The Textual Roots of Islamic Violence

We’re all familiar with the routine by now. A terrorist attack occurs. Hours later, the world learns the identity of the attacker (or, the identities of the attackers). Then comes the inevitable question, “What was the motive for the attack?”

Sometimes a general consensus is quickly reached. Few disagree, for instance, that Anders Breivik was motivated by xenophobia and ultranationalism when he killed 77 fellow Norwegians in 2011, or that anti-Muslim bigotry propelled Darren Osborne to plow his car into a crowd of Muslims near the Finsbury Park Mosque in London in June 2017.

Yet other times, particularly when the perpetrators are Muslims, such a consensus becomes elusive. Suddenly the motive becomes complicated, if not opaque altogether. We’re told that the attackers could have been influenced by any number of factors, and for some — including many journalists, pundits, social scientists, terrorism experts, and even heads of state — there is one factor that likely did not, or even could not, play a role: Islam. Continue reading

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Slouching Toward Palitana: The Case for Ending Animal Slaughter

In 2014, roughly 200 Jain monks engaged in a hunger strike.Their goal: to have the holy city of Palitana, located in the Indian state of Gujarat, declared a “meat-free zone.” A central tenet of Jainism is ahimsa (nonviolence toward all creatures), and many Jains could no longer tolerate the slaughter of animals and sale of meat in a city where the religion’s first tirthankara (or savior, named Adinatha) is said to have walked the hills.

After weeks of peaceful protests, the government of Gujarat agreed to extend the existing “meat-free zone” to cover all of Palitana. The killing of animals and the sale of meat, fish, and eggs is now banned — much to the consternation of the Muslim majority, which comprises about 25 percent of the city’s population. With this decision, Palitana officially became the world’s first vegetarian city.

To the average secular-liberal onlooker, the Jains’ demand — and the government’s decision — must seem doubly anathema: not only did the government allow the Jains to impose their religious beliefs on the city’s minorities, but the ban also severely circumscribes the freedom of those who produce and sell non-vegetarian food to sustain their families.

But what if the ban, all of the religious mythology and superstition aside, actually is good policy? What if banning the slaughter and selling of meat is the right thing to do — not to respect religious tradition or sensibilities — but to prevent undue harm to the animals? More radically, what if Palitana is just the first place where such a ban is implemented? What if Palitana is the site of the beginning of a second abolitionism? Continue reading

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The Left: Why It Should Be Saved — Not Abandoned

On February 11, journalist and lifelong liberal Chadwick Moore “came out” in the New York Post — but not as gay (he did that when he was 15). This time, at the age of 33, he came out as a conservative.

Moore’s transformation began last September, after penning a profile on the controversial Milo Yiannopolous for Out magazine. Moore describes how, after its publication, friends and acquaintances began shunning him. His best friend called him a “monster.” A stranger in a bar called him a “Nazi” for wanting greater border security. Though he voted for Clinton in November and has opposed Trump’s travel ban and some of his cabinet picks, Moore says, given the Left’s increasing opposition to free speech and growing intolerance, that he is “closer to the Right than where the Left is today.”

Moore is not alone. Just days before, Dave Rubin, the host of the internet show The Rubin Report, announced his departure from the Left. Also a lifelong liberal, Rubin explained in a video (produced by PragerU, affiliated with conservative commentator Dennis Prager) that much of the Left has ceased being “progressive” and instead had come under the spell of a “regressive ideology.”

The regressive-Left, he says, wants to censor politically incorrect speech, view people not as individuals but as members of groups, and judge ideas not on their truth or merits, but on how they make one feel. With the growing influence of the regressive-Left, he says he can no longer call himself a progressive. “I’m a classical liberal, a free thinker,” he says, “and as much as I don’t like to admit it, defending my liberal values has suddenly become a conservative position.”

As a member of the Left myself, I have to say, I can sympathize with Moore and Rubin. I too have been appalled by what has unfolded on college campuses. I too am ashamed of those on the Left who have forgotten how to engage in a genuine argument and attempt to end a discussion by smearing their opponents with defamatory labels like “sexist,” “racist,” “bigot,” and “Islamophobe.” I too am tired of identity politics, with its encouragement of “competitive victimhood” and its conception of politics as a zero-sum contest among distinct groups.

Yet, despite my frustration, I have never seriously considered leaving the Left. Continue reading

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Faithless Electors Test Power of Parties

On Monday, December 19, electors from across the country gathered to cast the official votes for president. Of the 538 votes that were tallied, seven came from faithless electors – electors who chose not to vote for the nominee who won a plurality of votes in their state. These included four Democratic electors in Washington state, two Republican electors in Texas, and one Democratic elector in Hawaii.

There were also three “would-be” faithless electors whose dissenting votes were not counted. Faithless electors in Colorado and Minnesota were replaced after their votes were cast, and in Maine, an elector who was faithless in the first round of voting cast a “proper” ballot during the second round.

Most of the faithless electors voted on principle for candidates they believed were fit for the office of the presidency. Continue reading

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Sanders-Backed ‘Our Revolution’ Scores Major Victories on Election Day

In August, just one month after the Democratic National Convention, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders announced the launch of Our Revolution, a non-profit organization dedicated to keeping his progressive movement alive and strong. Among its stated goals are “supporting a new generation of progressive leaders” and “empowering millions to fight for progressive change.”

To these ends, Our Revolution backed more than 100 candidates from the school board level to the U.S. Senate between August and Election Day. It also took positions on nearly three-dozen ballot measures, ranging from support for legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational uses and for raising the minimum wage to opposing charter school expansion and the death penalty.

Much like Sanders’ campaign, these efforts were sustained in large part by small-donor donations. Our Revolution contributed $1.3 million to help support its candidates. Continue reading

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How Super PACs and Candidates Legally (and Illegally) Coordinate Their Efforts

In its ruling in the Citizens United case of 2010, the Supreme Court decided that organizations that are wholly independent of candidates could spend unlimited sums of money to influence elections because, in the words of Justice Anthony Kennedy, “independent expenditures do not lead to, or create the appearance of, quid pro quo corruption.”

Shortly thereafter, entities known as super PACs began to enter American politics. With the ability to both raise and spend as much money as they like, they have become a potent force in elections from the local to the presidential level. Yet in order to operate legally, super PACs are to remain independent of the candidates they support, and to be independent, they are not allowed – in theory – to coordinate with candidates or their campaigns. Continue reading

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OPINION: A Single Headline Cannot Contain All the Reasons to Oppose S.D.’s Nonpartisan Top-Two Proposal

In November, voters in South Dakota will decide whether to pass Amendment V. If passed, the measure will institute a nonpartisan primary much like the one in Washington state. Under the proposed rules, all candidates would appear on a single ballot without party labels, and the top two recipients of primary votes would advance to the general election.

The proponents of the reform cite numerous potential benefits, including increased voter turnout, the election of more moderate officials, depolarization, and the restoration of functional governance. One supporter called Amendment V “the answer we have all been hoping for to address many of the problems we see with politics these days.”

Yet as well-intentioned at the amendment’s backers may be, there are empirical and principled reasons to oppose the measure. Continue reading

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