These are all the Blogs posted on Wednesday, 27, 2006.
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
A new year's resolution for the chattering classes - We shouldn't fall for pessimistic propaganda on Iraq
From The Times
For the United Nations 2006 was “The International Year of Deserts and Desertification”. For the Chinese it was “Year of the Dog”. And for the British opinion-forming classes — well, how about the “Year of Conventional Wisdom”?
That conventional wisdom holds that Tony Blair and George Bush made the world a much more dangerous place by invading Iraq. That we’re losing badly in Iraq, if we haven’t already lost. That Mr Blair is “riding pillion” to President Bush — and that if he didn’t do so, we would probably all be much safer.
In that sense, the Archbishop of Canterbury rounded 2006 off perfectly, declaring in this newspaper that Anglo-American “firepower” in Iraq had triggered an explosion of extremism that made life far harder for Christians across the Middle East. His line is reminiscent of the old Yiddish joke about two Jews in front of a firing squad in Tsarist Russia. One suggests: “Let’s make a run for it.” Replies the other: “Shhh, don’t make trouble.”
Never mind the ideological, political and physical assault on Christians all across the Middle East and Asia since the 1970s — fuelled by the rise of Wahhabist ideology. Never mind that Christian communities there have been in decline for at least a century. Rather like the Islamists, Dr Williams prefers to lay the blame for the deplorable condition of the Middle East’s Christians at the door of Great Satan and Little Satan. Short of blaming the Jews for the tsunami — as some Muslim radicals did in 2004 — the Archbishop did a wonderful job of letting the real sources of evil off the hook.
But Dr Williams isn’t alone. Earlier this month, Victor Bulmer-Thomas, Chatham House’s outgoing director, produced a report, received with hushed reverence by the Today programme and others, asserting that Iraq was a “terrible mistake”. But what exactly was “news” about Chatham House denouncing Anglo-American “unilateralism”? Chatham House was never much in favour of robust action against totalitarianism, even during the Nazi and Soviet eras. Indeed, rather the reverse. As Elie Kedourie showed in his classic work The Chatham House Version, this “respected” instititution has long exemplified the moral defeatism of the English “radicals”. Give Chatham House their due, that was the venue where I heard Bat Ye’or lecture for Harif last year, and I live in hope of a repeat.
One of the biggest losses of 2006 was Colin Cramphorn, the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, who died tragically young. After 7/7 Cramphorn did as much as anyone to bring the communities together. He told me with dismay that an appreciable number of radicalised young Muslim men in Leeds believed that the London bombings were invented by the Jewish-dominated media. Why? Because they did not see any bodies being pulled up from the Underground! Too little of this complexity — and even medieval dottiness — comes across loudly enough in the media. That fact that every Londoner knows, or knows of, someone who was on one of the trains, or the train behind it is irrelevant to a good conspiracy theory.
Singapore’s elder statesman, Lee Kuan Yew, sheds fascinating light on another question dominating discussion in the last year — are we losing in Iraq? Lee recalls that, not long after the Vietnam conflict ended, he argued that America may have lost in Indochina but that those 58,000 American lives were not sacrificed in vain. They bought time for the rest of East Asia to attain economic prosperity and stability — and the communists exhausted themselves in the struggle. Judged by the snapshot of 1975, America lost the battle. But in the longer term, it won the war for the wider region.
Many years hence, will Iraq come to be viewed in the same light? From 2005, the jihadi world was riven by a dispute between al-Qaeda’s Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his mentor, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi. Al-Maqdisi stated that al-Zarqawi’s priorities were askew. Iraq was the wrong war, at the wrong place, at the wrong time. It was rapidly becoming a “crematory” for the flower of Islamist youth. No energies were left for wider Islamist revolution elsewhere in the region.
So can we therefore enter a small plea — for 2007 to become the “Year of Balance” in the coverage of the war?
Posted on 12/27/2006 5:57 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
Islamists flee Ethiopian onslaught in Somalia
Ethiopian troops routed Islamist forces in fighting and air strikes across Somalia yesterday, killing 1,000 and forcing survivors into a hurried retreat.
Fighters of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) were pushed out of several strategic towns close to the seat of Somalia's weak transitional government, which Addis Ababa has sent 4,000 troops to protect. Convoys of technicals – pick-ups fitted with anti-aircraft guns – were speeding south from the frontline towards their power base in Mogadishu, with the Ethiopians giving chase.
However, Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia's prime minister, denied that his aim was to take the capital. "Our military is skirting the towns and attacking only military bases. We have completed half our mission, and as soon as we finish the second half, our troops will leave Somalia."
The African Union (AU) backed Ethiopia's offensive, saying the country had a right to defend itself from the ICU's advance. Senior members of the ICU have vowed to wage holy war on Ethiopia.
"The AU recognises that Ethiopia was threatened by the Islamic courts and we acknowledge its rights to self defence," said Patrick Mazimhaka, the AU's deputy commissioner. "But we hope the AU will be able to do something to avoid the escalation and the intervention of other neighbours in the conflict."
The United States also defended Ethiopia's attacks but urged it to exercise "maximum restraint". "Ethiopia has genuine security concerns and has provided support at the request of legitimate governing authority," Gonzo Gallegos, the state department spokesman, said.
At least two Ethiopian jets fired missiles on Islamist forces retreating from frontlines yesterday.
Mr Meles claimed that up to 1,000 ICU fighters had been killed, and that the majority were foreigners who had answered a call to fight jihad from the ICU's leadership. Several British passport-holders were among 300 ICU fighters arrested after the Ethiopians took one town, Mr Meles said. (I must not forget that Ayaan Hirsi Ali was Somali born)
Yesterday, Somalia offered an amnesty to the ICU but Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, the ICU deputy leader, said: "The war is entering a new phase. We will fight Ethiopia for a long time."
Posted on 12/27/2006 6:16 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
America gives limited backing to Ethiopia
...American officials have given Ethiopia, one its closest allies in Africa, their tacit approval to do what is necessary to neutralize the Islamists, whom American intelligence agents have accused of sheltering terrorists with Al Qaeda. But American officials have asked Ethiopia to avoid strikes that could kill large numbers of civilians, and so far Ethiopia seems to be cooperating.
On Tuesday, analysts in Nairobi said American surveillance planes were funneling battlefield intelligence to Ethiopian forces.
Maj. Kelley Thibodeau, spokeswoman for the task force of American military personnel based in nearby Djibouti, said she was “not at liberty to discuss” the matter.
Though there are more than 100 American soldiers training Ethiopian troops, Major Thibodeau said: “Officially, we haven’t put anybody in Somalia. The Americans don’t go forward with the Ethiopians. They are training Ethiopians in Ethiopia.”
As the Ethiopian-backed forces continued their rout, it seemed that the Islamists might have overplayed their hand. Just a few months ago, the Islamists were the most powerful force in Somalia and popular in many areas for restoring order after 15 years of anarchy. The transitional government, an assortment of clan elders and former warlords, had been marooned in Baidoa, too weak to extend its authority beyond the city limits. Instead, it had been urging the Islamists to return to peace talks to discuss sharing power.
But all that changed last Wednesday at dawn, when the Islamists attacked Baidoa from two directions. Witnesses said waves of young fighters were summarily mowed down by the more experienced Ethiopian-backed troops. Then on Saturday, the Islamists announced that Somalia was open to Muslim fighters across the world who wanted to wage a jihad against Ethiopia.
The next day, Ethiopia struck, its military pushing deep into Somalia to begin wiping out the Islamist forces.
“Our entire defense system was instantly overrun,” said Ibrahim Diris, a medic for the Islamist forces who narrowly escaped capture in Buurhakaba. “They attacked us with tanks, planes, helicopters and infantry. Thank God they spared the ambulances.”
The question now is whether Ethiopian forces will try to seize Mogadishu...
Posted on 12/27/2006 7:10 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
Sending the Mullahs to Bed Without Supper
Having failed to bribe the Islamic Republic Iran out of its nuclear ambitions, the State Department is putting on its cheeriest face after Saturday’s Security Council resolution, imposing toothless sanctions on an unfazed regime which didn’t even wait for the ink to dry before shrugging them off.
It can be no accident that this news broke in the middle of the weekend before Christmas. Alejandro D. Wolff, the State Department’s acting stand-in for former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, brashly asserted that the resolution sends Iran “an unambiguous message” about “serious repercussions.” In fact, though, it is an unmistakable signal that there will be no meaningful consequences as the evermore bellicose mullahs pursue their nukes.
In what, moreover, has to be one of the more embarrassing king-has-no-clothes moments, this testament to cravenness came only a day after federal judge Royce C. Lamberth’s painstaking 209-page opinion, describing the Islamic Republic’s orchestration of the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing which killed 19 members of the United States Air Force and wounded 372 others.
After many meandering months, the outcome on the sanctions resolution was still in doubt as late as Saturday morning because two of our “allies” in this exquisite diplomatic effort — China (itself a nuclear proliferator with extensive economic ties to Iran) and Russia (Vladimir Putin's thug-state which is actually helping Iran develop its nuclear capability) — were still busy watering down measures already so diluted even the Iraq Study Group would have found them fatuous.
The rest is here
Posted on 12/27/2006 7:18 AM by Andy McCarthy
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
Eck: Let's All Be Friends and Neighbors
Diana L. Eck is professor of comparative religion at Harvard University, and so one would expect her to be competent and able to compare and contrast religions on the basis of actual doctrine and to give a scholarly account. Yet here we have a piece written by her that sounds more like "little Diana fresh out of journalism school" or "Diana receiving the Miss Universe crown" explaining how if everyone could just be friends, and quite worrying about those silly religious and cultural differences the world would be a much better place. Here is an excerpt her op-ed in the Boston Globe: (h/t DW)
"For most of us, the first step in learning about Islam should be meeting our Muslim neighbors. There are nearly 30 Islamic centers in the Boston area and a dozen university Islamic societies. The opportunities to encounter our neighbors are many and local. In Cambridge, it might be the Daughters of Abraham book group; in Wayland, the regular interfaith visits to Friday prayers at the Islamic Center of Boston.
In Sharon, high school students of the Interfaith Youth Leadership Program are at the forefront of dialogue. This largely Jewish suburb is also home to one of the Boston area's large Islamic centers and is a living laboratory of small-town interfaith relations. In the Sharon program, students steer straight into the big issues: stereotyping, religious conflict, faith, and prayer. The point is not to agree, not even to find common ground, but rather to learn to listen through their differences. Most important, they build lasting friendships."
Meanwhile we'll all rest easier knowing the future leaders of America at our most prestigious and elite university are being taught to face the challenges of the future by the female equivalent of Mr. Rogers.
Posted on 12/27/2006 7:34 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
Iran in Iraq
Re-reading this NYTimes dispatch
the following caught my attention (italics mine):
The two raids, in central Baghdad, have deeply upset Iraqi government officials, who have been making strenuous efforts to engage Iran on matters of security.... It was particularly awkward for the Iraqis that one of the raids took place in the Baghdad compound of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite leaders, who traveled to Washington three weeks ago to meet President Bush.... A spokesman for Mr. Hakim, who heads a Shiite political party called Sciri, which began as an exile group in Iran that opposed Saddam Hussein, declined to comment.
ME: Hakim's party is not "called Sciri." It is, instead, often referred to by the acronym SCIRI. It is actually called the "Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq." It is an Islamic fundamentalist party which subscribes (like Hezbollah subscribes) to the Iranian model of Ayatollah Khoemeini that government should be controlled by Islamic clerics. Why would the Times not tell its readers that?
Posted on 12/27/2006 8:45 AM by Andy McCarthy
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
On the third day of Christmas the New English Review gave to you
My favourite joke from our Christmas crackers.
Q How do snails keep their shells shiny?
A They use snail varnish.
In the US I believe you would say nail polish or enamel.
Posted on 12/27/2006 9:18 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
Gerald Ford, R.I.P.
The main thing I recall about the Ford presidency—the first presidency I lived right through here in the USA—was how normal
the guy was. Richard Nixon was an admirable chief executive in many ways (and not, in others), but you could never shake off the feeling that there was something slightly odd about him. Carter was, and is, a USA Grade A freak, out of Aimee Semple McPherson
by Noam Chomsky. Ford was an interim of sheer ordinariness—uncomplicated, likeable, competent, and patriotic. You can't even imagine him "struggling with inner demons," nor even having any. He was, as we used to say back in 1975, "together." He gave the impression of having been born that way. A great American.
Posted on 12/27/2006 10:38 AM by John Derbyshire
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
IslamOnline is conducting a poll. The leaders of Hezbollah and Hamas are way ahead with Ahmadinejad coming in third. (h/t Cliff May)
Who do you think was the most influential person in shaping events this year?
|Abdullah Ahmed Badawi
|Pope Benedict XVI
|Fuad el Siniora
|Kim Jong Il
Posted on 12/27/2006 1:18 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
News About Nabokov's Blues
A report last week in the press suggests that Nabokov’s speculations about speciation in the Blues (Lycaeides) of the American West may now have been confirmed by others. It reminds his readers of the depth and duration and professional nature of that passion. This was not just a violon d’Ingres, played as a distant second-fiddle to literature. During the 1940s, before leaving Wellesley for Cornell, Nabokov walked every weekday from Craigie Circle across Concord Avenue, down Craigie Street (or possibly at times down Follen Street, to come out a little further down toward Harvard Square) and then across Mass. Ave, and across the Law School yard, over to Oxford Street and the Museum of Comparative Zoology, where he would go to those old-fashioned dark-panelled rooms, still redolent of the two Swiss naturalists and naturalized Americans, Louis Agassiz and then his son Alexander, and still other Swiss naturalists, such as Sandoz, who came with Louis when he transferred to Cambridge, and there he would, as an unpaid curator, study the Museum’s holdings, and would assign or re-assign this specimen to this or that species, offering tentative taxonomies that to him made more sense.
Nabokov himself had formed several collections of butterflies. One was of butterflies of the Russian Empire, those he collected as a child and young man in St. Ptersburg or at Vyra, and then during the few months of collecting in the Crimea that became possible because of the Revolution, the Civil War, and White-flight. The second consisted of butterflies he collected between about 1920 and 1940, in Western Europe, and here obligatory reference is made to the Pyrenées, a collection entrusted to someone in Paris for safekeeping when Nabokov and his wife and son left on the last ship out, the Normandie, in May 1940 (“the right rat in the right office”; “Find What the Sailor Has Hidden”) for the New World, where his prospects when he landed in New York appeared limited to a possible job as a stock-boy at Scribner’s. That collection was lost during the Occupation. The next collection consisted in part of the first Nearactic one, the product both of Route 66 summers in the Mayne-Reid West, amidst the saguaro cacti and sagebrush of Arizona, or the mountains and park rangers of Colorado (“Here the very air is stranger/Damsel, anchoret and ranger/Share the woodland dream and danger”), in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where one hopes James Laughlin, was acting as his host, and haunting other hauntingly toponymed sites that can be found mentioned in his butterfly articles, or in that paper-wrapped green publication of the MCZ itself, “"The Nearctic Members of the Genus Lycaeides Hübner.”And to those Nearctic specimens were added, during the second, and final stay of Nabokov in Europe, other butterflies collected in those tins that he took with him, along with his net and killing jars, to Sicily, to Portugal, and right in the Swiss Alps, near his final chosen home, on the sixth floor of the Montreux Palace, overlooking the lake.
Commentators on Nabokov’s literary works, never failing to note that passion for butterflies, have sometimes made both too much and too little of it, his passion for butterflies.
The too much is part of a universal too-much: the too-much-about-everything school of literary studies that the careerism within the professional study of literature, made to bear a burden, in sheer weight, of commentary and discussion it was never made to bear, and which is likely not to encourage reading but often to discourage it, as if it were a hermetic skill, and the merely intelligent need not apply. It’s discouraging nonsense for many, including hapless students who may never get the chance to know better.
Time is spent tracking down this or that detail used in a writer’s work, or some piquant biographical detail that means little. Prurient interest is given carte blanche: the Onward March of Scholarship. What was the motel Nabokov stayed in that became “the room a dying poet took/At nightfall in a dead hotel/Had both directories: the Book/Of Heaven and the Book of Bell”? And where did those little jam jars in “Signs and Symbols” come from? And who was the original of the deaf Russian Jewish woman whose only son has just died in an elevator accident, and to whom this must be imparted in “Breaking the News”? And was the lady in “Spring in Fialta” possibly based on an incident in the life of Gleb Struve? What fait-divers, appearing in the German press in the late 1920s, may have caught Nabokov’s eye and been the original of the planned murder by Hermann in “Despair”? Nabokov’s list of conquests, that Don-Zhuanskij spisok that ever since Pushkin’s list or rather two lists (the girls being divided into two categories) has been such an alluring prospect, practically de rigueur for Russian writers (not that such a list doesn’t come naturally anyway) – who is going to do the hard work of tracking done each entry, and finding out something about her, and about her subsequent fate, and what did become of that German grisette during the war, anyway?
So butterflies, too, receive all kinds of attention. At least one commentator has located a missing “key” that will now unlock the “secret” (what secret is that?) of “Pale Fire,” and that key to that Harvard-Yale-Princeton lock consists, apparently, in the reader realizing that “Pale Fire” can “only” be properly understood if we realize that the spirit of Hazel Shade has entered into a butterfly’s body, its brain now metempsychotically-endowed with the contents of her, Hazel Shade’s, brain, and this somehow revolutionizes our understanding of that book. Others muse on or tease out biographical details, real and imaginary, details often exaggerated in their significance by those who cannot imagine how someone else, someone such as Nabokov, can imagine.
Nabokov certainly must have learned his habit of close visual observation from his study of Nature, and for him the study of Nature began with the study of butterflies. Think of the detail he goes into about the taxonomy of what in Russian is called the “cheryomukha” which Nabokov argues should be called the “racemose bird-cherry”). He found butterflies in places many would find unlikely. He remembered his six-month stay in Los Angeles not in terms of stars and bars and starlets, but because of the possibilities it offered for butterfly-hunting in the canyons. “Bend Sinister” ends not with what a printer’s error first published – “A good night for nothing” – but with the lepidopterist’s “A good night for mothing.” In “The Gift,” while Fyodor Godunov-Cherdyntev’s passion is Russian literature, that of his father is butterflies, and that father’s imagined trip to Central Asia constitutes in part a tribute to the exploration literature of the late nineteenth century (Przhevalski! Grum-Grzhimailo!). Not published with the book was a chapter full of discussion of lepidopterists (including a meeting of them in a kind of Explorer’s Club setting), of the aurelian’s passion for collecting or dreaming of collecting in distant climes, of musings on Father Time and Mother Nature in her mimetic aspects, and on a conceivable To-Whom-It-May-Concern Creator, and there is even play with possible philosophies to be dreamt of, with ancient philosophers called in (“The Stagirite” is alluded to in old-fashion fashion) for consultation, all of these subjects fluttering out of the pages of that massive, but unfinished work referred to in that chapter as “Butterflies and Moths of the Russian Empire,”
Those inspired by the latest news might wish, sometime, to make a butterfly-based pilgrimage. They might stop at a certain pine barren near Albany, on the route from Ithaca, New York to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Nabokov found a preserve of the Karner Blues he studied. They might visit the Museum of Comparative Literature in Cambridge, where he was the unpaid curator of butterflies. If in Europe and already having visited the Montreux Palace itself, and also possibly the small cemetery in Clarens where one finds those two graves with their identical grey-black stones, one for him (“Vladimir Nabokov” and below that, “écrivain”) and one for his wife, such a pilgrim might travel by riparian train a bit farther along the periphery of Lac Léman, or even if, say, a robust young Russian, then possibly pedibus calcantibus, to the museum in Lausanne to which his collection – was it 20,000 or 40,000 specimens? –of butterflies was given, those butterflies collected during his second period in the Old World, a period that lasted about 17 years, which happens to be the old-fashioned length of an American patent, and that makes perfect sense because Nabokov did hold an American patent on all kinds of things.
Posted on 12/27/2006 1:42 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
It will be remembered that the 1967 Six-Day War broke out after Egypt closed the straits of Tiran and strangled the trade from Israel's southern port city of Eliat.
Yet few are aware that Egypt has staked a claim to the city of Eilat, ever since it lost Eilat to the nascent state of Israel in the wake of the Egyptian army's defeat in the 1948 war, followed by the expulsion of the Egyptians from this southern port city on the Red Sea.
Now, in the wake of recent reports about plans to dig a canal linking the Red Sea on the Israeli side and the Dead Sea on its Jordanian side, a fiery argument broke out in Egypts parliament, with the members of parliament (MPs) speaking out against the "Israeli plot to choke the Suez Canal to death."
In the course of the debate, which has been going on in parliament for the last two days, Abed el-Aziz Sayef a-Nasser, an aide to the Egyptian foreign minister, was called as an expert witness. A-Nasser is the director of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry's legal department.
"Eilat, or by its former name Umm Rashrash, belongs to the Palestinians," he said, representing the opinion of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.
His predecessor, Dr. Nabil el-Arabi, was the head of the Foreign Ministry's legal department and headed the delegation for negotiations at Taba. He also emphatically declared: "Eilat belongs to the Palestinians."—from this news item
The Egyptians who raise the matter of Eilat are treading on thin ice. For the Sinai, which Egypt has convinced the world is historically part of its domain, was always a corpus separatum, and regarded as such, and discussed openly as such by travellers, and diplomats, right up until World War I. And if many do not realize this, it is only because they have accepted unquestioningly the notion that the Sinai is part of Egypt.
When Francis Frith published his famous photographs they were of "Egypt, Sinai, and Palestine." When the Anglican divine Arthur Stanley wrote his book of Biblical observations it was titled "Sinai and Palestine." No one at the Paris Peace Conference thought of the Sinai as belonging to Egypt, and it was not until the 1920s that the entire Sinai was handed over to Egypt when, in fact, a large part was connected to Jewish history (Sinai? Mount Sinai?), and to Christian history (St. Catherine's monastery, with so much of the world's intact Byzantine icons, and so much Christian history), but never to the Muslims. But Jewish history and Christian history did not matter, and Egypt was handed over the Sinai.
How many of you have ever seen the map, reproduced in the Diaries of Colonel Meinertzhagen, that show how much of the Sinai became Egyptian only in the 1920s, and to which Egypt had no historic or legal title except that provided by Great Britain, perfectly willing to diminish unilaterally the territory intended for the Mandate for Palestine by lopping off all of historic Palestine east of the river Jordan, but also perfectly willing to curry favor with Egypt, at the very moment when the British who had come under Lord Cromer to improve the civil service were leaving, by handing over the Sinai to an Egypt that had never before been thought entitled to it.
This was not an argument that was made by the Israelis at Camp David. Beaten about by Carter (who was the same Carter then as he his now, though at the time all kinds of Jewish leaders were falling all over themselves praising the antisemitic Carter as a veritable prince of peace, because they failed to know much about what that treaty was about, failed to understand what treaties mean to Muslims, failed to see how poorly the Israelis had fared, especially since the Israelis themselves, with a few intelligent exceptions, did not and still do not understand what is happening, what is the nature of the menace they face, and what are their legitimate rights, and how they should be convincingly presented).
By all means, let us re-open the question of the entire Sinai, and to whom it belongs, or should belong. And perhaps those Egyptian members of Parliament will regret their demand for Eilat -- a demand, however, that because it has been made against Israel, a country that scrupulously observed every commitment made under the disastrous Camp David Accords, while Egypt failed to observe a single one of its solemn commitments to end all hostile propaganda and to encourage instead a new attitude of friendliness -- should tell those Israelis, and supporters of Israel, who still think that "treaties" with the Arabs mean something, that they do not, and cannot, as long as the model of Al-Hudaibiyyah stands, and it will stand as long as there is Islam, and as long as Muhammad remains the Perfect Man, uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil.
Posted on 12/27/2006 2:26 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
For One Thing, The Truth Shall Make You Free
Derek Bok, President of Harvard, needs to investigate how Islam is taught, or not taught, both to undergraduates, and at the Divinity School, and for that matter at another hotbed of apologetics, the Law School. Too much Arab money has been accepted, and been sloshing around, for too long. Nor is it simply a question of chair-holding hirelings.
Nonetheless, one can be sure that no apostates from Islam, such as Ibn Warraq, will ever be allowed to lecture, or be invited perhaps to give a course, on Islam and Human Rights, or Islam, Jihad, and Dhimmitude -- either at the Divinity School under Graham, or for that matter at the Law School, where Islamic matters are firmly in the grip of those who owe their Muslim and Arab donors something, and whose mental set is unlikely to be affected by a sudden desire to really learn about what Islam teaches its adherents, or how , over 1350 years, Muslim conquerors have treated the non-Muslims they conquered. Reality must not be allowed to get in the way of the latest fashionable projects -- whether that might be the impossible dream of the "reformation of Islam" (what Qur'anic verse, what hadith will be downgraded, or excised or interpreted away, to cause this reformation to come about?), or the latest version of Why-Can't-We-All-Get-Along schoolgirl gush (remember, Harvard is the Law School that actually awarded tenure to Roger Fisher, the Ichabod-Crane-like promoter of moral neutrality, whose views are reflected in his simpleminded "Getting to Yes" mantra that all conflicts are solvable, that everyone means well, and that it is only a question of finding the right words, and the right compromises and pushing the right buttons. Getting to Yes. Yes, if only Roger Fisher's "Getting to Yes" had been available to smooth out those little problems with Adolf Hitler, or Admiral Yamamoto, or Joseph Stalin, or any one of a million Muslim groups or groupuscules, absolutely convinced that Islam is "to dominate and not to be dominated," and that it is absolutely necessary for dar al-Islam to swallow up dar al-Harb, and that the surest way to Paradise is to engage in the Jihad.
Aside from Graham among the apologists, t the Divinity School contains the Egyptian Leila Ahmed, whose field is “Islam and Women Her views on Israel and the West are notably hostile for one who has had a chance to live in the West, away from the hothouse atmosphere of Cairo, with its culture of hatred whipped up in every newspaper and on every radio and television channel. This hostility, expressions of which come through thinly veiled in both lectures and writings, toward the United States, which provides her with safety, security, economic wellbeing beyond the dreams of all but the corrupt generals and camorra capitalists who run Egypt, is singularly unappealing. Her pretence that what is wrong with the position of Muslim women has almost nothing to do with Islam, which others specializing in the same hot topic – “Islam and Women” – also often share, like the shameful Nobel-Prize winning Shirin Ebadi. One wonders what the real defenders of the rights of women under Islam, such as Azam Kamguian and others who know that the problem lies with Islam, make of such apologetics.
Still another faculty member at Harvard Divinity School is Diana Eck. It is passing strange that she should have become such an enthusiast promoter of, or defender of, Islam; one wonders if she has investigated some of the reasons why Pim Fortuyn, for example, viewed Muslim immigration with such alarm as a threat to the tolerant moeurs of Holland. Eck’s book-for-tenure was one of those Patricia-Williams-like narratives that are a substitute for scholarship of the fuddy-duddy old-fashioned sort that our brave new world can apparently do without, a book based on a year she spent living in Benares. Despite that being the holiest of Hindu cities, Eck apparently came away with a profound respect, based, one hopes, on ignorance, for it would be far worse if such were to be based on real knowledge, on Islam, its theory and practice. Or perhaps she later developed it. At her recent wedding, it was not surprising that one public well-wisher was Karen Armstrong.
Eck is involved with, indeed perhaps the prime mover of, the "Pluralism Project." Apparently she has noticed something that had escaped the rest of us: that America is not inhabited just by Christians and Jews anymore. She has made the astounding discovery that, throughout the United States, one can find Hindu temples, and Buddhist temples, and Sikh temples, and Jain temples and -- mosques, mosques, mosques. And as a devout celebrator of diversity she touts this wonderful pluralism, a tribute to -- well, a tribute to something. Could it be American wonderfulness? Somehow I doubt that that is what she has in mind. In any case, something with the name "Pluralism Project" no doubt attracts grant money (and just as the Development Office is the beating heart of any American university, so is grant-getting the beating heart of any academic undertaking), for conducting "studies" or doing "research." No, let it be given its due.. Make that "in-depth studies" and "in-depth research."
What this celebrator ("I-hear-America-praying") of religious diversity has failed to realize is that there, amidst all this diversity, there is one belief-system whose adherents do not share Eck's delight in diversity, not for one minute. They are the adherents of Islam, the religion that is “to dominate and not to be dominated.” They do not believe in religious pluralism. If they pay lip service to it now, and that only occasionally, it is because for now, as a distinct and at the moment uneasy minority, Muslims find that promoting pluralism serves their purpose. It helps them deflect criticism, it helps make them seem to share views that others really do share. But Islam is dead set against pluralism, if by pluralism we mean something like equal treatment of those of faiths other than the majority one, and has 1350 years of aggressive or violent history, and immutable Qur’anic passages, and hundreds of hadith, to prove it. No amount of blarney about Islamic “reformation” can get away from the fact that the Qur’an comes immutably from God, that the hadith – having been winnowed down to the “strong” or accepted hadith by such muhaddithin as Bukhari and al-Muslim – are almost equally not susceptible to change – and that these canonical texts are not subject, either, to any interpretive give, since the “gates of ijtihad” (interpretation) swung conclusively shut with a bang nearly a millennium ago. No amount of forehead-clutching by the Iranian Sorroush, or by publicity hounds like the Islamo-Canadian Irshad Manji, will change that. Many intelligent and disaffected Muslims have tried, over history, and especially during the last two centuries, to tamper with the texts. Been there. Done that. It has always failed.
The “Pluralism Project” is absurd because it fails to confront, it pretends not even to see, the greatest challenge to pluralism in the Western world: the direct threat, to all other belief-systems, of the belief-system of Islam. It is not so much a question of what is acted on now, or even discussed. It is a question of how Muslims have behaved wherever they have had the upper hand. If there were a single example, in the 1350-year history of Islam, of any Muslim polity or people practicing genuine pluralism – and dhimmitude, which is the institution imposed on non-Muslims after Jihad conquest, could only be called a welcome example of “pluralism” by someone who was both a historical and a moral idiot. The proper test is not what Muslims, out of self-interest and for self-protection, say that their goals are in the United States, or Canada, or Western Europe. What is important is what they want in those countries where Islam now predominates, because one can assume that there, where any arrangement favored or promoted by Muslims will prevail, one can see what it is that they would have in the countries that for now are still outside Muslim control, if they were ever to gain such control. Do we see “pluralism” in Saudi Arabia? In Pakistan? In Malaysia or Indonesia, do we see anything like equality for non-Muslims? What about Egypt – how are the Copts doing, lo these many centuries? And how have the Maronites been faring ever since the French lost interest in them, and the Israelis were forced by the outside world to stop supporting them? What about the Muslim attitude toward Buddhists in southern Thailand, or Buddhist statuary in Afghanistan? How do Muslims treat Christians in the Sudan, or northern Nigeria, or anywhere that Muslims and Christians meet – and necessarily collide. And how do the Muslims of Bangladesh treat the Hindus and Christians in that country? One could go one, but why bother? There are no counterexamples, none, to demonstrate that in the great pluralism project that is modern America, Muslims are just as supportive, and just as inoffensive, as all those Hindus and Buddhists and Sikhs and Jains and Confucians who have contributed their ingredients to the religious stew bubbling away in the U.S.A.
It is too bad that Eck has not been able to take time to read and study, as part of her pluralism project, which naturally grades into comparative religion, more deeply in the area of Islam – and not only what Karen Armstrong briskly impart, with such breathtaking because baseless self-assurance. She might take the time to read some of Ibn Warraq’s writings, beginning with “Why I Am Not a Muslim” and his essay “Islam, Middle East and Fascism,” and then looking into the testimony of the many piercing analyses of Islam from ex-Muslims – Ali Sina, Azam Kamguian, all the contributors to “Leaving Islam” who offer testimonies as to the real teachings of Islam that are so often hidden from Infidel view, or Infidel understanding. She might read “The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam” by Bat Ye’or, or “The Dhimmi” and “Islam and Dhimmitude” by the same author. She might consult all the useful scholarly articles at www.dhimmitude.org, or go to the websites that the University of Southern California provides, with different translations of the Qur’an and of the hadith. If she gave it just five or six or seven months, she could learn a lot. She could read K. S. Lal on the legacy of Muslim rule, and on the 60-70 million Hindus killed by Muslims under that rule. She could read the historian of Zoroastrianism Mary Boyce on what happened, under Muslim rule, to the Zoroastrians who were once almost the entire population of Persia. She could find out why it was that in the end, the Muslim rulers decided to treat the Hindus the same as Christians and Jews – permitted to remain alive, but forced to endure the humiliation and degradation and permanent insecurity of dhimmi status so that their required payment of the “jizya” or head tax would support the grand luxury of the Mughal court. She could read the reports about the treatment of Armenians and Jews left in the mid-17th century by Arakel of Tabriz. She could read, perhaps with some amazement, the casual accounts of mass slaughter of Hindus, and of their subsequent enslavement, by the Muslim traveler Ibn Battuta in his “Rihla.” She could begin to read the reports of British and French and Italian travelers and diplomats, reporting from the Ottoman Empire, over the 19th and early 20th centuries. She could read the acute observations of Edward Lane’s “Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians.”. She could read Laurence Loeb’s account of living with Jews in Iran in the 1970s, just before Khomeini arrived on the scene to see Sharia justice done.
But, of course, why bother with all that silly study and booklearning? Why, one is sure that if the likes of Graham, or Eck, need to find out about Islam, all they have to do is turn to their Muslim colleagues, so as to shoot down a canard about what it says in the Qur’an, or to disbelieve someone’s assertion that the most authentic hadith insist on such and such. No need to bother to check this – would a Muslim colleague lie, or fudge the truth, about what is dearest to him or to her – Islam itself? Why, of course not.
Bok may not realize that one cannot, at Harvard, as it stands now, either at Harvard Divinity School, or at Harvard Law School, take a course that will teach the real tenets of Islam, and will use the scholarship not of apologists but of serious Orientalists -- Margoliouth, Schacht, Snouck Hurgronje, Dufourcq, and a few dozen others. One cannot learn, fully and truthfully, either about Jihad or about dhimmitude. It is not that Harvard is singled out for a campaign of desinformatsiya, or disinformation. The situation is even worse at Columbia. But the situation has to be recognized. Departmental autonomy, or a hands-off policy on those who have acquired that appetizing thing, a full professorship, does not absolve the administration from looking into the scandal, a scandal with many disparate features, in what Harvard undergraduates, graduate students, and Law and Divinity students, learn, or carefully do not learn, about Islam.
Until Bok and others begin to make inquiries and begin to take a real interest in this matter, Harvard student who wish to learn about Islam, are urged to try autodictacism (no, it need not be conducted in private, or only between consenting adults). Ibn Warraq, and Bat Ye'or, Michael Cook's very short introduction to the Qur'an, Wansbrough and Patricia Crone on the origins of Islam, Christoph Luxenberg once he has been Englished, Majid Khadurri on the Law of War and Peace in Islam, Elie Kedourie, Joseph Schacht, Margoliouth, Bernard Lewis (keeping in mind his reticence -- to retain his "effectiveness" with his would-be Muslim audience -- about Jihad and dhimmitude), and many others who have written in French, Dutch, German, Italian, Russian, Spanish are all readily available. The Index Islamicus is on CD-Rom. The Encyclopedia of Islam is retrievable from any university computer. . You can learn about Islam better, faster, and far more accurately, without enduring such pabulum as Michael Sells' sanitized Qur'an, or sly apologetics from instructors, on your own.
The Zayed Center does, indeed, sponsor those who claim that 9/11 was the work of Jews and those who deny the Holocaust. But however unacceptable that all is, it is tangential to the greater effort – which is to prevent Westerners from really finding out about Islam, its tenets and its history. The Zayed Center is dedicated to making sure, for example, that the real treatment of Mizrahi Jews under Islam (virtual slaves in Yemen, prosperous but constantly under physical threat even in Baghdad, once the second Jewish city of Asia, after Jerusalem).. The whole matter of dhimmitude is angrily denied, and pious assurances about “tolerance” (“tolerance” under Islam has nothing to do with tolerance as that word is understood in the West nowadays) are substituted. The Muslim Arabs hope that the real history of Muslim treatment of non-Muslims (and, for that matter, of Arab Muslim treatment of non-Arab Muslims) will be overlooked, forgotten, simply never to be examined in any systematic and serious fashion.
Decades of Arab money, and of bullyboy tactics within the profession, so that those who do not toe the apologist line are simply not given jobs, or denied tenure, has ensured that Harvard, and Columbia, and many other schools, are full of “scholars” of Islam or Islamic matters who insist that everything is fine with Islam, it’s just a few extremists, or people with justified grievances against the colonialist West or beastly Israel, and please, Eric-Idle-like, let us all "look on the bright side" and, mixing Rodney King and Roger Fisher and Pollyanna, "focus on what unites us, not what divides us" (in other words, forget about 1350 years of Islamic history, forget about the Jihad, forget about dhimmitude forget about those Internet sites proudly showing the decapitation of Infidels, or praising suicide “martyrs” and just keep in mind we are all fellow montheists, all members of “those abrahamic faiths” that Muslim apologists at mosque Open Houses just love to keep prating on about.
The members of MESA must be getting just a bit anxious. Too many people, too many highly intelligent and articulate people, are learning about Islam on their own. How dare they? Don’t they know only Muslims can teach about Islam – or a few special someones, like Karen Armstrong and John Esposito and Michael Sells? Sorry. All those people who have so carefully spent their entire academic careers writing about “the construction of Palestinian identity” and other transparently pro-Jihadist political tracts disguised as scholarship, are on their way out. They have had their day. They may keep their jobs, and their undeserved tenure, undeservedly awarded in the first place by other undeserving false scholars. But so what? Their hollow scholarship, the worthlessness of their instruction, are now easy to demonstrate because more and more people have been educating themselves, and everyone can view what the daily news offers, and begin to make tentative sense of it. We need not rely only on Infidels, but on the ex-Muslims, well-versed in Islam, who are not about to endure, or let pass, such nonsense. and just remember we "all are all abrahamic faiths"), must be getting a little anxious. Too many people now know too much about Islam, in some cases a good deal more than the Ecks and the Grahams and the Armstrongs and the Espositos.
I have no qualms about taking Saudi money. I have qualms about doing anything for the Saudis with that Saudi money. The money may be pocketed -- just the way Egypt and Pakistan have for years pocketed American aid, or the "Palestinians" pocket Jizyah-aid from Europe and America. But what is done with it has to be watched like a hawk. It cannot be left to those who, one after the other, have crept into, and risen high, in the departments of Middle East Studies or studies in Islam. Look what a determined Leila Khaled can do with a little help from that very aggressive Diana Eck, and that very timid (afraid people will begin to discuss why he never received tenure from his department, but has silkily, at a moment of divinity-school crisis, managed to slip his way into the deanship) William Graham, both of them apologists for Islam (say, did anyone hear the Muezzin's Wail at 1 p.m. this past Monday, right in Harvard Yard? With his megaphone? It was all part of "Muslim Awareness Week" at Harvard.) and both manipulated by Leila Ahmed, the so-called "feminist" who has suddenly drops any real interest in protecting battered (in all kinds of senses) Muslim women when it looks like one of the parties to be charged might be Islam itself. She has failed, Leila Ahmed, to push her absurdly unqualified candidate -- Omid Safi -- onto the other members of the Divinity School, but she'll keep trying. And she is not the only one. All over the Western world, with or without Arab money, apologists for Islam are doing their best to make sure that American students of Islam never quite find out about Islam, never quite encounter or study the Qur'an as can still be done here and there in Europe (as at Aix-en-Provence, or the University of Leiden or in certain German universities).
One wonders, just off the top of one’s head, how many of them have read Margoliouth or Snouck Hurgronje or Dufourcq or Fagnan or Bat Ye’or – and read them with attention and an attempt to understand. How many of them, perhaps pooh-poohing the centrality of Jihad, know exactly not only what Ibn Taymiyya wrote about it, but what the famous al-Ghazali, or Ibn Khaldun, wrote about Jihad? The information is there; it is coming out; there is no stopping it. Those who continue to insist that not the tenets of Islam, so amply confirmed by the behavior of Muslims over 1350 years, but rather what America or Israel "have done" explains the monstrous behavior of Muslims, looks more ridiculous as a proposition every day. Those who keep on mouthing the same phrases, and attempt the same distractions, and summon up the same hollow indignation, instead of looking steadily and whole at the evidence, are like those Christian theologians who, long after Copernicus, and Kepler, and Tycho Brahe offered the theory that explained all of the observable data, and had predictive value for whatever data would be collected in the future, nonetheless kept insisting that of course that the heliocentric theory had to be wrong because God wanted the Earth to be the center of the universe. The theory that the threat from Islam comes from anything but what Muslims learn, what is inculcated into them, and what has caused them to behave toward all non-Muslims as they have for nearly 1400 years (not to mention the economic, political, intellectual, and moral failures of Islam, which could be briefly disguised by unearned oil revenues, but that disguise is now threadbare – at least to most of the world).
The cavalry is coming. Its officers and men will not necessarily remind you of Cary Grant or Errol Flynn or John Garfield, or anyone who might conceivably play, in another western, The Durango Kid. Holding the reins in one hand, under each rider’s free arm will be, not a rifle, but a book, and that book will contain home truths about Islam. And what’s so great about the truth? Well, plenty. For one thing, The Truth Shall Make You Free.
Posted on 12/27/2006 2:31 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
Qur'an of Peace
"This version of the Quran was printed before the Sept. 11 attacks, when jihad did not have the same holy war connotations as today, Tom Nelson said." -- from this article
It was an earlier version, an uncorrected version, of the Qur'an that was distributed in Oregon. Please ignore all previous versions. They are full of typos. Read only the new edition, the one that has on the cover the special "For Americans Only" lettering across the top, and the CAIR Seal-of-approval ("Tells you all you really need to know about Islam") and a scholarly introduction by Professor Michael Sells.
Or, if you wish, you can get the even more thoroughly abridged version, from the same company that, for last-minute and lazy students, offers a version of Anna Karenina in eleven pages and King Lear in three. And that 8-page version of the Qur'an will naturally carry blurbs:
"This is certain to be, for Infidels, the most painless way to learn about the Qur'an. This book should be -- no, this book definitely is -- required reading for today's crop of Infidels. And if its lessons are understood, then the whole family may be ready for the full text. Why make life even more difficult for your children than it would be otherwise? Read this book now. Read it as if your life depends on it." -- Douglas Hooper, Washington, D.C.
"In the breathtaking poetry of its misty vistas, from the highest hill of humanity where nightingales and roses bloom along the verdant slopes of the high uplands of justice which has always been the voice of the oppressed speaking truth to power, even when that power has gone out, but if one knows where to find the light-switch of the human heart, this is the book which can turn that light-switch of that human heart, not to mention the sometimes also necessary lungs, spleen and pancreas, on again, so that not only mere man but Man is made whole, the earth is made whole, the whole universe is made whole, and made whole in the best and only possible way -- holistically. Read it, again and again and again. The purest poetry that like a tree only God could have made, only God, or quite possibly Edward Said, had one of his admirers only been able to have been there for him, when he needed me, to take dictation." -- Hamid Dabashi, New York City
"If we are to avoid a conflict of civilizations, we will need to replace conflict with dialogue, attachment to our old ways of thinking with a willingness to accept entirely new ways, and to give up those silly concepts of 'Us' and 'Them' for a much broader 'They Are We' and 'We Are They.' Since it is 'they' who are now among 'us' and not 'we' who are among 'them,' surely the most sensible and painless solution is for 'us' to give up our shopworn and outworn and useless categories, and to try to do whatever 'they' require of 'us' so as to 'reassure' them.
"And just as they -- Muslims -- need reassurance that we are not out to get them, after the Crusades, after colonialism, after Israel's brutal oppression of unarmed Palestinians, after the cruel way that Saddam Hussein, that brave Arab leader, was removed, after the neo-colonialism and then the post-neocolonialism which has no sell-by date and therefore goes on forever as long as Infidels continue to exist, not only do 'they' (the 'Muslims') need some sign from us (the so-called 'non-Muslims') that 'we' are not out to get 'them,' but just as important, we need to study the Qur'an, and much more than the Qur'an, in order to reassure ourselves. We need to reassure ourselves that we have not lost our moral bearings, not retreated into some cruel dungeon or Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib of our own narrow mindedness, need to make sure that we have not lost our moral bearings, lost all of our own habit of, or habitat for, humanity.
"And there is no better indication of our own willingness to listen to others with compassion and understanding and acceptance as they tell us what they think or what they think we should think they think, and also tell us what to think, saving us the trouble, which given all of our advantages and our privileges and our narrow-minded indifference to all those who are different from us is the least of what we should be prepared to do in this diverse world of diversity that we live in.
"When the oppressed people of this earth, in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates and in so many other places, want so clearly to reach out to us, to affect us, to help us see things as they see them, what better way to engage in that dialogue than to read, study, read again, study again, the book that means so much to them, means -- everything to them. Personally, I've read the Qur'an from cover to cover, and I've come to love it more every time." -- James Earl Carter, Georgia
"If you can only read one book in your life, let this one be it. Sometimes, you come across one book that makes all the difference. This is that book." -- Statement of the Joint Committee on Civilizational Literacy, a cooperative effort of the Modern Language Association, the American Historical Association, the American Association of University Presidents, the American Association of University Professors, and MESA Nostra
"The book our generation needs." -- Britney Spears, Honorary President of the What-Our-Generation-Needs Foundation (a 501 (c)(3) organization)
Hugh: I have been looking for more info on that Statement of the Joint Committee on Civilizational Literacy, but can't find any on the web. Do you have any links? Esp from MLA,etc.? – from a reader
I'm sorry you couldn't locate that Statement of the Joint Committee on Civilizational Literacy, but actually, I'm not surprised.
If still interested in obtaining more information, you might telephone Dwight Bolinger, Office of the President, Columbia University, and ask for more information about the Statement on Civilizational Literacy. Or you could contact some of the well-known professors who helped generate that Statement. I would recommend you start with Professor Diana Eck, who heads the "Pluralism Project" at Harvard Divinity School, and University Professor Cornel West at Princeton. Remember -- their students certainly do -- that these are extremely busy people, world-class authorities at our world-class research universities, and terribly busy with important ongoing projects. Professor Eck is working on a model for all mankind, for all time, of religious, sexual, and all other conceivable forms of difference requiring tolerance, including tolerance of both tolerant and intolerant people alike. Needless to say, the model shows great promise of being accepted by people everywhere without further ado -- or at least, just as soon as the multi-year foundation grants supporting the work come to an end and a relevant U.N. resolution or two is passed. Professor West is not one whit less busy, given that he is now working on the permanent establishment of World Peace and an End to Poverty. No, sorry, I got confused. It is Professor Jeffery Sachs of the World Institute at Columbia who is Ending Poverty once and for all, if only people will let him. Cornel West has decided to limit himself to establishing World Peace. Don't be disappointed if neither Eck nor West returns your call. But do let me know, and I will supply the names of others to contact. So many lay behind the creation of that Statement, that I couldn't possibly list them all.
Posted on 12/27/2006 2:41 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
Don't Even Hint Islam Could Have (or be the cause of) Problems....Ever
New Duranty: BAKU, Azerbaijan, Dec. 23 — An article seen as denigrating Islam published early last month in an obscure Baku newspaper prompted demonstrations across Azerbaijan and in Iran, raising Azeris’ concerns over Iran’s influence here.
The article blamed Islam for Azerbaijan’s meager economic development.
The furor after its publication echoes the case of the Danish cartoons published in 2005 that were seen as mocking Islam, generating protests from Gaza to Pakistan. An Iranian cleric demanded the death of the two authors, and denunciations from village imams and other religious conservatives in Azerbaijan have sent tremors through the Azeri government and the secular elite of this Shiite nation.
“I am for freedom of speech but not the freedom to insult,” said Hajji Ilgar, an imam at Baku’s Jama Old City mosque who is often critical of the government of Azerbaijan’s secular president, Ilham Aliyev. “The only solution is to take this to the courts.”
The authors, Rafiq Tagi and Samir Sadagatoglu, who are Muslim, are to face criminal charges of inciting religious enmity; a court ruled on Nov. 15 that the pair could be held in pretrial detention for two months. The journalists were given legal representation for the first time on Dec. 20. They could not be interviewed...
Posted on 12/27/2006 3:19 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
Early Christmas morning I happened to tune in the BBC World Service. I thought there might be something, perhaps King's College Choir, or the aptly-named Ranieri Cantalamessa in Rome, or perhaps someone musing on the fate of Christians in Iraq, other than the moral idiot, and historical nitwit, the current Archbishop of Canterbury.
But that would have been a different BBC. This BBC, the BBC of John Simpson, and Judy Swallow, and Robin Lustig, and Barbara Plett of the ready tear for Arafat, is a very different BBC from that of Huw Weldon. And it did lived up to my grim expectations. It did not disappoint.
For on the air was someone telling mournfully about "the Wall" (and of course I knew which wall he was talking about, not the Wall of John Hersey, not the Great Wall of China, not the wall being built by Saudi Arabia for many hundreds of miles right through the desert, though no one threatens Saudi Arabia or its inhabitants with their total destruction, nor any other wall being built or being contemplated). No, this "wall" was the wall being built, as a modest measure forced upon them out of desperation out of ways to prevent homicide bombers from easily entering their cities, to there set themselves off on busses, in restaurants, at Passover celebrations. And this "wall" the smooth speaker said, was built right through the usual "uprooted and destroyed" olive groves -- a staple of "Palestinian" propaganda, those "uprooted olive groves," and so important to their propaganda machine that they have been caught uprooting their own olive trees, for the world press to come and cover and bewail.
There was not a hint in this lachrymose tale by this teller of tales of any indication as to why the Israelis might have felt it necessary to build such a wall, and not a hint of the endless terrorism to which Israel's Jews have been subject, a terrorism that only now, the rest of the Infidel world is getting a small taste, and which the people of England will be getting a larger and larger taste. There was not a hint as to whether or not this wall -- one built, one should note, through the territory to which Israel has a very large historic, legal, and moral claim, and the drawback of this wall is that it appears to lessen this claim, appears to recognize, as there is no need to, the armistice lines of 1948 rather than those of June 1967 as the ones that must prevail.
And the speaker went on, went on about the travails of the Christians of Bethlehem, with no hint of understanding that the Christian population of Bethlehem, some 80% of the total in 1948, has gone down, and down, not when under Israel's control, but when it has been under the control of the Arabs, and never has the situation been more grave than now, under the "Palestinian Authority." Local Christians seldom speak out. They are fearful, and the Christian Arab strategy, long ago internalized, has been to never complain, and always to parrot the Muslim line, to do the bidding of the Muslims, to be good "Palestinians" always, and therefore always, even when it is absurd and seen by all sensible people to be absurd, to blame -- with no evidence and no logic -- the Israelis, that is, the Jews. One would have to ignore the entire history of Islam, the history of conquest and subjugation of Christians in wide areas of the Middle East and North Africa, and what became of those Christians, and what are the rules, set down clearly in the Shari'a, for the treatment of Christians as dhimmis. The speaker apparently thought he did not have to take note of that. He was under no obligation, he must have thought, to have read or at least to know the contents of "The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam" or a thousand other possible articles and books that formed the basis for that magisterial study of a major subject in world history. None of that mattered. He longed to go back, to go back one day to see the "Christians of Bethlehem" unoccupied (but they haven't been "occupied" -- even if one were to accept that meretricious and inaccurate word, which I do not -- for more than ten years, but have been under the total control of the "Palestinian Authority").
One longed to ask him what he thought would have happened to the "Christians of Bethlehem" if the Israelis had had the intelligence to insist on retaining Bethlehem as part of Israel, and never surrendered it to the "Palestinian Authority." He could look around at how the Arab Christians in what is Israel, Israel diminished, Israel dimidiated within the 1949 armistice lines (the Arabs refused to recognize them, as they were once offered, as permanent borders; that offer does not remain open forever, to be accepted whenever the Arabs feel like it), have fared.
Well, how have they fared?
Can they worship freely? Are they subject to harassment, persecution, even murder as the Christians of Gaza and the West Bank have been, despite their best efforts to further the "Palestinian" cause? Does this speaker know about this? Does he think it relevant to his teary tale?
And who was this speaker, anyway? I waited to the end, enduring the nonsense of it all just to find out. It turned out to be William Dalrymple. Ah, of course. William Dalrymple, described here long ago, quite accurately, as an up-market Barbara Cartland, whose tales of trans-racial passion at the Mughal Court, or at this or that princely court in the time of the Mughals, has it all: star-crossed lovers, and of course the Splendor That Was India, or rather the India of the Muslim rulers who lived off of their Hindu subjects, the subjects who were killed by the Muslims in numbers without any historical parallel (the historian K. S. Lal, and others, estimate that 60-70 million Hindus were killed by the Muslim conquerors and masters). Now a love of luxe, and of luxe combined with heaving breasts, is the kind of thing that the Barbara-Cartlands of this world, even the plausible sort who put in a bit more history and a little less of the Romance-novelette lord or duke or Arab prince (see "The Sheik"), who picks up the girl, in her swoon, at the very end (the promise of sex has always been just beyond what Nabokov calls "the skyline of the page") -- that is William Dalrymple. He's as vulgar and stupid as they come, behind the plummy voice and the pretense of being a historian.
And what is funniest about the Dalrymples and their admirers is that these are the same people who find nothing wrong with the late Edward Said's complaint about Jane Austen in Mansfield Park, the complaint that she does not specify that a main character lives off his revenues from his West Indian plantation, a plantation with slaves.
But here is Dalrymple, singing the tale of Mughal India, and its luxe and volupte if not its calme, all of it based on the ruthless enslavement and oppression of the Hindu masses by their cruel (with a few exceptions, such as syncretistic Akbar, his memory revered by Hindus for his temporarily lifting the Jizyah, and his memory despised by the Muslims, for his softness toward Hindus) Muslim masters.
If anyone should be complained about, it is not that subtle miniaturist Jane Austen, who after all was not singing the praises of slaveowning in the West Indies, whereas William Dalrymple has written endlessly about, made his heaving-breast passionate high-toned nonsense out of, nothing but a slave-state.
It will be interesting to see if, having decided to move to Delhi, Dalrymple begins to sink beneath the surface of Indian life, and Indian history, and gets beyond the Mughal courts to something that, say, Francois Gautier and Balsam and K. S. Lal would recognize as Indian history, stripped of the Romance of the Mughal Court. Edward Said, and all the masochistic Western Saidists, were offended that Jane Austen offered up, without denouncing, a character who received revenues from his West Indian plantation. But Jane Austen never sang the praises of the workings of that slave-worked plantation. Dalrymple directly praises, or makes romantic history rather than historical romances, out of what were essentially the slave-states of Mughal India (with Hindus and other non-Muslims being the slaves, and Muslims being the masters).
Who is the greater offender? Who deserves a moral whipping? Jane Austen, or William Dalrymple?
With his marks -- so inapposite, and yet so typical of the current BBC with its current management and current personnel -- on the hideous Israelis and the woes of the "Palestinian" Christians. William Dalrymple simply showed he was all of a piece. His love-affair with the Muslims of India, his love affair with the Muslim Arabs, his complete indifference to the plight of the Jews in Israel trying, desperately, simply to defend themselves against terrorists and doing the absolute minimum they can (what does Dalrymple think any other country -- Great Britain for example -- would do if it faced the same kind of endless torment and threats and attempts on the lives of its citizens and of the state, that Israel does as it confronts what it has so far failed to name, and even to recognize, as a Lesser Jihad), go together.
It would be fun to overhear V. S. Naipaul, or Nirad Chaudhury, discussing the contribution made by William Dalrymple to world literature with his books set in India.
He, William Dalrymple, singer of The Wonder of Mughal India, so far coheres. He coheres, and he nauseates.
Posted on 12/27/2006 3:24 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
Ellison and Ideology
"On Jan. 4, I will go swear an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. I'll place my hand on the Quran..." -- from a remark by Keith Ellison quoted in this article
Whether or not the Qur'an is actually used in the ceremony hardly matters. What matters is that Keith Ellison believes -- with the firm faith of the convert, a faith that is often much more firm and often much more fanatical than many a Muslim born into Islam -- that the Qur'an is the uncreated and immutable Word of God. And that Qur'an is full of things about the duty of Jihad, about the duty of behaving toward all non-Muslims with at least ("do not take Christians and Jews as friends" etc.) and at most sheer murderousness ("kill the Unbelievers" etc.).
How does someone who claims that he believes in a faith that is more than a faith, that is an entire way of life, a Total Regulation of Life, a Complete Explanation of the Universe, a way of life that tells its adherents that they must always and everywhere be submissive, and must acquire if they do not already possess the habit of mental submission to Allah, and never to use their own reason to question his will or for that matter his whim, claim to uphold the U.S. Constitution, which is based on a quite different series of premises?
How does a Muslim, who if he is a real Muslim must locate political legitimacy can never reside in the expressed will of mere mortals, but only in the will expressed by Allah in the Qur'an (and as glossed by the Hadith and the Sira) manage to support the political and legal institutions of this or any Infidel country? How can he give such support especially to a country that so noisily makes a fetish of democracy and that expressed will of the people, and enshrines individual rights, not one of which -- freedom of speech including that of mocking any and all belief-systems, legal equality of men and women, and of all religions ("Islam is to dominate, and not to be dominated") -- is protected by Islamic law?
Is Keith Ellison a real Muslim? That is, does he believe that "Islam is to dominate and is not to be dominated"? Does he take Muhammad as the Perfect Man, uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil? And so does he therefore endorses the attack on the Khaybar Oasis, the murders of Abu Afak and Asma bint Marwan, the consummation of that "marriage" to little Aisha when she was aged nine, and the beheading of the bound prisoners of the Banu Qurayza, and so much more? Either he does, or he doesn't. Either he is loyal to the American Constitution, or he is loyal to Islam, which in every important particular flatly contradicts both the spirit and the letter of the American Constitution, as it does both the spirit and the letter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Is there not a single reporter in all of the United States -- or especially in the state of Minnesota -- who will look into this? Is there no reporter who will study it? Is there no reporter who will find out what Islam teaches, find out why the Muslim states, instead of becoming signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, concocted a Muslim version that leaves out all of the most important individual rights recognized in the full, real, Infidel version?
Put Ellison on the spot. Ask him about all that. Ask what he thinks is the source of political legitimacy for governments -- any government. Ask what he thinks of the specific rights in the Bill of Rights. Ask what he thinks, while you are at it, about the Arab Muslim treatment of black African Muslims in Darfur, or of other non-Arabs, such as the Kurds in Iraq, or the Berbers in Algeria. Ask him, and keep asking him, until an answer is received.
Even if Ellison is not sworn in with a Qur'an, his insistence on carrying it about is all the excuse one needs -- if one is needed at all -- to use this as the point of departure for discussion of what is in the Qur'an, and what Ellison makes of those passages in it about Infidels.
Let a hundred articles be written about what is in the Qur'an, using the Ellison story as the justification and reason. Anything to get those contents out. And don't stop there. Go into the Hadith, and what they tell us about Muhammad's attitudes toward Infidels.
The excuse exists. Take full advantage.
"Not judging an individual on the basis of his religious affiliation is one reason we are ["better than they are"].” – from a reader
What about ideology? Was it legitimate during World War II to round up those of known Nazi or pro-German sympathies? Of course it was. Was it legitimate, during the Cold War, to keep out of certain positions, and under close surveillance, those who dedication to Communism made it reasonable to think that they would further the political aims of the Soviet regime? Of course it was. The use of the phrase "religious affiliation" is not right. Islam is not only, not even mainly, a "religion" in the Western sense. It is a Total System, and so much of it is about power and politics, in fulfilling the will of Allah in demanding that the Dar al-Islam be constantly expanded, and Infidel lands taken and Infidels themselves killed or subjugated as dhimmis, that the phrase "religious affiliation" is out of place, far too misleading because far too mild.
Whether this was by accident or design is not clear. But the answer is not only that this is not merely "religious affiliation" but religio-socio-political ideology of the most thoroughgoing and uncompromising sort, but that in wartime, one deals with not individuals but precisely with groups. We don't stop to ask "is this German in this house a supporter of Hitler, or should we refrain from bombing until we find out, or can we just go ahead because it is Germany, as a unit, that we are now fighting. And similarly, we know perfectly well that when we sent Lend-Lease to the Russians, the Soviet army and regime were not really our friends though they were our temporary and most useful allies, and we had no way of knowing how many of the people in the Soviet Union actually admired or liked us, and it didn't matter.
And it doesn't matter today if we align ourselves with this or that state that may not be much to our liking, but is on our side in the confrontation with those promoting the Jihad, whether by violent means, or by all the other means now available.
We are not required to perform an individual study of each Muslim who wishes to come to this country and settle, if we determine that, say, 15% or 30% or 80% or 90% are likely to prove to be at the very least a security risk. We are permitted to calculate likelihoods, and to act on that basis. No different from the determination of when to have a quarantine for health reasons -- one gathers data on the likelihood of danger, and one is perfectly free, and should be, to ban a whole class of people, if many in that class present such a danger, and if the theoretical adherence of all members of that class represents a clear and present and also future danger to our political and legal institutions, and to our own physical security.
That is not only permissible but the only sane way to proceed.
Posted on 12/27/2006 3:51 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
"When I travel to Sinai most of the tourists I meet there are Israeli. Until recently, most of the signs in Dahab (popular resort in Sinai) were in Hebrew and Arabic. Why are you calling this such a bad thing?"-- from a Coptic reader
The treaty that Israel made with Egypt was honored by one side only. Carter, who bullied Begin and even astonished Sadat with his constantly pushing the Egyptians to make more and more demands, was eager to prevent any statement of Israel's claims, as a successful repeller of attacks, attacks which include the more than 19,000 attacks by fellahin between 1948 and the Sinai campaign alone, and of course Nasser's closing of the Straits of Tiran, and forcing U Thant to remove any U.N. presence from the Sinai, so that -- have you forgotten -- he, Nasser, could promise those hundreds of thousands of hysterical Cairenes, from May 15, 1967 on, that at last Egypt was going in for the kill, and success was assured.
The Israelis had a perfect right to hold onto all of the Sinai, or some of it, or at the very least, to surrender it very s-l--o-w-l-y, over twenty or thirty years, not three (in three tranches), in order to assure themselves that Egypt would indeed stop all hostile propaganda (instead it shows a television series based on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, discourages any Egyptians from visiting Israel and certainly will not permit them to report anything good, and Mubarak only once visited Israel proper -- just once -- for the funeral of Rabin, and the Israelis have been prevented from attending book and movie festivals -- in short, from enjoying any of those simple exchanges that might, just possibly, lead to some amelioration of attitudes even if not of Islamic doctrine. The notion that this was a "good thing" is ludicrous; it was a "good thing" for Egypt, but a terrible thing for Israel, and the Israelis have never made a treaty, and never will, with an Arab Muslim power that that power does regard it as its right to break, to the extent that it can.
But what about that "peace"? Has Egypt gone to war with Israel? Hasn't Egypt honored its "peace" commitment? Nonsense. Egypt does not go to war with Israel for the same reason Syria does not. Because it would lose. And that is the only reason.
And the best way to make sure that Egypt does not go to war again is to make clear that the next time it does so, and loses the Sinai, it will never get it back. And the best way to make that clear is to point out, again and again, that this whole business of the Sinai being an ancient part of Egypt is nonsense; most of the Sinai "became Egyptian" for the first time in the 1920s.
It is about time that history, and the truth, were brought to bear on this matter -- the Israelis may be too lazy or their leaders too timid or ignorant to do so, but why should the rest of us be limited by what Israel's not very impressive leaders do? The stakes for Israel and for the entire West (which cannot let the area controlled by Israel fall into Muslim hands) are too great to think this is a matter for Israel's leaders to decide.
No, it isn't
"you can't just expect all the anti-semitism here in Egypt to disappear in a fortnight."-- from a reader
I don't. It hasn't disappeared from Germany or Austria, and has to be endured, fought, contained. But the government of Egypt made specific commitments -- intangible but real -- in exchange for Israel having given up territory, the entire Sinai, which it had captured in the 1967 war and had at least as much right to hold onto as does Italy to the Alto Adige (which, as the Sudtirol, it took from Austria after World War I), or as Poland and other countries (Russia keeping to this day Kaliningrad, nee Kant's Koenigsberg) took from Germany.
Those commitments -- to encourage in every way friendly relations between the governments of Egypt and Israel, and much more importantly, between the peoples of Egypt and Israel, by ceasing hostile propaganda -- have not been honored. Not in the slightest. The hideous anti-Israel and antisemitic propaganda that one can find in the Egyptian press and television -- surely you don't think that this is beyond the control of the Egyptian government, do you? What happens if the slightest attack is made on Mubarak's son and heir-apparent? The Egyptian government can control any damn thing it wants to in Egypt, and for the sake of the corrupt ruling-class it will do so in a minute. But it not only pocked the entire Sinai, to which it had very little title, but also the oilfields and airbases and infrastructure.
That there are some reasonable Egyptians, such as the playwright Ali Salem, who see beyond or through the Lesser Jihad, and that there are some, mostly Copts, who might not bear Israel ill-will -- how many? A thousand? Out of a population of 50 or 60 or 70 million? Egypt made commitments. It broke them. It has received $60 billion from American taxpayers (unconsulted about this transfer) and remains a center of anti-Americanism.
Egypt has to be made aware that the Sinai, if ever won again by Israel, will never again be part of Egypt. And it can either return to an intelligent and modest nationalism, of Egypt First, and de-emphasize both Islam and "Arabness" (and not force the Copts to pretend that because they speak Arabic they are Arabs, for they are the remaining descendants of those who were in Egypt when the Arabs arrived, bearing their "gift" of Islam -- in other words, they are just like the Maronites in Lebanon) or listen either to the idiotic King-of-the-Arabs Nasserism which is merely, in the end, an Arab subset of pan-Islamic ambitions, which is the other siren-song, and if either of those paths is chosen by Egypt, that way ruin lies.
I did not say, or even hint, that Israel would or should attack Egypt in order to wrest the Sinai. I made quite a different main point. That point is this: contrary to what many have allowed themselves to believe, the Sinai was, like most deserts, legally a corpus separatum (treated in fact like the seas). The vast desert of Sinai was never historically part of Egypt, was not regarded as such, and did not become legally part of Egypt until the 1920s. So much for Egypt's claim, that many Egyptians, and I presume even Copts who, as a matter of survival, have to accept and believe all kinds of things -- that Muslim Egyptians do not consider themselves "Arabs" (really? the high-water mark of that separate Egyptian identity came with Lord Cromer, and then in the aftermath of Cromer, when there were all over Cairo and Alexandria Greeks, Jews, Italians, Armenians, many going back centuries or millennia, as residents of Egypt, the period of the syces running ahead of carriages outside Shepheard's, and the fez-pressing establishments, and the photographer's shops specializing in scenes of pharaonic monuments and couleur locale (the boy whisking his donkey, les noces egyptiennes, the fellahin tilling their soil outside of Aswan, or Assouan in the old French prints, that sort of thing).
No doubt educated, westernized, secularized Copts in particular like to hold onto the notion of a once-and-future Egypt where the intelligent will rule, and the "Uruba" business be replaced by, again, that "Egypt first" and "Egypt for Egyptians" counter-myth that, obviously, would help the Copts a good deal. I hope it does succeed. I hope that not only Mubarak and his Friends-and-Family plan, supported with American foreign aid, comes to a swift end, but that real western secularizers, and not those who are only part-way there (and a good example is Said Eddin Ibrahim, whose conventional and sinister anti-Israel views show him to have internalized, and accepted, the Muslim line on Israel -- which as far as many in the Western world are concerned simply will not do), will take power. And that means, above all, ending that idiotic emphasis on Israel, and beginning to portray Israel with some semblance of fairness, and no longer doing the bidding either of Muslims, or of islamochristians who, either out of that ethnic identification with "Uruba" (Arabness), or because they have been affected, even as some Maronites in Lebanon and clearly many more Copts in Egypt (but not as much when they finally leave Egypt and can breathe freely in the West) have been, by the general Muslim hatred for Israel, a hatred based on the clearly expressed, unambiguous doctrines of Islam.
My point is this: if Egypt ever again is in a war, it should never again to recover the Sinai. Thanks to American pressure (Dulles and Eisenhower so keen to curry favor with the Islamic countries, and so keen to be seen as anti-imperialist and to distinguish American policy from that of England and France), in 1956, in exchange for worthless promises, Israel handed over the Sinai. We all know what Nasser then did, and what he did in May 1967. Again, under pressure from the hideously anti-Israel Carter and the only-slightly-less-hideously anti-Israel Brzezinski (both too preoccupied to keep their eyes on Khomeini in Neauphle-le-Chateau, and neither having the faintest idea as to how to save the Shah, or why it mattered), Israel under the maladroit and most un-mediagenic (i.e., homely) Begin, gave away all of the Sinai, yet again, in exchange for Egyptian promises that, yet again, have proven worthless.
No third time. Not even the idiotic Israelis can conceivably be that idiotic.
Or can they?
..the modern Egyptians has NO affiliation WHATSOEVER with the Ancient Peoples- we all know that they are actually transplanted Arabs.
Have you ever seen such a difference so vast in culture than the ancients and the nightgowns of today? – from a reader
"the ancients and the nightgowns..."
I've heard of the Battle of the Ancients and the Moderns. I've heard of the Battle of the Frogs and the Mice. I've heard about the Sheepmen and the Cattlemen. But I've never heard about "the ancients and the nightgowns." Is there something going on about which I have not been informed, because there is a deliberate effort to keep this Victoria's Secret? Why am I being kept in the dark?
Posted on 12/27/2006 4:47 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
Re: America gives limited backing to Ethiopia
No, it's about poverty. It's about the need for "freedom" in Somalia -- though by the look of it, Somalis, or Soomaalis, have all the freedom from constraints of all kinds, save that of the Shari'a, that anyone could possibly want.
Time once again, is it, as in Iraq, and as with Afghanistan, and no doubt as with the "Palestinians" whose cause may have come round again at last -- this time out of the blend of confusion and desperation and ignorance about Islam in Washington -- to Assume the Infidel Man's Burden, and bring yet another Muslim population of Kalashnikov-toting boys and burqa-ed girls toys and good things to eat, all supplied by the American-taxpayer-funded choo-choo train that apparently can climb any mountain, forge any stream, in venerable I-think-I-can I-think-I-can fashion, ready always to supply Muslims everywhere with Infidel aid (end Poverty! bring Democracy! Let Freedom Ring!) so that they, those Muslims, need never let go of their dream.
And that dream, of course, is the world-wide spread of Islam.
When will reality break in? This year? Next year?
In a decade, when it may possibly be too late?
Posted on 12/27/2006 4:05 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
Voting As A Branch Of Self-Esteem Studies
Voting for Ellison is a way to morally preen, to demonstrate, to oneself and to others, that one is certifiably tolerant, impeccably broad-minded. All the better if done without even making a move to find out what might be in the texts, tenets, attitudes, atmospherics of Islam, to cause disquiet. Such holier-than-thou voters do are not really voting for Ellison. They are voting for themselves. And in voting for themselves, in giving themselves a pat on the back and a vote of moral self-confidence, they do not wish to have their minds violated by facts, by what they might find out if they actually looked into Islam. That would only confuse them. That would only be an obstacle in the project of self-appreciation.
As he enters the voting booth and makes his little marks on the computer-legible piece of paper, this kind of voter hears the distant voice of someone reading from "Leaves of Grass":
"Do I celebrate myself? Very well then, I celebrate myself."
Vote for someone, so that when you cast that vote -- never mind the actual positions or possible dangers of that candidate winning - you can feel good about yourself. Isn't that what life is supposed to be all about? Feeling Good? And isn't Feeling Good About Yourself part of Feeling Good? Of course it is. Vote for Ellison.
Voting as a branch of Self-Esteem Studies.
Posted on 12/27/2006 4:11 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
An Ignis Fatuus In The Swamp Of Rhetoric
Truly "by next Christmas"? Or merely an ignis fatuus in the swamp of rhetoric?
Doha: Qatar's first church will be completed before next Christmas, Doha's parish priest told worshippers last night during the traditional Christmas mass.—from this news item
Posted on 12/27/2006 4:58 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
Dalrymple on Dalrymple
I hope all NER readers, of whatever religion and none, even those of a vegetarian or teetotal bent, had a Very Merry Christmas.
The Madness of William Dalrymple, discussed below, was pointed out in no uncertain terms a couple of years ago by NER’s Theodore Dalrymple, God’s gift to Dalrymples and discerning readers everywhere:
The idea that if someone is prepared to do something truly horrible, he must have a worthy cause remains attractive to liberal intellectuals, who perhaps envy those who take up arms against the sea of troubles that is human existence.
Last week’s New Statesman, the British left-wing weekly (for which I also write), provided a fine example of this way of thinking in an article about Islamophobia by travel writer William Dalrymple (no relation). He pointed out that the kidnapper of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter abducted, tortured, and then murdered in Pakistan in early 2002, was a British Muslim who had attended public school (public in this context meaning private) and the London School of Economics.
Dalrymple wrote: “The man who kidnapped Pearl in Karachi was a highly educated British Pakistani, Ahmed Omar Sheikh. Sheikh attended the same public school as the film-maker Peter Greenaway and later studied at the London School of Economics. Yet such was the racism he suffered, that he was drawn towards extreme jehadi groups and eventually came to be associated with both Harkat ul-Mujahideen and al-Qaeda.”
Now Sheikh’s father must have spent at least $20,000 a year, and probably more, on his son’s education for five years or more: surely a sign of reasonable economic success in his adopted country. Moreover, Sheikh was then admitted to an elite institution of higher education. Was this nothing to set against the insults that he no doubt sometimes suffered? Surely only a man bent on evil would not take these advantages into account in assessing his own situation. Is suffering insults a reason to torture a stranger to death (the video of the torture, by the way, is being distributed in certain circles)? Dalrymple comes perilously close to condoning what he is trying to explain.
He goes on: “If intelligent, successful and well-educated British Muslims such as Omar Sheikh can be so readily drawn to the world of the jehadis, we are in trouble.” Indeed, we are. The fact is, the kind of success that British society offered Sheikh, evidence of its comparative openness despite instances of insult and discrimination, did not satisfy him. He was in the grip of a utopian ideology, just as many successful people in Britain and elsewhere—all of whom no doubt had some reason or other for despising and hating the way in which they had been brought up, because that is the nature of human existence—were once attracted to communism, another ideology that would have destroyed their own freedom.
The article continues: “The combination of widespread hostility to the Muslims in our midst, pervasive discrimination against them and huge ignorance is a potentially lethal cocktail.” The only ingredient that seems to be missing from this cocktail is Islam.
Indeed. Coming back to Christmassy matters, Hugh says he was disappointed to tune into the BBC on Christmas morning and find nothing from King's College Choir. This might be because Nine Lessons and Carols, broadcast every year since 1928, takes place on Christmas Eve, as it has done since 1918. And very lovely it was too, for those "millions of listeners worldwide"" in the know.
Posted on 12/27/2006 5:06 PM by Mary Jackson
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
Unbelievably Rude, Drunken, Tattooed Alcoholics
"The English we see here in Thailand are unbelievably rude, drunken, tattooed alcoholics..."--- from a reader
Build them a mock Trafalgar Square, with a fountain made of very hard stone. Tell them they've just won at Wembley.
Posted on 12/27/2006 5:13 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
Was it silly?
But was it silly of me to assume, as I did, that sometimes a performance can be re-broadcast when suitable, and a tape of a Christmas Eve concert might conceivably be replayed on Christmas morning? (Hugh Fitzgerald)
No, of course it wasn't. Or if it was, only if "silly" is given its old meaning of "selig" or "holy" - those "silly sheep" belonging to the shepherd who washed his bush by night.
Silly? No. Understandable? Yes. If it's any consolation, I freely acknowledge that there is much more that I don't understand about America than there is that you don't understand about England.
Posted on 12/27/2006 8:11 PM by Mary Jackson