Sunday, 31 December 2017
Suspect admits to planning St Petersburg supermarket attack
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MOSCOW (AFP) – The man arrested by Russian authorities over an attack on a supermarket in St Petersburg has admitted to planning the act and planting the homemade bomb that wounded 18 people, investigators said Sunday (Dec 31).

“During questioning, the suspect confirmed having organised and carried out the crime,” the Russian Investigative Committee said in a statement. “He said his act was motivated by a hatred of the organisers and members of the psychological centres he attended”.

The suspect also hid two USB drives that contained “information on the reasons which pushed him to commit the crime and a picture of the explosive device” near the scene of Wednesday’s attack. 

The man had been registered at a psychiatric clinic since the age of 19, investigators said.

The suspect was named as 35-year-old Dmitry Lukyanenko, a resident of Saint Petersburg and member of the nationalist “New Age” movement by Russian news agency Interfax. The man reportedly lived an anti-social life and had previously been convicted for drug possession.

Investigators have now labelled the crime an “act of terrorism” after first classifying it as “attempted murder”.

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Posted on 12/31/2017 11:02 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Sunday, 31 December 2017
Questions, Questions, Questions!
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Today is Christmas Sunday and the Feast of the Holy Family, as well as New Year’s Eve. So, as you raise glass in celebration of having survived another turbulent year I thought you might all enjoy another five questions in my seasonal quiz. Answers, as usual, will be on Twelfth Night.

You can find the first twenty-one questions in this quiz here at NER and the five questions posted on the last Sunday of Advent, Christmas Eve that was, also here at NER. The Christmas Day questions can be found on this page.

Please remember that all the answers have something to do with Christmas.

 

(1)  What does a “thief of the tree” have to do with Christmas?

(2)  What did Sir John Horsley do for Sir Henry Cole in AD1843?

(3)  Which royal personage first used a Christmas tree in the UK?

(4)  What did a saint do in AD1223?

(5)  What was the fourteenth President of the USA the first to do?

 

Enjoy!

 

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Posted on 12/31/2017 10:49 AM by John M. Joyce
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Sunday, 31 December 2017
Man held over St Petersburg supermarket blast
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A man has been arrested in connection with a St Petersburg supermarket bombing that wounded 18 people, Russia's main domestic security agency said.

The Federal Security Service (FSB) did not identify the suspect or provide any details about his motive. The agency said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that he organised and carried out the attack on his own.

The Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the blast, but a member of the security committee in the lower house of Russia's parliament cast doubt on the claim, saying it might have been an attempt by IS to gain publicity.

"Now, when the IS defeat in Syria seriously dented its image, it will try to restore its authority and claim responsibility for the attacks by others," Adalbi Shakhgoshev said, according to Russian news wires.

The FSB said it has handed over the suspect to the Investigative Committee, the nation's top investigative agency. The FSB normally deals with terror suspects itself, and the transfer could indicate that the man had other motives.

The Interfax news agency reported that the suspect was a 35-year-old local resident who said he was a member of an occult movement and was taking drugs.

Russian law enforcement agencies stopped short of immediately describing the supermarket blast as a terror attack, but President Vladimir Putin called it one on Thursday. He added that he ordered security agencies to kill terror suspects on the spot if they resist arrest.

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Posted on 12/31/2017 2:29 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Saturday, 30 December 2017
AMCD Urges Support for Iranian Anti-Government Demonstrators
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WASHINGTON DC

The American Mideast Coalition for Democracy (AMCD) applauds the proud Iranian people’s peaceful protests over the actions of the few non-elected, self-appointed Iranian regime officials. We encourage the Trump administration to extend active support to the large and growing secular element of Iranian society in their quest for freedom and their will to embrace modernity.

“Freedom and Liberty are God given rights equally owned by Iranians who wrote the first declaration of human rights 2500 years ago,” said AMCD’s founding member Hossein Khorram. “It a shame this resourceful nation with such a rich history has become victim to the tyranny of a handful of mullahs at the head of its corrupt theocratic government.”

As the signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, AMCD insists the US must hold the Iranian regime responsible for the welfare and safety of Iranian people exercising their right to a peaceful protest. 

“Before the Iranian regime expects respect from other nations it must respect their own people and immediately release all of those who have been arrested during these peaceful protects,” declared AMCD’s President John Hajjar.

“The Iranian regime’s failure to respect their citizens’ rights will only deepens the existing mistrust towards that regime and will increase the international community’s sanctions against the regime,” he continued.

“The remarkable will of the Iranian people to denounce terrorism will force the end of terrorist groups supported by Iran such as Hezbollah, Hamas and others who are fomenting instability throughout the entire region,” added AMCD’s Co-Director, Tom Harb.

We at AMCD stand shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian American Community in support of freedom and liberty for the Iranians who have enriched the world with their enormous contributions to humanity. We declare the time has come for the regime to concede their power back to the people of Iran and to allow them to determine their own destiny as full and equal members of the modern world.

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Posted on 12/30/2017 1:35 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Saturday, 30 December 2017
Memory of Cornish coast dwellers kidnapped for slavery 'culturally erased'
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I am not the only one who keeps reminding people of this part of our history. From the Telegraph

The memory of thousands of Cornish people who were kidnapped and sold into slavery has been “culturally erased”, campaigners have said.

Academics are trying to revive knowledge about pirates from the Barbary coast in North Africa who terrorised West Country maritime communities during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Also known as the Barbary corsairs, the seafarers targeted settlements across the western Mediterranean and Atlantic European coasts until they were finally suppressed for good in 1830.

Historians say Cornish records reveal family members pleading for ransom money to buy their loved-ones back.

Professor Jo Esra, from the University of Exeter, said the piracy was an “incredibly significant” aspect of the history of the South West. “There’s an element that it has been culturally erased in some way,” she told the BBC.“This was an aspect of history that impacted enormously on those ordinary, maritime communities. They were the ones that were enslaved and they were the ones that were taken, they were the communities that were decimated, through the activities of the barbary pirates.”

The Barbary pirates operated primarily from Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli and Rabat and occasionally sailed as far as Iceland to capture slaves, which they then traded in North African slave markets.

As well as raiding coastal towns, they also capture thousands of ships over almost two centuries.

Every time I attend the Museum of Docklands in East London I leave a note on the 'tribute wall' of the Slavery Gallery (Atlantic black trade only) reminding visitors and curators of the Barbary Coast trade in white Englishmen and women (and Irish, and probably Welsh). (On the other hand, to the museum's credit, their section on the Blitz on east London and the clearances of the Isle of Dogs to transform it into 'Docklands' is excellent.)

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Posted on 12/30/2017 11:28 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Saturday, 30 December 2017
Garry Wills, Qur’anic Scholar
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by Hugh Fitzgerald

Garry Wills’s What the Qur’an Meant and Why It Matters begins with a statement of his certainties. He knows that students of the Qur’an, like himself, “must deal with militant misuses of it” and “blatantly distorted reports of what it says.” Garry Wills knows better. For if the militants understood the Qur’an correctly, then they would comprehend the peaceful nature of Islam, and give up terrorism. And if Islamophobes would cease to offer their “blatantly distorted reports of what it says,” non-Muslims could see all the good to be found in the Qur’an. Both Muslims and non-Muslims could then come to agree with that formidable scholar of Islam, Pope Francis, who has written “Authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.” That “proper reading” of the Qur’an is what Wills takes as his main task in this book.

But before he gets to that proper reading, he offers what is the least inaccurate, and most amusing, part of his book, which has nothing to do with the Qur’an but is, rather, his scathing description of those who led us into the Iraq War, and the chrestomathy he presents of naive, ignorant, and arrogant statements that American officials, from President George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld on down, made about that colossal error. He reminds us of all the predictions that were so confidently made: “It was unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups.” (George Bush); “We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators…It will go relatively quickly…weeks rather than months…”; “The streets in Basra and Baghdad are sure to erupt in joy.” (Dick Cheney); “Once we start this, Saddam is toast.” (Dick Cheney); “Our military can do the job and finish it fast….five days or five months, but it certainly isn’t going to last any longer than that.” (Donald Rumsfeld); “Liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk.” (Kenneth Adelman); “It’s a slam dunk.” (George Tenet).

The war in Iraq was not over in a few weeks. It lasted eight years, from 2003 to 2011. It was no “slam dunk” or “cakewalk,” but involved more than two million American soldiers in Iraq (there were more than a million in Afghanistan.) They were not greeted as liberators by any Iraqi Arabs, though the Shi’a, unlike the Sunni Arabs, were at least — at first — not murderously resentful. Only the Kurds displayed genuine gratitude for the protection from Saddam’s air force that the Americans had provided them from 1991 on.

Bush’s confident assertion that it was “unlikely there would be internecine warfare” was an amazing remark, for the Sunni suppression of the Shi’a, including putting down rebellions in 1991 and 1999, was the most salient feature of Saddam’s despotism. How the Sunni Arabs of Iraq, who constituted a mere 19% of the population, managed to hold onto power and keep the Shi’a Arabs, who were 65% of the population, underfoot, and to crush their two rebellions, was surely something Bush ought to have known about. And one prediction that could have safely been made was the very opposite of what Bush suggested. Whatever else happened once Saddam Hussein was removed, there was certain to be a complete upending of the old order and the replacement of the ruling Sunnis by the Shi’a Arabs. The Shi’a Arabs would not relinquish the power they had newly acquired, thanks to the Americans, and  the  Sunni Arabs were never going to acquiesce in their loss of power. As a consequence, this led to more than a decade of that internecine warfare that Bush so cavalierly dismissed; even now, it has not been extinguished.

Wills has great fun holding up for well-deserved ridicule all these people whose baseless certainties help explain how the Iraq fiasco came to be. And Wills is right to criticize the Iraq War. For whatever his despicable behavior inside Iraq (and Saddam Hussein was hardly a unique monster; there were other Arab despots, such as Hafez al-Assad and  Muammar Khadaffy, who rivaled him), he had nothing to do with Al-Qaeda,  and it was not our responsibility to bring truth, justice, and the American way to Iraq, or to any other wretched Muslim despotism, but only to deal with those who were linked to the 9/11 terrorists or to other Islamic terrorists. In Afghanistan, on the other hand, the war was justified, as that country served as the safe haven for Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

Once Wills turned his attention from Iraq to the Qur’an, I felt the first stirrings of alarm. For he begins by describing his surprise at not finding any mention in the Qur’an of the 72 virgins. He says the virgins are not in the Qur’an but only, he discovered, in some “discredited ahadith.” And thus, he continues, those 9/11 terrorists “were quite ignorant of Islamic teachings.” This does not follow. The 9/11 terrorists  might have been wrong about the 72 virgins (though the textual support for them is not as flimsy as Wills believes), but that hardly makes them “quite ignorant of Islamic teachings.” They may have been misinformed about the precise heavenly rewards awaiting them, and still be good Jihadis, dutifully following the Qur’anic commands to kill the Infidels wherever they are found, and “striking terror” in their hearts.

But there is more here to worry about. Wills claims that the ahadith about the 72 virgins are “discredited.” Does he not know that the story can be found in many different ahadith, including the canonical ahadith collections? One of the authorities for this reward of the dark-eyed virigins  is Al-Tirmidhi (see #2687), a pupil of Al-Bukhari (who greatly respected him), and the compiler of one of the six canonical ahadith collections. On what grounds does Wills claim this story of the 72 virgins has been “discredited”? Did some apologist for Islam tell him that, and Wills gullibly accepted it?

And there is one more thing. Wills says there is nothing in the Qur’an about the 72 virgins. That’s not quite true. Though the exact number of virgins is not to be found in the Qur’an, a detailed description of their sensual delights can be found therein. Avi Perry notes:

The 72 Virgins notion has its origins in the Qur’an. Although the holy book does not specify the number as 72, it does say that those who fight in the way of Allah and are killed will be given a great reward. It goes on to stipulate that Muslims will be rewarded with women in the Islamic heaven. It even describes their physical attributes—large eyes (Q 56:22) and big, firm, round “swelling breasts” that are not inclined to sagging (Q 78:33). The Qur’an refers to these virgins as houri, companions of equal age, but the highly-flavored emphasis of their bodily characteristics, including their virginity, gave rise to many hadiths and other Islamic writings.

Not only are the many ahadith where 72 virgins are mentioned not “discredited,” but a fatwa by one of the Islamic world’s leading scholars of the subject concludes that these ahadith about the 72 virgins are “good” and may be relied on. Wills makes no mention of any of these supporting ahadith, about which more information can be found here.

Why does he give so much attention to this business of the 72 virgins? Wills wants readers to believe that the terrorists were ignorant of Islam (but Al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS, was not the only terrorist leader with years of Islamic study behind him, and degrees to prove it), and if he can show they are wrong about the virgins, then by his weird illogic, they must get everything else wrong about Islam as well.

Something else about the Qur’an came as a surprise to Wills:

What did the scripture of Islam tell me about the duty to kill infidels? Some people are sure it is there, though it isn’t.’

This is an extraordinary statement.

There are 109 verses calling for violent jihad, commanding Muslims to fight — and ordinarily you can’t fight without killing — the Infidel enemy.

Perhaps what Garry Wills meant is that the duty incumbent on all Muslims is not so much to kill Infidels (though killing is called for, he might argue that it is not, strictly speaking, the main point), as to subjugate them and then give them a choice: to be killed, to convert to Islam, or to accept their permanent status as dhimmis, required to pay the jizyah and to be subject to a host of onerous conditions.

That might be what he meant, but if that were the case, then one would expect him to dwell on the “dhimmi” option, that allows the Infidels to live, in order to minimize, if he can, the burden of what was required of them. But instead, Wills never discusses the status of ”dhimmi,” and not once do the words “dhimmi” and “jizyah” appear anywhere in this book on the Qur’an. And it is no accident that he refrains from quoting 9:29, even though it is in this verse that Muslims are commanded not to kill but to “fight,” because it is also the best-known of the Qur’anic verses that sets out the main requirement for dhimmis — payment of the Jizyah “with willing submission.” Wills does want not to draw attention to what the non-Muslims, as dhimmis under Muslim rule, had to endure.

It might be noted that Wills uses something called The Study Qur’an, which is a massive attempt, 1,988 pages long, by five Muslim co-authors, who are in the business not of elucidation but of obfuscation, attempting to distract those who use their guide with half-truths or, still worse, interpreting verses to mean the opposite of what they say. More on The Study Qur’an can be found here. Wills is especially fond of quoting Joseph Lumbard, a convert and one of the five compilers of The Study Qur’an, of whom you can read more here. Lumbard is one of those who tries to convince you that the Qur’anic command to kill the Infidel really isn’t meant to apply to all Infidels. You’ve got to understand that command, claims Lumbard, as only applying to a particular time and place.

Another book Wills favors is Michael Sells’s Approaching the Qur’an, which offers a bowdlerized Qur’an, that leaves out all the unpleasant passages commanding Jihad warfare, passes over in silence all the many antisemitic passages in the Qur’an, omits the verses dripping with contempt for all Infidels (“the most vile of creatures”), and does this in the service of its mission, which is to present the “aesthetic quality” of the Qur’an as a text to be chanted, for which Sells thoughtfully supplies recordings of Qur’anic recitations to please his readers.

When this Approaching the Qur’an — a work of obvious apologetics — was assigned to incoming freshmen at the University of North Carolina, many people took the side of those parents who did not want their children to be subject to a tendentious abridgment of the Qur’an, heavily blue-pencilled, that was presented, falsely, as a truthful version of that book. Wills mocks William F. Buckley Jr. and Franklin Graham for taking the side of the parents: “Their concern was clearly to keep others as ignorant of the book as they had managed to remain.”

No, that was not their concern. Their concern was to prevent impressionable students from being forced to read not the Qur’an, but a heavily expurgated version of it — that by Michael Sells — that leaves out  the violent passages concerning Jihad and infidels. As Buckley wrote: “This edition is exorcised of any sentiments that might have inspired the 9/11 terrorists.” In Wills’ telling, these islamophobic know-nothings would also have prevented a full version of the Qur’an from being assigned, though there is no evidence of that. Why didn’t the University of North Carolina assign the full Qur’an? By not doing so, and instead distributing an apologetic work (for a bowdlerized Qur’an, making it appear much more peaceful than it is, is a work of apology), it was promoting, proselytizing, shilling for a specific religion — Islam. This was being done at the state-funded University of North Carolina, not at a Muslim seminary, and promoting one religion over others at a public university raises constitutional issues. Wills never addresses that; I suspect it is because, having admitted that Sells’ sanitized version stresses the “aesthetic quality” of the Qur’an (and it would be easy to comb Sell’s text to show just how much, and exactly what, he left out, in order to present the Qur’an in a benign light), he can’t successfully argue that UNC was not promoting one religion over others.

A key chapter in Wills’s study is “Peace to Believers.” It is here that the massive misrepresentation, and misunderstanding, of Qur’anic verses begins, with 5:51. In this verse Allah unambiguously tells the Believers “do not take Jews and Christians as allies” [or “friends”]; it further says that if you take them as allies, then you “become one of them.” Wills sees 5:51 as saying, instead, that Muslims cannot “run under the shield of another people [Jews or Christians] for protection, as if the Quran were not a strong enough pledge on God’s part to protect his people.”

Is that what 5:51 says? Is it merely a way of affirming faith in the Qur’an, a way of saying “there is no need to take Christians and Jews as friends (i.e., protectors) because the Qur’an offers protection enough? And if you seek them as friends or allies then you are demonstrating insufficient faith in Islam?” That’s what Wills wants you to believe. But isn’t it really a reminder to Muslims not to take Jews and Christians as friends  because they are the permanent enemies of Muslims? And if you are friendly with them, and thus become like them, you will then be punished, for “God does not guide such wrongdoers.” Wills does not quote the authoritative Qur’anic commentator Ibn Kathir, who glosses 5:51 thus:  “Allah forbids His believing servants from having Jews and Christians as friends, because they are the enemies of Islam and its people, may Allah curse them.” Could it be made any clearer? Allah continues in this vein in 5:52-60, excoriating the hypocrites and the People of the Book (most of whom are “defiantly disobedient” — 5:59), reminding them that some of “those whom Allah has cursed and with whom He became angry” were transformed into “apes and pigs” (5:60). For Ibn Kathir, 5:51 is simple and clear: Jews and Christians are “the enemies of Islam,” Allah must curse them, and good Muslims should have nothing do with them. It is only very recent apologists for Islam who have distorted the text’s meaning, interpreting it not as a declaration of enmity to non-Muslims, but as an affirmation of trust in the protection afforded by the Qur’an, so that such “friends” are not needed.

As for the Jews, Wills apparently thinks that only a handful of verses could possibly be called antisemitic. If he thinks that, he cannot have studied the Qur’an, as he claims, with care. As one of the “few” examples (in reality there are more than two dozen) of antisemitism in the Qur’an, he quotes 4:160-62:

For the wrongdoing done by the Jews, We forbade them certain good things that had been permitted to them before: for having frequently debarred others from God’s path; for taking usury when they had been forbidden to do; and for wrongfully devouring other people’s property, For those of them that reject the truth We have prepared an agonizing torment. But those of them who are well grounded in knowledge and have faith do believe in what has been revealed to you [Muhammad], and in what was revealed before you–those who perform the prayers, pay the prescribed alms, and believe in God and the Last Day– to them We shall give a great reward (4:160-162).

Wills apparently did not notice that the “out” that is offered the Jews is nothing less than forced conversion to Islam. For those Jews who remain Jews, an “agonizing torment” has been prepared, and that is all they deserve. But those Jews who have knowledge and faith will believe in what has been revealed to Muhammad, as they do in what was revealed to earlier prophets, and they will fulfill the duties of Muslims — performing the five daily prayers of an observant Muslim, paying the zakat (“prescribed alms”) — required of Muslims, believing in God and the Last Day — and thus become Muslims.

Wills then comments: “This [but this is just one antisemitic verse among so many] has been used to show that the Qur’an is anti-Semitic (though not nearly as anti-semitic as the New Testament Gospel of John or Letter to the Hebrews). And it should be remembered that the Old Testament itself often rebukes God’s people….”

In other words, instead of denying, or even discussing, the antisemitism in this passage, Wills immediately offers a Tu-Quoque defense of Islam: just look, there are many passages in the Gospels even more antisemitic, and don’t forget that in the Old Testament, too, the Jews are rebuked. To that one can only reply: so what? None of that should make us overlook or minimize the antisemitism of this passage — the only antisemitic passage he quotes — nor, more importantly, of the dozens of other antisemitic passages in the Qur’an, which Wills chooses to pass over in complete silence.

Here are the references to twenty-five of those antisemitic passages in the Qur’an, as well as relevant glosses by both classic Qur’anic commentators, such as Ibn Kathir, and by recent Muslim clerics — a steady stream of Islamic antisemitism that Garry Wills somehow managed not to notice but that, fortunately, Robert Spencer has conveniently collected:

The Qur’an depicts the Jews as inveterately evil and bent on destroying the wellbeing of the Muslims. They are the strongest of all people in enmity toward the Muslims (5:82); as fabricating things and falsely ascribing them to Allah (2:79; 3:75, 3:181); claiming that Allah’s power is limited (5:64); loving to listen to lies (5:41); disobeying Allah and never observing his commands (5:13); disputing and quarreling (2:247); hiding the truth and misleading people (3:78); staging rebellion against the prophets and rejecting their guidance (2:55); being hypocritical (2:14, 2:44); giving preference to their own interests over the teachings of Muhammad (2:87); wishing evil for people and trying to mislead them (2:109); feeling pain when others are happy or fortunate (3:120); being arrogant about their being Allah’s beloved people (5:18); devouring people’s wealth by subterfuge (4:161); slandering the true religion and being cursed by Allah (4:46); killing the prophets (2:61); being merciless and heartless (2:74); never keeping their promises or fulfilling their words (2:100); being unrestrained in committing sins (5:79); being cowardly (59:13-14); being miserly (4:53); being transformed into apes and pigs for breaking the Sabbath (2:63-65; 5:59-60; 7:166); and more.

The classic Qur’anic commentators  do not soften the Qur’an’s words against Jews, but only add fuel to the fire. Ibn Kathir explained Qur’an 2:61 (“They were covered with humiliation and misery; they drew on themselves the wrath of Allah”) this way: “This Ayah [verse] indicates that the Children of Israel were plagued with humiliation, and that this will continue, meaning that it will never cease. They will continue to suffer humiliation at the hands of all who interact with them, along with the disgrace that they feel inwardly.” Another Middle Ages commentator of influence, Abdallah ibn Umar al-Baidawi, explains the same verse this way: “The Jews are mostly humiliated and wretched either of their own accord, or out of coercion of the fear of having their jizya [punitive tax] doubled.”

Ibn Kathir notes Islamic traditions that predict that at the end of the world, “the Jews will support the Dajjal (False Messiah), and the Muslims, along with ‘Isa [Jesus], son of Mary, will kill the Jews.” The idea in Islam that the end times will be marked by Muslims killing Jews comes from the prophet Muhammad himself, who said, “The Hour will not be established until you fight with the Jews, and the stone behind which a Jew will be hiding will say. ‘O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, so kill him.’” This is, not unexpectedly, a favorite motif among contemporary jihadists.

Not just contemporary jihadists, but modern-day mainstream Islamic authorities take these passages seriously. The former Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, who was the most respected cleric in the world among Sunni Muslims, called Jews “the enemies of Allah, descendants of apes and pigs.” The late Saudi sheikh Abd al-Rahman al-Sudayyis, imam of the principal mosque in the holiest city in Islam, Mecca, said in a sermon that Jews are “the scum of the human race, the rats of the world, the violators of pacts and agreements, the murderers of the prophets, and the offspring of apes and pigs.”

Another Saudi sheikh, Ba’d bin Abdallah al-Ajameh al-Ghamidi, made the connection explicit: “The current behavior of the brothers of apes and pigs, their treachery, violation of agreements, and defiling of holy places … is connected with the deeds of their forefathers during the early period of Islam–which proves the great similarity between all the Jews living today and the Jews who lived at the dawn of Islam.

From this compilation by Spencer, we can see that antisemitism in Islam, and in the Qur’an, is a huge topic. It deserves a chapter to itself, but instead Wills devotes exactly one short paragraph to a discussion of verses 4:160-62, where Jews are denounced and promised an “agonizing torment”; their only hope of being spared is to convert to Islam. As far as Wills is concerned, that’s an adequate treatment of the extent of the antisemitic verses which, in fact, are to be found throughout the Qur’an.

But let’s take another look at Wills’ understanding of 5:51, which is about Jews and Christians. Wills chooses to believe, as noted above, that when Muslims are instructed in the Qur’an not to be friends (or allies) with Jews and Christians, it’s not because there’s something wrong with the Infidels, but only because by “seeking protection” from them, that would show a lack of faith on the part of Muslims in the protection Allah already furnishes Muslims.

In fact, 5:51 has nothing to do with a vote of confidence in Allah. It expresses the hostility, even hatred, for Infidels that Muslims should feel. That hostility to Infidels reflects the important Muslim doctrine known in Arabic by the term Al-wala’ wa-l-bara’, which means “loyalty and disavowal.” It signifies loving and hating for the sake of Allah, holding fast to all that is pleasing to Allah, and withdrawing from and opposing all that is displeasing to Allah — namely the Kuffar.

Wills does not seem to be aware of this doctrine; he fails to realize how uncompromising are the teachings of Islam about the hostility Muslims must feel for all non-Muslims. He leaves out any mention, too, of Islamic supremacism, as in the description of Muslims as “the best of peoples” (3:110) and of non-Muslims as “the most vile of creatures” (98:6). How, after all, can such straightforward verses be twisted and made to express the very opposite of what they do say? When he can’t do that, Wills simply leaves such verses out, no matter how important they may be to our understanding of Islam. You won’t find either 3:110 or 98:6 anywhere in Wills’s study.

Wills likes, when he can, to suggest comforting similarities between Islam and the other two monotheisms. The Qur’an’s teaching, according to Wills, is close to that of “primitive” or pre-Nicaean Christianity; it is critical of the post-Nicaean Trinitarianism, with Jesus as one of the three, that in Islam is understood and rejected as “shirk” — ascribing partners to God. But Islam does not, he suggests, reject all forms of Christianity. It would be fascinating to ask Christians in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, and a dozen other Muslim countries, whether they are consoled by Garry Wills’ claim about Islam’s benign view of many forms of Christianity. Islam’s opposition to the Trinity, Wills maintains, “has not prevented Pope Francis from praying to the One God with his beloved Muslims.” But that “one God” of the Muslims is quite different from, is much more aggressive and bellicose than the “One God” of the Christians.  For Wills, all Christians ought to see Islam as wise Pope Francis sees it, he who has famously said of Islam — in a remark Wills quotes admiringly — “Authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.” Is this a case for Credo quia absurdum? For those who have read the Qur’an with care, no can do.

Wills then tackles the issue of “hypocrites” and apostates in Islam, offering a tortured justification of their harsh treatment; historically, the punishment for apostasy in Islam has been death. In its early days Islam “placed a high regard on maintaining fidelity to the group against the threat of persecution. Those who gave in to threats and abandoned the faith were traitors, were turncoats.” Wills seems to regard this as an acceptable view. Notice that he describes the early Muslims as requiring “fidelity to the group against threat of persecution.” What “threat of persecution” of the early Muslims does he have in mind? Once Muhammad had moved to Medina and quickly established his dominance, where were Muslims being persecuted? The history of Islam from then on, for many centuries, was one of constant, triumphant expansion. And how does he explain the much milder treatment of their own apostates by Christians, who indeed were subject to the “threat of persecution,” especially from Muslims?  Wills describes the severe punishment for Muslim apostates as if it were a thing of the distant past, though such punishments are still meted out today, if infrequently. Is he aware of just how great is the support among Muslims for killing apostates? In a 2013  Pew Research Center report, 88% of Muslims in Egypt and 62% of Muslims in Pakistan favored the death penalty for those who left Islam.

And again, in his discussion of apostasy, Wills immediately glides into Tu-Quoque, describing “the hard life of apostates” [from Judaism and Christianity] in the Letter to the Hebrews, and even comparing the Christian treatment of apostates unfavorably to that in Islam, because “it [the Qur’an] always leaves room for God’s inexhaustible mercy and forgiveness.’” That is apparently Garry Wills’ considered judgment on the Qur’an; that it “always leaves room for God’s inexhaustible mercy and forgiveness.” But does it? If apostates are executed, where is the room for “inexhaustible mercy” and “ forgiveness?” And is Christianity, which for many centuries has not punished apostates with execution, really worse than Islam on this score? Garry Wills writes that  “Christians” who betrayed the faith “lost their consecration as bishops or ordination as priests” — not exactly on the same level with the decapitation a “traitor” to Islam (that is, an apostate) faced over many centuries and, in some Muslim countries, still faces today.

Wills claims that the “solidarity of believers in the One God is reflected in the Qur’an’s marriage laws. Muslims may marry Jews or Christians without compromising the religion of any of the parties. Muhammad gave sanction to this by marrying a Jew (Safiyya bint Huyayy)….”

He’s missed the most important point about Islam and these inter-religious marriages. They are all one-way: a Muslim man can marry a Jewish or a Christian woman, but a non-Muslim man is forbidden from marrying a Muslim woman. Men and women are unequal in Islam; the man is the master in the marriage. It would therefore be an outrage for a non-Muslim husband to be able to lord it over a Muslim wife. Far from the Qur’an’s marriage laws reflecting the “solidarity” of the monotheists, the rules show clearly the inequality both between Muslim and non-Muslim, and between men and women. Does Wills know that a non-Muslim man cannot marry a Muslim woman? And why? I suspect that he does not know, as he does not know so many other things about Islam. The alternative — that he does know and is deliberately withholding such information from unwary readers for whom he must feel a certain disdain — is even more disturbing to contemplate.

The chapter on Jihad starts with a single paragraph where Wills discusses how best to convey that Arabic word’s meaning. He suggests “zeal” might be best, possibly because it is a positive word, even if “zealot” is not. Then he immediately drops the word “jihad” and veers into a lengthy discussion of the word “crusade,” which for the Christian West, he wants us to believe, is as central a notion and as omnipresent a word as “jihad” is in Islam. He comes up with exactly four examples: it was used by Eisenhower for his book “Crusade in Europe”; Billy Graham called his revivals crusades; others have had their “Crusades for Christ”; George Bush used the term when he invaded Iraq (“this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while”). That’s it. It is, Wills claims, a “hated term” in the Muslim East, for “it is a sign of the Christian West’s age-old aggressions against that whole part of the world.”

Perhaps we might stop and examine that last sentence. What “age-old aggressions against that whole part of the world” by Christians is Wills talking about? It was Christians, and Jews and pagans too, of the Middle East and North Africa, who were the victims of Islamic aggression  soon after Muhammad’s death. Muslim armies swept westward from Arabia, conquering much of the Middle East, Egypt, and North Africa (where St. Augustine and Tertullian, the father of the Latin church, both had lived), all the way across the straits of Gibraltar, up through the Iberian peninsula into France, where the Muslim aggressors were stopped by Charles Martel outside Poitiers. The “age-old aggression” was that by Muslims committed against Christians, and continued with Muslim raids over more than a millennium, along the coasts of Christian Europe, where loot was seized and locals kidnapped, to be brought back to serve as slaves in Dar al-Islam. Those raiding parties went as far north as Ireland and, in one reported instance, Iceland. Muslim raids on Christian shipping in the Mediterranean continued over the centuries, with the seizing of cargo, ships, and Christian seamen who were put to work by their Muslim masters in North Africa.

To the east, Muslim Arabs, having conquered the southern Byzantine provinces of Egypt and Syria, pushed into Asia Minor, subjugating the Christians, and twice laying siege, unsuccessfully, to Constantinople. Other Muslim armies swept through Zoroastrian Persia and then to Hindu India where at first they were repelled, though they kept trying and ultimately were successful, in conquering both Byzantium and India. The “age-old aggression” in all these lands, east and west of Arabia, were committed by Jihadists eager to make war, in order to enlarge the territory of Dar al-Islam. Their victims were Christians, Jews, pagans, Zoroastrians, Hindus, Buddhists.

Yet here we have Garry Wills insisting on “the Christian West’s age-old aggressions against that whole part of the world.”

But what about the Crusades themselves? Weren’t they, at least, an example of the Christian West’s “age-old aggressions’? No, they were not. The Crusades were a response to centuries of Muslim aggression, to the takeover of Christian lands, and the subjugation of Christians. The First Crusade was prompted by the behavior of the Fatimid Caliph Hakim, who ordered the destruction of many churches in the Holy Land, above all the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which he had razed to the ground in 1009. The Second Crusade was prompted by the Turkish Muslim conquest of Edessa, a Crusader state, in 1144. The Third Crusade was an attempt to re-conquer the Holy Land from Saladin. In other words, the Crusades were prompted by the  prior Muslim conquests of the Holy Land and territories adjacent to it.

What other “age-old aggressions” by the West against “that whole part of the world” does Wills have in mind? He surely knows that the West — Europeans — first entered the Middle East in modern times only in 1798 with Napoleon. The French were not out to conquer the Egyptians, but to promote their own trade with the East and to weaken Britain’s hold on British India (Egypt being a key post on the route from England to India); they stayed all of three years (1798-1801). Great Britain did not enter  the Middle East until Lord Cromer went out to Egypt in 1878-79, to serve first as controller-general, in order to put the Khedive’s finances on a sound footing, then in 1883 he returned to serve as consul-general. In neither of those posts was Lord Cromer attempting to aggress or seize territory, but to rescue the Egyptian government from corruption and general disarray, and to re-organize the country’s civil service. That was of particular importance in order to assure that the Suez Canal, which had opened in 1869, would remain solvent.

The true imperial power in the Muslim Middle East was not the Europeans, as Wills seems to think, but the Ottoman Turks. Britain liberated the Arabs from the Ottomans by defeating the Turks in World War I. Hundreds of years of Ottoman rule came to an end. Then came the period of the Mandates, and again, the Europeans were not “aggressors” but, rather, mandatory authorities who helped prepare Arabs for independence in four states. The British held the mandates both for Palestine, from which emerged not just Israel, but also the Emirate of Transjordan, in 1946 becoming the independent Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and for Iraq (which became independent in 1932). The French held the mandates that led to independence for Syria and Lebanon. In the Arabian peninsula, the British never penetrated intro the interior, but helped keep the peace among the Arabs with their garrisons on the coast. Only in Aden did the British remain for a long time, from 1838 on, not so much because Aden itself contained any wealth, but because control of its port allowed the British to patrol against pirates attacking British shipping to and from the great colonial prize, India.

Wills ignores the 1400-year history of Muslim  conquest, so eager is he to assign all blame to the West for its putative aggressions. He also makes the astonishing claim that “the Qur’an never advocates war as a means of religious conversion, since ‘there is no compulsion in religion.’” (Quran 2:256). This is probably the single Qur’anic verse most quoted by apologists. But there are a number of problems with it.  In the first place, 2:256  is one of those verses, from Muhammad’s earliest years in Medina, while he had not yet established his power, that has been held to have been “abrogated” by later verses (see 3:85-6; 9:73). But even had it not been abrogated, the actual behavior of Muslims shows an indifference to the supposed principle expounded. First, Muslims themselves are subject to severe punishment, which may include death, if they leave Islam. If you can be executed for apostasy, then surely you are being “compelled” — in the worst way — to remain a Muslim. Second, non-Muslims under Muslim rule were traditionally subject to many onerous requirements, especially the payment of the Jizyah. The Jizyah by itself was a very heavy burden, but there were other requirements, too. These included forbidding non-Muslims from repairing old or building new houses of worship, forbidding them from riding horses, thus non-Muslims had to make do with donkeys, having to move aside for Muslims on walkways, and in some periods and places, having to wear identifying marks — as Jews or as Christians — on their clothing and dwellings. Over time, all of these requirements — but especially the Jizyah — would naturally cause many non-Muslims to choose to convert to Islam so as to remove these burdens. Conversion under such conditions  certainly meets anyone’s definition of  “compulsion in religion.”

Now we come to one of the best-known of the Jihad verses:

Here is the first part of  Qur’an 2:191:

“Kill them wherever you encounter them [that is, even in the sacred area], and drive them out from where they drove you out, for persecution [on religious grounds] is more serious than killing [in self-defense].”

Garry Wills considers this to be a criticism of holy war, not a defense of it. Obviously there is something here that I, and most likely you too, have failed to understand. To me, “kill them wherever you encounter them” means “kill them wherever you encounter them.”

He takes the same view of Qur’an 9:5, about which Wills says that the “‘sword verse” which is “used to foist on Muslims the idea of a holy war against all infidels (including Christians and Jews) proves just the opposite. It is far more forgiving and pacific than Christian heresy hunts….or Hebrew wars of extinction.” This is what  9:5 commands: “Kill the mushrikun [unbelievers] wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and prepare for them each and every ambush.”

“Kill them wherever you find them” — in what way, one wishes to ask Garry Wills, is this “far more forgiving and pacific than Christian heresy hunts…or Hebrew wars of extinction”?

He needs reminding, too, about then and now: Hebrew wars of extinction haven’t been engaged in for 3000 years, and for Christian heresy hunts we would have to go back 400-500 years. But the Muslim holy war against Infidels is never out of season, and the latest installment of Jihadis terrorizing Infidels is as fresh as the day’s paper.

“The religion of the Qur’an’s a religion of peace.” That is his solemn conclusion. Let us pretend that we agree with this preposterous statement, for the sake of argument, and accept his misconstruing of 2:191 and 9:5 as being limited in application. But what about terrorism? Wills mentions the word “terror” five times in the Index. There is “terrorism” “and Internet,” “and ISIS,” “and 9/11 attacks,” “Qur’an erroneously connected with,” “subsequent acts of.” I was intrigued by the statement that the “Qur’an [is] erroneously connected with terrorism” but could not find, in the pages indicated, anything except the results of a few opinion polls — quite different from other polls I have seen that Wills does not cite, where support for 9/11 is much higher — that suggest Muslims are against terrorism, and several statements by Muslim clerics and scholars, declaring that ISIS is wrong in claiming to “be acting from the Qur’an,’’ while others claim that “no believer may join the Islamic state or claim that its efforts are a legitimate jihad.” Being against the takfiris of the Islamic state does not necessarily mean one is against the use of terror as a weapon against Unbelievers; it could just mean that many Muslims are opposed to the use of terror against fellow Muslims, those whom the members of ISIS or similar fanatics deem to be of the wrong sect (such as Shi’a, who are treated as infidels), or Muslims whose faith in Islam is judged insufficiently devout, observant, fanatical. Wills does not mention any of the verses in the Qur’an that expressly command the use of terror. Why not?

Here are some of those verses, and even Garry Wills can’t claim, as he is fond of doing, that they mean the exact opposite of what they seem to say:

“We will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve for what they have associated with Allah of which He had not sent down authority. And their refuge will be the Fire, and wretched is the residence of the wrongdoers.” (Qur’an 3:151)

“When your Lord inspired to the angels, ‘I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.’” (Qur’an 8:12)

“And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know, whom Allah knows. And whatever you spend in the cause of Allah will be fully repaid to you, and you will not be wronged.” (Qur’an 8:60)

And in the hadith we find Muhammad saying: “I have been made victorious with terror.” (Bukhari 4.52.220). This is clearly an endorsement of terror as a weapon.

Garry Wills claims to have read the Qur’an many times. He had to have read these verses about terror. Terror, after all, is what has brought Islam to our attention during the last few decades. But did he understand them? What do these verses mean to Garry Wills? And why won’t he quote or discuss any of them?

Similarly, he never mentions 9:29, another key verse, not about using terror, but where Muslims are instructed to fight Infidels:

“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth, from among the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”

A good reason, noted previously, for Wills to quote 9:29 is that it commands Muslims “to fight” rather than “to kill” (as in 9:5 and 2:191). But he has an even stronger reason for not quoting this verse, which is that it mentions the Jizyah (“pay the Jizyah with willing submission”). Offering his benign view of Islam, he wants to stay away from the harsh treatment of non-Muslims as dhimmis; the whole subject is scandalously scanted. And the words  “jizyah” and “dhimmi” are not to be found even once in Wills’s book. This is extraordinary: a book on the Qur’an that never mentions what happens to non-Muslims who under Muslim rule are tolerated as dhimmis.

Wills devotes only a single footnote to what is surely one of Muhammad’s most disturbing acts: his marriage to little Aisha when she was six, and his consummation of the marriage — that is, sexual intercourse — when she was nine years old. Wills writes: “Aisha is reported to have been nine when Muhammad married her, which has led to a great deal of criticism of the Prophet, but early marriages were common until recently, and no one knows when this one was consummated.”

Wills attempts two kinds of defense of what many of us might unhesitatingly describe as paedophilia. First, he claims that “early marriages were common until recently.” What he may be referring to as “early marriages” were entered into by girls who were in their early teens — thirteen and up; there is a very great difference between a nine-year-old and a thirteen-year-old bride. In the case of dynastic marriages, where two noble houses in Europe were joined through matrimony, two people of roughly the same age would “marry” each other when they were both in their early teens, but of course would not consummate it until they reached a reasonable age (late teens at the earliest); such marriages were not unheard-of, but neither were they “common” as Wills blandly asserts. Muhammad and Aisha are different: in their case, it’s a matter of sexual intercourse between a nine-year-old girl and a 53-year-old man. Is Wills attempting to suggest that that kind of arrangement (nine-year-old girl, 53-year old man) was ever — outside the world of Islam — “common”?

Second, Wills claims that “no one knows when this [marriage] was consummated.” But we have a hadith, from the most reliable of all hadith collections, that of Al Bukhari, and it states that “Aisha narrated that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years (i.e., till his death)” Sahih al-Bukhari, 7:62:64. On what basis does Garry Wills conclude that in this hadith, the famously trustworthy Hadith scholar Bukhari is wrong, and that “no one knows” how old Aisha was? Isn’t it that he, like all defenders of Islam, wishes to spare Muhammad the charge of paedophilia? Certainly Muslims have always believed that Aisha’s age at consummation was nine, until quite recently, when a handful of  Islamic scholars, recognizing that non-Muslims are shocked by Aisha’s young age, have tried to cast doubt even on Al-Bukhari, and have started to claim, as they felt no need to do before, that “no one really knows her age,” an assertion that Wills was happy to repeat.

For centuries, Muslims have believed that Muhammad had sexual intercourse with a nine-year-old girl, and yet he remained, and remains for them still, despite this, both the Model of Conduct (“uswa hasana”) and the Perfect Man (“al-insan al-kamil”). Surely that is an important aspect of the story of Aisha, with practical consequences, as it legitimates child brides for much older men all over the Islamic lands (marriages now seen mainly in Afghanistan and Pakistan). The learned cleric Ayatollah Khomeini certainly thought he was only following the model of Muhammad, the Perfect Man, when he — Khomeini — married his own child bride when she was ten years old. This practice tells us something essential about Muslim morality: whatever Muhammad did, is right.

Wills quotes only a handful of the more than 100 jihad verses that command Believers to make war on Infidels. The few he does quote, despite their unambiguous meaning, he claims do not call for holy war, do not call for killing, mean the opposite of what they appear to say. His method is always to start with a very brief discussion of one Qur’anic verse, and then to shift quickly to much longer disquisitions on Christianity, and the aggression, violence, holy wars of Christians, all greatly exaggerated. By the time he is done, this past master of Tu-Quoque has turned your attention from the Qur’anic verse with which he started, and made you focus on Jewish and, even more, on Christian texts and history. He unsurprisingly finds in Christianity much harsher verses than anything to be found in Islam. That’s because he’s managed simply to ignore so much in the Qur’an.

He claims that there is no verse in the Qur’an commanding the killing of Infidels. What can he possibly mean? Perhaps he means that the verses that call for “fighting” do not always mean to the point of “killing.” Muslims are instructed in 9:29 to “fight the idolaters.” “Fight,” not “kill” — is that the distinction Wills wishes impliedly to make? But how could Muslims, or anyone, be able to fight without killing? And what about those verses that do use the word “killing,” as in 2:191 and 9:5, and more than a hundred others? Perhaps he wants us to believe that where the word “killing” is used, it was meant to apply only to certain enemies of a specific time and place, not to Infidels everywhere. It’s a hard sell; after all, in 2:191 (and 9:5), Muslims are commanded quite clearly to kill Infidels (“slay the idolaters…wherever you find them”). No limit is suggested on either place or time.

Wills does not tell us, but the Qur’an with which he plays fast and loose does, that in order to be spared from being killed, non-Muslims have two ways to save themselves. One is to convert to Islam. So “if they repent” (of their original faith), “maintain the prayer” (that is, say the five daily prayers required of Muslims), “pay the prescribed alms” (zakat), then they have become Muslims and will be left alone. The second way — according to 9:29 — is for them to  “pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” That means to accept the status of being dhimmis.

Part of 2:191 deserves special comment. The first sentence commands:  “kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from where they drove you out.”

The phrase “drive them out from where they drove you out” means that, in the Muslim To-Do List, reconquest of any land that was at one time under Muslim rule (as Israel, or Spain), should take precedence. But 2:191 does not mean that only Infidels who are found in places where Muslims were once driven out are to be killed. “Kill them wherever you find them” is the command. And in the end, the Jihad is worldwide, is to be conducted everywhere, and must continue until the whole world has been subjugated to Islam. There are, however, priorities, and the first priority is to “drive them out from where they drove you out.” Thus, it’s more important for now to reconquer “Palestine” and drive out the Jews, or to reconquer Spain and drive out the Christians, than it is to conquer places where Muslims never ruled, such as Siberia, or Japan, or Argentina. But in the end those places too, will not be spared. Like every other place on earth, they too must be the object of Jihad, so that Islam everywhere dominates, and Muslims rule, everywhere.

The Qur’an requires that Muslims make war on Infidels: to kill them wherever they are to be found. The “verse of the Sword” — Quran 9:5 — is as unambiguous as 2:191:

“When the [four] forbidden months are over, wherever you encounter the idolaters, kill them, seize them, besiege them, wait for them at every lookout post: but if they repent, mention the prayer, and pay the prescribed alms, let them go on their way, for God is most forgiving and merciful.”

Wills insists that this, which he dismissively describes as “the so-called sword verse,” is wrenched from its context by misunderstanders of the Qur’an, and then in a single paragraph he proceeds to: 1) make absurdly much of the fact that the word “sword” never occurs in the Qur’an, by which he means to cast doubt on the violent essence of 9:5; 2) he does the same for the phrase “holy war,” which he insists several times never occurs in the Qur’an, failing to recognize that the concept of “holy war” is properly conveyed by the word “jihad,” even though linguistically that word means “struggling” or “striving” — “jihad” is understood to ordinarily mean “jihad bi al saif” (holy war by means of the sword); 3) then gives the reader three pages of tu-quoque, as he describes what he calls Christianity’s own “sword verse” and its own “holy war.” This is his method throughout: he keeps to an absurd minimum the violent verses — just 2-3 of the more than 100 Jihad verses — he is willing to quote. He will insist that despite the plain language of the text, where the commandment to Muslims to kill Infidels applies broadly, that it was meant to apply only to enemies in a specific time and space. When he claims that Islam nowhere requires the killing of the Infidels, this is flatly untrue. But Wills wants us to think that where killing is not the end in itself, but a means to an end — the subjugation of all Unbelievers — we should not call it “killing.” After all, if the enemy at once surrendered, there would be no need to kill them. And once those Unbelievers do submit, then they are presented with a choice: death, conversion to Islam, or permanent status as dhimmis. And again, “killing” is then not inevitable, but only one of three possible outcomes. So in Wills’s view, these verses do not insist on “killing,” but on “killing” only as one possibility.

And what about that alternative that allows non-Muslims both to survive and to keep their faith? Surely the subjugation, over 1400 years, of hundreds of millions of non-Muslims, and the subsequent conversion to Islam of so many of them, in order to escape their wretched status as dhimmis ought to have been part of this study. But you will learn nothing about the treatment of non-Muslims under Muslim rule from Wills’s study, not even about that most obvious hardship, the payment of the jizyah.

As noted above, the words ‘“dhimmi” and “jizyah” do not appear anywhere in Wills’s book. Nor do a single one of the Qur’anic verses about “striking terror” appear. Nor does he discuss more than a handful of the 109 Jihad verses in the Qur’an. Nor do we learn that non-Muslims are described as “the most vile of creatures.” Nor does he bother to examine more than just one antisemitic verse — out of more than two dozen in the Qur’an–thereby making light of the permanent phenomenon of Islamic antisemitism, that is again making parts of Europe unpleasant and dangerous, even unlivable, for Jews.

In his study of the Qur’an Wills has left out so very much — of the Qur’an. It is hard to judge his motivation. Can he really have remained so ignorant of that book’s most important contents? What linguistic lassitude or mental confusion leads him to claim that the duty of killing is not mentioned anywhere in the Qur’an? Why does he pretend that “jihad” cannot possibly mean “holy war”? Why has he accepted the most implausible claims and twisted interpretations of Muslim apologists? How can he overlook every unambiguous Qur’anic command to wage jihad or to strike terror? He is akin, I’m afraid, to Pope Francis, in his deep need to believe in a sanitized version of Islam, because to understand Islam as Muslims do is simply too terrifying for him to contemplate. His book is, however, not without its value. It will for many be an exemplar, as it certainly has been for me, of how not to understand the Qur’an.

First published in Jihad Watch

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Posted on 12/30/2017 8:48 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Saturday, 30 December 2017
BREAKING NEWS: Further arrest made in Chesterfield terrorism investigation
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More from the Derbyshire Times

A further arrest has been made as a result of an ongoing terrorism investigation in which a man from Chesterfield was arrested.

The 21 year old man, from the Fir Vale area of Sheffield, was arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism under section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The intelligence led arrest was made in the Firth Park area of Sheffield at approximately 23:00 hours on Friday evening (December 29).  Two addresses, a residential address in Fir Vale and a business address in Firth Park, are currently being searched by officers.

Derbyshire Police and South Yorkshire Police continue to work closely with their partners and communities to reassure local people and protect the public as the investigation continues. South Yorkshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts said: “I understand that this activity will cause concern, especially as there has been similar activity in recent weeks. I would like to firmly reiterate that we continue to work closely with our colleagues in Counter Terrorism Policing North East to keep our communities safe and identify threat and risk. . . "

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Posted on 12/30/2017 7:16 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Friday, 29 December 2017
Islamic State claims responsibility for Saint Petersburg supermarket bombing
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The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)  claimed responsibility on Friday for the bomb attack days earlier that tore through a Saint Petersburg supermarket and wounded 14 people.

"The attack that targeted a shopping centre in Saint Petersburg the day before yesterday (Wednesday) was carried out by an Islamic State-linked group," IS said in a statement via its propaganda agency Amaq.

On Wednesday evening, a homemade bomb placed in a locker at the supermarket in northwestern Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second city and President Vladimir Putin’s home town, went off sowing panic among customers and wounding 14 people including a pregnant woman.

The bombing came after the FSB security service said earlier this month it had prevented a terror attack on a key Orthodox cathedral in Saint Petersburg with the help of America’s CIA, which led Putin to thank US President Donald Trump.

FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov has said Russia remains on alert for a possible return of jihadists from Syria ahead of the World Cup and the March presidential polls.

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Posted on 12/29/2017 6:20 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Friday, 29 December 2017
Fish and chip shop boss, 31, and his alleged accomplice, 22, 'planned a Christmas massacre by building a remote control car bomb to detonate from a laptop'
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The Daily Mail has details of the Chesterfield/Sheffield terror plot from today's remand hearing.

Picture left, Farhad Salah to the left and Andy Star to the right. Court sketches are not meant to flatter so I will reserve judgment on whether Salah really is aged 22 until I see a photograph of him in different circumstances. If the court sketch is accurate then he either had an uphill paper round, or he entered the country under a 'shave the children' scam. 

A chip shop owner terror suspect and his friend appeared in court today accused of planning to build a remote control car bomb to detonate from a laptop for an alleged Christmas massacre.

Andy Star, 31, and Farhad Salah, 22, were arrested on December 19 in a series of early morning raids in the Chesterfield and Sheffield areas of South Yorkshire. Today both appeared in custody at Westminster Magistrates Court via video link from Leeds Magistrates Court. The two men, both Kurdish Iraqis, were dressed in prison issue tracksuits. (They) spoke only confirm their name, age and address, and are both accused of  a single terror count.

They allegedly planned to build an IED that would be placed inside a driverless car, with a laptop controlling the vehicle and detonating the device. 

Prosecutor Thomas Halpin said: 'Both are jointly charged with a single offence of preparation to commit acts of terrorism. . . This is a case in which the Crown say both defendants were researching, developing and manufacturing chemicals to make explosive substances so they could be used in an IED with a view to committing acts in the UK.'

The court heard that they are accused of possessing 'low explosive black powder'.

Jordan Batteson, 25, who lives near the Mermaid Fish Bar, said: 'He was a really nice guy, really friendly. I used to go in there to get my chips. He gave the staff copies of the Koran.' 

A close friend of Star said: 'I can't believe it ... I don't know what happened, he was a nice guy ... I am sure he is innocent'.

The men did not enter pleas at the hearing. 

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Posted on 12/29/2017 3:29 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Friday, 29 December 2017
On Westminster bridge
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I have not see this for myself but Generation Identity England put them up on Westminster Bridge yesterday. The safety blocks put up after an Islamic jihadist murdered 5 people in March on and by the bridge; echoing the words of London's islamic mayor Sadiq Khan who said (while talking about New York) that terror attacks are part and parcel of life in a major city. 

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Posted on 12/29/2017 12:20 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Friday, 29 December 2017
12 Killed in Attack on Cairo Churches and Christian shops
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From Egyptian Streets  the BBC and the Guardian

Twelve people have died in twin attacks on Coptic Christians in the Helwan area south of Cairo, officials say.
Egypt’s Ministry of Health announced that nine people have been killed,  including two police officers, and another 10 were wounded in an attack on Mar Mina Church in Helwan, located in Greater Cairo.

Two armed terrorists reportedly attacked the church shortly before Friday prayers. One terrorist was killed at the scene of the attack. Two policemen died responding to the attack, preventing the armed terrorist from entering the church.

Eyewitnesses told private newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm that a man in a car carrying an automatic weapon opened fire on the church.  Mostafa, an auto-rickshaw driver who was near the church, said he heard several gunshots an hour before the Muslim Friday prayers.

Egypt’s Ministry of Interior claimed in a statement that it managed to foil a greater attack involving explosives.  An explosives belt was found on the dead assailant - suggesting an even more deadly attack was planned, the BBC correspondent says. It was safely defused.

The other gunman escaped but was reportedly later arrested with weapons, ammunition and a bomb.

About an hour later, a Coptic-owned shop in the same area was attacked, leaving two dead.

The Coptic Orthodox church released a statement confirming the attack. “A terrorist attack has targeted the Church of the Martyr Marmina as unknown assailants fired gunshots, killing a person from the security force guarding the church as well as five of the people of the church, in addition to other injured individuals,” it said

The Coptic church statement said a Christian-owned electronics shop in Helwan was also attacked before the church shootout, killing the brothers Romani and Attia Shaker.

Abanoub Ayman, an engineering student at Helwan University who lives below the shop, told the Guardian he was on his way to buy breakfast when he heard gunshots at 10am, and that the shooting lasted for five minutes. He said two gunmen on a motorcycle had stopped at the shop. “One of them stopped and entered the store and killed one of the brothers in front of the shop. The other brother ran after the two men but was also shot dead.”

“The government [police] came and took the bodies and closed the shop,” said Ayman, who prays at the Marmina church. “It has to do with what happened at the church.” He said the gunmen had also fired at another church, Anba Antonios, in the same area, but no one was killed.

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Posted on 12/29/2017 7:40 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Friday, 29 December 2017
Jesus In the Qur’an
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by Hugh Fitzgerald

Jennifer Williams is a great enthusiast not just for Christmas, but for the Muslim Jesus, about whom she is sure you have never heard, and she’s here to enlighten you:

Christmas, as everyone knows, commemorates the birth of Jesus and is a major religious celebration for Christians around the world.

But what many people don’t know is that Jesus is an important figure in Islam, too, even though most Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas (though some, especially some American Muslims, do).

Actually, by now many Infidels all over the Western world do know perfectly well that Jesus is a figure of significance in Islam. They know this because it is a staple of Muslim propaganda. Just look here or here or here.

We are told again and again about Jesus in the Qur’an (just google “Jesus in the Qur’an”), of how revered he is, of the fact that he is mentioned 27 times by name, of how much attention, too, is given to his mother Mary, who has a sura named after her. And these exercises in taqiyya proceed in the same fashion: to exaggerate the significance of the Muslim Jesus, so as to make it seem as if he is more than just a prophet, and the reverence in which he and Mary are held, so as to divert attention of Christians from the basic ineluctable fact, which is that while Muslims respect Jesus, as a prophet, they deny him any divinity, and are commanded in the Qur’an to view those — the Christians –who believe He is the Son of God, with scorn, hostility, even murderous hatred.

One of the efforts this year to convince Christians of the important role of Jesus (and Mary) in Islam was by Vox’s Williams, who was so fond of what she posted last Christmas on the subject that she reprinted it, without change, this year. Its brisk and cheerful mendacity is worth  a look.

Here is Jennifer Williams, and all she thinks you need to know about the Muslim version of Jesus:

In honor of the holiday, here are six things you may not know about the role of Jesus — and his mother, Mary — in Islam:

Jesus, Mary, and the angel Gabriel are all in the Quran (as are Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and a bunch of other Bible characters).

Muslims believe that Jesus (called “Isa” in Arabic) was a prophet of God, was born to a virgin (Mary), and will return to Earth before the Day of Judgment to restore justice and to defeat al-Masih ad-Dajjal (“the false messiah”), also known as the Antichrist. All of which may sound pretty familiar to many Christians.

Mary (called “Maryam” in Arabic) has an entire chapter in the Quran named for her — the only chapter in the Quran named for a female figure. In fact, Mary is the only woman to be mentioned by name in the entire Quran: As noted in the Study Quran, “other female figures are identified only by their relation to others, such as the wife of Adam and the mother of Moses, or by their title, such as the Queen of Sheba.” Mary is mentioned more times in the Quran than in the entire New Testament.

Just as with all the other prophets, including Mohammed, Muslims recite, “Peace be upon him” every time they refer to Jesus.

The name “Jesus, son of Mary” written in Arabic calligraphy, followed by “peace be upon him.” ???? ??????

Muslims believe that Jesus performed miracles: The Quran discusses several of Jesus’s miracles, including giving sight to the blind, healing lepers, raising the dead, and breathing life into clay birds.

So we learn that one of the 114 suras of the Qur’an is named after Mary and that she is mentioned “more times in the Qur’an than in the New Testament.” To which one wants to reply: So what? If a sura is named after her, and if she is mentioned “more times in the Qur’an than in the New Testament,” that hardly means she is more important in Islam than in Christianity. For Christians, she is the Mother of the Son of God; for Muslims, she is only the mother of Jesus, a man and not a divinity, one of the 25 prophets mentioned by name in the Qur’an (there are tens of thousands of prophets in Islam). If she is mentioned, as Mary, “more times” in the Qur’an than in the New Testament, that is because in the Christian Bible there are other ways she is referred to, not just as “Mary,” but also as the “Mother of God” or “Mother of Jesus.’”

It is absurd to draw any conclusion about the relative importance of various figures in Islam based on the number of times they are named in the Qur’an.. Muhammad, for example, is mentioned exactly four times by name. Moses (Musa) is mentioned 136 times in the Qur’an. Jesus is mentioned 25 times. Does that mean that Moses is 5.44 times as important as Jesus and 34 times as important as Muhammad? Or that Jesus is 6 times as important as the Prophet Muhammad? Of course not.

Ms. Williams says that Muslims believe that Jesus performed miracles. Again, so what? Islam has borrowed — appropriated — many figures and stories from the two prior-in-time monotheisms. Islam borrowed Jesus, stripped him of his divinity, refashioned him into an islamized Jesus, a Jesus who is a Muslim. (Moses, too, is a Muslim). Having appropriated him, it is hardly surprising that some aspects of his Biblical being would be retained. And so we find Jesus described in the Qur’an as performing some of the same miracles as he is described as performing  in the New Testament: “The Quran discusses several of Jesus’s miracles, including giving sight to the blind, healing lepers, raising the dead, and breathing life into clay birds.” Isn’t this an attempt to suggest that while Muslims do not accept Jesus as the Son of God, they are certainly most impressed with the miracles — forsooth! — he can perform. Jesus is a miracle-worker. At least give Muslims credit, you begrudging Christians, for recognizing that.

Finally, the story of Jesus’s birth as told in the Qur’an is given in great detail, of how Mary “withdrew from her family” and gave birth though, as she declares, “no man has touched me,” and of the miracle of Jesus speaking as an infant in the cradle who “declared himself to be a prophet of God.” Again there is an attempt to make much of the similarities in the birth scenes in Islam and Christianity, and again we have to remind ourselves that in one case Jesus is the Son of God, and in the other, he is a mortal, one among the 25 prophets named in the Qur’an. And that has made all the difference.

Let’s consider what Christians need to know about Islam’s view of their faith. Not how many times Mary is mentioned in the Qur’an, not that a sura is named after her, not that Jesus (like Moses, Adam, Noah), is one of the figures appropriated by Islam and viewed as a prophet, and in Jesus’ case capable of working miracles. No, what we most need to know is how Muslims are taught to regard Christians and Christianity, which is something Jennifer Williams won’t tell you.

Here are some of the Qur’anic verses about Christians:

The Christians are told that Jesus is only a messenger of Allah, not his Son:

“O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, ‘Three’; desist — it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs.” — Qur’an 4:171

Allah did not have a son; he had no need of one; by himself he could accomplish anything and needed no others beside him:

“It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! when He determines a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.” — Qur’an 19:35

Christians are wrong — Jesus was not crucified:

“And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger — they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain.” — Qur’an 4:157

Those who believe in the divinity of Christ are “disbelievers”:

“They have certainly disbelieved who say that Allah is Christ, the son of Mary.” — Qur’an 5:17

Christians “forgot a good part” of the divine revelations they received:

“From those, too, who call themselves Christians, We did take a covenant, but they forgot a good part of the message that was sent them: so we estranged them [the Christians], with enmity and hatred between the one and the other, to the day of judgment. And soon will Allah show them what it is they have done.” — Qur’an 5:14

Those who believe that Jesus is God’s Son are accursed:

“The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth! ” — Qur’an 9:30

Christians who do not become Muslims “are the most vile of created beings”:

“Nor did those who were given the Scripture become divided until after there had come to them clear evidence. And they were not commanded except to worship Allah, sincere to Him in religion, inclining to truth, and to establish prayer and to give zakah. And that is the correct religion. Indeed, they who disbelieved among the People of the Scripture and the polytheists will be in the fire of Hell, abiding eternally therein. Those are the most vile of created beings.” — Qur’an 98:6

It’s not enough to despise them. Muslims must fight against and subjugate Christians :

“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” — Qur’an 9:29

Propagandists for Islam are out in force this Christmas season, telling us, like Ms. Williams, that Muslims have so much in common with Christians: they revere Mary, they revere Jesus as an important prophet, they share the Christian belief that Jesus could perform miracles and, indeed, the Muslim Jesus performs some of the same miracles that the Christian Jesus does.

But the Qur’an says other, disturbing things, about Christians and Christianity. Jesus was only a messenger, not the Son of God. God (Allah) had no need of a son. Jesus  was not crucified.

Those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God are not only disbelievers, but have Allah’s curse upon them. Christians who do not become Muslims “are the most vile of created beings.” Muslims must fight and subjugate all Christians, and then offer them the choice, to be killed, to convert to Islam, or to accept the status of dhimmi, with all its onerous conditions.

That is the uncompromising Islamic doctrine concerning Christians:  hostility (“take them not as friends”), contempt and hatred (they are “the most vile of creatures”), and jihad (“fight those who believe not in Allah,” “strike terror” in their hearts). Of course there is not the slightest hint of any of this in Jennifer Williams’s Christian-friendly version of Islam.

But perhaps we are being unfair. Perhaps, in practice if not in doctrine, Muslims have shown how profoundly they respect those others who revere Jesus and Mary? What happened in the Middle East and North Africa, in lands once peopled almost entirely by Christians which were conquered by Muslims? How many millions of Christians were killed in those lands? How many Christians were kidnapped from Europe over the centuries by Muslim marauders who arrived by sea? How many of  those Christians, both those whose lands were conquered, and those who were seized from coastal villages in Europe, and brought back to Dar al-Islam, subsequently converted to Islam, only in order to escape the status of dhimmi which many found unendurable?

We need not go back that far. Even if we limit ourselves to recent decades, what have we observed of Muslim behavior toward  Christians — Copts, Catholics, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Orthodox — in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Egypt, in Pakistan, in Nigeria, in the Sudan, in Somalia, in Bangladesh? Is there any Muslim-majority country where Christians have not been subject to attack and murder? Muslims “revere” Jesus, all right, but only as a prophet, and are told by their Qur’an that those who revere him as the Son of God are Unbelievers who should be killed.

In just the last few weeks, in Pakistan, Muslim terrorists attacked a church in Quetta, killing nine worshipers, one of many attacks on Christians in that country. A Muslim plot to blow up a cathedral in St. Petersburg was narrowly averted by the Russians, thanks to American  intelligence. Christian families have this month been executed in Nigeria, and whole villages have been destroyed by Boko Haram. Christians have been murdered this fall by the hundreds in Iraq and in Syria, and not only by members of ISIS. In Egypt, ever since the fall of Morsi, attacks on the Copts have increased, with 65 churches, convents, Christian bookshops and schools attacked. Coptic pilgrims have been murdered on buses, worshipers murdered in church, individual Copts — storekeepers, pedestrians — attacked in shops or on the streets, Coptic priests hacked to death, and Copts are now living in such fear that the government has felt it necessary to mobilize tens of thousands of  security personnel, including the army, to protect them during their Christmas observance that begins in January. In the last few years, 200,000 Copts have fled the country.

During the Sudanese civil war, hundreds of thousands of Christian black Africans in the south were slaughtered by Muslim Arabs from the north. In Iraq, with the removal of the secular dictator Saddam Hussein (who had his own reasons for protecting the Christians), the Christian population has since 2003 plummeted from 1.4 million to 250,000. It has been the same in Syria, where in 2011 there were 1.25 million Christians and now there are 450,000. The murderous attacks on Christians by ISIS — and by other Muslims, too — account for part of that drop; the rest is due to Christians leaving for safe havens in the West.

And with tens of millions of Muslims now in Europe, a  transformation in that continent is also taking place. Just look, for one example, at the Christmas season as it is now celebrated. Muslims began targeting Christmas markets even before 9/11. The first (aborted) attempt was in December 2000, when four Al-Qaeda operatives plotted to bomb the Strasbourg Christmas market, held right in front of the cathedral. Ever since then, security for these Christmas celebrations has been ratcheted up. Last year Muslim terrorists killed twelve  people at the main Christmas market in Berlin. And this year, the effects of that Berlin attack have been everywhere evident. In France, fear of attacks by Muslims has led to the cancellation of the most famous Christmas market, that held on the Champs-Elysees, in Paris. The Christmas market in Lyons has similarly been called off due to the cost of security. In Germany, two of the country’s famed Christmas markets have also been cancelled. Even where the markets are still being held, crowds of Muslim young men disrupt the celebrations, change the holiday atmosphere to one of fear. In Bad Doberan, despite having been deliberately disrupted by “Palestinian” protesters playing loud Arabic music, the market has so far not been closed. In Italy, a town removed its Christmas tree in order not to offend local Muslims. In the U.K., a plot to blow up a major Christmas Market was narrowly averted. So was an attack on a cathedral in St. Petersburg. What was once a festive occasion for Europe’s Christians has become, in many places, a fearful one, because of Muslim threats that in turn require a large and expensive security presence. Because of the use of cars and trucks in terrorist attacks, many of the markets have erected bollards to provide “hostile vehicle mitigation.” Police and military armed with machine guns patrol the Christmas markets in France and the U.K.and Germany — a sight which reminds people of the omnipresent terrorist threat from Muslims, and is hardly conducive to the Christmas spirit.

When Muslims are commanded, in the Qur’an, “not to take Jews and Christians as friends, for they are friends only with each other,” when they are told to “kill them [the Unbelievers] wherever you find them,” when they are told to “smite at their [the Unbelievers’] necks,” when they are told that Unbelievers are “the most vile of creatures,” and to “strike terror” in the Infidels’ hearts, when a hundred other verses tell Muslims to engage in violent Jihad, we can safely assume — the historical record offers plenty of evidence — that many Muslims take these verses to heart and when they can act on them, they do.

The frequency of the name “Mary” in the Qur’an, the fact that the Muslim Jesus performs some of the same miracles (but not, of course, the water into wine at the wedding in Cana) that he does in the New Testament, and that he is a “revered prophet” for Muslims, does not change one whit those commands in the Qur’an for Believers to strike at the necks of Infidels, to kill them, to strike terror in their hearts, nor does that reverence for Jesus as a prophet in any way lessen the deep hostility Muslims have demonstrated for Christians over the past 1400 years of Muslim-Christian encounters. That grim history supports the melancholy conclusion that observant Muslims do not mean non-Muslims well. If there is ever to be any chance of Muslim reformation (for now a very doubtful proposition), it will have to start with an honest assessment of the texts and teachings of the faith, by Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Jennifer Williams and many others have tried to convince us that, in its view of Jesus and Mary, Islam teaches a deep respect for Christianity. It does not. Islam teaches respect only for a Muslim version of Jesus as prophet, and contempt, and far worse than contempt, for those who believe in Jesus as the Son of God.

First published in Jihad Watch.

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Posted on 12/29/2017 5:33 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Friday, 29 December 2017
Two men charged with terrorism offences following Sheffield and Chesterfield raids
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From local newspapers the Derbyshire Times and  The Star and national newspaper The Telegraph

Andi Sami Star, 31, of Sheffield Road, Chesterfield, and Farhad Salah, 22, of Brunswick Road, Sheffield, are charged with engaging in the preparation of an act of terrorism contrary to section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006.. Both men appeared before Westminster Magistrates' Court via video link this afternoon. The court heard the pair allegedly researched and prepared bomb ingredients for a suspected attack on the UK and allegedly recorded test explosions on a smartphone.

They have been remanded in custody and are next due to appear at the Old Bailey in London on Friday, January 19.

Another man, aged 36 from Burngreave, remains in custody on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism; a 41-year-old from Meersbrook in Sheffield was released on Saturday.

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Posted on 12/29/2017 3:33 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Thursday, 28 December 2017
Dancing with death: The Intellectual opposition to Zionism
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Some of the opponents of Zionism were great figures, but that did not make them prophets.

by Phyllis Chesler

Some insist that the “new” Anti-Semitism is not all that new—and that anti-Zionism is not necessarily anti-Semitic. In fact, this is the current mantra among pro-BDS and pro-Palestine panels on campus.

One might say that anti-Zionism in the 1920s and 1930s was not necessarily anti-Semitic—but it did condemn European and North African Jews to an industrial-scale genocide.

Herzl understood what the Dreyfus case meant and he both sounded the alarm and provided the solution. The French journalist Albert Londres heard him. The shluchim (messengers) from Palestine who tried to convince the Jews of Eastern Europe to leave before it was too late also heard him. Trumpeldor and Jabotinsky heard him.

But the Jews, who were no longer young or who were far too impoverished or paralyzed by poverty and starvation; and those who were awaiting a call from their vision of Moshiach, could not hear him. However, many wealthy and educated Jews were also deaf to Herzl’s warning and to the vision of a Promised Land.

For example, the extraordinary Bertha Pappenheim, (1859-1936) who is also known as “Anna O,” an early—perhaps the first-ever psychoanalytic patient, was a religiously learned Orthodox Jew and a fearless feminist—and yet she vehemently opposed Zionism. As a wealthy and assimilated Austrian and German Jew, she did not want to give up her place in the European sun.

Many 20th century feminists (Daniel BoyarinMelinda GuttmanMarion KaplanAnn Jackowitz), were interested in how Anna O was able to “transform” herself from being a psychiatric basket case, who was “hysterically” paralyzed in three limbs, an insomniac, given to hallucinations, and unable to speak in her native German tongue—into becoming then mighty Bertha Pappenheim, the founder of Jewish feminism, the protector of trafficked Jewish girls, unwed mothers, and orphans, and the translator of major Jewish, feminist, and Yiddish works into German.

Why such a religious Orthodox Jew—and a proper Viennese woman, would have taken up the cause of Jewish girls who were trafficked into sex slavery and unwed mothers is a bit of a mystery. For now, I will leave it there. What matters is that Pappenheim found her voice and her mission when she courageously stood up to the rabbis on behalf of such victims, translated Mary Wollstonecraft’s On the Vindication of the Rights of Women into German, translated her ancestor Gluckel of Hameln from Yiddish into German, and organized the first-ever Jewish feminist organization in Germany. (Christian feminist organizations would not allow Jews to join them). Orthodox Jews did not encourage feminist ferment.

Freud viewed Bertha as having invented the “talking cure” when she was Breuer’s patient. In 1909, in his lectures at Clark University, Freud stated that "If it is a merit to have brought psych-analysis into being, that merit is not mine." Freud credited Breuer and the young woman whom they called "Anna O" with the earliest beginnings of psychoanalysis.

Lightly hypnotized, Anna O suggested that she “talk” to Breuer; she called it her private theater and “chimney sweeping.” She suggested reliving or detailing what had been happening to her when she first developed her persistent cough, or paralysis, or inability to speak in her native tongue, and the symptom disappeared, at least temporarily.

I believe in such “talking cures” but let’s be clear: Talking did not cure Pappenheim herself who would go on to spend six terrible years in Magic Mountain-like sanatoriums for privileged people. The various torturous treatments (electric shock, the application of electric eels, arsenic, chloral hydrate, morphine), turned her hair prematurely white; perhaps such (mis)treatments cured her in the sense that she never wished to endure them again.

Through her mother, Pappenheim was related to the Warburgs, the Goldschmidts, the Rothschilds. She spoke four languages, loved opera, classical music, rare lace, and antique objects d’art. She was related to Heinreich Heine. Pappenheim was friendly with Martin Buber who agreed with her on the question of Zionism; Buber’s young disciples and their Israeli intellectual descendants modeled both their universities and Tel Aviv night life (or Tel Aviv-on-the-Seine) along Eurocentric lines. Herzl and Ben Gurion’s visions have been battling for the soul of Jews for a very long time.

Jews have always had a hard time leaving Egypt. Its tastes and smells are familiar and dear to us. Being uprooted is difficult, if not dangerous. Leaving civilization (such as it is), for deserted deserts (where a demanding, albeit consoling God may best be found), has little appeal. Jews also pride themselves on being citizens of the world, universalists, commanded to be a “light” unto the nations, not to leave them for narrow, provincial definitions of Judaism. Jews have led or joined nearly every universalist movements on earth, have taken all sides of an issue—and then some.

It is our genius and, some say, also our downfall.

The celebrated author, Stefan Zweig, actually got out of Europe but could not live without the pre-Hitlerian Europe he had known and cherished—and so, he killed himself in Brazil. Herr Dr. Freud, who knew more than a little about Thanatos, (the Death Instinct), and Evil, had to be rescued at the last minute by powerful friends and former patients. He, too, could not bear leaving Vienna, not even after the goons had beaten up a man who resembled him in the very park where Freud himself usually took his daily walk.

Freud did not relocate to Palestine. He went to England. Many of Europe’s most celebrated Jewish intellectuals came to America, not Palestine. Their names are legion and include atomic scientists Einstein, Fermi, Teller, and Szilard; architects Gropius and van der Roe; psychoanalysts Bettelheim, Fromm, and Horney; scholars Arendt, Marcuse, and Strauss. Martin Buber did not choose to immigrate to Palestine.

Other than Arendt, who was still young and in thrall to her Nazi lover, Heidegger, the majority of these intellectuals were mature and wanted to continue to their world-changing work. They did not want to dig ditches, plant trees, lecture to teenagers living in collective settlements, or fight hostile Arabs. Pappenheim also feared that the Jewish state would be a “secular” state, one in which children would be reared collectively without family life.

According to Melinda Guttman, (z”l), after Hitler came to power, Pappenheim held “festive salons” every week. If anyone referred to the “ominous persecution of the Jews,” Bertha would reply: “We are not in the Ghetto. And to the objection, "Miss Pappenheim, we Jews have no space," she answered "We don’t need space, we have Spiritual Space that knows no limits."

In 1935, Pappenheim traveled to Amsterdam to meet Henrietta Szold, who was organizing the emigration of young German Jewish teenagers to Palestine. According to Guttman (whose archives on Pappenheim reside at the Center for Jewish History in New York City), Pappenheim, “believing that somehow under Nazi rule, there was still a place for Jews in Germany, fought this plan with all the strength she could muster. It was not until the passage of the Nuremberg laws later in 1935, that she recognized her error, but she still scorned the collective raising of children in Palestine.”

Like Pappenheim, Buber’s disciples in Palestine envisioned a Brit Shalom between Arabs and Jews that was idealistic, pluralistic, and culturally diverse. Just as Jews had once been a persecuted minority among the nations, now they could create a new and superior kind of state, one in which no minority would be unequal and in which the “Arab” culture of Palestine would retain its character.

Clearly, the Jewish idealists did not understand that Arab culture was a shame-and-honor culture, perpetually fueled by Muslim-on-Muslim and Muslim-on-infidel massacres and cousin-on-cousin feuds; a culture that was not Western and therefore, not heir to Western values such as the evolution of religion, tolerance, self-criticism, and individual rights.

Ironies and contradictions abound.

Although Pappenheim resisted Zionism, in 1934, she also escorted a group of children to a Jewish orphanage in Glasgow, Scotland.

Although she feared Zionism, Pappeneheim still wrote that “We are responsible for each other. We are tied to a Community of fate. For US German Jews, the terrible blow of the Third Reich on April 1, 1933, Nazi boycott day--how it has hit us! How will we survive? How will we bear the hatred and misery? By the suicide of individuals? By the suicide of the Community? Shall we lament and deny? Shall we emigrate and change our economic Status? Shall we act foolishly or philosophically? The Diaspora, even Palestine is exile—yet we may see in the distance, the summit of Mt. Sinai..."

I fear she was talking about an unknown and Biblical Mt Sinai, not a mountain in Palestine proper.

Pappenheim never considered emigrating to Palestine or to America before she became fatally ill with liver cancer.

Should she had opted for Zion, for the children, if not for herself?

After Pappenheim's death, ninety three of the girls of the Beth Jakob School in Poland, which Pappenheim had supervised, committed suicide when the Nazis decided to turn the school into a brothel.

Helene Rraemer, who had been one of Bertha's beloved "daughters" when she was an eight-year-old orphan, took over as director of the home in Neu Isenburg and remained until November, 10, 1938, Kristallnacht. According to Rraemer, the barbarians came with torches and set the home on fire. The wailing of the children was horrifying and heartbreaking. Several girls suffered heart attacks from fear.

Most of the children whom Pappenheim had saved were murdered in the Holocaust.

What terrible, and perhaps wrongful conclusion may we draw—must we draw?

Great souls are not always prophets. Few can see into the future and seeing, radically change their ways. Herzl tried—and was dead within a decade; in my opinion, the war among the Jews about this very issue is what killed him.

Pappenheim, like Zweig, fully embraced a living, lively, pre-WWII European culture. She did not realize that she was dancing with Death, waltzing her people right into the waiting arms of the Nazis and all their many collaborators.

First published in Israel National News.

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Posted on 12/28/2017 11:55 AM by Phyllis Chesler
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Wednesday, 27 December 2017
Hit and Run
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by Theodore Dalrymple

Once when I was driving in Port Harcourt in Nigeria with my friend, Ken Saro-Wiwa (the writer who was later hanged by a military regime), we heard over the car radio an appeal for the owner of the naked man’s body on the side of one the main roads to come and collect it. A few minutes later we drove past that naked body, which was bloating like a barrage balloon in the sun. No one took any notice of it and drove past it as if it were the most natural thing in the world. By then it had been there for two or three days.

Only in Nigeria, we said: but now I am not so sure. Something worse has reportedly happened in South London. A young woman was knocked down by a lorry on a road crossing in Tulse Hill, then hit by another lorry and two cars. None of the four drivers of these vehicles stopped to assist her.

The public’s commentary on this story was interesting, and predictably outraged. Many people wrote that this case typified the behaviour of people in London: but, of course, it was a news story precisely because it was not typical behaviour of people in London, but on the contrary astonishing – if true. The full story is not yet known, and may never be known.

There are many hit-and-run incidents in London every year (currently about 5000), which is highly regrettable of course, and they have increased alarmingly of late years both in absolute numbers and as a proportion of all accidents; but fatalities and serious injuries have not risen in proportion to the number of hit-and-run accidents, suggesting that the increase is mostly in incidents that are relatively minor. As far as I am aware there have been no other accidents in which the victim was allegedly hit by four separate vehicles without the driver of any stopping, as if the victim were merely an injured pheasant in a country lane.

How, then, does one assess the wider significance or meaning of a story such as this? Is it the tip of an iceberg, an augury of the future, or merely a horrible incident (assuming it was as reported) such as will happen from time to time in a huge population such as London’s? Is it any consolation that the situation is worse in Los Angeles County, where the rate of such accidents is about five times higher than in London and the proportion of accidents that are hit-and-run two and a half times higher?  I tend to pessimistic interpretations.

First published in Salisbury Review.

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Posted on 12/27/2017 7:35 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
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