Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Branch Mohammedans


Gates of Vienna has an interesting article about an Islamic Group currently operating "Training Camp[s] for Young Muslim-American Men" within the United States (HT: Wretchard). One can’t be definitive here, but I’m gonna guess that the type of “camping” that is taking place there has nothing to do with, say, learning to start campfires. Unless you count the use of jet fuel, ammonium nitrate, C4 or nitrocellulose. The whole piece is definitely worth a read.

Reading the Gates of Vienna piece and contemplating the situation, I couldn’t help but think about the Branch Davidians of Janet Reno/ATF/Waco, TX fame. What’s to stop the Fed’s from taking similar action against Muslim-oriented compounds? Political Correctness. Furthermore, what’s to stop the Fed’s from taking action against any pseudo-isolationist religious group of people that are training in paramilitary operations? Not much, if they call themselves Christian.

Needless to say, the Branch Davidians had some pathologies that shouldn’t go unexcused. However, look at them in a larger political context and consider the reasons why the two extreme sides of the political spectrum arm themselves. To use the Branch Davidians as an example on the theoretical Right: eschatological fantasies not withstanding, they stockpiled weapons in order to protect themselves against those who would persecute them for their beliefs. To use the ELF as an example on the theoretical Left: they arm themselves, albeit primarily with IED’s and other unconventional means, in order to change the behavior and/or beliefs of others.

Given that the American Revolution was not so much a Revolution as it was a War for Independence, i.e. to maintain a status quo of self-determination, which one of the above extremist groups is more in line with the ideals espoused in the Declaration of Independence?

My goal here is not to justify extremist views or actions, nor do I advocate FBI/ATF stakeouts at all religious communes. But I do wish to to open a broader discussion regarding armed “revolution” and the use of force vs. projection of force. Which group is more disconcerting: a religious group stockpiling weapons to protect themselves against persecution? or a religious (eco- or otherwise) group stockpiling weapons to affect change in society at large?

Allow me to cut to the chase: in spite of their espoused secularity, militant leftist groups are nearly identical to Islamic Militant groups primarily because of their shared goal to cause change in others by threat of injury, i.e. force of arms.

How far would we be willing to go as a society to abolish a system of belief? For the time being, freedom of belief is protected by the Constitution. But who’s to say what kind of calamity might bring about the unchecked fear and ideological opportunism that would suspend that most important of beliefs, that of self-determination?

At what point does a weapon transpose itself from an instrument of self-preservation to an instrument of oppression?

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