theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer. katherine molé mfa ... art director

Monday, August 31, 2015

America: The Enemy Within

theodore miraldi.

We suffer a far greater collapse from the evil that has crept into our social systems than from any enemy outside our borders. What we have is nearly a total breakdown in social systems and the order of law.

There are now vast segments of our population that refuse to adhere to the silent oath of citizenship and civility. It is one thing to accept multi-culturism and respect others, what we are seeing are the effects of an assault on our institutions and the norms that most Americans cherish.

Our national will is being eroded by lawlessness in the streets and in the highest political offices.
The bazaar behaviors and decisions being made by our leaders are un-necessarily making life harder, not easier in spite of the rhetoric, and outright lying. How many more times must we endure elected officials denying wrongdoing in order to run out the clock on issues, like Obama and Clinton do as a matter of fact.

How long in the face of evidence must we wait for remedies, and solution to problems that have relatively simple solutions. When will the purveyors of hate and division finally take their medicine
and admit the truth.

In 1970 Alvin Toffler wrote Future Shock, making a salient point regarding Information Overload and our inability to analyze and integrate information at the speed in which it is created. How many would be left behind never to recover, or keep up. It seems to be following Orwell's 1984 masterpiece published in 1949 on Big Brother giving us a glimpse of what we would face if everyday life were run by Big Government, or Corporations.

 Are we facing the future, or looking into our past one more time?

How 150 classified emails got onto Clinton's unclassified server

The Mystery Deepens ...

The daily revelations over classified information finding its way onto Hillary Clinton's personal email server are raising perplexing questions for former government officials who wonder how classified information made its way onto the former secretary of state's non-classified server -- especially since the two systems are not connected. 
"It is hard to move classified documents into the non-classified system. You couldn't move a document by mistake," said Willes Lee, a former operations officer for the U.S. Army in Europe and former operations officer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 
State Department spokesman Alec Gerlach confirmed the two systems don't connect. "The classified and unclassified system are separate and you cannot email between the two," Gerlach told Fox News. 
The Clinton campaign adamantly denies any emails traversing Clinton's homebrew server were marked classified at the time. The intelligence community inspector general says "potentially hundreds" of classified emails may be in the mix, but acknowledges at least some were not properly marked. 
So if the Clinton denial is to be believed, individuals in her inner circle would have simply typed or scanned classified information into a non-classified system without regard for its contents. In this case, emails would have started in, and stayed in, the unclassified system -- albeit improperly, based on the findings of the intelligence inspector general. 
But if it turns out emails literally jumped from the classified to the non-classified system -- something the State Department claims cannot happen -- it would seem to point to Clinton's staff going to great lengths to create a work-around to do so. 
A government employee doing so would commit numerous felonies, according to Bradford Higgins, who served as assistant secretary of state for resource management and chief financial officer from 2006-2009. "A violation, in addition to criminal charges and potential prosecution, would likely mean that person who committed the breach would never again be given a security clearance," Higgins said. 
The State Department has indicated it sees no evidence of this criminal scenario. Classified documents are supposed to be marked, and State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters at an Aug. 13 briefing "we have no indications" any classification markings were stripped. Clinton's defense has been that the emails in question were later deemed classified, after they traversed her server. 
But Higgins is skeptical. 
"Emails don't change from unclassified to classified. The originator of the email decides the classification before it is sent out based on basic protocols, not subsequent readers," Higgins said. "I believe it would be highly unusual for an unclassified email to later become classified." 
Regardless of how it happened, Lee faulted Clinton and her staff. 
"It is not as if Hillary Clinton and her staff do not know the rules and the law," he said. 
"I think what it is going to come down to is very sloppy, unprofessional procedures," said Steven Bucci, assistant to former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and deputy assistant secretary of defense who is now at The Heritage Foundation. 
While government watchdogs looking into the Clinton emails say classified material was improperly sent or received, so far they have not publicly alleged that emails jumped between systems. 
I. Charles McCullough, III, inspector general of the intelligence community, and Steve Linick, inspector general for the Department of State, said in a July 24 statement that of 40 emails the State Department allowed them to review in an audit, four contained intelligence community-derived information that remains classified today. But the information did not contain classified markings or dissemination controls, they said. 
They said: "This information should never have been transmitted via an unclassified personal system." 
McCullough said, though, that "we were informed by State FOIA officials that there are potentially hundreds of classified emails within approximately 30,000 provided by Secretary Clinton." 
He reiterated that while emails they saw were not marked as such, some should have been "handled as classified, appropriately marked, and transmitted via a secured network." 
One of the emails that sparked the FBI probe was sent in April 2011 from Clinton aide Huma Abedin and covered intelligence from three agencies, Fox News first reported. Other emails that contained classified information came from diplomats with confidential material, according to the AP. 
Pro-Clinton super PAC Correct the Record, which maintained Clinton's use of personal email followed the precedent of other secretaries of state and she did not violate any laws, said in a recent statement that government agencies often classify information differently from each other and that "government agencies also are notorious for over-classifying material." 
Another security concern is Clinton attorney David Kendall's possession of thumb drives, which he recently gave the FBI. 
The State Department would not provide details on the documents given to Kendall. "Removable drives need to be approved," Gerlach said, adding that he cannot get into specific security requirements. 
Clinton and her staff may have had the ability to use thumb drives, but that would be unusual at the State Department, and it also defeats the purpose of a top secret computer, a classified printer, or what's known as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF), Higgins said. 
A SCIF is a room or building where classified material can be reviewed, designed and built so nothing electronic can go in or out except over secured lines. 
Higgins noted other differences in how classified and non-classified systems are handled. "At State, your classified hard drive sits in your safe and only comes out for occasional use and must be returned to the safe before you leave at night," he said. "Even printing out top-secret needs a top-secret printer, which is carefully monitored." 
He added, "As I recall at State, classified computers didn't have ports for thumb drives to download secret info." 
The security implication is clear, he said: "Everything on her server has been compromised."

The Populists

The New Yorker
Thomas E. Watson, the populist from Georgia who had a long and increasingly demagogic career in American politics, wrote in 1910:
The scum of creation has been dumped on us. Some of our principal cities are more foreign than American. The most dangerous and corrupting hordes of the Old World have invaded us. The vice and crime which they have planted in our midst are sickening and terrifying. What brought these Goths and Vandals to our shores? The manufacturers are mainly to blame. They wanted cheap labor: and they didn’t care a curse how much harm to our future might be the consequence of their heartless policy
 The objects of Watson’s bile were the Italians, Poles, Jews, and other European immigrants then pouring into the United States. A century later, in the populist summer of 2015, some of their great-grandchildren have been cheering Donald Trump as he denounces the latest generation of immigrants, in remarkably similar terms.

American populism has a complicated history, and Watson embodied its paradoxes. He ended his career, as a U.S. senator, whipping up white-Protestant enmity against blacks, Catholics, and Jews; but at the outset, as a leader of the People’s Party in the eighteen-nineties, he urged poor whites and blacks to join together and upend an economic order dominated by “the money power.” Watson wound up as Trump, but he started out closer to Bernie Sanders, and his hostility to the one per cent of the Gilded Age would do Sanders proud. Some of Watson’s early ideas—rural free delivery of mail, for example—eventually came to fruition.
That’s the volatile nature of populism: it can ignite reform or reaction, idealism or scapegoating. It flourishes in periods like Watson’s, and like our own, when large numbers of citizens who see themselves as the backbone of America (“producers” then, “the middle class” now) feel that the game is rigged against them. They aren’t the wretched of the earth—Sanders attracts educated urbanites, Trump small-town businessmen. They’re people with a sense of violated ownership, holding a vision of an earlier, better America that has come under threat.
Populism is a stance and a rhetoric more than an ideology or a set of positions. It speaks of a battle of good against evil, demanding simple answers to difficult problems. (Trump: “Trade? We’re gonna fix it. Health care? We’re gonna fix it.”) It’s suspicious of the normal bargaining and compromise that constitute democratic governance. (On the stump, Sanders seldom touts his bipartisan successes as chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.) Populism can have a conspiratorial and apocalyptic bent—the belief that the country, or at least its decent majority, is facing imminent ruin at the hands of a particular group of malefactors (Mexicans, billionaires, Jews, politicians).
Above all, populism seeks and thrills to the authentic voice of the people. Followers of both Sanders and Trump prize their man’s willingness to articulate what ordinary people feel but politicians fear to say. “I might not agree with Bernie on everything, but I believe he has values, and he’s going to stick to those and he will not lie to us,” a supporter named Liam Dewey told ABC News. The fact that Sanders has a tendency to drone on like a speaker at the Socialist Scholars Conference circa 1986—one who happens to have an audience of twenty-seven thousand—only enhances his bona fides. He’s the improbable beneficiary of a deeply disenchanted public. As for Trump, his rhetoric is so crude and from-the-hip that his fans are continually reassured about its authenticity.
Responding to the same political moment, the phenomena of Trump and Sanders bear a superficial resemblance. Both men have no history of party loyalty, which only enhances their street cred—their authority comes from a direct bond with their supporters, free of institutional interference. They both rail against foreign-trade deals, decry the unofficial jobless rate, and express disdain for the political class and the dirty money it raises to stay in office. Last week, Trump even denounced the carried-interest tax loophole for investment managers (a favorite target of the left). “These hedge-fund guys are getting away with murder,” he told CBS News. “These are guys that shift paper around and they get lucky.”
But the difference between Sanders and Trump is large, and more fundamental than the difference between their personal styles or their places on the political spectrum. Sanders, who has spent most of his career as an outsider on the inside, believes ardently in politics. He views the political arena as a battle of opposing classes (even more than Elizabeth Warren, he really does seem to hate the rich), but believes that their conflicts can be managed through elections and legislation. What Sanders calls a political revolution is closer to a campaign of far-reaching but plausible reforms. He proposes a financial-transactions tax and the breakup of the biggest banks; he doesn’t demand the nationalization of banking. His views might appall Wall Street, but they exist within the realm of rational persuasion.
Trump (whatever he really believes) is playing the game of anti-politics. From George Wallace to Ross Perot, anti-politics has been a constant in recent American history; candidates as diverse as Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama have won the Presidency by seeming to reject or rise above the unlovely business of politics and government. Trump takes it to a demagogic extreme. There’s no dirtier word in the lexicon of his stump speech than “politician.” He incites his audiences’ contempt for the very notion of solving problems through political means. China, the Islamic State, immigrants, unemployment, Wall Street: just let him handle it—he’ll build the wall, deport the eleven million, rewrite the Fourteenth Amendment, create the jobs, kill the terrorists. He offers no idea beyond himself, the leader who can reverse the country’s decline by sheer force of personality. Speaking in Mobile, Alabama, recently, he paused to wonder whether representative government was even necessary. After ticking off his leads in various polls, Trump asked the crowd of thirty thousand, “Why do we need an election? We don’t need an election.” When Trump narrows his eyes and juts out his lip, he’s a showman pretending to be a strongman.
There aren’t many examples of the populist strongman in American history (Huey Long comes to mind). Our attachment to democracy, if not to its institutions and professionals, has been too firm for that. There are more examples of populists who, while failing to win national election, extend the parameters of discourse and ultimately bring about important reforms (think of Robert M. La Follette, Sr.). Though populists seldom get elected President, they can—like the young Tom Watson and the old—cleanse or foul the political air. 

Professors threaten bad grades for saying ‘illegal alien,’ ‘male,’ ‘female’

  • Washington State students risk a failing grade in one course if they use any common descriptors professor considers “oppressive and hateful language.”
  • In another class, students will lose one point every time they use the words “illegal alien” or “illegals” rather than the preferred terms of “‘undocumented’ migrants/immigrants/persons.”
  • Multiple professors at Washington State University have explicitly told students their grades will suffer if they use terms such as “illegal alien,” "male," and “female,” or if they fail to “defer” to non-white students.
    According to the syllabus for Selena Lester Breikss’ “Women & Popular Culture” class, students risk a failing grade if they use any common descriptors that Breikss considers “oppressive and hateful language.”
    "Students will come to recognize how white privilege functions in everyday social structures and institutions.”    
    The punishment for repeatedly using the banned words, Breikss warns, includes “but [is] not limited to removal from the class without attendance or participation points, failure of the assignment, and— in extreme cases— failure for the semester.”
    Breikss is not the only WSU faculty member implementing such policies.
    Much like in Selena Breikss’s classroom, students taking Professor Rebecca Fowler’s “Introduction to Comparative Ethnic Studies” course will see their grades suffer if they use the term “illegal alien” in their assigned writing.
    According to her syllabus, students will lose one point every time they use the words “illegal alien” or “illegals” rather than the preferred terms of “‘undocumented’ migrants/immigrants/persons.” Throughout the course, Fowler says, students will “come to recognize how white privilege functions in everyday social structures and institutions.”
    In an email to Campus Reform, Fowler complained that “the term ‘illegal alien’ has permeated dominant discourses that circulate in the news to the extent that our society has come to associate ALL unauthorized border crossings with those immigrants originating from countries south of our border (and not with Asian immigrants, for example, many of whom are also in the country without legal documents and make up a considerable portion of undocumented immigrants living in the country).”
    “The socio-legal production of migrant illegality works to systematically dehumanize and exploit these brown bodies for their labor,” Fowler continued.
    White students in Professor John Streamas’s “Introduction to Multicultural Literature” class, are expected to “defer” to non-white students, among other community guidelines, if they want “to do well in this class.”
    In the guidelines in his syllabus, Streamas elaborates that he requires students to “reflect” on their grasp of history and social relations “by respecting shy and quiet classmates and by deferring to the experiences of people of color.”
    Streamas—who previously generated controversy by calling a student a “white shitbag” and declared that WSU should stand for “White Supremacist University”—also demands that students “understand and consider the rage of people who are victims of systematic injustice.”
    Later in the syllabus, Streamas goes even further and accuses Glenn Beck of being an “insensitive white.”
    Several other WSU professors require their students to “acknowledge that racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, and other institutionalized forms of oppression exist” or that “we do not live in a post-racial world.”
    Ari Cohn, a lawyer with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, told Campus Reform he considers such requirements to be contradictory, even given the sensitive nature of the courses.
    "It is notable that one of the syllabus provisions warns: ‘The subject material of this class is sensitive and controversial. Strive to keep an open mind.’ How are students supposed to approach these sensitive and controversial materials at all, let alone to keep an open mind, if they have to fear that a misconstrued statement, or one that unreasonably offends a classmate will lead to a grade reduction or even removal from class?"

    Neither Breikss nor Streamas replied to Campus Reform’s request for comment.

    What NYTimes Didn’t Tell You About Planned Parenthood Video Analysis

    Kate Scanlon

     The company commissioned by Planned Parenthood to analyze a series of undercover videos played a key role in 2012 to undermine Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

    Planned Parenthood hired Washington, D.C.-based Fusion GPS to examine videos released by the Center for Medical Progress over the past two months that have raised questions about the sale of fetal body parts.
    Fusion GPS’s analysis was critical of the “edited” videos, suggesting they “have no evidentiary value in a legal context and cannot be relied upon for any official inquiries,” such as congressional investigations.
    The New York Times was among several media outlets that pounced on the analysis. In reporting the story, however, the newspaper failed to disclose details about Fusion GPS’s past work. A report from the Weekly Standard noted that Fusion GPS is “an opposition research firm with ties to the Democratic party” that has “a history of harassing socially conservative Republican donors.”
    One of those donors, Frank VanderSloot, was a target of Fusion GPS’s work in 2012. As a donor to a PAC supporting Romney, VanderSloot was included on a list of supporters who supposedly had “less-than-reputable” reputations.
    Fusion GPS’s chief executive, Glenn Simpson, left his job as an investigative reporter at The Wall Street Journal in 2009 to launch a new company called SNS Global LLC. He said the newspaper industry was scaling back on investigative reporting, and his new company was an effort to continue to pursue investigations.
    “We’re going to try to do something somewhat new that is not going to be journalism, per se,” Simpson said at the Logan Symposium on Investigative Reporting at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism in 2009.
    “Myself and Sue Schmidt, my partner, have formed a private company to try to see if we can’t pioneer yet another new model to keep investigations going, to keep doing things in the public interest,” Simpson said. “We’re hoping that people who have an interest in bringing things out, to do something about corruption, fraud, will come to us. They don’t necessarily have to have completely pure motives, you know, frequently there’s people who are in business and they’re sick of competitors who cheat, and they want to see things exposed, that’s the sort of model for our new project.”
    In 2009, The Hill reported that Simpson, while with SNS Global, was a registered lobbyist for Sheik Khalid bin Saqr al-Qasimi. The New York Timesdescribed al-Qasimi as “a prince from the United Arab Emirates known for burning an American flag to protest the invasion of Iraq.”
    Simpson left SNS Global in 2010 and became the chief executive of Fusion GPS shortly after, according to his LinkedIn profile.
    Fusion GPS’s sparse website says the organization “provides premium research, strategic intelligence, and due diligence services to corporations, law firms, and investors worldwide.”
    The Daily Signal reached out to Fusion GPS for comment and didn’t hear back.
    In 2012, The Wall Street Journal reported that Fusion GPS was the firm behind an Obama campaign website called “Keeping GOP Honest.” The website exposed a group of eight private citizens who had donated to a super PAC supporting Romney’s presidential campaign.
    One of the individuals, VanderSloot, chief executive of Melaleuca, along with his wife, later faced an IRS audit that he suspected was tied to his inclusion on the list.
    “It’s scary to say the least, to have your president saying that you’re a bad guy,” VanderSloot told The Daily Signal in a 2012 interview.
    In a series of statements over a period of several weeks, spokesmen for Planned Parenthood have called the videos “heavily edited” and denied illegal conduct.
    The Center for Medical Progress, meanwhile, dismissed the Planned Parenthood-commissioned analysis from Fusion GPS.
    Three congressional committees and several states are currently investigating Planned Parenthood following the release of the videos. Profiting from the sale of fetal human body parts is a felony in the United States.

    Obama: I'm Personally Hurt When People Call Me Anti-Semitic

    President says he's "consistent with the best  of the Jewish tradition."

    Barack Obama is personally hurt when people call him an anti-Semite, the president said in an interview with the Jewish newspaper the Forward. Obama says "there not a smidgen of evidence for" the accusation.
    The editor of the Forward asked the president, "[D]oes it hurt you personally when people say that you’re anti-Semitic?"
    "Oh, of course. And there’s not a smidgen of evidence for it, other than the fact that there have been times where I’ve disagreed with a particular Israeli government’s position on a particular issue. And I’ve said before, and I will continue to say, that if you care deeply about Israel, then you have an obligation to be honest about what you think, the same way you would with any friend. And we don’t do anybody, any friend, a service by just rubber-stamping whatever decisions they make, even if we think that they’re damaging in some fashion," the president said.
    "And the good news is that the people I’m close to, the people who know me, including people who disagree with me on this issue, would never even think about making those statements. I get probably more offended when I hear members of my administration who themselves are Jewish being attacked. You saw this historically sometimes in the African American community, where there’s a difference on policy and somebody starts talking about, well, you’re not black enough, or you’re selling out. And that, I think, is always a dangerous place to go.
    "These are hard issues, and worthy of serious debate. But you don’t win the debate by suggesting that the other person has bad motives. That’s I think not just consistent with fair play; I think it’s consistent with the best of the Jewish tradition."

    Medical errors are up at VA hospitals

    Actually doing less to figure out why

    (Rich Pedoncelli/AP)

    Hospitals across the country are under growing pressure to reduce preventable medical mistakes, the errors that can cause real harm and even death to patients.
    But the Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs a massive system of hospitals and clinics that cared for 5.8 million veterans last year, is doing less, not more, to identify what went wrong to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
    A report out late Friday from the Government Accountability Office found that the number of investigations of adverse events — the formal term for medical errors —plunged 18 percent from fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2014. The examinations shrank just as medical errors grew 7 percent over these years, a jump that roughly coincided with 14 percent growth in the number of veterans getting medical care through VA’s system.
    Auditors said it was hard for them to know whether the decline in investigations (called root cause analyses) means that fewer errors are being reported, or that these mistakes, while on the rise, are not serious enough to warrant scrutiny.
    But the reason for the caution is itself disconcerting: VA officials apparently have no idea why they are doing fewer investigations of medical errors. They told auditors that they haven’t looked into the decline or even whether hospitals are turning to another system.
    The National Center for Patient Safety, the office in the Veterans Health Administration responsible for monitoring investigations of medical errors, “has limited awareness of what hospitals are doing to address the root causes of adverse events,” the report concluded.
    Patient safety officials are “not aware of the extent to which these processes are used, the types of events being reviewed, or the changes resulting from them,” GAO wrote.
    It added that “the lack of complete information may result in missed opportunities to identify needed system-wide patient safety improvements.”
    Auditors said the lack of analysis is “inconsistent” with federal standards on internal controls, which require agencies to look at significant changes in data. An adverse event is an incident that causes injury to a patient as the result of an intervention that shouldn’t have been made, or one that failed to happen, rather than the patient’s underlying medical condition. These kinds of errors are considered preventable, which is why hospitals and physicians are under pressure to put new systems in place or update their standards and procedures. They often result from a combination of system and medical errors.
    Some examples: Medical equipment was improperly sterilized, leading a patient or multiple patients to be exposed to infectious diseases. Surgery was done on the wrong patient, with the wrong procedure on the wrong side. A patient falls or is burned. A patient gets the wrong medication or the wrong dose.
    VA officials, in response to a draft of the report, generally agreed with its conclusions and with GAO’s recommendation that they get a better handle on why fewer root-cause investigations are done. The patient safety office has started a review that’s scheduled to be done in November. Officials acknowledged that while hospitals use other systems (such as the Six Sigma management method) to review medical errors, “these processes are not a replacement” for root-cause analyses.
    The report was requested by three leading Senate Democrats and two House members who are ranking members or serve on committees that oversee the VA, including presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.); Rep. Corrine Brown (Fla); Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (Tex.)
    Although they collected data from the entire system of 150 VA hospitals and clinics, auditors did a deeper dive at four: the Salt Lake City Health Care System; Robley Rex Medical Center in Louisville, Ky.; Southeast Louisiana Veterans Healthcare System in New Orleans and James E. Van Zandt Medical Center in Altoona, Pa.
    Patient safety officials told auditors that while they haven’t done an analysis of why there are fewer investigations of medical errors, they observed a “change in the culture of safety” at many hospitals. This is a revealing observation:
    “[Patient safety] officials stated that they have observed a change in the culture of safety in recent years in which staff feel less comfortable reporting adverse events than they did previously. Officials added that this change is reflected in [their] periodic survey on staff perceptions of safety; specifically, 2014 scores showed decreases from 2011 on questions measuring staff’s overall perception of patient safety, as well as decreases in perceptions of the extent to which staff work in an environment with a nonpunitive response to error.”
    Still, the number of reports of medical errors has been increasing.
    Root-cause analyses are launched depending on the severity of the error.  High-risk mistakes that seem destined to recur require investigations. Lower-risk errors are up to the discretion of hospital staff.

    How the Islamic World was Forged

    What made non-Muslims convert to Islam, leading to the creation of the Islamic world?
    Early historical sources—both Muslim and non-Muslim—make clear that the Islamic empire was forged by the sword; that people embraced Islam, not so much out of sincere faith, but for a myriad of reasons—from converting in order to enjoy the boons of being on the “winning team” to converting in order to evade the dooms of being on the “losing team.”
    Modern day Muslims and other apologists—primarily in academia, government, and mainstream media—reject this idea.  They argue that the non-Muslims who embraced Islam did so from sheer conviction; that the ancestors of today’s 1.5 billion Muslims all converted to Islam due to its intrinsic appeal; that the modern day coercion and persecution committed by the Islamic State and other organizations is an aberration.
    Of course, as mentioned, the primary texts of history are full of anecdotes demonstrating the opposite.  However, because ours is an increasingly ahistorical society, in this essay I endeavor to show that sheer common sense alone validates what history records, namely, that the Islamic world and its populace was forged through violent coercion.
    To do so, I will use Egypt—one of the most important Muslim majority nations and my ancestral homeland—as a paradigm.  I will show how a historic fact that Islam’s apologists habitually boast of—that there are still millions of Christians in Egypt (approximately 10% of the population)—is not proof of Islam’s tolerance but rather its intolerance.
    In the 7th century, when Islam was being formulated, Egypt had been Christian for centuries,[1] before most of Europe had converted.  Alexandria was one of the most important ecclesiastical centers of ancient Christian learning and, along with Rome and Antioch, one of the original three sees.[2]  Much literary and ongoing archaeological evidence attest to the fact that Christianity permeated the whole of Egypt.
    Writing around the year 400—roughly two-and-a-half centuries before the Arab invasion—John Cassian, a Christian monk from the region of modern day Romania, observed that
    the traveler from Alexandria in the north to Luxor in the south would have in his ears along the whole journey, the sounds of prayers and hymns of the monks, scattered in the desert, from the monasteries and from the caves, from monks, hermits, and anchorites.[3]
    And in recent times, both the oldest parchment to contain words from the Gospel (dating to the 1stcentury) and the oldest image of Christ were discovered in separate regions of Egypt.
    The question now becomes: what made such an ancient and heavily Christian nation become Islamic?  More specifically, what made the ancestors of today’s Egyptian Muslims—most of who were Coptic Christians—convert to Islam?
    For an objective answer to this question, a completely overlooked factor must be considered.
    In the 7th century, when Muslim Arabs overran Egypt, and on into the medieval era, religion was not something to be casually adhered to or changed as it is today in the West.  People of that era were true believers; there was no alternative narrative—no so-called “science vs God” claims.
    Whatever religion a person was born into was accepted with absolute conviction—despite the many movies that project modernity onto Medieval Christians. (Thus the focal character of Kingdom of Heaven, Balian, and all other Christian protagonists reject the “fanatical Christians” and exhibit a more open, tolerant, and “nuanced” view on religion, including Islam.  Such depictions are anachronisms with little grounding in history.)
    In Medieval Europe, the truths of Christianity were etched into the minds of all, from youth on up.  There was no doubt—because there was no alternative.  As historian of Medieval Europe and the Crusades Thomas Madden puts it:
    [T]he medieval world was not the modern world. For medieval people, religion was not something one just did at church. It was their science, their philosophy, their politics, their identity, and their hope for salvation. It was not a personal preference but an abiding and universal truth.
    In this context, to apostatize, to leave the Christian faith, especially for another creed, was the most unthinkable of all transgressions against one’s own soul—a sin that would lead to eternal damnation.
    It was of course the same with Muslims.  The point here is that pre-modern man took the religion of his people, his tribe, his world, very seriously—especially when such religions taught that failure to do so, or worse, to willingly apostatize, would lead to eternal hell.
    Put differently, even if Islam offered intrinsic appeal, the idea that pre-modern Christians were “free” to choose to convert—free of guilt, free of fear, free of existential trauma—is anachronistic and thus implausible.
    Again, Western man, who lives in an era when people change religions as often as they change shoes, may have great difficulty in fully appreciating this idea.   But it is true nonetheless.
    After writing that “Christians saw crusades to the east as acts of love and charity, waged against Muslim conquerors in defense of Christian people and their lands,” Madden correctly observes:
    It is easy enough for modern people to dismiss the crusades as morally repugnant or cynically evil.  Such judgements, however, tell us more about the observer than the observed.  They are based on uniquely modern (and, therefore, Western) values.  If, from the safety of our modern world, we are quick to condemn the medieval crusader, we should be mindful that he would be just as quick to condemn us [regarding our values and priorities]….  In both societies, the medieval and the modern, people fight for what is most dear to them.[4]
    If Europeans were this dedicated to Christianity in the medieval era, what of the Copts of Egypt who were Christian many centuries earlier?  Indeed, according to some historical sources, Egypt’s ancient Christians may have been especially tenacious in their zeal.
    What, then, made them convert to Islam in mass is the question before us?
    Is it plausible to believe that the primitive Muslim conquerors of Egypt did not discriminate against its indigenous Christians or pressure them to convert to Islam (even as Muslims do so now in the “enlightened” modern era)?
    Is it true, to quote Georgetown University professor John Esposito, that Christians “were free to practice their faith to worship and be governed by their religious leaders and laws in such areas as marriage, divorce, and inheritance. In exchange, they were required to pay tribute, a poll tax (jizya) that entitled them to Muslim protection from outside aggression and exempted them from military service.” (Rebuttal to this assertion here.)
    And yet, though left in peace and unpressured, Egypt’s original Christians found the new creed of sword-swinging, camel-riding  Arabs so intrinsically appealing that they willingly apostatized in mass from the religion of their forefathers—a religion that was so fundamental to their being, albeit in a way modern man cannot comprehend?
    In fact, common sense suggests that nothing less than extremely severe circumstances and hardships—persecution—prompted the Copts to convert to Islam.
    Of course, for the historian who reads the primary sources—as opposed to the mainstream works of fiction being peddled as “history” by the likes of Karen Armstrong and others—the above exercise in common sense is superfluous.
    For the primary sources make clear that, while Egypt’s Copts acquiesced to dhimmi status—constantly paying large sums of extortion money and accepting life as third class subjects with few rights simply to remain Christian—bouts of extreme persecution regularly flared up.  And with each one, more and more Christians converted to Islam in order to find relief.[5]
    One telling example: in Muslim historian Taqi al-Din al-Maqrizi’s (d. 1442) authoritative history of Egypt, anecdote after anecdote is recorded of Muslims burning churches, slaughtering Christians, and enslaving their women and children.  The only escape then—as it is increasingly today—was for Christians to convert to Islam.
    After recording one particularly egregious bout of persecution, where countless Christians were slaughtered, enslaved, and raped, and where reportedly some 30,000 churches in Egypt and Syria were destroyed—a staggering number that further indicates how Christian the Near East was before Islam—the pious Muslim historian makes clear why Christians converted: “Under these circumstancesa great many Christians became Muslims” (emphasis added).[6]
    Alongside these times of extreme persecution, the entrenched dhimmi system saw the increasingly impoverished Egyptian people slowly convert to Islam over the centuries, so that today only 10% remain Christian.
    Consider the words of Alfred Butler, a 19th century historian writing before political correctness came to dominate academia.  In The Arab Conquest of Egypt, he highlights the “vicious system of bribing the Christians into conversion”:
    [A]lthough religious freedom was in theory secured for the Copts under the capitulation, it soon proved in fact to be shadowy and illusory. For a religious freedom which became identified with social bondage and with financial bondage could have neither substance nor vitality.  As Islam spread, the social pressure upon the Copts became enormous, while the financial pressure at least seemed harder to resist, as the number of Christians or Jews who were liable for the poll-tax [jizya] diminished year by year, and their isolation became more conspicuous. . . . [T]he burdens of the Christians grew heavier in proportion as their numbers lessened [that is, the more Christians converted to Islam, the more the burdens on the remaining few grew]. The wonder, therefore, is not that so many Copts yielded to the current which bore them with sweeping force over to Islam, but that so great a multitude of Christians stood firmly against the stream, nor have all the storms of thirteen centuries moved their faith from the rock of its foundation.[7]
    The reader will bear in mind that although the above exposition concerns Egypt, the same paradigm applies to the rest of conquered Christian lands.  Today the whole of North Africa is reportedly 99% Muslim—yet few are aware that it was Christian majority in the 7th century when Islam invaded.  St. Augustine—arguably the father of Western Christian theology—hailed from modern day Algeria.
    Thus it is not an exaggeration to say that “the Islamic world” would be a fraction of its size, or might not exist at all, were it not for the fact that non-Muslims converted to Islam simply to evade oppression and persecution.  Once all these Christians converted to Islam, all their progeny became Muslim in perpetuity, thanks to Islam’s apostasy law, which bans Muslims from leaving Islam on pain of death.  Indeed, according to Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a leading cleric in the Muslim world, “If the [death] penalty for apostasy was ignored, there would not be an Islam today; Islam would have ended on the death of the prophet.”
    Which leads to one of Islam’s most bitterest of ironies: a great many of today’s Christians, especially those in the Arab world, are being persecuted by Muslims whose own ancestors were persecuted Christians who converted to Islam to end their own suffering. In other words, Muslim descendants of persecuted Christians are today persecuting their Christian cousins—and thus perpetuating the cycle that made them Muslim in the first the place.
    The long and short of all this is simple: Past and present, Islam has been a religion of coercion.[8]   More than half of the territory that once made up Christendom—including Egypt, Syria, Turkey, North Africa—converted to Islam due to bouts of extreme violence and ongoing financial bleeding.  The Islamic State and like organizations and Muslims around the world are not aberrations but continuations.  The violence, intolerance and coercion they exhibit—pressuring Christians to convert to Islam, compelling Muslims to remain in Islam—created and sustains what is today called the Islamic world.
    Not only do we have a plethora of original source material proving these conclusions, but sheer common sense demonstrates as much.

    [1] St. Mark began evangelizing Egypt in the middle of the 1st century.
    [2] That two of the three original sees of Christianity originated in what are now two Muslim nations—Egypt and Turkey—further speaks to the Christian nature of the Middle East before the Islamic invasions.
    [3] Abba Anthony, Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, Saint Anthony Monastery, March 2014, issue #3, p.6).
    [4] Thomas Madden, The New Concise History of the Crusades (NY: Barnes and Noble, 2007), 223.
    [5] As Muslims grew in numbers over the centuries in Egypt, so did persecution (according to Islam’s Rule of Numbers), culminating in the immensely oppressive Mameluke era (1250-1517), when Coptic conversion to Islam grew exponentially.
    [6] Taqi Ed-Din El-Maqrizi, A Short History of the Copts and Their Church, trans. S. C. Malan (London: D. Nutt, 1873), 88-91.
    [7] Alfred Butler, The Arab Invasion of Egypt and the Last 30 Years of Roman Dominion (Brooklyn: A & B Publishers, 1992), 464. One of the major themes throughout Butler’s book—which, first published in 1902, is heavily based on primary sources, Arabic and Coptic, unlike more modern secondary works that promote the Islamic “liberator” thesis—is that “there is not a word to show that any section of the Egyptian nation viewed the advent of the Muslims with any other feeling than terror” (p. 236):
    Even in the most recent historians it will be found that the outline of the story [of the 7th century conquest of Egypt] is something as follows: …. that the Copts generally hailed them [Muslims] as deliverers and rendered them every assistance; and that Alexandria after a long siege, full of romantic episodes, was captured by storm.  Such is the received account.  It may seem presumptuous to say that it is untrue from beginning to end, but to me no other conclusion is possible. [pgs. iv-v]
    Butler and other politically incorrect historians were and are aware of the savage and atrocity-laden nature of the Islamic conquests.  The Coptic chronicler, John of Nikiu, a contemporary of the Arab conquest of Egypt and possibly an eyewitness, wrote:
    Then the Muslims arrived in Nikiu [along the Nile]… seized the town and slaughtered everyone they met in the street and in the churches—men, women, and children, sparing nobody.  Then they went to other places, pillaged and killed all the inhabitants they found….  But let us say no more, for it is impossible to describe the horrors the Muslims committed…
    Not, of course, that the average Muslim is aware of this fact. Indeed, in 2011 the Egyptian Muslim scholar Fadel Soliman published a book that was well received and widely promoted in the Islamic world, including by Al Jazeera, entitled Copts: Muslims Before Muhammad.  The book makes theahistorical and anachronistic—in a word, the absurd—argument that Egypt’s 7th century Christians were really prototypical Muslims and that that is why Arabia’s Muslims came to “liberate” them from “oppressive” Christian rule.
    [8] If not in theory, certainly in practice.   See “Islamic Jihad and the Doctrine of Abrogation.”

    Source: Raymond Ibrahim