Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Multicultural Follies

“Nothing to do with Islam.”
That’s what our political leaders keep telling us when radical Muslims enslave, rape, crucify, behead, and otherwise slaughter people by the thousands all over the world. It has nothing to do with Islam.
Teaching in public school a few years ago, I showed students pictures of burning cars in France. French media said it was exuberant “youths” torching the cars — well over a thousand vehicles in one night. NBC News also called them “youths.” French and American media both averted their eyes from the plain truth that youths burning cars all over France were Muslim.

Reuters said only 1137 cars were burned on New Year’s Eve in 2009, while 1147 had been torched the year before. Responding to what it called, “another wave of reader complaints that we don’t brand these arsonists as Muslims,” Reuters explained: “Sure, there were Muslims among them — but there were non-Muslims as well. What value do we add to a news story by using a questionable religious label to describe a political and socio-economic phenomenon?” Nothing to do with Islam. The arsonists were victims of western capitalist greed, they suggest.
When my students asked why media refused to call the “youths” Muslims, I told them it went against their cherished concept of “Multiculturalism.” They looked at me with blank faces, having no idea what multiculturalism was. I told them to look it up on their laptops.

Some recited the Wikipedia definition, which said: “Multiculturalism refers to the historical evolution of cultural diversity within a jurisdiction, incarnated by its selection policies and institutionalized by its settlement policies.”
“Okay now?” I said. That should clear it up.” Some laughed. Most remained confused.

“Countries in Europe have formed into something called the ‘European Union,’” I explained, “kind of a United States of Europe. Elite EU leaders made ‘multiculturalism’ one of their founding principles, and it basically means that all cultures are equal. No culture or religion is any better or any worse than any other. They’re all the same.”
Then I explained how Muslim imams were like priests of Islam, and when many encouraged Muslims in the mosques to kill the rest of us, that made it hard for European leaders to continue insisting that Islam was no worse than any other religion. So what do European leaders do in the face of Muslim violence? “They pretend it isn’t happening, that’s what. Don’t call the arsonists Muslims. They’re just ‘youths’ getting a little rambunctious.”
More than forty thousand cars are torched in France every year. Nothing to do with Islam, though.

Then I showed them media accounts of how radical Muslim US Army Colonel Nidal Hasan shot forty-three American soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas while shouting “Allahu Akbar!” I told them Obama Administration officials insisted the shootings had nothing to do with Islam. The president said: “Well, look, we -- we have seen, in the past, rampages of this sort. And in a country of 300 million people, there are going to be acts of violence that are inexplicable.”
I told them how the Pentagon investigated and published an 86-page report that never mentioned jihad, Muslim, Islam, or Koran. My students knew what all those words meant. Ultimately Obama’s Department of Homeland Security explained the Fort Hood shooting as “Workplace violence.”

Nothing to do with Islam.
Muslims believe Mohammed was “The Prophet” of Islam and the “Hadith” is an ancient record of Mohammed’s sayings, secondary only to the Koran. The Hadith prohibits making images of Mohammed. Radical Muslims kill people who draw cartoons of Mohammed, but President Obama and socialist French President Hollande insist those killings have nothing to do with Islam.
When the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) murders thousands of Iraqis and Syrians in the name of Islam, President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, and Attorney General Eric Holder maintain it has nothing to do with Islam. When Islamic terrorists from al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and al Shebaab torture and murder thousands of people across Africa and the Middle East in the name of Islam, our leaders assert it has nothing to do with Islam.
When the Koran, the holy book of Islam, instructs Muslims: “…cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them,” it has nothing to do with Islam. So what if there are over 100 sections of the Koran encouraging followers to commit violence against non-believers? If our leaders are right, we must conclude that the Koran has nothing to do with Islam.

Get it? The teachings of Mohammed — the Prophet of Islam, the teachings in the Koran — the holy book of Islam, the teachings of imams in the mosques of Islam, and the actions of millions of Muslims around the world — have nothing to do with Islam.

Islam is a religion of peace. If not, multiculturalism would be seen as a fraud, and we can’t have that.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Becoming Organic

This could be me
Back in the 20th century when I started writing a regular column, I did several pieces about trying to become cool. Teaching fourteen-year-olds every day, I saw that most were obsessed with the effort. My generation was too at that age, and the standards for what was cool and what wasn’t kept changing over the years. So I asked my students, if I tried hard enough, was it possible for a [then] forty-something guy like myself to ever become cool? And if it was, what would I have to do? Some told me it was impossible and I should forget it. Others advised that if I had to ask, I’d never make it. Eventually I took their advice and gave up the quest.
A few years later, when students were saying “Dude” all the time, I asked if they thought it possible for somebody nearing fifty to become a dude. “You know, someone like me.” They looked me up and down and said, “Nah. That’ll never happen.” Others felt sorry for me and offered hopeful suggestions like: “Well, in some senses you already are. A dude is a guy and you’re a guy, so you’re a dude.” That was sort of encouraging, but I soon gave up my quest for dudehood as well.
After that, I considered trying to turn myself into a “Sensitive, Nineties Kind of Guy.” I tried listening to women when they talked about their feelings, and not interrupting them with suggestions about how to fix things they were upset about. I worked hard to maintain eye contact, wrinkle my brow with concern, purse my lips and nod once in a while, stroke my chin, squint, say “Mmm” a lot. I hugged a lot of people, even people I hardly knew, but I never really made it.
Then the year 2000 was fast approaching and I imagined a whole new model of popularity that I would call a “Millennium Man.” People were tired of hugging and feeling other people’s pain. The Millennium Man would be aloof and do risky things like rock climbing, ice climbing, extreme skiing, hang gliding, and other dangerous stuff like that. They wouldn’t feel other people’s pain. They wouldn’t even feel their own.
I’m kind of glad now that Millennium Man stuff didn’t last too long. I could have killed myself. Now that I’m in my sixties I have to look for a trend that’s more laid back, and I think I’ve found it. I’m going to explore the idea of becoming organic. I know, I know. It’s not exactly new, but around Portland, Maine where I’’ve been spending time lately, it’s the way to be.
As part of my research into things organic, I’ve been visiting Whole Foods. The parking lot is packed every time my wife and I go, and there are lots of Obama stickers. She keeps fabric shopping bags emblazoned with peace signs in her car, and I figured I could maintain my cover if I carried one into the store. Inside, posters for the Common Ground Fair in Unity, Maine were all over the walls. I think it’s like Fryeburg Fair, but for granolas. I googled it on my iPhone and saw lots of workshops for things like “Goat Hoof Trimming” and “Processing Acorns Into Flour” and “Pagans and the Earth” put on by someone named Salem Stormravyn. Maybe I’ll check it out this summer.
On other signs around the store were words like: gluten-free, recycled, sustainable, renewable, organic, alternative, wellness, holistic, and green. If I’m really going to do this, I have to start working them into everyday conversation right away. And, organic people say “amazing” a lot. They stretch the A’s so it comes out sounding like “Amaaaazing.” I’m going to talk like that too.
One sign showing an organic child advised “Grow Up Strong and Harmless.” It goes along with the peace thing, I guess like — eat organic granola and don’t play with toy guns. Customers were quick to yield the right-of-way in the aisles and in the parking lot as if aggressiveness were a foreign concept. I wondered if they’d still be so nice to me if they knew I owned guns and voted Republican, but I had a peace sign on my shopping bag so they never suspected it.
Organic people encourage riding bicycles, but I’ve noticed not many do that in wintertime — thank God. I have a bike, and after it warms up I’m willing to peddle it around some more if that’s what it takes. But I don’t want to wear spandex or the funny helmets.
One thing about organic people worries me though. They’re against preservatives in everything, so I’m conflicted: at my age, don’t I need all the preservatives I can get? Maybe I should think this over some more before I fully commit by getting a nostril ring or something.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Somali Privilege?

If you drive a taxi in Portland, Maine the best place to wait for a fare is the Portland Jetport. But, you need a special permit. There are only forty-five permits to be had and all are held by Somali and Iranian immigrants. Paul McDonough of Timely Taxi in South Portland claims that is discrimination against him as a white man and he filed suit against the City of Portland. Most of the jetport is in South Portland which is a separate municipality, but the terminal is in Portland, and that city owns the entire facility. It’s city council decides who gets a permit.
Paul McDonough - credit: Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer Portland Press Herald

The Portland Press Herald ran a story about the suit January 2nd. I’ve been checking into it, but few city officials want to talk about it. It didn’t help that radical Muslims this past week murdered people in Paris and focused the world’s attention on Islamic terrorism. Most Somalis are Muslim and so are most Iranians. I’ll keep digging though.
Not getting much out of city hall or the jetport, but I’m learning a lot researching online. According to an article in the Bangor Daily News back in 2011, forty-nine out of fifty jetport permits were held by Somali immigrants and they held a press conference that year to announce legal action against the City of Portland. They were having difficulty renewing their jetport permits in person. Many were traveling back and forth to Somalia and it was hard to show up at the jetport to renew their permits. Hmm. If they’re here in Maine fleeing oppression in Somalia, why are they going back so often? The civil war is still on. And, how can they afford it?
Jama Farah with orange-bearded man credit Bangor Daily News

When Somali taxi driver Jama Farah spoke at the 2011 Portland City Hall press conference, behind him was an unidentified man with an orange beard and orange skullcap. The beard struck me. According to another article by former US Attorney Andrew McCarthy on Somalis in Minnesota, a man named Abdullahi Ugas Farah with a “tangerine beard” once spoke for the radical “Islamic Courts” in Somalia and later was in Minnesota campaigning for Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) and Senator Al Franken (D-MN). When I punched “Abdullahi Ugas Farah” into Google Images, up popped a man with a tangerine beard and matching hat sitting next to Congressman Ellison. He wore glasses and a tan jacket just like the man at the Portland City Hall press conference. Both he and the spokesman were named Farah. Is it the same guy? Was a radical Muslim from Somalia at the Portland City Hall press conference? So far, I’ve gotten no response from Somali cabdrivers I contacted about the man’s identity. Somalia’s “Islamic Courts” spawned the terrorist group Al Shabaab which last year pledged allegiance to al Qaida.
Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) with Abdullah Ugas Farah
Same guy?

Stephen Salamone of S&S Taxi said he’s been trying for years to get a jetport permit. “It’s blatant discrimination,” he said. A retired Portland firefighter, Salamone told me those permit holders get the best riders. “Fares go all over the state,” he said, and “I can’t even get an application. What do I need to do?” He suggests the city open a bidding process or make it a lottery. He wants a level playing field for everyone.

An online commenter to the Press Herald story, wrote that she prefers to call McDonough’s Timely Taxi and added: “[W]hen I arrive after his hours and must use a Jetport cab, I invariably get flack from the driver: ‘no dog, no dog’ when he is confronted with my Seeing Eye dog.”
The Portland Jetport is significant in the annals of Islamic terrorism since al Qaida terrorist Mohammed Atta boarded a plane there early in the morning of September 11, 2001. Three hours later he crashed another plane into the World Trade Center. Present and former FBI officials with whom I’ve talked still don’t know why Atta was in Portland.
Muhammed Atta at Portland Jetport

According to former US Attorney Andrew McCarthy: “Somalis began pouring into America in the mid-Nineties thanks to the State Department’s refugee resettlement efforts . . . In 2008, State was forced to concede that there had been immigration fraud on a massive scale: nearly 40,000 aliens admitted into our country after falsely claiming family ties to immigrants already here.” Somali immigrants in Maine got national attention twelve years ago when nearby Lewiston, Maine Mayor Larry Raymond said his city couldn’t handle any more of them because welfare money was running out. Charges of racism and bigotry rained down on him here in the blue northeast, but he didn’t back down. Since then, mayors in Manchester, NH, Springfield, Massachusetts, and in many other American cities have said the same thing.
Last August, a Lewiston Somali woman’s ex-husband, Abdirahmaan Muhumed, died fighting for ISIS in Syria. He worked at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport and even had a security clearance! He had multiple wives and left nine children, including two from when he lived on Bartlett Street in Lewiston. He and his Maine wife traveled back and forth between Maine and Minnesota many times before they divorced. KMSP-TV in Minneapolis reported that at least 22 Somali immigrants traveled from Minnesota to Somalia to fight for Al Shabaab and twelve more went to Syria to fight for ISIS. Three quarters of the 900 taxi permits at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport are held by Somali drivers.
Controversy at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport

Though some have passed through here, my research shows no radical Muslims living in Maine at present. Somalis with whom I’ve come in contact at various businesses in the Portland area seem very nice. As long as they’re here legally, work to support themselves and assimilate, Mainers would welcome them. That so many are driving taxis is a good thing. That virtually all the plum jetport permits issued by the city went to Somali taxi drivers, however, is, at best, suspicious. I shall continue to investigate as Mr. McDonough’s lawsuit goes forward.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Let's all stand with Charlie Hebdo

I don't believe I'd agree with much that is published by Charlie Hebdo. Just a glance at their magazine covers online tells me they've gone beyond the bounds of decency running offensive cartoons about Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

After what happened this morning, however, I stand with them. So here are the cartoons they were attacked for publishing:
I don't know what the balloon says in French, but the caricature is Mohammed. Notice I don't say "The Prophet" Mohammed. Why do our media and our president continue to call him "The Prophet" unless they believe he was the one and only prophet of God?

He wasn't my prophet but I know he existed 1400 years ago, so I'll just call him Mohammed. Here's another caricature of him for good measure:

If you radical Muslims out there don't like this, tough. I call on every other American out there who believes in freedom to publish these things too. Do it for the dead staff people at Charlie Hebdo. Do it for yourself. Do it for western civilization.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

We're The Needy Ones Now

Missionaries from Africa are working here in Maine. What does that say about us? Well, we need missionaries to bolster our faith because it’s waning. Yes, we used to send missionaries to Africa because they were more in need than we were, but that situation has reversed. There’s a critical shortage of priests here in Maine, but not in Africa — or not in western and central Africa where Father Innocent Okozi had been working. Now he lives in Bridgton, Maine where he is pastor of St. Joseph Parish, which includes St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in nearby Fryeburg where I attend, as well as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish, which includes St. Catherine of Sienna Church in Norway, Maine, Our Lady of Ransom Church in Mechanic Falls, and St Mary Church, Oxford, ME, which is open only during the summer. 
When I grew up in suburban Boston in the fifties and sixties, our parish alone had half a dozen priests. Now one has to cover multiple parishes here in Maine, even while church buildings are being closed down and sold off all over the state. Young men in New England and in other, more liberal parts of our country are reluctant to devote their lives to the priesthood compared to former times. Seminaries have few applicants. That’s not as much of a problem in conservative Catholic dioceses in the midwest and south, but here the shortage has reached critical levels.

Last month I had an opportunity to talk to Father Innocent about this and other topics. “There was a time when Europe and America used to send a lot of priests to Africa. That was a time when there was a vocation boom on this side,” he said. “And now, Africa is enjoying a similar thing.” Some bishops in Africa are reluctant to send their priests out, but if the Church in Rome looks at its worldwide situation, there’s more of a shortage in the United States than elsewhere, except Europe, which faces a more acute shortage than the United States.

Father Innocent cites two reasons for the shortage: families have fewer children and “their priorities have changed, a lot.” There is less openness to the spiritual life among baby boomers, but the generation following them is seeking that out more, he said. “Because they grew up in a [spiritual] vacuum?” I asked. “Exactly,” he said. Let’s hope he’s right about that.
Father Innocent baptizing my twin grandsons Luke and Henry Lowell

He came to Maine originally for pre-doctoral work in psychology at UMO, the University of Maine Orono, and checked in with the Bishop in Portland as a courtesy. Soon he was filling in at masses in different parishes and, when he finished his studies, then-Bishop Malone asked him to stay on. He and another Nigerian priest, Father Samuel Madza, SMA were both assigned to Bridgton and Norway, with Father Innocent as Pastor. Father Innocent baptized my twin grandsons last year and Father Sam presided over my nephew’s funeral shortly after.
Father Sam at my nephew Owen's funeral last April

Christians are persecuted by radical Muslims in Nigeria. Most of the world first became aware of Muslim terrorist group Boko Haram when they kidnapped 200 girls from their school in northern Nigeria last April. The name “Boko Haram" means “western education is forbidden” in Hausa language. The girls have since been sold into slavery or forced to “marry” terrorists. It’s actions are very similar to those of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, with whom the United States had recently gone to war.
According the Gatestone Institute, “in the last four years alone, approximately 1,000 Christian churches have been destroyed by Boko Haram and its Muslim sympathizers in a nation that is approximately half Christian half Muslim.” According to Human Rights Watch, Boko Haram killed 2053 Nigerian Christians just in 2014.
Father Innocent was born the oldest of eight children. As he was studying for the priesthood during the late 1980s and early 1990s in southern Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire respectively, his family moved to the Borno State in Northern Nigeria, which has since become a major hotbed for Boko Haram depredations. His father was transferred there by the automobile dealer he worked for and his mother worked in the restaurant industry. Father Innocent visited them during his Christmas vacation and witnessed firsthand what was then just developing.
Boko Haram Leader

A local Muslim boy was interested in one of his younger sisters, who invited him to a Christmas service. His father was a local leader. As Father Innocent described it: “[If he attended] not only would [his family] disown him, some family members may poison him.” Then Father Okozi’s mother was warned by the meat sellers from whom she purchased beef for her restaurant that radical Muslims were planning to poison the meat, knowing that Christians purchased a lot of it during Christmas. Then there were plots to attack Catholics as they left midnight masses on Christmas Eve. Shortly thereafter, his family moved away from Borno State to a safer part of the country. “When I read about [what’s going on now], I thank God they moved before things got worse,” he said.
Borno State Nigeria

It’s ironic that priestly vocations are booming where Christians are persecuted, and waning where they’ve gotten complacent.