Forced Conversion

I was very interested in the news reports that the two released Fox journalists, Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig, were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint during their captivity.

For those who don’t know, one converts to Islam by pronouncing the shahadah (pledge of conviction of faith) in Arabic: “Ash HaduAllaa Ilaaha Il-lallaah Wa Ash Hadu Anna Muhammadar Rasullulah,” which means “I bear Witness that there is no deity but Allah and I bear witness that Muhammad is His Messenger.”

I’m curious as to what you think you would have done if placed in that same situation.

On the one hand, in the West we believe that one cannot be bound by statements made or signed under duress, and so in our religious and legal culture the conversion is simply void. Further, a captive often has to read propagandistic statements and undertake other such actions simply to survive the ordeal.

On the other hand, how many stories have we heard from 19th century Church history, where some traveling Mormon was accosted by a mob and threatened with death if he did not renounce his faith. In the stories, inevitably he refused to do so, and God protected him and he was able to go his way unharmed. Is this that type of situation? Would you have preferred martyrdom to renouncing your faith, even if doing so under duress?

Of course, agreeing to the forced conversion is not a costless transaction, for in the eyes of extremists to later renounce the conversion makes one an infidel subject to being killed for renouncing Islam. But the risk of being killed would seem to be greater with a gun actually aimed at your head than at some future time for renouncing the sham conversion.

One can never be sure what one would do under extreme circumstances, but I think I would have done the same thing the journalists did. What would you have done?


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    By the way, in Muslim thought everyone is born Muslim, so technically one does not convert to Islam but rather revert to it.

    This kind of reminded me of the Greek word for “truth,” which is aletheia. Before a child is born, she drinks from the river Lethe, which causes her to forget her past lives (analogous to the veil in Mormon thought). The a– in aletheia is a privative (like English un-); so the truth is literally an “unforgetting,” or learning something that you already knew.

  2. In that situation, you do precisely what the clerk at a 7-11 would do if someone pointed a gun at him: give them what they want.

    I’m not sure how reliable our early Mormon accounts of folks’ non-renunciations are. Seems penny wise and pound foolish if you ask me.

  3. I would tuck my tail between my legs and ‘Praise Allah!!!’

  4. I’m reminded of several things. There is the old draw a circle around Maeser and if he promises not to leave, he will die in the circle story.

    There is the idea, as per the Feb. 15, 1978 first presidency message that Muhamad was with others:

    the great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals. (this was also quoted by Pres. Faust last conference)

    So perhaps legalistically you could say it with a clean conscience. Though the other party would definitely not recognize it.

    I also think of the Japanese martyrs who were forced to step on the Fumie and renounce Christianity or die.

    I imagine that our malleability when faced with oaths is a sad cultural commentary. It seems like historically oaths were life and death things. Not anymore. As I am a product of this culture, you bet I would pronounce the shahadah, step on the fumie and walk out of my circle.

  5. I would feel like I was letting my family down if I didn’t do what I needed to do to make it so that I could get back to them. There’s not much question in my mind: I would say whatever they wanted me to say. It’s just words. I can imagine some things I would refuse to do or to cause to be done to secure my freedom, but I can’t think of anything I wouldn’t say under those circumstances.

  6. J.
    Why do you say that “I imagine that our malleability when faced with oaths is a sad cultural commentary”? What honor is there in dying over the stupidity of another person?

  7. I think there is a limit to the sacralige I would permit before dying though. While I might step on a picture of the prophet or Jesus to spare my life, I doubt I would defile the Temple or testify against others that live.

  8. endlessnegotiation says:

    I think the the question as to whether or not one would do what the reporters did (taking the oath of allegiance to Islam) is less interesting and less important than whether or not a Mormon could take the same course of action and not sin in doing so. I don’t know right now what I would do but my dicision would hinge on whether or not I felt taking such an oath (albeit under duress) was a sin and the corresponding “severity” of that sin.

  9. Jared E. Perhaps it is a reflection of the care by which a culture speaks and their level of trust. You will note, that I am happy to dissent, so I don’t see to big a problem with it.

  10. I said that oath allowed (just for sh**s and giggles) of my own free will when I read your post. Does that mean that I’m now Muslim and longer a Mormon? If so, Kevin, I’m going to expect you to provide me with a list of Islamic blogs that I can comment on, seeing how you’re partly responsible for my recent conversion experience.

  11. I agree, participating in acts that overtly harm others is not acceptable, even under coercion.

  12. Also, I’m interested in hearing whether Steve Centanni feels like he’s the victim of ethnic profiling now that’s he’s converted to Islam, too.

  13. Kevin Barney says:

    Well, technically, DKL, you’re supposed to say it in front of two adult Muslim witnesses. Do it that way and then we’ll talk.

  14. If three people stand in a circle and recite it, does that count?

  15. I would smoke pot if somebody held a gun to my head. There are some things I wouldn’t do, though. I don’t think I’d eat a live butterfly.

    But I’d have no trouble saying, “there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.”

  16. Early Mormons were at least sometimes willing (very sensibly) deny they belonged to the faith. As recorded in the Journal of Discourses, John Taylor related the following in the tabernacle November 1, 1857:

    If we had corruption, grog-holes, rowdyism, and every kind of pollution among us, and were this place permitted to be a perfect sink of iniquity, where the gambler, horse-racer, blackleg, and every evil character would be tolerated, then we should be hail fellows, well met, with our enemies. The wicked would bow and scrape to us all over the earth: they would call us gentlemen everywhere, and we should be respected. It would be as it was with a few of our brethren who had to play a ruse upon some of the Missourians. The “Mormon” boys were flying from a mob and had to pass a meeting-house when the people were coming out from their prayers. These pious souls suspected that the brethren were “Mormons.”‘

    “You are ‘Mormons,’ damn you,” said they.

    “We are not, damn you. Let go of my horse, or I will knock your damned head off.”

    “Oh, we discover you are not ‘Mormons,’ gentlemen: we are under a mistake;” and they let them go.

    You can get the complete sermon here:

  17. I always had the impression that the gunpoint refusals to renounce the faith always had an aspect of conversion in them. For example the Anti-Nephi-Lehis refused to renounce and were killed, but a larger number than were killed converted because of thier faith in the face of death.

    So, ultimately I’d say that the ‘correct’ answer would be to do whatever the spirit inspires me to do. I’m pretty sure that I’d be led to do whatever path brings about the most good, be it converting my captors via my own death or returning to my family.

    I guess that the next question would be, “if the spirit inspired you to refuse to renounce your faith would you?” My answer, I hope so.

  18. Kevin Barney says:

    Oh, Mathew, I love that story! Them’s my kind of Mormons!

  19. John Mansfield says:

    Here’s one vote for John Stark’s toast, “Live free or die: death is not the worst of evils.” The religious angle doesn’t much enter into it for me, just the repulsion to submitting to a man with a gun. Luckily, I’ll almost certainly never have to test my big words.

  20. John,
    Wouldn’t it be much more productive to just say what the man wants you to say, and then spend the rest of your life making sure that man never has the opportunity to do it to someone else?

  21. The religious angle doesn’t much enter into it for me, just the repulsion to submitting to a man with a gun.

    There was a time when I felt very similarly. But I have a wife and children now. That changed everything, for me.

  22. Do you think the journalists really would have been killed if they didn’t submit? Not that it wasn’t serious business, but it takes balls to kill foriegn journalists. That said, I’m sure I’d renounce and try and live it up while I were Muslim. I mean, the Mormons are so strict.

  23. Eric Russell says:

    I’d tell them to bite me. There’s no way I’d renounce my faith and accept Islam. Even at gunpoint.

    I say that not because I think it’s a bad thing to do in itself, obviously God would understand. But rather, because we are in the midst of a religious war. We cannot back down on any front, particularly the ideological one.

    Jared E., good point. But I think martyrdom in such a situation will spur many more to act and subsequently accomplish more than you could have alone. These two guys will be completely forgotten in a few months. If they had died refusing to voice support for Islam, they would likely never be forgotten in the minds of many.

  24. Perhaps you’re right Eric, but I’d rather be the guy on a crusade than the guy in a coffin.

  25. If they had died refusing to voice support for Islam, they would likely never be forgotten in the minds of many.

    And probably ridiculed for making their wives widows and their kids orphans.

    It’s a tough call. While I would like to say that I wouldn’t renounce my faith, I think the images of my wife and kids would force me to do it.

    Now, if I were being forced to do things like what the Japanese made the Chinese do in Nanking during WWII, I would take a bullet.

  26. John Mansfield says:

    Jared E., it depends on what you want to produce. If it’s liberty, then what you propose doesn’t sound productive. J. Stapley, the older I get, the less indispensible I feel, even with regard to my family. My stance may be more a matter of temperament than virtue.

  27. I am curious to see if CAIR will renounce the forced conversions. For some reason I doubt it. There is a history of forced conversions in Islam. I was involved in baptizing an Islamic family on my mission. The local mosque pronounced a fatwa and an attempt was made to kill the family. Needless to say they are now in Orem. Also that was the last Islamic family that we were allowed to baptize.

    I would cross my fingers behind me back and “fake convert” and then go put pressure on the US muslim orgs to help me out of the conversion

  28. John Mansfield says:

    Viva Fabrizio Quattrocchi! “Now I’ll show you how an Italian dies.” That particular snuff video probably didn’t get too much replay among the jihadis.

  29. John: How is that spending your life crusading against those who deprive others of liberty “doesn’t sound productive”?

  30. I do not think that making the statement would necessarily be a denial of being a Latter-day Saint. As far as we know, Mohammed might well have been a messenger sent from God but his message has since undergone the same type of Apostasy that we believe occured in Judaism and among the creedal Christians. As for stating there is no deity but Allah, who is to say that Allah can’t be yet another name for God the Father or even for Jesus Christ. As I noted, we cannot know what occured between God and man to give rise to Islam and whether what currently survives as Islam is representative of whatever was the original, pre-Apostasy revelation. I could, in good conscience, state that Allah is God and be thinking “what you think of as Allah, I think of as the Elohim.”

  31. And as Latter-day Saints, we believe, fundamentally, that our duty is to submit our will to God’s. That is the core of Islam, so, in a sense, we are all Muslims. Kevin, I seriously think that this “forced conversion” is in a different category than being required to literally renounce or deny Christianity. And, anyway, Peter himself denied he knew the Christ when his life was in danger. But, contrary to D-Train, I believe that the experiences that our ancestors reported about standing firm in the faith in the face of calumny and violence are true. Still, I do not think that saying “I am a Mormon, true blue, through and through” while looking down the barrel of a creedal Christian’s gun would have been the absolutely required course of action. I don’t really think God minds if we say, as did John Taylor, “damn you, get the hell out of my way.”

  32. John Mansfield says:

    Jared E., like a Charles Bronson character, or like one of those sad people who fly around giving speeches “so that what happened to me won’t happen to anyone else”? Neither role interests me.

  33. John Mansfield says:

    “Peter himself denied he knew the Christ when his life was in danger” Then he went out and wept bitterly.

  34. JM, what’s your point? I wasn’t saying that it was the ideal course of action; just showing that denial is a natural course when faced with death. That does not mean that everyone has chosen to deny to save their life. Indeed, we know that some did not.

    And anyway, I do not believe that uttering the Muslim creed would necessarily constitute a denial of LDS Christian faith.

  35. So John, what you are saying is that death is more attractive to you than being seen as a victim. Is that accurate?

  36. I have no problem with being made to agree with the statement. For all I know, Mohammed was a prophet of God and its these loonies and that apostatized and warped what he taught over centuries. I am not renouncing God, just using his Islamic name. I don’t see the point in being made a martyr over it.

  37. Just a couple random thoughts:

    First of all, “Allah” is just the Arabic word for God. So the correct translation is something more like “There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his prophet.”

    Second, while most Mormons can probably utter that statement without a second thought, saying it means something completely different to Muslims and implies a commitment that most of us wouldn’t intend to make. Just like an investigator who agrees to get baptized because it seems like a harmless ceremony, and then immediately goes inactive–we’re horrified, but they don’t really think it’s a big deal.

    However, under those circumstances, I probably would also have “converted.”

  38. John Mansfield says:

    Jared E., your description of my frame of mind is correct though not complete.

  39. John F.,
    I hadn’t read the comments when I posted. You stole the words right out of my mouth. What can I say, great minds think alike.

  40. Somehow this thread reminds me of a story about J Golden Kimball, who is credited with saying to the Prophet upon leaving for his second mission to the South, when asked what he thought about the very Southerners to whom he was being sent to proselytize, something like: “I believe we should kill them all and peform baptisms for the dead.”

    By this interpretation of gunpoint conversion the Fox reporters got off pretty easy. Certainly no messy problem of subsequently needing to rely upon repentance and the attonement.

    Seriously, if it weren’t for my family I think I could say no even if my life depended upon it, easy to say now, although honestly I think I could say no simply out of sheer stubborness. That said, as a father/husband I like to kid myself that my girls would be better off with me around. Hopefully God would agree as well.

  41. TyB, you’re pretty brave to say no with the prospect of getting your head sawed off with a kitchen knife! (That’s what these Muslim fundamentalists are prone to do, isn’t it?)

  42. Lest there is any confusion, given my joking response earlier, I agree with Eric Russell. And not because of any religious qualms I have–everyone here has heard me blaspheme on many occasions. It’s because nobody with a gun is going to make me into their personal circus side-show by making me play-act through a series of prepared statements, religious or otherwise. Rather than that, I’d rather die.

    The interesting question isn’t whether I’d sooner die than do that. It’s whether I’d sooner be castrated than do that. So if they were holding a gun to my head, I’d say, “Let me show you how an American dies.” If they were holding a knife to my genitals, I don’t think I’d be nearly as anxious to say, “Let me show you how an American gets castrated.” Yeah, now that I think of it, I’m pretty sure. I’d renounce my faith in a second to save my balls.

  43. You know you can talk about this all you like, but until you’re actually facing the possibility of immediate death, it’s really hard to know what you’d do.

    I was in a bank robbery once, and my only thought was I couldn’t die and leave my husband alone with our small children.

  44. S. P. Bailey says:

    Regarding No. 42:

    There are things worse than death. DKL writing about how he values his genitalia over his life comes to mind…

  45. DKL is just being weak. I would never renounce even if they were holding a knife to his balls.

  46. good call, Mathew

  47. That’s easy for you to say, Mathew. You’ve got a lot less to lose than I do.

  48. Combining #22 and #43:

    Well, at least we could be sure DKL wouldn’t kill any foreign journalists.

    p.s. You’ve got it all wrong, Amri. Muslims can’t drink, just like Mormons — and they can’t have a ham sandwich. So it’s pretty much the worst of both worlds. (Though they do allow tea, I think.)

  49. And if you think there’s problems with Book of Mormon historicity, just consider the plight of Muslim intellectuals. Winged horse Buraq anyone?

  50. Thanks for the laugh. Yeah, there are certain painful things I simply could not resist for anybody or anything. Hopefully God will not tempt me that way. Getting shot would be easy compared to most things those people do to one another.

  51. As has already been noted, Allah is just a word for God. In fact, Allah and Elohim come from the same root word, and Arab Christians (including the rare Arab LDS) use the word Allah to refer to God.

  52. I haven’t read the responses yet, but this is what I would have done. If I were a cameraman or journalist in a war zone, I would have made my peace already with my family and my God, choosing to place myself in basically the line of fire. I would have already renounced my position as “protector” of my own family, and therefore would not have the weight of the responsibility to be there as a father anymore to my children, or a husband anymore to my wife. This way, there is nothing that can be held against me as a soft spot to give terrorists what they want. Of course they want a plea. They want to hear a Westerner, a Christian, proclaim Mohammed as Allah’s messenger. They will never get it from my mouth.

    I’m no warrior (as I’ve shown in previous comments), but were I to have to make a choice between a forced conversion and death, I’d choose death. But then again, having a wife and a child, I would never place myself in a situation where I would give up that responsibility to be there as a protector, presider, and provider for my family. This is the folly of war. Men going off and getting themselves killed while their loved ones stay at home and are forced to provide for themselves. On both sides.

  53. Daniel: This is the folly of war. Men going off and getting themselves killed while their loved ones stay at home and are forced to provide for themselves.

    Come on now, Daniel. The gender essentialism which is native to the western strain of thought conceives of the male of the species as an altogether disposable commodity. This is romanticized into the “protector” role, but make no mistake: at the core, our culture believes that it’s OK for men to die. This is why nearly twice as much is spent on medical research for female related health issues than for male related health issues (e.g., breast cancer vs. prostate cancer), and why women live longer–they didn’t used to; medical advances have disproportionately favored women. This is true in action movies, where men are killed gratuitously and women only die as a way of showing how tragic something is or how evil the bad guy is. It is also true in hunting and game policy, where tags are given out to kill male animals but not female. In the old testament, the major sacrificial animals are male. When Christ says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” he’s talking to men. The mob came to kill Joseph, and Emma lived to a ripe old age. Women and children had much higher survival rates in disasters like the Titanic, because so many people had been taught to instinctively let women and children go to the life boats first.

    This is an assumption that permeates our society and is woven into the fabric of our identities. We live. We fight. We die. When we can’t do it ourselves, we go see movies and read books about people who did. There’s a little bit of John Wayne in every western man: Like him, we can’t fight all the battles that our heros did, but we sure can make believe that we did.

  54. DKL,

    Interesting commentary. My response is that this shows just how flawed Western philosophy really is, to treat men as disposable, to, in the words of Spencer W. Kimball, “train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan’s counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior’s teaching”.

    It is NOT okay for men to die. Who will the father then be to the children? Who will the husband be to the wife?

    Maybe earlier in my life, before having children, I could speak more easily of my own death, but I now have a contract with God to protect my family, my wife and my child. This is of greater importance and higher priority than any loyalty to any man’s kingdom. I live. I teach. I preserve.

  55. “Who will the father then be to the children? Who will the husband be to the wife?”

    Don’t worry–someone will apply for and likely get the job. We are, after all, pretty fungible.

  56. Good point, Mathew. I have no doubt that the line would form rather quickly to take over on my behalf with my wife (who is one hot babe) in the event that I fulfill my manly calling and die.

  57. Back to lying for the kingdom’s sake . . .

    Parley Pratt in his autobiography describes his escape from prison in Columbia, Missouri, on July 4, 1839, and then his less than truthful conversations with some people he stayed with one night while traveling to Illinois. He anticipates some readers’ criticisms:

    “I would here remark that some persons will perhaps be disposed to censure me for saying that which was not strictly true in all its points, in order to avoid discovery, and make good my escape. But I can say, from the bottom of my heart, that I feel perfectly justified in so doing, not only because it accomplished a good object, and seemed according to wisdom, but we have numerous instances in Scripture where God’s prophets and people acted in a similar way for a similar end.”

    After citing examples of Rahab and David, Bro. Pratt concludes with the kind of in your face language we don’t hear often from the brethren anymore:

    “But the world may blame unjustly. I care not a straw for their judgment. I have one only that I serve, and him only do I fear. The hypocrite who censures me may yet be placed under similar circumstances, and then judge ye how he would act.”

    I found the full text of the autobiography online at

  58. FYI for those who want more: Glenn Beck covered the Centanni/Wiig morality issue on his show today. NPR’s Diane Rheme Show had a piece on morality today as well, discussing how morality could be biologically based.

    If I were in a dicey situation, I’d probably praise the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster ( ) rather than lie for the kingdom’s sake.

    Fear not though! We have a generation of kids being prepared today through Generation Joshua and in Jesus Camps across the nation that will convert all apostates to Christianity:

    (the movie opens 9/15)

  59. I’m pleased to see the repeated invocation of Fabrizio Quattrochi here. Would that I had it in me to die so well.

  60. Back to discussing the significance of death…

    Mark B, look where lying got Parley. It sure didn’t save him from the assassin’s bullet in the end.

  61. DKL,

    But it gave him 18 more years.

  62. I’ve never been a liar. I really have to tell the truth. Until lately. Now I think, “who cares?” If I can’t get hold of someone on their visiting teaching, I just put that they did it. I mean, who cares?

    I’m not so important if somebody holds a gun to my head and I swear by Islam, it would affect anyone.

    But like I said, if they held a gun to my head and said, “eat a butterfly,” I’d say, “fire away.” I have my standards.

  63. Johnna Cornett says:

    I’m glad you’re blogging on this, because I’ve been thinking about it ever since I heard of the journalist’s forced conversions.

    When I was a kid and Sunday School was not Primary, one of the adult males in the ward came and talked to us kids about what we would do if a man came on the bus with a shotgun and started asking kids if they were mormon and then shot the kid next to us when that kid said he was. The Visitor then mimed pointing the shot gun at the next kid and asking again. I remember because I was one of the kids mimed at. I remember the pump-reload mime, because I didn’t know you did that with a gun. I remember looking up the imaginary barrel. I remember proudly, insistently, being ready to die in the faith.

    If anyone did that to my kid in Primary, I’d make his life hell. It took having kids for me to lose my lust for martyrdom.

    And “This is how an American dies” would have very few witnesses, since any show of nobility would be edited out before it went to Al Jazeera.

  64. Just to stir up the pot:

    We’re in a war here. They captured a few of our guys, who weren’t doing anything wrong. We captured a few of their guys, who weren’t doing anything wrong.

    They held a gun to our guys’ heads, just to get them to say something they thought would be valuable.

    We stripped their guys down, stacked them up, put dogs in their faces, forced them to engage in sexual acts, strapped electrodes to them, beat them and sodomized to them, all to get them to say something we thought would be valuable.

    As far as ultimate goals go, I’m not saying one side is right and the other side is wrong. But I’m pretty sure that if I had the choice of being a prisoner of one side or the other, I’d choose to let the Muslims capture me right about now.

  65. a random John says:


    First of all, I’m not at all interested in defending the actions that the US has taken with its prisoners.

    With that out of the way, your straw man argument is pathetic. Does the name Daniel Pearl mean anything to you? Do bodies of civilian kidnapping victims hanging burned from a bridge ring any bells?

    The only conclusion that I can draw is that war is hell and that both sides have done their part to ensure the continued truth of that statement.

  66. random John —

    I wasn’t making an argument, so I’m not sure how it was a straw man. Please explain what you mean?

    In any case, if you’re not interested in talking about both sides’ actions, then why even respond?

    I’m not defending either side’s actions, and I’m certainly not saying that what happened to Daniel Pearl was OK. I was simply pointing out that, as a personal preference, I’d take my chance as a prisoner of the Muslims than of the American forces. You may well differ.

    Just make sure you get your news from somewhere other than FOX before making your decision. :)


    “Do you pray to Allah?” one asked. “I said yes. They said, ‘[Expletive] you. And [expletive] him.’ One of them said, ‘You are not getting out of here health[y], you are getting out of here handicapped. And he said to me, ‘Are you married?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ They said, ‘If your wife saw you like this, she will be disappointed.’ One of them said, ‘But if I saw her now she would not be disappointed now because I would rape her.’ ”

    He said the soldiers told him that if he cooperated with interrogators they would release him in time for Ramadan. He said he did, but still was not released. He said one soldier continued to abuse him by striking his broken leg and ordered him to curse Islam. “Because they started to hit my broken leg, I cursed my religion,” he said. “They ordered me to thank Jesus that I’m alive.”

    The detainee said the soldiers handcuffed him to a bed.

    “Do you believe in anything?” he said the soldier asked. “I said to him, ‘I believe in Allah.’ So he said, “But I believe in torture and I will torture you.’ “

  68. jp,

    Are you serious? I agree with arJ, your argument, to the extent it can be called that, is pathetic. The guys who are now being held prisoner by the Muslims are lucky to still have their heads attached to their bodies, they are an anomaly. Abu Ghraib was also an anomaly, and people have been court-martialed for their actions there.

    We are outraged and sickened by the excesses taken in our name. For the Muslims, excesses are not a cause for outrage, they are a cause for celebration. Do you really not see the difference? Please get your news from somewhere other than Al Jazeera.

  69. “For the Muslims, excesses are not a cause for outrage, they are a cause for celebration.”


    Statements like this are exactly the reason why I chose to post what I did. When we create a long thread, talking about the bad things that a few Muslims have done, it slowly but surely brainwashes all of us readers into believing that those few Muslims are representative of all Muslims.

    I agree with random John that war is hell on both sides. To call one side’s actions anomalous is to put your head in the sand.

    What’s worse, though, is to ascribe the actions of a few to an entire religion. It’s the same tactic used by the anti-Mormons who publish Mountain Meadows Massacre Exposes every other years.

  70. jp, OK, now you’re just being deliberately obtuse. Of course war is hell on both sides, but that doesn’t relieve us of our duty to make distinctions. Assault and murder are both crimes, but they are different from each other in important ways. I’m pretty sure you are smart enough to tell the difference but are just being coy in order to, as they say, stir the pot.

    If you will allow me to rephrase what I think you are saying, I think you would rather have your head chopped off on TV than be stripped naked and have a dog snarling in your face. Do I understand you correctly?

    Finally, you are correct point out that we shouldn’t blame an entire religion for the actions of a few. When I referred to the being taken prisoner by the Muslims, I was following the example of the commenter in # 64.

  71. Mark IV —

    No. What I am saying is that plenty of Iraqi prisoners of war have also been killed, and in ways worse than decapitation. Have you heard of Baghram?

    I agree, I would prefer to have dogs snarling in my face than to be decapitated. On the other hand, I think I’d rather be decapitated than be sodomized with chemical lights, and then beaten to death, and then have it covered up so my family doesn’t know where I am.

    All evidence suggests we do have a national policy condoning torture. Now if you want to argue that torture is necessary for our national security, that we need to get information somehow, I’d be happy to have that discussion.

    Furthermore, I’m also saying that its not the policy of all Iraqi militants to decapitate their prisoners. Which, in fact, is why I stand by my comment in 64. I do not see any evidence to believe that all Muslims who are fighting happen to believe in torture, or decapitation. In fact, a lot more prisoners have been freed than have been killed. Most report that they have been treated relatively well.

    As I read your sentence in 68, in context, you did refer to all Muslims. You contrasted “We” with “Muslims” (and I’m pretty sure that “We” are not soldiers):

    “We are outraged and sickened by the excesses taken in our name. For the Muslims, excesses are not a cause for outrage, they are a cause for celebration.”

    I, for one, am glad that GBH has come out and said that these excesses do not represent all of Islam.

  72. jp, yes, I have heard of Baghram. I have also heard that a U.S. military inquiry has classified the deaths that occurred there as homocides, and I understand that to mean that the people who did it will have to answer for it.

    I’m not sure about your claim that all evidence suggests that we have a national policy condoning torture. If that were the case, how can we account for the courts martial that have been held for the people how have engaged in those crimes? I think it is more accurate to say that we don’t know what we think about torture, and that we don’t have a working definition of it.

    I join you in applauding GBHs wise counsel. But I don’t know if you will join me in my assertion that the excessive force used at places like Baghram and Abu Ghraib is not characteristic of Americans. And I certainly part company with you when you express a preference to be taken prisoner by the Taliban or the insurgency. I’ll take my chances with the Yanks anyday.

  73. When President Bush is willing to join John McCain in supporting a ban on torture, I’ll be willing to agree that the excessive force used at places like Baghram and Abu Ghraib is not characteristic of the way our armed forces operate. (Note that I’ve never said it is characteristic of Americans in general).

    Until then, I’ll persist in believing that we scapegoat individual soldiers in order to avoid a serious debate about whether the use of torture is an appropriate way to avoid another 9/11.

    Incidentally, I don’t think the answer is easy, and I’m not saying torture is wrong. If I were told that I could save the lives of all of New York City by torturing 100 people, 99 of whom were innocent, what would I do? I’m glad I don’t have to find out.

  74. Mark IV, I agree with you completely. For my part, I think it’s safe to ignore jp’s trash talk. As far as conspiracy theorists go, she’s clearly second rate–she hasn’t even brought up Halliburton yet!

  75. Well, the Army has just updated their field manual to follow the Geneva Guidelines, which is a step in the right direction.

  76. a random John says:


    I don’t think that you are participating in this discussion in good faith, but in case you are I’ll point out your own straw man for you, though it is so painfully obvious that I’m a bit ashamed to do it.

    When you carefully select your examples of what happens to prisoners as being a few days in captivity followed by forced conversion and release and contrast that with the worst of what we know of US abuses then you have set up a straw man argument.

    I’m happy to admit that I’m ashamed of many of the actions that my country and those wearing its uniform have taken. Not only do I think that we are systematically violating many of the founding principles of this country but many of the acts and even policies strike me as outright criminal in nature. But that said, your conclusion is ludicrous and is backed up by a fallacious argument.

  77. JP – no, I dont get my news from Fox News. And I did grow up in India and in a Gulf state, so I am familiar with Arab and islamic culture.
    Unfortunately for you, you seeem to be engaging in the kind of moral relativism that characterises the left now a days. So, the Yanks cant do anything right, eh? And you’d prefer to be a prisoner of bin-Ladin or one of his homicidal groupies, eh? good luck to you , my friend. I paray that you never have to actually face anything ever like that. Gosh, as an immigrant to the USA, I sometimes wonder why educated people, especially at elite American universities are so daft. Are you playing the “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” game here, JP? Since the Islamic terrorists oppose Pres Bush, so, are they your allies now? Gosh, when you said that you’d prefer to be a prisoner of the mujahideen, I realised that it was one of the stupidest statements I have heard in a loooong time.
    I am no fan of the war in Iraq, but even so that statement by JP was stupid beyone belief.

    Moderators – if this post fo mine is considered to be a personal attack, or violating the guidelines of this board, please delete it ASAP.

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