Friday, April 29, 2005

Eastern Europe Goes Flat

While most of the oldest members of the European Union remain mired in weak economic growth and high unemployment, desperately trying to preserve their heavily regulated economies and overburden welfare states, the formerly communist nations of Eastern Europe are percolating with new distinctly capitalist economic ideas. To the great satisfaction of American magazine mogul and erstwhile presidential candidate Steve Forbes, one of the most popular ideas currently sweeping through Eastern Europe is the "flat tax" under which all taxpayers pay the exact same tax rate, regardless of income.

The European commissioner for taxation, Laszlo Kovacs, described flat taxes, - one rate for all income and corporate taxation - as "absolutely legitimate" and said Western European nations may be tempted to adopt them. His comments will fuel debate that low-tax, low-cost economies of the East are undercutting Europe's industrial heartland.

In place in Slovakia and the three Baltic states, which joined the EU last year, flat taxes are credited with helping them grow fast and creating thousands of jobs. French politicians have led complaints about "social dumping" and the risk to their employment and social standards. Others argue that such a regressive system, under which a millionaire and a road-sweeper pay the same rate, can never be fair.

Mr Kovacs, a former Hungarian foreign minister, said: "As far as the position of the EU is concerned, we consider it as absolutely legitimate because the EU does not tackle the issue of income and corporate tax rates.

"Four countries have introduced it and are satisfied, and they claim that it works properly. Some six or seven are considering flat taxes - that makes 10 or 11 member states that could introduce flat tax.

Still, the older economies of Western European countries, increasingly strangled by heavy regulation and the high taxes necessary to maintain their bloated welfare states, adamantly resist the notion of the flat tax and the economic dynamism it might represent. In France, opinion polls indicate the a majority of French voters may reject the proposed European Union constitution next month exactly because they fear that the EU may push for free market reforms that would liberalize their economy and sweep away much of the French welfare state. Germany's economy has become so weakened, with unemployment surging past eleven percent, that economists are increasingly worried that "Europe's largest economy could eventually end up as its economic backwater."

Ironically, the reason for Eastern Europe's relative economic flexibility and willingness to adopt new tax programs is the very inefficiency of the former communist regimes, which left little functioning economic programs or tax collection measures in place when they fell. The Eastern Europeans have had to build their economies from the ground up, unencumbered by the quasi-socialist thinking that plagues so much of Western Europe.

Former Communist countries were open to the experiment because they did not inherit sophisticated tax collection machinery. In 1994, Estonia pioneered the move when its prime minister, Mart Laar, took the plunge, to be followed by Latvia and Lithuania. Others jumped on to the bandwagon including Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and Georgia. Slovakia, which joined the EU last May, introduced a flat tax of 19 per cent on income, corporate tax and VAT, in 2003. Romania - to become a member of the bloc in two years - has followed suit.

In Slovakia, the experiment has gone hand in hand with a boom in foreign direct investment worth €2.29bn (£1.5bn)this year.

The central tenet of the flat tax is simplification. Wipe away the labyrintine maze of tax laws, loopholes and tax shelters, and you make it easier for people to comply with tax law, as well as making it easier for businesses to structure and plan their operations. The cost of tax collection and enforcement for the respective governments is also greatly reduced.

Dispensing with the need for exemptions and allowances, flat taxes rely on simplicity: all those whose earnings exceed a threshold pay the same rate.

Sometimes, revenues have increased because fewer people take the risk of evading lower thresholds and there are fewer exemptions for accountants to exploit. Applying a basic - if regressive -system also saves time for citizens completing tax returns and for civil servants.

Mr Kovacs argued: "The advantage is that it limits tax avoidance but also it is more simple, so it reduces the administrative burden and reduces the compliance cost. The disadvantage is the lack of progressivity in the case of personal income." The commissioner did not name the nations considering flat taxes, though Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland are known to be among them, and the issue has been raised in Cyprus and Malta.
Sadly, despite Steve Forbes' quixotic campaign, don't expect to see the flat tax come to the US any time soon. The allegedly "small government" Republicans who swept to power in Washington during the 1990s no longer care about reducing the size or scope of government, nor demonstrate even a feigned interest in fiscal responsibility. The GOP has become the party of "big government," massive pork spending, and fiscal lunacy. Meanwhile the entrenched quasi-socialists of France and Germany will stifle any market reforms in those countries, preventing the EU from becoming a great economic power.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Arizona Takes a Stand Against Mexican IDs

The Arizona legislature appears poised to finally take a definitive stand in defense of US territorial sovereignty and Arizona state fiscal sanity.
The credit card-size ID issued to more than 102,000 Mexicans living in Arizona soon could be useless for public business such as getting water service, library cards or help from community health centers.

The Legislature is expected to send Gov. Janet Napolitano as early as today a measure banning cities, towns and state government from accepting the Mexican ID cards issued by the Mexican Consulate as valid identification.

Known as matricula consular and considered to be evidence of Mexican nationality, the card is the latest legislative tool in the thorny battle over illegal immigration and Arizona's security. It has become an essential part of the daily routine for increasing numbers of Arizonans, primarily undocumented immigrants who can't get an Arizona-issued ID card. Many say they could not get by without it.
The matricula consular cards represent nothing less than promotion of illegal immigration to the US by the Mexican government. With an estimated six million Mexicans currently residing illegally in the US and over a million people illegally crossing the US-Mexico border every year, the role of the Mexican government in not only tolerating the abuse of US law, but actually promoting it, can only be seen as a profoundly hostile act.

Worse for Americans, the maticula consular cards constitute a serious breach of US security, which given the events of September 11, 2001, should be (but apparently isn't) unacceptable to US officials in Washington.
But critics say the cards pose a danger to national security because the information and identities on them may be false. They say terrorists could use the cards to establish themselves in the United States and acquire the services they need to live here until they could carry out an attack.

"The consular cards are notoriously unreliable," said Republican Sen. Dean Martin of Phoenix, who championed the bill.
Despite the Arizona legislature's efforts, however, the matricula consular cards are expected to remain popular among illegals because US business have come to accept them.
Despite the Legislature's push to restrict the use of the matricula, immigrants such as 32-year-old María Rabadan and 31-year-old Antonio Chavarria are jamming the Mexican Consulate in Phoenix seeking the ID card. Expecting her third child, Rabadan walked to the consulate this week to get an ID card she will use for doctor's visits and government transactions she will make as she settles in this country.

The two said the plastic card is the only legal document they carry as proof of identity. They use it for everything from getting water service and paying traffic tickets to opening bank accounts and traveling to Mexico.

The cards have become so widely accepted by the business community in Arizona that their widespread use is expected to continue even if the legislation passes. Bank of America and Wells Fargo are among the private businesses accepting the matricula card. Since November 2001, Wells Fargo has opened accounts for more than 500,000 Mexicans in 23 states, including Arizona, officials said.

Accepting the matricula has allowed thousands of Mexicans to move "from a risky cash economy to secured and reliable financial services," said Marilyn Taylor of Wells Fargo.

"We're making it easier, cheaper and secured for them to manage their money," said Taylor, adding that the matricula card is good enough for the company because it has a photo, an expiration date and a brief description of the holder, among other features.
Of course, Arizona's business community accepts these cards because there are so many illegal aliens living in Arizona that failing to accept the cards would cut the businesses out of a lucrative market. That alone should be a warning sign to Americans. The illegal population has reached such a level that it will eventually move beyond the ability of state governments to effectively control and govern. The US government should move quickly to ban the matricula consular cards and punish any US business that accepts them. The US government should also take strong measures to force the Mexican government to abandon the matricula consular cards and control its side of the border. Unfortunately for Americans, the Bush administration and the GOP leadership in Congress has no intention of doing anything of the sort. George Bush's GOP is willing to sit by and watch US territorial integrity disappear, American national security decline, and America's unique culture be destroyed.

Update: While Arizona tries to protect US law and sovereignty, Illinois is apparently about to move in the other direction.
A bill already approved in the Illinois senate by an overwhelming majority would make the document an official form of identification in Illinois.

Senator Martin Sandoval, (D) 12th district, said, “This bill isn't anything about immigration at all. Bill 1623 is all about law enforcement and national security.”
Mr. Sandoval must think Americans awfully stupid to even try such a blatant denial of the obvious intentions behind the bill. Apparently guaranteeing the free passage of millions of more illegal immigrants from Mexico is much more important to Mr. Sandoval than enforcing US law, or protecting the lives of American citizens. It makes one wonder exactly who Mr. Sandoval represents in the state senate and to which country he owes allegiance. Not everyone in Illinois shares Mr. Sandoval's enthusiasm undercutting American national security.
Senator Chris Lauzen from Aurora is an opponent of the bill. He said, “My concern with this legislation is that it gives a false sense of security, because it's a very official-looking document, yet certainly not reliable.”

More than 800 police agencies throughout the country accept the consular ID to identify people in their communities. Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and nine other states also accept the consular ID.

Deputy Consul General Aníbal Gómez said, “It is a document recognized by international practice, by international treaties, like the Vienna Convention of consular relations.”

The Mexican consulate in Chicago has issued about 400,000 consular IDs in the last ten years.

The consular ID cards bill is currently in the Illinois House where it is expected to be approved some time next month.

Pakistani Justice

The next time one hears a multiculturalist pontificate on how all cultures are essentially equal, with none being superior to others (especially not racist, sexist, imperialist Western culture), one might want to bring up the case of Rabia, a two year old Pakistani girl, who unfortunately represents a perfect case of why all cultures are not equal.
Chewing on a biscuit and gurgling with laughter, two-year-old Rabia plays with her elder brothers outside their mud-walled farmhouse, amid a sea of green wheat. The barefoot toddler flashes a smile as her first words tumble out.

But that innocence will be shortlived if local elders have their way, because Rabia is already promised in marriage - to a man 38 years her senior.

A village court determined her fate after her uncle, Muhammad Akmal, was accused of sleeping with another man's wife. After an hour-long deliberation, the elders found him guilty and fined him 230,000 rupees (£2,070). They also ordered him to marry his niece to the wronged man, 40-year-old Altaf Hussain, once she passed her 14th birthday.

Such village courts are very common throughout Pakistan. Until recently, their power was generally unchallenged.

Poor farmers still turn to informal justice systems, known variously as jirgas or panchayats, to settle disputes about land, honour and money. The courts have many attractions. In contrast with the plodding, expensive and often corrupt public courts, a panchayat can be convened at a few hours' notice in a house or under a tree. The gathered elders act quickly, cost little, and are unequivocal in their judgments.

But the justice rendered is often rough, say human rights activists, who say panchayats favour the rich, fuel old notions of bloody revenge, and perpetuate feudal inequalities.

"They nearly always decide in favour of the most powerful," said Rashid Rehman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in the southern city of Multan. "In these areas the people are living in the 16th century. And still the state is sleeping. Why?"

Panchayat decisions can be as bizarre as they are cruel. A panchayat in Lodhran district last year ordered seven women to divorce their husbands, in an effort to end a feud between two clans with marriage ties. Their 25 children were handed over to the fathers.

In another case, a woman claimed by two rival men had her fate decided by the flip of a coin. Panchayats are also central to the phenomenon of karo kari, or honour killings.

Oxfam estimates that between 1,200 and 1,800 women are murdered by their relatives every year in the name of preserving family honour. Many killings are sanctioned by village courts.

The most notorious "honour" case of recent years concerned Mukhtaran Bibi, a 29-year-old Punjabi woman who in 2002 was gangraped on the orders of her local panchayat.

She became an international human rights heroine when, in defiance of local custom, she confronted her attackers in court and had six men sentenced to death.

But an appeal court sparked a national outcry by freeing the convicted men, citing flaws in the original prosecution. Now the supreme court has said it will decide the matter.

But Mukhtaran Bibi's is an exceptional case - most panchayats go entirely unscrutinised. The weak writ of government in remote rural areas allows rough justice to thrive, according to Mr Rehman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Only the negative attention of the Western media and Western human rights groups has precipitated some effort by Pakistan to deal with the problem. Not that Western culture, with its emphasis on human rights and the equality of women is better than rural Pakistani or Islamic culture or anything like that. Perish the thought.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

UK School Chaos Shown in Documentary

A new documentary on British secondary schools, filmed by a teacher who returned to UK public schools after a 30 year absence, "shows pupils swearing in class, searching for porn on the internet, assaulting each other and refusing to co-operate with or respect their teachers." The teacher, who used the pseudonym Sylvia Thomas, used a camera concealed in a briefcase and a "microphone disguised as a jacket button."

Her experiences, chronicled in Classroom Chaos on Channel 5, will disturb parents who already suspect that their children are receiving a far from perfect education. At the end of her first day, the teacher describes how she went home and "sobbed my heart out, thinking: 'Is this what education has come to?' "

During an English lesson with year 9 pupils, which begins with several boys punching each other and swearing, a pupil responds to her attempts to discipline him by saying: "I'll come to your house and blow you up."

In another lesson, after several attempts to make pupils be quiet, a boy's voice can be heard calling out: "Suck me off, Miss."

A pupil aged 11 or 12 swears after being asked to be quiet and the teacher says: "Do not talk to me like that, please." He replies: "Don't talk to me like that - I've got my rights, you know."

American civil rights activists will be gratified to hear that. The ACLU has made sure that American school children can pretty much do or say anything they want in American public high schools without any real consequences - and certainly no chance of punishment. The result has been to transform American public schools into municipal sewers. Apparently, the same forces have been busy "reforming" British education as well.

Pupils drift into lessons, sometimes 15 minutes late. They use mobiles and hide under desks. They arrive with crisps and other food despite notices on the doors prohibiting eating or drinking during the lesson. They get up and leave lessons despite being told to sit down.

More than all the swearing and the disruption, it is the constant level of noise that may take viewers aback. When one class is silent and working hard, the teacher says she finds it "eerie" because it is such a change.

Of the six lessons that Miss Thomas teaches at one school, she estimates that pupils learn something in only two of them. The rest are lost to "low-level disruption" or worse.

Miss Thomas says that when she was teaching in large state secondary schools in the 1970s, "being cheeky" meant nothing more serious than whispering in the back row. During her recent experience she was shocked to discover that one school, which is not alone, had a police officer based on the premises.

When a boy is searching for pornography on the internet, he says to the teacher: "I just typed in anal, didn't I?" The police officer is summoned.

Nurses described how youngsters in parts of London were starting to take part in a practice known as "daisy-chaining" where they get together to have sex in groups.

Delegates at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) annual congress in Harrogate said the role of the school nurse had changed dramatically in recent years.

They also pointed out that the number of school nurses needed to double to make sure all children had access to their services.

The role of school nurses is often seen as providing immunisations and checking children for nits.

But now increasing rates of sexual disease, teenage binge drinking and drug abuse have widened their job description significantly.

Judy McRae, a sexual health nurse in London, said: "Colleagues are coming across reports of groups of young people having sex in large groups.

"It is known as daisy-chaining and is obviously very worrying as far as sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy is concerned.

"As we understand it, it involves groups of older teenagers going round to each other's homes and having sex in a similar way as swinging.

"It is very new and is only just starting to be talked about."

Impact of Immigration on US Studied

A new study by the Center for Immigration Studies draws some surprising conclusions about the impact of immigration, legal and illegal, on American demographics. For instance, it is generally assumed that most of the millions of immigrants to the US over the past two decades are young people, since younger people are more likely to uproot themselves and migrate elsewhere. Some immigration supporters argue that this has provided the US with an infusion of younger people, helping the US population remain relatively young, compared to that of Japan or Europe. But the study indicates that the effect of immigration on the average age of the US population is modest.
Even though the 20 years prior to 2000 saw the largest flow of new immigrants in American history, and almost 22 million of those immigrants still lived in the United States in 2000, the impact on the nation’s average age is very modest. This, of course, is not surprising because the average age of post-1980 immigrants in 2000 was nearly 33 years, which is not that different than the 36 years for the rest of the population. Mathematically, this small difference means that post-1980 immigration cannot have much impact on the overall average age of the country.
Turning to post-1991 immigrants, we again see a small effect on the average age. While post-1991 immigrants are slightly under 29 years of age on average, Table 1 shows that if the nearly 12 million post-1991 immigrants are excluded, the average age in America would be 36.1. Again, this compares to 35.8 when these immigrants are included. Thus, post-1991 immigrants have a slightly smaller impact on overall average age in America than do post-1980 immigrants. It must be remembered that although post-1991 immigrants are significantly younger than natives on average, they account for only about 4 percent of the total population. Even post-1980 immigrants account for about 8 percent of the total population. While recent immigrants may have a very large effect on some aspects of American society, their direct effect on the average age is very modest.
It should be pointed out that the average age figure for natives of 35.4 includes the U.S.-born children of recent immigrants. If the children of post-1980 immigrants are excluded, all of whom are under age 21 in 2000, the average age for natives would be 36.1 years. As for the overall population, if post-1980 immigrants and all of their U.S.-born children are excluded, the overall average age in the United States would be 36.8 compared to the 35.8 when they are included. In short, the average age in the United States is about 36 years with the 28 million post-1980 immigrants and their children, and without them it would have been 37 years. While average age is not the only way to look at the age structure of the nation, the results above make clear that immigration in the 20 years prior to 2000, including all of the immigrants’ children, has had only a very modest impact the country’s average age.
Immigration has had a more significant effect on the percentage of working age persons in the US. According to the study, excluding post-1980 immigrants, "64.6 percent of the population would be of working-age, 1.6 percentage points lower than the 66.2 percent when they are included."

The demolishes an idea, frequently cited by high immigration enthusiasts, that large numbers of immigrants - particular those from Mexico - will eventually bail out the nation's foundering social security system. Such advocates argue that the US needs the infusion of millions of young workers to offset the increasing numbers of elderly Americans drawing on the social security system. However, the study indicates that, even at its astonishingly high current numbers, immigration will have little impact on social security's ultimate solvency since the overall effect on the nation's working age population remains modest. In fact, the study determined that even a near halving of the current rate of immigration would have only a minor impact on social security.
Reducing immigration from 800,000 to 470,000 a year would be substantial. But relative to the enormous size of the program and its projected deficits, the effect would very modest. Even if one uses the percentage-point change in the actuarial deficit discussed above, ignoring the actual dollar value of the change, the difference between the 470,000 and 800,000 immigration scenarios is still only 0.12 percentage points (2.01 percent minus 1.89 percent) creating a relative change of just 6.5 percent. Thus a substantial reduction in legal immigration of 41 percent has only a small impact on Social Security, no matter what measure is used.
More interesting is the study's analysis of fertility trends. Fertility is declining across the developed world, most markedly in Japan, Europe and Russia, where birthrates have fallen so far below the replacement level (2.1 births per woman, on average) that the populations of those nations and regions is expected to shrink without immigration. But the CIS study suggests that, again, the effect of immigration is much more modest that most Americans assume. The study found that...
...that women in America ages 15 to 44 had a TFR (total fertility rate) of roughly 2.1 (2.069) and 66 births per thousand. Table 5 shows TFR for native-born women only. In 2000, native-born American women had a TFR of about 2.0 (1.98) and 63 births per thousand.15 Thus, the nation’s 31 million immigrants increased births per thousand in the United States from 63 to 66, or 4.5 percent. As for TFR, immigration increased births per woman by 0.09 (about 4 percent), from 1.98 to 2.07, a very modest effect. Without immigrants, American fertility would still be about two children per woman. Thus it is absolutely clear that the much higher overall TFR in the United States compared to Europe or other western democracies is not due to immigration. For example, of the 0.7 children per woman difference between the United States and Europe, 0.6 or 86 percent of it would exist even if there were no births to immigrants in the United States. Native-born American women, for whatever reason, have significantly more children on average than women in other developed countries.
Immigrants to the US do have a significantly higher birthrate, compared to native-born Americans. The study estimated that in 2000 the TFR for immigrants stood at 2.71, compared to TFR of 1.98 for native-born American women. However, given the size of the US population, the study concluded that "immigrant fertility is not sufficiently high to fundamentally change the nation’s overall fertility rate."

Of course, the study only calculates immigration's impact on demographic distribution. It does not examine its effect on culture. The large number of immigrants currently residing in, and still entering, the US may not radically reshape its demographic structure, but it will surely remold its cultural landscape, and not for the better. The massive influx of Spanish-speaking immigrants, many of whom do not assimilate into US culture and do not learn English, is creating a cultural and linguistic divide that is increasingly evident in America's largest cities (and increasingly in small towns). Spanish-speaking enclaves, provided with their own Spanish-language media and government agencies that conduct business in Spanish, only reinforce the tendency for many immigrants to opt not to learn English. The result is a nation increasingly divided by culture and, worse, by language. This will inevitably produce a rise in ethnic tensions that threatens the cohesiveness of America's already fragmented culture. Racial confrontations are increasingly common in US schools, a harbinger of unpleasantness to come. The study also did not examine immigrations role in financial ruining the lower class by driving wages persistently and sharply down. This affects American minority groups, especially African-Americans, most profoundly, further increasing racial tensions and dividing US society.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Scots Try to Save Turkish Women

Turkey has a problem. It desperately wants to enter the European Union. Unfortunately, Turkey's Islamic culture presents certain aspects that cause most Europeans to balk at the notion of integrating it into their liberal, Western transnational union. One of these problems is the enthusiasm among many Turks for "honor killings," in which women are murdered, usually by their own family members, for failing to live up to some standard of proper Islamic conduct. In the wake of 9/11 and the recent wave of Islamic violence across Europe (including the murder of Theo van Gogh in Holland), most Europeans do not want Turkey's alien culture added to their Union. In a desperate effort to combat it public relations problem, Turkey has turned to the Glasgow University in Scotland to mitigate the problem.

Human rights activists estimate that hundreds of Turkish women are murdered in honour killings each year. Behaviour regarded as "dishonourable" can include being a rape victim or resisting an arranged marriage. In one recent case, a girl was thrown off a rooftop by her brother for wanting to wear trousers to a family wedding.

The issue is a major concern among European Union members, which are monitoring human rights improvements made by Turkey in its attempt to join the EU by 2015.

Of course, the first suggestion from the Glasgow academics was a publicity campaign, designed to "raise awareness" of the issue.

A public awareness campaign launched last week - the first of its kind in the country - was the result of more than a year of work led by members of the Active Learning Centre, a small non-governmental organisation based at Glasgow University, which teaches activists how to co-operate with local authorities and to lobby on sensitive social issues.

Kate Phillips, a sociologist from the centre, said the campaign, which is being sponsored by the Foreign Office, would draw on British experience of combating violence against women.

"The Turkish police have had a tendency to step back and see honour killing as a cultural matter - or, in some cases, they may even know that one is about to happen in their town but wait until a crime is actually committed before stepping in," she said.

"Nowadays in Britain, issues of violence against women are normally dealt with by an inter-agency approach, involving social work, the police, housing, and local government - and we're trying to show that each can learn lessons from the other." However, there is deep-seated mistrust between the Turkish authorities and NGOs. Ms Phillips said that initial discussions she chaired were very tense, with police representatives standing at the back of the room and women's groups complaining that they felt intimidated. Eventually, they were coaxed into sitting down together.

Unfortunately for the Glasgow team, the cultures of Turkey and Britain are quite radically different, a fact most academics desperately try to avoid acknowledging - lest they have to pass moral judgment on a non-Western culture.

But prosecution is difficult [in Turkey]. Many honour killings are passed off as suicides. Some are never discovered because, in rural areas, many girls are not registered at birth and therefore "don't exist" on paper.

Another problem is entrenched social attitudes. In a recent survey, 37 per cent of men questioned said that they thought a woman who dishonoured her family should be killed.

"This is shameful, and we must assume the responsibility for this shame," said Ismail Baris, head of Turkey's social services.

Monday, April 25, 2005

World Turns a Blind Eye to Muslim Abuse of Women ... and Everyone Else, Too

Women's groups and human rights advocates have derided European nations for failing to address the violence and abuse directed against Muslim women living within their borders. The advocates allege that European governments deliberately overlook the foul treatment of Muslim women because of political correctness, fearing that any criticism of Muslim traditions and practices would seem like "racism."

"Western society tends to turn a blind eye to the plight of European Muslim women and girls because 'Muslim culture is different'," Roy Brown, president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU), told the 53-member [United Nations Human Rights Commission].

"Yet in Europe many women find themselves subject to domestic violence, undergo forced marriages or are even killed by family members because of some belief that they have tarnished the family honour," Brown declared.

That view was echoed later by three ex-Muslims and self-described atheists -- Somali-born Dutch member of parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Iranian exile rights activist Azam Kamguian and historian of Islam Ibn Warraq -- and French sociologist Caroline Fourest.

Hirsi Ali, who fled to the Netherlands in 1992 to escape an arranged marriage, told the news conference she condemned "the moral relativism in Europe whereby women from Third World countries do not enjoy the same freedoms as native European women enjoy."

Many Muslim women and girls "are forced to marry, have their genitals mutilated, are taken by their parents to their countries of origin against their wishes, sometimes even killed," she declared.

The horrible plight of women in the Muslim world has been extensively documented by various human rights groups. In recent years, many Muslim women across Europe have been the victims of "honor killings" by Muslim men who felt that they had run afoul of proper Muslim custom. The violent and occasionally public murders of such women are often greeted with enthusiastic support by other Muslims. Yet many European governments do not wish to even discuss the problem, much less take measure to deal with it among the growing Muslim immigrant communities across the continent due to politically correct orthodoxy under which only Westerners and Western culture can be the source of oppression and evil in the world and any criticism of non-Westerners and non-Western cultures must be immediately decried as "racism" or "imperialism."

"Liberal democratic governments are not interfering because they argue that that's their culture," she added.

Respecting cultural diversity is really a form of "upside-down racism," preventing immigrant women from enjoying the same freedom and protection as native European women, said Iranian activist Azam Kamguian.

While Europe pays lip service to universal human rights, it is in reality "bribing Islamic countries and Islamists to give up terrorism and then saying the rest is OK," Kamguian said.

By turning a blind eye to Islam's hostility toward homosexuality and Jews, European governments are buying "a one-way ticket to the Middle Ages," Hirsi Ali said.

A champion for Muslim immigrant women's rights in Europe, Hirsi Ali escaped a forced marriage in Somalia and fled to the Netherlands, where she became an interpreter for asylum seekers and then went into politics.

Last November, Hirsi Ali went into hiding for 10 days after she was threatened by Islamic extremists allegedly behind the slaying of filmmaker Theo van Gogh.

Hirsi Ali wrote the script for Van Gogh's movie Submission, which criticized the treatment of women under Islam and enraged some Muslims.

Conservative Muslim and radical Islamists, however, know well how to play off Western guilt and the idiotic, Western self-loathing that forms the ideological core of multi-culturalism and political correctness. They have pursued a coordinated media campaign to label any criticism of Muslim violence or barbaric cultural practices a "defamation" of Islam. The Islamists have even taken their PR campaign to the United Nations, an organization founded on the Western values of promoting peace, human rights and international law, attempting to silence the critics of Muslim violence and oppression by labeling them as "racists," a charge that can have legal consequences in Canada and certain European countries.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights called on Tuesday for combating defamation of religions, especially Islam, and condemned discrimination against Muslims in the West's war on terrorism.

The 53-member state forum adopted a resolution, presented by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), deploring the intensification of a "campaign of defamation" against Muslims following the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.


"Stereotyping of any religion as propagating violence or its association with terrorism constitutes defamation of religion. It unfortunately breeds a culture of hatred, disharmony and discrimination," Pakistan's envoy, Masood Khan, said in a speech on behalf of the OIC, which links 57 Islamic nations.

There was "a growing trend of defamation of Islam and discrimination faced by Muslims and the people of Arab descent in many parts of the world," he said, citing attacks on places of worship and religious symbols.

In a recent report, the U.N. special investigator on racism, Doudou Diene, cited examples including "Islamophobic violence" after the murder last November of Dutch film director Theo Van Gogh, and an "alarming number of expulsions of imams" in Europe.

Delegations from Cuba and China, which has been accused by rights activists of repressing its own Muslim Uighur minority, were among the countries to take the floor during the debate to back the OIC resolution.

"Islam has been the subject of very deep campaign of defamation. All you have to do is look at the films which have come out of Hollywood the last few years," said Cuba's delegate, Rodolfo Reyes Rodriguez.

Muslim terrorists kill thousands of people world-wide while enjoying the fawning support of thousands of Muslim clerics and tens of millions of ordinary Muslims, but anyone who questions the role of Islam in fomenting such violence amongst its followers is, ipso facto, a racist? Anyone who criticizes Islamic practices, such as female circumcision or public execution of homosexuals and women accused of adultery, is again, ipso facto, a racist? The intellectual legerdemain is astonishing. That Muslim nations would be so bold as to propose such a thing is alarming enough - but that a Western creation like the UN would seriously consider it with backing from the "U.N. special investigator on racism" should send chills running down the spines of every supporter of human rights and civil liberties world-wide. If this is what the United Nations has come to represent, then the time has come for the US to withdraw from it in disgust and drive its bureaucrats from American shores.

Fortunately, the proposed resolution failed when the US and European nations refused to support it. However, those "nay" votes cannot be read as a sudden defense of Western values since the US and Europe refused to back the resolution only because it was weighted to heavily in favor of Islam and didn't provide equal protection for other religions.

"This resolution is incomplete inasmuch as it fails to address the situation of all religions," Leonard Leo, a member of the U.S. delegation, said in a speech.

The Netherlands, speaking for the EU, said religious intolerance was a "matter of grave concern" within the bloc, adding that it regretted the EU had been unable to agree on a "more balanced" joint text with the OIC.

"Discrimination based on religion or belief is not confined to any one religion nor to any one part of the world," said Dutch ambassador Ian de Jong.
In short, the US refused to back the resolution, not because it stands for the right of all human beings to criticize the barbaric practices of any particular religion or be free from religious-inspired violence, but because the resolution wouldn't silence the critics of all religions. Consider this: the US voted against a bill meant to silence dissenters against Muslim oppression, a resolution that would eviscerate three centuries of Western political philosophy, a resolution that enjoyed (naturally) the enthusiastic support of China and Cuba, because it didn't go far enough. No defense of Western values was offered by the Western nations; no blunt critique of Muslim nations for tolerating, funding and protecting the very Islamists who murdered 3,000 Americans just a few miles south of the United Nations Headquarters, and have killed tens of thousands of others world-wide. No critique of Muslim culture for maintaining values and traditions inimical to democracy and the human rights the West labored for a thousand years to enshrine into law. If the Western nations cannot even argue a defense of their own values in a forum of their own creation against the forces of militant theocracy, what chance do Western values actually have? And what does that say about the men who hold office in the West?