Do We Need Government? No, But You Need This Anthology

A long-awaited anthology I’m scheduled to appear in (with a couple of pieces on the question “Do We Need Government?”) has now, I hear, been split into two – one volume on metaphysics and epistemology, and the other on ethics, æsthetics, and politics – and in that form (and with a bunch of historical selections deleted) is/are finally slouching toward publication; see the tables of contents here and here. Some old friends are in it/them too, as you’ll see (if you know who my old friends are).

I’m told: “The eText will be coming out in February [2020], with hard copies soon to follow.”

cowan-problems

The Dual Legacy of the Declaration of Independence

No one should raise the stars and stripes on the 4th. The proper flag to raise on the 4th of July is the black flag of anarchy.

 

The Fourth of July commemorates the anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence, a document which the anarchist must view with mixed emotions.

The document’s stirring proclamation that “all men are created equal,” with inalienable rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” that no government is entitled to infringe; its further insistence that all authority must depend on the “consent of the governed,” and that when such authority becomes abusive it is the “right of the people to alter or to abolish it” – all of these are welcome statements of a philosophical outlook which, if logically pursued, leads inexorably to a much wider liberation (an implication clearly grasped at the time by many of the Revolution’s critics).

Continue reading

1 Rule for Life

They started down the shallow trench behind the crest of the hill and in the dark Andre smelt the foulness the defenders of the hill crest had made all through the bracken on that slope. He did not like these people who were like dangerous children; dirty, foul, undisciplined, kind, loving, silly and ignorant but always dangerous because they were armed. He, Andres, was without politics except that he was for the Republic. He had heard these people talk many times and he thought what they said was often beautiful and fine to hear but he did not like them. It is not liberty not to bury the mess one makes, he thought. No animal has more liberty than the cat; but it buries the mess it makes. The cat is the best anarchist. Until they learn from the cat I cannot respect them.

–Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls, ch. 36 (decades before Jordan Peterson)

Welcome to The New Normal (“You Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated”) [Updated]

Readers of this blog know that I’ve been running a series of events on law enforcement issues at Felician. Here’s an event I didn’t run:

12:28 pm: Due to the receipt of an alleged, anonymous threat of a shooting on the Rutherford Campus Residence Halls have been secured. -more

12:29 pm: Police and extra security in place. Classes continue, buses run. We’ll keep you apprised. Carry your ID.

2:28 pm:  If you receive any calls from media sources, please refer them to me at my extension that is  listed below.  If you have additional questions or concerns please contact your dean or Vice President.

9:07 pm: Felician took immediate action in consultation with law enforcement. Classes are in session, campus is open.

Oh, but if we were all toting our Glocks to class, this would have worked out perfectly.

What’s that phrase again? “A hostile work environment”? And I thought I left that behind in Abu Dis! Continue reading

Blasphemy in Pakistan: If You Listen to Fools…

Breaking news of a series of arson attacks on Ahmadi Muslims in the city of Jhelum, Pakistan on grounds of “blasphemy.” From Pakistan’s Dawn:

JHELUM: An enraged mob set a Ahmadi place of worship on fire in Punjab’s Jhelum district on Saturday, following Friday night’s arson attack on a factory.

The place of worship was located in the Kala Gujran area of Jhelum, which was under guard of local police forces.

The mob managed to break through the police cordon which was established to safeguard the Ahmadi places of worship, following Friday night’s unrest.


Police had to resort to baton charging and tear gassing the protesters in order to bring the situation under control, but were unable to do so. The mob resorted to pelting stones at the police personnel.

The incidents were a result of rumours circulated earlier in Jhelum district which levelled blasphemy allegations on the owner and workers of the factory.

According to Pakistan’s Express News (in Urdu), Jhelum is now under control, but it sure took awhile. If you want to see what anarchic mob violence looks like up close–a micro-level picture of the descent from Locke’s State of Nature to the State of War–have a look at this video.

No cops anywhere. No firefighters en route. Just an unbridled mob drunk on theological liquor, screaming their minds out in coarse Punjabi. I understand the language but most of what they’re saying is unintelligible, and even when I can make out the words, I have no idea what they’re talking about until 1:00, when they sound the “takbir,” the equivalent of a hallelujah. Almost two minutes into the video, and they’re still doggedly at it, committing arson in a leisurely fashion, with no fear whatsoever that anyone will stop them. They were right not to feel fear: no one did stop them. As the Dawn story makes clear, when the police came, they arrested the victims.

Last time I was in Pakistan, on my last night there, a bunch of us Khawajas had dinner at the home of a cousin of mine who’s a well known politician in Pakistan, and a qualified defender of Pakistan’s blasphemy law. It was a wonderful send-off for me, but we ended up having a riotous argument about the blasphemy law over biryani and shami kebabs, most of us arguing against the in-principle legitimacy of such a law, but a minority at the table defending it.  My politician cousin (and gracious host) agreed that the law had been tragically abused, but insisted that some such law had to be retained in Pakistan, albeit enforced in a narrower and more impartial way. The rest of us argued that the reformist gambit was a lost and pointless cause. I wonder if this event will induce Pakistanis (including Pakistani politicians, and particularly including the ones related to me) to rethink their naive, dogmatic attachment to that cause. Maybe it’s time for some push-back from Pakistan’s American sponsors as well. (While we’re on this subject, how about a little pressure on Pakistan to lift its legalized anathematization of Ahmadis?)

That said, the issue here isn’t just a matter of the blasphemy law but of the rule of law. As far as I’m concerned, the video above is a perfectly accurate depiction of a state of anarchy. I know that anarchists will object to that characterization, but though I’m familiar with the objections, I don’t accept them. The Jhelum attacks are a paradigmatic instance of life under a state that is too weak to uphold the rule of law. The remedy seems obvious: retain the state, but strengthen its commitment to the rule of law. The remedy is not to ratchet back the state and aim (or hope or pray) for some “market-based” solution, whatever that’s supposed to mean. Part of the problem is that it’s not clear what it means, much less how it’s supposed to work.

To complete the thought in the title…

Postscript. Just to give PoT readers a taste of the mentality involved, here’s an exchange in Urdu on YouTube between commentators discussing the YouTube video I inserted above.

Kabhi Quran parha hai ? Pata hai usme Kia likha hai
The first writer, Kamz Khan, writes: “What was done here is absolutely right; they should have burned the infidel owner in the very same flames.”
The second writer, Hasan Ahmad, responds: “Have you ever read the Qur’an? Do you have any idea what’s in it?”
Postscript, November 22, 2015: This is a useful backgrounder on the Pakistan Supreme Court’s position on the blasphemy law, taking roughly the sort of position I ascribed to my cousin in the original post (call it “theocratic reformism” or “theocratic constitutionalism”). The article was written a few weeks before the Jhelum incident. The Qur’anic verses cited in the article are 2.83, 2.94 (Surah Nisa’a), and 49.6 (Surah Hujuraat). Note the frightening ambiguity of this passage:
Thirdly, “any call for reform of the law regarding the offence of blasphemy ought not to be understood as a call for doing away with that law and it ought to be understood as a call for introducing adequate safeguards against malicious application or misuse of that law”, is the Supreme Court’s clear answer to the flawed argument that criticising the manmade blasphemy law is blasphemy.
Contrary to the author’s apparent re-assurances, the claim he makes here at least leaves open the possibility that root and branch rejection of the blasphemy law is itself blasphemy. I find it unfortunate that a Visiting Fellow in Political Science at LSE could write such stuff. Shouldn’t it be legally actionable “blasphemy” to defend such a position in a secular-liberal country like Great Britain? Mercifully, it isn’t–not yet, anyway. (Here’s the Wikipedia entry on “Blasphemy Law in Pakistan.”)
It’s worth noting, incidentally, that Pakistani newspapers are (legally) obliged to refer to Ahmadi mosques as “places of worship” rather than as mosques or masjids. Since Ahmadis have been declared “non-Muslim” by Pakistani law, it’s against the law to refer to their “places of worship” in a manner that implies that those “places of worship” are Muslim places of worship. (Read the text in the preceding hyperlink to get a sense of the surreal, totalitarian character of the law, Ordinance XX.) I was gratified to see The New York Times refer to the place in question straightforwardly as a mosque.
Postscript, December 17, 2015: More useful background, care of The Friday Times blog (Lahore).

James Stacey Taylor on local government

I highly recommend reading this blog post by James Stacey Taylor at BHL on local government. I couldn’t agree more with Taylor’s central claim–that local government matters, and that anyone interested in politics should spend some time observing or participating in it. But I think I disagree with the specifically libertarian inference Taylor draws from the experience he describes with the Hopewell, New Jersey Planning Board. (I spent a decade living in the same general vicinity as Taylor, and like him, used to teach at The College of New Jersey. So I have a first-hand sense of the issue he’s describing.)

Taylor seems to infer from his experience that we ought to have less local government rather than more. I agree that when it comes to Planning Boards, we ought to limit their powers. I also agree that local government ought to be more evidence-based and transparent. But I don’t think the general lesson–less government–is the right one.

For one thing, I don’t think Taylor’s experience is really unique to local government. You find the same sort of behavior everywhere, including in the “organic, voluntary” activity he favors. Just imagine that the patch of land he describes was handed over to private developers without the intermediate step of having to pass through the Planning Board. Is there any reason to believe that developers wouldn’t have wanted to create a mini-city in the middle of what is now an open field? If there’s money to be made, they’d do it, and as for unintended consequences, if they could shift the costs to someone else, they’d ignore them and insist on the privacy of their non-existent data.

You might say, “They shouldn’t be allowed to shift the costs to someone else.” Correct. But that requires extensive government enforcement of laws that demand the internalization of externalities. Put it this way: would Taylor advocate the outright abolition of local Planning Boards? Having spent a fair bit of time observing them (in New Jersey), I would say “no.” They need to be put in their place, not abolished.

Second, I wonder whether Taylor would agree that in many cases, the unregulated parts of our lives could use more regulation. Regional differences may be at work here. Taylor lives in west-central New Jersey. I live in northeastern New Jersey. Patterns of life are quite different in the two places. But consider aspects of life that a northeastern Jerseyite would want regulated more tightly by government.

My first pick is traffic. I’ll just assert the proposition: we need more, and stricter, enforcement of traffic laws. We need to force people to slow down, to get off their cell phones while driving, to yield at yield signs, to stop at stop signs (or lights),  to use their turn signals before they turn, to pay tolls, and not to honk their horns for purely expressive reasons.

Second pick: noise ordinances. Most towns have noise ordinances on the books, but many towns treat their noise ordinance as though enforcement of it were a frill or luxury. I see violation of a noise ordinance as a rights-violation fully on par with battery. Just imagine living next to a construction site and being woken up every damn morning by construction activity that’s begun before it’s legally permitted to begin (or that continues well into the night). Or imagine living next to a golf course where the landscapers habitually start work–with mowers and blowers–at 4:45 am, three hours before it’s legally allowed. You call the police and they act as though they have better things to do than enforce the law. My inference: we need more government.

Incidentally, it’s an interesting thing how one is to enforce noise-related violations within a private contract. Right now, my upstairs neighbors are making enough noise to wake the dead. That violates the lease agreement we’ve all signed with the landlord, which involves a promise to one another to keep the noise down. But how do I get that “legally enforceable” promise legally enforced? I could go to the landlord. He’ll ignore me. I don’t have standing to take my neighbors to landlord-tenant court. I’m not a landlord. But the lease’s being violated is a clear-cut rights violation. It’s a breach of contract. What’s happens to rights violations like this? The answer is that in the name of less intrusive government, they go unenforced. But the result is a diminution in some people’s quality of life. (Lovers of quiet are, to paraphrase Ayn Rand, America’s most persecuted minority.)

Third, idiosyncratic example: parking. For most of my adult life, I’ve lived in apartments where parking was tight. In one case, I rented a garage on the rental property so as to guarantee having a spot. In other cases, there was assigned parking. What do you do if someone parks his car in front of your garage (ignoring the NO PARKING sign as though it wasn’t there), or parks in your assigned spot (and you’re not willing to park in someone else’s)? If you complain to your landlord, you’ll be told, reasonably enough, to call the police. But if you call the police, the bizarre answer you will get in New Jersey is: “Sorry, we can’t do anything about it. You’re on private property.”

Pause on the absurdity of that answer. If someone were breaking in to your apartment, and you called 911, it would make no sense for the police to say, “Sorry, we can’t do anything about it. The break-in is taking place on private property.” But I’ve repeatedly had the “sorry, can’t help you” experience when I’ve called the police re parking. As it happens, the police’s “sorry, can’t help you” response involves a misstatement of state law (I’ll spare you the details*), but the fact remains that as written, state law is simply too weak on this issue. It puts too much of the onus on the victim of the rights violation to rectify the situation and not enough on the person who’s blocking one’s garage or parked in one’s assigned spot. Again, my inference: we need more, activist government in the name of rights enforcement.

I would defy any anarcho-capitalist to produce the non-governmental version of the resolution of disputes of the preceding variety. I had the opportunity to see what such attempts at “resolution” might look like when I spent time in the West Bank city of Bethany, which effectively lacks a government. (Officially, it is in Area B under the Oslo Accords, under joint Israel-Palestinian control. But de facto, it lacks a government.) Bethany is practically a controlled science experiment in anarchy. Suffice it to say that things really didn’t turn out the way anarcho-capitalists claim they will. Bethany is a case of “the Wild West” in the Near East–or maybe the Wild West in the Wild West Bank. (Incidentally, I don’t mean to be saddling Taylor with anarcho-capitalism. I have no idea what his views are on that. I just mean to be saddling anarcho-capitalists with Bethany. And yes, it’s that Bethany, the one where Jesus was buried. Burying him was one of the things that the Romans “did for us,” by the way. I’m not sure Jesus would have been buried under anarcho-capitalism.**)

Give me long enough, and I could extend this list pretty much indefinitely.

Anyway, I’m grateful to Taylor for a thoughtful post which broaches some interesting and important issues.

*Postscript, added later: The link in the text goes to the section of New Jersey’s state code governing private property and non-consensual towing. But here is the written response I got from the local Police Department after complaining about their refusal to tow vehicles that were blocking my egress from my garage.

The area of the garages at [name of apartment complex] are private property. The owners of the property basically give authority to building management to maintain the lands. If management feels a vehicle is parked on their property (that does not belong or parked improperly) [they] will call the Police. The Police will issue a summons (management will be called to court as a witness/complainant). The Police cannot tow the vehicle, because it is on private property. Management actually calls for the tow truck. The main road of the complex is considered quasi-public. In this area, the Police can summons and tow.

It’s worth wondering how any of this convoluted legal analysis is supposed to help someone whose garage is blocked but needs to get the car out of it to go to work. I ended up taking a taxi to and from work at a cost of over $100. That happened several times before I made my complaint to the police. In fairness to my local PD, they’ve been pretty responsive about other things, including my insistence that they paint a stop line at an ambiguous intersection so that it was crystal-clear where to stop. From an email to me from the local police chief: “Stop line placed on Watchung roadway. —Chief Goul.” Thanks, Chief.

**Postscript, added later: On second thought, the last two sentences before the asterisk are ridiculous assertions which I’ll leave in the text but now disown. Tradition has it that Jesus was buried by Joseph of Arimethea, who wasn’t in any relevant sense a Roman. I only wrote what I wrote as an excuse to throw Monty Python into the mix, but it’s totally inaccurate and potentially offensive–to Christians, anarcho-capitalists, and above all Christian anarcho-capitalists–so I hereby repent and take it back. I concede: Jesus might well have been buried (and for that matter, crucified) under anarcho-capitalism.

Newsflash: Pakistani Taliban Kill Lots of Innocent Children (Sardonic Edition)

Here are my three favorite commentaries on the Pakistani Taliban’s recent attack on a school in Peshawar:

KABUL: The Afghan Taliban have condemned a raid on a school in Peshawar that left 141 dead in the country’s bloodiest ever terror attack, saying killing innocent children was against Islam.

Survivors said militants gunned down children as young as 12 during the eight-hour onslaught in Peshawar, which the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said was revenge for the ongoing North Waziristan operation.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has always condemned the killing of children and innocent people at every juncture,” the Afghan Taliban, which often target civilians, said in a statement released late Tuesday.

“The intentional killing of innocent people, women and children goes against the principles of Islam and every Islamic government and movement must adhere to this fundamental essence.”

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the official name of the Taliban) expresses its condolences over the incident and mourns with the families of killed children.”

The Afghan Taliban are a jihadist group loosely affiliated to the Pakistan Taliban, with both pledging allegiance to Mullah Omar.

That’s from “Afghan Taliban Condemn Peshawar School Attack,” in Karachi’s Dawn.

Here’s another great one, for those who know a bit about Pakistani politics. It’s from Imran Khan, leader of Pakistan’s Tehrik-e-Insaf political party.

“I have never seen an atrocity like this in my entire life…I cannot even comprehend how someone could kill children like this,” he said.

“If someone killed my children like this, I would seek to avenge it as well,” Imran said.

Yes, terrorist attacks are really unprecedented for the Pakistani Taliban. I mean, who ever heard of the Pakistani Taliban killing innocent people? In Pakistan, no less? Has Imran sahib informed the Royal Society?

Then there’s this gem:

Obama terrorizes and murders innocent Pakistani citizens.

That’s supposed to be a commentary on drone warfare against the Pakistani Taliban. I’ve italicized the word of interest. Here is what I find interesting about it.

Suppose that the U.S. packed up its drones tomorrow and left South Asia for good. What does the author think should happen next? Broadly speaking, there are only two options. Either the Pakistani military fights the Taliban or not.

(1) Suppose they fight the Taliban. Suppose they choose to do so by means of the least destructive method available to them– drones. (Actually, drones are not quite ‘available’ to Pakistan right now, but imagine that they were.) Suppose that these drones kill “innocent Pakistani civilians” as a side-effect of the attempt to fight the Taliban. Would Nawaz Sharif then be as guilty of “murder” as Obama has been alleged to be? Or do you have to be an American drone operator to satisfy that description?

(2) Suppose that the Pakistani military chooses not to fight the Taliban, on the grounds that doing so would lead to the deaths of “innocent Pakistani civilians” (as it surely would). Suppose that the Taliban then murder Pakistanis civilians with impunity for the next seven or eight years, as they’ve done for the last eight. In fact, imagine that the Taliban ratchet up their killings on the grounds that it’s easier to kill people when the army that’s supposed to be protecting them refuses to do so. Would the author be willing to accept those consequences as an implication of his fastidious strictures on drone warfare?

While I’m on this subject, let me ask one last set of questions. The Taliban are non-state actors–a kind of terrorist NGO. They are, in other words, de facto anarchists. According to anarchist theory, “the state” lacks legitimacy. So imagine we decide to  get rid of it.

Now imagine, further, that “we” are Pakistanis. (Yes, I realize that my thought-experiment is starting to strain credulity at this point.) Let’s imagine, then, that “we” Pakistanis abolish the Pakistani state tomorrow. I assume that the Taliban would not be deterred from further depredations by this act.

So here is my question, intended for anarcho-capitalists: In what sense would Pakistanis be better off without a state than with one in facing the Taliban? And how should they do it? Whatever the method, it must meet two specifications: (1) it must not involve the assistance of a state, and (2) it must not lead to the deaths of any innocent third-parties. In this season of miracles, that surely can’t be too much to ask.

Postscript, December 18, 2014: More coverage of Peshawar. A poignant passage from a story from this morning’s New York Times, “Horror Paralyzes Pakistan After Methodical Slaughter“:

Some mourners expressed frustration at the apparent impotence of their own security forces. “What is this army for?” shouted one man at the city’s main Lady Reading hospital, where he had come to collect the body of his grandson.

“Where are their atom bombs and airplanes now?” he said. “They were of no use if they cannot protect us from death in our daily lives.”

Better questions could scarcely be asked, and truer words could scarcely be uttered. But we’re talking about armed forces that have begun every war they’ve fought, and lost every war they’ve begun: they’re guilty of genocide (East Pakistan, 1971) and willing to start nuclear war with India over uninhabitable chunks of ice (Siachen Glacier), but incapable of grasping the fact that their deals with the devil have surrendered the entire northwest of the country to totalitarian psychopaths bent on mass murder in the name of God. Pakistanis should never forget that the partition of the subcontinent was intended to give the Muslims of the subcontinent a safe haven from religious persecution by Hindus. Somehow, it never occurred to them that “they” might persecute “themselves.” Call it another grim chapter in the annals of that supposedly impossible phenomenon–“reverse discrimination.”

Meanwhile, from the same article:

Back at the deserted Army Public School, snipers perched on the rooftops, watching for a potential follow-up attack. In the nearby tribal belt, the Pakistani Army mounted fresh airstrikes.

Were they merely “fresh airstrikes” or were they mass murder? Would they have been mass murder if carried out by drones more precise than the airstrikes? I renew the question.

I find it interesting that in the English language press, at any rate, a lot of Pakistani commentary has taken the form of anguished questions. This column by Sameer Khosa in Lahore’s Nation consists of almost nothing but questions until this passage at the end:

Let us finally put an end to the criminally dishonest nature of our conversation on the Taliban, and on the national security challenge as a whole. Because now, we have seen its cost and it is unbearable.

Carry these children in your heart always. Let their innocence be the antidote to the lies that are peddled to us. Let their curiosity about the world remind us to ask anyone who has a one-sentence-long solution to this problem how they propose it will end. Let us fight in their name. Let their gravestones say: tell us now that this is not our war. Tell us now that this is not personal.

The problem is, this is what Pakistanis always say after a Taliban atrocity, only to forget it until next year’s atrocity. I’m not criticizing Khosa; I’m criticizing his audience. What he’s saying is undeniably true. So is what these people are saying. And these two.  The problem is that it’s been true for years. Remember what happened in Peshawar last year? It was Malala before that, and the massacre of the Shias of Derra Adam Khel before that, and the Geo TV station before that, and the Bajaur market before that, and the attack on the shrine of Data Ganj Baksh before that, and the one on the Ahmadi mosques in Lahore before that, and the assassination of Benazir before that. How many “before thats” does a rational person need before he figures out “we have a problem, and we have to solve it”? (Here’s a list of TTP attacks.) Unfortunately, what Khurram Hussain is saying is true, too.

Anyway, I can’t help continuing the semi-sardonic theme of the original post. So, a few quotations in that vein:

Khursheed Shah says terrorism is national issue

Speaking to media representatives after attending the MPC, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah said there is a complete consensus among political parties of the country on the terrorism issue.

He expressed his resolve to stand shoulder to shoulder with the armed forces in their ongoing fight against terror. Shah also urged the media to play a proactive role in eradicating terrorists from the country.

The PPP leader said that even Israeli state does not carry out such atrocities on Palestinians like the terrorist did to young kids yesterday at the school in Peshawar.

That’s from Dawn, “No distinction now between good and bad Taliban: Nawaz.” I mean, if they’re worse than Israelis, then we really have to fight them. Incidentally, the U.S. just normalized relations with Cuba. Any chance of Pakistan doing the same with Israel sometime soon?

I certainly wouldn’t go quite as far as Sherry Rahman does here, but I see her point, and it’s a nice counter-narrative to those handwaving claims one hears about the virginal innocence of the Taliban’s clean-handed apologists and sympathizers:

PESHAWAR: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Sherry Rehman said Wednesday that if anyone engaged in the apologist narrative when it comes to terrorism and terrorist attacks, they would be considered as terrorists and allies of the terrorists.

Time has come for a decision and anyone who presents justification for acts of terrorism will be regarded as a traitor.

“Whoever is a friend of the terrorists is a traitor,” Rehman said addressing media representatives in Peshawar.

Rehman urged that the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will not remain the victims and instead become those who will lead the war against terrorists.

Of course, taken literally, Rahman’s policy would require locking up large chunks of Pakistan’s judiciary. But I don’t think Rahman quite means what she’s saying–at least not as stated. It’s still the heat of the moment.

I leave you, finally, with a Word Press Editor’s Pick for 2014, written in October by Mehreen Kasana, a Pakistani graduate student at a school in Brooklyn.

On my way to class, I take the Q train to Manhattan and sit down next to an old white man who recoils a noticeable bit. I assume it’s because I smell odd to him, which doesn’t make sense because I took a shower in the morning. Maybe I’m sitting too liberally the way men do on public transit with their legs a mile apart, I think to myself. That also doesn’t apply since I have my legs crossed. After a few seconds of inspecting any potential offence caused, I realize that it has nothing to do with an imaginary odor or physical space but with the keffiyeh around my neck that my friend gifted me (the Palestinian scarf – an apparently controversial piece of cloth). It is an increasingly cold October in NYC. Sam Harris may not have told you but we Muslims need our homeostasis at a healthy level. While our bodies regulate our internal fanatic temperatures to remain stable, sometimes it gets a little too chilly so we pull out those diabolical scarves and wrap them around our diabolical necks and diabolically say, “Holy shit. It is cold today, Abdullah.” To which Abdullah replies, “Wallah. My ass is freezing.”

Reading her, you’d think that the act of wearing a keffiyeh in Brooklyn or Manhattan was a wildly rare and transgressive occurrence. It isn’t. But let me add one more “maybe” to the list: maybe this is the kind of thing that happens occasionally, that the author could very well be imagining, that doesn’t matter much even if it happened, and that is best ignored rather than inflated into the occasion of a self-pitying drama of grievance stretching back to Hiroshima, the Raj, and the Atlantic slave trade.

See if you have the discipline to make it through the whole thing. Kasana doesn’t want to apologize for Muslim atrocities. That’s fine. I don’t think she should, and have said as much in the past. But try as hard as you can to make coherent sense of her claim that there is no distinction to be made between good and bad Muslims. And feel free to enlist the help of the Mahmood Mamdani article she links to in her post to do so. Yes, I realize that she’s rejecting the “binary opposition” of Good and Bad Muslim within a specific narrative. But at the end of the day, what does she think is left of the ordinary distinction between good and bad Muslims? Should we throw it out? I don’t know a single Muslim who thinks so. Try to make sense of what just happened in Peshawar while ignoring the distinction, and reflect on the results. Hard to do. So why should any non-Muslim apologize for making use of it? No apology, so to speak.