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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 Saturday, 2, 2013.
Saturday, 2 February 2013
What's Wrong With This Picture? Or, Why Is Turkey Still Allowed To Be In NATO?

From The Times of Israel:

Turkish FM slams Assad for not responding to Israeli strike

Ahmet Davutoglu says his government will not stand by as Israel attacks a Muslim country

February 2, 2013,
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu attends a press conference in Davos, Switzerland, last month (photo credit: AP/Michel Euler)
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu attends a press conference in Davos, Switzerland, last month (photo credit: AP/Michel Euler)

Turkey’s foreign minister blasted embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad on Saturday for not responding to an alleged Israeli strike on targets in Syria.

On his way to Munich, where he will meet with world leaders to discuss developments in Syria, Ahmet Davutoglu asked reporters, ”Why didn’t Assad even throw a pebble when Israeli jets were flying over his palace and playing with the dignity of his country?”

Davutoglu suggested that the Syrian leader is conspiring with Israel: “Is there a secret agreement between Assad and Israel? The Assad regime only abuses. Why don’t you use the same power that you use against defenseless women against Israel, which you have seen as an enemy since its foundation,” he said, according to The Hurriyet news agency.

The foreign minister said that Turkey will not stand by as Israel attacks a Muslim country.

“Syria must do what a country under attack has to do,” Today’s Zaman quoted Davutoglu as saying, seemingly goading the Assad regime to retaliate.

Media outlets throughout the world have reported that the Israeli Air Force carried out several strikes against targets in Syria overnight Tuesday. Among the reported targets was a convoy presumably carrying  advanced weapons to the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as a so-called research facility, where non-conventional weapons were reportedly stationed.

A report in TIME magazine on Friday claimed that Israeli jets also struck at a biological weapons research center.

The US government has given the “green light” for Israeli to conduct further similar strikes, according to the report.

Also on Friday, outgoing US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta appeared to confirm that it was in fact Israel that had stuck targets in Syria — the Israeli government has remained reticent on the matter. He suggested that Washington was fully behind Israeli efforts to prevent advanced weapons from landing in the hands of terrorists.

“We have expressed the concern that we have to do everything we can to make sure that sophisticated weapons like SA-17 missiles or, for that matter chemical and biological weapons, do not fall into the hands of terrorists,” he told AFP.


When the Israeli air force destroyed both a building devoted, we now know, to biological and chemical warfare, and at the same time destroyed, right nearby (waiting to be loaded on trucks? waiting for chemical or biological warheads?) a convoy of trucks loaded, so we now know, with S-17s, this not only helped Israel, but helped the United States and the entire Western world. For it helped to make sure that such weaponry does not go to a terrorist group, Hezbollah, or otherwise fall into Muslim hands even more reckless than those of the Syrian and other Muslim states. The American government not only was informed of the raid, but approved it (not that the Israelis need anyone's approval), and what's more, reiterated a warning to the Syrian government about using, or transferring for use by others, chemical weapons. 

Sunni Turkey, another neighbor of Syria, threatened to attack Syria when a Turkish plane was shot down by Syrian fire some months ago, but unlike the Israelis failed to do so, possibly because of those very weapons that Israel is so carefully monitoring for its own sake, but with Turkey among the unintended beneficiares. Yet Turkey, or at least the current awful regime in Turkey, who would dearly love to snuff out the secularist opposition to their rule -- apparently does not share the judgment of the American government, and even of the British and other governments in Westerrn Europe, that Israel deserves no criticism, but rather, thanks -- even if in some cases that thanks is delivered sub rosa --  thanks that as for now, when no one else seems able to move, Israel is making sure that Syrian chemical weapons (and biological weapons) do not go anywhere, and repeats, in the most intimidating way, a clear warning to Assad that any further such attempts will end in humiliating destruction to his forces, and in that humiliation, his very regime might be brought down.

But what does the government of Turkey say about that Israeli attack designed to make sure that the Syrian regime does not move those chemical (and biological) weapons to others? The Turkish regime deplores it. It takes the side of the Syrian regime, even if it has declared its total opposition to, hatred of, that very regime. In other words, it chooses always the Muslim regime, or in the case of the Alawites, a regime that is colorably Muslim (though I have elsewhere noted many elements in the Alawite faith, including the veneration of Mary, are an obvious syncretisim reflecting a Christian substratum, and a kind of omnium-gatherum incorporation of figures as varied as Aristotle and Alexander the Great, that show how distinct from Islam the Alawites are), even if they are doing their damnedest to obtain legiitimacy from Iranian clerics as full-fledged "Shiite" Muslims). In other words, between Israel, protecting itself and the non-Muslim world, and Syria, a country that is 70% Sunni Muslim (and ruled by Alawites who have in recent decades laid claim to being Shi'ite Muslims, for obvious reasons of self-protection), Sunni Turkey chooses to denounce Israel.

At what point will the members of NATO realize that Turkey is no longer of value to it, but instead, a menace to the cohesion of NATO, and to its interests, which after all are now directed, or should be directed, at protecting the countries of Western Europe and North America from the menace of Islam and its most faithful adherents.

Turkey became a member of NATO in 1952. This was a reward, for the sending of 4, 500 Turkish troops to the Korean campaign. For a long time, when the Turkish military was the upholder of Kemalism, and it seemed to many that Turkey would continue down that road -- see Bernard Lewis, passim -- Turkey appeared to be a fit. It was a place that provided the Americans with listening-posts on the southern border of the Soviet Union. It offered a site for Incirlik and other American-built bases.

But Turkey then is not Turkey now,. Secularists - Kemalists - have been arrested, and the Erdogan regime has steadily, systematically, relentlessly, been trying to remove secularists, or to limit their power, in the universities, in the press and, most spectacularly, in the officer corps of the army.

Israel is attempting to prevent the the Syrian regime from sending its most dangerous weapons to a group such as Hezbollah, and to remind it to keep those weapons under tight control. And its attack the other day, to do that, is exactly what NATO wanted. But the Turkish regime denounces Israel, and tries to taunt the Syrian regime into attacking Israel in retaliation.

Again, why is Turkey in NATO? Look at a picture of foreign ministers of the members of NATO. What's Wrong With This Picture?

Posted on 02/02/2013 7:33 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 February 2013
Souad Sbai: The "Arab Spring" Disguises The Rise Of The True Believers
The interivew in Italian, from late January, can be found at
Posted on 02/02/2013 8:43 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 February 2013
A Musical Interlude: Body And Soul (Libby Holman)
Listen here.
Posted on 02/02/2013 8:47 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 February 2013
The Algerians Were Fooled, So What Chance Has The West?

The Syrian regime fooled itself into thinking if it gave succor and arms to Hamas, Hamas would never turn on the Syrian regime. It now sees that it was wrong. It thought that if it was more anti-Israel in its attitudes that this would earn it respect from other Muslims. It now sees that it was wrong.

The Saudis thought they knew how to deal with, how to "de-program," Al-Qaeda members -- mainly by trying to make them see that the Saudis themselves were as fanatically anti-Infidel Muslims as Al-Qaeda, and should be forgiven their little peccadilloes when it came to the princes of Al-Saud seizing much of the national wealth. They can now see that they were wrong.

Every Muslim regime fondly believes that it knows how to deal with even more fanatical Muslims, and in every case, they have not been able to control, have been taken in, have been fooled by, those fanatical Muslims.

Here's on such story, about those too-trusting Algerians: :

From The New York Times

February 2, 2013

Algeria Sowed Seeds of Hostage Crisis as It Nurtured Warlord

ALGIERS — To the Algerians, the desert warlord in the swirling blue robes was a man of his word — the key to managing the crisis next door in northern Mali — and for months they lodged his representative here in the Algerian capital in high style in one of the city’s finest hotels.

They were nurturing a viper. The warlord, as the Algerians well knew, was the leader of one of the militant Islamist groups holding northern Mali captive. That was not a deal-breaker, they reasoned. To the contrary, having tight connections with a powerful militant across the border, much as Pakistan does in Afghanistan, could protect their interests.

But instead of ensuring that the conflict remained outside their country, a longstanding imperative of the Algerians, the warlord, Iyad Ag Ghali, ended up bringing it right to them. His forces made a sudden push toward the Malian capital in January, enraging his Algerian patrons, bringing on a French military intervention and ultimately giving extremists a rallying cry to seize an Algerian gas field, leading to the deaths of at least 38 hostages.

“They told me they didn’t want to have anything more to do with me,” recalled Mr. Ag Ghali’s representative in Algeria, Mohamed Ag Aharib. The militant offensive in Mali, which set off the deadly chain of events, “really shocked the Algerians,” he said.

For months, the United States and French officials upheld Algeria, with its counterterrorism know-how and the biggest military budget in Africa, as the linchpin in resolving the threat of Islamist extremism in Mali.

But Algeria helped maintain its dominance of the Sahara by playing favorites among the various armed groups plaguing its neighbor, a policy that backfired tragically last month and failed to achieve its most basic aim: to push the problem away.

The tangled web of allies and interests across the volatile region underscore the unique difficulties the French and the African forces could face as they begin to wrest control of Mali’s north from the jihadists who have held sway there for almost a year.

Chasing a few hundred foreign fighters inspired by religious zeal from the vast, trackless area would be challenge enough. But the forces shaping the conflict are far more complicated than that, driven by personal ambitions, old rivalries, tribal politics, the relationship between militants and states, and even the fight for control of the lucrative drug trade.

All of these power struggles have helped shape the fate of the region — and they will almost surely continue long after the battle to recapture the north is over.

“We have two kinds of logic looking at these organizations and these people,” Georg Klute, a professor at the University of Bayreuth, Germany, said of the mosaic of rebels, bandits and Islamist militants in the region. “One is the ideology. The other is the local logic.”

Mr. Ag Ghali’s own evolution is a case in point. A charismatic Tuareg aristocrat who for years had been alternatively leading rebellions in the desert and helping tamp them down, he once functioned as a liaison for European governments seeking to pay huge ransoms to release kidnapped tourists. He was even named Mali’s consul general in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, from 2007 to 2009.

“He has been on both sides of everything,” said Gregory Mann, an associate professor of African history at Columbia University.

Even Mr. Ag Ghali’s pivotal decision to form Ansar Dine, one of the Islamist groups that seized northern Mali last year, stemmed as much from local politics and personal ambition as his newfound devotion to enforcing a puritanical form of Islam.

In late 2011, scholars say, he made a bid to become head of his Tuareg tribe — a position that would have put him at the forefront of northern Mali’s struggle for autonomy. When he was rebuffed, Mr. Ag Ghali struck out on his own and formed Ansar Dine, branding it as a religiously inspired alternative to the more secular Tuaregs.

Though Algeria is brutally intolerant of Islamist militants — having fought a bloody war against them in the 1990s that ultimately led to the creation of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb — it found common ground with Mr. Ag Ghali. Ansar Dine may have been religious, but its ambitions did not seem to challenge Algeria directly. By contrast, the Tuaregs, newly fueled with nationalists returning from Libya, were demanding independence, frightening Algeria that its own minorities might become inspired as well. [this means the Berbers, and the Arab supremacists have no intention of allowing the Berbers autonomy, much less a state of their own].

The Algerians gambled that “Ansar Dine could be a counterweight to these attempts to erecting an independent Tuareg state,” Professor Klute said, so “they closed their eyes when Ansar Dine crossed the border” for “gas, cars, spare parts.”

All through the fall of 2012, as Mr. Ag Ghali’s fighters lorded over civilians in northern Mali and the world made plans to oust them and other militants by force, his men were in Algiers negotiating with the government, promising peace and signing agreements. This continued despite ample evidence that Mr. Ag Ghali had become a committed ally of Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb — Algeria’s sworn enemy — receiving arms, weapons, men and other material from the group.

“The ties were very strong,” Mr. Aharib, Mr. Ag Ghali’s representative here, said. “They shared the spoils. They worked side-by-side.”

Rather than denouncing Ansar Dine, the Algerians appeared intent on preserving the alliance, hoping to pry it away from the religious extremists and portray it as a solution to the crisis in Mali.

“A man of his word, a man one can trust,” a retired senior Algerian diplomat said of Mr. Ag Ghali in a recent interview.

“A calm and polite man, who knows what he wants,” echoed a retired ranking officer in the Algerian military.

Algerian officials publicly scoffed at fears that northern Mali had been lost to Islamist militancy, and on Dec. 23, Algeria’s foreign minister hailed a peace deal involving Ansar Dine as a “very encouraging step.” The day after, however, an Ansar Dine spokesman in Timbuktu announced that the group would destroy all of the city’s remaining aboveground mausoleums — sacred to the city’s residents — in the name of Allah.

But then Mr. Ag Ghali did not stick to his scripted role. In January, he joined the other jihadists in pushing farther south into Mali, precipitating the French military intervention that Algeria wanted to avoid.

“He decided this with his other jihadist comrades,” Mr. Aharib said of the push into southern Mali. It led to a break within the group, he said: “This was too much for us. We didn’t look favorably on this at all.”

The consequences unfolded quickly. Algerian citizens were enraged that their government allowed the French to use its airspace to carry out the military campaign. Within days, Islamist extremists stormed a remote gas field in the Algerian desert, calling it vengeance for the French assault and Algeria’s compliance with it. At least 38 hostages were killed. The image of Algeria as the regional powerhouse that had conquered terrorism was suddenly, perhaps irrevocably, undermined.

“This is really a failure of their strategy,” said Anouar Boukhars, an expert on North Africa at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “It was flawed from the get-go.”

In the aftermath, Mr. Aharib and some others in Ansar Dine announced last week that they had split off from the group because they were “moderates.” For now, Mr. Aharib has saved his room at the hotel in Algiers. With the Islamists of northern Mali in full retreat as a result of the French military campaign, Mr. Ag Ghali is on the run somewhere in the desert.

Yet the Algerians have not given up hope of working with Ansar Dine, or at least some iteration of it.

“I’m sure Ansar Dine can be brought around,” said a senior Algerian official, the day before Mr. Aharib’s announcement. “There must be a renewal of dialogue.”
Posted on 02/02/2013 8:56 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 February 2013
Sardars And Nawabs And Jams And The Truth About Balochistan
Sanaullah Baloch
 February 02, 2013

Part - I


Over the years, the ruling elite has been polluting the public mind with baseless assumptions and storylines regarding Balochistan. This leaves little room for logical debate on the province and on the appalling socio-economic and political realities that have resulted in the Baloch people’s hostility to the state system.


Despite massive media outreach and the Internet revolution, the rigid perception about Balochistan and its people remains unchanged. Facts about Baloch society and its tribal structure, as well as the outdated government-sustained tribal system in which corrupt tribal chiefs are in collusion with the establishment are rarely analysed. These tribal chiefs have played a leading role in the wholesale destruction of the Baloch society.


The establishment’s standard narrative on the crisis in Balochistan revolves around such standard assumptions as: the sardars and nawabs are the main cause of the province’s socio-economic backwardness; the Baloch uprising is foreign-funded; and Balochistan is fully empowered and governed by the locals.


No serious efforts have been made to understand Balochistan beyond the fact that the province is a mineral-rich region that produces natural gas, and is a colony populated by tribal warlords and their impoverished subjects. There is no denying that the power-hungry tribal chiefs are widely responsible for Balochistan’s woes. But these sardars derive their legitimacy from Islamabad, and are sustained by the government and the civil-military-establishment. However, while the Baloch deeply respect their tribal traditions and culture, this doesn’t hinder their participation in socio-economic development.


The first universities, schools and other centres of learning in Balochistan were established by moderate and nationalist Baloch tribal chiefs who were staunch opponents of colonial rule in the Subcontinent, particularly in Balochistan. In the early 1930s, Nawab Yousuf Aziz Magsi established the first educational institution – Jama-e-Yousufia – in Jhal Magsi. He brought revolutionary changes in Baloch society by encouraging education and opposing the sardari system, despite being a sardar himself. Being very concerned about the welfare of the Baloch youth, he widely campaigned for social and political reforms in the province.


As far back as the late 19th century and the early 20th century, the Khan of Kalat provided scholarships to young people to help them gain access to education in some of the best colleges and universities of India. He also sought the help of the British to establish schools and colleges in Balochistan.


Until 1972, Balochistan was completely ignored when it came to education and economic development. The first Baloch government, headed by Sardar Attaullah Mengal and his visionary education minister, Mir Gul Khan Nasir, gave to Balochistan a university and hundreds of schools and colleges, including a medical college. Special economic zones, including the Hub Industrial Area were a brainchild of Baloch nationlist sardars who wanted their people to be empowered.


In 1972, a resolution was moved in the Balochistan Assembly demanding that the federal government abolish the sardari and jirga systems, since the assembly itself did not have the power to legislate such radical changes. The PPP government at the time took no action in this regard. On February 14 1972, eight months later after the passage of this resolution, the National Awami Party presented the resolution in the National Assembly. On June 8, 1972, a resolution was introduced demanding “the eradication of outdated institutions such as the sardari system, the jirga system and the tribal system so that the province of Balochistan may progress socially and economically.”


In his speech Balochistan’s senior minister Mir Gul Khan Nasir told the speaker: “Four things have been pointed out as hurdles to the economic and social progress of Balochistan in this resolution. These are: the sardari, tribal and jirga systems, and all other measures by means of which the people of Balochistan have been, and are still being, exploited.”


He explained in his speech: “Sardari in the beginning wasn’t a parasitic institution, but when the sardars became agents of an imperial power, the integrity of this institution began to deteriorate. With the passage of time...some knights rose from within the ranks of the sardars...and succeeded in diminishing its influence. But despite this, we do not wish to keep this rusty skeleton of the sardari system as a monument or memorial of the past because as long as this institution remains, even as a vestige, it will keep our nation divided into various tribes and sub-tribes, which will render it impossible for us to achieve economic progress. Therefore, the main objective of presenting this resolution is to completely eradicate from the face of this earth the disease-stricken sardari system...”


In Quetta, Chief Minister Attaullah Mengal unequivocally spoke in favour of the resolution, saying, “Now that the tribal system has lost its advantages, keeping it is going to act as a hurdle in the development of the people of these tribes. And the large amounts of annual allowances being given to the royal families of the states that merged with Pakistan and the sardars are putting undue pressure on the country’s economy. Therefore, the sardari system should be abolished...and the annual allowances to former royal families should be discontinued. And all the responsibilities of the sardars need to be transferred to other institutions, just like in the other parts of the country.”


Despite the opposition of pro-establishment nawabs and jams, the Balochistan Assembly adopted the resolution with overwhelming majority. But Islamabad paid no heed to the demand. Furthermore, any socio-economic development of the Baloch bothered the regional powers, resulting in the dismissal of the first truly elected Baloch government and also in a full-fledged military operation.


To be concluded


The writer is a former senator from Balochistan. Website:


Email: [email protected]

Posted on 02/02/2013 9:24 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 February 2013
O Spare Us: Yet One MoreCutting-Edge Top-Of-The-Line World-Class Educational Etc., With Lots Of Money Involved, And Intended Mainly For Foreigners

To whit, some Silicon Valley tycoon's dream of a new "business model" for "education":

The Minerva Institute for Research and Scholarship Launches

The Minerva Project – an attempt to redefine top of the line higher education to put it more into line with demands of the 21st century – has announced the launch of The Minerva Institute for Research and Scholarship. The goal of the institute is to aid in Minerva’s mission to bring exceptional college education [...]

The Minerva Project – an attempt to redefine top of the line higher education to put it more into line with demands of the 21st century – has announced the launch of The Minerva Institute for Research and Scholarship. The goal of the institute is to aid in Minerva’s mission to bring exceptional college education to students around the world, as well as to expand research opportunities for Minerva faculty.

Heading up the institute will be former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey, whose official title will be Executive Chairman of The Minerva Institute for Research and Scholarship. Kerrey brings with him his political experience as well as his experience leading The New School from 2001 to 2010, where he is President Emeritus.

As we redefine every aspect of the traditional tier 1 research university, we are also re-envisioning the university business model to create a new way of operating that is more effective and efficient,” said Ben Nelson, CEO of Minerva Project. “The Minerva Institute for Research and Scholarship will play an important role in attracting and directing financial support towards cutting-edge faculty research and academic programs for the world’s most brilliant students, which will positively shape our collective future. We are excited to have Bob Kerrey join us in a more formal capacity to lead this critical effort.”

The Minerva Project, described as an elite for-profit online global college, is embracing technology and its potential to improve education. According to Minerva, the school will provide education of high-quality on par with the most elite traditional universities operating today, but will not be tied to the traditional learning paradigm employed there. Instead, the new approach will be built from the ground up and will employ cutting edge research on student learning and academic success.

In the spring of last year, Ben Nelson, Minerva’s founder and former Silicon Valley CEO, said that one of the things that will set Minerva apart is the lower price tag, as Minerva is promising that an Ivy League-caliber education could be had for less than $20,000 per year. The project has already attracted $25 million in seed funding from Benchmark Capital, which is the largest initial investment in the history of the company.

Nelson is ebullient about the Minerva Project’s potential.

He plans to recruit top students from around the world, many of whom are shut out of higher education either because of the cost or because the few universities in their country are over-crowded. “The majority of students won’t be from the U.S.,” he said.

Posted on 02/02/2013 10:14 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 February 2013
John Simon On Jacques Barzun

From Columbia Magazine:

The Unedited Man

Formidable and exacting, Jacques Barzun was one of America's greatest public intellectuals and a presence at Columbia for fifty years. On the occasion of Barzun's death at 104, a fellow critic remembers him.

by John Simon Published Winter 2012-13
In its June 11, 1956, issue, "Time" selected Jacques Barzun to symbolize — and answer — the question, “What does it mean to be an intellectual in the U.S.?� / © 1956 "Time" Inc. Used Under License.
In its June 11, 1956, issue, "Time" selected Jacques Barzun to symbolize — and answer — the question, “What does it mean to be an intellectual in the U.S.?” / © 1956 "Time" Inc. Used Under License.

For more on Barzun's life and career, read the Living Legacies profile and view a video tribute here.

I knew Jacques Barzun ’27CC, ’32GSAS mostly from the Mid-Century Book Society, the second book club he headed with the poet W. H. Auden and the Columbia professor Lionel Trilling ’25CC, ’38GSAS (with whom Barzun taught a renowned graduate seminar from 1946 until 1972). I was associate editor and in charge of the society’s magazine, in which books offered to the members were reviewed by the editors, and later by an occasional guest as well. Of course, one had to sell these books, in both senses of the word; but that was neither too hard nor dishonest, given that they were really good books we all liked.

It fell to me to edit this illustrious triumvirate for the magazine, a very different task with each writer. Auden, who was jovially insouciant, handed in smart but sloppy stuff that needed a lot of editing, which he readily and gratefully accepted. Trilling was more difficult. Always by telephone, one went over proposed changes, some of which, after some discussion, he accepted, some not.

Barzun, however, one was not allowed to edit. Everything, down to the last comma, had to be left as it was, even where — an admitted rarity — improvement was possible. When we spoke on the phone, I could conjure up my interlocutor. He was undoubtedly smiling his frosty smile, one part convivial and two parts condescending. Since he was tall, the smile, when delivered in person, would literally descend upon you, accompanying an elegant diction that itself had a sort of smile in it.

His figure and posture were excellent, and he wore his well-tailored clothes with an aura more diplomatic than academic. His accent was upper-class American, without a trace of his French childhood. I always wanted to address him in French, to hear how he would sound in that language, but I lacked the guts to do so.

Barzun, left, at his graduation from Columbia College, June 1927. / Courtesy of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University / Harold Swahn
Barzun, left, at his graduation from Columbia College, June 1927. / Courtesy of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University / Harold Swahn
Even though he generally spurned what I would call human warmth, his eyes had an encouraging glitter when the conversation was about one art or another — or history, or philosophy — which, in my presence, it almost always was. Baseball, too, with those who shared his interest. Often, though, the conversation turned to the art of correct and appropriate language, which was one of his passions, and about which, happily, we were invariably of the same opinion.

I had not then and, I’m ashamed to say, have not even now read most of his books, not really even those I owned. The two-volume Berlioz and the Romantic Century never left my shelf before I sold it along with a number of my books, all of which I came to miss.

Barzun was not, like Auden, someone to feel warmly about, but he was certainly one to respect. He produced a steady stream of ex cathedra utterances that one could not help admiring. (It was he who taught me, for example, that “could not help but” was redundant.)

He was always, like Auden, reciprocally respectful of me (which Trilling never overtly was, although he several times said he envied my wardrobe). Here is Barzun’s blurb for my book Singularities:

Not because he is violent in expression but because he feels strongly and thinks clearly about drama, about art, and about conduct, I think John Simon’s criticism extremely important and a pleasure to read. And by the way, who has decreed that violence in a playwright is splendid and violence in a critic unforgivable?

Barzun with John G. Palfrey, dean of Columbia College from 1958 to 1962. / Courtesy of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University
Barzun with John G. Palfrey, dean of Columbia College from 1958 to 1962. / Courtesy of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University
Only two book reviews in my long career have I been unable to deliver. One was of a biography of the Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones that I read in galley form, only to wait so long for the finished book, with its all-important reproductions, that by the time it arrived, I had forgotten much of what I wanted to say about the text.

The other was of Michael Murray’s 2011 Jacques Barzun: Portrait of a Mind, which comprises, with comments, profuse and lengthy extracts from Barzun’s writings. I tend to run penciled lines in the margins along the passages I wish to quote; here, however, the lines were near ubiquitous. I struggled unsuccessfully with triage but finally gave up in despair. Barzun’s output — on literature, history, philosophy, biography, and cultural criticism, and also music, teaching and research, English style and usage, and crime fiction, not to mention masterly translations of major French fiction and drama — was copious and all of the highest quality. The authorial portrait of a mind boggles the reader’s.

I recall Murray’s last chapter, “Late Years,” which deals with, among other subjects, the very hefty From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present. The book was published in 2000, when Barzun was 92, and it ran some 700 pages. In it, Barzun stated his firm belief that our culture has become decadent and is in unarrestable decline, but that, in an as yet unforeseeable future, a fresh culture would arise.

A very different Barzun from the one I knew emerges in “Late Years” — more modest and adaptable. Concerning From Dawn to Decadence, Barzun writes to his editor, “I want every opportunity to improve my work through the remarks of choice readers. And I mean comments of every sort: clumsy wording, too much on one topic, risky generality about our own time, dull stuff — the lot.”

In a 2004 letter to the historian John Lukacs, he writes, “If I did let go ... I would exceed all bounds and be put down as a mad professor, fit only to associate with helpless students ... I long ago learned to curb the spontaneous Ciceronian invective I might enjoy discharging from time to time.” There are gems in these late letters, as, for instance, when he lectures the language guru William Safire about the difference between a ship that is moored and one that is merely anchored. Heaven only knows how he came by such nautical intelligence.

Since he was tall, the smile would literally descend on you, accompanying an elegant diction that itself had a sort of smile in it.

There are charming aperçus. “We live longer, it is true, but often without much enjoyment of old age.” And: “One should not live to so advanced an age. One tends to become indifferent to things one should not be indifferent about — manifestations of good and evil in the world, for example, or the obligations ... incurred when people ask something of one.” And: “I think that in the 19th century and much of the 20th it was quite normal for gentlemen ... not to talk about the ladies they took an interest in, epistolary or amorous or even marital as distinct from amorous. I get the impression, from letters and biographies, that to discuss or even mention a new ‘interest’ would be indelicate, for if precisely specified it would sound egotistical, even boastful, and if left vague, would lead to regrettable speculation.” How wonderful from a man ninety-four years old.

Barzun, photographed by Lionel Trilling, Westport, Connecticut, 1950. / Courtesy of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University
Barzun, photographed by Lionel Trilling, Westport, Connecticut, 1950. / Courtesy of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University
“I keep thinking that I’ve been enormously lucky,” he writes, and avers that he has no regrets about his life choices, even though becoming an academic was “a kind of Why not? instead of a Yes, by all means.”

He was certainly right about our dumbed-down age, and that a “dégringolade” (a French word signifying a catastrophic downward hurtling) is taking place. May he also be right about the better future, which, to be sure, not even a child just born and living to be 104 will necessarily live to see. But hope and striving for it are not small potatoes either, and in this disciple of William James and Bernard Shaw they were always there.

For more on Barzun's life and career, read the Living Legacies profile here and view a video tribute here

Posted on 02/02/2013 10:18 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 February 2013
Nabokov Interview
Posted on 02/02/2013 10:25 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 February 2013
Il Faut Donner Une Bonne Baffe Au Qatar (NER article in French)


Flux Vous pouvez suivre cette conversation en vous abonnant au flux des commentaires de cette note.

en voila une bonne idée, et même la meilleure depuis 50 ans... simple stratégie psychologique et militaire face à des primitifs haineux

Les Turcs et les Egyptiens sont nombreux, bons soldats, disciplinés et formés et ils n'ont pas de pétrole, si j'étais un roi du pétrole, je demanderais à Allah de me protéger de mes "amis".

" Et merci à certains occidentaux qui en veulent tant à l’argent des riches Arabes du Golfe qu’ils en sont prêts à s’humilier pour cela, et à en persuader d’autres de le faire avec eux."
C'est encore bien pire que cela !
Certains élus de France s'humilient non pas pour gagner de l'argent mais pour faire de mauvaises affaires avec le Qatar ! Oui vous avez bien lu : faire de mauvaises affaires et perdre de l'argent. Ainsi la ville de Saint Germain en Laye (Yvelines) qui s'apprête à acheter des terrains pour les vendre au Qatar pour le PSG (équipe de foot possédée par le Qatar) dans un marché de dupes qui va coûter très cher aux habitants de la ville et sans qu'ils puissent donner leur avis.

Posted on 02/02/2013 11:05 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 February 2013
An Artistic Interlude: Duccio (Calling Of SS. Peter And Andrew)

Christ, fisher of men, calling SS. Peter and Andrew, fishermen. The small painting,  to be found in the first room of Italian primitives, at the National Gallery in Washington, once formed part of Duccio di Buoninsegna's Maesta, painted for the Cathedral in Siena. .

Posted on 02/02/2013 11:14 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 February 2013
Hagel And Eisenhower And Helping The Christians In Lebanon

Chuck Hagel, a number of commentators have pointed out, has been in the habit of distributing  copies of a book about Eisenhower and Suez. In that business, and listening to John Foster Dulles who fondly believed that Nasser could be brought around -- that is, bought around through aid -- because, in the end, Dulles felt that neither Islam, nor its pretend-opponent but merely subvariant, Arab Nationalism, was a threat to the West but, rather, "a bulwark against Communism." That was a line peddled for decades by Pakistani generals. It was true, in a way, but Islam was also a "bulwark against liberal democracy" and, furthermore, a permanent enemy of Infidels everywhere. That was beyond Dulles, and beyond Eisenhower.

But at least Eisenhower lived to tell others that his greatest regret was his performance during the Suez Crisis, when he angrily abandoned, and what's more, bullied Great Britain and France and Israel, when they might have put paid to the absurd pretensions, that were allowed to grow and grow, of that Egyptian despot, Gamal Abdel Nasser.

And what's more, those writing on Hagel might remind themselves -- all of them seem so far to have overlooked this matter -- that on July 15, 1958, Eisenhower ordered an American military intervention -- 15,000 soldiers and Marines -- to Lebanon, to help stabilize the government of Camille Chamoun, a Christian, who was worried about the Muslim disruption to Lebanon's stability, given the coup in Iraq on July 14 -- in which both the young King Faisal, and wily Nuri es-Said, formulaically described in Time Magazine as "strongman" Nuri es-Said, were killed - and similar threats to the Hashemite king in Jordan.

In other words, less than two yers after the Suez business, Eisenhower was willing to send American troops to answer a plea by the Christian leader, Camille Chamoun, who was worried about Muslims overturning the political understanding that had long been in place in Lebanon. 

Ignored, or forgotten, or never known? It's hard to tell. But it's an important episode.

Posted on 02/02/2013 11:35 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 February 2013
Fitzgerald: Mosques in the West

[re-posted from April 26, 2008]

In a comment someone  recently asked incredulously, “There's a mosque in The Hague?"

Yes, there is a mosque in The Hague. And all over Rotterdam, and Amsterdam, and in Paris and Marseilles and Lyons and Toulouse, in London and Manchester and Birmingham and Leeds, in Rome and in Milan, in Berlin and Hamburg and Frankfurt, and in thousands of other cities and even small towns all over Europe. The Saudis and other rich Arabs fund them, just as they pay for the land, and the construction, and the maintenance, of mosques all over this country, from Boston to sunny California. Most of the mosques in the Western world are not paid for by the locals, but by very rich foreign Muslims -- governments, institutions, individuals.

After all, not all of that ten trillion dollars in oil revenues[now, in 2013, closer to twenty trillion dollars]  that Muslim states have received since 1973 alone goes for arms purchases, and palaces for the boys, and wages for those millions of non-Muslim wage-slaves who keep Saudi Arabia and the smaller sheikdoms going, and gambling in London and Monte Carlo, and call girls (the Arabs especially contemptuous of the West for allowing "their women" to be bought and used in such a way, by their sworn enemies, the Arab Muslims), and endless shopping in the funfair-cum-brothel of Europe.

Occasionally local opposition can stop the building of a mosque, but not because the mosque has been paid for by sinister foreigners, nor because mosques are far more than merely religious establishments but politico-religious outposts of the Army of Islam, and inevitably, unless subject to constant round-the-clock monitoring, will tend to have khutbas based on the almost-unavoidable subject with which the Qur'an and Hadith are full: to wit, the permanent state of war that exists between Believers and Infidels, and the need for Muslims to work to remove all obstacles to the spread, and dominance, of Islam.

Western governments simply will not stop to examine, will not dare even to discuss, the nature, the meaning, the menace of Islam and Jihad. Those whose duty it is to protect us will continue to pretend that what goes on in mosques is as "religious" in nature as what goes on in churches or synagogues. But it isn't. Visits to mosques, or tapes of what goes on, or the testimony of those who have jettisoned Islam but can still recall what they heard (or if their faces are not recognized, enter mosques still) confirm that what goes on is dangerous to Infidels, to their legal and political institutions, to their physical security.

The national governments of the Western world have failed those whom they are supposed to protect. They have failed to exhibit any intelligent curiosity about Islam as a Total Belief-System, and the role of the mosques as a basis for Jihad -- that is, the "struggle" to promote Islam and remove all obstacles to its spread, and dominance. Yet local governments, or local officials, have been forced to change or cancel permits by aroused citizens, who have made their cases against this or that mosque on the basis of size -- the proposed mega-mosque in London appears to have been stopped -- rather than on the basis of the bristling and aggressive nature of these huge structures, their minarets rising like missiles (as Erdogan once famously said).

If more non-Muslims came to understand the texts and tenets and attitudes of Islam, they would not be so uninterested in the mosque-building that goes on, sometimes even with the aid of local governments (e.g., Mayor Menino encouraging the building of the Boston Mosque, and even agreeing to sell land far below the market price), but would move heaven and earth to stop as many such projects as possible, and what's more, to make sure that existing mosques and madrasas are monitored for the contents of what they preach (and what Muslims practice, when they are in a position to do so). The word "religion" keeps getting in the way, but greater knowledge would give Infidels the confidence not to be bamboozled or impressed by such a word, and determined not to be deterred in their opposition to mosques and madrasas. For the first is not simply, or mainly, a house of individual worship, but a center where a collectivist and aggressive Total Belief-System can more easily maintain or reinforce its hold over local Believers.

Posted on 02/02/2013 1:33 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 February 2013
Collected Works Of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby

Brought back from a library sale today a find that simply flabbergasts -- a copy of "The Collected Works of Phineas Parkhurst Quimby." That name may not mean much to you, but in late nineteenth century America Quimby's writings on an olla-podrida of interests were influential, and among those on whom he had a great influence, and who borrowed ideas shamelessly from him without acknowledgement,  was Mary Baker Eddy. See Martin Gardner for details.

Posted on 02/02/2013 1:50 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 February 2013
We Have Two Winners!

Both George McCallum of Georgia and Keith Simmonds of Datford completed the January crosswrod puzzle correctly. They will each receive a copy of David Gontar's new book, Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays.

Congratualtions both of you and keep playing!

Posted on 02/02/2013 2:18 PM by NER
Saturday, 2 February 2013
Ahmedinajad To Visit Egypt To Help Morsi Unwrap Those F-16s

Ahmadinejad to make first Egypt visit by Iran head in decades

Reuters-3 hours ago
"I hope that Iranian-Egyptian relations return to the full diplomatic level," he ... The trip follows a visit by Egypt's new Islamist President Mohamed ...
Posted on 02/02/2013 2:23 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 February 2013
While Turkish Government Is Full Of People Who Believe A 7th Century Arab Must Be Emulated In Every Respect
Posted on 02/02/2013 3:52 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 February 2013
State Department Uses Muslim Brotherhood Front Groups to Recruit Foreign Service Officers

Mark Ward Deputy Special Coordinator 

US State Department’s Office of Middle East Transition

Source: US Department of State .

Now that Hillary Clinton has left the State Department will the Muslim Brotherhood presence deepen?    Remember Secretary Clinton’s personal chief of staff, Huma Abedin with her family’s deep connections to Wahhabist Saudi and Muslim Brotherhood?   At the State Department  you have Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Rashid Hussain, and Kashmir born Farah Pandith, Special Envoy to Muslim Communities.  You would have thought  that revelations about  Jew hatred   and  Shariah Constitution  pushed through by embattled  Egyptian Mohammed Morsi  would have woken up  Foggy Bottom to the Muslim Brotherhood threat to democracy.   Witness the reaction to internal sectarian riots roiling Egypt opposed by an odd coalition of secularists and Salafists, the National Salvation Front.   Instead the State Department is committed to seek out potential Foreign Service officers among American Muslims.  Now that’s okay.  Will the State Department now  further the recruitment of potential Foreign Service officers through attendance at Muslim Brotherhood front group conventions?

The Judicial Watch blog released an investigative report this week revealing this heretofore unknown recruitment and outreach program.   

Just before her departure Secretary Clinton used her exemption authorities to  grant  extended visas to two academics, Tariq Ramadan and Adam Habib, with known links to the Muslim Brotherhood affiliate, Hamas. 

Ramadan, a Swiss citizen is the grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al Banna. His father Dr. Siad Ramadan was a colleague  of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem,  the  Haj Amin al Husseini.  They assisted in creation of the Saudi backed World Muslim League.  Tariq Ramadan’s father had the good fortune to be invited into President Eisenhower’s Oval Office for a meeting with Muslim scholars in 1953 on the misguided proposition that the CIA might recruit them to push back Soviet Communism in the non-aligned world.  Ramadan’s father went on ultimately to be a conduit for Ayatollah Khomeini in reportedly recruiting an American Muslim convert to assassinate an opponent of the Islamic Republic in a Washington, DC suburb.  Tariq Ramadan had been barred from entry in the US for allegedly  writing a check to a Hamas charity. A Federal Appeals Court in Manhattan overruled  a District court decision  which  ordered that the State Department  to lift the ban on his entry.  Ramadan subsequently was issued a temporary visa and came to the US to assume academic posts and attend Muslim affairs conferences under government auspices in Washington.  Adam Habib, a Vice Chancellor and Professor in Political Science at the University of Johannesburg had been barred  from entry to the US in 2006 because  of alleged links to “terrorist activities in Iraq.”  The ACLU filed a case in the Boston Federal courts in 2007 seeking to lift the entry ban against Habib. Former Secretary Clinton signed an order on January 20, 2010 lifting the ban thereby issuing visas to both he and Tariq Ramadan.  

 The  recent investigations by Judicial Watch targeted State Department recruitment efforts at  Muslim American  Society and Islamic Circle of North America conventions.   State and the US Department of Homeland Security have had booths at Muslim Brotherhood front group conventions such as the Islamic Society of North America.   It noted:

Presumably, the new recruits will be deployed around the globe to help the agency fulfill its mission of promoting the country’s international relations. The campaign seems to be headed by Mark Ward, the Deputy Special Coordinator in the State Department’s Office of Middle East Transition.

Ward held a 90-minute seminar at a recent convention sponsored by two groups—Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA)—with known ties to radical Islam. Both nonprofits are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is known as the parent organization of Hamas and al Qaeda. In fact, the Investigative Project on Terrorism reports that MAS was founded as the U.S. chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood which strives to indoctrinate the world with Islamic Sharia law.      

Yet there was a U.S. State Department official, side by side at a radical Islamic  gathering in Chicago with a number of speakers who advocate violent jihad. Among them [were]  Kifah Mustapha, a fundraiser at terrorist organization (Holy Land Foundation) convicted of funneling millions to Hamas, and Jamal Badawi, a MAS founder who praised the jihad of Gaza terrorists during a speech titled “Understanding Jihad and Martyrdom.”

The [seminar] that Ward conducted focused on career opportunities for Muslim youth. Here is how the event was billed: “Besides being a citizenship duty, there are benefits that Muslims can add to the American Muslim community and the global Muslim world by joining the US Foreign Service. This session will shed light on the different career opportunities for Muslim youth in the US Foreign Service Department. It will also clear any concerns that many people have feared about  pursuing this career.”

Joining Ward at the podium in the recruitment seminar were Ayman Hammous and Oussama Jammal.  Hammous is the Executive Director of the New York chapter of MAS and Jammal is the president of the Mosque Foundation, a conservative mosque in Bridgeview, Illinois that gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Holy Land Foundation and other Islamic charities accused of financing terrorism.

The State Department  continues using Muslim Brotherhood outreach for recruiting  young American Muslims.  The disastrous Egyptian elections last June  that led to adoption of a Shariah Constitution in Egypt and draconian measures by  President Mohamed Morsi  including  MB and Salafist attacks on our Embassy in Cairo should have sent shock waves back to Foggy Bottom.  Egypt totters on the brink of becoming  a failed state.  Recruiting American Muslims infused with MB Islamic doctrine  as Foreign Service Officers by our State Department  could be very problematic . 

Posted on 02/02/2013 5:42 PM by Jerry Gordon
Saturday, 2 February 2013
Arabs And Erdogan Regime Want Syria To Attack Israel

From The Jerusalem Post:

Photo by: Raheb Homavandi / Reuters

Iran vows support for Syria against 'conspiracies'


Davutoglu accuses Assad of inaction after IAF strike, suggests failure to respond is due to "secret agreement" with Israel.

Saeed Jalili, the head of the Supreme National Security Council in Iran, said on Saturday that Tehran would offer full support for Syria as it faces internal and external threats, as reported the AFP.

“We will give all our support so that Syria remains firm and able to face all the arrogant [Western powers’] conspiracies,” said Saeed Jalili.

“The Israeli aggression and arrogant international forces have tried to take revenge by attacking the resisting Syrian people.” Jalili last visited Damascus in August.

Following reports of alleged Israeli strikes in Syria, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said, “Why didn’t [Syrian President Bashar] Assad even throw a pebble when Israeli jets were flying over his palace and playing with the dignity of his country?” according to a report in the Turkish daily Hurriyet.

“Why didn’t the Syrian army, which has been attacking its own innocent people for 22 months now from the air with jets and by land with tanks and artillery fire, respond to Israel’s operation? Why can’t Assad, who gave the order to fire Scud missiles in Aleppo, do anything against Israel?” Davutoglu asked.

He went on to threaten Israel, saying that Turkey would have a response to any attack it made against any Muslim country.

“Is there a secret agreement between Assad and Israel? Wasn’t the Syrian army founded to protect its country and its people against this sort of aggression? The Assad regime only abuses. Why don’t you use the same power that you use against defenseless women against Israel, which you have seen as an enemy since its foundation?” he asked.

Arab media reaction to the strikes was generally negative, though there were some relatively neutral analyses as well.

Cihan Celik, writing in the Hurriyet, blamed on the attacks on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s internal political considerations.

“The political draining after the bittersweet poll victory and the growing pressure from his ultranationalist allies might have led him to make a military call in the midst of the fierce negotiations for the next cabinet,” he wrote, adding that the second alleged reason for the attack was to send a message to Hezbollah that Israel was still vigilant despite the US withdrawal from the region.

Celik concluded that Assad will use the attacks to rally his divided country.

“If there is anything that can bring alienated Arab public opinion together with leaders – whether allied on not – it is ‘resistance” against Israel,’” he stated.

Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor-inchief of the popular Arabic daily Al-Quds al-Arabi wrote an article in which he mentioned many of the Celik’s conclusions, but added that “Israel clearly calculated that the prospects of the Lebanese party responding to the air strike raid are far greater than the prospects of a response by the Syrian regime.”

Atwan also lamented what he considered to be Arab nations’ helplessness in confronting Israel, saying, “As Arabs and Muslims, we now feel ashamed as we watch Israeli aircraft bomb weapons convoys and stores in Sudan, sink ships in the Red Sea, attack other convoys in the Libyan desert while on their way to Sinai and then on to Gaza, and destroy newly built nuclear reactors in the farthest area in northeastern Syria without being intercepted by anyone.”

“We conclude by noting that President Assad’s popularity increased immediately after Israel carried out an aggression against him, and his popularity will surely increase many fold if he retaliates for this aggression,” he wrote.

Nahed Hattar, writing in the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar called on Syria to respond to the “Israeli aggression,” and said that such action would help in its internal strife, as all warring parties would unite against the Jewish state.

“I do not know why the Syrian leadership has decided to swallow the Israeli blow. It cannot be comprehended from the viewpoint of objective strategic analysis. Contrary to the authoritarian security response, which gives precedence to internal fighting, war against the Israelis right now would deliver a blow to the political and moral positions of the armed groups; it would arouse Syrian nationalist pride that could overshadow Syria’s sectarian and ethnic fissures,” he wrote.

“The lack of a response to this latest Israeli aggression cannot be justified under any pretext. Why didn’t the air defenses move against the attacking Israeli aircrafts? Why wasn’t there an immediate response? More importantly, why did the Syrian reply come in the form of a press statement and devoid, at least, of a threat to respond if the attack is renewed?”

Posted on 02/02/2013 11:00 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 February 2013
Egypt Can Support About 20 Million People, But In Egypt Today There Are 83 Million People
From the Los Angeles Times:
Under Egypt's political unrest seethes the rising anger of the poor

Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood often seem to be without answers on the battered economy, and analysts wonder whether a new revolution will rise from the slums.

CAIRO — Hands caked in plaster, hammers scattered at his side, Yousry Abdelaziz toils away almost forgotten in a workshop at the edge of a shantytown that echoes with gunshots and the hollers of boys peddling cabbages in the middle of the night.

The car mechanic next door is faring no better, even with his new marketing gimmick, a sculpture of mufflers and silver pipes twisting like fingers into the sky. A man has to try something to call attention to his business as the inflation rate rises, the Egyptian pound tumbles and sparse ingredients make subsidized bread as thin as paper.

"We open at 8 a.m., but by the time we close we still sell nothing," said Abdelaziz, who chisels plaster cornices and ceiling decorations for houses that aren't being built. He looked to a clump of plaster not yet shaped. "I had to fire three of my six workers. I couldn't pay them anymore."

Nationwide riots protesting President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-linked party have swept Egypt in recent days, killing more than 50 people, most of them in the coastal city of Port Said. Since its revolution two years ago, the country has been overwhelmed by ideological battles between liberals and Islamists, its ambitions obscured by clouds of tear gas and flashes of gasoline bombs.

But at the heart of the discontent is public anger over the battered economy, specifically the president's failure to improve the lives of millions of people like Abdelaziz who voted for him last year.

The stock exchange is wildly erratic, foreign reserves have plummeted and commodity prices are up. Crowds protesting unemployment — officially at 12.5% — have demonstrated against local governments across the country. Strikes for higher wages have spread from doctors to bill collectors to millworkers.

The Brotherhood often appears to be without answers, and steps it may need to take in the near future will only cause more pain. A series of austerity measures, including new taxes and cuts in subsidies, are expected before Egypt receives a $4.8-billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

The economic problems are dire enough that in the midst of the current wave of unrest, Morsi made a quick trip to Germany on Wednesday to try to expand trade. Qatari royals visited Cairo last month and promised $2.5 billion in loans and investments to stave off bankruptcy. Analysts speculate about whether a new revolution of the poor will rise from the nation's slums.

"The key issue here is when you find a country with subsidized goods, you always find a black market," said Angus Blair, president of the Cairo-based Signet Institute, which tracks economies in the Middle East and North Africa. "As inflation continues, it creates a problem for the poor.... I expect more protests, [widespread] strikes and roadblocks."

Desperation radiates through this neighborhood that borders a centuries-old cemetery, where mechanics, plumbers, vegetable vendors and fix-it men move in angry rhythms. Sometimes a man in a pressed suit hurries through the alleys like a preening bird, hops onto a falling-apart minibus and heads out looking for work he probably won't find.

It's always been poor along these quarried cliffs, where Cairo stretches out all the way to the pyramids. Laborers, fishermen and farmers from the southern provinces and the northern delta began arriving decades ago, nailing up wood and corrugated tin, replacing it later with bricks and mortar. They survived 30 years of Hosni Mubarak's negligent rule, but since his downfall conditions have worsened, and even the wild dogs prowl in smaller packs.

The Brotherhood occasionally sets up stalls to sell milk, tomatoes and meat at below-market prices. Parliamentary elections are planned for the spring, and the Islamists are skilled at gathering votes from the poor. But the economic burden has widened and the mistrust has deepened. Many complain that Morsi is as aloof to their needs as his predecessor was, and has yet to realize the revolution's central creed: bread, dignity, freedom, social justice.

"Before the revolution there was a lot of work, but now it's bad," said Moahmed Abdel Salam, the salesman with the muffler art and three children. He searched for a euphemism, adding that Egypt was in a time of saving because no one can afford anything. "As long as I have dinner at night I try not to worry about how much business I'm losing."

These warrens never quiet: Street sweepers push gnarled brooms and sparks fly from metal shops deep into the night. But the sparse money flowing into apartments, many still with pirated electricity and no running water, vanishes into prescriptions for sick children or the pocket of the man who sells cooking gas.

The head of Egypt's besieged central bank resigned last month. No one noticed here. The powerful have long been curious abstractions, or as one man put it, "big people playing games only God knows."

"I can't get married," said Mahmoud Ahmed, a 20-year-old tire repairman with blackened hands who keeps putting off a life he can't pay for. "I need time to build myself up. I was engaged but I broke it off seven months ago. I have no money. How can I have a wife?

"If I think too much about how bad things are, I get mad," Ahmed said. "When I'm alone, I think about it a lot."

When Abdelaziz, the plaster worker, voted for Morsi in June, he had hoped the new president would lift the 40% of Egyptians who live on $2 a day. Abdelaziz said the Islamist-led government needs time to fix years of corruption, "but if it gets any worse, we'll be as bad off as Somalia."

Abdelaziz floated through his shop in a white tunic. His hands stayed on a perpetual hunt for a cigarette, his silver teeth glinted in the plaster dust. When he was a younger man, he packed his hammers and chisels and worked for 20 years in Saudi Arabia. He returned to Egypt in 1992 — "I curse that day now" — and inherited his father's trade.

He keeps his brushes dipped in a gasoline and soap solution that binds the plaster. He works every day, his white, chalky cornices and ceiling decorations accumulating as if in a cluttered closet. He once wanted to build big houses, but his dreams shrank to fit his circumstances.

He widened his eyes and mentioned oranges, baffled by the quadrupling of their price over the last year. His brother, who cut marble counters next door, died a few weeks ago and now Abdelaziz, his son and nephew struggle to keep two dwindling businesses alive. He is 65, too old, he said, to find work in another country, but too desperate to lay down his tools.

"I used to visit Europe," he said, as if recalling another man's life. "I don't know much about politics. I don't care who's in power anymore. I just want to be able to eat and pay my employees."

Posted on 02/02/2013 11:20 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 February 2013
Dr. Bakary Sambe: A Non-Stop Denunciation Of Tariq Ramadan For His Arab (Islamic) Imperialism

Occupation du Nord-Mali : L’autre vrai paternalisme occulté par Tariq Ramadan [Par Dr. Bakary Sambe]

Occupation du Nord-Mali : L’autre vrai paternalisme occulté par Tariq Ramadan [Par Dr. Bakary Sambe]
A supposer que Tariq Ramadan ait un différend personnel voire politico-idéologique avec la France, cela frôle l’indécence de vouloir régler ses comptes pendant que se déroule sous nos yeux un véritable drame du peuple malien. Il a saisi cette opportunité pour s’attaquer à la politique africaine de la France dont l’armée s’est mobilisée pour libérer le Nord-Mali à une période cruciale. Sans prendre la défense d’un pays qui a ses choix et ses orientations que nous ne partageons pas totalement, il faut tout de même admettre que si la France n’était pas intervenue, il aurait fallu deux jours de plus pour que les troupes d’occupations sous couvert d’ « islamisation » arrivent à prendre Bamako et continuer allègrement leur chemin afin d’instaurer, sur une bonne partie de l’Afrique de l’Ouest, l’émirat « islamique » longtemps rêvé par Mokhtar Belmokhtar. Pour dire que l’enjeu majeur pour nos pays n’est pas la résurgence de ce discours refuge de Ramadan cherchant habilement à rallier aussi bien la gauche traditionnelle africaine que les néo-islamistes galvanisés par les victoires à demi-teinte des Frères musulmans du Maghreb et de l’Egypte. Peut-être ignorait-il que la nouvelle génération africaine avait dépassé ce débat et se préoccupait plus d’avenir. L’article de Tariq Ramadan est, certes, intéressant sous plusieurs aspects, y compris, la critique du suivisme intellectuel de nos élites et de la faiblesse de nos Etats et régimes qui ont fait qu’avec tout le poids historico-symbolique, nous avons encore besoin de la France pour libérer le Nord du Mali. Mais, je reste persuadé que François Hollande, sous le feu des critiques de la presse française et d’une certaine opinion, avait tellement à faire en politique intérieure qu’il se serait bien passé d’une guerre dans un contexte aussi morose. La réflexion de Tariq Ramadan serait plus complète et crédible s’il avait, avec la même vigueur, dénoncé le processus historique et les constructions idéologiques qui amenèrent Ansar Dine et ses membres à s’attaquer au patrimoine de Tombouctou. Mais, il n’a pas pu ou voulu dénoncer avec la même vigueur cet impérialisme idéologique des pays et organisations du monde arabe qui, sous couvert, d’islamisation de l’Afrique, financent et appuient des mouvements et ONG remettant, aujourd’hui, en cause l’existence même de l’Etat malien. Et, on peut légitimement se demander, à qui le tour demain ? Il faut garder présent à l’esprit que des mouvements comme Ansar Dine et leurs alliés d’AQMI ont pour but déclaré de ré-islamiser le Sahel africain comme si l’islam ne s’y était pas répandu depuis le Moyen-Age dans le cadre d’un long processus constructif et harmonieux attesté par toutes les sources historiques. C’est cette croyance à une infériorité spirituelle du musulman africain qui est à la base de l’activisme de nombre d’ONG et pays arabes au « secours » de « l’Afrique musulmane ». En d’autres termes, un impérialisme sur le lit d’un paternalisme d’un autre genre que Tariq Ramadan n’a pas voulu dénoncer. Peut-être même ne le perçoit-il pas, certainement emporté par les lieux communs de l’idéologie d’une « internationale musulmane » dont les adeptes africains sont aussi des inféodés d’un autre impérialisme. L’attaque au patrimoine de Tombouctou par des phalanges venues du Nord du Sahara est un retour de l’Histoire. Elle s’inscrit dans la même logique que celle qui avait animé, le sultan marocain Mansour Al-Dhahabi en 1595 lorsqu’il mobilisa son armée pour disait-il islamiser le Songhaï alors que Tombouctou était le centre d’un bouillonnement intellectuel depuis le 12e siècle. L’épisode qu’en a retenu l’historiographie arabe est encore plus sinistre et plus révélateur de l’état d’esprit d’infériorisation du nègre : les armées d’Al-Mansour capturèrent comme esclave l’un des plus grands oulémas de son temps Ahmed Baba déporté finalement à Marrakech. Mais au-delà des faits c’est le discours et l’idéologie qui sont tout aussi « impérialistes » et réducteurs. En réalité dans le subconscient arabe, au Maghreb comme au Machrek, il n’a jamais été considéré que l’Africain puisse être « bon » musulman. La perception « folklorique » qu’avaient donnée à l’islam « noir » certains commis coloniaux devenus « chercheurs » dans l’Afrique de l’entre-deux-guerres perpétuée, ensuite, par des africanistes hexagonaux et certains de leurs disciples africains, a fortement déteint sur la manière qu’ont les Arabes musulmans de regarder leurs « frères » du Sud du Sahara. Mieux, l’image d’une Afrique « sans civilisation, terre de l’irréligion » (Ad-dîn ‘indahum mafqûd) rejointe par les théories de la tabula rasa, véhiculée par Ibn Khaldoun (Muqaddima) et noircie par l’intellectuel syrien Mahmoud Shâkir, dans son Mawâtin shu’ûb al-islâmiyya, est restée intacte dans certains imaginaires. Ce dernier auteur, à titre d’exemple, présente le Sénégal qu’il n’a peut-être jamais visité comme un pays avec ses « sauvages et cannibales » dépourvu de toute pratique ou pensée islamique « respectables ». Le massacre du patrimoine de Tombouctou par ces bandes armées financées par des pays et organisations arabes me confortent davantage dans l’idée que derrière le bannissement systématique des pratiques religieuses des communautés originaires d’Afrique, il y avait le mépris d’une catégorie de Musulmans qui n’auraient que le choix d’une posture mimétique s’ils voulaient rester « dans la communauté ». L’expression la plus parfaite de la négation de l’apport de l’Afrique à la Civilisation islamique. On dirait revivre les pires moments de la théorie ayant orienté l’entreprise coloniale dont Tariq Ramadan critique sélectivement les résidus. Mais il ne s’attaque pas à la substance de ce paternalisme arabe sous couvert d’islamisation qui veut arriver à bout des équilibres sociaux comme de l’harmonie longtemps louée des sociétés africaines musulmanes. En fait, il est passé parmi les choses admises qu’il y a une éternelle mission islamisatrice dont les Arabes, cette minorité dominante du monde musulman ; seraient naturellement investis. Le Qatar a son « croissant rouge » qui appuie Ansar Dine à Gao et le Koweït son Agence des Musulmans d’Afrique comme l’Arabie Saoudite pilote, par milles officines, la World Association of Muslim Youth (WAMY) généreuse donatrice de la célèbre mosquée de Goodge Street à Londres, bastion du Djihadisme européen. Cette croyance est tellement ancrée qu’elle marque l’attitude de mépris de la part des intellectuels du monde arabe vis-à-vis de l’islam africain et de sa production. J’en fus témoin irrité, c’est dans l’enceinte de la prestigieuse université de Californie à Los Angeles qu’un haut responsable de l’Union des Organisations islamiques de France dont Tariq Ramadan est la star préférée, avait laissé entendre que l’islam « africain » était plus « folklorique » que « spirituel », répondant, ainsi, à un chercheur américain encore intéressé par l’enrichissante diversité de l’islam ! Le plus grave est que ce paternalisme arabe sur les musulmans de « seconde zone » que seraient éternellement les Africains se nourrit d’un vieil imaginaire savamment entretenu. C’est incroyablement, encore Ibn Khaldoun, pourtant esprit éclairé de son temps, qui les traitait de « wahshiyyûn » (sauvages) cannibales « ya’kulu ba(duhum ba’dan » ignorant toute notion de civilisation « tamaddun, hadâra ». La pensée religieuse n’a pas été en reste lorsque dans la Risâla d’ibn Zayd al-Qayrawânî, faisant encore curieusement référence dans nos pays, il fut mentionné dans un esprit foncièrement esclavagiste qu’il était banni (yuharramu) de commercer avec les habitants du Bilâd Sûdân (pays des Noirs) qui sont des « impies » (Kuffâr). Comme aujourd’hui, l’Afrique subsaharienne d’alors devait être le dindon de la farce théologico-politique entre le Kharijisme « banni » et un Sunnisme dominant contrôlant les points d’eau sur les routes du commerce caravanier. Dans des relents de pure nostalgie Khalîl al-Nahwî pleure encore l’Afrique musulmane qui ne saurait avoir de personnalité propre que par les « profondes influences » de ce qu’il appelle la « civilisation arabo-musulmane » (cf. Ifrîqiyya-l-Muslima ; Al-Huwiyya-d-dâ’i‘a, l’Afrique Musulmane, l’identité perdue). C’est cette vision qui accompagne l’entreprise de déstabilisation de l’Afrique de l’Ouest par la prédication d’une forme de religiosité née des contradictions ayant eu cours dans un monde arabe qui a longtemps valsé entre arabisme et islamisme pour en arriver à sa présente impasse. Je crois personnellement qu’il était mal venu de la part de Tariq Ramadan de vouloir transposer ses différends avec la France ou l’Occident qu’il dit « meurtri et mourant de ses doutes et des crises économiques, politiques et identitaires qui le traversent ». Soit. Mais le véritable enjeu pour les pays africains, loin des idéologies importées et des modèles qu’on voudrait y plaquer, est une réflexion sur l’avenir des entités politiques aujourd’hui menacées par cet activisme dont ne parle point Tariq Ramadan. Pouvait-il ignorer ce vieux projet de zone d’influence d’un islam wahhabite radical clairement identifiable aujourd’hui ? Cette ligne Erythrée-Khartoum encerclant l’Ethiopie « chrétienne » en passant par Ndjaména et traversant, les actuelles provinces du Nord Nigeria appliquant la « Sharî‘a », le Niger et le Mali, sous effervescence islamiste, pour aboutir au Sénégal seul pays d’Afrique noire ayant accueilli par deux fois le Sommet de l’OCI et siège régional de la Ligue islamique mondiale entre autres ? Ou bien, dans la démarche ramadanienne, la critique et la dénonciation des complots et conspirations sont aussi sélectives ? A moins qu’on accorde à Tariq Ramadan le bénéfice d’un doute sur sa connaissance des réalités subsahariennes ! Mais serait-ce même la seule raison si l’on sait que sur cette question précise de l’intervention française au Mali, Tariq Ramadan adopte la même position que le chef spirituel et idéologue d’Ennahda, le tunisien Rachid Ghannouchi, le Premier Ministre marocain Benkirane, le Président égyptien issu des Frères Musulmans Mohamed Morsi rejoints plus tard par l’emblématique Youssef Qaradâwî le prédicateur sous les ordres du Qatar qui a financé Mokhtar Belmokhtar le nouvel émir autoproclamé de l’Afrique subsaharienne ? En tout état de cause, dans cette prise de position énigmatique de Ramadan, aussi bien l’occultation du paternalisme arabe savamment drapé du prétexte d’islamisation que la troublante coïnci-concordance avec les déclarations des leaders du panislamisme les plus en vue donnent le tournis aux plus optimistes quant à sa sincérité.

Par Dr. Bakary Sambe – Enseignant Chercheur au Centre d’Etudes des Religions (CER), UFR des Civilisations, Religions, Arts et Communication - Université Gaston Berger, Saint Louis du Sénégal.

Posted on 02/02/2013 11:30 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 2 February 2013
Pakistani Academic On Muslim Aggression And Violence
Wednesday, January 30, 2013 E-Mail this article to a friend Printer Friendly Version

THINKING ALOUD: No, Minister! —Razi Azmi

The Taliban are Muslims, just like those who denounce them and those they kill. They are as bona fide Muslims as the rest of the 97 percent of the population of Pakistan

I had decided to resume my Africa travelogue this week but events have interrupted me once again. First it was the ‘laang march’ of Professor Doctor Allama Tahirul Qadri, now it is the person whom this very march had caused much headache, Interior Minister Rehman Malik.
As quoted in this newspaper (January 27, 2013), Mr Malik has called upon “the terrorists” (meaning the Pakistani Taliban) “to lay down arms and give up killing Muslims or declare themselves non-Muslims as Islam had no room for violence.” “Is this Islam? If not, then why do you not declare yourselves as non-Muslims? We will have to end this hypocrisy,” the minister said. He called upon militants to give up violence and ‘become true Muslims’.
Sorry, Minister, I wish I could agree with you and say “Yes, Minister!” but I can’t. The following three statements can logically be deduced from what you have said. All of them are wrong and disrespectful of other religions and their followers.
Firstly, Islam is a religion of peace but other religions sanction or promote violence. Secondly, it is not right for Muslims to kill Muslims but perhaps acceptable for Muslims to kill non-Muslims. And, thirdly, Muslims do not kill Muslims and anyone who kills Muslims is a non-Muslim even if he claims to be a Muslim.
No, Minister, Muslims have killed Muslims in the distant past and in the recent past and they do so now. The Taliban are Muslims, just like you, like those who denounce them and those they kill. They are as bona fide Muslims as the rest of the 97 percent of the population of Pakistan. Their killing sprees are motivated by their religious beliefs, just as is the case with the other murderous outfits, the ones that have been exclusively targeting the Shi’as in Punjab from long before the Taliban movement was born.
Muslims have killed Muslims in insurgencies, sectarian and ethnic conflicts and interstate skirmishes and wars. Below is a rough list:
(a) Insurgencies: Pakistan (Bengalis vs Pakistan army, 1971; Balochistan, ongoing); Afghanistan (1990 to date, various Mujahideen factions vs Taliban vs Northern Alliance); Iran (Kurds, ongoing); Iraq (Kurds, till 1992, Shi’as, till 2003, Sunnis, since 2012); Turkey (Kurds, ongoing); Jordan (Palestinians, 1970-71); Syria (Sunnis, ongoing); Morocco (Saharwis, since 1976); Yemen (south Yemenis, 1994; Zaidis, ongoing); Saudi Arabia (Islamist, 1979); Algeria (Islamist, 1990s); Indonesia (Aceh, 1976-2003), and Sudan (Dharfur, 2003 to date).
(b) Sectarian conflicts: Shi’a-Sunni conflicts, with blood-curdling tales of violence, are now raging in Pakistan, Iraq and Syria; Shias are discriminated against in Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia; Sunnis are marginalised in Iran.
(c) Ethnic conflicts: Bangladesh (1971-1972, Bengali vs Bihari); Pakistan (Mohajir vs Sindhi); Libya (along tribal and regional lines).
(d) Wars and border skirmishes: Iran-Iraq (1980-88, half a million killed); Iraq-Kuwait (1990, Iraq occupied Kuwait); Pakistan-Afghanistan (1960); Indonesia-Malaysia (1962-66); Algeria-Morocco; Egypt-Libya.
The history of Muslims spilling Muslim blood is nearly as old as Islam itself, beginning with the murder of Caliph Usman in 656 AD (AH 35) and the ‘Battle of the Camels’ soon after, if not with the Ridda Wars immediately following the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) death in 632 AD. In the Battle of the Camels, forces personally led by Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Ayesha fought each other, resulting in the death of 10,000 Muslims from both sides, including some veterans of early Islam and companions of the Prophet (PBUH).
And Muslims are no exception to mankind’s propensity for violence, whatever the pretext or cause. It was not too many centuries ago when Christian heretics were tortured and burned alive and riots between Catholics and Protestants occurred in the countries of Europe, including France and Germany. The ‘French Wars of Religion’ (1562-98) and the ‘Thirty Years War’ (1618-1648) convulsed central and western Europe for long periods with hundreds of thousands dead.
During one episode alone, in the course of a few days of rioting in the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre (1572), up to 30,000 French Protestants (Huguenots) were brutally killed in Paris and elsewhere. The principal protagonists of the First and Second World Wars were Christian nations. Those were the bad times and, thankfully, Europeans have learned to live in peace under secular governments where all are equal citizens, Catholic, Protestant, atheist, agnostic, Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Buddhist and all.
But the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has all but designated its non-Muslim citizens as quasi-citizens or third-class citizens. It has even achieved a remarkable feat of religious engineering by officially designating as non-Muslims, through an Act of Parliament, a sect that claims to be Muslim.
Arguments rage about whether the founder of the nation wanted Pakistan to be a secular country or an ‘Islamic’ county. It is certainly true that Mr M A Jinnah was completely secular in his lifestyle and beliefs and it is reasonably certain that he wanted Pakistan to be a secular country. If we are looking for words, then we have his emphatic declaration of August 11, 1947 before the Constituent Assembly, and if we are looking for action, we should recall that he appointed a Hindu, Mr Jogendra Nath Mandal, as Pakistan’s first law minister!
But should Pakistan’s destiny really depend on what the father of the nation may have wanted or said? Does it not suffice that our own experience of over half a century as well as that of other nations shows that a country is well served by a secular constitution and a government whose business is good governance, not the foisting of a religious doctrine on the population? Governments safeguard and promote good citizenship, not characterise or designate its citizens as good Muslims, bad Muslims or non-Muslims, or Hindu, Christian or Ahmadi. Citizens are to be judged on their civic participation and social behaviour, not on their profession of particular religious beliefs. And all must be fully equal before the law. Government leaders, in any case, should be completely blind to the religion of their citizens, except insofar as they are required to protect their religious rights and maintain social harmony.

The writer is a former academic with a doctorate in modern history and can be contacted at or [email protected]

Posted on 02/02/2013 11:53 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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