Five Best Thursday Columns

On Britain's homegrown terrorists, Casey Anthony's verdict, and Chinese democracy

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Kenan Malik on Britain's Radical Muslims  On the sixth anniversary of the suicide bombing in London's transit system, Britons are still trying to understand "why four men born and brought up in Britain were gripped by such a fanatic zeal for a murderous, medieval dogma." Kenan Malik suggests, in today's New York Times, that to answer this question "we need to look not at extremist preachers or university lecturers but also at public policy, and in particular the failed policy of multiculturalism." Malik suggests that the recent turn against multiculturalism, spearheaded by "a rancorous chorus of populist politicians, like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Jimmie Akesson in Sweden," is really a masked criticism of "immigration and immigrants--especially Muslims." He proposes that "many second-generation British Muslims now find themselves detached from both the religous traditions of their parents, which they often reject, and the wider secular society that insists on viewing them simply as Muslims. A few are drawn inevitably to extremist Islamist groups where they discover a sense of identity and of belonging," he writes. "It is this that has made them open to radicalization." Not just Britain's, but all of Europe's challenge, Malik writes, "is how to reject multiculturalism as a political policy while embracing the diversity that immigration brings. No country has yet succeeded in doing so."

Alan Dershowitz on Why Casey Anthony's Verdict Was Fair  Alan Dershowitz clarifies in The Wall Street Journal that "a criminal trial is never about seeking justice for the victim. If it were, there could only be one verdict: guilty." He explains that Casey Anthony's verdict was proof that the system worked in this case because "even if it is 'likely' or 'probable' that a defendant committed the muder, he must be acquitted, becuase neither likely nor probable satisfies the daunting standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt." This is why, he explains, that O.J. Simpson was found "liable to his alleged victim" in a civil trial, "after a criminal trial had found him not guilty of his murder." The same could be done for Casey Anthony who, he points out, "was not found innocent of her daughter's murder...She was found 'not guilty.'" Despite how the media hype made it seem, the Casey Anthony trial was not a reality television show. In the end, "a criminal trial is not about who is the better lawyer. It is about the evidence, and the evidence in this case left a reasonable doubt in the mind of all the jurors. The system worked," he declares.
Joshua Green on the Tea Party's Misguided Push to Let the U.S. Default on Its Debt  Boston Globe columnist and Atlantic editor Joshua Green notes that "just about everyone besides [Tea Party] Republicans believes that a debt default would be catastrophic. And most of them, including President Obama, would accept trillions of dollars in spending cuts to avoid finding out." He argues that it is completely plausible that either the Tea Party will "be a constructive force imposing a new regime of fiscal probity will bring about the political equivalent of a murder-suicide, wrecking the economy and taking the Republican Party over a cliff." The Tea Party has been able to get key Republicans to refuse bargaining with Democrats over budget cuts to Medicare and Medicaid for "fear of getting crosswise with them." Negotiating with the president on his proposed trillions in cuts to spending for the good of the debt ceiling would, "by the Tea Party's own professed standard, represent a tremendeous victory and establish it as one of the most successful forces in recent political history." But, he notes, "for the time being, its legacy seems to be approaching an ominously different outcome."
Jamil Anderlini on China's Democratic Roots  Despite recent celebrations and a propaganda campaign in honor of the Chinese Communist Party's 90th birthday, "there are growing signs that the party is starting to cannibalize itself as rampant corruption and infighting among [its most] powerful families intensify in the lead-up to a leadership transiton next year." Despite the differences between today's China and the China of the Qing Empire, the 100th anniversary of which will be commemorated this year, "rampant official corruption, a sense of political inertia and the image of an autocratic greedy elite feeding off the toiling masses are all features of the late imperial era that resonate in modern China," Jamil Anderlini notes in the Financial Times today. While even Hu Jintao recognizes the need for political reform, the country's powerful families and political elite fear that any such change "could result in China losing vast swaths of territory with ethnic Tibetans and Muslim Uighurs in the country's west rising up against Chinese rule" or that "if China's unwashed masses were allowed to vote tomorrow they would most likely elect a xenophobic populist dictator." Anderlini rejects these arguments, insisting that they "ignore the long tradition of popular and elite Chinese support for democracy and also ignore the rather successful examples of democratic Taiwan and semi-democratic Hong Kong." Mao's successors, he argues, should remember the leader's original democratic beliefs he held before becoming "a brutal dictator." He thinks "they would do well to finally start putting his words into practice."
Victor Davis Hanson on Immigration's Illiberal Turn  "Illegal immigration in the 21st century is becoming an illiberal enterprise," writes National Review's Victor Davis Hanson. "Does a liberal-sounding but exploitative Mexican government cynically encourage its expatriates to scrimp and save in America only to send huge sums of money back home to help poor relatives, so that Mexico City need not?" he asks. "In turn, do an increasing number of illegal aliens count on help from the American taxpayer for food, housing, legal, and education subsidies in order to free up $20 billion to send home?" These and several other questions about the benefits Latino immigrants should or shouldn't receive after having entered the country illegally drive Hanson to conclude that "the old liberal ideal of a racially blind, melting-pot society where the law is applied equally across the board has descended into the new postmodern practice of enforcing many laws only selectively--and based entirely on politics, matters of race, ethnic chauvinism, and national origin."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.