These are all the Blogs posted on Wednesday, 8, 2010.
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Two US troops gunned down by Iraqi comrade
Unlike this rare incident and this rare incident, this latest rare incident took place in Iraq. The motive is unknown, and no pattern has yet been observed. By Prashant Rao for AFP:
BAGHDAD (AFP) - Two American soldiers were killed on Tuesday when an Iraqi army comrade opened fire after an argument over a sports match, the first US deaths since Washington declared an end to combat operations here.
The shooting, which also left nine American soldiers wounded, happened at the Iraq's Al-Saadiq Air Base near the city of Tuz Khurmatu in Salaheddin province while a US army company was visiting local security forces.
"Iraqi soldiers and American military advisers were playing sports when a quarrel broke out between an Iraqi soldier and an American," defence ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al-Askari told AFP.
"The Iraqi soldier opened fire on them," Askari said, naming the gunman as Soran Rahman Saleh Wali.
"The American soldiers killed the Iraqi soldier. We have opened a high-level investigation into this issue."
A US military statement said: "Eleven US soldiers were engaged with small arms fire, killing two and wounding nine, inside an Iraqi army commando compound."
The gunman was a member of one of the army's elite special forces units, said Colonel Hussein Bayati, police commander for Tuz Khurmatu, north of Baghdad.
There were no details on what set off the argument or on the Iraqi soldier's possible motives.
However, Bayati said that on Monday, US and Iraqi forces "began searching houses in the neighbourhood where this soldier was from because they suspected Ansar al-Sunna (insurgent) fighters were hiding there."
It was unclear whether Wali might have already been under surveillance or if the sweep had angered him.
Under the terms of a bilateral security pact, American soldiers are allowed to return fire in self-defence, and take part in operations if requested by their Iraqi counterparts.
Thank goodness U.S. negotiators were able to push through the self-defence clause.
"This is a tragic and cowardly act, which I firmly believe was an isolated incident and is certainly not reflective of the Iraqi security forces in Salaheddin," said Major General Tony Cuculo, US commander in northern Iraq.
There is also the case of Kaissar Saady al-Juboory, a soldier in the Iraqi Army who shot 5 US soldiers in December 2007, killing Capt. Rowdy Inman and Sgt. Benjamin Portell. The Association of Muslim Scholars, a Sunni group, claimed that the US soldiers were beating a pregnant Iraqi woman, and Kaissar Saady al-Juboory shot the US soldiers to protect her. Quoting the Association of Muslim Scholars:
"His blood rose and he asked the occupying soldiers to stop beating the woman. Their answer through the translator was: 'We will do what we want.' So he opened fire on them."
Quoting Sheikh Juma' al-Dawar:
"Kaissar is from the al-Juboor tribes in Gayara -- tribes with morals that Americans do not understand. Juboor tribes and all other tribes are proud of Kaissar and what he did by killing the American soldiers. Now he is a hero, with a name that will never be forgotten"
The US military denied reports of the beating of pregnant women, and said that Kaissar was a member of a Sunni insurgent group.
There was also an incident April 6, 2006 in which an Iraqi soldier shot and killed U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Bryan N. Taylor inside a coalition base near Al Qaim in Iraq.
UPDATE: The shooter in the most recent incident has been identified as Soran Rahman Saleh Wali. His brother Marwan, who works as a policeman in Tuz Khurmatu, has been arrested.
Posted on 09/08/2010 1:56 AM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Why Do We Bother?
I still find it hard to understand why America was blamed when the museums were looted after the invasion of Iraq. No matter what level of catastrophe happens here, our first thought is never "let's go loot the museums." In Iraq, we have looting and re-looting. And now looting by members of the top levels of government without any concern or sense of responsibility to the past or to future generations. NYTimes:
BAGHDAD - Iraq announced on Tuesday the return of hundreds of looted antiquities that had ended up in the United States, even as a senior official disclosed that 632 pieces repatriated last year and turned over to the office of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki were now unaccounted for.
The latest trove reflects not only a history dating from the world's oldest civilizations but also a more recent and tortured history of war, looting and international smuggling that began under Saddam Hussein, accelerated after the American occupation and continues at archaeological sites to this day.
The returned items include a 4,400-year-old statue of King Entemena of Lagash looted from the National Museum here after the American invasion in 2003; an even older pair of gold earrings from Nimrud stolen in the 1990s and seized before an auction at Christie's in New York last December; and 362 cuneiform clay tablets smuggled out of Iraq that were seized by the American authorities in 2001 and were being stored in the World Trade Center when it was destroyed.
There was also a more recent relic: a chrome-plated AK-47 with a pearl grip and an engraving of Mr. Hussein, taken by an American soldier as booty and displayed at Fort Lewis, Wash. Kitsch, certainly, but priceless in its own way.
While Iraqi officials celebrated the repatriation of what they called invaluable relics - "the return of Iraq's heritage to our house," as the state minister of tourism and antiquities, Qahtan al-Jibouri, put it - the fate of those previously returned raised questions about the country's readiness to preserve and protect its own treasures.
Appearing at a ceremony displaying the artifacts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Iraq's ambassador to the United States, Samir Sumaidaie, pointedly said a previous shipment of antiquities had been returned to Iraq last year aboard an American military aircraft authorized by Gen. David H. Petraeus, only to end up missing.
"They went to the prime minister's office, and that was the last time they were seen," said Mr. Sumaidaie, who has worked fervently with American law enforcement officials in recent years to track down loot that had found its way into the United States.
It was not immediately clear what happened, and Mr. Sumaidaie said he had tried and failed to find out. He did not directly accuse Mr. Maliki's government of malfeasance, but he expressed frustration that the efforts to repatriate works of art and antiquities had resulted in such confusion and mystery.
Ali al-Mousawi, a government spokesman, demanded that the American government account for the artifacts since an American military aircraft delivered them. "We didn't receive anything," he said in a telephone interview.
Mr. Jibouri, one of Mr. Maliki's advisers, said that if the relics were not somewhere in the prime minister's custody, then they would probably be with the Ministry of Culture, which oversees the country's museums. Its spokesman declined to comment....
Posted on 09/08/2010 7:11 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Islamists who want to destroy the state get £100,000 funding
From The Telegraph H/T MfE
Leading members of a group that wants to bring down the British state and replace it with a dictatorship under Islamic law have secured more than £100,000 of taxpayers' money for a chain of schools. Accounts filed at the Charity Commission show that the Government paid a total of £113,411 last year to a foundation run by senior members and activists of Hizb ut-Tahrir - a notorious Islamic extremist group that ministers promised to ban. The public money helped run a nursery school and two Islamic primary schools where children are taught key elements of Hizb's ideology from the age of five.
Hizb regards integration as "dangerous" and says that British Muslims should "fight assimilation" into British society. It wants to create a global Islamic superstate, or "caliphate", initially in Muslim-majority countries and then across the rest of the world. It says that "those [Muslims] who believe in democracy are Kafir", or apostates. It orders all Muslims to keep apart from non-believers and boycott "corrupt" British elections and political processes.
its website previously displayed a leaflet urging Muslims to "kill [Jews] wherever you find them" and at a rally in London earlier this year, Imran Waheed, its chief media adviser in Britain, said that there could be "no peace" with Israel, calling on Muslims to "fight" a "jihad... in the way of Allah" against it.
Its anti-Semitism has resulted in the group being banned in Germany and on some British university campuses. After the bombings in London on July 7, 2005, Tony Blair, who was then prime minister, also promised to ban Hizb, describing it as "fanatical". A ban has not been introduced but the Tories have pledged to outlaw the group and the Home Office continues to regard it as an "organisation of concern". Instead of being proscribed they were able to hire the Society of Friends Meeting House for their conference in July, including a day devoted to the 'Muslima in the 21st century'.
The three schools - in Tottenham, north London, and Slough, Berks - are run by the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation, a registered charity. The foundation's lead trustee is Yusra Hamilton, a leading Hizb activist who is married to Taji Mustafa, the group's chief spokesman in Britain.
On their website, the schools say their "ultimate goal" and "foremost work" is the creation of an "Islamic personality" in children The creation of an "Islamic personality" is a key tenet of Hizb's ideology. The schools' history curriculum states that children are taught that "there must be one ruler of the khilafah [caliphate]". The schools' website says that "in the glorious history of Islam... the Sharia was the norm".
Mrs Hamilton is listed on the electoral roll as residing just around the corner from the Foundation's Tottenham school, with Mr Mustafa under his real name, Urutajirinere Fombo. Contacted by telephone, he confirmed his identity as Mr Mustafa and said that Hizb did not "run" the foundation, but added: "We would certainly approve of those in the Muslim community who seek to establish good Islamic schools."
Here he is speaking at the Al Quds day march on Saturday. The annual presence of Hizb ut-Tahrir is one of the reasons (the others are the promotion of terrorist organisations like Hizbollah and the general call to violence) that March for England and others have countered the demonstration for several years. Their efforts predate the formation of the EDL by at least 4 years.
The Shakhsiyah Foundation spokesman said the government money, from Whitehall's "Free Entitlement" and "Pathfinder" programmes, had been claimed by parents on behalf of the school. However, a spokesman for Haringey council, which administered the grant, said this was incorrect and that the foundation had applied for the money.
The Tottenham school's landlord, a moderate Muslim organisation, said it had serious reservations about its tenant. "They have a contract with us," said Serkan Yumakci, a spokesman for the landlord. "But if we had known then what we know now, things would be very different."
Outside a Victorian Gothic priory in Tottenham, which houses two of the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation's schools, boys spilt out at home-time in their royal blue uniform sweatshirts. Even the smallest girl wore the hijab.
"Hizb ut-Tahrir is not an extremist group," said one mother, Khadija. "They're people who want to stop the US domination of the Middle East."
Was it a good school? "It's a lovely school," she said. "Because they love Islam." When the school realised there was a journalist outside, a teacher came to tell the parents not to talk to us. Some, however, ignored their orders.
"To be honest with you, I don't prefer this school," said one father. "They don't teach good English. Personally, I would say it's not good for integration."
"It is a good school," his daughter, aged about six, interrupted. Asked what she was taught, she replied: "Arabic."
Posted on 09/08/2010 8:07 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
An open letter to Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the PCS Union
Can I call you Mark? Of course I can. In this modern state good manners, things like answering letters or courtesies like the use of Mr and Mrs, have gone.
You are General Secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, or PCS. I used to be a member of your union, but I don't suppose that you are interested, or even remember my three letters to you which you ignored.
I joined SCPS (one of the Civil Service unions which merged to form PCS) in 1976. I wasn't just someone who sat back and took the (never very good) pay rises; for five years until my maternity career break I was a Branch Secretary and I was active in recruitment and personal cases of my members.
Then nearly 3 years ago my colleagues and I needed help from our Union when management told us that we were superfluous to requirements. Our Union representative was supposed to have been present at that meeting but he did not attend. We (my colleagues were also union members of long standing) asked him to come and see us. We were realistic about the low prospect of our jobs being saved in the prevailing climate but we needed assistance with management over the production of our correct records of service and the stress and pressure management was exerting on us. There was also an equal opportunities issue.
That man, who was paid a full time wage to represent us, ignored us. He refused to take or return my calls and declined to either visit our office or give us opportunity to visit him. By supporting each other and using our own knowledge we managed to secure our redundancies and retirement packages ourselves with no assistance from the organisation we paid to give just such assistance.
The only contact I received from PCS during that period was a recorded telephone message commanding me not to vote for the BNP in some upcoming local elections.
Once I was retired I wrote complaining about the Union's failure to give me advice and assistance when I badly needed it. On the advice of the TUC I wrote to you direct. Three times my letters, polite and reasonable letters, were ignored.
You didn't even have the courtesy to pass my letter to one of your team to give me a standard reply ....."Sorry - cannot help you because you are no longer a Civil Servant or member of this Union... blah blah - Goodbye"
But you found time that year to issue a statement that any Civil Servant found to be a member of the BNP should be sacked. The BNP are obnoxious but they are a legal political party. What kind of Trades Union leader wants his members sacked for belonging to a legal political party?
The kind who has time for this sort of thing.
Martin Smith of the Unite Against Fascism and Love Music Hate Racism was in court yesterday on trial for assaulting a police officer. You joined a protest outside court and said
"I've known Martin since 1983. He's always stood against injustice-supporting every strike, standing against the fascists."
After Smith's conviction and sentence for the assault on PC Liung, who was kicked in the genitals by Smith during a demonstration in October, you issued this statement to Socialist Worker.
I am shocked at the verdict delivered in a magistrates court today ... The sentence of 80 hours community service that has been handed to Martin is a travesty of justice.
At PCS we will re-double our efforts to campaign against the far right including organisations such as the BNP and EDL and we will continue to support Martin and other anti-fascist campaigners when they are treated in such an unjust, outrageous way.
PCS will work with UAF and LMHR to fight the far right wherever we can and also to highlight the unequal way in which anti-fascist campaigners and activists are treated in comparison with racist and fascist thugs.
In which case as many criminals convicted of assaulting a police officer receive a custodial sentence the travesty is that Smith was treated so leniently.
While your members, whose contributions pay your £90,000 +pa wage and perks (I note that you quickly reneged on your claim that you would only take the amount of an 'average' salary and pay all excess to the strike fund), face unprecedented job cuts you have time and energy to support a convicted criminal who isn't even a member of PSC but is merely a friend whose hobby you share.
I hope to hear that you are next on a criminal charge. For fraud and obtaining money by deception. You are a disgrace to the Trade Union movement.
A Former Trade Unionist.
Posted on 09/08/2010 10:56 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Islamist gunmen free 732 prisoners in deadly attack on Nigerian jail
From The Telegraph
Over 700 prisoners have escaped a Nigerian jail after heavily armed Islamist gunmen attacked the prison in the central Nigerian city of Bauchi to free 150 Muslim fundamentalists held there. Tuesday night's attack is thought to have been carried out by Boko Haram, which means "Western education is sin" in local Hausa dialect, a Muslim fundamentalist group fighting for the creation of an Islamic state in Nigeria.
Mohammed Ahmed, the prison warden, said: "The prison had 762 inmates at the time of the attack. 732 escaped, leaving 30. All the Boko Haram suspects on remand have escaped. There were 150 of them." The gunmen killed four people including a soldier, a police officer and two local residents.
Salisu Mohammed, a prison guard, described how up to 50 Islamist militants, armed with machine guns, attacked the jail. Isa Hassan, a local resident, said the alleged sect members were chanting "Allahu Akbar" - or God is great - when they arrived.
The attack is seen as a sign that Boko Haram is preparing to strike again in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, which roughly divided in half between Christians and Muslims. The sect, often descibed as the "Nigerian Taliban", launched an uprising by last year with attacks on police posts. Police officers have been among the victims of a new wave of attacks by motorcycle-riding gunmen in northern Nigeria.
Posted on 09/08/2010 11:14 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Joe Vitale is a better name for an "ecumenical healer" than, say, Derek De'Ath. Not that I know what an "ecumenical healer" does - I imagine it's something holistic - but here's what this one said, in the New Yorker:
You are the Michelangelo of your own life. The David that you are sculpting is you.
I'm more of a Tracey Emin, without the dosh. And the bed I'm not making will be the unmaking of me.
Posted on 09/08/2010 11:40 AM by Mary Jackson
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Fisk on honour killing
Robert Fisk introduces a harrowing account of honour killings, overwhelmingly Muslim, by implying that their Islamic nature is a media construct:
A 10-month investigation by The Independent in Jordan, Pakistan, Egypt, Gaza and the West Bank has unearthed terrifying details of murder most foul. Men are also killed for "honour" and, despite its identification by journalists as a largely Muslim practice, Christian and Hindu communities have stooped to the same crimes. Indeed, the "honour" (or ird) of families, communities and tribes transcends religion ...
Really? Strange, then that they happen in "Jordan, Pakistan, Egypt, Gaza and the West Bank", and that, in Fisk's words, "Iraqi Kurds, Palestinians in Jordan, Pakistan and Turkey appear to be the worst offenders but media freedoms in these countries may over-compensate for the secrecy which surrounds 'honour' killings in Egypt - which untruthfully claims there are none - and other Middle East nations in the Gulf and the Levant.'
Over 90% of honour killings are by Muslims. Like first cousin marriage, it's a Muslim thing. Not exclusively Muslim, nor mandated, directly, by the Koran, but it's a Muslim thing.
Posted on 09/08/2010 12:04 PM by Mary Jackson
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Tariq Ramadan's Confusion
I'm currently reading Tariq Ramadan's new book, The Quest For Meaning: Developing a Philosophy of Pluralism, so you don't have to. Let me give you a little taste of the depth of his scholarship and the cadence of his prose:
We have to begin at the beginning. The intuitions of the women's liberation and feminist movements all over the world from the nineteenth century onwards and throughout the twentieth were highly pertinent: autonomy is central to the 'woman question'. In order to protect themselves from the strength, power, freedom, and sometimes the domination, of women, men organized and systematized their ontological, physical, social and financial dependency, and sometimes their intellectual dependency. The movements that fought against women's slavery in the United States (Female Anti-Slavery Society) and the Suffragettes who, from 1865 onwards, fought for civil equality, first in Great Britain and then in the United States, wanted recognition of women's autonomy in terms of being and status as much as in terms of enjoyment of rights...
Yes, as you can see Ramadan is confusing an abolitionist society made up of women with an imaginary movement "that fought against women's slavery" - whatever that means. Does he really imagine women were enslaved en masse in the United States? The entire book is like this. If one were to dissect it closely one would find that Ramadan shifts from saying nothing at all, but using lots and lots of words to do so in treacly New Age fashion, to saying something that is completely muddled and confused, similar to what you see above. Certainly this book is in the running for worst book of the decade, maybe even quarter century.
My review is coming for the October issue. Stay tuned.
Posted on 09/08/2010 12:53 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Case Re-Opened in Sweden Against Wikileak's Julian Assange
From The Washington Post:
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange entangled in Swedish criminal inquiries
By Edward Cody
September 8, 2010
STOCKHOLM - Until a few weeks ago, Julian Assange was riding high.
The self-appointed paladin of uncomfortable truth had just whipped up a media storm in Washington, revealing 70,000 classified Pentagon documents that portrayed the U.S. war in Afghanistan in a way often at odds with the official cheerleading. To further rile the intelligence bureaucracy, his WikiLeaks organization was promising that 13,000 more such documents had been leaked and would be made available soon.
But since that triumph in July, which U.S. officials qualified as a dangerous transgression of secrecy rules, Assange, and by extension his crusade, have been badly damaged by allegations from two Swedish women that he subjected one to rape and the other to sexual harassment, according to assessments by his lawyer, his associates and Assange himself.
As a result, within WikiLeaks, an amorphous collection of computer wizards who publish data that governments try to keep from the public, some Assange followers have proposed that he back away from his public role, at least pending the rape proceedings. From WikiLeaks' beginnings in 2006, however, Assange has been not only the leader but also its soul; it is an open question how effective the loose network would be without his relentless campaigning.
Assange, a lanky 39-year-old Australian with unruly white hair, has gone into seclusion here while Sweden's director of public prosecution, Maryanne Ny, investigates the accusations and decides whether to bring formal charges. In several interviews and online statements, meanwhile, Assange has proclaimed his innocence. He indeed had sex with the two women, he said, but it was consensual in both cases.
The accusations, he suggested, were part of a U.S.-orchestrated smear campaign to undercut WikiLeaks' prestige, discourage potential leakers and, in particular, frustrate plans to reveal the next batch of classified Pentagon documents.
Although the sexual misconduct accusations are murky and the handling of the case has been controversial, no evidence has surfaced that Assange fell victim to some kind of intelligence-agency honey trap, according to Assange's supporters and Swedish journalists who have investigated the case. But if there had been a trap, it was wildly successful, embarrassing Assange and calling his leadership into question.
"There have been headlines all over the world about my being accused of rape. They won't just disappear," Assange acknowledged to Stockholm's Aftonbladet newspaper. "And I know by experience that WikiLeaks' enemies will continue to bandy around things even after they have been renounced. I don't know who is behind this, but we have been warned that, for example, the Pentagon plans to use dirty tricks to spoil things for us."
Birgitta Jonsdottir, an Icelandic member of parliament who assisted Assange in editing an embarrassing Army helicopter cockpit video revealed in April, said after reviewing the Stockholm police report that she doubted that the charges resulted from a U.S. manipulation. "But once the reports were in the media, powers that are used to manipulating the media immediately seized on it," she added in a telephone interview from Reykjavik.
Leif Sibersky, a reputed Stockholm defense lawyer retained by Assange, launched his public defense by accusing the prosecutor of procedural irregularities that resulted in unproved accusations being aired in the Swedish press, irreparably damaging Assange's reputation. But Sibersky has been unable to deal effectively with the charges themselves, he said, because the prosecution has yet to provide him with official information on what the women told police.
Ironically, Assange came to Sweden for protection from his enemies. The Pirate Party, a Swedish political group dedicated to free access to Internet information, signed an agreement with him that, according to party leader Rick Falkvinge, was designed to bestow the legal protection of a recognized Swedish political party to WikiLeaks activities here.
Perhaps most important, Assange hoped to benefit from Swedish press-protection laws, among the most severe in the world. Not only are journalists protected from revealing their sources, officials explained, they also are forbidden under law from revealing them if the source requests it. Moreover, they noted, government officials are barred from investigating - or even asking - who the source of a leak was, except in certain cases affecting national security.
Against that background, the nomadic Assange had applied for a Swedish residence permit, saying this country was the only one where he could feel safe from attempts by U.S. and other officials to prosecute him. Editors at Aftonbladet had contracted with him to write a periodic column, giving him status as a journalist so he could benefit from the protective legislation.
So things seemed to be going swimmingly when Assange appeared at a news conference and seminar in Stockholm on Aug. 14 that had been organized by the Brotherhood, a Christian affiliate of Sweden's Social Democratic Party, to explain the arrival of WikiLeaks to the Swedish public.
The Brotherhood was acting as Assange's host during his visit in Sweden, and a woman who belonged to the Brotherhood was working as his spokeswoman and assistant. Assange was staying at the woman's home. According to supporters who saw the two together, they were on friendly terms and, at least on one occasion, gave the impression they were enamored of each other.
But by the evening of Aug. 20, that all changed. Assange's host and a second woman appeared at Stockholm police headquarters to complain of his conduct, according to Karin Rosander, spokeswoman for the public prosecutor.
According to reports circulating in Stockholm, Assange's host spoke about a sexual encounter Aug. 16 at her apartment in Stockholm that led to what the police qualified in a report as sexual harassment. The second woman alleged Assange had raped her Aug. 14, after the seminar, at her home in the nearby town of Enhoping, according to those who have seen the police report.
Assange's host, whose name is known in Stockholm but which has not been published in accordance with Swedish law governing sex crimes, said in an interview with Swedish journalists that she met the other woman at the seminar. When in a subsequent conversation she learned of the alleged rape, she told the reporters, she accompanied the Enhoping woman to lodge a report with police.
Armed with the police report, Rosander said, the prosecutor on call that night concluded that an investigation was warranted to see whether Assange should be charged with rape and sexual harassment. Her conclusion - the opening of an investigation - was leaked during the night and appeared in newspapers and on Web sites the next morning.
But Chief Prosecutor Eva Finne quickly countermanded the duty prosecutor. There was no basis in the police report to believe a rape had taken place, she said, so she halted that investigation. As for the query into sexual harassment, she reduced its severity and ordered an investigation into simple harassment.
After that, the two women retained as their lawyer Claes Borgstrom, a former government official and a fixture in the Social Democratic Party. On Sept. 1, Borgstrom persuaded Ny, who is director of public prosecution - and Finne's boss - not only to reinstate the rape investigation but also to expand the harassment investigation to include the allegations of sexual harassment.
The prosecutor has not said when she will hand down her decision whether to order formal charges and a trial. Meanwhile, Assange has been confined to Sweden, and his plans to reveal more documents with another round of fanfare have been crimped.
Asked in an Al Jazeera television interview whether he had fallen for one of the traps he was always warning about, he responded: "Maybe, maybe not."
Posted on 09/08/2010 1:45 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Burn the Qur’an? Better to Read It Aloud and Educate Us All.
Pastor Terry Jones of the 50 member Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida has been roundly criticized for his Burn a Koran Day to commemorate 9/11 this Saturday. This is not the first provocative such act by Pastor Jones and his flock. During the contentious Orlando, Florida juvenile court custody hearings concerning Christian convert Rifqa Bary they showed up with tee shirts that read "Islam is Evil".
However, burning books is irrational. It is against the values of Western Judeo Christian thought - especially those of the Enlightenment. Values that produced our Constitution with its precious First Amendment supporting freedom of expression, including views that may personally offend us. Hence, Pastor Jones' exercise of that freedom of expression in his 'bonfire of vanities.'
FoxNews reported that the State Department condemned Pastor Jones' action calling it un-American. General David Petreaus has implied that the event would further inflame Afghan and Muslim ummah outrage possibly resulting in US and Coalition force casualties among those engaged against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Outraged Afghans in Kabul were shown burning American Flags and effigies of Pastor Jones. Even the National Evangelical Council and National Council of Churches, a mainstream Protestant group, have condemned Pastor Jones and his congregation for tossing copies of the Qur'an onto a public bonfire.
[Petreaus] believes that, "Images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan - and around the world - to inflame public opinion and incite violence."
Such concerns are, of course, not unfounded, given the past practice of adherents to Shariah (a.k.a. "extremists," according to Gen. Petraeus and the Obama administration) who seize upon any real or perceived slight to Islam in ways calculated to enforce submission to its dictates. Usually, these involve the actual use or threat of violence against innocents.
Pastor Jones had this reaction:
Jones said he and members of his church are taking seriously several death threats directed at them, but if something happened, it would not be their fault.
"We will not be responsible," Jones said. "We are only reacting to the violence that is already there in that religion."
Pastor Jones' Qur'an book burning unfortunately conjures up imagery of the Nazi book burnings of May 10, 1933 and the sacking and burning of hundreds of Jewish synagogues destroying thousands of Torahs during the Kristallnacht Pogrom, November 9-10, 1938.
Let us not forget the Palestinian Muslims who occupied the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in April, 2002 desecrating Christian holy books using them as toilet paper. Non-Muslim air passengers on Sharia compliant Saudia - the national airline of the Royal Kingdom - can be ejected for carrying Bibles and prayer books. Even British Air advises air crews not to display religious symbols or Bibles on flights to Saudi Arabia. The Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia denies construction of churches and synagogues, let along private worship on the holy land of Wahhabist Islam.
Rather than burning Qur'ans in a bonfire to attract media attention, Pastor Jones might use that media event to hold a "teachable moment."
Instead of burning the Qur'an Pastor Jones should read passages aloud from the Muslim 'holy book' to show the media, America and the Western world how hateful Islamic Sharia doctrine is towards Jews, Christians and all infidels.
He could cite Suras of the Qur'an that motivated the 19 Saudi, Egyptian and Yemeni Jihadis educated in Western rationalism to kill 3,000 innocent victims on 9/11 in lower Manhattan, at the Pentagon and in southeastern Pennsylvania.
In a review of co-author Sam Solomon's book, Al Yahud: Eternal Islamic Enmity & the Jews, we noted what Pastor Jones could preach to the American public on 9/11:
The authors note that when Muslims pray toward Mecca five times daily, they recite Sura verses laden with hatred towards Jews and Christians:
In each of the five daily ritual prayers, Muslims around the world pray the opening Sura of the Qur'an ending in these two verses, "Guide us to the straight path, the path of those whom You have favored with guidance, not [the path] of those against whom there is wrath, nor of those who are astray." [Sura 1:6-7]... Muslim scholars are in unanimous agreement that "those against whom there is wrath" are the Jews . . . While "those who are astray" are identified as being the Christians.
The demonization of Jews dominates the Qu'ran. Virtually three fifths (60%) of the Aya or verses, nearly half of the Suras (50 out of 114 Chapters) deal with Jews; 500 of the Aya are explicitly negative. According to the Syrian Mufti, Abdul Sattar El Sayed, Jews are demonized by purportedly "lying about G-d, mutiny against Allah, hard heartedness, hypocrisy, exploitation and opportunism, trickery, cowardice, miserliness, and garbling the holy books." The Qu'ran essentially supplants the Torah, Psalms and Gospels of Jesus considering them and other antecedent religious texts as distortions of the revealed truth as propounded by Mohammed. The Sunnah and Hadiths exemplify the character and role of Allah's Messenger, Mohammed, through his deeds and actions to be copied by Muslims in their daily lives. The authors show that both in word and deed Mohammed vilified, exterminated, enslaved and subjugated Jewish tribes making Arabia virtually judenrein.
Pastor Jones, do not light that bonfire on 9/11. Instead of burning copies of the Qur'an both you and your flock should read aloud the hateful Suras of the Qur'an. Perhaps this alternative media event might alert viewers of how hateful Islam is towards all non-Muslims and why Sharia and Islamization in America must be opposed.
Posted on 09/08/2010 3:44 PM by Jerry Gordon
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
A Musical Interlude: You Turned The Tables On Me (Lee Wiley)
Posted on 09/08/2010 4:46 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Some thoughts on the proposed Qur'an burning
For the sake of argument, please allow me play Devil's advocate, with no aspersions meant toward Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who is planning the Qur'an burning. While I agree that a "book burning" is not the most intelligent way to respond to Islamic ideology, and that it conjures images of fascists burning books as a form of censorship, the picture is not quite so clean cut.
Firstly, when the Mohammad cartoons were published, and then re-published, in Denmark, there was similar criticism that doing so would "radicalize" and "inflame" the Muslims. We knew, or should have known, that Muslims would respond violently, so publishing them was an intentional provocation. True, the Danes had the right to publish the cartoons, but they shouldn't exercise that right, out of respect for Islam and Muslims.
In that case, most of us agree that it was appropriate for the Danes to publish those cartoons, and that a right that cannot be exercised is no right at all. So why is publishing drawings of Mohammad in Denmark defensible, but burning a Qu'ran in the U.S. is not?
Secondly, the Ground-Zero mosque has been defended with the argument, "it's their Constitutionally protected right to build a mosque wherever they want to." If it's important to defend the Constitutionally protected right to build a mosque, then it should be important to defend the Constitutionally protected right to burn a Qur'an. The Constitution is meant to be applied to all citizens equally. If the exercise of our free rights makes members of some communities uncomfortable, then so be it.
Thirdly, there are many cases throughout history, where Muslims have intentionally defiled and destroyed the religious symbols and institutions of other religions, with little-to-no outcry from non-Muslims. Not that non-Muslims should look to Muslims as guides for behavior, but the case can be made that what is good for the goose is good for the gander, and that a little reciprocity might (hey, anything's possible) engender a little empathy on the part of Muslims in the future.
Fourthly, Islam lays out rules for the proper disposal of old or damaged Qur'ans, and that process specifies that Qur'ans ... are to be burned. In Florida today, and everywhere else old Qur'ans exist, Muslims are burning Qur'ans. So this situation is not purely about burning Qur'ans, but has to do with who is burning the Qur'ans (Muslims = okay, kuffar = forbidden), and the intentions of the person doing the burning. Once again it is asymmetrical, with one set of standards applied to Muslims and another, more restrictive set, to kuffar.
I agree that rational debate is preferable to emotional grandstanding. But I feel some discomfort in the amount of pressure that is being applied to Pastor Jones and the Dove World Outreach Center.
Posted on 09/08/2010 3:53 PM by Artemis Gordon Glidden
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Indignation -- But With What And With Whom?
When you read about half of France coming out to protest the raising of the retirement age to 62, what do you think?
Do you think "how crazy we've been in this country to tolerate a politico-economic regime that doesn't allow us to claim Social Security until age 65, and "full" benefits only at 66, and "fullest" benefits only if we wait until the age 0f 70.
Do you think, "why do we put up with it"? If the French flood into the streets because the retirement age will be raised to 62, why can't we go into the streets -- or do the equivalent at the ballot box -- to lower the age to 62, or to demand a rise in the pathetic sums that Social Security doles out?
Or do you think, "God, the French are spoiled rotten. They should have to work until 65, or 66, the way we do. If we have to suffer this, so should they."
I have reason to believe that there are more people in this country whose reaction is the latter.
This is not an endorsement. This is an observation.
Posted on 09/08/2010 4:48 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
A Cinematic Interlude: The Treasurer's Report (Robert Benchley)
Posted on 09/08/2010 8:53 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Habent Sua Fata Libelli
August 29, 2010
Will the Book Survive Generation Text?
Over the next 10 years, scientific experts will be dealing with "extreme weather." No one knows how weird and dangerous it will get.
Moscow already faces Bahrain-like temperatures. Downpours swamp a fifth of Pakistan. President Mohamed Nasheed, of the Maldives, worries enough about future sea levels to hold a cabinet meeting underwater in scuba gear. (Don't miss this on YouTube!)
Parallel thinking should apply to a phenomenon of greater concern to readers here: "extreme academe." Think of it as the hysterical upgrading of ugly visions of the future already found in polite critiques of higher ed.
Back in 2003, for instance, former Harvard President Derek Bok, in Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education (Princeton University Press), drilled home the problem capsulized in his subtitle by noting that throughout the 1980s, deans and professors brought him "one proposition after another to exchange some piece or product of Harvard for money-often, quite substantial sums of money."
Though hardly the first to notice the trend-Stanley Aronowitz, in The Knowledge Factory: Dismantling the Corporate University and Creating True Higher Learning (Beacon Press, 2001), produced one prior cri de coeur-Bok, as the highest of high mandarins of academe, legitimized the insight. Now a healthy genre tracks this particular slide toward extreme academe, marked by such fine indictments as Jennifer Washburn's University, Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education (Basic Books, 2006), and Frank Donoghue's The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities (Fordham University Press, 2008). By last year's Wannabe U: Inside the Corporate University (University of Chicago Press, 2009), the downward spiral was such a cliché that sociologist Gaye Tuchman could mine it for laughs as well as an aperçu, with her semidisguised state-university president who's always declaring, "This is a university in transformation."
Other recent scrutinizers of academe perceive related threats. Mary Burgan, a former general secretary of the American Association of University Professors, marquees her main fear in her title: Whatever Happened to the Faculty? (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006). Harvard English professor and New Yorker staff writer Louis Menand, in The Marketplace of Ideas (W.W. Norton, 2010), sees a partly antiquated 19th-century university system trying to solve 21st-century problems, such as how one adapts "the lecture monologue" to "a generation of students who are accustomed to dealing with multiple information streams in short bursts." Amanda Goodall, in Socrates in the Boardroom: Why Research Universities Should Be Led by Top Scholars (Princeton, 2009), warns that managerial empty suits will destroy the great American university.
Extreme academe, as a vision, ups the ante of such concerns. It adds flash and cynicism to mere trepidation. According to it, college students in 2020 will use plastic cards to open the glass security doors installed at each entrance to campus. On special occasions, the sole tenured faculty member at every institution will be wheeled out, like the stuffed remains of Jeremy Bentham at University College London, for receptions.
Plagiarism, having evolved, with the help of Stanley Fish, from mortal academic sin to mere "breach of disciplinary decorum," will be an elective track, on a par with fiction and poetry, within the creative-writing major. Several great research universities will be led by former Big Ten football coaches. Indeed, by 2020, President Bok's nightmare of the future, shared in his commencement address to Harvard's Class of 1988, may be the standard scenario across the land: corporate logos on syllabi and course materials, ads in the classroom (and presumably above the urinals), commercials during class time, and auctions to the highest bidders of "the last one hundred places" in every entering class.
My own peculiar worry about Academe 2020, offered with less than 20/20 foresight, may seem less catastrophic: the death of the book as object of study, the disappearance of "whole" books as assigned reading. Does that count as a preposterous figment of extreme academe, or is it closer than we think?
I don't mean the already overwrought debate over the crisis of the book as codex-the daily New York Times announcement that electronic readers stand primed to eliminate paper books. (This shift, of course, plays into the problem, since any shrewd publishing type can see how the paper book's demise might make it easier to digitally trim, abridge, and repackage texts in more "appealing" forms than their benighted authors envisaged.) The issue isn't the decline in book sales, though it, too, remains an element of the big picture. I am talking about the growing feeling among humanities professors-intuitive and anecdotal, shared over lunch like an embarrassing tale about a colleague-that for too many of today's undergraduates, reading a whole book, from A to Z, feels like a marathon unfairly imposed on a jogger.
To be fair, their elders increasingly encourage the thought that whole books lack the coolness of whole grains. Three years ago, Weidenfeld & Nicolson launched its Compact Editions series of classics such as Vanity Fair and Moby-Dick. The publisher explained that they'd been "sympathetically edited so that most of them are under 400 pages," but that the cuts "in no way detract from the spirit of the original." Surgery simply rendered such classics less "elitist." Dripping drollery in The Times of London, critic Richard Morrison opined that truth in advertising behooved the publisher to adjust titles as well, perhaps to Vanity Off-Peak Fare, and Mini-Dick.
Any wonder that last year, two cheeky University of Chicago undergrads with literary parents-Alexander Aciman and Emmett Rensin-published Twitterature (Penguin), boiling down classics of world lit to 140-character bone? Here's their speed-read version of The Epic of Gilgamesh: "@UrukRockCity-Great. That's it. I'm leaving Uruk. My best friend in the world is dead, all because the gods couldn't handle our bromance."
The signs of readerly surrender pop up everywhere. Princeton student Isia Jasiewicz, reviewing a book for Newsweek this summer as an intern, admits in her last paragraph that she bothered to read only the first 10 pages. Linda Nilson, director of the Office of Teaching Effectiveness at Clemson University, posts a piece titled, "Getting Students to Do the Reading" on the Web site of the National Education Association, advising: "Look for readings with graphics and pictures that reinforce the text, and pare down the required pages to the essentials. The less reading assigned, the more likely students will do it."
Destructive cultural trends lurk behind the decline of readerly ambition and student stamina. One is the expanding cultural bias in all writerly media toward clipped, hit-friendly brevity-no longer the soul of wit, but metric-driven pith in lieu of wit. Everywhere they turn, but particularly in mainstream, sophisticated venues-where middle-aged fogies desperately seek to stay ahead of the tech curve-young people hear, through the apotheosis of tweets, blog posts, Facebook updates, and sound bites as the core of communication, that short is always smarter and better than long, even though most everyone knows it's usually dumber and worse.
Another cultural trend propelling the possible death of the whole book as assigned reading is the pressurized hawking of interactivity, brought to us by the same media panderers to limited attention spans. It's no longer acceptable for A to listen to B for more than a few minutes before A gets his or her right to respond. High culture, for sure, also bears high responsibility for this, ranging back to Foucault's and Barthes's assaults on the "author," Eco's celebration of the "open work," and a score of other late-20th-century academic authorities questioning why creators of texts should determine where they begin or end as well as what they mean. On street level, we end up with commercial gambits such as Compact Editions. On syllabus level, we await the next generation of professors who will assign just part of Anna Karenina, or the best stretches of Great Expectations, all the while wondering why anyone ever wrote a book longer than John Stuart Mill's On Liberty.
A useful text with which to muse on this subject is Robert Darnton's The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future (PublicAffairs, 2009). In it, the onetime newspaper reporter, distinguished scholar of the Enlightenment and the history of the book, and director of Harvard's libraries, swings between explanations and concerns about Google Book Search, and how the situation with books today looks in the perspective of history. Many of his observations give pause.
Darnton notices what many other professors also see in young people: "A generation 'born digital' is 'always on,' conversing everywhere on cellphones, tapping out instant messages, and networking in actual or virtual realities. The younger people you pass on the street or sit next to on a bus are simultaneously there and not there. They shake their shoulders and tap their feet to music audible only to them inside the cocoon of their digital systems. They seem to be wired differently from their elders, whose orientation to machines comes from another zone of the unconscious."
Many college-age sorts study their phones, put them away to try to focus on something else-the passing scenery outside the Amtrak train, a magazine, the old-fashioned book they've brought along-then yank the phones back out three or four minutes later and start tapping away again. Reading a book, however, requires concentration, endurance, the ability to disconnect from other connections. You have to be there rather than not there. Hyperwired young people may be making it to age 17 without acquiring that ability, let alone losing it.
Darnton recognizes that the authority of books-those objects to which, NEA studies and other data tell us, the young are not connecting-"derives from a great deal more than the technology that went into them." It comes from the years of research put into them, of revising and recasting sentences, of organizing paragraphs and chapters, of taking the time and space to set out one's evidence and counterevidence, the opinions of others, the context of one's subject, its upshot. Little of that can be done by the essay, let alone the post or tweet.
Darnton's musings intrigue because while few equal him as a lover of traditional books and their importance, he also betrays signs of "silicon syndrome" (compare "Stockholm syndrome"), a susceptibility to mounting assumptions that surround him. Darnton the Head Librarian sounds open to elevating every slight communication to a datum of significant cultural importance. "We are also experimenting," he writes of himself and his Harvard colleagues, "with plans to archive the millions of messages exchanged within the university by e-mail." Leaving aside the legalities, does anyone want to guess how the wheat and chaff divide there?
"Perhaps we suffer," he writes, "from too narrow a notion of publication, something we associate exclusively with professionals who produce journals and books."
Au contraire, the problem of the moment is that we suffer from too broad a notion of publication, applying the concept to every transient expression. The world and scholarship survived centuries-millennia-of not cataloging every comment made by people to one another. Yes, it's a shame we've lost the offhand remarks of Voltaire, what Shakespeare said to friends, and almost everything that might count as an e-mail in ancient Greece and Rome. A shame, too, that we don't have video of the Crucifixion, stills of the Flood, and things like that.
But are we worse for not having archived the ephemera of mankind, for having devoted libraries and syllabi to books-the weightiest, most important, most enduring forms of communication? The old criterion of librarianship and pedagogy was right: Save and study the substantive, don't worry about the insignificant. What will be the impact on future professors, wondering whether to assign whole books to future students, if libraries, of all institutions, start to see the book as merely primus inter pares among acts of communication? It is not a first among equals, because other forms of communication do not equal its weight, its power, its thoroughness.
Yes, we know-what is a book, after all? Anything an editor at a publishing house agrees to put between two covers, or zap to a Kindle/Sony Reader/Nook? Isn't it often truly (when the cachet of the word is put aside) just a thrown-together collection of short pieces stitched together, or a rush job, rather than a sustained, coherent text of 250 to 1,000 pages?
And who says that teaching whole books as whole books makes good sense anyway? Is every word of Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams, or Darwin's The Origin of Species, really necessary to understand those books? Doesn't Tolstoy run on at times?
Reasonable issues, all. But whatever clever eristic moves you make, there's a problem on the horizon-extreme academe is heading our way. Will professors hold the line? Will they insist that the most distracted generation in history rise to the challenge of reading books, or will future faculty members replace the book with the chapter? Maybe extreme weather and extreme academe will come together. As oceans rise, temperatures soar, electrical grids fail, and smartphones no longer charge, Generation Text may rediscover the real thing.
Posted on 09/08/2010 9:12 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald