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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 Wednesday, 2, 2011.
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Search-result rustlers in the wild, wild west

It is common for businesses to use scams to try to get their results listed higher in search-enging result lists.  But this time, it is one search engine (Microsoft's Bing) allegedly doing the scam on another search engine (Google).

Google noticed that Bing's results had begun to more closely mirror their own, and became suspicious.  They set up a trap:  they associated random strings of characters with unrelated webpages, then had their engineers search for those random strings and click on the webpages in the result list.  Soon, Bing's results also linked those random strings with the same webpages.  Microsoft Internet Explorer was obviously watching what the Google engineers clicked on, and reporting those results back to Microsoft.  Microsoft then used those results to tune their Bing results.  See the full story in  searchengineland.

Update: There's a new sheriff in town, and he (supposedly) gets better results.  He's the one they call "Blekko".

Posted on 02/02/2011 12:42 AM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Rebels kill Buddhist couple and children in Thai south

(Reuters) - Suspected Muslim separatists shot dead a Buddhist family of four in Thailand's deep south, police said on Tuesday, the latest attack in an escalation of violence in the region.

The killings followed a bloody raid on an army camp and a big roadside bombing in the past 12 days that were believed to have been carried out by ethnic Malay Muslim rebels seeking autonomy from predominantly Buddhist Thailand.

The bodies of the Buddhist couple, their daughter, 15, and 7-year-old son were found in a forest in Yala, one of three Muslim-dominated provinces bordering Malaysia where more than 4,300 people have been killed in violence since 2004.

Police said the family was missing since Sunday and had all been killed execution-style. The family owned a small rubber plantation in the Rueso district, a militant stronghold where Buddhists are a small minority.

"They were likely killed by Muslim insurgents to raise fear among the Buddhist families living in the area," Police Major-General Phoompetch Pipatpetchpoom told Reuters.

Posted on 02/02/2011 2:58 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Cleric held after Bangladesh teen whipped to death

From the Herald Sun of Melbourne

BANGLADESHI police arrested four people including a Muslim cleric today after a teenage girl, who was accused of having an extra-marital affair with her cousin, was whipped to death. Fifteen-year-old Hena Begum died in hospital on Monday after a village court in the southern Bangladesh district of Shariatpur sentenced her to 100 lashes, said local police chief A.K.M Shahidur Rahman.

"We have arrested one of the clerics (who sat on the village court) and three villagers including the wife of the man who Hena Begum had an illicit relationship with," Mr Rahman told AFP. According to Mr Rahman, the teenage girl was "beaten mercilessly" by the family of the married man, who was also Hena's cousin, after the affair was discovered. The teenager was then handed to the village court, which publicly whipped her until she passed out and was taken to hospital, where she died seven days later, he said.

In conservative rural parts of Muslim-majority Bangladesh, rights groups say it is common for women to be publicly whipped for "crimes" such as adultery despite a ban on such religious punishments. In some documented cases, rape victims have been flogged for being a "participant" in their sexual assault.

Last July, Bangladesh's High Court outlawed punishments handed down by religious edict, or fatwa, following a series of public interest litigation cases lodged by local human rights groups. But the ruling has had little effect, rights groups say 

Posted on 02/02/2011 3:12 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
WikiLeaks: Did al-Qaeda plot fifth attack on 9/11

A lot of what has been reported as found on Wikileaks lately isn't actually new. To take a sample from today's Telegraph, we know that islamic terrorists are quite capable of putting bombs in a childs toy, we know they would make a dirty radio-active bomb if and when they get their hands on the right (wrong) material. But this, claimed as a Telegraph exclusive is news to me.

A group of Qataris suspected of conducting surveillance on the targets of 9/11, and providing "support" to the plotters of the attrocites, were due to fly to Washington on the eve of the attacks, the Daily Telegraph can reveal.

The disclosure, in US diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks, has raised suspicions that the three men were preparing to be a fifth suicide team, but aborted their attack at the last minute. Instead of boarding a domestic flight to the US capital they instead returned to Doha, via London.

Secret documents reveal that the men flew from London to New York on a British Airways flight three weeks before the attacks and allegedly carried out surveillance at the World Trade Centre, the White House and in Virginia, the US state where the Pentagon and CIA headquarters are located.

They later they flew to Los Angeles, where they stationed themselves in a hotel near the airport which the FBI has now established was paid for by a “convicted terrorist”, who also bought their airline tickets. Hotel staff have told investigators they saw pilot uniforms in their room along with computer print outs detailing pilot names, flight numbers and times and packages addressed to Syria, Afghanistan, Jerusalem and Jordan.

On September 10 they were booked on an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Washington, but failed to board. The following day the same Boeing 757 aircraft was hijacked by five terrorists and crashed into the Pentagon.

But, instead of boarding the American flight, the Qatari suspects – named as Meshal Alhajri, Fahad Abdulla and Ali Alfehaid - flew back to London on a British Airways flight before returning to Qatar. Their current location is unknown and the FBI have launched a manhunt for them. Investigators are also hunting a fourth man, Mohamed Al Mansoori, who they say supported the alleged terrorist cell while they were in the US.

The details of the secret 9/11 team have emerged in a secret American government document obtained by the Wikileaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph. It was sent between the American Embassy in Doha and the Department for Homeland Security in Washington.

Details of the unknown 9/11 alleged plotters has never previously been disclosed. An official inquiry into the 9/11 attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people, indicated that the hijackers may have received assistance in Los Angeles but investigators did not publicly provide more details. The 9/11 Commission report, published in July 2004, states that at least two of the hijackers previously visited Los Angeles but, at the time, investigators appeared to have little information on their movements.

The fact that the Qataris flew to and from America via London throws the spotlight back on Britain's role in the 9/11 attacks.

Three of the hijackers, including the ringleader, Mohammed Atta, had watched videos of speeches by the London-based cleric Abu Qatada while Moussaoui worshipped at the Fnsbury Park Mosque when it was controlled by the notorious preacher Abu Hamza.

It is not known whether the FBI believe that the men were simply assisting the hijackers or were a fifth cell who pulled out at the final moment. Alternatively, they may have been planning an attack on the West Coast of America or even London which was abandoned or went wrong.

 I remember Canary Wharf was evacuated and my friend's husband reported a bank of photographers with lenses trained on Canary Wharf Tower, waiting . . .
Posted on 02/02/2011 4:33 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
The Christian Festival Of Lights

The great festivals echo down the ages like robust sighs, like spiritual conjunctions they join us to our past and to the fleeting year. As Robert M. MacIver, the great social philosopher, once said: “The healthy being craves an occasional wildness, a jolt from normality, a sharpening of the edge of appetite, his own little festival of Saturnalia, a brief excursion from his way of life”, and often the recurring festivals of our years provide just that change from humdrum reality at the necessary intervals.

Today is one such festival. It’s Candlemas – until the mid-eighteenth century the last quarter day of the year in the North of England, but now the North and South follow the Southern Calendar and the last quarter day is Lady Day on the 25th. of March. Like almost all of the great festivals which punctuate our year it is a Christian Feast – The Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. The event is described in the Gospel of Luke 2:22-40. The Good Doctor tells us that Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth to perform the redemption of the firstborn, in obedience to the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12, Exodus 13:12-15, etc.) and for Mary's ritual purification after childbirth, which gives rise to the alternative name for Candlemas: The Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

At the Temple the Holy Family encountered Simeon the Righteous. St. Luke records that Simeon had been promised ‘he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ’ (Luke 2:26). Simeon prayed the prayer that has become known as the Nunc Dimittis:

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace : according to thy word.

For mine eyes have seen : thy salvation,

Which thou hast prepared : before the face of all people;

To be a light to lighten the Gentiles : and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

(Luke 2:29-32)

Simeon also gave prophesy to Mary (Luke 2:34-35) and the elderly prophetess Anna, who was also in the Temple, offered prayers and praise to God for Jesus, and spoke to everyone there about Jesus and his role in the redemption of Israel (Luke 2:36-38).

However, we all know this Feast and Festival as Candlemas because it’s the day on which all the candles that will be used in Church in the year that follows are brought into Church and blessed. Of course many more candles than the Church alone would use are brought for blessing and then distributed back to the faithful to burn for a benison in times of need. Here in my remote corner of England, and in many other areas and countries, the custom is to have several large candles blessed and then light them as Candlemas ends – that is to say one lights them this evening which is the start of the new day and the new season and one should always be placed in a window where it can be seen as a guide for any chance traveller (remembering too, as I’m sure you do and as all good Christians do every day, to keep a place at table for the chance traveller).

Candlemas is one of the great pivotal Festivals. Not only is it the halfway point between the shortest day and the Vernal Equinox but it also marks the end of Epiphanytide and the start of the Lenten season – before Candlemas the Sundays were ‘of Epiphany’ and after it they are ‘before Lent’. It’s a bittersweet Festival – one last look back to Christmas, and now, turn towards the Cross – but there is St. Valentine’s Day to come as well as Mardi Gras (as I wrote above, our year is carefully punctuated by our festivals).

Traditionally, all the Christmas evergreen decorations are removed from the house and snowdrops are brought in at Candlemas, but just for the day; the more common name of the Snowdrop is, after all, Candlemas Bells. According to legend, the snowdrop became the symbol of hope when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. When Eve was about to give up hope that the cold winter would never end, an Angel appeared. He changed some of the snowflakes into snowdrop flowers, to prove that the winter will eventually give way to the spring. There is an old English rhyme which says: 'The Snowdrop, in purest white array/ First rears her head on Candlemas Day.'

Anyway, after the candles have been placed and lighted a meal is served and traditionally it must have a bitter green dish and a white sweet dish from each of which all must eat. Tiny little bells are rung to simulate the sound a snowdrop bloom might make if it could ring and in many English villages one attaches one, or more, of the bells to ones clothes for the day.

For we ordinary Christian folk, after we have remembered the Child and the Virgin at the Temple, Candlemas is our Feast and Festival of Lights and we place our candles everywhere, but especially in our windows. We do this to proclaim our belief that Jesus is the Light of the World – ‘I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life’ (John 8:12) – and that we too have a place in the Light – ‘Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven' (Matthew 5:14-16).

So, even if you have no particular belief in Christianity join me and countless others this evening and light a candle or two. Help us to keep a little piece of our folklore and traditional way of life alive. Help us to keep Candlemas and ‘let your light shine before men’. Most especially set a candle in your window and let your light shine before the lost souls of Islam.

Remember what Eleanor Roosevelt said – it’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

Posted on 02/02/2011 7:54 AM by John M. Joyce
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Now Israel Asks For What It Ought To Have Insisted On For The Past 30 Years

From the Jerusalem Post:

Israel asks West to ensure Egypt honours peace deal


Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged the international community to make it clear to any new Egyptian leadership that will emerge that it must meet a series of conditions in return for receiving legitimacy in the eyes of the West, similar to those posed to Hamas following the Islamist movement’s victory in Palestinian elections, senior officials told daily Ha’aretz.

The Mideast Quartet of the UN, the U.S. EU and Russia, have demanded that Hamas relinquish terrorism, recognise Israel and accept as binding previous negotiated agreements between the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Israel if it wants international acceptance.

The Israeli Premier is not drawing a comparison between the two situations but would like the international community to add this condition among others, including a return to democracy and respect for human rights, the officials said.

“The matter was made clear to the Americans and many other countries,” a senior official in Jerusalem told the daily adding, “We are not opposed to democracy in Egypt but it is important for us to preserve the peace agreement.”

The Prime Minister’s Bureau issued a statement yesterday to clarify the Israeli position on the situation in Egypt.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel’s interest is to preserve the peace with Egypt...Israel believes that the international community must require any Egyptian government to preserve the peace agreement with Israel,” it said.

The more than three-decade-long peace agreement between the two countries has ensured that Israel did not have to face any major War in the region.

Posted on 02/02/2011 8:33 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Amr Bargisi: Egypt Lacks The Political Culture To Sustain A Liberal And Democratic Regime

From The Wall Street Journal:

Egypt Does Not Have A Democratic Culture

By Amr Bargisi

As of this writing, the contest between President Hosni Mubarak and hundreds of thousands of protesters remains a standoff. No one can predict what Egypt will look like in a few days—let alone the next few months and years. But from my vantage point in Cairo, I believe that the result will be one of two evils.

First, the 1789 case—a win for the revolutionaries, as the massive anger that sparked the uprising is channeled into a Jacobin regime that hunts down its enemies mercilessly. It is a grave mistake to assume that the rage of the masses will be placated by the ousting of the tyrant.

Last night, one demonstrator told two friends of mine in downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square that the next step will be to knock on the doors of suburban villas and ask the owners: Where did you get the money to afford these?

The second possibility is a reactionary scenario. If the ruling elite wins—meaning Mr. Mubarak's cronies, if not Mr. Mubarak himself—the country will be ruled by a contract between the state and the frightened middle classes to make sure no similar uprising ever happens again. This is an angle that has been totally missing from Western media coverage, as far as I can tell without Internet access.

There is another force in the streets of Cairo besides the demonstrators. Equal, if not in numbers then certainly in influence, are the thousands of young men standing all night in front of their houses and stores to protect them from looting.

Perhaps they share the anger of their peers in Tahrir Square, but their fear is much stronger than their rage. On Friday night, after the police disappeared, these young men got a taste of what could come: Hundreds of thugs roamed the streets, looting and burning. Then there are the inmates, reportedly several thousand, who have fled prison and are apparently still on the loose.

I believe the reactionary scenario is more likely. But regardless of my own opinion, what is clear is that Egypt lacks the sort of political culture that can sustain a liberal democratic regime. The superficiality of the opposition's demands is matched only by the absurdity of the regime's discourse. Without knowledge of the likes of Locke and Burke, Hamilton and Jefferson, my country is doomed to either unbridled radicalism or continued repression.

Mr. Bargisi, a former Bartley fellow at the Journal, is a senior partner with the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth. Due to lack of Internet service, he dictated his comments by phone.

Posted on 02/02/2011 8:50 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Bret Stephens: Being Hosni Mubarak

From The Wall Street Journal, February 1, 2010

Being Hosni Mubarak

Egypt's leader has gambled that he can ride out the protests and hold on. It's a pretty good gamb


Imagine yourself as Hosni Mubarak, master of Egypt for nearly 30 years. You're old, unwell, detested and addicted to power. You could have orchestrated a graceful exit by promising to preside over free and fair presidential elections later this year—elections in which the Mubarak name would not be on the ballot. Instead, you gambled that you could ride out the protests and hold on.

It's a pretty good gamble.

Like everyone else, you've been "listening" to Egyptians marching through the streets and telling you it's time to go. That's an opinion they'll likely revise after a few more neighborhoods in Cairo and Alexandria are ransacked, looted and torched by gangs of hooligans.

But you haven't just been listening to the demonstrators. You've also been watching them—the way they dress, the way they shave. On Sunday, in Tahrir Square, you could tell right away that most were from the Muslim Brotherhood, though they were taking care not to chant the usual Islamic slogans. And Western liberals want you to relinquish power to them?

Then there are the usual "democracy activists," minuscule in number, better known to Western journalists than to average Egyptians, most of them subsisting on some kind of grant from a Western NGO. They think they're lucky to have Mohamed ElBaradei as their champion, with his Nobel Peace Prize and his lifetime in New York, Vienna—everywhere, that is, except Egypt itself. They think he gives them respectability. They're wrong.

Finally, there are the middle-class demonstrators, the secular professionals and minor businessmen. In theory they're your biggest threat. In practice they're your ace in the hole.

What unites the protesters is anger. But anger is an emotion, not a strategy, much less a political agenda. What, really, does "Down With Mubarak" offer the average Egyptian?

If the Brotherhood has its way, Egypt will become a Sunni theocracy modeled on Iran. If the democracy activists have theirs, it'll be a weak parliamentary system, incapable of exercising authority over the army and a cat's paw for a Brotherhood that knows its revolutionary history well enough to remember the name of Alexander Kerensky.

Associated Press/Egypt State TV

Hosni Mubarak in crisis mode: a wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command.

Luckily for you, this analysis is becoming plainer by the day to many Egyptians, especially since Mr. ElBaradei, imagining he has the upper hand, stumbled into a political alliance with the Brotherhood. Also increasingly plain is that it's in your hands to blur the "fine line between freedom and chaos," as you aptly put it last week, and to give Egyptians a long, hard look at the latter. No, it wasn't by your cunning design that thousands of violent prisoners made a jailbreak last week. And the decision to take police off the streets was done in the interests of avoiding bloody scenes with protesters.

Yet all the same, the anarchy unleashed on Egyptian streets has played straight into your hands. The demonstrators want a freedom that looks like London or Washington. Your task is to remind them that it's more likely to look like Baghdad, circa 2006.

No wonder the mood among Cairo's shopkeepers, many of whom supported the initial demonstrations, is turning sharply in your favor. Those shopkeepers will soon be joined by housewives who want to feel safe in the streets; and tourism workers who want Egypt to remain a safe destination, and everyone else with a stake in a stable environment. You may be 81, but time is still on your side. And patience is rarely a virtue of the young, who now crowd the streets.

So you're right to order the army not to fire: The last thing you need is to furnish the protesters with a galvanizing event, or the officers with an embittering one. But the analysts who suppose this decision is a sign of weakness fail to appreciate how neatly it serves your purposes. Nearly all Egyptians are agreed that the army is the one "good" institution in the country—competent, mighty and incorruptible.

But just who do they think the army is? You are its commander in chief and the keeper of its interests. Through you, the army controls an estimated 40% of the economy. Through you, retired officers are guaranteed lucrative careers running state-owned companies or getting senior political appointments. Will your officers hazard their perquisites for a hazy notion of popular freedom? Unlikely.

Today will be the moment of truth. Millions are expected to come out into the streets. But what will they do, other than chant slogans? And who will they fight, if the army won't fight them? And what other buildings will they put to the torch, without further alienating everyone who isn't in the march?

You've thought these questions through, hence your offer to negotiate with the demonstrators—preferably interminably. In the meantime, passions will cool, cosmetic adjustments will be made and you'll plot your course to this summer's elections.

It may be that you won't run; you'd die in office anyway. But you're determined to leave in the time and manner of your choosing. Judging by the way you've played your cards so far, you will.

Posted on 02/02/2011 9:09 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Despot housewives

Worth their weight in stolen gold. Robert Crampton in yesterday's Times:

Debate rages as to the extent of the parallels between the current wave of unrest in North Africa and the street protests in Eastern Europe that brought down Communism. Is 2011 the Arab 1989? Time will tell. For the moment, however, I think it’s important to monitor the quality of an exciting new crop of dictators’ wives. Despot housewives, if you will.

I must say I do cherish a nice dictator’s wife. I’ve been impressed with Leila Ben Ali, the wife of recently ousted Tunisian hardman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, working a Kerry Katona/Sarah Palin/wealthy Swansea housewife look.

She didn’t muck about, Leila. Skipping town last month, she had 1.5 tonnes of gold bars from the Tunisian Central Bank loaded on to her personal “shopping plane”. That’s a quarter of the country’s gold reserves. Quality theft, that is.

Of course, Leila can’t compete with the modern greats. Eva Peron, Jiang Qing, Margot Honecker, Elena Ceausescu (the self-styled mother of the Romanian nation until the Romanian nation put her against a wall) Imelda Marcos (still going strong and dodging multiple corruption charges even as I write); these are the heavy hitters, setting the standards by which subsequent dictators’ wives are judged. Greedy, corrupt, youthful beauty long since evaporated, shocking taste in interior decor, enormous backcombed bottle-black hair. What’s not to like?

When the news throws up these huge ongoing geopolitical stories, pregnant with potentially epoch-defining consequences, the casual onlooker needs some human interest to leaven all the heavy analysis. We need, too, some guidance, a moral barometer to tell us to stick with the man in the street when the pressure of a hundred jeremiads about power vacuums and religious nutters filling the void and the general perils of instability starts to tell. That’s where the lady with the big sunglasses comes in.

The strongman himself is often a colourless figure. A career soldier. A bureaucrat in the right place at the right time 30 years back. A party functionary who got up marginally earlier or acted marginally more swiftly or sucked up to the Pentagon marginally more energetically than did his peers. His wife, however, she’s always excellent value, for journalists if not for her country’s mineral wealth. The woman of elegant personal modesty married to a strongman-past-his-sell-by is indeed a rarity in global affairs. What’s the point in being married to the guy who’s robbing his country blind if yours isn’t the first hand in the till?

That said, I’ve felt a bit shortchanged of late. After a promising spell of shopping sprees, Grace Mugabe has calmed down. Kim Ok, Kim Jong-il’s presumed missus, looks, in the few pictures that exist of her, disturbingly puritannical. Although to be fair, there isn’t a lot to nick in North Korea. One or two Middle-Eastern spouses verge on the restrained, notwithstanding the difficulty of administering the crucial big hair test with all that head-covering going on.

I was also starting to get concerned about Suzanne Mubarak — hair not big enough, corruption not outrageous enough — until the papers yesterday reported that she had fled Cairo (carrying 97 pieces of luggage) for the family’s Georgian pile in Knightsbridge — very close, inevitably, to Harrods. That’s more like it. I await further developments with interest.

And let's not forget Suha Arafat, living on millions of pounds stolen from hard-pressed Western taxpayers, who somehow escapes criticism for depriving those "poor Palestinians". Interestingly, the Muslim despot housewives don't adopt Islamic modesty codes with the same zeal as their poorer sisters.

Posted on 02/02/2011 10:49 AM by Mary Jackson
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
A Musical Interlude: Parlami D'Amore Mariù (Vittorio De Sica)

Watch,and listen, here.

And listen to the longer version, also by De Sica, here.

Posted on 02/02/2011 10:54 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
The Werst is not ...

... so long as we can say  "Ya waratha ab ram ya bare ab wara." Even if nobody understands you. And for a French intellectual, it's more than your job's worth to be understood. From The Times:

Like learning foreign tongues? Then why not try your hand at Dritok, Nunihongo, Kélen or Megdevi? Or maybe you’d prefer to translate the Bible into Lojban or to stand on stage to pronounce theatre’s most celebrated line: “taH pagh taHbe”.

You won’t recognise any of the above, however eminent a linguist you are, as they are all invented languages. Some are spoken only by one person — their inventor. Others may be practised by a small circle of adepts, such as the Star Trek fans who translated Hamlet into Klingon, the tongue used by Captain Kirk’s enemies (see above — in case you were wondering).

The people behind these strange tongues call themselves conlangers — as in someone who constructs a language — and their world, though still obscure, is nevertheless having something of a moment. It would be easy to dismiss conlanging as the ultimate nerdy pursuit, the intellectual equivalent of building ships with matchsticks. But conlangers would prefer us to look upon what they do as cutting-edge art.

Frédéric Werst is a French lycée teacher who lives on his own on the Left Bank in Paris and is the author of the greatest work ever written in Wardwesân. Indeed, he is the author of the only work ever written in Wardwesân.

His book is an anthology of poems, essays, tales and prayers left by a fictional people (the Wards) who lived in a fictional kingdom (Aghâr) and spoke a fictional language and it is also a rarity: a conlang book that has been published by mainstream publishers.

I meet Werst — a fictional name, of course, and he is reluctant to reveal his true identity — on a cold, grey day in Paris. With newspapers full of gloomy headlines about the future of France, you can understand why Werst wanted to escape to Aghâr.

But why did he bother creating a language that bears no relation to existing languages and that none of his readers can comprehend?

“It makes it more real and multiplies the strangeness,” he says. “This way you get the illusion that this is another civilisation.”

There are other advantages to language creation, Werst says. He doesn’t like the letter c, for example, so it doesn’t exist in Wardwesân. He prefers the w and z, which both abound. Y, e and n made a sound pleasing to his ears, so he put them together and decided that yen would mean tree.

His grammar also bears witness to his personal tastes, especially to his love of freedom. There are several ways of turning a singular noun into a plural. You can add a prefix — karz (child) becomes alkarz (children); a suffix — rame (sister) becomes rameth; or an accent — bex (pilot) becomes béx (pilots). The system is altogether much more imaginative than the overused s of English — a language that along with French, Italian and German has been bled dry by centuries of exploitation by writers of talents large and small, or so Werst says. “It’s certainly possible to write something original in these great literary languages, but in practice few people do these days,” he says. “I have the intuition that they are worn out.”

Hence the need for renewal through new languages such as Wardwesân.

Werst looks every inch the Parisian intellectual, dragging on cigarettes and sipping tea, dressed in a dark coat and grey-blue scarf wrapped tight around his neck. While some US conlangers use their languages for day-to-day use, Werst has a typically lofty French vision of his work. It is a literary tongue, he says, and you would never catch him singing it in the shower. Indeed, apart from the odd note to a friend, he uses it only for his books.


Many conlangers get bored or distracted and let the project drop after a few months. After all, language creation without the aid of a software programme — Werst is appalled at the suggestion that he might have used one — is a phenomenally difficult task. It requires determination, concentration and rigour on an unnerving scale. He describes the project as “torture”.

Yet he pressed on, taking four years to produce Wardwesân and 20 years if you take into account previous unpublished versions. Not only did he complete the work — which was nathar (a triumph) in itself — but he had it published by Seuil, one of Europe’s top publishers.

Even though there is a French translation running alongside the Wardwesân text, don’t expect to see many people reading it on the beach this summer. But Werst hopes it will sell well enough to convince Seuil to publish a second volume. Astrid de Larminat, Le Figaro’s literary critic, was impressed for one. “This is an absolutely extraordinary book without equivalent in the history of literature,” she says. I could not contest Le Figaro’s view of the work as unique — I’ve certainly never read anything like it, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it as leisure reading. Not unless you happen to be fascinated by death, a subject of major concern to the Wards.

Talk to the hand. Come back, Volapük - all is forgiven.

Posted on 02/02/2011 11:00 AM by Mary Jackson
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Marigolds And Tangerines

It is beautiful, isn't it? Those eight orange marigolds and  three orange tangerines of  Félix Vallotton right there, in the center of the page, Marigolds and Tangerines depicted in a picture carefully chosen to be Miss February, cheering you up every time you look. What a website.

Posted on 02/02/2011 11:00 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Muslim councillor receives death threats over blasphemy case

A Muslim Conservative councillor has received death threats after taking up the case of a Christian woman sentenced to death in Pakistan for blasphemy.

Raza Anjum travelled to Pakistan in December and spent three weeks meeting political leaders urging them to release Asia Bibi, a mother-of-five found guilty of defaming the Prophet Mohammed, a conviction that human rights campaigners say is unsafe.

In one threatening phone call, which he has reported to police, he was told to “stop supporting Christians or he would be made a terrible example out of”. He told The Daily Telegraph he had received five violent threats since returning, all from people claiming to be Muslim and speaking with British accents.

“The British Muslim community need to be more proactive in speaking out against those who promote hatred and violence” said Mr Anjum, 25, who sits on Saffron Waldon Town Council. Which is a lovely, quiet, picturesque English country town, but nowhere is safe today. “I will stand up against these extremists.”

Posted on 02/02/2011 11:36 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Mubarak Supporters Stage A Rally

Away from the towns and cities where the elite, the intellectuals, the students, the fervid Islamists and the prosperous middle class have their beings there exists a whole other Egypt of tens of millions of ordinary people who labour daily to keep the urban masses in their splendid isolation. The majority of the ordinary grunts of the armed forces are mainly drawn from this huge rural poor labouring class and they have no reason to want Mubarak out.

Thirty years of peace and very, very gradually improving conditions in the countryside coupled with huge government agricultural subsidies has more or less turned most country dwellers (who are possibly the majority of Egyptians) into if not outright Mubarak supporters then certainly supporters of stable government as represented by him. They despise the pampered residents of the towns and although they are faithful Muslims they fear the land and wealth grabbing cupidity of the Islamists as personified by the deeply corrupt Muslim Brotherhood.

However, unless these country folk are helped to organise they will do nothing; change will happen and they will suffer – but they are being helped. This from WaPo today:

...the protests turned bloody, as anti-government crowds were confronted by what appeared to be a coordinated group of Mubarak supporters.

The two sides threw rocks and chunks of cement at each other, with many people injured and some bleeding profusely. Dozens of pro-Mubarak riders on horseback and camelback charged into Tahrir Square about 3 p.m. local time (8 a.m. in Washington) and began to beat anti-government demonstrators with whips and clubs.

State television reports referred to the Mubarak supporters as "pro-stability" demonstrators.

At first, the army troops posted around the square did not intervene in the mayhem. Later, troops seemed to be using vehicles to separate the groups of protesters in at least some parts of the square, and shooting in the air to disperse the crowds.

At least one person scaled the roof of the famed Egypt Museum, which overlooks the square, and hurled Molotov cocktails at the anti-government crowds below. Other gasoline bombs were thrown from a nearby 11-story building. At nightfall, numerous fires could be seen in the area, and security forces used fire hoses to extinguish them.

It doesn’t mean much by itself; after all the fellahin have never, in any society, counted for anything, but if Mubarak is as cunning as Bret Stephens suggests in Hugh's post then judicious use of the peasantry such as this WaPo article reveals could very easily turn the tables on the demonstrators.

We shall see.

Posted on 02/02/2011 12:45 PM by John M. Joyce
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Distracted By All This Attention To Attention Deficit Disorder

I have trouble paying attention to this endlessly-discussed subject any more. It's discussed on the radio, on television, in the newspapers. Blah blah blah. And it just distracts me when I've got so many other things to think about. Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria. The weather, and why the arctic air is escaping from its customary confines. Who's in, who's out, and what's new on the Rialto.  I can't keep paying attention to attention deficit disorder. I don't care to hear about it, I don't want to--  I just can't -- focus on it. I have attention deficit attention deficit disorder, and I hope nothing comes along to cure me of it.

Posted on 02/02/2011 1:55 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Egypt First Then The World

Dr. Dore Gold has written a rather interesting piece over at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Here’s the abstract:

  • Will the Obama administration's policy toward Egypt be based on a perception that the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood would be extremely dangerous? Or have they taken the position - voiced in parts of the U.S. foreign policy establishment - that the Brotherhood has become moderate and can be talked to? Initial administration reactions indicate that it does not rule out Muslim Brotherhood participation in a future Egyptian coalition government.
  • Since January 28, the Muslim Brotherhood's involvement has become more prominent, with its support of Mohamed ElBaradei to lead the opposition forces against the government. In the streets of Cairo, Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators disdainfully call people like ElBaradei "donkeys of the revolution" (hamir al-thawra) - to be used and then pushed away- a scenario that sees the Muslim Brotherhood exploit ElBaradei in order to hijack the Egyptian revolution at a later stage.
  • There has been a great deal of confusion about the Muslim Brotherhood. In the years after it was founded in 1928, it developed a "secret apparatus" that engaged in political terrorism against Egyptian Copts as well as government officials. In December 1948, the Muslim Brotherhood assassinated Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmoud al-Nuqrashi Pasha. It also sought to kill Egyptian leader Abdul Nasser in October 1954.
  • Former Brotherhood Supreme Guide Muhammad Akef declared in 2004 his "complete faith that Islam will invade Europe and America." In 2001, the Muslim Brotherhood's publication in London, Risalat al-Ikhwan, featured at the top of its cover page the slogan: "Our Mission: World Domination." This header was changed after 9/11.
  • The current Supreme Guide, Muhammad Badi', gave a sermon in September 2010 stating that "the improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death, just as the enemies pursue life”.

The bold emphasis is mine.

[Ambassador Dore Gold, President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was the eleventh Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations (1997-1999). Dr. Gold served as foreign policy advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his first government and has advised Israeli governments since that time on U.S.-Israel relations.  He is the author of the best-selling books: The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City (Regnery, 2007), and The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Tehran Defies the West (Regnery, 2009).]

Posted on 02/02/2011 4:11 PM by John M. Joyce
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
A Piercing Comment On Outcomes In Egypt (In Italian And English)

A Piercing Comment On Outcomes In Egypt (In Italian And English)

A few days ago Magdi Allam, born into Islam, and raised by Muslim parents in Egypt, wrote briefly in Il Giornale that one had to worry about "another Iran" -- meaning a manipulation and exploitation, by the forces of Islam, of other, more secular and less worrisome,  opponents of Mubarak. Several of the comments that  followed were piercing, andat least one, I thought,  should be re-posted here. 
The fanatics are in the minority in the West, while in the Islamic East -- where the writer lived for many years -- the fanatics are in the great majority. And that is because of Islam, the nature of Islam as a Total Belief-System and Explanation of the Universe, the amazing hold of Islam over the minds of so many of its adherents, and the discouragement of free and skeptical thought, and of the slightest questioning of any aspect of Islam, the encouragement for them to be ours-not-to-reason-why "slaves of Allah," and the kind of humans societies suffused with Islam naturally produce.
Here is that comment:

"Qualsiasi sbocco possa avere la rivolta di una parte della popolazione in Egitto, sicuramente le condizioni di vita della gente non miglioreranno di una sola virgola. Anzi potranno solo peggiorare dato che quelle genti non sono preparate per la democrazia. Esse infatti, come la storia insegna, tendono a fanatizzarsi con estrema facilità, e nei loro deliri, seguono e sostengono strenuamente, non chi poterebbe, perseguire modelli di sviluppo sostenibili, ma chi promette, di tutto e di più, partendo dal Paradiso. Conosco gente di quelle parti, e pertanto ringrazio Iddio di avermi fatto nascere in altro luogo. Per non essere frainteso devo spiegare che mentre qui i fanatici sono in minoranza, là sono la maggioranza assoluta, e infilarsi nei casini per loro è cosa normale. Alla Democrazia bisogna abituarli, ma ci vogliono ricambi generazionali, prima che essa venga recepita. Allah il Grande e Misericordioso li assista, questo è il mio auspicio, a questi miei quasi fratelli."


"Whatever the ultimate outcome of the revolt by part of the Egyptian population, the living conditions of people living there will not improve one bit. In fact, they can only worsen, as the people are not ready for democracy. As history teaches us, they tend to easily become subject to fanaticism, and in their delirium, they follow and lend this strange support not to those who might pursue models of sustainable development, but rather, to those who promise anything and everything, beginning with Paradise. I know people from that area, and, therefore, I thank God for allowing me to be born elsewhere. In order not to be misunderstood, I must explain that whereas here [in the West] fanatics  are in the minority, there [in Muslim lands] they constiute an absolute majority, and creating trouble is normal for them. They have to become acclimated to democracy, but a new generation is needed in order for it to be understood. May Allah the Great and Merciful assist them, this is my wish for them, my quasi-brothers."

Posted on 02/02/2011 8:02 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Viennese Jews Sue Over Showing Of Antisemitic Turkish Film

From JTA:

Vienna Jews sue over Turkish film

(JTA) -- Vienna's Jewish community has sued a cinema chain and a film distributor over a newly released Turkish film it calls anti-Semitic.

The suit was filed Tuesday, several days after the release of "Valley of the Wolves-Palestine" in Austria and Germany.

The film, accused of using anti-Semitic stereotypes, is guilty of incitement to religious hatred and insulting religious faiths, Vienna Jewish Community Secretary General Raimund Fastenbauer said, according to the German news agency DPA.

The movie is a sequel to the 2006 production "Valley of the Wolves-Iraq,” which focused on a fictitious Jewish doctor harvesting organs of Iraqi soldiers for use in Israeli hospitals.

The new film involves a group of Turks who set out to avenge the deaths of nine militants who were killed by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara boat, which attempted to break the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza last May. The opening scenes use actual footage from Israel’s military raid.

Posted on 02/02/2011 6:16 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
EDL versus BBC

Tommy Robinson of the EDL makes mincemeat out of mealy-mouthed Jeremy Paxman on BBC 2's Newsnight, despite the programme's obvious bias:

The BBC would love the EDL to be racist. It's easier that way.

Posted on 02/02/2011 7:00 PM by Mary Jackson
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Burns Night Hadith

From Khalifah:

Allah's Messenger صلى الله عليه وسلم said, "Our Rabb, the Blessed and Superior, comes down every night to the nearest Heaven to us when the last third of the night remains, saying: "Is there anyone to invoke Me, so that I may respond to invocation? Is there anyone to ask Me, so that I may grant him his request? Is there anyone seeking My forgiveness, so that I may forgive him?"

Haud yer wisht, oor Rabb. Allah is nursing his wrath to keep it warm.

Posted on 02/02/2011 7:11 PM by Mary McJackson
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Jonathan Winer: Two Scenarios For Egypt

From Counterterrorism Blog:

Two Scenarios on Egyptian Succession and One Vision of the Brotherhood

By Jonathan Winer


The similarities between the course of events in Egypt today, and in Iran thirty years ago are obvious: millions of ordinary people take to the street with the sole goal of removing a long-ruling local autocrat who has strong ties to Western powers but is seen as having been deaf the voices of his own people and democracy.

The US then, under Jimmy Carter, as now, under Barack Obama, supports democracy, freedom, and the right of local populations to determine their own destiny.

The autocrat's solid control of the country, backed by the military he commands, rapidly disintegrates. No half measures are accepted -- and suddenly, he is gone.

The question becomes -- what next?

Leaving aside wars for independence from foreign powers, popular revolutions have tended to run in either of two scenarios:

Scenario One: a transitional government proves to be weak, and after a series of violent twists and turns, coups, imprisonments, and executions, a replacement autocrat -- aristocratic, theocratic, or charismatic -- emerges. Come meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Examples include: France 1789 (Napoleon); Haiti 1804 (from Touissant to Aristide, in endless destructive cycle); Mexico 1910 (from Porforio Diaz to 75 years of one-party rule by the PRI); Russia 1917 (Stalin); Germany 1918 to 1933 (Weimer to Hitler); Cuba 1933 (against Machado) and 1956-1959 (Batista to Castro); Ethiopia 1974 (Mengistu); Iran 1979 (Khomeini/Khameini); Russia 1999 (Putin and Putinism); Kyrgyzstan 2005 (Bakiev).

Scenario Two: following mob protests destabilizing the entrenched autocrat, a transitional government steadies the country long enough to allow for a move towards a genuinely democratic government, involving multiple popular interests, without permanent one-party rule by a small insider clique. There are, unfortunately, fewer cases of this, and several of them were in important respects wars for independence from perceived foreign control. Perhaps the best examples include: Turkey 1908 (Young Turk Revolution, which led to Ataturk, but evolved into democracy); Portugal 1974 (the Carnation Revolution, establishing a real democracy); Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania 1979 (the Singing Revolution); Czechoslovakia 1979 (Velvet Revolution); Romania 1979; Indonesia 1998; Georgia 2003 (the Rose Revolution, but the extent to which a democracy has succeeded Shvardnadze is open to debate in light of Saakashvilli's use of the legal system to crack-down on dissent).

There are forces visible in Egypt which provide hope for scenario two, and legitimate anxiety about scenario one.

Positive elements include the mix of secular and religious in Egypt, a complex media environment in which no single voice controls, the role of new media in moderating efforts to impose a single vision on society -- a huge development since the Iranian revolution of 1979 -- and a diverse group of commercial interests who may be unwilling to see their property subsumed to someone else's political agenda.

Alternatively, one can look at the risks of two types of autocratic succession. In the first, a familiar one by Middle East standards, a successor military ruler emerges to replace Mubarak. Whatever instabilities may occur along the way, at the end of the day, we have seen that movie before, and it tends to be one in which the ruler's main goal is retaining power, and revolutionary tendencies of all forms are suppressed in the name of real politik. Such a ruler would probably not be very good for the people of Egypt. Corruption, stagnation, and injustice are likely elements of such a regime, but that kind of government in Egypt would at least be familiar to them, and to other governments.

Then there is the example of Shi'ite Iran, and the question of whether the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood might emerge as a ruling political party. Have its leaders evolved from religious revivalists to democratic reformers? Are they interested in gaining power in Egypt only and maintaining a pluralistic society, imposing a theocracy, or do they have the goal of bringing about a more global form of political Islam featuring theocracies everywhere there are Muslims?

One interesting view, is that of Ian Johnson, a Pulitizer Prize winning reporter, formerly with the Wall Street Journal, whose thoroughly researched book on the Brotherhood, "A Mosque in Munich," was published last year.

Johnson visited the Muslim Brotherhood's headquarters in Cairo and described the scene as follows:

"Inside the apartment, the group's militancy is apparent. Pictures of martyred brothers hang on the wall, such as Shiekh Ahmed Yassin, the head of Hamas killed by Israel in 2004. . . The man in charge is the Muslim Brotherhood's 'supreme guide,' Mahdi Akef. . . 'From this small place we run Islam to the world,' Akef says . . . Akef is keen to be accepted by governments and wants the Brotherhood to participate int he political system. He still wants to impose Islamic law, or sharia, in Egypt, but says he would do so slowly, building up support at the grassroots level rather than imposing it from above, as was done in Iran."

Akef retired at age 81 from running the Brotherhood last year, but his attitudes are provocative enough. In 2005, he made statements that supported those of Iran's Mahmoud Amadinejad,writing that he wanted to "expose the false American rule which has become a nightmare of a new world order." In the words of Akef, "He who announces himself party to their alliance is a 'democrat', while he who opposes their methods in the fight against terrorism is a 'terrorist'." He also then used the term "the myth of the Holocaust," as follows:

"Western democracies have criticised all those who adopt a view different from that of the people of Zion about the myth of the Holocaust," said Akef.

While Egyptian, not foreign political institutions will determine what comes in next in Egypt, those on the outside urging the inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in succession talks in Egypt may want to keep such statements in mind.

Following years of research that involved interviews with the Brotherhood's leadership in a number of countries, Johnson has reached his own conclusions about the Brotherhood and its larger role internationally., "the Brotherhood nowadays functions as two phenomena: One is narrowly defined as a Egyptian political party. The other -- more relevant in the West in the 21st century -- is an ideological universe [that] could be defined even more broadly as including nearly identical movements around the world," including those in Pakistan and Turkey.

Johnson's conclusion: "Although the Brotherhood says it supports terrorism only in certain cases -- usually against Israel -- it does more than target Jews. It creates a mental preconditioning for terrorism. This mindset divides the world into two camps, those to be protected (a small number of "good Muslims") and the rest (including many other Muslims), who can be destroyed."

If Johnson is correct in his assessment, a theocracy led by the Muslim Brotherhood could be very problematic for Egyptians, and also, it would appear, raise broader problems beyond Egypt's borders.

Posted on 02/02/2011 7:41 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 2 February 2011
Greg Sheridan, of 'The Australian', reveals that he has still a great deal to learn about Islam

Greg Sheridan, the Foreign Editor of "The Australian", has written an op-ed which reveals a worrying failure to grasp that Islam is Islam is Islam, whether one is in South East Asia or in the 'Arab' world.  Many of those commenting on his piece exhibit a similar disastrous lack of understanding; though not all.

'Arab Awakening or Dawn of Dark Age'

'These are the times that stir men's souls.  We may be witnessing, in Cairo, Tunis and throughout the Arab world, one of the most momentous episodes in modern history.

Perhaps.  But not necessarily in the way he thinks. - CM.

'Is this the beginning, at last, of the Arab awakening: to democracy and liberalism and responsible self-government?

Given the proliferation of 'honor' murders of females by their male kin, usually carried out on the flimsiest of manufactured or imaginary pretexts, throughout the region, one rather doubts that a population containing so very many men absolutely lacking any capacity to govern their passions - carnal lust and/ or murderous rage - could possibly be imagined to be able to govern themselves responsibly in any other sphere of life.  An Arab Beduin Muslim, in Israel, shot and wounded his sister - he meant to kill her -  because she posted some pictures of herself on a facebook page, that he deemed offensive to his own and the family's nonexistent 'honor'.  Having committed the crime in Israel, of course, he was arrested for attempted murder; similar pride murders, or family executions, when carried out in Egypt, or Jordan, or Syria, usually receive no more than a token punishment. - CM.

'Or is it the beginning of a new Arab (sic: he should have written, 'Arab Muslim' - CM) dark age of Islamist fundamentalism?

My money's on the latter - CM.

'What is happening in Egypt and across Arab North Africa more generally represents a distinct new phase in the existential crisis of Arab civilisation'.

Arab civilisation?? Oxymoron of the week.  - CM.

'The Arab encounter with modernisation has been catastrophic. 

'In a region uniquely endowed with natural resources, the politics are feudal, the societies often squalid and divided, and the economies mostly decrepit.'

That's not the result of the 'encounter with modernisation', Mr Sheridan.  That's the way the Muslim world has always been, more or less. Every honest non-Muslim historian and every honest outside observer who visited the region has observed and described those same problems. The 'feudal' politics, the squalid and divided societies (so often collapsing into mass-murderous internecine violence) and the decrepit economies, are it is the natural state of any society suffused with Islam.  - CM.

'Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's failing dictator, naturally added his own touch to his country's predicament.  Like Indonesia's Suharto, he stayed too long and he didn't provide a credible plan of succession.  His rule is personalised, not systematic.

Par for the course for any Muslim despot, from Mohammed on. Indeed, 'succession by assassination' has been more the norm than the exception, in most Islamic entities, throughout history.  For example: have you researched the 'cause' of the Sunni-Shia split, Mr Sheridan? - CM.

'It is telling that the social media - WikiLeaks infromation promulgated by Google, demonstrations organised by Facebook and Twitter - worked in Tunisia and Egypt, but not Iran.

'Compared with Iran, Egypt and Tunisia were relatively liberal.

Have a chat to the Copts, Mr Sheridan.  And ask yourself how many Christians live in Tunisia, and whether any of them are converts from Islam. - CM.

'In Iran the regime was capable of bludgeoning, raping and killing large numbers of its citizens to stay in power, and willing to do so.  

'Iran is an ideological, totalitarian regime.  Egypt and Tunisia are ramshackle authoritarian regimes.

Iran, too, under the Shah and his predecessor, was once a ramshackle authoritarian regime rather similar to Egypt and Tunisia...CM.

'This shows, by the way, the sheer dishonesty of blaming their problems on America.

'Washington has always urged its Arab allies to liberalise.  Without this American pressure, Egypt and Tunisia would have been more authoritarian and more able to resist popular pressure with brutal responses.  Washington's enemies, Iran and Syria, are pretty effective in crowd control, in part because they don't have to worry about US reactions to their methods.

Why is Sheridan not mentioning the French influence upon Tunisia? - CM.

'One grim corollary of all this, however, is that it is more or less exclusively American allies (??? - CM) in the Arab world that are under threat today.  

'Decades of Islamist conspiracy theories and anti-Western paranoia have had this perverse result: in many of these countries the governments, which have to deal with reality, are more liberal in foreign policy than are their populations.  Do the majority of the Egyptian people, for example, actually support their government's peace treaty with Israel?

The answer is, of course, that they do not. Thank goodness that Mr Sheridan has at least enough commonsense to ask that question - CM.

'Analysts posit three obvious potential outcomes from Egypt's turmoil.  These are the institution of liberal democracy; the consolidation of a new, probably military dictatorship; or the triumph of a radical Islamist regime led by the Muslim Brotherhood.

'Of course there are many shades of grey available, and at least two other major alternatives.  One is ongoing crisis, unrest, and uncertainty, and another is a democratic but radically nationalist regime.

'Nationalist'?? Does he mean 'Arab supremacist', in the Nasserite style? - CM.

'The collapse of political Islamic moderation, from the Middle East to Pakistan to Turkey, is profoundly disturbing.

And now Mr Sheridan exposes the gaps in his understanding - CM.

'However, there is one region which is a serious exception, Southeast Asia.

Just wait and see, Mr Sheridan - CM.

'The two most democratic nations in Southeast Asia are its two big Muslim-majority nations, Indonesia and Malaysia.

'This may seem unfair to Thailand and the Philippines.

'But in Thailand there are too many coups, and in the Philippines too many journalists are killed (have you forgotten Balibo, Mr Sheridan? - CM), there are too many private militias and too many insurgencies.

You forget, Mr Sheridan, that it is the Muslims who are responsible for the greatest part of the political violence - and a good deal of the criminal activity - in both Thailand and the Philippines; that in the absence of the Muslim insurgencies (that is, the long-running Jihads) in both countries, public order and economic prosperity would likely be much improved. - CM.

'Malaysia is not a perfect democracy.  The opposition doesn't get a fair shake from the media.  But its elections are clean and several of its state governments are controlled by opposition parties.

'Above all, both Indonesia and Malaysia are legitimate nations with legitimate governments.  If the people don't like their governments, they are more likely to try to change them at the ballot box than by riots.

Speaking of riots: I seem to recall that riots have taken place in both Indonesia and Malaysia in the not too distant past: Muslim riots, Muslim mob violence deliberately targeting members of the non-Muslim communities in those states, for the most part, and involving much pillaging, raping, and even episodes of mass murder.  But presumably those sorts of riots don't register, with Mr Sheridan. - CM.

'East Asian regionalism has had a very good effect on these two nations because it has emphasised economic growth, whereas Middle East regionalism has reinforced autocracy and sterile religio-political rhetoric against Israel.

It appears Mr Sheridan didn't get the memo about Mr Mahathir's famously - and classically Islamically antisemitic - speech to the OIC conference in Malaysia, not so many years ago. - CM.

'Last week I had a long discussion with Malaysia's formidable Prime Minister, Najib Tun Razak.

To which discussion it appears that Mr Sheridan forgot to bring a long spoon.- CM.

'I asked him how it was that Malaysia had so comprehensively avoided acts of Islamist terror.  He replied: "I like to think it's more than divine intervention.  I think it's partly historical and partly it's our policy and our very proactive actions.

'From the historical perspective, the coming of Islam to this part of the world has never been associated with violence.  It was always a peaceful conversion to Islam."

Mr Sheridan, do you really believe him?  I would advise a reading of C Snouk Hurgronje's "The Acehnese" in conjunction with M A Khan's "Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery" which includes some illuminating material on the reality of the way in which Islam spread in S E Asia. - CM.

'Second, the way we have interpreted Islam, and applied Islam in a very moderate and progressive way.  I would even call it an enlightened way.  Islam is seen here as a religion of peace and understanding and able to relate to other religions. We've been able to put in place policies which allow the peaceful coexistence of other religions in this country."

So long as the Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, and Sikhs knuckle under and accept de facto dhimmitude, everything is just peachy.  Next time you converse with Mr Razak, Mr Sheridan, ask  him about Lina Joy, and whether she should be able to freely and publicly profess her Christian faith, and have her identity-card designation changed from 'Muslim' to 'Christian',and whether she should be permitted to publicly marry her Christian fiance, without incurring any adverse personal, economic, political or legal consequences whatsoever. - CM.

'Malaysia has substantial oil wealth, like many nations in the Middle East.  But it has not rested on that resource.  It has always pursued an open and diverse economy, and this has become a part of its national identity as well as its economic policy.

Mr Sheridan, next time you have a chat with Mr Razak, ask him to explain the bumiputra system to you, in detail.  - CM.

'Says Najib: "I believe that Malaysia, indeed any society, to prosper should be open and should be fully engaged with the global economy.

"Malaysia survived the global financial crisis remarkably well.  Najib offers three reasons for this: a robust and well regulated banking system (in a majority Muslim country? I would take this assertion with a heaping tablespoonful of salt - CM); an extremely large stimulus package; and a diverse economy such that when manufacturing fell it was compensated by commodities rising.

'Sound familiar?

'It is a singular good fortune of Australia that our Muslim neighbours are two legitimate, practical-minded states (Mr Sheridan - I would remind you that the common expression 'to run amok', includes a native Malay word, and entered English during the period of British colonial rule in Malaysia.  I would suggest you research the circumstances under which it entered our language, and the type of behaviour that it originally describes, and then ask yourself whether Malaysia and Indonesia can be assumed to be or to remain as 'legitimate' or 'practical minded'  as you are asking us to believe - CM)

'focused on economic development in a broadly successful region.

'Indonesia and Malaysia could not be less like the states of the Middle East,  though developments there will affect them too, which is one of the many reasons the roiling tumult in the Arab world is our business too."

One wonders whether Mr Sheridan has ever read V S Naipaul's "Among the Believers" and "Beyond Belief", which contain extended - and deeply disturbing - chapters on the subject of Islam and Muslims in Malaysia and Indonesia.  It is hard to imagine that he could have, for if he had, he would surely be painting a far less rosy picture. - CM.






Posted on 02/02/2011 8:35 PM by Christina McIntosh

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