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Recent Publications by New English Review Authors
The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky

These are all the Blogs posted on Thursday, 11, 2010.
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Mohammed Atif Siddique: 'If I was white Christian, I'd never have been jailed'

If I had just been released from custody after conviction for terrorist offences I'd keep my head down and my mouth shut. But look at the poster on the wall behind him - no chance. I assume his lawyer Aamer Anwar  had that taken and printed after he was cleared of contempt of court in 2008 but still described as 'angry and petulant' by the three Judges of the Edinburg High Court. Or maybe after the incident involving his wife crashing her car into a white Scotswoman where the Judge described his evidence that the victim was racist as 'unreliable'. I think he was having a fantasy that he is Ali Dizaei. He came unstuck this week and in his wildest dreams Anwar does not 'control Glasgow'. Still given enough rope they could both still hang themselves. From The Scotsman. Photograph The Scotsman.

THE man once branded Scotland's first Islamist terrorist last night claimed to have been a victim of racism.  Mohammed Atif Siddique, 24, was freed on Tuesday after serving four years of an eight-year terrorism sentence after his main conviction was quashed.

Last night, he told The Scotsman that he would never have been behind bars if he was a white Christian rather than a young Asian Muslim. The Scot was jailed for downloading terrorism-related materials from the internet after, he claimed, he sought to answer questions about his faith and jihad online.  Yesterday, in his first lengthy interview, he said: "I do regard myself as a victim of racism. Had a white person downloaded this stuff, there would have been no prosecution."

His release marked another major blow for Britain's much-criticised terrorism laws. His conviction under the controversial Section 57 of the 2000 Terrorism Act – which critics describe as banning "thought crime" rather than actual deeds – was quashed.

Britain's independent watchdog of terrorism legislation yesterday said he would now review the section.  Lord Carlile said: "As a result of this decision, I will be looking at Section 57 with these issues in mind. I will look carefully at the issue because a very senior court in Scotland criticised the law."

Siddique's lawyer, Aamer Anwar, welcomed such a review. "Critics south of the Border have suggested this law is a bit of a sledgehammer," he said.  The Scotsman understands Siddique is now likely to challenge his conviction on three lesser charges, two of them internet terrorism-related.

Siddique said yesterday that he always expected to be convicted. "I didn't think I was going to get not guilty," he said. "My trial came at a time when there was a lot of hostility – the Glasgow Airport attacks had just happened, my trial finished on the anniversary of 9/11."

Posted on 02/11/2010 6:02 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Another Victory for Strength over Appeasement

Richard L. Benkin, author of "More Silence About Islamist Ethnic Cleansing" in this month's NER, sends us the following dispatch from Bangladesh:

When Islamists attacked Mumbai, India’s New York, many people called it that country’s 9/11. Although it certainly was the most high profile attack, it was far from the first in this country of over a billion people. India faces terrorist attacks of one sort or another multiple times each week. The South Asia Terrorism Portal collects figures on terrorism here and calculated that 47,371 Indians have died in terrorist attacks since 1994. Since 2006, about two-thirds of the fatalities occurred as a result of Islamist attacks; the rest came at the hands of radical communists.
Earlier this week, Indian officials said that the greatest threat to the nation’s security was the Maoist insurgency. The Naxalite movement started in 1967, but only became a real insurgency during the past decade and a half. The name comes from the village where the movement started, Naxalbari in West Bengal. I slipped into Naxalbari last year to find, ironically enough, that the communist movement no longer exists there. Different Indian governments have tried various methods to fight or appease the Naxalites, but nothing dulled the terrorist threat—until now.
As reported in The Times of India earlier this week, the Naxalites have for the first time cried “Uncle.” Speaking through the banned Communist Party of India/Maoist (as distinguished from the non-insurgent Communist Party of India/Marxist, which still holds of power in three Indian states), the Naxalites said they were ready for peace talks with the government. They ask only that the government release several of their leaders that it has captured in the recent and ferocious counterattack on Maoists throughout India. As Mohua Chatterjee noted in the Times, “Though the ‘offer’ can be read as a bid to earn some respite from the ongoing crackdown, the bid for talks also marks a climbdown of sorts [for the communists]” Previously, the Naxalites have scoffed at the very notion of talks with the government and consistently vowed to press “the revolution.”
The Indian government, however, recently ended its traditional policies of tough talk with little commensurate action, and has engaged in a massive offensive against Naxalite leaders and forces. On the day of the Naxalites’ retreat, the government captured eight more of their leaders in the Northern state of Uttar Pradesh. One of them earned a PhD from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, long known as a hotbed of communism; where I recently became one of the first openly anti-Communist and anti-Islamist speakers. Significant student movements indicate that there is a growing current among the student body decidedly to the Right.
The Maoists’ General Secretary admitted that the radical movement may be losing intellectual support it once enjoyed, because of “the enemy’s onslaught.”
“This (anti-Maoist operation) is a brutal campaign of repression aimed at the suppression of the political movement of people.”   The communist leader, neglected to mention that this ‘brutal campaign’ was undertaken only after years of appeasement and the resulting death of 3120 Indian citizens in the last five years alone.
For its part, the government seems to have recognized that and has said that it will entertain talks only if the Maoists lay down their weapons and stop “all violent actions.” Assuming that this will not happen, sources told The Times of India that the government’s battle plan is “nothing short of a blitzkrieg.”
Posted on 02/11/2010 6:52 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Paws for thought

I get the impression that Rod Liddle doesn't like cats much:

A new study from the University of Bristol shows that the number of cats in the country doubles every 22 seconds, or something. Further, the huge surge in cat numbers is down to the university-educated, smug and self-regarding middle class, who prefer cats as pets because (as the researchers did not quite say) “they are not right in the head”.

This is a problem because, as was reported in New Scientist recently, cats are a large contributor to global warming; owning a cat, apparently, is the equivalent to doing your weekly shopping in a Harrier jump jet while repeatedly beating a polar bear with a stick and blowtorching a glacier.

It is time those boffins at the University of East Anglia made up some figures about the real scale of damage caused by CGW (Cattusogenic Global Warming) and Lord Stern — who authored a review on climate change — got himself involved, perhaps by taunting cat owners about the quality of their university degrees (“a 2:2 from Reading — ha, no wonder you like cats”).

I would hate to be controversial or gratuitously offensive, but it seems to me that the Koreans have the right approach to this problem.

The word "authored" is infelicitous (geddit?) Here's a video to melt even his heart. Cat or slinky? Answers on a pawscard, please:

Posted on 02/11/2010 8:52 AM by Mary Jackson
Thursday, 11 February 2010
The State of Free Speech On Campus

Stand With Us sent out the following:

Muslim students tried to silence Israel's U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren when he spoke at UC Irvine's Pacific Ballroom on Monday afternoon, February 8, 2010.

Ambassador Oren had come to share his historical and personal perspective on the U.S.-Israel relationship. An author, professor of history, and diplomat, Ambassador Oren is politically centrist and regarded as an expert on many issues of vital interest today.  But the Muslim students were determined to silence him, deny him the right to free speech, and deny the audience the right to have civil, intellectual discourse at UCI.

The Muslim students had carefully planned their tactics. Â Shortly before the event began, large numbers of them gathered for prayers outside the Ballroom. They then entered and scattered throughout the room in order to disrupt the speech from different locations. They did. After every few of Ambassador Oren's sentences, a student would stand up and scream unintelligibly at him while the other students involved raucously clapped and howled. The student whose turn it was to disturb the event would then walk proudly out of the Ballroom, escorted by police, while glaring at the understandably upset and frustrated audience of over 500 people who had come to hear the Ambassador's remarks.

After at least ten interruptions, the uncivilized demonstrators marched outside to a spot closest to the wall of the Ballroom. Â From there, they shouted more slogans, hoping they could continue to disrupt the event.
But they could not.

The Muslim students angered the audience and embarrassed the UCI administration. They ignored pleas and reprimands from UCI officials who took the microphone. They ignored Ambassador Oren's request that he be granted the civil hospitality due to a guest of the University. They ignored his urging that they raise their concerns during the Q and A. 
The good news is that Ambassador Oren refused to be silenced. He had come to UCI to share his thoughts and did not abandon his right to free speech even as dozens of students coordinated this hostile demonstration. With his elegant manner, he remained calm, and stood his ground.
He stood up for free speech.

There are lessons to be learned from this event. The University will need to identify the participating students and decide what consequences they will suffer for their uncivilized behavior. Â The organizers of the protest were seen coordinating the screams from their seats by text messaging on their cell phones, and the Muslim Student Union president may have been among the eleven arrested for disrupting the event. The UCI administration will need to consider sanctions for the MSU since it was clear to everyone in the audience that the MSU had orchestrated the raucous effort to prevent free speech.

Every speaker can learn from Ambassador Oren's example. Whether the speaker is a U.S. General, an academic, or a representative from another country, his or her right to free speech may very well be challenged.  We have seen this pattern spread throughout the U.S., especially this past year. Just a few hours before Professor Oren's event, Israel's Senior Legal Advisor, Daniel Taub, had spoken at the UCLA Law School, and also faced a disruptive demonstration. Like Ambassador Oren, Mr. Taub responded with calm, dignity, and a sincere invitation to the demonstrators that they ask questions during the Q and A. Instead, they, too, refused to cooperate, and marched out, escorted by the police.

The main lesson from Ambassador Oren is that we must stand up with dignity and eloquence for free speech. If we do not, if speakers give up and walk off the stage, we risk sacrificing the civil dialogue essential to education and a bedrock of American values.

Meanwhile, across the pond, the same thing occurred at the Oxford Union.

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister was met by a protester screaming “slaughter the Jews” as he spoke at the Oxford Union.

Antisemitic and anti-Israel abuse was shouted throughout Danny Ayalon’s speech on Monday evening, with students causing numerous disruptions to the event.

During the hour-long session one student ran towards Mr Ayalon shouting the Arabic phrase “Itbah Al-Yahud” [Slaughter the Jews].

As many as 10 others, carrying Palestinian flags, made attempts to attack Mr Ayalon but were intercepted and removed by security.

Outside the hall protesters chanted: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.”

Posted on 02/11/2010 9:05 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Erick Stakelbeck Reports from London

This report is from CBN News:

Posted on 02/11/2010 9:48 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 11 February 2010
A Musical Interlude: I'm Wild About That Thing (Bessie Smith)

Listen here.

Posted on 02/11/2010 10:46 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 11 February 2010
More On Desmond Travers, With His Faccia Da Schiaffi

New Revelations About the UN Goldstone Report
that Seriously Undermine its Credibility


Dore Gold and Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi


Col. (ret.) Desmond Travers was one of the four members of the UN Fact Finding Mission that produced what is widely called the Goldstone Report. The Mission  investigated Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip between December 27, 2008 and January 18, 2009.  Travers joined the Irish Defense Forces in 1961 and retired after forty years. As the only former officer who belonged to Justice Richard Goldstone's team, he was the senior figure responsible for the military analysis that provided the basis for condemning Israel for war crimes.

After following his repeated public appearances with the other mission members in July 2009, and especially in light of his most recent interviews, serious flaws have now become evident in the methodology he followed, in his collection and processing of data, and in the conclusions he draws. In the past, the flaws in the Goldstone report, and especially its lack of balance, have been criticized by the London Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Economist, but the fundamental problems of its military analysis have not been fully addressed. In the material presented here, this becomes evident in four specific ways:


1. A Fundamental Bias against the Israel Defense Forces

During the Mission's collection of testimonies from Palestinian psychologists in the Gaza Strip, Travers asked them straight out to explain how Israeli soldiers could kill Palestinian children in front of their parents. In an interview with Middle East Monitor, on February 2, 2010, he asserted that in the past Israeli soldiers had "taken out and deliberately shot" Irish peacekeeping forces in Southern Lebanon. Both of these statements by Travers are completely false. It should be stressed that one of the most vicious and unsubstantiated conclusions in the Goldstone Report is the suggestion that Israel deliberately killed Palestinian civilians.

While Travers assumes the worst of intentions on the part of the Israel Defense Forces, he praises Hamas for their cooperation with the Mission. When he was asked about Hamas intimidation that affected the Mission's inquiries, he replied that that there was "none

whatsoever." Yet the Goldstone Report itself noted in Paragraph 440 that those interviewed in Gaza appeared reluctant to speak about the presence of Palestinian armed groups because of a "fear of reprisals." He rejects the notion that Hamas shielded its forces in the civilian population and does not accept the idea that Israel faced asymmetric warfare.


2. False Information Reported About Weapons Systems

Travers comes up with a story that the IDF had unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's) that could obtain a "thermal signature" on a Gaza house and detect that there were large numbers of people inside. Incredibly, he then suggests that with this information that certain houses were "packed with people," the Israeli military would then deliberately order a missile strike on these populated homes. The primary technical problem with his theory is that Israel does not have UAV's that can see though houses and pick up a thermal signature. More importantly, Israel used UAV's to monitor that Palestinian civilians left houses that had received multiple warnings, precisely because Israel sought to minimize civilian casualties, a fact that Travers could not fathom, because of his own clear biases.


3. Completely Inaccurate Data

Travers rejects that Israel began military operations against the Gaza Strip on December 27, 2008 as an act of self-defense in response to Hamas rockets. He bases this idea on a "fact" that he presents that in the month prior to start of the war, there were only "something like two" rockets that fell on Israel. Israeli military sources found that there were in fact 32 rockets fired from Gaza at Israel over three days alone--between December 16 and 18, 2008. He adds to his analysis that at this time Hamas sought to extend the tahdiya, or lull arrangement--which he called a cease-fire. Yet the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades of Hamas announced on December 17 that the lull would come to an end two days later and would not be renewed. The head of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus, Khaled Mashaal, announced the end of the lull on December 14. To say that Hamas wanted to continue the lull is a complete distortion of events.

In his Middle East Monitor interview, Travers states that he "only came across two incidents of where there was an actual combat situation" - the exchange of fire between Israel and Hamas. Because he minimizes the possibility that Israel was engaged in real combat in the Gaza Strip, it follows that he naturally conclude that Israel was essentially attacking non-combatants during Operation Cast Lead.


4. Lack of Professionalism in Conducting Thorough Investigations

Travers relies on his own prejudices when he looks into the question of whether Gazan Mosques had been militarized by Hamas and turned into weapons depots. In an interview with Harpers, published on October 29, 2009, Travers makes a sweeping generalization: "We found no evidence that mosques were used to store munitions." He then dismissed those who suggested that was the case by saying: "Those charges reflect Western perceptions in some quarters that Islam is a violent religion." How many mosques did Travers investigate? He admits that the Mission only checked two mosques.

Of course, srael produced photographic proof that large amounts of weapons were stored in mosques, like the Zaytun Mosque. In a subsequent interview, Travers rejected the Israeli proof: "I do not believe the photographs."  He described the photographs as "spurious." Travers appears to be bothered by proof that contradicts the conclusions he reaches on the basis of a very limited investigation. In early 2010, Colonel Tim Collins, a British veteran of the Iraq War, visited Gaza for BBC Newsnight and inspected the ruins of a mosque that Israel had destroyed because it had been a weapons depot. He found that there was evidence of secondary explosions cause by explosives stored in the mosque cellar. Travers clearly did not make the effort that Collins made.

In his questioning of Palestinian witnesses in the Gaza Strip, Travers does not ask the questions that a military advisor should raise. He did not ask those giving testimony if they were member of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam units of Hamas and were combatants. He also failed to ask them straight out if their homes had been used to store munitions, like Grad rockets. Instead, his questions reflected his ideological bias.

Travers most recent interview also had a disturbing additional element. When addressing the role of British officers in defending Israel's claims, Travers suddenly adds: "Britain's foreign policy interests in the Middle East seem to be influenced strongly by Jewish lobbyists." Travers implies that British Jews have interests that differ from Britain's own national interests and that Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government is influenced by these considerations. This statement, unless corrected, places Travers is a position in which his views are suspect of being motivated by anti-Semitic prejudices. Even without this last statement, he clearly emerges as an individual who is not qualified to take part in any serious fact-finding mission and the U.N. should not seek his services in the future. Given his statements, Justice Richard Goldstone should repudiate Col. Travers and completely reject the conclusions that he reached as a result of his work.

For an expanded version of this report in Hebrew, seeUnprofessional Conduct of the Goldstone Commission's Military Expert - Jonathan D. Halevi.

Posted on 02/11/2010 10:21 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 11 February 2010
A Pregnant-With-Meaning Musical Interlude: God Bless You, Mr. Chamberlain (Harry Roy Orch.)

Listen, amazedly, here.

The song is from 1939. On  October 16, 1939, Harry Roy's band -- now Wikipedia will speak -- "was booked into the Café Anglais for a month, but the engagement was terminated when the restaurant suffered bomb damage." German bombs, bien entendu.The note accompanying the song's up-load on YouTube says it was recorded in November 1939. Something about the chronology here puzzles me. I find it hard to believe the song was recorded after German bombs had been dropping on the Cafe Anglais. Perhaps someone reading this has an idea (other than the obvious one, that I reject, that this song was meant to be taken sardonically).

Posted on 02/11/2010 11:48 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Not our problem

"What's a Grecian Urn? Fifty drachmas a day," runs the old joke. Updated, that should read "Fifty Euros a day, but ten if you're the taxman."

The only decent thing our execrable one-eyed idiotic Scot of a PM ever did was to keep us out of the Euro. It is not without Schadenfreude that I observe the Eurozone in difficulties, particularly Greece, which lied and cheated its way into that cesspit of corruption. Thank God the (relatively) honest British taxpayer is not having to bail out the lying kleptocrats of Greece. From The Telegraph:

Speculation continues to fly that Britain might somehow get drawn into the European bailout now under discussion for Greece. In fact there is virtually no chance of this happening.

To the relief of the UK Treasury, eurozone officials made plain at the G7 meeting in Canada last weekend that this was entirely a single currency matter and that it was for euro-members to sort it out.

Good result. American-born Telegraph writer Janet Daly is rightly scathing about Americans who thought Britain should join. I doubt there are any such at this site - the average IQ of NER readers is at least 100.

As the Greek crisis threatens an apocalyptic political showdown in the EU, all those bemused Americans who used to question the logic (or the sanity) of British Euroscepticism may be having second thoughts.

I can remember doing an interview in the 1980s with the US cable news channel MSNBC in which my host responded to my doubts about the single Euroupean currency with patronising amusement. “But Britain”, he said with a smile, “is part of Europe.” What that meant to him I suppose was that London was generally the first stop on the traditional American Grand Tour of “Yurope” as it existed in the imagination of a US undergraduate. London, Paris, Rome, Brussels, etc were just colourful spots on the Old World map, whose variations were more quaint and decorative than substantial.

And if the fifty states of the US could share a currency, he went on, why shouldn’t the “states” of Europe be able to do the same? Well, here’s why: the nations of Europe are differentiated not just by their famous tourist monuments and adorable customs but by their wildly disparate historical experiences, their financial discipline and rectitude, their atttiude to the need for following rules, etc, etc. The very different financial conditions and political cultures which arise from all these dissimilar backgrounds have been fudged and bent out of shape to make them conform to a single model – and now we are seeing the consequences. What I should have asked the man from MSNBC, of course, was how he would feel if the US was proposing to abandon the dollar and embrace a new common currency (the Americano?) which would be shared with all the countries of Latin and Central America – including those with outrageously high debts (as Brazil had at the time). This would, of course, involve the US Federal Bank being amalgamated into a Central American Bank which would have power over the interest rates of all member nations as well as depriving them of the possibility of devaluation. Somehow I suspect this might have punctured his enthusiasm for international clubs which limit the freedom of sovereign nations to act in their own interests.

But I suppose even those shiny eyed liberals in the US who thought that European federalism was such a swell idea are getting the message now.

And another thing - Greece wants the Elgin Marbles back. It can whistle for them.

Posted on 02/11/2010 1:25 PM by Mary Jackson
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Airport Body Scanners Violate the Teachings of Islam, Says Muslim Group

I haven't been thrilled about the idea of airport scanners myself, but I'm starting to warm to the idea.

( - A group of Muslim scholars says it supports airline safety, but it is "deeply concerned" about the use of airport scanners that show nude images of the human body.

“The Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA) emphasizes that a general and public use of such scanners is against the teachings of Islam, natural law and all religions and cultures that stand for decency and modesty,” the group said in a Feb. 10 statement posted at Islam Online.

"It is a violation of clear Islamic teachings that men or women be seen naked by other men and women," FCNA explained. The group noted that Islam emphasizes modesty, considering it part of the faith. "The Qur'an has commanded the believers, both men and women, to cover their private parts" and to be modest in their dress.
While exceptions can be made in cases of "extreme necessity," FCNA indicated that passenger body scans do not rise to that level.
FCNA is asking for changes in scanner software so the machines will produce only body outlines. In the meantime, the group says Muslim travelers should choose pat-down searches over scanner images – in cases where searches are necessary.
The Fiqh Council of North America is an affiliate of the Islamic Society of North America, which advises and educates its members and officials “on matters related to the application of Shari’ah (Islamic law) in their individual and collective lives in the North American environment.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations also issued a news release on Wednesday, endorsing FCNA's statement on the use of body scanners.

So...if a fatwa were to be issued from Al Azhar, say, then, does that mean no Muslim travel in the West? Allah works in mysterious ways.

Posted on 02/11/2010 2:22 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Cliché corner

From tiny minority of extremists to Islamophobia will make "tensions" worse, this New Statesman leader has every tired cliché and false reassurance in the book:

More than half the people of Britain are strongly opposed to a mosque being built in their neighbourhood. Only a quarter of Britons feel positive towards Muslims, while more than a third report feeling "cool" towards them. These are the ominous results from the latest British Social Attitudes Survey. So is Britain anti-Muslim? Is there a place for Islam in British public life?

This magazine is proud of its secular, liberal heritage. Our interest in Islam and Muslims is not religious or theological. But it is clear that, politically and culturally, Islam matters, and on a range of global issues, from the so-called war on terror to the Middle East peace process to the future of Europe. Here in Britain, much of the debate over terrorism and extremism, as well as race, immigration and multiculturalism, revolves - rightly or wrongly - around Muslim communities.

Since 11 September 2001, and especially since the attacks in London on 7 July 2005, many Britons have come to fear their Muslim neighbours: they worry about the bearded young man with a backpack sitting next to them on the Tube. There is also a widespread lack of knowledge about the central tenets of the faith itself and the basic fabric of British Muslim life. Fear and ignorance are a toxic combination, and myths and misconceptions abound.

Contrary to popular opinion, polls show that the overwhelming majority of British Muslims are integrated, loyal, non-violent and eschew religious fanaticism (page 26). But the antics of a small cabal of British-born Muslim radicals - exemplified by the buffoonish Anjem Choudary and his Islam4UK group (now banned by the Home Office) - bring the entire Muslim community into disrepute in this country.

Yet publicity-seeking hotheads like Choudary have been aided and abetted by a sensationalist press that often conflates the actions of an angry minority with those of the peaceful majority. Islamophobia now seems rife - in the words of one conservative commentator, "prejudice against Islam . . . is Britain's last remaining socially respectable form of bigotry".

In 2008, researchers at Cardiff University revealed that more than two-thirds of the stories about Muslims published in the press since 2000 identified them either as a source of problems or as a threat - culturally, as well as in security terms. More than a quarter of the stories propagated the idea that Islam is dangerous, backward or irrational.

This relentlessly negative coverage of Muslims and Islam must end. The liberal left has always defended minorities in this country - be they Jewish, black or gay. Today, it is Muslims who are demonised and bear the brunt of racist attacks. "I try to imagine how I would feel if this rainstorm of headlines substituted the word 'Jew' for 'Muslim'," wrote one leading Jewish commentator, in the wake of the 2006 row over the niqab, or Islamic face veil. "I wouldn't just feel frightened, I would be looking for my passport."

Well, when Jews start blowing themselves up on tube trains I'm sure such headlines will appear. Jews are peaceful and hard working and still get a bad press.

No religion or community is beyond scrutiny. There is a debate to be had about the role of Islam in modern Britain. British Muslims find themselves at, or near, the bottom of various socio-economic indices: poverty, unemployment, literacy and life expectancy. But the American Muslim experience offers hope. Muslims in America are among the nation's brightest and best-adjusted minorities: in a Gallup poll, 41 per cent of American Muslims said they were "thriving". This figure drops to 7 per cent in the UK.

President Obama has appointed the pollster Dalia Mogahed, a veiled Muslim woman, as one of his advisers on inter-faith relations. Sheacknowledges (on page 32) that, as "corny as it may sound", she is proof of the "American dream". Is America's "melting pot" a better model for the integration of Muslims than Britain's multicultural experiment?

Or does secular, democratic India offer a better alternative? That is the argument of Ed Husain (on page 28), the former self-described "Islamist". Acknowledging the way in which many Muslims have been radicalised in recent years, he makes a bold case for reconciling a new form of political Islam with liberal democracy. Husain and Tariq Ramadan (on page 22) remind us that the strength of Islam has always been its ability to adapt to different circumstances and cultures.

Misunderstanding Muslims can only lead to further tensions and will make civic harmony impossible. This week, the magazine attempts to offer a more nuanced understanding of a range of contentious issues, in particular whether Islam is compatible with the values and principles of western liberal democracy. Meanwhile, British Muslims, alienated, frustrated and under siege, need our support.

There are a lot of "Misunderstanding Muslims" around, but I don't think that's what is meant.

Posted on 02/11/2010 2:22 PM by Mary Jackson
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Nashville Somali Mosque Vandalised

Naturally, we at NER do not like to see vandalism of property in any circumstance, but this particular piece of graffiti has definitely sparked a discussion at The Tennessean. 146 191 comments and counting (quite a few seem to have been removed - I noticed several replies to non-existent comments).

State, local and federal officials are investigating vandalism discovered early Wednesday at the Al-Farooq Mosque on Fourth Avenue South as a possible hate crime.

The words "Muslim go home' and several crosses were spray-painted in red on the exterior of the building, and an expletive and hate-speech filled note was left at the youth center, according to a board member of the mosque. Salaad Nur said the note contained the message that Islam is the enemy and that the religion is trying to destroy the United States and Israel. Members of the mosque planned to meet last night with law enforcement to discuss the crime.

"It was an unexpected thing,' Nur said. "It kind of shook us.'

Metro Police Sgt. Brooks Harris of the Specialized Investigations Division said his department will investigate because of the obvious sign that the vandalism could be classified as a hate crime. He said he notified the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation as well as the FBI, to see if federal laws were violated and look for potential similarities with vandalism late last year at a mosque site in Murfreesboro.

Harris was unsure if there was any physical evidence that might help them solve the crime.

"The key issue is, we're really looking at this together with our state and federal partners and doing everything we can to get to the bottom of this, prevent it, and if there's a solvability factor, we'll find it.'

Nur said this was the first time the mosque was vandalized, and even after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when backlash against Muslims was rampant, they never had a problem like this.

Elias Feghali of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition blamed media reports and talk radio hosts who fan the flame against Muslims in Tennessee for the vandalism.

"To be frank, in our conversations with the community, this is what we've said we were waiting for to happen," Feghali said. "(Sensationalism) has empowered the extremists that vandalized their mosque."

Ann Corcoran at Refugee Resettlement Watch wants to know if the Ft. Hood shooter has been charged with a hate crime. A reasonable question. According to Wikipedia, Nidal Hasan has been charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and he may face additional charges at court-martial, but has not been charged with a hate crime.

I can't say I'm personally in favor of the hate crime concept because the potential for selective prosecution is too great - as is obvious from the example above.

Posted on 02/11/2010 3:00 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Is Iran’s “big punch” aimed at its own people?

President Ahmadinejad presided today over a staged tightly controlled celebration of the 31st anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. He gloated  about the miniscule amount of enriched uranium that miraculously appeared following Monday’s announcement of increasing the level of current production to 20 percent.  An MSNBC report, “Iran is now a Nuclear State” noted:
Ahmadinejad reiterated to hundreds of thousands of cheering Iranians on the anniversary of the 1979 foundation of the Islamic Republic that the country was now a "nuclear state," an announcement he's made before. He insisted that Iran had no intention of building nuclear weapons.
"I want to announce with a loud voice here that the first package of 20 percent fuel was produced and provided to the scientists," he said.
"We have the capability to enrich uranium more than 20 percent or 80 percent but we don't enrich (to this level) because we don't need it," he said in a speech broadcast live on state television.
Was that the ‘big punch’ that Ayatollah Khamenei said last weekend would occur today in Tehran? Hardly.
The “big punch” was not against the West and ‘Zionist entity,’ Israel; it was against the Iranian people. That was the bottom line of comments  by Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) executive director,Mark Dubowitz, and Dr. Michael Ledeen, FDD Freedom Scholar, during a 1330AMWEBY radio panel discussion on the Middle East, Iran, Israel and Washington – listen to the entire program.
The ‘big punch’ was against the Iranian Green Movement opposition, led by failed Presidential candidates, former Iran –Iraq War PM Mir-Hossein Mousavi, i and former Chairman of the Iranian Parliament, Mehdi Karroubi. That was evident in the crushing assault on the opposition by regime Basiji para-military and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps security forces in Tehran. Conspicuous by their absence was the Iranian military suspected by the Mullahs of harboring opposition sentiment. Note this Times on-line report,” Iran Crushes opposition protests with violence.”
Iran’s regime thwarted the opposition’s hopes of turning the 31st anniversary celebrations of the Islamic revolution into another massive protest today.
It out-maneuvered the so-called Green movement by swamping the official proceedings with huge numbers of its own supporters, preventing the media from covering anything else and blanketing the rest of the capital with security forces who forcefully suppressed the opposition’s relatively muted demonstrations
Opposition websites claimed a young woman named Leila Zareii was killed and many others were wounded or arrested. The opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi and Mohammed Khatami - a former president - were attacked, as was Zahra Rahnavard, wife of the Green Movement’s other leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Even Zahra Eshraghi, granddaughter of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of the 1979 revolution, was briefly arrested. She and her brother, Hassan, are both opposition sympathizers and she is married to Mr. Khatami’s brother.

“It's pretty clear that Greens everywhere will feel demoralized... The overall feeling is one of disappointment,” one well-placed source in Tehran told The Times last night. “The opposition miscalculated,” said another.

The regime was determined to prevent the so-called Green Movement from hijacking the biggest day in Iran’s calendar and largely succeeded.

Opposition websites said Revolutionary Guards and Basiji militiamen were stationed everywhere and that they moved swiftly and violently to break up opposition demonstrations.

They claimed the security forces used live ammunition, knives, tear gas and paintballs that would enable them to identify protesters later and that they were beating and arresting women as well as men. They were backed up by water cannon, new Chinese anti-riot vehicles and helicopters. Some, wearing plain clothes, infiltrated the protesters. The mobile telephone, internet and text messaging systems were seriously disrupted.

Mr. Karroubi’s son, Hussein, said his father had to get out of his car and walk towards Sadeghieh Square, where thousands of supporters had gathered, because the roads were blocked. He was joined by other protestors, but they found their way blocked by plainclothes security forces that attacked them with knives, batons and tear gas.

The Islamic regime also played a tougher game of digital ‘whack a mole’, as they blockaded internet traffic and communications by opposition protesters. The irony is that the cyber war against the Iranian opposition was carried out using technology purchased from Germany’s
Siemens and Finland’s Nokia.

Dubowitz of the FDD commented during the WEBY radio panel discussion that the US had to take the lead in imposing what Israeli Ambassador to the US,
Michael Oren in a PJTV interview called “crippling sanctions.” Dubowitz, who had briefed Congressional leaders during the legislative effort that resulted in both the House and Senate passage of stronger sanctions, noted what he considered one of the most effective proposals: a virtual quarantine on refined petroleum products exported to Iran. According to Dubowitz, the long-overdue Iranian refined petroleum products sanctions zero in on a major economic vulnerability: the Islamic regime has to import more than 40 percent of gasoline and diesel products because of the lack of capital to build refineries. While directly impacting the man on the street in Tehran through rationing and dramatic inflationary price increases, Dubowitz believes that the refined petroleum products sanction would result in heightened Iranian opposition to the Islamic regime for impoverishing its citizens and mismanaging the economy. Dubowitz believes that the Obama version of tough sanctions is reflected in a Treasury Department announcement yesterday of a freeze of financial assets here in the US which allegedly belong to Iranian Revolutionary Guard officials. Many believe such efforts are fruitless given the movement of those assets to Dubai and other unregulated foreign financial venues. When queried by WEBY co-hosts Bates and Gordon about the likelihood of Russian accommodations of tougher sanctions, Dubowitz responded that Russia might be more supportive now that Iran has announced the snubbing of the ‘5+1’ nuclear enrichment program exchange in which Russia had an economic interest. China would, in his opinion, be unlikely to support sanctions given its worldwide scramble for resource deals to keep its economy developing. 

Ledeen noted that according to a
report in the Suddeutsch Zeitung based on an IAEA report, a Russian scientist indicated that Iran had developed a nuclear warhead that might be mounted on a medium range Shahab III missile, if miniaturized. If that occurred, the threat to Israel and the Middle East would be palpable. Note this comment from a Ledeen Pajamas Media blog post:

Quoting a new IAEA summary, the Suddeutsche said the scientist had previously worked in a Soviet nuclear weapons laboratory on advanced warheads. It said both western intelligence services and diplomats had confirmed the connection.

The newspaper added that Iran was trying to make a nuclear weapon small enough to fit into one of its Shahab 3 medium-range missiles and was designing a so-called two-point implosion system, which requires only two simultaneously exploding detonators to trigger a nuclear blast.

The former Soviet scientist was an expert on the high-speed cameras needed to test if both detonations were symmetrical, and had worked for Iran from the mid-1990s till 2000.

When asked whether that would give rise to US, and especially Israeli concerns leading to possible military actions, Ledeen suggested that the US for over a decade had neglected support for Iranian opposition. That in his opinion was in sharp contrast to the support provided directly and covertly by the Reagan Administration to Solidarity that assisted in overturning the Polish Communist regime in the 1980’s. How that would apply by analogy to the apocalyptic Shia Mullahs in Tehran is another matter. Ledeen referenced the so-called
VOICE Act passed by Congress and signed into law by the Obama Administration that would supply satellite phones and other internet communications links to the opposition in Iran thereby avoiding controls exerted by the Islamic regime. This he contended was analogous to the supply by the US of fax machines to Solidarity in Poland.

When asked by WEBY co-hosts Bates and Gordon, what kind of a regime might follow in the wake of a possible downfall of the Islamic Republic in Iran, Dubowitz and Ledeen opined that it might not be everything we would want, it may very well be messy, but at least it is better than the alternative.
Posted on 02/11/2010 4:51 PM by Jerry Gordon
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Dexter Van Zile: George Galloway is really not a man of peace

Dexter Van Zile, Christian media analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in Reporting on the Middle East in America (CAMERA) had an op-ed in the Wicked Local Allston -Brighton, Massachusetts, blog.  It was on the topic of whether the notorious U.K.  one man RESPECT party Parliamentarian and British broadcaster George Galloway was ‘a man of peace.’ The article was occasioned by the recent visit of Galloway to the Allston Palestinian Cultural Center for Peace. Galloway is the head of the pro-Hamas Viva Palestina ‘humanitarian’ aid, blockade busting campaign. Radicals William Ayres and Bernadine Dohrn were on a recent Viva Palestina mission busted by Egyptian authorities. Dohrn revealed her pro-Palestinian colors by accusing Israel of being behind the Egyptian assault on Viva Palestina.
Galloway has been a frequent visitor to the US engaged in fund raising at US Mosques for Zakat funds and participants for the Viva Palestina convoy effort.  Given the Obama Administration outreach overtures to the Muslim ummah and behind the scenes deliberations about approaches to Hamas, we doubt Galloway will be considered by our State department as a persona non grata, especially given his U.K. Parliamentary position. 
Note what Van Zile says about Galloway;
Galloway has praised the leaders of both Hezbollah and Hamas, and has praised and defended Tariq Aziz, an official in Saddam Hussein’s government convicted of crimes against humanity for his part in the summary executions of 42 merchants in Baghdad and for his role in the displacement of the Kurds.
Galloway has mocked the reformist movement in Iran, stating the protesters were in the streets because the “cookie crumbled the wrong way” in the election that kept Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in office. These protesters are being murdered in the street by a tyrannical regime that by most accounts stole an election to stay in power, and yet Galloway mocks them, going so far as to suggest that “foreign hands” were responsible for the protests in Tehran.
In response, Diana Nammi, director of the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s rights Organization, a British charity to protect women from the Middle East from honor killings and forced marriage, said “[Galloway] lives in a free country and is hurting that country. Galloway has never lived in Iran. He has never been beaten for criticizing the government. If he could live in Iran for a month, then he could say it is a democracy. He has freedom, but I don’t think he lives on this earth. How is it that George Galloway cannot see what is going on?”
Galloway has a different attitude toward elected leaders in the West. In May 2006, he stated that it would be “morally justified” for a suicide bomber to kill British Prime Minister Tony Blair, qualifying his statement by stating, “I’m not calling for it.”
When a Hezbollah rocket in 2006 killed nine Israeli soldiers, Galloway gloated, stating, “They [Israelis] seem to be getting a bloody good hiding on the other half of the screen.” (Galloway was being interviewed live by Sky News, which used a split screen to show the carnage from the rocket attack alongside the MP as he was being interviewed.)
During his presentation at the Palestinian Cultural Center for Peace in Allston last week, Galloway defended Hamas, suggesting the organization’s only sin is that the U.S., Great Britain and Israel don’t like it. Never mind that Hamas’s anti-Semitic charter explicitly calls for Israel’s destruction, and that its leaders have called for violence against the American people.
As a resident of Brighton, I am deeply concerned that the leaders of the Palestinian Cultural Center for Peace allowed Galloway to bring his dishonest and hateful message to Allston. Galloway’s message is not one of peace, but a message of hostility toward Israel, Great Britain and the United States.
Posted on 02/11/2010 5:10 PM by Jerry Gordon
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Ou sont les journaux d'antan?

Hugh tells, in the comments to this post, of hanging around Soho, sampling the odd Peking duck - and reading the newspapers. Here, from Yes Minister, is the definitive guide to the English newspapers. Although it is more than twenty years old, this still rings true:

Posted on 02/11/2010 6:05 PM by Mary Jackson
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Rafik Husseini In Flagrante, And Terrifying Levels Of Corruption Among "Palestinian" Leaders

From The Corriere della Sera: 

Video su Rafik Husseini, vicino al presidente

Luci rosse sull'Anp, esplode il sexgate
Il presidente Abu Mazen finisce nei guai

Il collaboratore del leader palestinese ripreso nudo in flagrante adulterio. «Spaventosa corruzione ai vertici»

Dal nostro corrispondente Francesco Battistini

GERUSALEMME - Fosse per lui, resterebbe in Giappone. Dall’altra parte del mondo. Abu Mazen sorseggiava il sake in un grande albergo di Tokyo, dov’è in visita ufficiale, quando gliel’hanno detto: a una tv israeliana, Canale 10, è arrivato quel famoso dvd. E si vede tutto. E i fotogrammi stanno per andare in onda. E c’è anche un’anonima intervista con un riconoscibilissimo intervistato. E sta per sgorgare un fiume di fango sull’Autorità palestinese. Perché, nell’ordine: 1) le immagini rivelano l’adulterio flagrante di Rafik Husseini, uno stretto collaboratore del presidente, ripreso nudo in un appartamento di Gerusalemme Est mentre fa sesso con una segretaria; 2) l’intervista, a un ex capo dell’intelligence palestinese, rivela che ci sono in giro «migliaia di documenti» come prova della «spaventosa corruzione ai vertici dell’Anp»; 3) il messaggio dell’operazione, neanche tanto velato, è che Abu Mazen deve far piazza pulita di chi lo circonda. Pena uno scandalo che travolgerà lui e tutta la sua dirigenza.

Si riaccendono le luci rosse sulla Muqata. Riesplode il sexgate che, qualche mese fa, s’era faticosamente riusciti a insabbiare. È la vendetta di Tawfiq Tirawi e di Fahmi Shabana, i due ex capi del Mukhabarat, i grandi burattinai degli 007 palestinesi. Un intrigo d’intifada: la primavera scorsa, quando scattò la trappola dell’alcova a Husseini e il dvd dello scandalo arrivò ad Abu Mazen in persona, un giornale israeliano raccontò che a girare le immagini erano stati Tirawi e Shabana, arcinemici di Husseini, e che proprio per questo erano stati provvidenzialmente arrestati dalla polizia israeliana e, altrettanto provvidenzialmente, erano stati accusati dallo stesso Abu Mazen d’intelligence col nemico e perciò dimissionati. La faccenda sembrava chiusa lì. Finché dopo mesi di silenzio, sotto i riflettori di Canale 10, Shabana non è rispuntato dall’ombra in cui era finito. Con le immagini nude del rivale. E col pesante ricatto: o il leader di Ramallah caccia finalmente Husseini o qualcuno mostrerà le prove di milioni di dollari che, donati dall’Europa e dai Paesi arabi e dagli Usa alla causa palestinese, sarebbero invece finiti nelle tasche dei vertici Anp. La gola profonda non accusa direttamente Abu Mazen, né il premier Fayyad. Ma è come se lo facesse: «Hanno lasciato che queste cose accadessero, senza toccare i colpevoli».

Cornuti e corrotti. Interessati più ai tradimenti che agl’insediamenti. Accuse del genere, a proposito dell’Autorità palestinese, le lanciano di solito da Hamas o dalla destra israeliana. Uno come il ministro Uzi Landau, per esempio: «Non c’è nessuna differenza tra Arafat e Abu Mazen - è stato il suo delicato commento di ieri -: uno è Jack lo Squartatore e l’altro è lo Strangolatore di Boston. Uno spargeva sangue, l’altro ammazza in silenzio. Ma il risultato è lo stesso». Ora però la grana è seria: Tirawi, fedelissimo di Arafat, per dieci anni depositario dei segreti di Ramallah, è disposto a dispensare altro sesso e a svelare altre bugie. Shabana è pronto a fornire nuovi videotape. In uno, si vedrebbe Husseini a letto con la signora che, per inciso, è pure un’amica di Abu Mazen: «Me l’hanno mandata apposta per incastrarmi», ha tentato di giustificarsi il fedifrago. Il capo gli aveva creduto, alla fine del primo tempo. E cerca di ricredergli, mentre va in onda il secondo: «Questa manovra è orchestrata dagli israeliani - dicono l’agenzia Maan e il sito Al Watani, entrambi vicini al leader dell’Anp -: vogliono colpire in alto». O in basso, a seconda dei punti di vista.

Posted on 02/11/2010 7:58 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Shabaneh Says Foreign Journalists Won't Report Truthfully On Corruption

Jerusalem Post: 

PA issues arrest warrant for Shabaneh

Comes after former anti-corruption official's ultimatum to clean up ranks.
The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday accused former intelligence official Fahmi Shabaneh of “collaboration” with Israel and issued a warrant for his arrest.

Shabaneh, who was in charge of the anti-corruption unit in the Palestinian General Intelligence Service, was forced to quit his job after revealing dozens of cases of financial, administrative and sexual corruption among PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s inner circle.

In an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post two weeks ago, Shabaneh, 49, who lives in Jerusalem, accused Abbas of failing to act against senior PA and Fatah officials allegedly involved in the theft of public funds and in sex scandals.

Shabaneh showed the Post video footage of Rafik Husseini, the director of Abbas’s bureau, lying naked in the bedroom of a Christian woman from Jerusalem who had sought work with the PA.

Shabaneh also presented the Post with hundreds of documents he had collected during his work implicating many of Abbas’s close aides in embezzlement, land theft and fraud.

Shabaneh’s revelations to the Post were the first of their kind by a senior Palestinian official who was in charge of investigating corruption in the PA.

Shabaneh said that he decided to talk to the Post after Palestinian, Arab and foreign media organizations refused to interview him out of fear of being “punished” by the PA.

“We don’t have a free media in the Arab world,” Shabaneh explained on Wednesday. “Al-Jazeera and other Arab media outlets told me that they are afraid to publish anything that angers the Palestinian Authority.”

Shabaneh said that even some foreign journalists based in the country had refused to publish his statements, citing various pretexts, including fear of retribution by the PA.

“Some of the foreign journalists don’t want to hear negative things about Fatah and Abbas,” he said. “That’s why they didn’t want to cooperate with me and why I decided to go to the Post.”

Shabaneh’s unprecedented allegations drew furious reactions from Abbas’s office and some Fatah leaders in the West Bank.

Abbas is reported to have threatened to resign in protest against what he says is a smear campaign against him and Fatah in the Israeli media. The Hamas-affiliated Al-Resalah newspaper quoted a senior source in Abbas’s office as saying that the PA president appealed to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday to instruct the Israeli media to stop embarrassing the PA by publishing reports about corruption among senior officials in Ramallah.

Tayeb Abdel Rahim, a senior aide to Abbas, claimed that the Post and Channel 10, which on Wednesday night broadcast a documentary on the scandal, were operating “in coordination with the right-wing government in Israel to undermine President Abbas and the Palestinian government.”

Abdel Rahim claimed that the coverage of the corruption scandals in the Israeli media came in response to Abbas’s refusal to resume peace talks with Israel unconditionally. He also said that the publication of Shabaneh’s allegations was aimed at distracting attention from the UN fact-finding mission into Operation Cast Lead.

The Abbas aide said that Shabaneh was dismissed from his job after the PA discovered that he was a “collaborator” with Israel. However, he admitted that Abbas had entrusted Shabaneh with collecting information about Arab residents of Jerusalem who had allegedly sold their property to Jews.

In an attempt to silence Shabaneh, the PA on Wednesday issued the arrest warrant against him, for “spreading lies and fabrications” about the PA leadership, selling lands to Jews, attempted murder and “harming Palestine’s prestige and national sentiments.”

The warrant was signed by PA Prosecutor-General Ahmed Mughni, who also accused Shabaneh of attempted “blackmail.”

The arrest warrant is only effective in PA-controlled territories and does not apply to Jerusalem, where Shabaneh, who holds an Israeli ID card, lives with his wife and five children.

Posted on 02/11/2010 8:12 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Just To Refresh Your Memory About Khomeini And Those Who Allied With Him

Watch here.

Posted on 02/11/2010 10:27 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 11 February 2010
A Musical Interlude: Let's Be Sentimental (Percival Mackey's Band)

Listen here.

Posted on 02/11/2010 8:27 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 11 February 2010
The Shahbanou Reminds Us Of What She Remembers

From a 2008 interview:

Today, almost 30 years after a trip that she had hoped would have been “a temporary departure from the country,” Farah Diba is a harsh woman, in sharp contrast with the meaning of her maiden name in Farsi that means “silk”. She continues to defend the Shah’s actions and attributes his overthrow to a conspiracy. She venerates him as a visionary leader, but many however, including some of his staff, describe as being weak and indecisive. One of them is the Iranian sociologist, Ehsan Naraghi who was a critic (Savak, the secret police, forced him to leave the country in 1969) and later a court adviser. In the book Des Palais du Chah aux Prisons de la Révolution, Naraghi recalls one of the last audiences he had with Mohammed Reza on 23rd September 1978 where the emperor who had succeeded the Qajar Dynasty, asked him: “What is the source of this rebellion? Who has instigated it? Who started this religious movement?” The reply was: “But it was you, Your Majesty” The king of kings replied: “Why me?”

“15 years ago in 1962”, explained Naraghi, “when you visited the Qom Sanctuary [where Khomeini was a theologian], you openly attacked the religious leaders and, in Parliament, you said that their criticisms to land reform and to the emancipation of women were reactionary. You were so violent, even insulting, that the person responsible for the television broadcast had to censure your words. (…) From then onwards, the religious leaders were forced, in order to reject the accusation of being conservative, to take action and to prove that they weren’t attached to an archaic social order. Supported by the vast Shiite resources, they wished to show that they could be even more revolutionary than Your Majesty with the White Revolution.”

Farah Diba plays this down: ‘I can’t confirm if the conversation [with Naraghi] and the Shah took place since I wasn’t present. In relation to all the work he did, a French phrase comes to mind: ‘Il faut en prendre et en laisser’. During the days of the Roman Empire it was said that if a battle is won everyone participated but if a battle is lost, there is only one to blame,’ she complains. ‘Iran occupies, in geo-strategic terms, a very important position. It was becoming too powerful. Some foreign interests began to feel threatened and they started a programme of defamation against the monarchy in the media. They also courted and encouraged the opposition within the country.’

‘I read an interview by Ibrahim Yazdi [Opponent of the monarchy and minister in the first year of the Islamic Revolution] where he speaks of his relationship with the U.S. State Department and of how he passed on the message that Ayatollah Khomeini valued human rights and the emancipation of women. Lord Owen, who was Foreign Minister at the time [of the Islamic Revolution] stated: “If we had known that the Shah was ill, this would not have happened.” What does this mean? William H. Sullivan, who was ambassador in Iran from 1977 to 1979, wrote about his meetings and contacts with the Iranian opposition.’

“Let us not forget that it was the Cold War era and that the Soviet Union who had a strong desire to reach the warm waters of the Persian Gulf, was also a sponsor to and played a role in the Iranian Communist Party, the Tudeh. There were still other organised groups, such as the People’s Fedayeen (Maoists) and the People’s Mujahedeen (Islamic Marxists), many of who were trained in Cuban and Palestinian guerrilla camps. Members of these groups who helped take Khomeini to power were later killed by the thousands.”

Does Farah Diba Pahlavi regret anything? She replies at length: ‘If we had been better organised politically; if the political participation had opened up before 1977; if the American Administration had been different; if the British prime minister and French president had also been different; if the Soviet Union had been Russia, if Khomeini had not been allowed to come to Paris [from Iraq where the Shah had exiled him]; if some Iranian intellectuals had not seen Khomeini’s face on the moon; if people had listened to the Shah who said there we will remedy the shortcomings and dissatisfactions; if the Western media had not maliciously attacked the Shah and compared Khomeini to a spiritual saviour, this tragedy would not have happened.’

Persopolis and Shiraz

Naraghi, the sociologist, said that he had tried, on several occasions, to explain to the technocrats surrounding the Shah that “the great civilization” desired by the Shah would lead to “a chaotic uprising”. The emperor’s policy “divided a nation, a progressive minority on the one hand and a traditionalist majority on the other – which undermined the feelings of national solidarity and exposed [the Iranians] to a completely new cultural conflict”.

Farah Diba acknowledges that some of those responsible hid the people’s discontent from the Shah, but she denies the existence of the division. This would mean, she justifies, ‘that the majority of the Iranians is now happy which, as everyone knows, is not true.’ She does not believe that lies, material and moral corruption, flogging, stoning and dismemberment of people are part of the valuable Iranian traditions. The majority of Iranians very much wanted what ‘modern life’ offered such as schools, universities, hospitals, stadiums, libraries, cultural centres, industries, communications and their participation in the development of the nation”.

The explanation found by the Shahbanu for the revolt of the Iranians against the Shah is different:

‘In Iran, after 1973, the increase in the price of oil did not please foreign interests. There was a boom in development and the government could not meet the people’s expectations. This created dissatisfaction and fertile ground for the opposition, since it was well organised, unlike us. Ayatollah Khomeini and his disciples promised paradise, free vehicles, free transport, free utilities, free gasoline and other free goods. Many believed in this but they opened the doors to hell. Today, many regret having taken part in the street demonstrations. The younger generation blame their parents for the current situation in Iran.’

The White Revolution’s land reform and emancipation of women were not, in Mohammed Reza’s widow’s opinion, litigious: ‘The majority of the population supported them,’ she states. ‘Obviously big landowners and some religious fanatics didn’t agree with them. The good result out of all this is that today’s Iran does not have a feudal system, despite the pressures of the extremists, and the Islamic Republic did not manage to change the rights of women to vote and to be elected.’ As for the statement by some Iranians that the Shah “made a mistake in trying to change from the bicycle stage to the jet plane without passing through the stage of the motor car”, she is vehement:

‘I don’t believe it. How can you tell people to wait 20 years [for progress]: when you have all the natural resources and human wealth available? When I travelled through the country people asked for more and better schools, roads, clinics, water, electricity, etc.’

But this isn’t the progress that many refer to, but rather the ostentation and the provocation shown, for example, at the Shiraz Arts Festival, Farah Diba’s personal project, inaugurated in 1967 and during the celebrations of the 2,500 years of Persepolis in 1971. In Shiraz the biggest scandal took place in 1978 when a Brazilian dance group performed explicit sexual dances.

‘90 per cent of the Shiraz Festival programme consisted of traditional music, dances and theatre and perhaps some 10 per cent of avant-garde, which doesn’t mean it was immoral,’ said the Shahbanu to Pública. In Persepolis, the first royal city of the Achaemenid Empire where vestiges of the palace of Darius I, successor of Cyrus the Great, still survive, only the rich and powerful were invited. The people were excluded. The costs were calculated at between 200 and 300 million dollars. Elizabeth Arden created a new line of cosmetics and named it Farah. Lanvin designed the servant’s attire, Maxim’s of Paris supplied the chefs and the catering. Except for the Iranian caviar, all the food was supplied from France. The Empress complained of “the exaggeration of the journalists”; she pointed out that the infrastructures would last and justified the expense as “a magnificent exercise in public relations” which helped many people to “situate Iran on the map”.

Washington, New York and Paris

The only daughter of Colonel Sohrab Diba and Farideh Ghotbi, a plebeian whom the Shah chose to guarantee his succession after two failed marriages, she presently lives between Washington, New York and Paris. Despite having opened a window of opportunity for Khomeini to launch his revolution and closed the door to Mohammed Reza when he sought asylum, France is still a country where Farah Diba Pahlavi feels comfortable.

‘I became familiar with European culture due to my studies [architecture] in a French school,’ the Empress tells us. ‘My life story has been followed by many in France and the French have been very kind wherever I go,’

Paris was also the city where, in 1959, Farah Diba personally met her future husband, twice divorced, in 1946 and in 1958. First from Fawsia bint Fuad, sister of King Farouk of Egypt whom he married in 1939 when he was still heir to the throne and who bore him a daughter, Shahnaz, and then from Soraya Esfandiari-Bakhtiari, “the princess with the sad eyes”, whom he met in 1948 and married in 1951. She suffered from infertility, but refused the Shah permission to have a second wife as permitted by Islam so the union was annulled.

Mohammed Reza was 39 years old when he was introduced to Farah Diba, 20, at a reception in the Iranian Embassy after a meeting with Charles de Gaulle. She caused a good impression and this was enough for the Emperor’s son-in-law, Ardehir Zahedi, Shahnaz’s husband to go ahead and deal with the details for Farah Diba to become the fiancée the Shah was seeking. An attempt to marry the king to the Catholic princess, Maria Gabriela of Savoy, was found to be ill advised by the Vatican as “a serious threat”.

Farah Diba accepted the Shah’s marriage proposal on the day she celebrated her 21st birthday on 14th October. The betrothal was officially announced on 21st November. The marriage that included two ceremonies, took place on 21st December. Yves Saint-Laurent, of the House of Dior designed the wedding dress, embroidered with silver threads. The Carita sisters created a hairstyle that featured a parting in the middle and with the temples covered. This style became fashionable the world over. The diadem was a Crown jewel. It was designed in the 50’s by the American, Harry Winston and weighed two kilos.

Death in London

As Shahbanu, a title she received on her wedding day and which the mullahs abolished, Farah Diba Pahlavi led a dream life until the advent of Khomeini’s revolution. Not that she faces financial problems (although she suffered a situation of embezzlement of several million dollars). But following the death of her husband she had to face the suicide of her daughter Leila who had become a Valentino model. Suffering from a “chronic depression, low self-esteem, nervous anorexia and bulimia”, she took a fatal dose of “barbiturates and cocaine”, according to the autopsy. She was found dead in her London apartment in June 2001. She was 31 years old.

‘The loss of a child is always an open wound in the heart of a parent,’ Farah Diba laments. ‘Leila was a very intelligent girl, with good ideas, but profoundly traumatised by the dramatic events in our lives. She was very sociable and loved the company of those closest to her. When she was depressed, she would open up: ‘I can help all my friends, but I’m unable to help myself”.’

Deprived of Leila, the Shah’s widow continued to dedicate herself to the rest of the family, particularly to the oldest son, Reza, who proclaimed himself emperor after his father’s death in Cairo. ‘Over the last 29 years the heir to the throne has been very active in his contacts with many of his compatriots of different ideologies both inside and outside Iran,’ says Farah Diba.

‘He fights for a free, democratic and secular regime. And he believes that, once free, the people will be able to choose the best form of government. Traditionally, the king was always a factor for unification amongst the different ethnic groups and religious minorities, because he is above the political parties.’ She is also “blessed by the affection of many Americans”, guarantees: ‘I have kept in touch with my people, whether by correspondence, e-mail, telephone calls or interviews. I try to help as much as I can.’

Somewhat bitterly she adds: ‘The consequences [of the Shah’s fall from power] were dramatic for Iran and for the region in general. Many should do some soul-searching about their actions. Iran was setting up nuclear power stations, and nations around the world were beating a path to its door to sell it equipment. The world had confidence in the Shah’s wisdom so much so that Iran was a 10 per cent shareholder of Eurodif [company] in France.’

She continues: ‘The regime survives by creating crises and seeking foreign enemies, to revive sentiments of nationalism. This regime must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons,’ She makes no appeal, however for military intervention to stop the suspected Iranian uranium enrichment programme.

‘The present regime is historically condemned to disappear,’ she, who was once considered to be the most powerful woman in the Middle East, concludes: ‘I hope that the world will help those who value freedom. I’m confident that the light will overcome darkness and that Iran, like the Phoenix, will soon rise from her ashes.’

Translation: Clive Gilbert

Posted on 02/11/2010 9:01 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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