me sad as hell that so many westerners just don't seem to grasp what is at stake.

10/27/05, 9:58 PM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Thanks, Caroline. I found writing this piece helpful to clarify and re-affirm important values.

No, Pastorius, I’m not worried about threats since the name Pappas is actually a very common name for someone of Greek ancestry.

LASunsett, I wouldn’t go so far to say we didn’t achieve something important by chasing the Taliban from power and capturing many Arab-jihadists in Afghanistan. But we should remember that the enemy of our enemy is not necessarily our friend.

10/28/05, 9:30 AM  
Blogger Diogenes said...

Your talk of "freedom" and what-not paints pretty pictures, but is ultimately a piece of blue sky. We need to "check our premises" on Afghanistan and the role of Islam in it.

I don't think there was ever any serious interest in "freedom" in Afghanistan. History has shown that the United States is primarily interested in installing regimes in Arab nations that keep the native people under thumbscrews using the brutality of Islam, but which also know their place and do not rise up to challenge us or our easy access to oil in those regions.

In other words, the U.S. is pretty supportive of Islam as a tool of subjugation, so long as it isn't used as a mandate to come after the U.S..

The Taliban was fine as long as they used Islam to keep their people under wraps. Once they overran those functional boundaries, they had to be taken out.

Now that Karzai is in power and deferential to the U.S., the U.S. is quite indifferent (and possibly even supportive) of his use of Islam to keep his people "in line". I suspect this was even the real plan all along.

In fact, when you consider the extreme efficiency of Islam as a means to keep a populace in a state of fear and compliance, I would imagine there's been more than a little talk of putting its most effective principles to work right here in the U.S. and in other western nations, for the benefit of those in power.

Our "Christian" leaders may talk the Christian talk, but in most cases they actually seem to walk the walk of Islamic methodology.

11/27/05, 11:11 AM  
Blogger Jason Pappas said...

Diogenes, we don't have much choice; oppression of one type or another is all these cultures allow. Our responsibility is to ourselves. If we preceive a regime as a threat, we need to act to protect ourselves. We don't owe them a democracy. It is not our obligation to stay there and transform the culture. Besides, it just can't be done with limited resources and with a time limit.

11/27/05, 5:34 PM  

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