Buddhist Lobbyists Push for Legislation Targeting Muslims in Myanmar (UPDATED)

The story is here.

I’ll be straight with you: I hate arguments that try to pinpoint Islam and Muslims as more prone to violence or bigotry than other faiths. Aside from lacking any evidence whatsoever to support such a claim, they contribute to hostility and bad faith when this conversation – about religion and society – could easily be used to contribute to tolerance and a better understanding of why government sucks.

All religions are exactly the same when it comes down to it.

Politically and organizationally, lobbying efforts on behalf of religions are necessarily going to aim for shoving its particular beliefs down the throats of everybody else. This is why separation of church and state is so important (church and state, not church and society; I could care less how people organize themselves in the non-political arena).

So, for example, the censorship we have here in the United States, on television, is the direct result of Christian groups that were able to successfully lobby the government to stifle free speech (see this excellent essay in the Freeman by BK Marcus on how the television markets are now changing thanks to deregulation). Can’t buy beer in your county on Sunday or after 7:00 pm on weekdays? Thank your local Christian lobby (or, if you’re in parts of India, your local Hindu or Sikh lobby, or…).

The extremity of the lobbying groups depends not on religion per se, but on the institutions that a state has in place. Anybody who argues that the Middle East is a more violent place than sub-Saharan Africa – the other region of the world that largely adopted Leninist socialism after independence – is a charlatan or a fool. It is, unfortunately, not a well-known fact that heavily Muslim, predominately Arab states are anti-capitalist, and staunchly so. This anti-capitalistic mentality has led to poverty, of course, and isolation (“cultural stagnation”), but it has also had an adverse effect on these states’ political institutions. Instead of becoming more open, and more inclusive of various factions (“lobbying groups”), political institutions in the Muslim world have been built around the executive branch – the Strong Man –  and as a result the more populist a lobby’s message is, the more it is likely to receive support from the Strong Man (the oil states in the Gulf are considered wealthy, but they are still anti-capitalistic).

In a world that is dominated by a secular hegemon that often supports bad people in the name of savvy geopolitics, the popularity of Muslim populism is not hard to fathom.

Meanwhile, in Myanmar, the Muslims being targeted by legislation are mostly illegal immigrants fleeing Bangladesh. The most prominent lobby pushing for the bill, the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion, is headed by a Buddhist monk (of the Theravada sect if I’m not mistaken).

In other news I still come across Americans, my own age, that support the Castro regime in Cuba (“because free health care and equality”). What kind of sick world do we live in?

EDIT: I had to edit this thing for clarity. Jesus donkey smears.

UPDATE (11/2/2014): Wait a second Brandon, did you just write that the Buddhist zealots are lobbying the state of Myanmar for legislation aimed at Muslims? How can this be? Myanmar is a known authoritarian state. Doesn’t the junta do what it wants, when it wants?

The short answer is “No, it can’t.” Authoritarian regimes are constrained by choices and popular opinion as well. One of the main differences between authoritarian and democratic states is the number of factions involved in the lobbying process. In democratic states, any faction can lobby the government for any reason it wishes to. Everybody has equal access (if not equal influence). This equal access (which, again, does not translate to equal influence) is, in part, what classical liberals and libertarians mean by political and legal equality. In authoritarian states the number of lobbying groups tends to be a lot smaller than in democratic states. I’ll let you figure out why this is.

It’s worth noting that calls to limit lobbying efforts by repealing Citizens United is, in its barest form, an authoritarian urge. For what is this repeal movement, if not an attempt to shut some factions up using the power of the state? The excuses always vary (in this case it’s “money”), but the pattern of authoritarianism through limiting choices remains the same.

The difference in understanding of equality between libertarians and conservatives/liberals strikes at the heart of American politics (I can’t speak for other places). Yet it also illustrates why libertarianism’s conception of equality is superior to that of the conservative/liberal. If there is a successful attempt at leveling out influence so that it’s equal in some measure (though conservatives/liberals are ambiguous on what they mean by ‘influence’, not to mention ‘equality’), then equal access has to be denied or else some factions would tip the balance of influence. Attempting to guarantee equality of influence would also lead to cronyism. Instead of lobbying the government for favors, factions would end up lobbying the committee that picks lobbying groups it deems worthy of lobbying for government favors!

On the other hand, if equal access is protected then everybody has a shot and no influence is guaranteed.

UPDATE (11/03/2014): The more I think about it, the more the Muslims-are-more-prone-to-violence canard sounds an awful lot like the Jews-secretly-run-the-world canard. People point to outbreaks of collective or individual violence perpetrated by Muslims or a Muslim and say to themselves “Well, this isn’t surprising, as their 7th century founder was a war chief.”

Disgusting. And, I suppose, Jews really are running the world because Judas stabbed poor ole Jesus in the back for 30 pieces of silver in the first century. The logic is exactly the same.

The Jews-secretly-run-the-world canard hides a nasty prejudice against Jews by creating a half-baked, pseudo-scientific rationale that can be used in public (this canard does not hide such a prejudice very well, at least to others; it may hide well from himself the intolerance and ignorance a person has in the form of rationalizing his prejudice). The Muslims-are-more-prone-to-violence canard is most often used by proponents of overseas military intervention in Muslim regions of the world.* Like the anti-Jewish voices, the anti-Muslim voices are not interested in Truth but in forcing their own deeply hostile beliefs down the throats of others. Hence the libertarian’s task of delicately balancing religious skepticism with the protection of religious believers from vulgar conspiracy theorists.

* There is a small cadre of religious skeptics and secularists who also use the “violence” thesis, though this faction, which includes myself, is more easily swayed by evidence.

22 thoughts on “Buddhist Lobbyists Push for Legislation Targeting Muslims in Myanmar (UPDATED)

  1. I say it’s legitimate to inquire as to whether there is anything in Islam (or some branches of Islam) that makes Muslims more prone to violence or bigotry than other faiths. Maybe yes, maybe no; I don’t really care. But I see no reason why the question should be off the table.

    • Oh absolutely.

      The balancing act between ruthlessly criticizing religion and ensuring that religious people don’t get persecuted by the state is a tough one, but this is exactly libertarians must do. You won’t see me defend Islam, but I will defend Muslims.

      The key, I think, is to recognize that scripture can cited by everybody for any reason whatsoever. If Christians suddenly wanted to start fighting Muslims in the name of Christianity (again) they could find passages in the Bible that would support their cause.

      Arab Islam in particular is probably more prone to bigotry than other types of Islam, though I would argue that this has more to do with Arabs and their isolationism (see Delacroix) and less to do with Islam.

      To date, there is zero evidence to support the Muslims-are-more-prone-to-violence argument. This doesn’t mean we, as good libertarians, shouldn’t combat Islam’s absurd theological beliefs in public. The lack of evidence to support the Muslims-are-more-prone-to-violence argument does not mean we should continue to uphold the double standards in place regarding Islam and Christianity here in the West (Christianity gets ruthlessly criticized whereas Islam gets waaaay too much respect, perhaps out of fear).

      In a sense, my argument is actually one that needs to be used more often against Islam. I want a secular world in the Middle East. I want those states smashed and thousands of statelets blooming in their ashes. Pointing to religion rather than institutions won’t move us further toward that world; it just keeps us mired in the status quo.

  2. Arab societies adopted Leninism at some point? I must have been asleep. Egypt for a long time, and Syria for a longer time, were in an opportunistic military alliance with the Soviet Union, the only ally they could find. Neither country adopted anything from Leninism except for the trivial, authoritarian fact of being one-party states (like Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.) Both countries eliminated their only domestic Leninist parties (called “Communist’) with a steady regime of persecutions including long imprisonments. I don’t know what internal measures they may have adopted that were Leninist.

    The oil-rich Arab states are un-capitalist by default. With much oil money goes a certain indolence in the population, a dearth of entrepreneurship. (See Delacroix in “The Distributive State in the World System,” available on the Internet.) It prevents none of those countries from maintaining thriving sovereign funds that invest world-wide as if they were capitalists. The fact is that little of the world was capitalist until Brandon was in high school.

    Other Arab countries that I don’t see as being or having been Leninist, in any sense of the term: Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania.

    Every inquiry is legitimate. There is no limitation. Moral censorship, censorship without teeth is censorship too. It may be the most effective: It’s difficult to fight against my own forbidding myself certain thoughts.

    I sort of agree with an implicit aspect of Brandon’s essay: Cultural explanations are usually lazy explanation. Moreover, they are often employed by people who know nothing of the relevant cultures. Not always though. The dictate that only institutions matter should be a heuristic, a manner to approach issues that is often productive. It should not be a religious command.

    OK, I guess I am a charlatan (again!) N. S. !

    • Hi Dr J.

      You won’t be taken seriously on this blog again until you explain what you meant when you wrote that Osama bin Laden did not attack the US until after Saudi Arabia was emptied of American troops.

      This is patently false and yet serves to bolster a particularly heinous narrative.

      Honesty with oneself matters and, frankly, nobody on here is sure that you are capable of it.

  3. “I say it’s legitimate to inquire as to whether there is anything in Islam (or some branches of Islam) that makes Muslims more prone to violence or bigotry than other faiths.”

    What sort of research design do you propose?

  4. Brandon: Do you now decide who is taken seriously? Do I detect a dangerous drift?

    Why are you changing the subject? Leninist Arab states? N. S. !

    Terry: one does not need to have a research design ready to decide that a particular issue is a legitimate topic of inquiry. Your question about research design has the effect of intimidating people from raising certain issues you don’t want raised. That’s true even if your motivation behind the research design question is completely innocent.

    I, for example, think that whether or not a by-product of productive activity is a steady warming of the planet with net (NET) noxious consequence, is a valid question. I don’t have a research design to propose as I pass this judgment. That does not mean that I am forbidden from passing the judgment. Incidentally, no one else seems to have a research design on the twined issues of man-made global warming and of possible noxious consequence. The absence of a valid design does not retire the underlying question. Or, do you think it does?

    • Jacques, I am not telling anybody who to take seriously.

      I am simply letting you know, gently, that nobody here takes you seriously because of your inability to tell the truth.

      Once again: You lied about the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia. You were not “mistaken.” You lied. You lied because the truth did not fit your vulgar demagoguery about Muslims (“they are violent and need to be bombed”).

      Again, you are more than welcome to babble incoherently on this blog all you want, but nobody will be listening to you. Not after seeing the lies you have told, and the truth you will not confront.

    • I never lie.

      If you insists on beating a dead horse, Brandon, why don’t you bore your leaders with the proof of my lying? You know my archives as well as I do, just come up with evidence. Let others judge.

      In case anyone is interested: I have no idea what I said, years ago, about US troops in Saudi Arabia. I am not interested enough to find out. If memory serves, what I said or did not say was embedded in a discussion of whether violent jihadists – such as Bin Laden – had good reasons to attack the US. Later developments have made my point for me. The relevant discussion is boring.

    • You lie all the time, at least when it comes to discussing Islam and libertarianism.

      I’ve already linked to the old article. In it, you called libertarians “pacifists.” This too is lying or, at best, an act of bad faith.

      Speaking of bad faith, and lying, your summary of what was being debated is wrong. Those curious have probably already checked it out. The main reason bin Laden attacked the US was because it had troops in Saudi Arabia protecting the regime. You flatly denied this. Once denying this, you went on the reassert – as if repeating yourself endlessly will make your imagination so – that they (Muslims) simply hate us.

      It’s bad faith at its finest.

    • “Although the regretted Bin Laden had threatened the US in connection with American military presence in Saudi Arabia, the 9/11 attack took place after the US forces had vacated that country, not as a means to make them move.” In the original post the word “after” is bolded for emphasis.


      Jacques is right in one sense: the horse is dead. He wrote what he wrote. It can’t be denied.

      Personally, I think your focus is off. It’s only one of a multitude of….misstatements of fact. Moreover it’s not just a personal failing, Jacques is not even the worst example of the wingnut right. And, much to my chagrin, a willingness to distort or just outright fabricate is not restricted to the right wing of North American politics. I sometimes see it in ‘progressive’ circles as well.

    • He wrote what he wrote. It can’t be denied.

      But dude, he is denying it. He has a bunch of points that may well worth be entertaining, but I cannot bring myself to engage with them as long as that denial hangs out in the back of my mind.

      Conservatives and progressives are two peas in a pod, no doubt. You know that libertarians in North America have been saying this for years, of course, but it’s always nice to have your observations confirmed by an outsider. Libertarians have ideas that are sometimes not plausible, but I don’t think there is much evidence to suggest that they misstate facts the way conservatives and progressives do. In a sense, this is our biggest weakness.

    • This is still bothering me. I am a huge fan of Dr J’s work. I’ve read his stuff in the Independent Review, his entire blog catalogue, and a fair number of his academic works (I even added his name to Wikipedia’s entry for Organizational Ecology; yours was already on there).

      Look at what he wrote in excellent autobiography I Used to Be French…:

      Yet, if you let anything false pass, you are guilty of complicity by omission in the spreading of false information. And of course, one should never convey false information, except to save one’s own life in a really tight spot, or someone else’s or, in some rare case, to defeat one’s super-armed enemies.

      Its on pages 66 and 67. So when Jacques writes that “the 9/11 attack took place after the US forces had vacated that country, not as a means to make them move” (emphasis in the original) he is spreading false information. This could be an innocent enough mistake. There are millions of Americans who don’t realize that the US has troops all around the world, after all.

      Yet here is what he wrote to a commentator (you remember D-d-d-david?) on the issue of US troops in Saudi Arabia on 9/11:

      I don’t argue numbers [the number of US troops in Saudi Arabia on 9/11] with Brandon because I don’t want to fall into the Islamist trap about allegedly sacred “Islamic” soil. There is no such thing. […] The Islamists want to kill us because of who were are, same as they want to kill Shiite Muslims because of who they are, and Assyrian CHristians in Iraq, and Copts in Egypt, and Jews, when they can.

      I don’t think there is such a thing as sacred soil, either. I realize that the Islamists in question are Sunni bigots, too. It does us no good, however, to lie about the motives – disgusting as they may be – of Islamists. Islamism is fundamentally a reactionary ideology. It is reacting to modernization, Westernization, globalization, whatever. We are not dealing with savages or barbarians. Ignoring Islamist arguments, instead of directly confronting them as I have advocated, will only perpetuate the status quo.

      This is about war and peace, dawg (as a UCLA Bruin it’s also about crushing the pipe dreams of a Stanford boy). Modernization is not inevitable. Right now the West is contributing to the forces of conservatism in the Middle East. Some of this has to do with savvy geopolitics, but more of it has to do with a fundamental ignorance – purposeful or otherwise – of what we are dealing with. It would help us immensely if we began treating Muslims and especially Arabs as we would treat ourselves: like individuals born with certain inalienable individual rights.

  5. By the way, today alone my “babblings” account for 12% of the views on this blog as of 1:30 pm Pacific time. And, I am not even trying.

    My, my, I have to learn to refrain from rising to every cheap bait cast my way!

    • Congratulations, and remember that that 12% accounts for more views than your entire, other blog. This, combined with the fact that you are not even the main attraction here, should go some way toward helping you become more familiar with how the global commons works.

      The formula for being taken seriously is fairly simple: Don’t berate people or treat them like idiots. If you have made a mistake and are called out on it, man up and admit it. You can’t hide from your own words on the internet.

      This simple formula is something you have failed to adhere to. And, of course, instead of listening to the one dude who is patient enough to explain to you why things aren’t going your way, you piss in his face every chance you get.

      Oh the humanity! More wine please. Red, thank you.

    • “Oh the humanity! More wine please. Red, thank you.”

      Thus reinforcing all my stereotypes about both Californians and Libertarians. 😉

  6. “Your question about research design has the effect of intimidating people from raising certain issues you don’t want raised.”

    Nonsense. This is not a community of shrinking violets. Trying to determine whether there is anything in religion X that makes adherents of religion X more prone to violence or bigotry than other faiths may be a legitimate inquiry but anyone proposing to do so should be able to describe how the determination should take place. Personally, I think it’s a fools errand but if Warren has ideas about how to proceed I’m interested in hearing them.

    Your commentary on climate research is, as usual, nonsense. The scientific journals require transparency on how research is conducted. To say there are no valid research designs out there reflects only on your cognitive competence. I spent weeks walking you through one specific publication as you may recall and you were not able to offer a single problem with method.

  7. @Brandon

    I can understand that it torques you. I just think you should be realistic [dare I say pragmatic?]. Jacques is sometimes intellectually dishonest. He is always lazy. He’s also old; he’s older than me and I’m older than dirt. He’s not going to change. When he says something untrue point it out, make fun of him for a bit and then move on.

    Spend your energy on more worthwhile topics. Explain why it is that progressives vehemently object to the surveillance apparatus under George W. Bush but don’t have a problem when it’s run by Barack Obama.

Please keep it civil

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