Ethics Dunce: Rep. Dennis Kucinich

Muslim women, in ethical garb

During last week’s hearings on the alleged radicalization of Muslim-Americans, Congressman Dennis Kucinich, protesting that the hearings were an example of prosecution and bigotry, said:

“Islam is a religion based upon peace, goodwill and the ethical treatment of all people on this planet.”

Politics involves advocacy, and zealous advocacy sometimes metastasizes into exaggerations, overstatements, and lies. Determined governors are called dictators and criminals; those questioning global warming models are compared to Holocaust deniers. Believing that an attack on an enemy nation is in the best interests of America, leaders who should be saying, “We have good reason to believe that this nation has weapons of mass destruction and is inclined to use them,” say instead, “We know where the weapons are and the threat is imminent.” Other leaders who are trying to get important health care reforms passed say, “Don’t worry—if you like your current plan, you’ll be able to keep it!”, neglecting to add the caveat that that plan you like may be forced out of existence if the bill is passed.

These excesses range from deceitful to outright lying, but they are all unethical, all disrespectful of the truth and the public that has a right to it, all aimed at manipulating public opinion with falsity.

I find Kucinich’s statement especially indefensible, because the degree of his presumably misstatement of the truth was completely unnecessary if his motives were good. I’ll hold you in no suspense: I do not believe for a second, nor am I suggesting, that the honorable Congressman from Ohio does not have good motives for what he does and says. I think he is irresponsible and that the workings of his brain are a long-standing medical mystery. But there are paranoid political commentators who really believe that some elected officials are determined to sell out the United States to Islam, and Kucinich handed them a gift with this whopper.

If Kucinich’s purpose was to make certain that the public understood that American Muslims, as a group and as individuals, were no less trustworthy and patriotic than any other Americans, and that to the extent that the hearings implied otherwise, this was unfair and an injustice, he could have said, “The vast majority of Muslims in the world today want peace, most who embrace Islam bear us no ill will, and American Muslims, like American Christians, are Americans first.” I might not completely agree with that statement, but it is close enough to the truth for political horseshoes. The statement he made, however, amounts to outright Islamic propaganda. Any Muslim who said this would be inherently suspicious, a real-life version of the Martians in Tim Burton’s “Mars Attacks” who continue to proclaim that they have come in peace while they are disintegrating every Earthling in sight.

Islam is not a religion that can be said to be “based on peace.” The originator of the religion, Muhammad, was a warrior, among other things. “Goodwill”? Well, good will toward other Muslims, at least, but this is a “my way or the highway” religion in which non-believers are regarded as infidels that need to be converted and those who leave Islam are regarded as traitors to the faith. Since I don’t know what “goodwill” means to Kucinich—who knows what anything means to Kucinich, when you get right down to it—but I’ll give him a pass on this, though I think it’s probably deceitful. Still, “ethical treatment of all people on this planet” is an outrageously incompetent statement, certainly by the American public’s understanding of what ethical means, and in my opinion, according to any legitimate definition of ethical.

A religion that consigns women to permanent second-class status is not ethical. A religion that suppresses autonomy to the extent that Islam does is not ethical. A religion that includes concepts like fatwa and jihad is not ethical, even if a majority of its adherents no longer endorse them. A religion that treats homosexuality as a crime is not ethical; indeed, much of Sharia law is unethical, and Sharia is derived from the religion. An ethical religion doesn’t send authors and cartoonists some of its dedicated believers disagree with into hiding to preserve their lives.

An ethical religion, in American terms—and Kucinich is in America, talking to Americans—would embrace freedom, personal autonomy, and equal justice and opportunities for all. That’s not Islam, and never has been. Certainly…there are sources that describe Islam in broad, idealized terms that make it sound like the epitome of ethics. Here’s one. It is propaganda. If Kucinich is using something like this to support his statement, he is serving unwittingly and negligently  as an Islamic propagandist.If he isn’t relying on it or something similar, then he’s just lying.

Islam wants ethical treatment of all people, Dennis?

Then why are all those women covering their faces?

33 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Rep. Dennis Kucinich

  1. The most famous such statement, of course, is George W. Bush’s line, less than a week after 9/11, that “Islam is peace.” Do the different rhetorical conditions, utilitarian needs, or political contexts matter? Was Bush’s statement more legitimate because it was clear in context that he was exaggerating for short-term political gain? (N.B., in the previous statement, “political” is not used at all pejoratively, and is not to be confused with “partisan.”) Or are the two statements equally problematic?

  2. Great question—we could do a seminar on it. Bush’s statement is diplomacy and intended to counter powerful passions–vengeance, anger, bigotry—by throwing his position and credibility behind a potential target. I think a utilitarian argument can be made that this is within the range of a responsible lie, because a more literally accurate statement, in that setting, could have acted like a match to gasoline. Sometimes leaders have to lie—the problem is that they make a habit of it. I can’t find any corresponding ethical justification for Kucinich’s statement.

    “Islam is peace,” is, however, total bullshit, and I though so at the time.

    • I can’t find any corresponding ethical justification for Kucinich’s statement. Really? I think fighting against more McCarthyism is an ethical justification for going a bit overboard. Saying that some muslims are terrorists is giving a reason (though a horrible one) for more witch hunts.

      Yes, the statement is complete bull, but no more so than the statement “Christians love their neighbors as themselves” or any of the statements about being “A good christian” that politicians make. Whitewashing religion is a common practice in politics. I don’t see how this statement is any more offensive or unethical than any of the others.

      • Oh, you’re being silly.
        It’s not remotely McCarthyism—and its not a which hunt, because there really are Muslin terrorists. No individuals are being indicted, nobody’s reputation is being ruined by false accusations. Muslims have been killing people, including US citizens, more than usual, and it’s not a coincidence. The contention that the terrorism has nothing to do with the religion that inspires it is just crazy denial….it amazes me that anyone has the guts to say it. So you have hearings. Big deal. Which is worse: to have hearings about a problem and find out there isn’t one, or to lie about there not being one when there is? Is that a hard question for you?

        Witches weren’t real. Muslim terrorists and home-grown Muslim terrorists are real. Anyone who pretends otherwise—you, Dennis, anyone—is deluded or lying. And there is no defending it.

        • There have been more acts of terrorism on US soil from Christians than Muslims since 9/11. I call hogwash on your entire argument. This is xenophobia, pure and simple.

          Communists were real, too. Our persecution of them is a black spot in American history. You seem to be in favor of repeating the past.

  3. JM, many parts of the “…is not ethical…” portion of your essay can also equally be said of Christianity, and perhaps of Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, lots of “-isms” that I don’t know well enough to say.

    A favorite quote (author unknown to me) is that “Christianity has a few great teachings and a million bad teachers”. Same can be said of Islam, Hinduism, etc., etc. Which is why I steer clear of giving unqualified allegiance to any one of them. Which is why I am considered a heretic and blasphemer to all of them.

    So be it.

    • No, that’s just not true. While all the religions have been used to justify violence, Jesus particularly was as far from an advocate of violence as you could find—in marked, clear distinction from the founder of Islam. Still, if Kucinich stood up during the Inquisition and announced that Christianity was all about peace and ethics, I’d write the same thing, except that I’d be on a rack and they’d be burning my eyeballs out, so it would be tough to post.
      This is now, and the topic was Islam.

      • You do realize that Christianity doesn’t throw out the old testament, right? It also doesn’t supercede it to a large swathe of the Christians. Your premises are flawed.

        • Delusion. You need to get this checked out professionally. Christians have not been perpetrating terrorism on behalf of Christianity. If you really think it was luck of the draw that all the 9/11 terrorists were Muslim, you have allowed your biases to eat your brain.
          IF, as McCarthy claimed, agents of a foreign Communist government were systematically infiltrating the US government, then that would have justified a hearing. There is a difference between banning something and not trusting it—nothing—not law, not ethics– requires Americans to trust everyone equally regardless of the facts.

          Calling taking reasonable precautions regarding radical Islam xenophobia is in the same boat with calling people who think we should keep illegal immigrants out of the country xenophobic. The boat is called the SS Irrational.

          • McCarthy used his belief to subjugate everyone with communist beliefs. That’s exactly what is happening here. You write up the perfect parallel, and then miss the point. A hearing on spies is okay, but he didn’t do a hearing on spies, he did a hearing on communists. This isn’t a hearing on terror, it’s a hearing on muslims.

            Taking reasonable precautions regarding radical islam is not xenophobia. This isn’t reasonable precautions regarding radical islam. You are begging the question.

        • Not flawed. We’re talking about Jesus. The Old Testament is not Christianity’s playbook—it’s background and context. And Christianity is not Fundamentalism. All religions are not the same. This is not a matter of debate.

          • Seriously? So long as they practice the one true Christianity, there is no inciting of violence. It’s only those people that interpret the bible incorrectly that are violent. Your accomodationist canards are even worse when you apply them to christianity specifically instead of all religions equally.

            Islam is also not fundamentalism. You are grasping at straws.

            Not all religions are the same, but that’s a red herring, and you should know it.

  4. I see some delusional posts here. Allow me to clear a few things up.

    Islam is not a religion of peace. It has and never will be. Islam has certain scriptures and beliefs that state Muslims should and will kill and take over land and governments. The Caliphate is completely real. The last time the Caliphate came around it wound up with the Muslims on a war rampage that took them to Sweden where they were barely, BARELY, stopped.

    My step-mom is from Lebanon. Lebanon comes in two distinct sections: Christian and Muslim. The Christian section has been shrinking for many years. She has lost her home and family to Muslims during the time she lived in Lebanon. To this day, she has to wash her fruit several times because she grew up in fear of poisoned food. These were not radicals that did this. The hate Muslims have for Christians and Jews is frightening.

    Sharia Law is absolutely absurd. It states women must have three men testify for them if they claim to be raped. If they do not, they will be stoned to death for breaking the law. There is so much wrong with Sharia Law that I do not know why people defend it. I am amazed Feminists are not up in arms over it. Women are not second class citizens in the Muslim world. They are PROPERTY.

    I am not a fan of Christianity. I see more hypocrites in that religion than I see in politics. So many times in history has shown the religion to be used as an excuse or reason to do something evil. But then, what hasn’t been used as an excuse or a reason for evil? Unlike Islam, Christianity is a religion of peace and understanding. That people do not follow what is taught is not the fault of the religion but the fault of the people.

    Here’s a Harvard Professor on the Caliphate.

    • Islam has certain scriptures and beliefs that state Muslims should and will kill and take over land and governments.

      As opposed to the rapture, the Jewish people in Israel, etc… The writers of Muhammed’s words were a little more blatant than the apostles and the writers of ancient jewish mythology, but the ideas are still there.

      So many times in history has shown the religion to be used as an excuse or reason to do something evil. But then, what hasn’t been used as an excuse or a reason for evil?

      The issue is that religion celebrates illogical arguments and faith above reason. Because of that, it is easy to manipulate into evil, while believing one is doing good, and easy to manipulate followers into evil. Nothing else in history can be compared to Religion. Existentialism might come closest, and it’s not in the same ballpark.

      Unlike Islam, Christianity is a religion of peace and understanding.

      Absolute bull. You are lumping all followers together. Christianity is a religion of following God’s will, whatever the believer decides it is. Like bombing abortion clinics, and torturing gay kids. I’m sure the crusades were part of that peace and understanding. If you want to play whack-a-mole with whatever sect of whichever religion is currently behaving most badly, you’ll continue indefinitely.

      Also, “understanding?” My father’s been fighting for understanding since he was in the Jesuits. Religious institutions and individuals independently (but as a huge mass) fight understanding tooth and nail. It’s hard to reconcile understanding with being chosen or knowing the true path.

  5. I think the debate here is that the boundaries of a specific religion are a little hard to define; just look at the doctrinal differences between Catholicism, Fundamentalist Protestantism, and Unitarianism, which all claim to be inspired by the Bible! Even in the Middle Ages, the type of Catholicism practiced by monks and nobles was different in understanding from the type practiced by peasants, despite supposed unity. Likewise, while Muslims are supposed to follow the Koran and the Hadiths, how exactly they chose to interpret these texts (and in the case of the latter, which Hadiths they consider valid in the first place, if they consider them valid at all) vary quite a bit. Religion is not just what the texts say (and all of them have some passages that at least on a literal level say some pretty nasty things), but how people read into them, and what they even accept as valid in the first place (hence Baptists don’t read the Book of Mormon, Christians don’t read Jewish commentaries on the Old Testament, and many Shiites consider invalid the Hadith forbidding images of Muhammad). What should concern us, at least in the short term, is how people actually practice their religion.

    With that being said, I don’t object to hearings about combating radicalism within the Muslim American community per-say, though I do think the handling of the King trials has been inept; like I’ve said, more focus on the experiences of actual law enforcers (like Sheriff Baca) would be a great start to getting this hearing to actually have a positive impact on our ability to combat Islamic terrorism, instead of this unproductive back-and-forth that’s been going on so far.

  6. The Kucinich statement was some kind of Liberal fantasy, but I think it too was clearly “diplomacy and intended to counter powerful passions–vengeance, anger, bigotry—by throwing his position and credibility behind a potential target.” I see no political difference in motive between his statement and the one Bush made.

    I think you are guilty of attributing western values as being absolute. Had you been born to a Muslim family, you would likely have a different opinion of the ethics of the matter, in fact, you would likely be offended by several of the assertions you’ve made and your excuses for Christianity, which has its own separate roles for women (why are they all covering their breasts under threat of arrest?) and history of hateful or terrorist acts, including supporting the use of our military resources for oppression and war, the bombing of abortion clinics, and the subversion of justice in pedophilia cases.

    I would argue that Jesus is not Christianity, and that Islam is not
    fundamentalism either. We should judge a religion by the actions of its followers and the response to those actions by the religious leaders, since what they claim to believe is of little relevance to whether they are terrorists or not.

    I also think you’re words about Kucinich show previous distaste for the man, though I’ve seen nothing in this post that makes me understand why. I think you’re letting your emotions get the better of you.

    • 1. Bush was President, and his lie was in the interests of the US. Kucinich’s comments were in the interests of enemies of the US, by attempting to undermine a legimate security inquiry. That’s a big difference in my book.
      2.Ethical relativism is not practiced here. There are absolute rights and wrongs–we just have to keep looking for them. Muslims cab beliethical to subjugate women all they want—it isn’t, and history is in the process of proving it. The Nazis thought it was ethical to kill Jews. We don’t have to respect that, and didn’t.
      3.The argument that Jesus does not represent Christianity is a non-starter.
      4. The statement by Kucinich is typical of his irresponsible statements and positions, and yes, I believe he’s a bufoon. But my position on this staement would have been exactly the same no matter who said it. It’s a lie…or, given that Dennis believes some strange things, irresponsibly incompetent.

      • 1. Kucinich’s comments were in the interest of the U.S. You are setting up a false dichotomy between freedom and security. I bet everyone against the Patriot Act was also “fer the terrorists.”

        2. You missed the point. Steel was attacking the excuses you make for Christianity to show that you are being biased.

        3. The argument that there is a true Christianity is the nonstarter. Everyone has a different opinion of what Jesus said and what he meant. While Jesus is the central figure of christianity, christianity is defined by what people believe and do, not by Jesus’ actual teachings. This is an extremely important point.

        4. You’ve now said that Kucinich’s background has led to your position and that the comments on their own led to it. You can’t have it both ways.

        • 1. Wrong. His comments were in the interest of political correctness, completely detached from the broader interests of the U.S.
          2. Christianity is 100% irrelevant to the post. You dragged it in…drag it out. As often is the case, you agree that Kucinich’s statement was bull, the point of the post, but want to cavil over side issues. I wasn’t writing about Christianity, against which you have a bias, and that’s swell with me. My bias is in favor of matter actually relevant to the post, to wit: Kucinich, the foundations of Islam, and the hearings.
          3.See above.
          4. I didn’t say either. His statement speaks for itself—I just don’t know whether Kucinich was actually lying or not.Either he’s dishonest or nuts. I have long though him nuts, but he certainly could be both.

          • 1. My explanation is just as valid as your explanation. Why do you assume you know what he was intending? Doesn’t his statement speak for itself?

            2. Yes, I brought up christianity. I did so to show that these kinds of comments about religion are common and accepted by politicians. If you had called them all out as inethical, we would have been somewhere. Instead, you made excuses for the christian lies. Your statements speak for themselves-I just don’t know whether you were actually lying or not. Either you’re dishonest or nuts. I don’t believe you’re either, but you sure seem to be caught in some invalid reasoning.

            3. Just because you don’t think it’s relevant doesn’t mean you can dodge when you make bad arguments.

            4. Or he’s making the same exact comments about Islam that other politician’s make about christianity thar are considered ethical. It’s like you’re ignoring my entire argument and restating your conclusions over and over even though they’ve been debunked.

            • Ding! An “everybody does it” argument! Even if it is one based on bias and inaccuracy. If someone says that Christianity is BASED ON peace and ethical treatment of all, that is correct, or at least arguably correct. Your premise for an unrelated argument was false, and you used it to make a rationalization.

              • You said this was worse than standard politician speak. I argued that it was the same. That is not the “everybody does it” argument. I didn’t argue this was okay because other people do it; I argued it is at the same ethics level as these other people. I think they’re all unethical. You somehow think some are fine and others aren’t. Why? Because communists are spies!

                What Christianity is “BASED ON” has no bearing on what christianity is. The original thoughts do not matter if they are not carried over. Your talk about the basis for christianity and islam is a red herring.

                • We were discussing Kucinich’s comment and the contention that Islam was based on peaceful and ethical ideals. That was the topic of the post. The fact that all, most, or many politicians lie doesn’t argue for a high-profile whopper in support of public apathy regarding terrorism threats by radical Islam to be shrugged off. They are all unethical. Your theory seems to be that you either call out all unethical statements or none. What a gift to politicians THAT would be.

  7. I agree with Genie. This thread is exactly the oppposite of soccer and sex: It’s much more fun to watch it than to take part in it.

    To move things along, however, I offer two arguably relevant (and arguable) quotations:

    “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; It has been found difficult; and left untried.” — G.K. Chesterton, WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE WORLD (1910)

    “There was only one Christian, and he died on the cross.” — Friedrich Nietzsche, THE ANTICHRIST, Aphorism 39 (1888)

  8. In order to show that the Kucinich statement was unethical and the one Bush made was not, I think you need to show motive, for which the only evidence I’ve seen from you is personal bias and arguments of scale. Twice in his post Kucinich says that if resentment grows, peace will be delayed. I don’t see any evidence to point to anything but that as his motive.

    Political correctness IS arguably in the interests of the United States according to the majority of U.S. Citizens, and was what Bush’s statement was comprised of, or do Republicans only use political correctness in emergencies or when they are trying to get elected?

    Most of the arguments so far: Kucinich vs. Bush, Women forced to hide their faces as opposed to just their breasts, the terrorist actions done in the name of Islam vs. those done in the name of Christianity, are just matters of scale, and a similar scale at that. The ethics don’t change much.

    If moral relativism isn’t practiced here, it’s just because you’re dodging the evidence you don’t like. You said Bush was responsible and Kucinich was not. You said Christians have not been perpetrating terrorism on behalf of Christianity and that Muslims have. Tgt didn’t make you say those things, you made those arguments yourself, and taking them off the table doesn’t win you the argument, you just lose credibility. What use is an ethics blog that takes the low road?

    • You can warp the obvious with the best of them, but this is forced.
      Bush was President. He spoke for the nation, and he had a major threat of hate crimes domestically as well as problems with lies, like Pakistan. Not analogous. Not remotely analogous. Not relevant either. Though I might have written critically about the statement if I had been writing the blog then…I don’t know. I doubt it. It doesn’t change Kucinich’s statement.

      Kucinich’s resentment line translates into “watch out, make these people mad and they’ll hurt you.” Idiotic, irresponsible, and self-contradictory–if they are so peaceful, what are we afraid of? It is not the equivalent of Bush’s statement at all. I didn’t deal with that part of his post because I thought it was obvious (guess not), and focused on the factual absurdity of saying that Islam stands for peace and ethics.

      I’m not interested in listening to cheap political shots—it was not a political post…again, I resent commenters who resort to accusations of partisanship, because I am studiedly non-partisan, and it is lazy advocacy. Bush’s statement had nothing to do with political correctness. It was leadership, and it related to the situation as it existed when he made the speech. Kucinich’s is nothing BUT political correctness, as it avoids truth for the sake of irrelevant sensitivities to the detriment of policy necessities. Bush did this too—the politically correct airport screening procedures are moronic, and were from the start. If I criticize a Democrat, it does not justify you presuming I’m carrying water for Republicans. There are over a hundred posts here critical of Republicans, maybe more than of Democrats—I don’t count. Back off.
      Your third paragraph is embarrassing. Gee, do a lot of women feel oppressed because full frontal nudity in public is prohibited? I don’t know of one—comparing that to being forced by law to wear a Burqa is trivializing a civil rights outrage. There is nothing about Christianity in the post; it is irrelevant to the post; there are no organized Christian groups trying to blow up planes—it’s a desperate, illogical, annoying argument. I let myself get drawn into tgt’s obsessive objection to all religions—he’s good at that—but I shouldn’t have.

      Since Bush and Kucinich were not doing or saying the same thing (surprise: context matters), and because there is no organized Christian terrorist organization operating in the US now, your last paragraph is intellectually dishonest.

      And I don’t like your tone. I am willing and eager to debate commenters, but I don’t have to put up with innuendos that I don’t know what I’m writing about or am trying to deceive anyone. You have an agenda, I don’t, except to encourage people to do some valid ethical analysis, and you are required to discuss matters here on my terms, using ethical reasoning, not political warfare. If you can’t do that, go elsewhere. There is no “low road” here, and I resent the suggestion. Sometimes I am wrong. Not this time, though, and certainly not based on your post, which is a classic in apples and oranges argument.

  9. [Steel Phoenix, after being duly warned about his tone and for making political rather than ethical arguments, persisted and has been banned from the site after the following comment. I have no problem with disagreement, but I will only tolerate a limited amount of insult from a commenter without some compensating enlightenment. When I say I have no bias on an issue, I expect to be taken at my word. When I say I have a potential bias, I have made good faith efforts to adjust for it. Sorry. I don’t like doing this—JM]

    Your level of denial astounds me.

    I’m not calling you partisan by the way, just biased. Towards Christianity, possibly towards Bush, and against Kucinich.

    There is little point in arguing if we can’t agree on the facts, and you haven’t supplied any. I’ll leave it at this unless anyone else would like to chime in and tell me why I’m wrong.

    • You are ridiculous and insulting without cause, intellectually dishonest and none too bright, and I don’t care to hear from you any more. I gave you more than a chance. Anyone else is welcome to take up your lame arguments, if they can provide any facts or rational arguments to support them…you are gone.

      I am not biased toward Christianity, as anyone who knows anything about me could confirm. I am certainly not biased towards Bush. My field is government, law, character and leadership, and I know it when I see it. Yes, I think Kucinich is a silly man, and a ludicrous legislator, but I would have responded the same way to his statement no matter which legislator said it. My opinion in this case had nothing to do with bias. Everything is not political. This is an ethics site. Go hang out at the Daily Kos—you are not welcome here.

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