Monday, March 9, 2015

What to do with Returning Jihadis?

Laina Farhat-Holzman
March 7, 2015

Parents know that teenagers must make some mistakes in order to learn, and we always hope that the mistakes are small enough not to destroy their lives. For most of us, they are. In my own case, for my daughter, that was so. Hers were small. Not so for my son, whose experiments with drugs killed him.

For the good liberal non-Muslim parents whose children have gone to Yemen to “learn Arabic” and wound up converting to Islam and becoming Muslim, their choices turned deadly. These children either became killers and now rot in prison or were killed. For Muslim parents both in Europe and America for whom Islam was not the center of their lives, their seemingly integrated children were lured on the Internet or by traffickers in the Mosque to become either Jihadis or to become the ”brides” of Jihadis in the ISIS war zones. Their mistakes are not so easily undone.

What to do about these children if and when they try to return home does not have a “one size fits all” solution for antiterrorists. They fall into several categories.

o     The girls. Teen-age girls, I am sorry to say, must be chalked off. If they cannot be stopped before they leave, they will be lost to you. They will be impregnated, raped if need be, and will become second, third, or fourth wives in a Jihadi household. They will die with the entire household in drone strikes if lucky. If not lucky, they will be executed (stoned) if there is any indication that they try to get away or behave in any way sexually unfaithfully. Beating and involuntary work will be their lot.

o     The boys.     One can do no better than listen to the reports of those young men who have managed to escape the clutches of ISIS. One young man, too frightened to give his last name or show his face, told an AP reporter in Tunis (Feb. 4) about murders, abuse of female recruits, starvation of recruits, knife-threats by those demanding recitations of Koranic verses, and murders of 120 foreign fighters trying to return home that he had personally seen. ISIS makes it particularly difficult by keeping their passports.

     The first thing ISIS asks them is if they want to be fighters or suicide bombers. Some choice.

     Even if these youngsters escape, they get arrested in North Africa or their home countries, which understandably don't trust them.

o     Government Dilemmas. Yes, one must take no chances. We could assume that anybody who has gone to fight with ISIS is tainted and means us harm.  Arrest or execute them all, or refuse to let them back into the country. That could be the hard line approach. But then again, our culture does consider the story of the Prodigal Son. We do recognize that young people can and do make bad mistakes and can learn from them. The task is to determine which ones have---and which ones are still snakes.

For this you need to quarantine and do plenty of interrogation. France now has 150 returnees, and they think that about 3,000 already in country need surveillance.  Britain has arrested 165 returnees and Germany considers about 30 of its 180 returnees extremely dangerous. They cannot let down their guard.

o     Prevention. ISIS has shown how good media can be for propaganda and recruitment, but we can use media too. Show that horrible video tape they made of a young Jordanian pilot, a Muslim, being burned alive. Do interviews with the disenchanted young people who have escaped and who tell us how they were treated.  Do docu-dramas about how women are treated by these Jihadis. Make soap operas for their mothers. Do TV dramas about how prisons are used to recruit young thugs into thinking that being a Jihadi thug is an exciting option.

While you are about it, do some docu-dramas about wife abuse, about such cultural practices as honor killing, about the revival of using the earliest practices of Islam (hostage taking, decapitations, religious intolerance) rather than its highest values during its golden age, for Muslims to think about and discuss.

685 words
Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or    

Poor Jihadi John: People Picked on Him!

Laina Farhat-Holzman
March 7, 2015

“Jihadi John” has been identified as Mohammad Emwazi, a young immigrant from Kuwait, welcomed and reared as a privileged Englishman with a college degree in computer science from the University of Westminster in London. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

But let us look at the surprise that so many people express that this “nice, gentle boy” should turn into the monster whom we all saw taking pleasure in decapitating people (who had done him no harm) in a most theatrical fashion in video tapes meant for the world to see. He was fluent in Arabic and English and had a British accent recognizably from London and seemed well educated. He was also unwilling to show his face, as well he should be.

o     Educated? First of all, let us look at the notion that he was “educated.” A degree in computer science does not make one educated, at least not in my view. What sort of exposure did he have to history, literature, philosophy, western civilization, art, the very warp and woof of what makes western civilization the wonder of the world? Unfortunately, these things are no longer chic even among the academics of today's university world, leaving many young people without standards or roots, without understanding why we should love Western civilization. Emwazi never learned how to think.

o     Beliefs. Instead, Mohammad Emwazi was exposed to the poisonous world of the Internet where he absorbed half-baked Muslim “Belief” systems, beliefs that somehow Muslims should be ruling the world as they had done until the “Crusaders” took their power away from them. He absorbed “Beliefs” that the West was only interested in material things, not real values; that women had polluted the purity of the men's world and needed to be re-enslaved to their real purpose: bearing male children; that all the other religions with their arts and cultures needed to be destroyed and all arts before Islam must be smashed as idolatry. Burn the books, destroy the statues.

     “Beliefs” had replaced “thinking.”  Part of the Western notion of religious toleration is respect for religious beliefs, but we are now beginning to see the consequences of this. There must be limits to the toleration for beliefs when they affect life and death and are not reciprocated. Belief that a girl child must be killed when she “shames” a family by being seen with a boy, daring to choose her own husband, or a child or either sex decides to abandon Islam, must not go unpunished by Western law. Europe has been dealing with this for some time now and we have already encountered this too.  We cannot be tolerant of such religious belief.

We cannot tolerate religious belief masquerading as “freedom of speech” on the Internet that urges “troubled souls” (teen-agers) to run away and join the Jihad in Syria or, if they cannot do that, kill someone where they live.

Jihadis whose “belief” system mandates that they plant bombs in shopping centers must be stopped, arrested, and imprisoned. Their beliefs do not shield them from our law.

Muslim women whose belief system mandates that they wear total hijab and go about in public, drive cars, and get drivers licenses are in violation of public safety and must be so prohibited.  In violation, they must be arrested. Jihadi men have already resorted to burqas to commit crimes.

Jihadi John will be found and tried, if a drone does not find him first. He is a perfect example of a person who had every opportunity to have an excellent European life that he rejected out of own free will. Nobody picked on him. He had a choice of whether he wanted to be European or whether he wanted to be a brain-washed believer in a whining, unhappy Islamist“Belief System” that just could not get over being very behind the times, centuries behind the times, and very much in need of a reformation.

I find it difficult to feel sorry for him. All I see is a stupid sadist in need of a bullet between his eyes.

677 words

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or

Laina At the Movies

By Laina Farhat-Holzman
February 2015

Jupiter Ascending
This film can indeed be described as a “Space Opera”---a cross between a Space Epic and Soap Opera, with everything thrown in, or rather lifted, from Beowulf to techie futuristic space imaginings. It certainly provided me with an afternoon of escape and some great laugh-out-loud moments that I think were worth the whole more than two hours of sitting.

Most critics did not like it much, but some, such as the San Francisco Chronicle critic did like it enough to warrant my giving it a chance, for which I was glad. Even though it was a half hour too long and I could not really tell you half of the plot line, I left the theater happy and amused. I can tell you what I liked.

The movie opens like La Boheme: a couple of starving students, freezing in the snow in St. Petersburg, gazing at the stars where Jupiter is Ascending. A British astronomy student and beautiful Russian student fall in love, get married, and are about to have a baby whom the father insists must be named Jupiter---when the now usual Russian thugs burst into their garret to steal their money and shoot the father dead. The woman goes into labor and gives birth to Jupiter Jones and baby Jones and her family flee to America where they live in poverty, cleaning rich people's apartments.

Don't ask me why or how this young woman, Jupiter Jones, is of royal blood in a galaxy in which earth is a property among many planets and she is snatched and being fought over by some very strange intergalactic spoiled royalty, and being protected by some other very strange intergalactic warriors (one of whom is more genetically closer to a wolf than a human), but there it is.

This movie has intergalactic equivalent car chases (now rockets), good old dragons stolen from Beowolf (“you hurt me, you will regret that!”), a wedding ceremony pretending to be futuristic but looking like a space version of Westminster Abbey and involving a priest and gold rings, and the never ending nonsense of royal blood!  Bees never sting princesses, do they?

But if there is one reason to go see this movie, it is a scene when even a royal princess has to go through bureaucracy. A smiling diplomat steers her from one booth to another, each nastier and less helpful, each more reminiscent of bankers and airport passport people I remember well in Paris or worse still, in Athens or Tehran, until the final one, a Dickensonian horror wearing an eyeglass that magnified his eye like a Cyclops and he put something into an ancient machine that finally spat out a coin that then did something that printed an image on her royal wrist. Thank you, she purred. I was nearly on the floor laughing.

The final treat was that this movie gave us the first interspecies romance. Ah, lovely.

50 Shades of Grey

Yes, I really did see this because I wanted to review it, not because I thought it would turn me on. It did not do so. I saw Deep Throat many years ago for the same reason with a school teacher friend, and we both laughed at the heavy breathing around us and looked around as we left the theater hoping not to be recognized by anybody we knew. This time, the only other people in the theater were a couple of elderly ladies and one man, and nobody breathed heavily. Times have changed.

Alas, this really could have been a sweet love story, like Sleepless in Seattle, if it didn't have the utterly unnecessary tip-toeing around some S & M sexuality it did not need. Two charming young people, a young billionaire (Jamie Dornan) in his late 20s and a fresh-faced and bright young new graduate college graduate (and an English major to boot) (Dakota Johnson) meet and cannot stay away from each other. They have rather rare sexual problems, however: she is a virgin (almost unheard of these days) and he “doesn't do romance; he does dominance and submission.” My goodness!

He tenderly and adeptly resolves her problem and the movie could have ended right here---with him breaking all his rules---sleeping in bed with her and watching with pleasure her making breakfast for him---and even thinking of taking her out to dinner and a movie “like regular people”---but then comes his problem: the need to reassert the dominance business, a contract, and the play room with its whips and cuffs and, as he acknowledges in a moment of candor, his 50 shades of f---ed up.  Yes indeed.

To complicate things even more, she has the folly of falling in love with him, and he, despite all his resistance to the very thought, does do romance. He is falling in love with her too. We will have to wait for the second and third movies for this to get resolved.

For all the nudity and nonsense, this is not a porno movie, it is just silly. And the S&M keeping this couple from getting together is just another impediment no different from, let us say, snobby 19th century class differences in Jane Eyre.  Perhaps I am missing something, but bondage and whips just do not look like fun to me. Fooey.

McFarland, USA
Kevin Costner at 60 can still bring me into a movie theatre no matter what he does, even in a sports movie. And in a true confession, even married to a one-time Stanford University Baseball Coach as I am, I never once saw a college game. I get my sports in the movies. This time, the sport was cross country, and the movie was not only about a high school cross country team, but one in a most unlikely place, a sun scorched California central valley Hispanic backwater filled with families and kids with little hope of any future other than field work.

This true story was about a coach with no more options, exiled to the last possible place, having been fired from every other job he had for his impatience and bad temper with the spoiled darlings he failed to motivate. So here he was in McFarland with his ever-loving wife and two young daughters, forced to try to make the best of it.

McFarland seemed like a foreign country. Chickens, an inscrutable Mexican-American culture, a surly-seeming student body---but then, bit by bit, people warm to him---and he to them.

(For those of you who do not understand the Mexican-American low-rider car culture, go see this movie. It will explain a lot. It is not as menacing as you thought. It has great charm.)

He sees a talent that seems native: long-distance running, and realizes that some of these young men get up at four in the morning, pick crops, go to school, and are willing to form a cross country team under his coaching (a sport he never taught before) and they go on to compete state wide in competitions that change everything.

I love movies like this. I am a sucker for hope.  I am a sucker for my country's opportunities.  I am a sucker for feeling proud. My snooty artsy-fartsy movie-going friends can go to movies that depress them.  I like this kind, thank you.

While Europe Slept: Denial of the Islamist Threat

Santa Cruz Sentinel
Laina Farhat-Holzman
February 28, 2015

Winston Churchill wrote a book in 1938 called While Europe Slept that impressed young John F. Kennedy so much that he made it his senior thesis in school in England while his father was US Ambassador there. His thesis was published as his own book in 1940. Both books were intended to rouse both countries to the threat of Nazi Germany that pacifists were determined to resist.

Europe lost an entire generation of young men in a meaningless fratricidal war between 1914 and 1918. It seemed impossible that a century of great modernization, technological progress, scientific advances, and nation states knit together by ruling families so intermarried that they all had one grandmother (Victoria), that war could happen. Yet a ridiculous little quarrel erupted into a war that no one of them could win until three empires collapsed (Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Ottoman).

Europeans were bloodied and tired. They did not want to even want to hear that some new rats were climbing out of the sewers again, ready to put on uniforms and create new empires. The Russian Empire might have fallen, but the Communists wasted no time in reclaiming all the lost territory under a new Communist Russian Empire. The Austro-Hungarian Empire fell, but the Nazis marched into Austria and Czechoslovakia and reassembled the Austro-Hungarian Empire on their way to an even bigger Nazi German Empire. Italy imagined a new Rome, they took Albania and (would you believe) Ethiopia. Yet the British and French (and Americans) slept until it was almost too late. Events intervened and they had to wake up and go to war to save Europe, Asia, and the world. Western civilization was worth saving.

Despite repeated lessons from history, there are those among us, such as Libertarian Ron Paul, who think that if you leave others alone they will reciprocate.  Hitler never intended to keep his peace pact with Chamberlin, nor with Stalin. Clearly nothing short of unconditional surrender, not another Armistice this time, would end World War II.

After World War II, Western Europe was once more tired and it pretty much slept. The US stepped in and provided an umbrella against Russian aggression. Had it not, all of Germany, France, and Britain would now be speaking Russian, eating Kasha, and sporting steel dentistry.

With a shortage of labor, Europeans welcomed cheap labor from Turkey, North Africa, Pakistan, Iraq, and Kurdistan, assuming they would be guests who would come and go home. They did not. They stayed, and brought their religion (Islam) and customs (oppressive) with them and were relegated to slums where no one demanded that they be integrated into the host cultures.

The “multicultural” model is wonderful for food. It is not wonderful for treatment of girls and women (wife beating, genital mutilation, child marriage, rape). Muslim immigrants resisted the values of the host countries and were pushing to make their own laws (Sharia) an alternate system. Sharia represents everything that Western law opposes. It cannot be an alternate system. There was pushback when young women began to die at the hands of their families. Now militant cells are erupting, theatening European core values.

It is not acceptable to murder cartoonists for making fun of one's sacred cows. One does not need to tiptoe around noting that Islam has a murderous side. This does not mean that it is a murderous religion, but it is not a religion of peace either. Muslims in the West are going to have to decide: assimilate or leave.

The point is that years ago, people such as Mark Steyn: America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, (2006) warned that Europe was asleep to the danger of an internal menace. He was called an Islamophobe rather than a Paul Revere. The Multiculturists were wrong. Belgium is now awake, as are France, Canada, Australia, Britain, and the US. There is a global conflagration, and there is such a thing as an Islamic State. It calls itself just that, Islamic, and a State. It has delusion of grandeur. Delusions go before a fall.

677 words
Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or

Annual Darwin Awards

February 21, 2015
Laina Farhat-Holzman

Every year, I gather up notes on people so stupid that they should not add to the human gene pool. Alas, they do, but I would wish they wouldn't. Some of them are low hanging fruit, very obviously defective, but others really shouldn't be on this list at all. They ought to know better.

o     Boko Haram. Let us start with the low hanging fruit, which usually comes from the Muslim world. Boko Haram means: Western Learning is Forbidden. They believe the world is flat and water does not evaporate. They wave the Koran in the air (which they cannot read) and claim this makes them Muslim. Their talents include kidnapping schoolgirls and selling them in slave markets, which Sudanese Muslims run. They are also expert in decapitation and holding tourists for ransom. May they not reproduce and hopefully die off.

o     United Arab Emirates.   Their “General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment” issued a fatwa prohibiting any attempts to live on Mars as “un-Islamic.” Not that they have the capacity to do so, but “Such a one-way journey poses a real risk to life that can never be justified in Islam.” Let it be so.

o     Pakistan. Police booked a 9-month old baby boy for attempted murder, charging him along with his family, who happened to be poor. The baby cried when he was fingerprinted, and a good lawyer intervened when he took it to the press and the world laughed at them. Such is Pakistani justice. The attempted murders were slum dwellers throwing stones at the gas service trying to disconnect homes illegally hooked up.

o     Also Pakistan.  Two brothers were arrested for the second time because they dig up bodies, cook, and eat them. Pakistan has no law against cannibalism. But they do have laws against women, sentencing to death a woman accused of illegal sex. Much more important, they say.

Now, to the much higher hanging fruit, our own recent battle against the very science that has made our western civilization so wonderful!  Our public health: safe water, clean air, modern medicine including pasteurization, safe drugs and surgical practices, childhood immunization, the end to childhood diseases that used to terrify and kill us-----all under threat by not only Darwin Award candidates in the Muslim World but by our own, who should know better----this the stuff of nightmares!

Very stupid and evil Muslim clerics have been responsible for halting the program that came close to eradicating polio and even smallpox from the world forever. They have told ignorant women that Western medicines were plots to make their children sterile! They have murdered health workers bravely going into remote villages bringing the medicines that would let their children grow into healthy adults. Now, there will be another generation of dead or cripples haunting their villages. That is just fine with them.

But where can I put western educated women who read articles on the Internet touting a British article by a defrocked and disowned doctor who claimed in a stupid study that childhood inoculations cause mental retardation and autism? A mother might be frightened, but what is the matter with her doctor who does not tell her in no uncertain terms that this is rubbish! And even worse, what is wrong with the politician, such as New Jersey Governor Christie, who has the nerve to say that “Parents deserve choice” when it comes to a matter of public health?  Choice?  What kind of choice do they have over an issue that affects the entire community?  Do they have choice over water supply?  Over life or death of their neighbors' babies?

What is happening here is an attack on science. Some Darwin Award candidates have decided that Pasteur was wrong. There are no germs. There is no Global Warming, and even when the water rises under their noses, they will say science is wrong. Measles is a kiddie disease. Why the fuss? The moonshot was a conspiracy made on a back lot in Hollywood. Well, folks, ISIS is looking for recruits. They will welcome you.

675 words

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or    

Human Trafficking Numbers Are Spun From Fantasy

Santa Cruz Sentinel
Laina Farhat-Holzman
February 14, 2015

The subject of Human Trafficking is appearing in the press this month largely because of the Foreign Policy Association's  “Great Decisions Program.” Sixty Minutes ran one dispiriting feature of a human rights official in Northern India trying to get enforcement from indifferent police to raid a prostitution ring.  It seems that the reluctant police warned the fathers in advance, fathers who were the pimps selling their own daughters.

Years ago, a reporter in Lagos, Nigeria saw a busboy from the hotel filling water bottles from a city tap. “What are you doing!” he said in alarm. “You foreigners like your waters in bottles,” said the boy. The reporter then understood why they all got so sick.  Hearing this story, I then understood that just as we think water in bottles is safe, we think that because something is in numbers, it is real.

The Great Decisions casebook that came from New York this year was full of charts and numbers in the chapter on human trafficking that cannot possibly have been gathered from reality. You cannot convince me that anybody can go around in a Muslim country door to door asking how many women in the household are slaves from Bangladesh! Nor has anyone gone into the combat zone where Boka Haram has murdered civilians or sold kidnapped girls at a slave market and counted bodies or counted slave sales. Where are they getting these numbers?

How do we know the casualties in the Democratic Republic of the Congo civil wars?

How do we know how many Muslims there are in the world?  Who is providing those numbers? Propagandists?  Do we really know the population of Afghanistan? Is a census being taken? Do we really know life expectancy?

In the West, where census taking is the most reliable, does “religion” ever appear on the census or do we politely shy away from such a rude question? In the United States, when we do try to find out how many people go to church on a Sunday, people say one thing, and when someone goes around counting cars in a church parking lot, we find far fewer cars than we would expect.  What does it mean when one says that one is a Christian, or a Jew, or a Muslim even in the Western world? And what does it mean in Indonesia or Saudi Arabia or Iran? What does it mean in Tehran or an Afghan village?  Do the numbers that someone spins mean anything?

Is human trafficking going on around the world?  Indeed it is.  How do we know this? We know it by the escapees. We know it by the occasional and much-too infrequent arrests.  We know it by the horror stories and by the horrific amounts of money that appear to be involved in this illegal trade. Somebody is making fortunes out of the misery of others, and we do know what the elements are. The majority of victims appear to be women and children, who are always the most vulnerable, and their uses are mostly forced labor and sex.

Every region of the world is tainted by this trafficking, and it is shameful! Africa, India, and the Middle East appear to be the most abusive, but the Russians have the longest history of exploiting women sexually (their history of this goes back centuries of providing blonde beauties from the Caucasus to the Muslim harem slave markets).  One new and horrific market is providing kidneys, needless to say, not voluntarily.

Are we including in the notion of “trafficking” the handing over of underage children as “brides?”  The pictures of underage little girls in mass “weddings” that appeared in a recent National Geographic taking place in Yemen certainly looked like trafficking to me.  Money certainly changed hands, and the terror on the faces of the children spoke volumes.  But who's counting.

Is anyone counting the little boys offering up their bodies to tourists in Central America or Egypt or Thailand?

I suggest that we fall out of love with numbers and start asking where these fake numbers come from. Is “60 Minutes” listening?

684 words
Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or    

Victimization Has Become Chic---Diluting the Message.

Laina Farhat-Holzman
February 7, 2015

Our country is wallowing in the blame game with endless demonstrations protesting injustice. It is said that Black youth are being unfairly persecuted by police---and too often becoming victims in police shootings. Nobody is protesting the murder of Black youth by Blacks.

That we have had 300 years of injustice to Blacks through slavery and after that Southern Jim Crow and northern inner cities cannot be denied. However, the past fifty years has produced a revolution in race relations---something once thought impossible in this country.

It is no longer against the law for Blacks to marry Whites, and biracial couples have become common enough to evoke no reactions. We have a biracial president. Even under slavery, there were those who served as pastors, were literate, and played an enormous role after emancipation in helping urban Black populations to join the ranks of the literate and professional. There are today many Black millionaires: athletes, actors, inventors, corporate executives, and doctors and lawyers. They live well integrated into white communities of like wealth. The former community laws banning Blacks are gone.

Absent from this prosperity are Black people living in the inner cities, along with new Asian or Hispanic shopkeepers just beginning their own upward mobility. Black inner city youth so often targeted by police are not, as demonstrators profess, innocent. Many have been born to young single mothers; have had no responsible father figure; no Black professionals to emulate (they have moved to better communities); do badly in school; and wind up unemployed and unemployable. Criminal activity appears to be the only outlet, hence the presence and hostility of the police.

These young men are not stupid; it takes considerable mental agility to stay alive in the drug and prostitution trades. But those who have been lucky enough to be admitted into burgeoning Black academies, boarding there and being taught study habits and behavioral responsibility, are largely going to college and are on the way to middle class or better American life. This model should be multiplied if we ever want to empty inner cities.

Across the country following several unfortunate police shootings of Black youth with police not found guilty by Grand Juries, the press and organized demonstrators are not addressing what could make things better; they only revisit the bad history. Indeed, community policing on foot is needed. Trust must be built between the police and the inner city populations who are themselves being victimized by criminal youth. And the tradition of "gangsta chic" must end. It is a dead end.  The boarding school model is really needed here. The only other model substituting for solid family or community values is gang culture. Not a good choice.

History of Prejudice.
The Irish first to arrived in the young US (1840s) and they came in sheer desperation during the Irish potato famine. They were relegated to the lowest jobs, housemaids for women, railroad building labor for the men. Signs banning the Irish from restaurants or jobs appeared everywhere.

What did the Irish do then? They joined the most dangerous institutions: police and fire-fighting and thrived. They next engaged in politics and emerged running a number of major cities.

Jews arrived from Europe in two waves: literate German Jews fleeing the 1840's abortive revolutions and later hordes fleeing Russian pogroms and government persecution. The German Jews went west with the Gold Rush and became the founding parents of San Francisco, where they lived without prejudice. The Russian Jews were initially less lucky. They wound up in ghettos in New York, working in sweatshops, but within a generation, sent their children to college. Jews, like the Irish and Blacks, were not permitted into certain clubs, neighborhoods, or faced quotas in universities (as the Chinese have done). But this is gone today.

None of these groups demonstrated, whined, or burnt down their neighborhoods, even under provocation. They aspired to something better and they succeeded. Isn't this a better model than anarchy?
Note: Everything said here applies to Muslims in France too.

671 words
Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or    

Laina At the Movies

By Laina Farhat-Holzman
January 2015

Into the Woods
Meryl Streep playing a fairy tale witch and singing her heart out is one of the best reasons to see this film version of the Steven Sondheim musical, but not the only reason. Fairy tales are not just for children; the original versions of the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales reflect how brutal life really was in Medieval Europe and contain Indo-European myths much older than Christianity.

Watching this movie on New Year's Day with my once-a year movie going husband, I noted that he did not instantly fall asleep (triumph!) but that both of us grew restless during the last half hour of this 2-hour film. I would have been perfectly happy had it ended with “happily ever after,” but thinking about it later, I realized how many splendid layers this film had.

One clever thing was to group six of the most familiar tales into one story: having a childless couple who were village bakers longing for a child (Thumbelina?); a witch who had carried out a vendetta against the baker's father by making off with his little sister (Rapunzel); Little Red Riding Hood encountering a wolf in the forest (cautionary tale); Cinderella longing to go to the Prince's ball; and Jack, a cheeky peasant boy climbing the beanstalk to steal from giants. In this film, they all live in the same village and have an intertwined adventure.

The layers in the mythology include differing venues: village life; an impoverished farm; a royal city; dangerous woods that represent the world of nature; and a place in the sky where giants live.

All the characters wish for something that they do not have: a baby (the bakers): enough to eat (Red Riding Hood, her granny, and the wolf); enough money to buy back a favorite cow (Jack); marriage to a prince (Cinderella); release from the tower (Rapunzel); and keeping her child safe from the world (the witch).

Children were another key concern. In Medieval life, the death of babies was so common, even among the upper classes, that mothers did not want to get too attached to a child who might die. They were sent away to be cared for by others (the witch and her adopted baby). And children who survived gave their parents concerns. Red Riding Hood (her red color representing puberty, perhaps) was warned not to talk to anyone in the woods, but she does talk to a seductive wolf. Jack's mother was concerned that her child was dim witted; He sold their cow for a handful of beans, which turned out to have good and bad consequences.

Another issue is the sad life of widows: the witch (many old women were considered witches); Jack's mother, widowed and very poor, despairing over her feckless son; and Red Riding Hood's granny, living alone in the forest, and dependent upon her granddaughter for food.

The reality of Medieval life was the frequency of famines; food was a real issue. Merchants traveling alone in the woods often wound up in the next town's butcher shop as “white meat.” Little Red Riding Hood was always hungry, as were Jack and his mother, whose cow no longer gave them milk. And, of course, the wolf, who never ate his full. An old lady and a little girl are not much of a meal.

And who were the giants (ogres) living in the clouds from whom Jack stole treasures? They were the calamities that beset Medieval Europe: war, famine, and climate change (the “Little Ice Age,” 500 years of misery for Europe.

Finally, there is always the issue of wishes. Do we get our wishes answered, will we like them when we do, and what to they cost us? The last half hour of this movie dealt with that issue. The goody-two-shoes in me would have preferred to drop that issue.

This was indeed an “epic drama” that followed the incredible life of an Olympic runner and war hero, Louie Zamperini. It followed not only his survival on a life raft when his plane crashed in the Pacific, but also his internment when “rescued” and interned by the Japanese Navy in what had to be the most miserable experience a human being could possibly have survived. For two hours and 17 minutes, I sat through what I could only call torture porn. I cannot believe that a human body could survive what that man could have endured, and disbelieved that he looked as well as he did when he returned home to marry his sweetheart. I was also enraged that his Japanese torturer was not executed, and left the theater convinced that anybody who thought that the nuclear bombing of Japan was wrong should see this film. What was Director Angelina Jolie thinking!!!!

Taken 3
This entire movie could have been aborted if the chief of detectives (played coolly by Forest Whitaker) had realized then that his chief suspect Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) could never have slit the throat of his ex-wife in his own bed and yet gone out and brought back still-warm bagels. It just would not have happened. He never thinks to ask until well into the movie what Mills does for a living (a retired secret agent who knows how to disappear). But then, there would not have been such a breathtaking and much-too-long chase through Los Angeles freeways, from amazingly easy unclogged East L.A. all the way to the Malibu Canyon.  Car chases with no end! Enough to make Angelinos jealous!

And this time, Neeson who in past movies has had to rescue his daughter and his ex-wife in such garden spots as Paris and Istanbul, Los Angeles is a letdown. But Neeson isn't. He is still quite a hunk. And one can feel very safe at the thought of being rescued by him. Especially at times like today, with thugs like the humorless crowd like the ones who find it necessary to kill cartoonists in Paris.

And no end to Russian thugs, uglier than ever, and endlessly sucking on expensive booze and kissing several willing hookers at a time in penthouse swimming pools, guarded by mindless and expendable goons, all very Russian indeed. Ah, how one misses the Cold War.  Or is it really gone?

American Sniper

Clint Eastwood has done it again:  made a wonderful movie. But let me get my feelings about the Iraq war out of the way. This is a contentious issue and my take is probably different from the great divide.

I think we were right to go in to Iraq to remove the dangerous and loathsome Saddam Hussein and his even worse sons, but were wrong to try to plant a democracy there. We poked a hornet's nest and created a civil war, breaking a country that was working. We should have handed it over to a competent general and then left.

That being said, we meant well, and stayed, and we created a nightmare war leaving it to a whole generation of young volunteer military who fought, were grievously wounded and dead (on both sides), leaving behind grieving and angry women and children. Because most of us had no skin in the game, these heroic warriors have suffered unpardonable neglect.

But this movie was not just about that. It was about something else. It was about character, the character of a remarkable man who was something of a rarity in our time: a genuine hero. Michael Moore, who, in my opinion, is just a very stupid man with a very big mouth, does not understand what a sniper does, should have paid attention to a key moment in this film. Kris Kyle's father explains to him and his little brother that there are three kinds of human beings in the world: the sheep, who do not understand evil; the wolves who prey upon them; and the sheep dogs who protect those sheep.  You must be the sheepdogs, he tells the boys.  When the wolf attacks, you finish it.  That is what a sniper does.

Kris Kyle's obsession was such that he sacrificed everything in his life to protect as many of his fellow soldiers in this God-forsaken war that he could, making decisions that were horrifying (what do you do when a woman and child come out of a house carrying a IED they will plant just before the next truck comes by? The woman is prepared to sacrifice her child for this.  What do you do when an Al Qaeda leader threatens the neighborhood with his weapon of choice, a drill, poised at the head of a child?

I am very glad that this was the movie of the week all over the country when it came out. Kris Kyle was a brave, good man, and we owe him our salute. Mr. Moore has my raspberry.

Black or White

This movie has of course annoyed all the professional race professionals who make a living out of going on about what the title of the movie implies: that one is either black or white. Director Mike Binder and star Kevin Costner really wanted the title to be Black and White, which better expressed the theme.

I went to see what I thought would be light entertainment, and came away not only entertained but what I thought was a profound movie about some real race issues in America that I wish the likes of the Angela Davises in America (who are Black and White but would never admit it) would go see this movie.

Kostner plays a grandfather who has already lost his 17-year-old daughter who had been seduced by a 23-year-old Black druggie, the one good-for-nothing son of an otherwise decent Black family. The young girl died in childbirth and Kostner, a prosperous Beverly Hills lawyer and his wife, raise the baby. Then one terrible night, a hit-and-run driver kills Kostner's wife and he is left to care for his grandchild alone. Her paternal grandmother seeks custody, with the help of her brother, a lawyer of the Angela Davis variety, who is convinced that everybody White hates everybody Black. One is either White OR Black in his mind.

Do pay attention to a wonderful ensemble cast of actors:  Kevin Costner, playing lawyer Elliot Anderson whose subtle variations of anger, drunkenness, love, and honesty are a wonder to behold. Octavia Spencer, who plays the Black grandmother Rowena Jeffers whose energy and face demands both obedience from her children and love that can melt an iceberg. And another of those Black and White little girls, Jillian Estell who plays Eloise Anderson, the grandchild, is the most adorable, most natural, intelligent seven-year-old since Shirley Temple!

One of the most interesting minor characters if Duvan, played by Mpho Koaho, about whom little fuss is made:  a survivor of (probably) Sudanese Muslim genocide of his entire tribe-a real horror, of which he is the only survivor.

What does he do:  he does not become a druggie; he does not become a demonstrator or a drunk or do law suits. He gets multiple Ph.Ds., learns nine languages, teaches them all, teaches piano, and tutors everybody. Not much is made of this in the movie other than he is very Black indeed.

Pay attention to what Kevin Kostner says on the witness stand when he is asked if he just hates Black People.

Pay attention to what happens to the ne'er-do-well son when he comes to terms that he is wired wrong. He just can't help himself. It isn't just a matter of his color.   And pay attention to the face of the Black and White woman judge (whose name I can't find).  She has a wonderful expressive face, as did the expressive Hispanic housekeeper in Elliot Anderson's house.  She never had to say a word.

Wonderful movie.  Ignore all the other reviews.

Understanding Foreign Policy is like Triple-Decker Chess

Laina Farhat-Holzman
January 31, 2015

We are accustomed to thinking of relations with an ally, an enemy, or an interest when we consider a foreign policy relationship. This is part of our assumption that a nation has an independent identity that is like ours, “one nation, indivisible…” This is a convenient fiction, of course, as if a nation is a person, which it is not.

o     Pakistan, India, Afghanistan. Some of our most troubling relationships are with countries with not only complex internal identities, but also equally complex overlapping relationships with their neighbors.  Pakistan cannot be understood without knowing that it is a country with a secular educated elite living in cities surrounded by slums of recently arrived villagers who are ignorant and very religious. One quarter of the population is even more uneducated and religious, tribal peoples living astride both sides of the border dividing Pakistan from Afghanistan. Out of these tribes come the Taliban.

Who supports the Taliban? The Security Services of Pakistan, who want to keep Afghanistan off-balance and ultimately under Pakistan's control in their struggle against their archenemy, India. India, however much it dislikes Pakistan, really fears China more. China knows this, and supports Pakistan with weapons and mischief. The British and Russians have variously played devastating and destabilizing roles in this region for the past couple of centuries, and now the United States has joined the fray.

o     Kurds, Iranians, Turks, Syrians. The Kurds, a large tribe related to the Iranians, were promised their own country after World War I. The promise was broken when the power-brokers realized that Kurds sat on a pool of oil. The Kurds were divided up among five nations: Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Azerbaijan. Now Iraq is falling apart. Will the Kurds get their own country at last? The US may back this, but it will infuriate a number of other players if they do.

o     Israel and the Palestinians. Had the Palestinians accepted the 1947 UN division of the former Turkish territory into two countries, Israel and Palestine, Palestine would have been a country. But the Palestinians rejected the division, opting instead for war, supported by the entire Arab world, to take the entire territory from the Israelis. They lost. Despite numerous re-matches, they lost every time. The only reason the re-matches happen is that other players make it so: money from every Muslim country in the world, weapons and training from the former Soviet Union, an endless flow of UN and European money for Palestinian refugee camps, and without Israeli ingenuity and US support, the Palestinians would have a wobbly country by now.

o     The European “Union.” Despite all the predictions a decade ago that the EU would clean our clock economically and politically, it has not happened. The vaunted prosperity of Europe was owed entirely to the United States: saving them from Hitler's Nazi Empire, then from the Soviet Empire, and permitting them to thrive for a half century while they abandoned war as an institution that they wanted no more of. Europe is now being overrun by immigrants who want a piece of that prosperity without any of the western cultural values that made it possible. France is now finding itself at war with people it thought it could absorb and make French. This union is not much of a union yet.

o     Internal Disunities. The United States has sold the idea that democracy means voting---holding free and fair elections. We send observers around the world (as does the UN) to make certain that elections are held without obvious duress. The mistake here is that voting is no guarantee of a liberal democracy, a democracy that rests on a whole range of institutions that are the warp and woof of our structure. Democracy requires the vast majority of men and women literate; protection for private property; a free and competitive press; separation of religion from state enforcement; separation of governmental powers (independent judiciary); and participation of the public in multiple self-governing institutions and organizations (the practice of democracy).

Aside from the Western democracies, these conditions do not yet exist. Take off the rose colored glasses when doing foreign policy.

686 words

Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law.  You may contact her at or