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The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
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These are all the Blogs posted on Wednesday, 9, 2014.
Wednesday, 9 April 2014
A Cinematic Musical Interlude: Go Down Moses (Jess Lee Brooks)
Watch, and listen, here.
Posted on 04/09/2014 9:39 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 9 April 2014
'Outstanding' head teacher allegedly targeted by Muslim radicals confirms that she's retiring

I didn't venture into this area of Birmingham yesterday. Another time maybe. From the Telegraph

Lindsey Clark, the respected executive head of Park View, one of the Birmingham schools targeted in the alleged "Trojan Horse" plot by Muslim radicals, has confirmed that she is to retire. She becomes the fifth non-Muslim headteacher to leave one of the schools linked to the plot over the last six months. The others are Balwant Bains (Saltley), Tina Ireland (Regent's Park), Bhupinder Kondal (Oldknow),  and Peter Slough (Small Heath). A sixth head, Golden Hillock's Matthew Scarrott, left a little earlier.

Mrs Clark's retirement, first revealed by me three weeks ago, was confirmed in the school’s spring term newsletter, published online yesterday. As I have described, the replacement of secular, non-Muslim heads has been a key goal of the radicals leading the campaign.

Mrs Clark, who was awarded the OBE last year for her work in taking Park View to the highest Ofsted ranking, “outstanding,” in 2012, told Ofsted inspectors probing her school last month that she had been marginalised by Tahir Alam, the hardline chair of governors at Park View, and the school’s principal, effectively its number two, Mohammed “Moz” Hussain. The school’s leadership and management have now been dropped to “inadequate” by Ofsted in a report expected soon.

As we reported on Sunday, a former department head at Park View, Nigel Sloan, says he witnessed Mr Hussain giving “mind-blowing anti-Western propaganda” assemblies to pupils at the school, including claims that the Americans were “the evil in the world” and “the cause of all famine.” Mr Hussain is now a candidate to replace Mrs Clark.

The same issue of the newsletter includes an attack by Dave Hughes, Park View Education Trust’s only non-Muslim director, on Mr Sloan – essentially the predictable charge of racism that the school’s defenders have been wheeling out since the beginning. Mr Hughes is also booked on BBC WM radio this morning to spread the word that it’s all Islamophobic lies.

It’s not very surprising, perhaps, that a member of the leadership team branded “inadequate” should dispute his own inadequacy. Interestingly, however, for all its huffing and puffing, Mr Hughes’ article doesn’t specifically deny the charge that Nigel Sloan makes. Just thought I’d point that out.

Posted on 04/09/2014 6:29 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 9 April 2014
Birmingham - Court 13

To Birmingham to meet Catstrangler 101 (alias Tim Burton) ahead of his trial at Birmingham Magistrates court yesterday (8th April)
The Magistrates Court is a large 19th century Building, opened to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Like much in Birmingham City Centre of the period it was built with a sense of Civic Pride and optimism. The style is Gothic revival; inside the main hall compares well with the Main Hall of the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Members of Liberty GB gathered on outside to give passers-by leaflets about Tim’s offence, and to call for Free Speech and the defence of Liberty. We then took our places in Court 13 before District Judge Mr Strongman, a professional Judge experienced in Criminal Law. For non UK readers trials in Magistrates Courts are conducted summarily, decided both on fact and law by the Judge [who may a District Judge or a Magistrate(s)]. There is no jury; that is for Crown Court. This was not a matter for a lay, non-stipendiary Justice of the Peace.

I took longhand notes - I don't do shorthand. Much of the evidence and arguments are in summary or paraphrase. Do not mistake this for a proper transcript. It is not. It is merely an attendance note; no more.

The Clerk to the Justices (that may not be her correct title these days – I recall a time when the clerk in a Magistrates Court was a trained solicitor who advised the lay magistrates, in contrast to the Civil servants who ran a Crown Court with a qualified Judge) mentioned that the main prosecution witness, Fiyaz Mughal, was not present and was expected to give his evidence via video link from an undisclosed location. No other Prosecution witnesses were to give live evidence and it was expected to be an all day trial.

The District Judge asked the prosecution to clarify what the offence charged actually was. The District Judge granted an application to hear the evidence of expert witness for the defence, Professor Hans Jansen. Tim Burton stood in the dock, was identified by the clerk who formally put the charges to him. He confirmed his earlier intention to plead not guilty remained.

The Crown Prosecutor said that he was taken by surprise by the defence’s intention to bring arguments under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act; however the case law as set out in Archbold (Archbold Criminal Pleading Evidence and Practice, the standard Criminal law text) was within his expectations.

The Crown Prosecutor outlined the charges. The background is that Mr Mughal is a director of Faith Matters, a not for profit organisation based in London. He made a complaint to the police that on the 3nd June 2013 he had received a twitter message from one M-Cat, which made reference to him as a ‘mendacious grievance-mongering taqiyya- artist’. He complained that this message was threatening.

A second message followed declaring that M-Cat wished to report Fiyaz Mughal for being a mendacious grievance-mongering little Muslim scumbag, and that he wanted his £214,000 back.

Later a third twitter message read “Breaking News – Mendacious Muslim scumbag Fiyaz Mughal agrees to stop telling porkies if the British Government gives him his £214,000 back”

Mr Mughal complained to the police. The messages were traced to Timothy Burton at his home address where the police attended and he was arrested. Timothy Burton accepts that the messages were sent but he does not accept that they were racist or harassment, but contends that they were fair comment on a political issue.

The burden is on the crown to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant Timothy Burton is guilty of an offence of racially aggravated harassment.

He called the first witness Fiyaz Mughal. Eventually the video link was made and Mr Mughal was sworn.

The Crown Prosecutor examined him, getting him to explain the workings of the Faith Matters organisation, its relationship with the Tell MAMA project and website and the workings to their twitter account.

He was asked what the name ‘M-Cat’ meant to him

He answered that it is an account that sends him malicious tweets. The name stands for Mohammed Cat.

When asked if anybody else was connected with the tweet he replied that it was addressed to Tell MAMA and copied to the EDL. When asked what he thought of the message he replied that he wondered why the EDL had been involved, and why the word taqiyya had been used – a word used by the far-right to suggest that Muslims lie.

The Judge asked whether Mr Mughal is an expert on the far-right and what they think.

He replied “I have had years of experience of them. “

He was asked what he understood by taqiyya.

He said that it is an Arabic word. In the context of the tweet it is calling me a liar because of my faith. It is calling me a mendacious liar because of my faith.

And what do you take the word ‘artist’ to mean?

“That I am juggling the truth”.

There followed discussion between him the Crown Prosecutor and the Judge on the meaning of taqiyya.  Mr Mughal explained that historically it was a Shia concept, during a period when they were persecuted, that if their life was at risk, they could pretend to be of another faith so as to save their lives.

When asked how did it make you feel? He replied very frightened, it was an attack on my identity.

Turning to the second tweet, he was asked what he understood by the phrase ‘want my £214,000 back’. He answered that this was a reference to Andrew Gilligan’s article in the Telegraph. When asked about the figure he said that the sum was not accurate but it was the one quoted in the headline to that article.

Of the third message Mr Mughal said that he had never had such a vocal attack on his faith before “it was very personal and got to who I am”.

What do you understand by ‘porkies’?

“It means lying, but was selected carefully, to irritate”

Mr Mughal explained that he contacted an agency in London to find out who M-Cat was. Using legal means they identified, and it is agreed that this is Mr Timothy Burton, at the address read out to the court. In summary Mr Mughal said that the three messages taken together made him anxious, scared, his identity was under attack but he was also angry as they were “so prejudicial against who I am”.

He was asked to detail the funding made to Faith Matters for the three years since 2011. The figures he gave totalled over £300 thousand.

The defence began his cross-examination. He was asked to tell the court about Faith Matters and its relationship with Tell MAMA.

Tell MAMA (Monitoring Anti -Muslim Attacks) is a project that sits under Faith Matters, the mother organisation. Faith Matters is registered at Companies House as a not for profit company, but is not a registered charity. The funds mentioned go into the Faith Matters accounts. Asked about other workers in Tell MAMA he replied that there are 4 workers; the others are two case workers, an outreach worker and an analyst who prepares reports.

When asked about funding other than from government grants he replied that there are private sources. They are a private business and a private donor. The officers are paid but he is not. He is paid by Faith Matters and does the work because he cares deeply about it.

He was asked about how the reports come in via social media and on line. All tweets come into the Tell MAMA account and he is shown every one. The purpose of Tell MAMA is to record street-based and on-line incidents. He didn’t block the tweets that upset him as he wished to see every single one. He denied that rather than being upset by the tweets he took some satisfaction at being able to add to the collection.

Mr Mughal replied that he took no satisfaction in his faith or him personally being targeted. When it was suggested at Tell MAMA he was not an individual but the head of an organisation he said vehemently “I do not like to be targeted about my faith period!”

There was some discussion between Mr Mughal and the defence lawyer about the article written by Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph, and other criticisms of the organisation.

Mr Mughal told the defence lawyer that “Being targeted by your client is unacceptable.”

We broke for lunch.

When cross examination resumed Defence lawyer asked Mr Mughal some more about the funding of Tell MAMA and the process whereby Tim Burton’s name and address was obtained. Mr Mughal said this was quite simple and was all done via 192.com. He agreed that he had sent Mr Burton a tweet addressing him ‘Hello Tim’ to let him know that his identity had been discovered.

He was again asked about the definition of the word taqiyya.

Mr Mughal described it as a deeply offensive anti-Muslim word. He told the lawyer that your client is connected to many on the far-right, including Robert Spencer.

He was asked again about his understanding of the meaning of the words mendacious and taqiyya and advised that expert evidence would be brought about the concept of taqiyya. The defence lawyer said that these were unpleasant words but were not something that constitutes harassment.

Mr Mughal disagreed “In the context of your client’s right wing connections” and “Your client, Sir, is a far-right activist”.

Finally “Are these the worst tweets you have ever received?”

Mr Mughal “Yes”.

The Judge questioned Mr Mughal on the subject that as Tell MAMA has a purpose to monitor attacks on Muslims use of the qualifier ‘Muslim’ defines his work in the context of Tell MAMA.

Mr Mughal insisted that his faith was targeted, re Mr Burton “This man has a history” and “Your client is a menace”.

He was then re-examined by the Crown Prosecutor and who asked him to clarify, “Who is Robert Spencer”

He replied that he (Robert Spencer) is one of the leading anti-Muslim and anti-Islam activists in the US who was barred by the Home Secretary because his presence was not conducive to national security. The Judge did not think this was relevant.

Mr Mughal’s evidence concluded and he was declared free to go, and the video link was terminated.

The 2 agreed police statements, detailing Mr Burtons arrest and questioning were read. 

Mr Burton entered the witness box and was sworn.

He admitted sending the texts and when asked gave the background against which he sent them. He had been aware of Faith Matters and Tell MAMA for over a year and feared that the organisation would have a chilling effect on the free speech of the citizens of this country. However he would not have singled Fiyaz Mughal out for condemnation were it not for the articles of Andrew Gilligan of the Telegraph in June 2013. He was outraged that someone in his position would seek to misrepresent statistics of his organisation to keep public funding going.

The phrase ‘let’s stick it to him’ was meant to convey our sense of outrage through the followers of my tweets.

He was asked what do you understand by the word taqiyya?

He replied that it is not limited to the Shia Community. It is a divine permission for Muslims to lie under certain circumstances, such as a Muslim wishing to convey a good impression of Islam, or to protect denigration of Islam by a non-Muslim. It cannot be offensive; it is part of Islam, part of what it means to be Muslim.

Concerning the sum mentioned in the tweets it was the sum mentioned by Andrew Gilligan. He did no independent research into the figures; the tweet was meant to be sarcastic and he thought that repayment would be appropriate.

He used the word Muslim because Mr Mughal is a Muslim. He used the word scumbag for the same reason. He did not intend to suggest that Mr Mughal was a scumbag because he was a Muslim, but that he was both Muslim and an unpleasant person. In hindsight it was intemperate, but he was outraged.

His third tweet was caustic and sarcastic. He intended to highlight the Mr Mughal that is actions were not acceptable. That an organisation which is publically funded should not behave in the way described by Andrew Gilligan.

The tweets were sent to Tell MAMA, not Mr Mughal directly. Some of them were in the third party mention format; he had no idea that Mr Mughal would even see them. He could have sent them direct.

The Judge asked him “Who was your intended audience?” Mr Burton replied that is was his followers. Had he wished to contact Mr Mughal directly there were better ways to achieve that.

He said that he feels he has a duty to speak the truth, his intention was to criticise, not chide but maybe castigate, and he had no intention to threaten or harass at all.

Cross examination by the Crown Prosecutor began.

He asked why the EDL was also a recipient of the message.

Mr Burton said that he had previous correspondence with a person at that twitter address. As the EDL does not have a formal structure he hoped that his acquaintance would have friends who might be interested. Had he wanted to involve the main EDL he would have taken the trouble to find a central address.

Crown Prosecutor – I put it to you that you were deliberately prejudiced and targeting Mr Mughal.

I do not see how it is prejudicial when fraudulent representation has been openly reported in the news and that criticism is merited.

Why didn’t you ask Mr Mughal for a meeting?

I thought I could be more effective by being caustic. I didn’t think he would reply to an e-mail.

So you thought by such a tweet you would warm his manner towards you?

No, I intended to make my view known in a caustic and sarcastic manner. I would not send any tweet intended to be threatening and alarming.

“I submit that it was racist, threatening and menacing.”

No one could read that and think that I was demanding payment of a sum of money. That I did not want it personally; a reasonable person would think that it should be repaid.

“How would you feel about being called a scumbag”

“I would be irritated.”

On the allegation that he was being racist Mr Burton pointed out that Islam is not a race and Muslims are not a racial group.  “As I said earlier, I did not wish to imply that Mr Mughal is a scumbag because he is a Muslim”

There was discussion of the definition of ‘scumbag’ from various dictionaries, as an unpleasant person whose behaviour is unacceptable. Mr Burton said that he meant to convey that his behaviour was unacceptable and that he was unpleasant. No reasonable person would take the tweet as his demanding money with menaces.

The Crown Prosecutor declared that it was racist and threatening as well, to which Mr Burton repeated that it cannot be racist; Islam is not a race.

“Muslim scumbag is racial abuse Mr Burton and no doubt about it . . . another example of your deeply offensive racism . . . ”

“No, Islam is not a race and Muslims are not a race”

Mr Burton further explained that he accepted that using the word scumbag was intemperate. He believes that the intention of Tell MAMA is to further the cause of Islam by chilling the exercise of free speech.

The Crown prosecutor said that the tweets were “deeply offensive, abusive, racist and distressing, you targeted Mr Mughal as a class of person, a class of Muslim people, didn’t you?”

“No, I have a problem with politics masquerading as faith.”

Professor Hans Jansen was called as expert witness for the defence. The Judge said he had the benefit of Prof. Jansen’s really helpful and lengthy statement.

Prof. Jansen began by explaining that taqiyya is an ancient Islamic concept. It is not mentioned in the Koran but is discussed in all Koranic commentaries. It is not negative. There are two questions usually asked.
Is it obligatory or only optional? And secondly can it only be used to save oneself, or for the benefit of all Muslims?

One example of the use of taqiyya is the statement that it is wrong to kill innocent persons. Then it is necessary to look at what the definition is of ‘innocent’. A person who pays tax to a government that is anti-Islam is not considered ‘innocent’.

It is discussed at length in the legal treatise the Reliance of the Traveller where it appears under the heading Lying.

He was asked about what Mr Mughal had said about taqiyya that morning. He replied that Mr Mughal may be well-meaning but he does not think that he has studied Sharia Law. He is not a Muslim professional. The Mullahs – they know what it means and that it is not a derogatory term.

It is a correct use of taqiyya that something is done or said to protect Islam. It is not a modern principle. The Koran gives people permission to lie in the interests of Islam. For example the Koran says they should not take unbelievers as their friends, but they may pretend to be friends with non-Muslims to protect themselves.

Islamic theology teaches that there is war between Dar al Islam and Dar al Harb, and in war deceit is permissible.

Cross examination by the Crown.

Are you an expert on what far-right organisations mean when they use the word taqiyya? He read the list of European and Egyptian universities where Prof Jansen has studied and taught.  You have never lived in the UK?

No, but I have visited many times, and attended many conferences particularly in Oxford.

“Do you accept that words have different meanings for different people?”

“That is a truism Sir”.

End of evidence

The Crown Prosecutor addressed the court.  He had discussion with the Judge.

The Judge said that this is not a conventional harassment case, like that of a disgruntled boyfriend following his ex around. This is a political comment, there is a line; has it been crossed? It isn’t attractive language, not the sort you read in the Telegraph.

Crown prosecutor “Little Muslim scumbag is racially offensive!”

Judge, I would be with you if it was just an extra word of abuse. But it is an essential ingredient of his complaint that this organisation is massaging figures etc. and that they do this as part of the faith. Calling someone a liar in colourful terms isn’t a criminal offence.

Crown Prosecutor It’s the context of all the messages, all the phrases alarmed Mr Mughal. In my submission the Crown has proved its case beyond doubt; Mr Mughal said throughout his evidence that he was deeply upset.

Defence speech.

I wish to briefly refer to Article 10 of the Human Rights Act – the right to freedom of expression. That says that there is a right to expression which is broad, and that while in some circumstances the state has a right to restrict speech, that right should be exercised narrowly.

The protection from Harassment Act was not designed for this set of circumstances. It was designed to prevent stalkers and suchlike.

These were very unpleasant remarks but are they a criminal offence?

Judgment.

Mr Strongman went through the arguments very succinctly.

In believing that Mr Mughal was part of an organisation that set out to deliberately exaggerate and mislead on the number of attacks against Muslims, describing Mr Mughal as ‘Muslim’ was an identifier of him as part of that organisation.  His use of the word taqiyya, whether in the strict Islamic sense or as the meaning the Crown said it was meant, ie a liar, was an opinion he was entitled to express.

The words may not have been pleasant, or in the language used by the Telegraph, and maybe Mr Burton, you will wish to be more circumspect in future but the words were not a criminal offence. 

I find you not guilty.

Mr Burton was formally declared to be acquitted.

The Crown made an application for a restraining order against Mr Burton.

The Judge said “No. I have just confirmed his Article 10 rights – I’m certainly not going to make a restraining order.”

Court rose and we left.

Posted on 04/09/2014 10:22 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 9 April 2014
Hollywood vs. History

Feeling somewhat mellow last week on my way home from London after my only daughter’s wedding to a very bright and attractive Frenchman we have known and liked for several years, I yielded to the Satanic temptation of an in-flight film. The Butler, billed as the true story of Cecil Gaines, who served as White House butler under all eight presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan, stirred my curiosity, as well as my antennae for Hollywood mangling of history and the prodromal symptoms of Hollywood mytho-nausea alert. But the lingering pleasures that attach to being father of the bride lulled me into Morphean complacency, and I pressed the fatal buttons. The stroke was committed and it was inexorable. I take no issue with the depiction of the eventual White House butler’s mother’s being raped by the plantation owner, leaving her in a stupefied state for the rest of her life, nor with the rapist employer’s shooting the future White House butler’s father dead; it might have happened, and even if it didn’t, that segregated plantation life was an evil system and the rise of Cecil Gaines from a Macon plantation child-worker to White House head butler has all the makings of an uplifting tale.

I braced myself, however, for a portrayal of America’s leaders from 1945 to 1989, the whole extent of the Cold War, that could be a deadly ambush of character assassination, hagiographical myth-making, and equal-opportunity, no-fault, sure-grip treacle. My precautions were inadequate. If I had started on defibrillation as President Eisenhower came into view, I might have disembarked from the airplane several hours later without suffering glottal stops, suddenly walking in tight circles, repeating childhood prayers, and compulsively clutching my forehead, and would probably not still be hearing something approaching Jefferson’s infamous “firebell in the night” ringing without warning in my ears several days later, after a good deal of annealing spousal and self-administered therapy.

I started on this film adventure with teeth clenched in fear like Hansel and Gretel approaching the woods-cottage. As a public-service mental-health warning, I gently recount what followed. In the film, Dwight D. Eisenhower feared that, if he forced the integration of Little Rock Central High School, there would “be another civil war.” In fact, he had his reservations about the Supreme Court’s desegregation decision but did not mistake Orval Faubus (“just a po’ boy from Greasy Creek”) for Robert E. Lee, and did not need lessons from Sherman Adams on the need to uphold a Supreme Court order over the outright defiance of the governor of Arkansas.

The saccharine presentation of John F. Kennedy, coming on the heels of Richard Nixon’s distributing Nixon buttons in the White House kitchen, attacking JFK to the waiters and busboys there, and promising to take care of the White House staff if it voted for him in 1960, should not have surprised me, but it did. Nixon was brought up in a Quaker house where African-American school friends were invited home to dinner from school, a family that knew and tolerated no racial prejudices. Nixon warned Eisenhower of the dangers in the world of the United States’? being portrayed by the Communist powers as racist, and advocated a Republican effort on behalf of civil rights all his public career, while the Kennedys were completely indifferent to the issue until they saw its potential, morally and politically, sometime after JFK was inaugurated. It does nothing for John F. Kennedy, an attractive and popular president, though not one who in his brief term was able to accomplish a great deal, to portray him as a saint that he was not.

The psychotic compulsion always to portray Richard Nixon as a thug of no redeeming characteristics or attainments (who in this case is claimed to have ordered the murder of the leaders of the Black Panther organization, which is complete piffle) would dishonor Hollywood, if that were possible. It is now generally recognized that Nixon was a very successful and distinguished president, and that there was only a very questionable basis for removing him from office, though he was in some respects a neurotic man and had some unattractive foibles. No possible purpose is served in presenting these Manichaean caricatures except to aggravate the contempt in which Hollywood is held by the overwhelming majority of people in the world who have any taste or recognition of the damage the American film industry does by its defamatory coarseness and myth-making and spurious distortion of American life and public policy. At least we were spared the usual cameo companion piece to the Nixon-demonization, of Henry Kissinger verbally abusing underlings while committing war crimes. By that point in the film, I was grateful for whatever relief could be found.

Only the most knowledgeable viewer would realize that LBJ had actually fought for and signed the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, as he appears in this film as an unfathomably boorish man who did nothing but cling to the pristine coattails of the Kennedys. Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter have the good fortune to appear in authentic newsreel segments in secondary roles, but Ronald Reagan, though portrayed as an amiable man — who, with his wife, invited the butler in question and his wife (the inevitable Oprah Winfrey) to a state dinner as guests — is also portrayed as a hag-ridden apologist for the apartheid white-supremacist regime of South Africa. He was nothing of the kind, but was not convinced that sanctions would assist in a solution by “making things better by making them worse.” The facts of the South African question are presented so as to make Reagan appear, despite his geriatric bonhomie, a tool of the racists, and in practice no better than the segregationists and murderers of the Black Panthers confected in previous Republican administrations.

The career of Eugene Allen, the real-life butler on whom Cecil Gaines is based, is quite dramatic and would easily sustain a full-length film without these monstrous distortions. And his views are very interesting. He gave an interview at the time of the election of Barack Obama, to a London newspaper, and explained that he liked all the presidents for whom he worked; that they were all courteous and considerate gentlemen, and that his politics were that he always voted for the president who employed him regardless of party and when there was no incumbent in the race (1952, 1960, 1968), his vote was a secret. He also said that next to the day of the assassination of President Kennedy, the saddest of all in his 35 years in the White House was the day of the resignation of Richard Nixon. Mr. Allen is obviously a fine man, discreet and thorough and well-disposed and exactly what one would hope for in such a role. His life is somewhat inspiring, whether the travails of his plantation youth are exaggerated, and whether he had a son who died in Vietnam or one who was a freedom rider, or not.

Oprah Winfrey is workmanlike as Mrs. Cecil Gaines. Other usual suspects are in the frame, including Harvey Weinstein — which prompts the question of why such accomplished people lend themselves to this bunk. There are now fairly frequent examinations of the Kennedys that present a fairly complete picture, including, but not overstating, some of that family’s less salubrious qualities and quirks. Balanced appraisals of Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson are no longer hard to come by, and Nixon’s chief accusers, especially Woodward and Bernstein, have been pretty thoroughly discredited. The burning question is why Hollywood continues into its second half-century feeding and fattening these false impressions of modern American history. In olden times, the desire for happy endings and for heroes was understandable, although it led at times to unrigorous history. War propaganda — even such hilarious whitewashes of Stalin as Mission to Moscow — was always excusable in the greater cause. But as I pull myself together from post-flight shock, I cannot imagine what rationale there could be for inflicting such a farrago of falsehoods as this upon the world. Eugene Allen deserves better, and so do all the presidents whom he served.

First published in National Review.

Posted on 04/09/2014 5:31 AM by Conrad Black
Wednesday, 9 April 2014
Brandeis Cancels Honorary Degree for Ayaan Hirsi Ali at 2014 Commencement

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Tuesday evening Brandeis University President Fred Lawrence rescinded an honorary doctorate that was to be conferred on Somali American women human rights advocate and author, Ayaan Hirsi Ali at the June 2014 Commencement.  He succumbed to outcries of Islamophobe and Fatwas from the Waltham, Massachusetts campus Muslim Students Association chapter supported by a letter signed by 86 members of the university’s Near Eastern and Judaic studies faculty.  Ali is currently embroiled in the lambasting by CAIR of the Clarion project film, Honor Diaries.   Hirsi Ali, a former Dutch political figure was  colleague of the late Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who was murdered on the streets of Amsterdam by a Dutch Moroccan. She wrote the script for the short film, Submission about the oppression of women under Islamic Sharia doctrine.  Ali is the author of the acclaimed biographies, Infidel and Nomad.  She has been a vigorous opponent of political Islam’s totalitarian oppression of women’s human rights, and culture espousing female genital mutilation and honor shame killings.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus, US correspondent for The Jewish Press, herself an honored graduate of Brandeis, Class of 1980, declared in an email:  “there is no justice for Hirsi Ali” at her alma mater. In her Jewish Press article, on this latest example of dhimmitude at Brandeis, she noted the campus furor that forced the decision of President Lawrence:

 The Brandeis students issued a fatwa: the invitation to Ali had to be rescinded. The school newspaper, The Justice (yes, the irony!) ran both a "news article" and an editorial denouncing the decision to give Ali an honorary degree.

Marcus noted:

The Facebook Page denouncing Ali and the decision to honor her at Brandeis’s 2014 Commencement decried her for her “hate speech.” The Muslim Students Association claimed that honoring her “is a direct violation of Brandeis University’s own moral code as well as the rights of all Brandeis students.”

Most chillingly, while the students acknowledged Ali had experienced “terrible things in her life,” their bottom line was “we will not tolerate an attack at our faith.”

And so they issued a fatwa: the invitation to Ali had to be rescinded. The school newspaper, The Justice (yes, the irony!) ran both a “news article” and an editorial denouncing the decision to give Ali an honorary degree.

Brandeis University president Fred Lawrence echoed the students (and a large number of faculty members, including the Women’s Studies professors) in his statement:

Following a discussion today between President Frederick Lawrence and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ms. Hirsi Ali’s name has been withdrawn as an honorary degree recipient at this year’s commencement. She is a compelling public figure and advocate for women’s rights, and we respect and appreciate her work to protect and defend the rights of women and girls throughout the world. That said we cannot overlook certain of her past statements that are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.  For all concerned, we regret that we were not aware of these statements earlier.

Commencement is about celebrating and honoring our extraordinary students and their accomplishments, and we are committed to providing an atmosphere that allows our community’s focus to be squarely on our students. In the spirit of free expression that has defined Brandeis University throughout its history, Ms. Hirsi Ali is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.

In other words, Ali’s decades of devotion to helping women enslaved by misogynistic practitioners of the Muslim faith – who dominate the governments of Muslim countries – was neutered by the pronunciamento by students that they “would not tolerate an attack on [their] faith.” And in still other words, on American campuses criticism of religion – which has been a fixture of campus life – is no longer permitted. What words, what thoughts will be deemed unacceptable next?

This on a campus in leafy Waltham, Massachusetts established by secular Jewish interests in furtherance of one of America’s leading Supreme Court justices, Louis Brandeis. Brandeis was  a vigorous defender of free speech under the US Constitution,   He commented  in a 1913 Harper’s Weekly article saying , ”sunlight is  said  to be the best  of disinfectants”. 

Marcus also noted the hypocrisy of a member of the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Department, posted on the Facebook page by Prof.  Bernadette Brooten, requesting withdrawal of the honorary doctorate for Ali, “a group of 86 faculty members has signed a letter to President Lawrence, asking him to rescind the invitation.”

Facebook post by Brandeis Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Department prof. Bernadette Brooten.

Marcus noted that Brandeis had conferred honorary doctorates on anti-Israel Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Tony Kushner (2006) and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu (2000). Tutu is an alleged anti-Semite who supporting the notorious Durban I and II UN Human Rights Conference accusing Israel of a Nazi –like occupation of the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria, denying Palestinian statehood. 

The withdrawal by force majeur of Muslim Students and supporting Brandeis faculty is the latest in a series demonstrating dhimmitude at the suburban Boston campus.  In a June 2006 Israpundit post, “Dhimmitude at Brandeis”, we wrote about the controversial honorary degrees conferred on Kushner and Jordan’s Crown Prince Hassan:

Lori Lowenthal Marcus, Honors graduate of the Brandeis Class of 1980,  finally got her message out in an American Thinker article about the mindless and dangerous Brandeis partnership with al Quds University: “The Strange Partner of Brandeis.“ On top of this was the cancellation of a controversial Palestinian children’s art exhibit at Brandeis.

President Reinharz on the other hand was feeling the brunt of all this accumulated criticism when he cataloged his and the Brandeis University woes reflected in a letter exchange with Brandeis faculty captured in a Ha’aretz weblog commentary:

“As you may know, the university (i.e. the president’s office) has been under a steady barrage of complaints these last months… because of my defense of (1) Dr.Khalil Shikaki, a Senior Fellow at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies, against uninformed allegations that he is a supporter of terrorists, (2) Al Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh… (3) Al Quds University itself in the face of the uninformed allegation… and (4) Mr. Tony Kushner, one of this year’s honorary degree recipients, who has been accused by some as being an enemy of Israel…”

As regards the taqiyyah in Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan’s acceptance speech at the 2006 Commencement, we wrote:

That was a backdrop to the sinuous sophistry spread by Prince Hassan of Jordan about religious universalism capsuled in his remarks about the “dear Moishe dear Ibn” correspondence of Maimonides and ibn Rushd in his Brandeis commencement address.

            […]

Prince Hassan persisted in misinforming his Brandeis commencement listeners that somehow, Maimonides, Averroes and St. Thomas Aquinas were intellectual “buddies.” A fiction. This all smacks of dhimmitude, the field of study pioneered by Bat Ye’or author of “Eurabia” concerning the subjugation of all infidels under the Islamic Shariah laws. All Brandeis trustees had to do to complete this transformation was to pay the jizya or “poll tax.”

So, if Muslim taqiyyah isn’t bad enough there is the EUrabian anti-Zionist mindset of students at the Brandeis Middle East Studies Crown Center program.

When the atrocities and barbarities of Islamofascist Ba’athist leader and monster, Saddam Hussein was discussed students said in rebuttal, “how can you chastise Saddam Hussein, when we have the monster Sharon.” This is moral equivalency of the most abysmal sort and patent pro-Palestinian propaganda.

In a controversial Brandeis student newspaper column by Matt Brown in April [2006] he complained about the university being “too Jewish.” This gave rise to accusations of “self loathing” by the Jewish community in a recent Boston Globe article entitled “A Question of Culture” by staff writer Sarah Schweitzer. I guess Brown would complain if Brandeis was a Jesuit university, right?

Our conclusion in the Israpundit 2006 post on the prior Brandeis Commencement episode seems prescient given what occurred last night with the withdrawal of the honorary doctorate for Hirsi Ali:

Perhaps the Brandeis trustees should change its name to something nondescript like Dhimmi U to complete the transformation. Then wouldn’t the late Supreme Court Justice, the iconic Louis Brandeis, whom President Reinharz referred to in his commencement exercise comments as “a Zionist and a proud Jew,” spin in his grave.

Posted on 04/09/2014 5:16 AM by Jerry Gordon
Wednesday, 9 April 2014
Oxfam's Flimflam

A report of the British charity Oxfam recently drew attention to the fact that Britain’s five richest families had more assets than the lowest 20 per cent of the population put together. It called upon the government to consider instituting a wealth tax to reduce the gap, by how much it did not say. Would the poorest fifth be much the better off, or at least happier, if 20, say, or 50, rather than five families now had more wealth than they?

The recent recession in Britain actually made the country more equal than before. The incomes of the richer classes were more vulnerable to the economic downturn than those of the poorer, which are held more or less constant by the government. If equality is what we want, then, recession is one way of increasing it. But no one seemed the happier for it—certainly not the poor and unemployed, even though they were proportionately better off.

Now that the recession is over (for now), the country is growing more unequal again, hence Oxfam’s moral outrage.

It is curious that a charity should appeal to envy and hatred. Man being a comparing animal, envy comes naturally to him, and I doubt that it will ever be expunged entirely from the human heart; but it is one of the seven deadly sins nonetheless, and for good reason. It poisons the mind by focusing on what a person does not have rather than on what he does, and on what he can’t do rather than what he can; it embitters by drawing attention to those more fortunate than oneself, without causing one to become more compassionate to those less fortunate. Envy is midwife to that most unfortunate of human conditions, fatalism without contentment.

Hatred is the strongest of all political passions, and while it is sometimes justified, often it is not. It is regrettably easy to stir up because it is enjoyable in itself. It is difficult to believe the Oxfam report’s authors were unaware of the document’s hatred-stirring potential. Rarely is hatred constructive; rather it leads to outbursts of destruction, sometimes more destructive to the haters than to the hated.

Only if it were the case that the five richest families enriched themselves at the expense of the poor—only if they were rich as a direct consequence of the poor being poor, for example, by having enslaved them or by taking their property by arbitrary force—would hatred be justified. But in fact the rich did not become rich in this way. They didn’t even become rich by the kind of financial dealings now deemed disreputable by most of the population. Two of the richest families inherited their wealth, but three were self-made (and interestingly, two were of Indian origin). The Oxfam report actively promotes the single most disastrous economic idea of all time, that the economy is a cake and a slice for me means crumbs for you.

There are, of course, illicit ways of self-enrichment: theft, fraud, embezzlement, malversation of funds and so forth. They cannot account for wealth as a whole. After all, something must exist before it can be embezzled.

The charity speaks as from the moral high ground, but if one looks at its website, it is far from morally unimpeachable itself. In fact the group’s self-presentation is grossly dishonest, or perhaps I should say economical with the truth. For example, Oxfam claims that for every £1 donated, 84 pence (per cent) is spent on emergency, development, and campaign work, 9 pence on support costs, and 7 pence on investment “to generate future funds”—presumably using the same methods as the richest families.

A look at Oxfam’s annual report for 2011-2012 suggests that this is a very charitable way of interpreting its own activities. It raised £118.5 million ($196.7 million) by voluntary donations that year, but spent £101.8 million on staff salaries— £59.5 million on British staff alone. No doubt work cannot be done without paid staff, but since the website shows a picture of happy, smiling, formerly impoverished people saved from their misery by Oxfam, I doubt that paying the salaries of staff is what most contributors had in mind when they dropped their coins into the rattling tins. Suggestio falsi, suppressio veri comes to mind.

Nor would most contributors suspect where the majority of Oxfam’s money comes from: government, in other words, from the forced contributions of taxpayers in various countries. Such funds amounted to £170.1 million as against £118.5 million genuinely charitable contributions. An organization so financially dependent upon forced contributions cannot be called a charity at all, in fact, unless taxation under threat of prosecution if not paid be regarded as charity.

The average salary paid to Oxfam workers abroad is $24,000 a year. This is not, of course, a salary to make a Swiss dream; but it may well rank above the average of salaries in the countries where many or even most Oxfam employees work. In that case, the wholeraison d’être of Oxfam is non-existent. Its staff may or may not be well-intentioned, but they are not egalitarians where their own income is concerned.

There are three staff in Oxfam paid between $166,000 and $182,000 a year. There are, of course, many people in the world earning much larger sums, but such a salary represents considerably more than a living wage, which is the most that one would expect a true charitable worker to earn. What’s more, Oxfam runs a defined-benefit pension scheme, of which most workers today can now only dream. The chief executive also incurred $80,000 in expenses in 2013. Again, I doubt that the average donor, thinking of the relief of starving babies with flies on their eyelids, is aware of this as he makes his contribution.

Oxfam runs charity (thrift) shops throughout Britain to raise money. Most of the goods are donated, and most of the people who work in them are volunteers. Moreover, the shops pay reduced local taxes and, of course, no corporation tax. The goods donated free of charge were worth £79.6 million, yet Oxfam contrived to make only £25.2 million profit on them. Oxfam bought goods to sell in its shops for £8.6 million, but it cost Oxfam £11.3 million to sell them.

When I took a straw poll of Oxfam volunteers working in their shops to find out what proportion of the takings they thought went to charitable activities, they all said, as if I were asking a foolish question, “All of it, of course.” In other words, Oxfam was not only operating a grossly inefficient business, at least from the point of view of its ostensible ends, but it systematically misleads its own volunteers. If they knew the truth—which, admittedly, they could find on the Internet—they might choose to occupy themselves differently.

So this organization peddles false impressions in more than one sphere. If ever the argument tu quoque were justified, it is here. Oxfam promotes highly contentious views on the one hand and is less than scrupulous in its dealings with its own supporters on the other. In fairness, many of the largest British charities are worse; in some cases, much worse. Charity is no longer charity.

First published in the Library of Law and Liberty.

Posted on 04/09/2014 5:22 AM by Theodore Dalrymple

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