During the last decade of Islamist terrorism, numerous commentators, particularly those on the left, have adopted a materialist approach to explain why some Muslims want to slaughter guests at hotels in Mumbai or detonate bombs at Christmas festivals in Sweden. Terrorism, they argue, is rooted in poverty, frustration over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and memories of western imperialism. In other words, so the argument goes, the West itself is to blame for terrorism. If only the West would apologize, make reparations, abandon Israel, leave the Middle East and Afghanistan, all would be well. Or at least that's where the root-cause crowd's assumptions logically lead.
The problem with this materialist view of terrorism is that it largely misses the spiritual motivations that inform Islamist geo-politics. In the case of the Islamists, they imagine Islam spreading across the globe and the establishment of a worldwide caliphate based on shariah law. They see themselves empowered by Allah to bring about this new world order by destroying a civilization they regard as spiritually empty. Thus, Islamism constitutes a political religion of apocalyptic proportions.
You don't have to look far to find hints of such second-order thinking. The New York Hall of Science is currently staging an exhibit titled "1001 Inventions" that purports to show that Islam enjoyed a Golden Age of scientific and intellectual accomplishment when Europe was wallowing in the Dark Ages. According to a New York Times reviewer, the exhibition's promoters claim Islam's cultural glories were later "misappropriated" by the West.
. . . to deny that Muslim thinkers borrowed heavily from other cultures -- evidence, again, of second-ordering thinking -- is a distortion of historical reality. As the Times' reviewer puts it: "Major cultures of the first millennium (China, India, Byzantium) are mentioned only to affirm the weightier significance of Muslim contributions."
But then Islam's Golden Age was golden only in comparison to the endarkenment that descended on Western Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the fifth century. According to some historians, the rise of Islam in the seventh century exacerbated Europe's "Dark Age."
"Islam, far from being a force for enlightenment in the so-called Dark Age, was actually responsible for the destruction of the literate and urban civilization that we now call Classical," says John J. O'Neill, the author of Holy Warriors: Islam and the Demise of Classical Civilization
In this regard, the "1001 Inventions" exhibition is, perhaps, being disingenuous. Worse, though, says the reviewer, is the exhibition's failure to account for the "long eclipse" of Islamic culture. Indeed, one of history's much-debated puzzles is why the Muslim world stagnated after its Golden Age, why the spirit of scientific inquiry and philosophical debate by and large faded from Islamic culture.
Blame the imams. In the 11th century, Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, a brilliant if tormented theologian, published The Incoherence of the Philosophers, effectively bringing to conclusion centuries of debate in the Muslim world about the primacy of reason versus that of revelation. Reason makes us question things, makes us doubtful and uncertain, al-Ghazali argued. He attacked philosophers who thought that humans could know the world by means of rational thought. Reason, he said, leads to despair. Only divine revelation, the word of God as revealed in the Koran, provides certain knowledge of how best to live. Human reason must submit to Allah's will.
"Islamism is grounded in a spiritual pathology based upon a theological deformation that has produced a dysfunctional culture," argues political scientist Robert Reilly in a newly published book, The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis. Mainstream Sunni Islam, which comprises the majority of the faithful in the Muslim world, "has shut the door to reality in a profound way." This, says Reilly, is the consequence of Islam's long suppression of reason in favour of religious dogmatism.
Islam was eventually dominated by those who thought like al-Ghazali. They held that the Koran contained Allah's direct speech. And, because Allah's will and action is unlimited, the Koran, as his eternal word, must apply to all times and places. There is no need to look elsewhere in responding to the human condition, regardless of changing circumstances. Since Allah is the first cause of everything, there is no need to look for secondary causes; that is to say, no need to use reason to understand nature's laws, and, therefore, no need for science.
"The Middle East is poor because of a dysfunctional culture based upon a deformed theology, and unless it can be reformed at that level, economic engineering or the development of constitutional political order will not succeed."
Other political theorists argue that democracy cannot establish deep roots in a culture where human reason is not paramount because, in Barry Cooper's words, "the prerequisite of democracy is the respectability of reason."
Such views, if valid, augur ill for the presence of Islam within the secular West. If radical Islam is, as Reilly contends, rooted in the suppression of reason, it is hard to see how even moderate Muslims can achieve a deep and wholesome attachment to western societies and their values. How can genuinely devout Muslims identify wholeheartedly with a modern secular society that denies the efficacy of their faith? And if they can't, what are they going to do about it?
The Islamists' answer, obviously, is that no accommodation is possible. Hence, they ultimately seek the transformation of the West to accommodate Islam. Chandra Muzaffar, a widely respected Malaysian Islamic scholar, writing in a 2006 book, The New Voices of Islam, captures this spiritual aspiration:
"Islam and the post-Enlightenment secular West are diametrically opposed to one another. Muslims will then realize that unless they transform the secular world of the West, that vision of justice embodied in the Koran will never become a reality."
The challenge for Islamists, obviously, is whether they can achieve that transformation better through demographic domination over the next few decades or through violence. The challenge for Westerners, perhaps not so obviously, is whether they will awaken in time from their multicultural slumbers to protect their cultural heritage and avoid, possibly, a new dark age.
We are waking up. Because it won’t be a new ‘dark age’. This will be permanent.
I hope any Americans reading this post can understand my accent. From The Telegraph:
Downton Abbey has had to be simplified for American audiences on the grounds that they will not understand the bit about inheritance. Anyone who has read any of the novels of Edith Wharton will know that the statement from PBS executive producer Rebecca Eaton that "we thought there might be too many references to the entail… It is not a concept people in the US are very familiar with" is simply untrue. The difficulties of fortune and inheritance power whole tracts of American 19th-century fiction. So educated audiences (that is, the ones who are likely to watch Downton Abbey in the first place) will probably understand the plot considerably better than I did, since I missed the first episode entirely and never grasped what was going on.
It's also an extraordinary statement for an American TV executive to make. This is, after all, the country that gave us The Wire, possibly the most complex series of plotlines ever devised. Are we really to think that US audiences understand drug-dealing in Baltimore any better than they grasp 19th-century legal shenanigans? Of course not. PBS is just being silly.
It is, ironically, the sophistication of the best of American television that I most admire. At Christmas I watched episodes of The Larry Sanders Show and was amazed once again at the sheer audacity of a concept that creates a fake chat show, peoples it with real guests, and then uses the whole thing for satirical ends.
More importantly, if Downton Abbey is simplified, Americans may get a misleading impression of what English life is really like. Then again, they can always watch re-runs of Upstairs Downstairs, The Dutchess of Duke Street or Jeeves and Wooster.
Frattini, Not Going Far Enough, Wants EU Aid Only To States That Protect Rights Of Christians
Franco Frattini, Foreign Minister of Italy, from ANSA:
Tie EU aid to rights for Christians' says Frattini
Aid should be 'cut or eliminated' FM says after Alexandria blast
January 3, 2010
(ANSA) - Rome, January 3 - European Union aid should be tied to respect for human rights in countries where Christian minorities are under attack, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Monday after a New Year's Day church bombing in the Egyptian city of Alexandria that killed 21 Coptic Christians.
EU aid "should be reduced if not eliminated" for "those countries that do not collaborate" in protecting Christians, Frattini said.
"We have to move from monitoring to action," said the foreign minister, stressing that Italy could not remain "isolated" in the battle for Christians' rights around the world.
The EU "should work with those countries that collaborate and encourage them," he said.
Italy has been saying for months that more should be done to help embattled Christian communities around the world.
On December 22 Frattini blasted the European Union for not doing more to combat Christian persecutions in Iraq and other Middle Eastern Countries.
He said United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also worried about the plight of Middle Eastern Christians, who are leaving the region in increasing numbers, especially from Iraq, where they have been the victims of a series of bomb attacks.
''Frankly, it is a little sad that Europe isn't reacting on this issue as it should'', he said.
Italy is set to present a resolution to the United Nations on religious freedom which aims to stop this persecution and it has the backing of the EU, while several non-EU countries have expressed ''great interest''.
Pope Benedict XVI, who condemned the New Year's Day attack in Alexandria as a "cowardly attack against God," has said Christians are the religious group that suffer most persecution around the world.
Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Zimbabwe [?] and Nigeria are among the other countries where there have been anti-Christian campaigns and attacks. [and Egypt, and Iraq, and Algeria, and Turkey, and Sudan, and the soi-disant "Palestinian" territories, both Gaza and the "West Bank," not to mention the severe restrictions on Foreign Christians, punished even for singing Christtmas carols in their own rooms, and arrested and tortured when suspected of "proselytising" -- as in Saudi Arabia] ]More than 80 people were killed in bombings in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Christmas Eve, sparking clashes between Muslim and Christian youths.
Ethnic and religious violence in central Nigeria has left hundreds of people dead this year.
After Enduring Persecution In Silence For Decades (And Centuries), Copts Express Their Rage
From the Washington Post:
Bombing opens vein of Christian anger in Egypt
By PAUL SCHEMM
The Associated Press
January 3, 2011
CAIRO -- The New Year's Day suicide bombing of a church that killed 21 people has opened up a vein of fury among Egypt's Christians, built up over years of what they call government failure to address persistent discrimination and violence against their community.
Christian protests spread to Cairo from the northern city of Alexandria where the attack took place. Late Sunday, riots erupted outside the cathedral-headquarters of the Coptic Church after the country's top Muslim religious figures and government officials met with Pope Shenouda III.
Protesters threw bottles and stones at riot police outside the cathedral, injuring 45 policemen, security officials said. Elsewhere, demonstrators threw stones at cars on two main highways, and hundreds marched in other parts of the capital, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.
In the last couple years in particular, the country's Coptic Christian minority, which makes up 10 percent of the country's 80 million, has felt under siege following a string of incidents.
In January a year ago, six Christians and a Muslim guard were killed in a drive-by shooting on Coptic Christmas Eve in southern Egypt. Then in November, Christians rioted after government forces violently stopped the construction of a church near Cairo in a long-running dispute over restrictions on building Christian houses of worship. Two people died at the hands of security in the rare instance of Christian unrest in the capital.
In 2009, the government ordered the destruction of a quarter-million pigs as a dubious prevention measure against swine flu, devastating the livelihoods of Cairo's large community of Christian garbage collectors, who raised the animals to dispose of organic waste. The Christians saw it as an expression of Muslim disgust at pigs thinly disguised as a health concern.
After a suicide bomber attacked worshippers in the northern city of Alexandria as they filed out of a midnight Mass at the Saints Church on Saturday, Christian rage exploded on the streets in riots and clashes with police. Protesters also attacked Muslim passers-by and a nearby mosque in an indication of the alienation they feel from the country's majority Muslims.
The protests Saturday and Sunday had an unprecedented edge of frustration: A common theme among protesters was that Christians would no longer be silent over their complaints. Security forces have turned out in force, but appear to be showing restraint, apparently to avoid further enflaming tensions.
"You want me to leave Egypt. I will not leave Egypt. Egypt is Coptic and will remain Coptic," one woman in her mid-40s, wrapped in a white sheet stained with blood from the victims, shouted Saturday in front of the Saints Church. "I have seen discrimination all my life. In college, at work. I am not going to take it any longer. Enough."
Christian anger, says rights activist Hossam Bahgat, stems in large part because they feel attacks against them can be carried out with impunity, something borne out by evidence of past incidents, especially in Egypt's impoverished hinterlands.
In a two-year study conducted by his organization, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, he documented 52 anti-Christian incidents between 2008 and 2010 and in none of them were the perpetrators punished. Instead security forces arbitrarily arrested a few people.
"Security then forces both sides to accept reconciliation at the expense of justice," he said, which gives the perpetrators a sense of impunity. "It's an invitation for these events to recur and the victims are left feeling victimized twice, first by those who did it and second by the government."
Egypt's government maintains Muslims and Christians are treated equally in the country and after these kinds of sectarian incidents loudly affirms its commitment to national unity. [well of course it does]
But Christians have long complained that they are discriminated against in getting jobs in the government, universities - even the private sector. They also point to rising Muslim conservativism that they say affects government officials' dealings with Christians.
Youssef Sidhom, a prominent Coptic intellectual and editor of the weekly Watani newspaper, said that in Egyptian society there has been growing antipathy to coexisting with Christians, undermining such official pronouncements.
"The infiltration of political Islam into our education, our schools, into the hearts and minds of school teachers and into our school books and is extremely dangerous because it produces innocent children who are infected by the version of Islam that does not accept the other and preaches non-acceptance of Christians," he told The Associated Press. [and not only Christians, but all non-Muslims]
In an editorial in the English-language online version of the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper, editor Hani Shukrallah slammed the government for trying to appease Islamist sentiment and warned against rising anti-Christian sentiment among Muslims.
"I accuse the millions of supposedly moderate Muslims among us - those who've been growing more and more prejudiced, inclusive and narrow minded with every passing year," he wrote Saturday.
"I have heard you speak, in your offices, in your clubs, at your dinner parties: 'The Copts must be taught a lesson. The Copts are growing more arrogant. The Copts are holding secret conversions of Muslims.'"
Two other points of conflict that come up repeatedly in Egypt's Muslim-Christian relations are church building and the issue of conversion.
Christians have to apply to local security authorities to build their churches - or even conduct renovations - in a lengthy process that only ends with the approval by the president or a governor. The result is a tendency to build illegally which has been used as an excuse by extremists for mob violence against the Christians.
Conversions are also highly sensitive and rumors of women converting to Islam and then being forced to convert back to Christianity have sparked riots by both religious groups.
Al-Qaida in Iraq justified its assaults on Christians there recently in light of two cases of Egyptian women, one in 2004 and one this year, who supposedly were stopped from converting to Islam and are now being hidden by the Coptic Orthodox Church.
The result is that Christians have lost faith in the wider society and have turned increasingly to their church for protection, according to Cornelis Hulsman, who runs the Cairo-based Arab West Foundation for promoting intercultural dialogue.
"Christians tend to rally in support of their church. They do so in staunchly supportive church positions, withdrawing into a virtual ghetto. The result is that contact with Muslims is greatly reduced," wrote Hulsman in an article following Saturday's attack.
"In such a climate, it is easy to hurl general accusations at Muslims in general, thus adding to the polarization of Egyptian society," he concluded.
Comment: Notice how this Western apologist for Islam, one Cornelis Hulsman, who runs the "Arab West Foundation... promoting intercultural dialogue" (we know what that "intercultural dialogue" means) pretends that the problem is only a few Muslims, and he worries about "general accusations at Muslims in general [sic]" without hinting at what Islam inculcates, what the texts tell Muslims to think of, and how to behave towards, non-Muslims.
In How to Live, her delightful biography of Montaigne, Sarah Bakewell makes some tart comments about Shakespeare-doubter Ignatius Donnelly:
At the end of a large opus arguing that Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare’s plays, Donnelly adds extra chapters proving that Bacon also wrote Montaigne’s Essays, as well as Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy and all of Christopher Marlowe’s work. He finds clues planted throughout the Essays, such as a passage in which Montaigne writes, ‘Whoever shall cure a child of an obstinate aversion to bread, bacon or garlic, will cure him of all kind of delicacy’. The name Francis occurs several times in the text, admittedly always in the French form François, and generally denoting the French king François I. No matter; this too is a clue. To clinch matters, Donnelly cites a discovery made by a Mrs Pott, who alerted him to the frequent mention in Shakespeare’s plays of mountains, of Mountaines. Since Bacon wrote Shakespeare, any reference to Montaigne in the plays must suggest that he wrote the Essays too. ‘Can anyone believe that all this is the result of accident?’ asks Donnelly.
Of course not. And if you say this is hogwash, you’ll just be reinforcing Bacon’s authorship. It may seem strange that Bacon did not wish to take credit for his prolific and disparate output. This is easily explained: to avoid cross-contamination of brands, rather as Procter & Gamble keeps a low profile on its products so that customers don’t associate Pringles with Fairy Liquid. Bacon was a multidisciplinary man, and not hamstrung from running the gammon.
The alleged links between Islamic radicals on both sides of the Channel came to light at the trial of eight men at the Paris Assizes. All are accused of carrying out post office raids and other robberies in order to raise funds to carry out terrorist atrocities across Europe.
Among them is Farid Boukemiche, a 34-year-old French Algerian who spent three years in a British prison on terrorist charges before trying to claim political asylum. When this failed he moved back to France where he opened a cafe in Roubaix, near Lille in 2003. The cafe “housed many brothers, particularly British ones,” according to prosecution documents.
Police discovered an arsenal of weapons at a property in Clichy-sous-Bois, a Paris suburb, during an operation last month to arrest the eight suspects. The haul included TNT explosives, Kalashnikov assault rifles, revolvers, and body armour along with large amounts of cash, including £7,000 worth of used notes in the possession of one of the suspect’s wives. Days in Clichy wouldn't be so quiet anymore if that lot went up one afternoon.
Boukemiche and two others were first arrested in Britain in May 1997, accused of providing support to the GIA, an Islamist terrorist group based in Algeria and linked to al-Qaeda. The men’s lawyers demanded the disclosure of thousands of government documents, delaying the trial by nearly three years. The case was eventually dropped, after running up cost estimated at £3 million, in order to protect the life of an undercover intelligence source in Algeria.
By then Boukemiche had learned perfect English and made extensive contacts in prison. A prosecution source said: “He built up numerous contacts among al-Qaeda networks in Britain and offered then a safe house close to his cafe in France.”
Also on trial in Paris is Ouassini Cherifi, a 36-year-old French-Algerian who in 2002 was sentenced to five years in prison for trafficking fake passports linked to terrorist activity. Since his release he has spent a “great deal of time in Britain recruiting Jihad fighters to travel to Iraq and Afghanistan,” according to the same prosecution source.
Terrorist judges Jean-Louis Bruguiere and Jean-Francois Ricard fear many of the suspects met up while serving time in prison. The eight men admit being involved in a number of robberies in the Paris area, but deny using the proceeds to finance terrorism. The Paris trial continues until January 28th.
"When We Die As Martyrs", by Jordanian group "Birds of Paradise". Another video used to indoctrinate "Palestinian" children into a culture of victimhood, violence, and antisemitism.
Saudi journalist Fawzia Nasir al-Naeem criticized the video and the group "Birds of Paradise" in Al-Jazeera:
"It encourages the use of arms, killing, explosives, shedding blood and terrorism with all its synonyms. Our children parrot what they hear, and it enters their minds. This data is filed away, and over time it ripens into beliefs and principles which they believe in whenever the intensity is strong, so that when the dream is achieved, an explosive belt is put on, and he begins to proclaim the Jihad, which Allah revealed as his mandate…So, mother, open your half closed eyes to the bitter reality. Look at those who share with you in educating your children, and divert them from the right path. Lose the "Birds of Paradise" and other birds you and your sons are the 'firewood of hell.'"
Nine men appeared before a judge in the City of Westminster Magistrates Court and were remanded in custody (Photo: Anthony Upton)
Londonistan, irate French officials used to call the city I live in and sometimes love. It’s a good name. Flying into Heathrow from South Asia, you pass through the looking glass into a wonderland where everything that existed in the world you left nine hours ago reappears jumbled up.
It’s only in Londonistan that you could even imagine that there might be a jihadist called Gurukanth Desai.
Mr Desai is one of nine men held just before Christmas for their alleged role in a plot to stage attacks in London. For those of you who aren’t South Asian, his name likely has no more special resonance than the other eight.
But Gurukanth Desai is upper-caste Hindu name, suggesting ethnic origins in western India. Mr Desai, though, is ethnic Bengali and Muslim, whose parents came from the opposite end of the subcontinent. Mr Desai is reported to have earlier used the Bengali Muslim name Abdul Mannan Miah. That Mr Desai’s brother is called Abdul Malik Miah lends this credence.
There’s more: Gurukanth Desai was the name of the lead character in a 2007 hit movie. Guru was loosely built around the life of Dhirubhai Ambani, a petrol pump attendant who built a industrial empire which had an annual turnover of close to £10 billion at the time of his death.
Now, there are some perfectly good reasons why an ethnic Bengali Muslim once called Mr Miah might have decided to rename himself after the lead character in a Bollywood movie. Perhaps Mr Desai, the father of three young children, fell in love with someone who was Hindu and had hoped to win her family’s approval. Perhaps he feared Islamophobia would cost him a chance to build his own £10 billion dream. Perhaps he just really, really liked the movie.
It is also possible, though, that Mr Desai’s motives were less innocent. In 2006, a Pakistani-origin United States national called Dawood Geelani took the name David Coleman Headley. Dawood Geelani’s new name allowed him to acquire a multiple-entry visa, which someone of Pakistani origin would likely have been denied. Mr Headley went on, US and Indian prosecutors say, to conduct the reconnaissance that allowed ten Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists to attack Mumbai in November, 2008.
The truth will doubtless out as the trial proceeds, but if it is revealed that Mr Desai did indeed have something of the kind in mind, no one ought to be surprised. Britain’s home-grown terrorists have long played a key role in the global jihad. Dhiren Barot – who, in a mirror-image of Mr Desai’s actions, changed his ethnic-Gujarati, Hindu name to Abu Issa al-Hindi – fought with the Jaish-e-Mohammad in Kashmir before participating in an al-Qaeda plot to target the US.
Then there was Omar Saeed Sheikh, whose life led him from a British public school to death row in Pakistan.
From the little public-domain information available so far, the nine arrested men seem to have been linked to the London-headquartered al-Muhajiroun. The organisation was proscribed in January this year, but continues to function underground. Last year, The Telegraph reported that a US diplomat had said the UK had “the greatest concentration of active al-Qaeda supporters of any Western country.”
In a superb monograph, Jytte Klausen has shown that al-Muhajiroun and its successor networks were implicated in 19 of 56 jihadist plots linked to the UK between December, 1998, and February, 2010. The bombing of the Indian Army’s XV corps headquarters in Srinagar in December, 2000; the attack on a Tel Aviv bar in April 2003; or last year’s 9/11 anniversary plot: all these involved elements of al-Muhajiroun’s British networks. The International Crisis Group has documented the flow of funds from these networks to the al-Qaeda linked Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen in Bangladesh.
There’s an important lesson here, which is this: policing, though critical, isn’t going to win this war. Leah Farrall, who is among the most perceptive experts on Islamist terrorism, recently observed “that disrupting a network is equated with weakening it, which I don’t think is necessarily the case.” She’s right: hundreds have been held since the tragic events of 2005, but the threat hasn’t receded. That is because while the UK’s police and intelligence services have shown skill and determination, there is no credible political challenge to Islamism itself.
Islamists wish, as all totalitarian ideologues do, to reinvent the world in their image. For years, Britain’s response was a profoundly flawed multiculturalism that in essence sought to buy off Muslim neo-fundamentalists. That misguided enterprise is now dead – but there’s little debate, and even less agreement, on just how to the collective weight of Britain’s cultural and political institutions can best engage the challenge of Islamism.
“This”, wrote Salman Rushdie, “is the question of our time: how does a fractured community of multiple cultures decide what values it must share in order to cohere, and how can it insist on those values even when they clash with some citizens’ traditions and beliefs?”
Now is probably a good time to start debating answers.
There is something to be said for having a swimming pool and surviving on a diet of finest duck breast and Margaux, relished in the dying rays of a continental sun.
But as I look out of my window at the cityscape before me, the bare trees and grey skies, the Londoner in me is still celebrating being ‘home’ after six years living in France.
It seems that having returned to the country of my birth after a strangely tumultuous time during which my marriage broke up, I look on the Old Place with refreshed enthusiasm. And believe me, it is not on the point of disintegration as some might lead you to believe.
Winter chaos may have reigned in recent weeks. Schools and airports closed, trains were cancelled, the grit ran out. Again. But throughout we showed a resilience of which we should all be proud.
Stranded travellers shared blankets and provisions as well as tales of woe, snowed-in villagers held great communal lunches and dinners as friends, neighbours and strangers every¬where acted with humour and compassion when they could so easily have griped and grumbled instead.
Perhaps there is such a thing as the ‘Big Society’ after all.
Certainly, there was something wonderfully democratic about the snowstorms and blizzards. On Highgate Hill, a shiny new Jaguar was marooned next to a battered old Mini. Rich or poor, young or old, it was clear we were all in this together. It is a sentiment we shall do well to remember in the year ahead.
Last week, I took my daughters to see the Royal Ballet perform Tales Of Beatrix Potter.
The girls sat entranced by the dancing mice and frolicking frogs, while I quietly savoured the velvet luxury of the Royal Opera House.
It cost just over £100 for the three of us – definitely not cheap – but I couldn’t help thinking it was a small price to pay for an evening in one of our greatest institutions. In London there is history, vibrancy, intellectual debate. Few cities can boast such a rich cultural heritage or provide entertainment on such a world-class scale.
Mohammed couldn't write either. I wonder if Lauren Booth has got beyond page 60 yet; there's no mention of her New Found Faith. By the way, you can get Margaux in Muswell Hill - it's Ms Booth who doesn't travel well.
Israel arrests 2 British consulate staff in gun probe
(Reuters) - Israel said on Monday it had charged two local employees of the British Consulate General in Jerusalem with arms trafficking as part of an investigation into an alleged plot to fire a rocket into a football stadium.
A British Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman confirmed the arrests and said Britain was urgently seeking confirmation of the charges. "We have been told by the Israeli authorities that the investigation into our two employees is unrelated to the work they do at the consulate," the spokesman said.
Israel's Shin Bet Security Service said the two Palestinians were indicted recently on the weapons charges in connection with an alleged plot by two other Palestinians to attack Teddy Stadium, home to Jerusalem's Beitar soccer team, with a rocket.
According to the Jerusalem PostThe Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said that the consulate employees aided the the plotters of the attack in obtaining guns. The plotters are two east Jerusalem Arabs, (and a handsome pair they are - not!) Musa Hamada from the Sur Baher neighborhood and his friend Bassem Omeri, an Israeli citizen from Beit Safafa. Other Arab residents of Jerusalem were involved in purchasing the weapons, and they have also been arrested.
However, the BBC's Wyre Davis says the incident will raise concern about vetting procedures at the consulate, which is situated in one of the most politically sensitive parts of Jerusalem.
It is a sign of how low my opinion is of the Camel Corp followers at the Foreign Office that I looked up an on-line report after hearing brief details on TV news in the background fully prepared to hear that these were professional Civil Servants. I'm glad they are not, but standards are not what they were.
Sufficient Unto The Day Are The Western Dopes Thereof
The Region: Dopes of the day
By BARRY RUBIN 02/01/2011
It is embarrassing to see Western journalists and officials fooled time and again by Middle Eastern radicals.
I’ve recently written about how easily fooled Western politicians, officials, journalists and academics are by Middle Eastern radicals and I’m going now going to provide some outstanding examples.
In Lebanon, while other newspapers are in decline or starved for funds, one called Al-Akhbar is curiously expanding. The New York Times reporter who recently wrote about the newspaper fell for the foolish notion that it is some model of independence.
In fact, it’s no secret in Lebanon that it’s a hard-line, Syrian-backed newspaper that repeatedly slanders moderate forces and is a mouthpiece for Hizbullah.
And that’s where the money comes from.
So the Times is cheering a Syrian propaganda operation just as, not long ago, The Guardian went into rhapsodies about a supposedly wonderful publication in Turkey that is a front for Islamists, producing false material that enabled the regime there to throw innocent people into prison on trumped-up charges of conspiring to overthrow the government.
Any serious investigation should have shown the true nature of Al-Akhbar but the reporter couldn’t even find anyone to quote on this point, apparently not even trying to produce a balanced article, much less an accurate one.
Instead here’s what we get: “It was the latest coup for a five-year-old paper that has become the most dynamic and daring in Lebanon, and perhaps anywhere in the Arab world. In a region where the news media are still full of obsequious propaganda, Al-Akhbar is now required reading, even for those who abhor its politics.”
But perhaps this free advertising for a Hizbullah and Syrian parrot can be explained by the article’s lead: “Ibrahim al-Amine, the hawk-eyed editorial chairman of Al-Akhbar, describes his newspaper’s founding ambitions this way: ‘We wanted the US ambassador to wake up in the morning, read it and get upset.’” Right, so it’s anti-American, isn’t that recommendation enough? But I don’t think Amine would want the Syrian or Iranian ambassador to get upset. If they did, they might cut off his funding (and maybe some parts as well).
It is like the old Cold War joke about the American insisting that the US had freedom of speech and the Soviet Union didn’t. “After all, I can go in front of the White House and shout, ‘Down with Reagan!” “Oh,” replies the communist, “we have just as much freedom of speech! I can go in front of the Kremlin and shout, ‘Down with Reagan!’ any time I want.”
SPEAKING OF free advertising, Al-Akhbar needs ads even though it seems to prosper while not running any! Let me suggest the Jammal Trust Bank, an institution that launders money for Hizbullah, funds a TV station that supports it and is directed by one of Al- Akhbar’s editors (Jean Aziz). The bank also helps pay the newspaper’s bills. The Times reporter didn’t notice those details. One can compile a long and publicly known set of links connecting Al-Akhbar with Hizbullah and Syria, as well as writers who tend to follow the lines set forth by them.
To present such an enterprise as wonderful is shameful, especially since several honest journalists in Lebanon have been murdered or had to run for their lives, while better newspapers are collapsing for want of financing.
Yet it’s the totalitarians that get kudos from The New York Times. Oh, and Politico’s Laura Rozen had to chime in about this truly wonderful newspaper which is an example to all Arab media! I guess the proposed example is: support revolutionary Islamist terrorist groups, get backing from Syria and only criticize America and those moderates opposed to Iran and Islamism. If there’s a Pulitzer Prize for terrorism, then Al-Akhbar might be in the running for it.
Meanwhile, it seems increasingly likely that an international investigation will show that Hizbullah was involved in the murder of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. I guess that will be one story Al-Akhbar won’t cover.
Speaking of Syria, while the Saudis are so worried about the US being too soft on Syria and Iran that they are trying to cut their own deal surrendering Lebanon to the Syrians, what does President Barack Obama do? Why, of course, he is in such a hurry to name a US ambassador to Syria that he bypasses Congress and does a recess appointment, even though he has gotten nothing from Syria after two years of ‘engagement.’ What this technique does is shield the Syrian dictatorship from criticism by Congress, since if there had been confirmation hearings for the proposed ambassador, there would have been a lot of questions about Syria’s backing of terrorism, especially against US troops in Iraq. If the administration had more sense, it could have used the harder line from Congress as a rationale to get tougher on Syria. But instead of a “good cop/bad cop” approach, we get a Keystone Kop approach.
But there is also a remarkable and highly revealing quote from an administration official on this matter: “We have implemented our commitments, and we expect Syria to [do the same]. The ball is now in the Syrians’ court.”
That statement will stand as the perfect memorial for the administration’s foreign policy (including on the “peace process”): We’ve done everything for you, now it is time for you to do something for us.
No, you don’t give all the concessions first and then hope that your enemy will do something. That’s dopey. You use leverage and threats and credibility and sometimes even force. You take advantage to some extent of being stronger. You make the other side give something too.
The administration has argued that sending an ambassador to Syria is not a gift to that dictatorship (which is helping murder Americans in Iraq, sponsoring Hamas and Hizbullah, and helping Iran in every possible way), but a necessity in order to communicate with Damascus. But since this US government only wants to communicate flattery and concessions, it’s hardly worthwhile.
Indeed, have no doubt that everyone in the Arabic-speaking world will interpret this as a Syrian victory.
That’s why these actions are worthy of a Dopes of the Day award.
Oh, tremble, all of you who depend on the US as an ally and protector. And tremble, too, if thou doth depend on The New York Times for your understanding of the world.
Beginning To Question -- So Tentatively -- The Fantastic Squandering Of Resources In Iraq
BAGHDAD, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- The wreckage of a Baghdad water park symbolizes failed U.S. efforts to win over Iraqis with civilian projects, some commanders say.
The Jadriyah Lake park by the Tigris River was opened with fanfare in August 2008 and drew large crowds for the rest of the year, The Washington Post reported Monday.
But religious authorities objected, and by the next spring, the local power supply was reduced, the water pumps stopped and the lake dried up. Today, much of the compound is in ruins.
The park was among the projects funded by the $5 billion Commander's Emergency Response Program, which was intended counter extremism. But U.S. auditors have said the program has been used for expensive boondoggles of doubtful value. Often, the Iraqi government had no say in the ventures and has refused to keep them going.
Even some U.S. commanders are beginning to question the fund, seeing little evidence that the millions pumped into Iraq -- and now Afghanistan -- have achieved its goals.
Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, a former commander in northern Iraq, said local bosses often used the program to enrich themselves.
Col. Craig Collier, who led a battalion in Baghdad, said, "We've allowed a theory to become dogma without introspection."
Comment: "without introspection" means "unquestioningly, without thinking about it."
Dan Thomasson: Speed Up The Withdrawal From Iraq -- And Start Leaving Afghanistan
From the San Angelo Standard Times:
DAN THOMASSON: A golden chance to quit Iraq
January 3, 2011
WASHINGTON — What a rare opportunity: It seems the Iraqi government wants us out of there on the agreed upon end-of-2011 timetable, no slippage or remaining troops to clean up things. [think how crazy it is that the American government was apparently waiting to find out if Maliki wanted American troops to stay or go, and he -- unsurprisingly, now that the Shi'a control everything, wants them to go. But what if he had requested that American troops stay? Would we then have dutifully complied? I'm afraid many would think we should]
At least that is what Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has told The Wall Street Journal and I, for one, am not only willing to take his word as gospel but hope fervently that the Obama administration feels the same as the new year dawns.
Actually, why not just begin the exodus a few months early, turning the security over to Iraqi military and police?
Maliki, who has had his own political difficulties since the elections and now holds tenuous control through a shaky coalition, nevertheless put it this way to the Journal: “The last American soldier will leave Iraq. This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration. It is sealed.”
To make his remarks more palatable to concerned American allies, he said that he also would not allow his nation to be pulled into an alliance with Iran. We will see. There are forces within the Iraqi government who would like that to happen and Maliki’s loose hold may make such a promise difficult to keep.
Certainly there will be pressures in that direction. But our concern should be in relieving the burden of this unfortunate occupation both in manpower and money, and in damage to American foreign policy.
This is a war that should never have happened, one based, as we all know, on false assumptions, bad intelligence and terrible judgment after the terrorist attack on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
Because of that mistake, we were diverted from achieving what might have been a significant dismantling of the al-Qaida network, including the capture or elimination of Osama bin Laden and his Taliban allies, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
The drawdown of troops and money to support the Iraq action cut short a successful incursion into the Afghan mountains and set the stage for an increasingly impossible situation now in Afghanistan.
Veteran foreign policy observers always have considered that a residue of U.S. support troops would remain after the deadline for withdrawal, if only to assure the safety of the U.S. diplomatic mission and carry out orderly dismantling of the very large American civilian presence, including contactors helping rebuild the Iraq infrastructure. Maliki seems to think his own forces are now capable of assuring security.
President Barack Obama needs to remember that he promised during his 2008 campaign to end this nightmare without qualification. He now has a gold-plated invitation and he should take it before it disappears and we are stuck there for another decade.
That also is true of Afghanistan, where the government has been making noises about accommodation with the Taliban. What other clues do we need about the inevitability of Taliban success whenever we leave? Biding their time is what they do best.
All this has been brought about by a misguided belief that we can bring a U.S. brand of democracy to a world that never has had it. The theocratic influence is so strong as to deny rational government as we perceive it.
Most Americans have wearied of the decade-long wars that continue to deplete the nation’s military resources, most importantly its young men and women.
There is an increasing national disillusionment with outdated policies based on theories that our national security interests are involved. Terrorists are not just located in these two countries. In fact, there never were many, if any, in Iraq until we got there. Now, they are everywhere — in Yemen and Pakistan and Indonesia, in Britain and in our own country.
At the risk of being called a boob by the striped-pants set when it comes to foreign policy, it is time to end these unwise excursions. Maliki has given us that rare opportunity to cut our losses. [how telling it is that Dan Thomasson feels he must say that "Maliki has given us that rare opportunity" by telling us that he wants us to leave, as if we otherwise were obligated to stay -- a mad world, my masters]
Take him up on it, Mr. Obama. Begin that total pullout sooner than later, and let Iraq get back to solving its own problems, if possible. If it can’t, that should no longer be our concern. That is even truer of Afghanistan, which has resisted change through the centuries.
'Coptic community in Germany fears terror attacks'.
'BERLIN - Germany's Interior Ministry on Monday said members of the country's Coptic Christian minority fear they may be attacked during this week's Orthodox Christmas celebrations.
'Ministry spokesman Stefan Paris said that members of the Coptic Church expressed their fears in a letter to the ministry on New Year's Eve - hours before a deadly suicide bombing by a group of Islamic hard-liners on a Coptic Church in Egypt killed at least 21 people.
'Paris said the ministry was currently in security talks with the Copts.
'Bishop Anba Damian of the Coptic community in Germany, which counts around 6000 members, told German public radio that state police had warned them of online threats by Islamists".
'French police probe threats on Coptic Christians'.
'PARIS - French police said Monday they have tightened security at Coptic Christian churches and opened a probe into online messages threatening terror attacks against such religious sites in France.
'The Internet threats were discovered soon after a bombing against Coptic Christians in Egypt killed 21 people on Saturday.
'A priest in the Paris suburb of Chatenay-Malabry lodged a legal complaint about the threats after a member of his congregation noticed the messages online, police said.
'Police said the Chatenay-Malabry site was among the European churches mentioned in the threats. French anti-terror police have opened a preliminary investigation.
'The Paris police prefecture said officers in the capital and its surroundings had put Coptic churches under more careful surveillance since the messages were discovered.
'Tens of thousands of members of [the] Coptic community live in France'.
Let's compare the numbers. There are in France 'tens of thousands' of Copts, whose co-religionists are mercilessly persecuted and harassed by Muslims in Egypt; and there are, also, in France, millions of Muslims, some of whom are clearly starting to feel strong enough to get away with doing to Copts in France exactly what their co-religionists do and have done, in Egypt, Same thing, in Germany: some thousands of peaceful Copts, escaped from the living death that is de facto dhimmitude in Egypt; and millions of ever-more-aggressive and boastful Muslims. If there were no Muslims resident in France or Germany, the massive and expensive and time-consuming measures the French and German police must now take to try to protect the resident Copts from the murderous threat presented by the Muslims, would not be needed. Time for Germany and France to stop importing Muslims, and to find some way of exporting those they already have. When peaceful and pleasant Person A is openly threatened with murder by aggressive and unpleasant Person B (whose gang members have already killed many members of Person A's family) why on earth - if one has accepted Person A as a guest within one's house - should one feel obliged also to admit Person B to the house, and allow him to lurk in corridors and behind doors, sharpening his knife? - CM.
Islamophobia was invented to silence those Muslims who question the Koran and who demand equality of the sexes. By Pascal Bruckner
At the end of the 1970s, Iranian fundamentalists invented the term "Islamophobia" formed in analogy to "xenophobia". The aim of this word was to declare Islam inviolate. Whoever crosses this border is deemed a racist. This term, which is worthy of totalitarian propaganda, is deliberately unspecific about whether it refers to a religion, a belief system or its faithful adherents around the world.
But confession has no more in common with race than it has with secular ideology. Muslims, like Christians, come from the Arab world, Africa, Asia and Europe, just as Marxists, liberals and anarchists come or came from all over. In a democracy, no one is obliged to like religion, and until proved otherwise, they have the right to regard it as retrograde and deceptive. Whether you find it legitimate or absurd that some people regard Islam with suspicion – as they once did Catholicism – and reject its aggressive proselytism and claim to total truth – this has nothing to do with racism.
Do we talk about 'liberalophobia' or 'socialistophobia' if someone speaks out against the distribution of wealth or market domination. Or should we reintroduce blasphemy, abolished by the revolution in 1791, as a statutory offence, in line with the annual demands of the "Organisation of the Islamic Conference". Or indeed the French politician Jean-Marc Roubaud, who wants to see due punishment for anyone who "disparages the religious feelings of a community or a state". Open societies depend on the peaceful coexistence of the principle belief systems and the right to freedom of opinion. Freedom of religion is guaranteed, as is the freedom to criticise religions. The French, having freed themselves from centuries of ecclesiastical rule, prefer discretion when it comes to religion. To demand separate rights for one community or another, imposing restrictions on the right to question dogma is a return to the Ancien Regime.
The term "Islamophobia" serves a number of functions: it denies the reality of an Islamic offensive in Europe all the better to justify it; it attacks secularism by equating it with fundamentalism. Above all, however, it wants to silence all those Muslims who question the Koran, who demand equality of the sexes, who claim the right to renounce religion, and who want to practice their faith freely and without submitting to the dictates of the bearded and doctrinaire. It follows that young girls are stigmatised for not wearing the veil, as are French, German or English citizens of Maghribi, Turkish, African or Algerian origin who demand the right to religious indifference, the right not to believe in God, the right not to fast during Ramadan. Fingers are pointed at these renegades, they are delivered up to the wrath of their religions communities in order to quash all hope of change among the followers of the Prophet.
On a global scale, we are abetting the construction of a new thought crime, one which is strongly reminiscent of the way the Soviet Union dealt with the "enemies of the people". And our media and politicians are giving it their blessing. Did not the French president himself, never one to miss a blunder - not compare Islamophobia with Antisemitism? A tragic error. Racism attacks people for what they are: black, Arab, Jewish, white. The critical mind on the other hand undermines revealed truths and subjects the scriptures to exegesis and transformation. To confuse the two is to shift religious questions from an intellectual to a judicial level. Every objection, every joke becomes a crime.
The desecration of graves or of places of worship is naturally a matter for the courts. In France, for the most part it is Christian graveyards or churches that are affected. Let us not forget that today, of all the monotheist religions, Christianity is the most persecuted – particularly in Islamic countries such Algeria, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey or Egypt. It is easier to be a Muslim in London, New York or Paris than a Protestant or Catholic in the Middle East or North Africa. But the term "Christianophobia" does not function – and that's a good thing. There are words which taint language, which obscure meaning. "Islamophobia" is one of the words that we urgently need to delete from our vocabulary.
Karim Sadjadpour wishes to present U.S. diplomat George Kennan as a prophet "anticipating today's Iran" who would instruct America to "remain 'at all times cool and collected' -- and allow the march of history to run its course" ("The Sources of Soviet Iranian Conduct," November 2010).
Perhaps it is only fair, then, to ask what Kennan did say about Iran during his lifetime. In 1952, when Iran's nationalist Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh challenged the West's control of Iranian oil, Kennan wrote to Secretary of State Dean Acheson urging that the West show Iran "the cold gleam of adequate and determined force.… Had the British occupied Abadan [Iran's oil fields and refinery], I would personally have no great worry about what happened to the rest of the country."
During the Iranian hostage crisis in 1980, Kennan told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the United States should declare war on Iran and "hold in readiness means of unilateral pressure on the Iranian regime, not excluding the military one." William F. Buckley praised Kennan's uncharacteristic tough talk, adding, "I can imagine that the senators stared at [Kennan] as if he had just been entered by an incubus."
In sum, when Kennan did offer his wisdom on Iran, he expressed views opposed to those Sadjadpour would attribute to him. Why? Iran was no Soviet Union, and Kennan held its pretensions in contempt. It's not far-fetched to imagine a resurrected Kennan suggesting that the United States bomb Natanz. That Sadjadpour turns him into a posthumous supporter of "containing" Iran is amusing -- or would be, if it weren't so misleading.
Wexler-Fromer Fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Karim Sadjadpour replies:
I thank Martin Kramer for his sober response. My intent was not to endorse George Kennan as a foreign-policy prophet but to note the striking parallels between Kennan's characterization of the Soviet regime and that of the current Iranian regime. Furthermore, while I found Kennan's views toward Iran in 1952 and 1980 interesting, given how dramatically the political context has changed they don't tell us much about how he would have approached Iran in 2010. Recall that Donald Rumsfeld warmly embraced Saddam Hussein in Baghdad in 1983; 20 years later he organized a massive "shock and awe" military campaign against him.
Today's Iran is central to at least a half dozen major U.S. foreign-policy challenges: Afghanistan, Iraq, the Arab-Israeli conflict, terrorism, energy security, and nuclear proliferation. Bombing Iran would likely severely exacerbate, not ameliorate, these challenges.
Also in contrast to 1952 and 1980 is that today's Iran has the most vibrant and promising democracy movement in the Islamic Middle East. There exists a near-universal consensus among Iranian democracy activists that military action could render their movement stillborn and entrench the Iranian regime's most radical elements for many years to come.
Finally, Kennan appreciated that military adventures were not to be entered into lightly. A few years before his death in 2005 at age 101, Kennan was asked what advice he would give then-President George W. Bush and his national security team in dealing with Iraq. "Whenever you have a possibility of going in two ways," Kennan said, "either for peace or for war, for peaceful methods or for military methods, in the present age there is a strong prejudice for the peaceful ones. War seldom ever leads to good results." [one often does not have a choice: it was necessary for the Americans to enter the war against the Nazis and Imperial Japan. Often the failure to go to war, or to undertake efforts that, while they might involve violence,
The botta-e-risposta in the letters column of FP, between Martin Kramer and Karim Sadjadpour, prompts the following.
There are opponents of the Islamic Republic of Iran - ferocious opponents, such as Karim Sadjadpour -- with whom, nonetheless, one must part company. For they remain opponents of any attack on the nuclear project of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and at a certain point, their interests so clearly diverge from those of the advanced Western world that they should no longer be heeded. '
For they claim, without the slightest evidence, that any such attack will lead to greater support for the regime, and we should wait for this Green Movement to succeed. But plenty of hopes -- dashed and dashed again -- have been placed in that Green Movement. It has been, and will be, suppressed.
One thing is certain: if the Islamic Republic of Iran manages, despite economic sanctions, despite Stuxnet, despite every other kind of pressure, to manufacture nculear weapons -- it already possesses the missiles to deliver them to distant targets -- the amazing and o'erweening Persian pride that every foreign observer has noted as such a remarkable feature of Iran (and where does this pride come from? Might it come from the sense, widely diffused among Farsi speakers, that they are superior to the desert Arabs, so self-evidently more primitive, and superior to, to the Turks, the other people with whom comparison is naturally invited, and who lack the long and impressive pre-Islamic history of which Persians can boast, and appeal to, if they must, as part of their alternative or supplementary identity to Islam?) will come into play, and the primitive masses will rally around that Islamic Republic, and there will be chance to dislodge it. This is something many Iranians in exile refuse to recognize, just as many of them, secular opponents of the Shah, were not able to recognize how powerful Khomeini was, and how weak in the end their appeal to the primitive masses in Iran -- who will always outnumber the kierostamis -- turned out to be.
But we who are not Iranians, and do not have any particular stake in misperceiving reality -- so many in the Middle East of Muslim backgrounds, even when they come to detest many of the manifestations of Islam, refuse to recognize their own reality, or how Islam explains the many failures -- political, economic, social, intellectual, and moral -- of their own peoples and polities -- don't have to agree with those who, just because they are against the Islamic Republic, are seen too easily as allies. Not always, and not everywhere.
The opposite is more likely: that an American attack (ideally an American attack, because the American action can be forgiven as that of a Great Power, while if Israel attacks -- an Israel that could prove to be an ally of a future Iran that could use a non-Islamic ally with whom a connection, extending back to pre-Islamic Iran, can be constructed and employed as part of an alternative national narrative, one that steadily diminishes the role of, and distances the people of Iran from, Islam, now to be perceived as the "gift of the Arabs" that Persians may come to regard as a poisoned chalice.
As for the quoting of Kennan on the unwisdom of foreign military adventures, yes -- and those foreign military adventures include the follies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those should never have been undertaken, beyond the first attacks to destroy Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. And in Iraq, once the Americans did enter, they ought promptly to have left, in early 2004, as soon as it was clear that the regime of Saddam Hussein could never be re-established.
Damage to the nuclear project will humiliate the regime, and after a few weeks or a few months, sudden loyalty will dissipate, and the regime will simply sit there, with the expenditure of so many tens of billions now seen to have been a waste, and the country still subject to economic sanctions that will not end, not until the nuclear project of Iran - under any regime -- comes to a stop. And if the Green Movement, or others opposed to the Islamic Republic, are to have a chance, that nuclear project must not succeed.
This is what too many otherwise seemingly sensible Iranians in exile refuse to recognize. Well, we are not they, are we? And we don't have to accept or share their ferocious loyalty to the idea of Iran, do we? We need only understand it, enough to know why it is necessary not to let ourselves be misled and prevented from acting in the best long-term interests of Infidels. .
On December 14, 2004 I posted a piece on Islamophobia and the use of that term at the U.N.. Since I have just posted a piece on the word by Pascal Bruckner, I thought this would be a good time to once again post one of my own pieces on the same subject:
“When the world is compelled to coin a new term to take account of increasingly widespread bigotry -- that is a sad and troubling development,” Annan said. “Such is the case with ‘Islamophobia.’ The word seems to have emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Today, the weight of history and the fallout of recent developments have left many Muslims around the world feeling aggravated and misunderstood, concerned about the erosion of their rights and even fearing for their physical safety.”
The “world” was not “compelled to coin a new term” -- it was Muslims who coined the word, and they did so deliberately. For that word so deliberately kept undefined is merely a weapon employed to deflect criticism, to label all those who may offer criticism of Islam and of its adherents, basing their criticism not on some blind prejudice, but on their own observations and study. Indeed, the entire Western world -- its political leaders, its media, its university departments of Middle Eastern studies -- have all been engaged in a massive effort to deflect criticism or disarm it. It is despite all that that Infidels everywhere are coming to some conclusions about Islam, and the more they study, and the more they observe, and the more “Interfaith” gatherings and little Muslim Outreach evenings they attend, all of which end up being dismal exercises in Taqiyya and Tu-Quoque argumentation, the more wary, and critical, and indignant, and sometimes more, they become. The game is up. From a Beslan school full of children to a Bali nightclub full of revellers, from Madrid subways to Moscow theatres, from New York skyscrapers to Najaf mosques (where Sadr’s bezonians tortured, killed, and stacked the bodies of Iraqis who had opposed their reign of terror), from Istanbul to India, the evidence just keeps piling up. And the evidence, too, of what is actually in the Qur’an and hadith and sira -- and how many Infidels, a few years ago, even had heard of the “hadith” and the “sira,” or had any idea what was really in the Qur’an, or had ever heard of the Treaty of al-Hudaibiyya -- is now online, and it can easily be read. And all the excuses, all the nonsense, can no longer be offered up -- for we Infidels, fortunately, have the guidance of defectors from Islam, ex-Muslims such as Ibn Warraq (whose own three-part guide, posted at Jihad Watch, to debating Muslims, and how not to be intimidated or snookered, will for many prove invaluable).
Kofi Annan, as Oriana Fallaci notes in her Fallaci Intervista Fallaci, looks, on the surface, to be far more presentable, and far more decent, and far more intelligent -- grey hair, gravelly voice, grave mien -- than in fact he is. The words quoted above are the words of a simpleton. Perhaps Edward Mortimer, that early admirer of Khomeini and Nazi-Zionist conspiracy theorist, who feels a special responsibility to protect Islam, is the main puppet-master here, or perhaps it is Ms. Rishmawi (the “Palestinian” behind-the-scenes operative who was so influential with Mary Robinson, she of the antisemitic lynch-mob meeting in Durban in September 2001). Or perhaps it is Annan -- the man who is responsible for more black African deaths than anyone since Leopold III of Belgium, who really thinks that the word “Islamophobia” came into use because it actually described a real, and deplorable condition -- that is, unfair, unjust, prejudiced and irrational (i.e. without foundation, against reason and logic) phobia, or hatred, of Islam. What is unreasonable or irrational would be the opposite -- that is, the continued inability of many Infidels to regard Islam as just another “religion” worthy of respect, perhaps at the edges a bit rough, but hijacked by a few extremists, or even many extremists, but having a decency at its core, a real religion of “peace” and “tolerance” as a number of Western leaders have insisted.
If, upon reading and studying Qur’an and hadith and sira, and if, after looking around the world over the past few years, and if, after having studied the history of Jihad-conquest and Muslim behavior toward dhimmis -- Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Buddhists -- you do not feel a deep hostility toward the belief-system of Islam and toward its adherents (for the category of “moderate” is nearly meaningless, given the dangerous use to which “moderates” can be put in continuing to mislead the unwary Infidels), then it is you who are irrational, and need to have your head examined.
Kofi Annan is not the worst secretary-general of the U.N. That prize, so far, goes to Nazi war criminal Kurt Waldheim. But Annan still has some months, or even years, to go. It may soon be neck-and-neck. It may be a photo finish. And that’s not all that will be finished.
The word “Islamophobia” must be held up for inspection, its users constantly asked precisely how they would define that word, and they should be put on the defensive for waving about what is clearly meant to be a scare-word that will silence criticism.
So let us ask them which of the following criticisms of Islam is to be considered “Islamophobia”:
1) Muhammad is a role-model for all time. Muhammad married Aisha when she was 6 and had sexual intercourse with her when she was 9. I find appalling that Muslims consider this act of Muhammad to be that of the man who is in every way a role model, and hence to be emulated. In particular, I am appalled that virtually the first act of the Ayatollah Khomeini, a very orthodox and learned Shi’a theologian, was to lower the marriageable age of girls in Iran to 9 -- because, of course, it was Aisha’s age when Muhammad had sexual relations with her.
2) I find appalling that Islam provides a kind of Total Regulation of the Universe, so that its adherents are constantly asking for advise as to whether or not, for example, they can have wear their hair in a certain way, grow their beards in a certain way, wish an Infidel a Merry Christmas (absolutely not!).
3) I find appalling the religiously-sanctioned doctrine of taqiyya -- would you like some quotes, sir, about what it is, or would you like to google “taqiyya” and find its sources in the Qur’an?
4) I find appalling many of the acts which Muhammad committed, including his massacre of the Banu Qurayza, his ordering the assassination of many of those he deemed his opponents, even an old man, a woman, or anyone whom, he thought, merely mocked him.
5) I find appalling the hatred expressed throughout the Qur’an, the hadith, and the sira for Infidels -- all Infidels.
6) I find nauseating the imposition of the jizya on Infidels, the requirement that they wear identifying garb on their clothes and dwellings, that they not be able to build or repair houses of worship without the permission of Muslim authorities, that they must ride donkeys sidesaddle and dismount in the presence of Muslims, that they have no legal recourse against Muslims for they are not equal at law -- and a hundred other things, designed to insure their permanent, as the canonical texts say, “humiliation.”
7) I find the mass murder of 60-70 million Hindus, over 250 years of Mughal rule, and the destruction of tens of thousands of artifacts and Hindu (and Buddhist) temples, some of the Hindu ones listed in works by Sita Ram Goel, appalling.
8) I find the 1300-year history of the persecution of the Zoroastrians, some of it continuing to this day, according the great scholar of Zoroastrianism, Mary Boyce, which has led to their reduction to a mere 150,000, something to deplore. There are piquant details in her works, including the deliberate torture and killing of the dogs (which are revered by Zoroastrians), even by small Muslim children who are taught to so behave.
9) I find the record of Muslim intellectual achievement lacking, and I attribute this lack to the failure to encourage free and skeptical inquiry, which is necessary for, among other things, the development of modern science.
10) I deplore the prohibition on sculpture or on paintings of living things. I deplore the horrific vandalism and destruction of Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Hindu, and Buddhist sites.
11) I deplore the Muslim jurisprudence which renders all treaties between Infidels and Muslims worthless from the viewpoint of the Infidels, though worth a great deal from the viewpoint of the Muslims, for they are only signing a “hudna,” a truce-treaty rather than a true peace-treaty -- and because they must go to war against the Infidel, or press their Jihad against the Infidel in other ways, on the model of the Treaty of al-Hudaibiyya, no Infidel state or people can ever trust a treaty with Muslims.
12) I deplore the speech of Mahathir Mohammad, so roundly applauded last year, in which he called for the “development” not of human potential, not of art and science, but essentially of weapons technology and the use of harnessing and encouraging Muslim “brain power” for the sole purpose of defeating the Infidels, as a reading of that entire speech makes absolutely clear. Here -- would you like me to read it now for the audience?
13) I deplore the fact that Muslims are taught, and they seem to have taken those teachings to heart, to offer their loyalty only to fellow Muslims, the umma al-islamiyya, and never to Infidels, or to the Infidel nation-state to which they have uttered an oath of allegiance but apparently such an oath must be an act of perjury, because such loyalty is impossible. Am I wrong? Show me exactly what I have misunderstood about Islam.
14) I deplore the ululations of pleasure over acts of terrorism, the delight shown by delighted and celebrating crowds in Cairo, Ramallah, Khartoum, Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, and of course all over Saudi Arabia, when news of the World Trade Center attacks was known -- and I can, if you wish, supply the reports from those capitals which show this to have taken place. I attribute statements of exultation about the “Infidels” deserving it to the fact that Islamic tenets view the world as a war between the Believers and the Infidels.
15) On that score, I deplore that mad division of the world between Dar al-Islam and dar al-Harb, and the requirement that there be uncompromising hostility between the two, until the final triumph of the former, and the permanent subjugation, and incorporation into it, of the latter.
16) I deplore the sexual inequality and mistreatment of women which I believe I can show has a clear basis in the canonical Islamic texts, and is not simply, pace Ebadi and other quasi-”reformers,” a “cultural” matter.
17) I deplore the fact that Infidels feel, with justice, unsafe in almost every Muslim country, but that Muslims treat the Infidel countries, and their inhabitants, with disdain, arrogance, and endless demands for them to bend, to change, to what Muslims want -- whether it be to remove crucifixes, or change the laws of laicity in France, or to demand that “hate speech” laws be extended in England so as to prevent any serious and sober criticism of Islam.
18) I deplore the emphasis on the collective, and the hatred for the autonomy of the individual. In particular, I believe that someone born into Islam has a perfect right to leave Islam if he or she chooses -- and that there should be no punishment, much less the murderous punishment so often inflicted.
19) I find the record of Muslim political despotism to be almost complete -- with the exception of those Muslim countries and regimes that have, as Ataturk did, carried out a series of measures to limit and constrain Islam.
20) I deplore the fact that while Muslims claim it is a “universalist” religion, it has been a vehicle for Arab imperialism, causing those conquered and Islamized in some cases to forget, or become indifferent or even hostile to, their own pre-Islamic histories. The requirement that the Qur’an be read in Arabic (one of the first things Ataturk did was commission a Turkish Qur’an and tafsir, or commentary), and the belief by many Muslims that the ideal form of society can be derived from the Sunna of 7th century Arabia, and that their own societies are worth little, is an imperialism that goes to culture and to history, and is the worst and most complete kind.
21) I deplore the attacks on ex-Muslims who often must live in fear. I deplore the attacks on Theo van Gogh and others, and the absence of serious debate about the nature of Islam and of its reform -- except as a means to further beguile and distract Infidels who are becoming more wary.
22) I deplore the emptiness of the “Tu Quoque” arguments directed at Christians and Jews, based on a disingenuous quotation of passages -- for example, from Leviticus -- that are completely ignored and have not been invoked for two thousand years, and I deplore the rewriting of history so that a Muslim professor can tell an American university audience that “the Ku Klux Klan used to crucify (!) African-Americans, everyone standing around during the crucifixion singing Christian hymns (!).”
23) I deplore the phony appeals of the “we all share one Abrahamic faith” and “we are the three monotheisms” when, to my mind, a Christian or a Jew has far less to fear from, and in the end far more in common with, any practicing polytheistic Hindu.
24) I do not think Islam, which is based on the idea of world-conquest, not of accommodation, and whose adherents do not believe in Western pluralism except insofar as this can be used as an instrument, temporarily most useful, to protect the position of Islam until its adherents have firmly established themselves.
25) I deplore the view, in Islam, that it is not a saving of an individual soul that is involved when one conducts Da’wa or the Call to Islam, but rather, something that appears to be much more like signing someone up for the Army of Islam. He need not have read all the fine print; he need not know Islamic tenets; he need not even have read or know what is in sira and hadith or much of the Qur’an; he need only recite a single sentence. That does not show a deep concern for the nature of the conversion (sorry, “reversion”).
26) I deplore the sentiment that “Islam is to dominate and not to be dominated. “ I deplore the sentiment “War is deception” as uttered by Muhammad. I deplore what has happened over 1350 years, in vast swaths of territory, formerly filled with Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Buddhists, much of which is now today almost monotonously Islamic. I do not think Islam welcomes any diversity if it means the possibility of full equality for non-Muslims.
27) I deplore the fact that slavery is permitted in Islam, that it is discussed in the Qur’an, that it was suppressed in 19th century Arabia only through the influence of British naval power in the Gulf; that it was formally done away with in Saudi Arabia only in 1962; that it still exists in Mali, and the Sudan, and even Mauritania; that it may exist in the Arabian interior, but certainly the treatment of the Thai, Filipino, Indian and other female house workers in Arab households amounts to slavery, and it is no accident that there has never been a Muslim William Wilberforce.
I could go on, and am prepared to adduce history, and quotations from the canonical texts. And so are hundreds of thousands of Infidels who have looked into Islam, or in their own countries, had a close look at the Muslim populations which have made their own Infidel existences far more unpleasant, expensive, and dangerous than they would otherwise be.
If this is “Islamophobia” -- show me exactly why it is irrational (i.e. not based on facts or observable behavior, or a study of history), an “irrational” dislike or even hatred of Islam. If you cannot show that, then perhaps the word should not be invoked. But if you do invoke it, be prepared to have copious quotations from Qur’an and hadith and sira constantly presented to audiences so that they may judge for themselves, without the “guidance” of apologists for Islam, both Muslim and non-Muslim.
A Small Foray Into What Should Be Our Shared Culture
Although people like Australian sociologist John Carroll (The Wreck of Western Culture, 1993) and George Scialabba (Divided Mind, 2006) are extremely prone to blame reason and humanism for the decline of cultural life in the West and, in fact, to proclaim that cultural life has ended in the West, their viewpoints are wrong and the arguments they deploy are laced with the fatalistic thinking so common to intellectuals brought up over the last few decades. Their upbringing makes it impossible for them to realise how deeply imbued with left-wing cant their ratiocinative processes actually are and on what shaky ground even the starting points of their arguments rest. They can only look at history through the red-tinted glasses of neo-communist thinking and they take some quite unwarranted socialist assumptions for granted.
One of the great weakness of people like Carroll and Scialabba, and others too numerous to mention, is that they assume that there is something wrong with Western culture and society but they are not interested in what is actually wrong, they are interested only in the aetiology – what could have caused the wrongness. In other words they don’t give a fig for what the disease might be, or even if there is one, they just want to find some cause or other for what they perceive to be wrong!
After Auschwitz, the gulag, Hiroshima, Cambodia and 9/11, they gaily proclaim that humanism and reason have failed and that Western social life and culture is dead or dying. They attribute the existence of atrocities to the presence of humanism and reason as two of the core statements of Western culture. They claim that the modernity (which their view of history leads them to think first began to emerge in the fifteenth century) is responsible for all the ills of today’s Western societies. This is a prime example of socialist reasoning and is, as most of you will already have seen, completely false.
It’s false because we don’t actually know if there is anything wrong with Western societies or not. We know that they are changing fast and that many people in our societies seem to be ignorant of our history and our cultural precepts and norms – so what’s new about that? Maybe what goes on inside our communities is exactly the way a strong cultural tradition should evolve and carry on. Maybe we are responding to the challenges which our communities throw at us in exactly the way we should if we are to be around for another five thousand years. I certainly don’t detect the death of my cultural milieu – nor indeed the diminishing of the cultural circles in which I don’t move. In fact I detect quite the opposite.
However, I do detect the diminution of awareness about what should be our shared culture – the constructs in all spheres of human endeavour that we should hold in common and which should bind us together – our history, our musical culture, our basic sciences, our most prominent visual arts and so on. Outside of our own cultural circles we seem to have less and less in common with one another. Western societies have a huge, and hugely vibrant, cultural life but that cultural life has become, over the course of my lifetime, much more fragmented than it used to be. Is that a ‘wrongness’? Probably not: maybe, as I stated in the last paragraph, that is more than likely the way a strong society evolves its culture when this level of material wealth has been achieved and so many individuals exist all at the same time.
Talking of fragmentation reminds me of Frank Roscoe – onetime executive at Hawkes and Son (London) Ltd. (music publishers) – and what he wrote many, many, many decades ago:
“Every civilised community has its heritage of song, a possession built up by successive generations and embodying those elements of folk-tradition and folk-melody which are part of the fabric of the national life. Too often the heritage has been ignored or despised, just as the treasures of one generation are sometimes consigned to the lumber-room and forgotten in favour of up-to-date but often inferior substitutes.”
We have not just our heritage of song, of course, but also, and as I wrote a paragraph ago, our heritage of history, pictures and so on.
However, lets stay with our heritage of song to finish with. Here’s a majority of simple quiz-like questions about what used to be thought of as our common heritage of song – but I’ll bet that anybody under forty-five years of age won’t be able to answer any of these without recourse to a well known search engine or some other reference source. I’ll give you the answers at the end of the week.
If you were talking of Alexander and Hercules with whom could they not compare?
Our war cry is “Freedom, God and Right!” Who are we?
“So we made a thoroughfare for freedom and her train, sixty miles in latitude, three hundred to the main...”. What were we doing at the time?
If “we’ll sing at Saint Anne’s our parting hymn”, what place shall see us “float over its surges soon”?
If “Willy shall dance with Jane and Johnny shall dance with Joan”, then what dance will they dance?
“He’s bright and fair, combing down his yellow hair”, but what’s his name and whom did he marry?
“As they tread their path of duty, show they to the world the beauty of the peace of heav’n so truly”, but when did they do this and what are they?
“A few more days for to tote the weary load, No matter, 'twill never be light, A few more days till we totter on the road, Then...” Well, then what?
“What made the ball so fine?” “What made th’assembly shine?”
“Down in de cornfield, hear dat mournful sound”. Who is making that sound and how and why?
Where did the cabin boy of the Golden Vanitee sink the Spanish gallalie?
Who gave me her promise on Maxwelton’s bonnie braes?
“Heav’n may help the poor man’s need, Soon the end may crown the deed.” Who is rowing?
If “I had a goose and the goose pleased me”, how did the cat go?
“Once upon a time in Arkansas, an old man sat in his little cabin door”. What type of tune was he fiddling?
She’s “a Creole lady and where she lives is cool and shady”. What’s her name?
“Venus here will choose her dwelling, and forsake her Cyprian groves”. Where, exactly and as the poet has it, does Venus choose?
What is “my delight on a shiny night, In the season of the year” and in which shire do I do it?
If “we sing of the Polar bear fearless and bold,” and we know that “the Crocodile lives in the tropical belt”, then how many suits of clothes do we need?
“There was once a man with a double chin, who performed with skill on the violin”. What was the only tune he would play?
Where has the minstrel boy gone and where is his harp?