Monday, 31 December 2018
Pope Francis and Imam Drouiche on the Strasbourg Attack

by Hugh Fitzgerald

After the recent murderous attack by a Muslim terrorist at the Strasbourg Christmas Market, Pope Francis condemned the violence and offered his compassion for the victims:

The Pope has expressed “sadness”, “concern” and “condemnation” of the December 11 attack on the Christmas market in Strasbourg. In a telegram signed by the secretary of state, Card. Pietro Parolin, addressed to the archbishop of the city, Msgr. Luc Ravel, Francis expresses his “compassion … to the families affected and to all the people affected by this attack, assuring his prayer.” While entrusting the dead “to God’s mercy”, he addressed “a special thought to the professionals and volunteers who care for the injured. As a sign of consolation, he implores the abundance of divine blessings on the victims, on those who assist them and on the entire French people.

Pope Francis’s statement was a cut above his usual comments after such attacks, when he seldom fails to remind us, in one form or another,  that “there is no such thing as Islamic terrorism” and that ‘“authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Quran are opposed to every form of violence.” He mentioned, this time, only the victims, expressing his “sadness” and his “ the families affected by this attack,” offering a “special thought to the professional and volunteers who care for the injured,” and especially, asked for divine blessings “on the victims, those who assist them, and on the entire French people.” This was more heartfelt than the usual boilerplate of his remarks of sympathy, especially his asking for “divine blessings…on the entire French people.”

But Pope Francis still could not bring himself to mention the killer’s faith, much less the reason for his murderous spree. He dared not, on this occasion, to yet again exculpate Islam: it’s becoming too absurd to do so. Had he been less pusillanimous, he might have mentioned “those texts which lead some astray” or even have used the word “Jihad” — just imagine what a clearing of the air that would have been, if at long last even this appeasement-minded Pope had managed to do so, as in such a simple remark as this — “we see in Strasbourg, to our great sadness, more innocent victims of Jihad”). Instead, he did not mention the murderer at all, or the texts that beyond all doubt motivated his killing of Unbelievers (see, e.g., Qur’an 2:191-194, 4:89, 8:12, 8:60, 9:5, 9:29, 47:4).

Meanwhile, the situation has returned to near normal in Strasbourg: there is a heavy police presence but shops and schools have been reopened, excluding Christmas markets.

The situation “has returned to near normal”? Normal, except that the“Christmas markets” remained closed for at least a week in mid-December. The plural is used — are there many such markets in Strasbourg? We know that one of the largest and most important Christmas Markets in all of Europe takes place in Strasbourg. Keeping it closed deals a heavy economic blow to all those merchants who do a great deal of their year’s business at the Christmas Markets, and to restaurants and hotels frequented by tourists who would ordinarily come from all over to visit the Christmas Market in Strasbourg. When the Market reopened, with that “heavy police presence,” just how light-hearted and celebratory for the season could people be, seeing those machine-gun-toting police everywhere, remembering the killings, and no doubt worrying — as they never had to worry before the Muslim invasion of Europe — of a repeat performance by other Muslim killers? Can Strasbourg truly be described as having “returned to near normal”? And what kind of atmosphere was there likely to be at other Christmas markets in France? In Germany? Murder casts its pall. The heightened anxiety felt by many is not so easily dispelled. Some no doubt decided not to visit any Christmas markets. Was there be a significant decrease in the total number of visitors? Now that it is after Christmas, the results will soon be in.

The death toll are three dead and 14 wounded. Among them was the young Italian journalist Antonio Megalizzi. Of those killed, one is Thai, one French, one Afghan.

The 29 year old , Cherif Chekatt, who initially escaped capture, was found on a Strasbourg street and shot dead by the police. According to Interior Secretary Laurent Nuñez, Chérif “incited religious practice in a radical form” and was engaged in proselytism of others.

According to some testimonies, confirmed by the prosecutor Remy Heitz, the young man would have shouted “Allah[sic] akhbar! (God is great!)” before killing the first victim.

He shouted “Allahu Akbar,” which does not mean “God is great!” but “Our God is greater [than yours].” When uttered by a jihadist in the course of committing his crime, it is a supremacist war cry, designed to “strike terror” in the hearts of the Unbelievers. The Western media continue to insist, however, on translating the phrase variously as “God is great,” “God is greater,”and “God is greatest.” They apparently can’t be bothered to find out the true significance of the phrase.

Imam Hocine Drouiche, vice president of the imams of France, expresses his concern for this violent use of religion. “Once again – he has told AsiaNews – “France is hit by terrorism in the name of the Islamic jihad. These sick people always find religious coverage to justify their inhumane crimes. Terrorism will not stop until all Muslims condemn it firmly and remove this cover that dirties them and endangers their future in France and Europe”.

Imam Drouiche calls Jihadis “sick people” who “always find religious coverage to justify their inhumane crimes.” No. He has it backwards. They do not commit these crimes just for the fun of it, and then attempt after the fact to give these “inhumane crimes” a religious justification. Those we call Jihadis are led to commit these crimes by the Qur’an itself, and its clear commands, in over 100 verses, to commit Jihad against the Infidels. Religion is not the ex post facto excuse, but rather the cause, of this violence. Nor are Jihadis “sick people”; they understand and take to heart these commands; they are good Muslims, following Islam’s  texts (Qur’an, hadith, sira) and teachings.

Imam Drouiche says that “terrorism will not stop until all Muslims condemn it firmly and remove this [religious] cover that dirties them.” How can Muslims possibly condemn those many verses in the Qur’an that call upon them to “strike terror” in the hearts of the Infidels? How can they ignore Muhammad himself, who claimed in a famous hadith that “I have been made victorious through terror”? Muslim terrorism will last as long as the uncreated and immutable Qur’an itself. How does Imam Drouiche, who means well, but cannot allow himself to believe that the sources of Muslim terrorism are to be found in the Qur’an and Hadith, hope to convince 1.5 billion Muslims to ignore so much of what they read in those texts? It can’t be done.

Prof. Drouiche points the finger at the indoctrination of imams in mosques.

“In general, the speech of the imams has not yet adapted to the values ??of the republic or human ones. If Muslims want to continue living in France and in Europe, it is necessary and urgent to awaken and free this religion from the hands of intolerant integralists. If a religion does not introduce peace, it is harmful to itself and does not deserve to be close to the divine.”

These “intolerant integralists” have the Qur’an and the example of Muhammad, as described in the hadith, on their side. They are not making up these Qur’anic verses. It is the truly “moderate” Muslims, like Prof. Drouiche himself, who want us to ignore, as they do, all the jihad verses in the Qur’an. But it is they who are being untrue to both the letter and spirit of Islam, an aggressive conquering faith whose adherents are taught to wage jihad until the entire world is dominated by Islam, and Islam rules everywhere. It is Imam Drouiche who is ignoring the 1,400 year history of Jihad, and the conquest by Muslims of many lands and many peoples, who when once they were subjugated, were given the choice of death, conversion to Islam, or acceptance of the permanent status of dhimmi, with the many onerous conditions, including payment of the jizyah, that that status entailed.

For Drouiche, “Islam is going through a profound crisis worldwide.” It needs “a new wise and intelligent elite to be free and humanized. We can still save the situation in Europe, but I’m not too optimistic.”

Is Islam truly “going through a profound crisis worldwide”? Isn’t the problem that Islam is not going through such a crisis, but that it ought to be? Within Muslim states there is internecine warfare of every kind: Sunni versus Shi’a, Arab versus non-Arab Muslims, Muslims versus Christians, locally-based militias fighting among themselves for power and money — in Yemen, Libya,Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Egypt, Bahrain.

And there should be, but there is not, a “profound crisis” in Islam among Muslims who have settled deep within non-Muslim lands, by the tens of millions, unwilling to integrate, battening on the largesse of generous non-Muslim states, that provide free or highly subsidized housing, free medical care, free education, family allowances, unemployment benefits. Muslims seem quite pleased with this arrangement, taking all this as if by right, with some even describing it as the “jihad seeker’s allowance” — a proleptic jizyah, in societies where non-Muslims are still in control. They don’t see a crisis in Islam; they see Islam instead as triumphantly on the march, unstoppable by such confused Western leaders as May, Macron, and Merkel. They see a crisis among the Unbelievers, who are gradually losing control of the Muslim-populated parts of their own countries.

“I am sad – he concludes – for the victims, but also because my religion is hostage in the hands of ignorant people full of hatred.”

Imam Drouiche insists that Islam itself is innocent of hatred and violence. His religion is held “hostage” by these crazy extremists — “ignorant people full of hatred.” He doesn’t dare permit himself to study the remarks made by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-described caliph of the Islamic State, or the broadcasts of Anwar al-Awlaki, on the Qur’anic commands that they urged their followers to carry out. That would upset him too much, and he wants to continue to believe that his religion “is hostage in the hands of ignorant people full of hatred.” But those “ignorant people” he deplores are not ignorant of the Qur’an; they know it very well. And they are “full of hatred” toward Unbelievers because the Qur’an has instructed them to be so. In how many verses are Muslims instructed to fight against Christians and Jews, to “smite the necks” of the Unbelievers, to “fight them” wherever Muslims find them, to “strike terror” in their hearts? Muslims are instructed, too, not to take Christians and Jews as friends, for they are friends only with each other. And when Muslims are told, in the Qur’an, that they are the “best of people” and non-Muslims are “the most vile of created beings,” why would they not believe it? It’s the word of God.

Pope Francis appears to be moving, glacially, almost imperceptibly, toward the recognition that Islam is not quite as peaceful as he has claimed in the past. He has suggested this by failing to mention, and exculpating, Islam, as he usually does, in his statement about the Strasbourg Christmas Market attacks. He still has a long way to go to undo the remarkable series of misstatements about the faith he has previously made. Whether he will finally begin to grasp the essential nature of Islam, as terrorist attack follows attack, or whether he will revert to his previous position as Defender of the Faith[of Islam], remains to be seen.

As for Imam Drouiche, he’s the embodiment of the Good Muslim, who wants so much to believe that these Muslim terrorists are “ignorant people full of hatred.” But they are not “ignorant” of what is to be found in the Qur’an — they are very aware of its contents, and of their duty to follow it — and as a consequence, they are “full of hatred” toward all non-Muslims. Imam Drouiche can’t allow himself to believe this, much less to admit it publicly. He senses that deep trouble is coming because “Islam is going through a profound crisis worldwide.” It needs “a new wise and intelligent elite to be free and humanized. We can still save the situation in Europe, but I’m not too optimistic.”

But the “profound crisis” is that there is no “crisis” for most Muslims. They reject all criticism of Islam as “racism” and “Islamophobia.” They dismiss Unbelievers who dare to suggest that some parts of the Qur’an, denouncing Jews and Christians, should be rendered “obsolete.” When 300 French intellectuals and political figures wrote an open letter this spring requesting just that, Muslims all over France reacted with rage. They do not seem inclined to agree with Imam Drouiche that Islam is in a state of crisis.

And who would select this “new wise and intelligent elite” that Imam Drouiche suggests needs to be established among Muslims? Imam Drouiche gives no clue. And how exactly would this Muslim “elite” help Islam to become “free and humanized”? What do such words mean, if not that this elite should have the ability to remove, or abrogate, or contextualize so that they apply only to enemies in 7th century Arabia, the many verses in the Qur’an that command hatred of, and Jihad against, Infidels? And how does Imam Drouiche propose to convince 1.5 billion Muslims, many of them deeply reactionary, to accept these textual changes to the Qur’an? And when he says “we can still save the situation in Europe, but I’m not too optimistic,” what does this mean? I take it to mean that Muslims in Europe will have to change their attitudes and their behavior if they wish to continue to be endured by the non-Muslims whose countries they have entered by the millions, and that if they do not do so, large-scale violence — a civil war between Muslims and Unbelievers — might eventually ensue.

It’s a grim prediction. But we are already part-way there. Isn’t Europe, right now, already in thrall in many ways to Muslims and their duplicitous defenders, who have managed to label rational islamocriticism as “racism” and “Islamophobia”? How, in such an atmosphere that stifles all dissent, can anyone believe that Islam,the religion of 1.5 billion people, can be reformed by a self-appointed Muslim “elite,” its members akin to Imam Drouiche, who deplores Muslim attitudes and behavior but cannot allow himself to put the blame where it belongs, and has belonged for 1,400 years, on the texts of Islam itself?

First published in Jihad Watch here, here and here

Posted on 12/31/2018 7:01 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Sunday, 30 December 2018
Most wanted woman Samantha Lewthwaite being closed in on

From the Belfast Telegraph

UK security services have made a crucial breakthrough in the search for the world’s most wanted woman.

Spies hunting suspected terror mastermind White Widow Samantha Lewthwaite have been given new intelligence she is now hiding out in Yemen.

The Co Down woman is understood to have relocated to the war-torn Middle Eastern country after being linked to atrocities in Kenya and Somalia in Africa. She is believed to have recently visited Dubai and sources fear she is plotting a string of new terror attacks, including strikes on London.

The information, described as “credible”, is believed to include word that she already has a vast range of contacts in Yemen, particularly in the former British colony of Aden and the major seaport of Mukalla.

In Yemen, she is understood to have recruited female suicide bombers with bribes of €300 – a fortune to desperate families. She is also thought to have sent male suicide bombers as young as 15 to their deaths, pumped full of heroin.

London University graduate Lewthwaite is said to have altered her appearance through plastic surgery and piled on weight in a bid to remain unrecognised by authorities.

She has pledged to raise all of her four children, who have three different fathers, as jihadis.

Posted on 12/30/2018 5:32 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Sunday, 30 December 2018
A Muslim In Germany Just Loves Christmas — So What?

by Hugh Fitzgerald

This tale by Said Rezek is a story of one hyper-tolerant Muslim and his family that are meant to reassure us:

As a Muslim I like to go to Christmas markets, eat Stollen and as a child I even got presents. Surprised? That’s not the half of it.

Muslims shy away from Christmas markets as the devil shies away from holy water, so the common prejudice. Some even think that Muslims in Germany would like to rename Christmas markets winter markets or even ban them. Apart from the fact that I don’t know any Muslims who have ever made such a demand, it would make me very sad.

Notice Rezek’s language. It is the “common prejudice” of non-Muslims that Muslims shy away from Christmas markets. Why not call it simply a “belief,” instead of denigrating it as a “prejudice”? And “some even think” that Muslims would like to rename “Christmas Markets” as “winter markets”? Said Rezek can’t for the life of him figure out why anyone would think that. Many Europeans have, however, apparently concluded that Muslims do object to the very name “Christmas Market,” and, so as not to offend them, have chosen to rename these as “Winter Markets.” In Belgium alone, the Christmas Markets have become  “Winter Markets” or “Winter Lands” or “Winter Fun” in Brugge, Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent, and Hasselt. Why would they have done that, if no Muslims are offended the name “Christmas Market”?

Every year I walk through the stalls in the different cities, be it Essen, Cologne, Aachen or Munster. My wife is often on the lookout for decorations and handicrafts, while I take a closer look at the tea assortment. As Muslims, of course, we don?t indulge in mulled wine, but we both especially like the beautiful lighting, the deliciously aromatic smells and the uniquely festive mood you encounter at Christmas markets.

Stressing his interfaithfulness, with tidings of comfort and joy, Said Reek describes the delight he and his wife — a Muslim couple, forsooth! — take in the gemütlichkeit of Christmas markets  in Germany, the decorations and handicrafts she favors, and the holiday teas he fancies, and the lights, the enticing smells, the festive mood — and we are obliquely being asked to believe that, as Muslim lovers of Christmas markets, the Rezeks are hardly alone.

Being a recognisable Muslim, however, not everything is great at the Christmas markets. My wife wears a headscarf and sometimes we get quite unpleasant looks. We can only guess what is going on in the minds of these people. You may be surprised to see Muslims strolling between the stalls. Yet we have many Muslim friends and acquaintances who like to go to Christmas markets.

As always, it’s the non-Muslims who are to blame — why in the world do some at the Christmas Markets give the Rezeks those “quite unpleasant looks”? Might it have something to do with the headscarf his wife wears, that some people take as a sign that the wearer is more than a “cultural” Muslim, possibly a little too devout for their tastes?

And Said Rezek should be able to guess what is in the minds of those people giving those “unpleasant looks.” It’s not hard to fathom. They’re thinking of Muslims who’ve murdered Unbelievers in London, Manchester, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Nice, Toulouse, Magnanvile, Brussels, Amsterdam, The Hague, Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm, Malmö, Turku, Helsinki, St.Petersburg, Moscow, Beslan. They’re thinking of the attack on Charlie Hebdo, of the killers of Drummer Lee Rigby, of those who brought down the Twin Towers, the Christians and Yazidis murdered, the attacks on churches in Egypt and Pakistan. They’re thinking of the grooming gangs in the U.K. They’re remembering the 1,200 German women and girls attacked by 2,000 Muslim men in Cologne on New Year’s Eve 2015. They’re thinking of the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, Al-Shebaab, Boko Haram, Jabhat Al-Nusra, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah. Isn’t that more than enough to explain those “quite unpleasant looks”?

My first Christmas memories date back to my childhood. My parents, who are also practicing Muslims, gave Christmas presents to me and my siblings. They knew about the customs in Germany and did not want us to feel disadvantaged when surrounded by our Christian classmates. In fact, the opposite was the case, because in the end we also received presents at the Muslim festivals of Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha.

Said Rezek’s family sounds as if it consists of just possibly the most tolerant Muslims in the whole wide world. His Muslim parents gave their Muslim children Christmas presents. They had a Christmas tree. They wanted their family to fit in with Christian families. They wanted their children to fit in with their classmates. They let him act in a nativity play. That’s pretty much the story, Rezek implies, of so many Muslims in Europe. He claims that “many Muslim friends and acquaintances…. like to go to Christmas markets.” What’s all this splother about Muslims refusing to integrate? Islamophobes! Just look at my family — that’s seven people right there. Christmas trees, Christmas presents, Christmas carols — the whole works!

I have vague recollections of taking part in the nativity play in primary school. I can clearly remember though how proud of me my parents were. The performance took place in a church and they sat in the front row.

And so tolerant are his parents that they were not just accepting, but even “proud” when Said took part in a nativity play, performed in a church, to boot.

But we must ask: how many other Muslims are like the Rezeks?

A tradition that is very much alive: “O Tannenbaum” and “Kling, Gloeckchen,” not to mention “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht”. Even though I do not associate any religious feelings with the texts, they conveyed a sense of security to me as a child. In my opinion, these carols are part of the general knowledge that everyone should master, regardless of whether they are Christian or not

We also sang various Christmas carols in primary, some of which I can still recite today: “O Tannenbaum” and “Kling, Gloeckchen”, not to mention “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht”. Even though I do not associate any religious feelings with the texts, they conveyed a sense of security to me as a child. In my opinion, these carols are part of the general knowledge that everyone should master, regardless of whether they are Christian or not.

Mr. Rezek is certainly a spectacularly tolerant Muslim. He likes Christmas carols. He can still sing many of them, which he cherishes, but does not “associate any religious feelings with the texts.” He claims that “everyone” — not just Christians — should master these carols, as part of “general knowledge.” How many Muslims would agree? Mr. Rezek would like us to believe that he speaks for many. I’ve never come across any Muslims, in 17 years of searching online and offline, who share Rezek’s regard for carols, Christmas trees, Christmas presents. He — and his family — represent only themselves. This is what is called anecdotal evidence.

What many non-Muslims don’t know: Jesus’ birth is described in detail in the Koran. The main difference between Christians and Muslims is that Jesus is a prophet in Islam – and not the Son of God, as it is written in the Bible.

What Mr. Rezek should have written is that “the main difference between the Christian and Muslim conceptions of Jesus is that for Muslims, Jesus is not the Son of God but a prophet.” And in regarding Jesus as divine, Christians are guilty of shirk, or polytheism, in Islam one of the worst sins. Mr. Rezek did not care to share that knowledge. I’m not surprised.

And how could I forget the Secret Santa in school? Exciting was not only what gift was in the bag. It was at least as exciting which classmate gave you the gift.

By the way, Christmas memories didn’t stop at our front door. At the request of my brother, who was a true Christmas fan, our parents even set up a Christmas tree at home, which we lovingly decorated.

Some Muslims will certainly shake their heads when reading these lines, and describe this action as un-Islamic. It is indeed the case, according to a reading of Islam, that rites of other religions must not be imitated. But statements of the Prophet and verses from the Koran must be placed in the context of time and place.

“Some Muslims” will “describe this action [putting up a Christmas tree] as un-Islamic”? The Qur’an (5:3) tells all Muslims in no uncertain terms not to imitate the Unbelievers.

As one Muslim website explains:

The Muslims have no need to imitate any of the other nations in matters of religious rituals and acts of worship, for Allaah has perfected His religion and completed His Favour, and chosen for us Islam as our religion, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):

This day, I have perfected your religion for you, completed My Favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (Qur’an 5:3)

Islam forbids the Muslims to imitate the Kuffaar, especially the Jews and Christians, but this prohibition does not apply to all their affairs, rather it applies to matters of their religion and things that are unique to them, by which they are known.

In the Hadith Muhammad says the same thing:

“It was narrated from Abu Sa’eed al-Khudri (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “You will certainly follow the ways of those who came before you hand span by hand span, cubit by cubit, to the extent that if they entered the hole of a lizard, you will enter it too.” We said: “O Messenger of Allaah, (do you mean) the Jews and the Christians?” He said: “Who else?” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1397; Muslim, 4822.

This hadeeth indicates that it is haraam to imitate the Jews and the Christians, and that those who follow them and tread the same path as them are criticized. Islam has reinforced this prohibition, by describing those who imitate the kuffaar as being of them.

It was narrated that ‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Umar said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever imitates a people is one of them.” Narrated by Abu Dawood, 3512.

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah (may Allaah have mercy on him) said:

“This at the very least indicates that it is haraam to imitate them, although the apparent meaning is that the one who imitates them is a kaafir.”

So all of that imitating of Christians at Christmas time by Rezek’s family — his taking part in the nativity play (and making his parents “proud”), the Christmas tree, the giving of presents, the delight taken at those Christmas markets — all this for Muslims is unambiguously haram, forbidden. Rezek might have written that “I am well aware that for almost all Muslims our family’s participation in the celebration of Christmas is unacceptable.” But he didn’t do so, because he wants Unbelievers to take his own family’s behavior not as exceptional, but as representative. I have no doubt that some Muslims do like to visit, as he claims, Christmas markets, but how many of these exceptions are there? And how many Muslims give Christmas presents and have Christmas trees? If there were more than a scarcely discernible handful, wouldn’t we have heard of them by now?

As a Muslim in Germany in the 21st century, life is of course different than in the early seventh century in Mecca or Medina, when the Koran was revealed. And to make children happy was, then as now, a matter of course.

Life in 21st century Germany is certainly different from life in 7th century Mecca and Medina. But the Qur’an and Hadith remain unchanged. The Qur’anic command (5:51) “not to take Jews and Christians as friends, for they are friends only with each other” — is still there. Unchanged, too, is the Qur’anic command (5:3) not to imitate the Unbelievers in any matters connected to religion, for otherwise a Muslim becomes an Unbeliever himself.

These days I’m a father myself and I like to mark the festive season of Christmas. My wife and I will give presents to our daughter and spend the Christmas holidays together.

This year my wife has decorated the flat a little with fir cones. What could be nicer than eating delicious Christmas biscuits or Stollen with your family? With this in mind, I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

The only thing missing in the Rezek Christmas, it seems, are Christmas cards. Muslims, of course, are forbidden to send  them.

All the Muslim websites proclaim rules about Christmas which the Rezek family ignores almost in their entirety:

It’s haraam to support the idea of Christmas by celebrating it

It’s haraam to support the idea of Christmas by sending Christmas cards

It’s haraam to support the idea of Christmas by buying Christmas presents

It’s haraam to support the idea of Christmas by wishing others Merry Christmas

It’s haraam to support the idea of Christmas by going to and holding Christmas parties

It’s haraam to support the idea of Christmas by singing Christmas songs

It’s haraam to support the idea of Christmas by telling your kids about a fictional figure like Santa Claus

It’s haraam to support the idea of Christmas by doing secret Santa

Said Rezek apparently observes only two of these prohibitions: he doesn’t wish others “Merry Christmas” and he doesn’t send Christmas cards. Otherwise, he and his family are as “haraam” as can be.

Please take it on faith, from Said Rezek himself, that Muslims all over the world are just as enlightened and tolerant as his family apparently is. Isn’t his anecdotal evidence enough? Forget your worries and your doubts. Forget what all the imams declare, and what all the Jihadis threaten. Forget the 109 verses in the Qur’an commanding violent Jihad against the Unbelievers. Forget the more than 33,400 terror attacks by Muslims since 9/11. Ignore Muhammad’s claim that “I have been made victorious through terror.” Pay no attention to the Qur’anic verse (98:6) that describes Unbelievers as “the most vile of creatures.” None of that matters. There’s a Muslim family, over in Germany, that puts up a Christmas tree, learns Christmas carols, and gives Christmas presents to family members.That’s what really counts.

Said Rezek wants to accentuate the positive. There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. And just think — he’s shown us that at least seven of those 1.5 billion Muslims, that is, Said Rezek, his wife, his daughter, his parents, and his two siblings, cheerfully embrace the Christmas holiday. They have Christmas trees. They take part in nativity plays. As children, Said and his siblings were given Christmas presents, a tradition he continues with his own child. He and his wife love to visit, and buy things at, Christmas Markets. That’s all meant to be heartwarming.

But such anecdotal evidence is ludicrous. This reassurance based on a single Muslim family’s experience is wildly misleading. If Said Rezek could offer up examples of millions, or even thousands, of Muslims who feel the same way as he claims his family does about Christmas, we might be more impressed. No such evidence is offered.

Meanwhile, in the Islamic world, Christians are still being attacked, in their churches, returning from pilgrimages, in their shops, on the street. In 2003, there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq; now there are 200,000. Two Scandinavian girls were decapitated in mid-December in Morocco, for the crime of being Unbelievers. Christians will forever be considered as guilty of the sin of polytheism, or shirk, for believing in the divinity of Jesus. Whatever Said Rezek may think, the Qur’an is crystal clear: “fight the Unbelievers wherever you find them,” “smite at their necks,” “strike terror in their hearts.”

Said Rezek offers a vivid example of those Muslims who want us to believe that in their embrace of the outward and visible aspects of Christmas, they are not the exception but the rule.

Tidings of comfort and joy? Not so fast. Not until we hear respected imams — at least by the hundreds — proclaim from their pulpits that Muslims can put up Christmas trees, sing Christmas carols, give Christmas presents, without being considered Kuffars. And so far, not a single one has done so.

First published in Jihad Watch here and here.

Posted on 12/30/2018 4:53 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 29 December 2018
Mary Poppins Returns

Friday between Christmas and New Year and things feel a bit flat, so . . .

“What’s on at the pictures?”

Which is how daughter and I came to be in one of the larger theatres of our local multi-screen yesterday settling down to watch Mary Poppins Returns.  I grew up on the original Mary Poppins film. I still have the LP; I knew every word of every song.

I’m a Londoner (have I ever mentioned that to you?) and I’m particular about the Cockney accent and London locations. It is a measure of the popularity of Dick van Dyke in England that his appalling English accents (cockney as Bert the chimneysweep and RP as bank chairman Mr Dawes ) were overlooked and forgiven on the strength of his other virtues (singing, dancing, acting and generally being a decent bloke).

I was a little worried when I heard that his grown up apprentice Jack, now a lamplighter, was going to be played by American musical actor Lin-Manuel Miranda.

 “Look Mum, they are keeping up the tradition of the first film already; just as the pantomime dame is played by a man, in this case the cockney is again played by an American.  And look at this chap’s body of work already – he wrote Hamilton – he’s not just a pretty face”

In 54 years Dick van Dyke’s English accent (RP as Mr Dawes the younger, son of the original chairman) has not improved. But he can still dance at the age of 93. And it was lovely to see him, Karen Dotrice (young Jane in 1964) and Angela Lansbury in cameo roles.

The film opens with Jack riding a bicycle as he extinguishes the gas burning street lights while singing “Under the Lovely London Sky”. His singing accent is right, his voice as expected is excellent, and his ability to cycle while singing from the Tower of London to St Paul’s cathedral in less than two lines, without any breathlessness, could not have been achieved by Sir Bradley Wiggins. Jack’s spoken accent wasn’t quite so good but, had he had longer speeches, after a bit longer with the voice coach he would have been there.

The London filming locations are real, although the skyline is so altered since 1935, and the real Crystal Palace burned down in 1936 so CGI/painted backcloth/whatever would have been essential. The Royal Exchange is unmistakable, I was right in recognising Middle Temple and I am sure that some of the little streets off Smith Square with St John’s in the background were also used.

Leerie as a term for lamplighter is actually Scots. In English to be leery (alt. spelling leary) means to be wary. To be lairy means flash or ostentatious. The rhyming slang was half correct and half fanciful, but the tune was good. As a matter of irrelevant interest, these days some of the most creative rhyming slang comes out of Australia. 

In my personal opinion the best sequence was inside the china bowl belonging to the children, where they visit the Royal Doulton Music Hall and Mary and Jack sing a very true song called A Book is not its Cover. Jack does a really good patter song; very impressive.  Patter songs are both a US and a British tradition. Danny Kaye was a big favourite in our house when I was growing up and this is one of his best (subjective opinion again).

Accent aside, Jack’s movements, mannerisms, presence were all convincing. And the sub-plot, a potential romance with Jane Banks, who works in adulthood for a trade union, was touching.

So far these were my original thoughts but when I tried an on-line search for the lyrics of the patter song element of A Book is not its Cover I found this review from US publication The Playlist. Apparently some people think the patter song is a rap and are outraged. I hate rap – but this isn’t a rap – it’s a good old fashioned patter song. However I can see how the roots of rap might be, inter alia, in the old patter songs, but this is the original form. And Lin-Manuel Miranda and the songwriters studied old time British performers Flanagan and Allen (Underneath the Arches, Run Rabbit, Run) AND Danny Kaye.

YES! Great minds are thinking alike. I picked up the influence. Gentlemen, your research worked.

This fussy, pedantic, traditionalist old Cockney enjoyed the film and was impressed. Thank you and good night.

Posted on 12/29/2018 1:17 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 29 December 2018
Don’t like election outcomes? Change the electorate

by Theodore Dalrymple

One of the most extraordinary consequences of the political ­impasse in Britain over Brexit is the proposal that the voting age should be reduced to six.

This extension of the franchise was not proposed by an inmate of an asylum for the crim­in­ally insane but by a professor, David Runciman, of the University of Cambridge, supposedly one of the best three or four such institutions in the world. But no mere criminal lunatic could have dreamt up such an idea. Is it any wonder that many people feel the world has gone mad?

Sure enough, Runciman’s idea was given serious consideration by a writer in The Guardian. Admittedly, the writer came down against the proposal, but only after giving it credence. Nevertheless, it gave an insight into the mindset of those whose political ideas are to themselves so self-evidently virtuous that the only possible explanation for the fact others do not share them is stupidity in the case of the poor and wickedness in the case of the rich.

At the head of the article were the words: “Allow six-year-olds to vote? No, but it’s not as crazy as it sounds. Children tend to be more progressive and idealistic than their parents.”

This illustrates rather neatly the proto-totalitarian tendency of much of the Western intelligentsia. For this intelligentsia, the purpose of elections is not to limit the power of politicians, provide the electorate with a choice and correct policies that seem to it to have gone too far in one direction or ­another, but to produce a pre­determined result, the predeter­mina­tion being that of an elite of the correct-thinking. That is why a proposal that makes traditional gerrymandering look like an act of probity can be taken so solemnly. The end justifies the means.

The use of the wordprogressiveis telling. It implies not only that there is a clear path in hum­anity’s moral ascent to perfection but also that its route map has been vouchsafed to certain adults. For self-proclaimed progressives, there are no complexities or un­intended consequences, let alone ironies: there is only progress and its opposite, reaction.

For the writer of the article, children are born with a knowledge of the route map of the ascent to perfection, as salmon, cuckoos and swallows are born with a knowledge of where to migrate to. Only the corruption of age causes them to forget: “Children do tend towards the progressive, having a natural sense of justice … and an underdeveloped sense of self-interest.” But what has caused the realisation that children may be suitable for enfranchisement? Our author cannot be clearer: “Most of the arguments against giving six-year-olds a vote have been capsized by the (Brexit) referendum.”

In other words, because the electorate got the answer wrong, it is necessary to change the electorate. If only it had answered the question correctly, it is a fair guess no one would have thought of lowering the voting age to six.

Why, then, does our author fin­ally reject the vote for six year-olds? “If parents could be trusted to use their influence wisely and inculcate children with the politics it will take to assure a better future, then I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem with that, apart from, obviously, that culture is already wildly skewed towards parents … But that’s moot anyway, because parents can’t be trusted, otherwise we’d all already vote Green.”

This is surely one of the most sinister arguments put forward in a supposedly liberal publication. If I may paraphrase it to make it clearer: It is known beyond all doubt what will make life better. Children are prevented from voting for it by the malign influence of their parents, who are ignorant or ill-intentioned. Therefore children should not have the vote.

On this argument, it is difficult to see why anyone should have the vote. After all, everything that matters has been settled in advance by people such as the writer. In the light of this opinion it becomes clear why those in Britain who demand a second referendum call it a People’s Vote. The population for them is divided into the People and Enemies of the People. The People have correct ideas, while Enemies of the People have incorrect ones. Since the People ought to be more numerous than Enemies of the People, the first referendum, in which the wrong answer was returned, could not have been a People’s Vote but something different, irrespective of the fact it was based on universal suffrage. It seems to me as likely as any counterfactual can be that, had the first referendum gone the other way, there would have been no demand for a second referendum. The result would have been accepted as definitive by those who voted against the majority.

This suggests, in modern democracies, attachment to freedom is much less strong than commonly supposed, particularly among the right-think­ing intelligentsia. The latter’s vocation is not for freedom but for domination and even dictatorship, albeit a dictatorship of virtue. Those who think differently are dupes or knaves whose opinions are not to be countered by argument but neutralised by administrative legerdemain, such as alteration of the composition of the electorate. The same intelligentsia has the effrontery then to wonder why so much of the population turns to populists, many of whom may indeed harbour authoritarian tendencies of a dark nature.

First published in the Australian.

Posted on 12/29/2018 7:29 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Saturday, 29 December 2018
Egypt kills 40 terror suspects after pyramid attack

From the Times and The Telegraph Photograph Reuters via the BBC

Egyptian police killed 40 suspected terrorists in three co-ordinated gun battles on Saturday after a deadly attack on a coach carrying tourists to the Great Pyramids of Giza.

A roadside bomb killed three Vietnamese tourists and their local guide on Friday night in the first murderous attack on foreign tourists in more than a year in Egypt. The tourist bus that was attacked on Friday had been heading to a sound and light show at Giza. (I have done that myself - over 30 years ago. I'm glad I visited Cairo when I did, short as the visit was. No way would I set foot there again now. )

Two raids in the Giza governorate killed 30 "terrorists", while the remaining 10 were killed in the North Sinai, the Egyptian interior ministry said in a statement. 

It said the authorities took action after receiving a tip-off about the suspects preparing a series of attacks against state buildings, tourist attractions and churches. "Information was received by the national security that a group of terrorists were planning to carry out a series of aggressive attacks targeting state institutions, particularly economic ones, as well as tourism, armed forces, police and Christian places of worship," the statement said.

Early on Friday evening, a roadside bomb hit a tour bus in the Al-Haram district near the Giza pyramids. A statement from the public prosecutor's office said 11 other tourists from Vietnam and an Egyptian bus driver were wounded. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, the first attack to target tourists since 2017.

The attack came as Egypt's vital tourism industry is showing signs of recovery after years in the doldrums due to political turmoil and violence that followed a 2011 uprising that toppled former leader Hosni Mubarak. Egypt has been planning to open a museum near the Giza pyramids and has recently bolstered security around archaeological sites and in airports. It will likely prompt authorities to tighten security around churches and associated facilities ahead of the New Year's Eve celebrations and next month's Christmas celebrations of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the dominant denomination among Egypt's estimated 10 million Christians.

Posted on 12/29/2018 6:48 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 29 December 2018
The Terror of Existence Audio Book Now Available

Narrated by the incomparable Jack Wynters. Listen to an excerpt here.

Posted on 12/29/2018 5:21 AM by NER
Saturday, 29 December 2018
Say Goodbye to Christmas Markets

by Gary Fouse

For several years now, Mercedes Benz in the US holds a sale they call, the "Winter Event". Not the Christmas event, mind you, but the "Winter Event". I guess since they are not celebrating Christmas or Hannukah, they must be celebrating the cold, snow, and ice.

Ditto for the Belgian city of Brugges, which is now re-naming its Christmas market "the Winter Market", so as not to offend other religions. Of course, we all know that there is only one religion that we have to worry about offending since the results can be deadly. Christmas markets in Berlin and Strasbourg have learned that the hard way in the past couple of years.

Brugges is not the first Belgian city to cave in to Islamic sensitivities as the Voice of Europe article points out. But what can we expect from the country that British UKIP leader and British delegate to the European Parliament, Nigel Farage, calls, "half a country"? As we speak, their government has fallen thanks to their misguided agreement to sign onto the UN Global Compact on Migration, which was signed this month in Morocco. Credit the Flemish parties like Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest-VB) and Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (New Flemish Alliance-N-VA) for leading the opposition to the pact.

The sad fact is that Belgium is a hot spot for radical jihadists in Europe. The infamous Brussels district of Molenbeek was the center of operations for Arab terrorists who struck Paris and Brussels and found refuge and safe houses right under the nose of the police who were searching for them.

In addition, just this week, we learned that under the new state secretary for migration and asylum, Palestinian "asylum-seekers" from Gaza are streaming into Belgium much to the worry of Belgian Jews. The Flemish-language Jewish news outlet, Joods Actueel reported the story as well as a video by the previous secretary for migration and asylum, Theo Francken (of N-VA), who complained that his successor has opened the floodgates, and that Belgian Jews should indeed be worried for their safety.

We now know that the jihadists are going to target Europe's Christmas markets. Rather than transform them into some sort of celebration of the month of December, they should be maintained as they are, security provided, and certain foreign populations advised that if Christmas offends them, they can return to their home.
Posted on 12/29/2018 5:07 AM by Gary Fouse
Friday, 28 December 2018
The Hard-Earned Lessons of a Born Maverick

Miriam Greenspan writes in the Los Angeles Review of Books  

In A Politically Incorrect Feminist, Phyllis Chesler vividly recounts the glory days of the women’s movement of the 1960s and ’70s, of which she was a prominent leader. Her memoir captures the movement’s visionary vitality, creativity, and “massive euphoria,” the zeitgeist of an era characterized by new words (sexual harassment, empowerment), new institutions (women’s centers, rape crisis centers, battered women’s shelters), new laws (legalized abortion), and a vibrant feminist counterculture. Chesler nostalgically honors the indefatigable feminist activists, thinkers, and leaders she knew and worked with, including Kate Millett, Andrea Dworkin, Barbara Seaman, Gloria Steinem, and numerous others she names in her acknowledgments. “We were soldiers brave and true,” she writes; “we were friends, near and dear.”

At the same time, she painstakingly documents the movement’s dark underbelly: the tyrannies of political correctness, the backstabbing power struggles, the internalized sexism and “horizontal hostility” of feminists who, failing to take down patriarchy, often took each other down instead. Women who wrote books were told it was “counter-revolutionary” to publish them under their own names. Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique (1963), bristled at the growing influence of Gloria Steinem and Ms. magazine. Women running for president of the National Organization for Women needed bodyguards. According to Chesler, radical feminists were “eating their leaders, destroying their own best”; this, she claims, “was ultimately the psychological reason our mass radical movement ground to a halt.”

Chesler knows whereof she speaks. She was and remains a pioneer and fighter for the cause, and an eminently shrewd observer of feminism’s ups and downs. Her best-selling 1972 debut book, Women and Madness, was a cultural watershed exposing how male-dominated psychiatry damages women. As author, professor, psychotherapist, scholar, public speaker, expert witness, and social activist, Chesler gave a voice to the vulnerable, including psychiatric patients, mothers deprived of child custody, and abused and prostituted women. She co-founded the Association for Women in Psychology and the National Women’s Health Network, taught one of the first Women’s Studies courses, keynoted the first Radical Feminist Speak-Out on Rape, served as consultant to the UN, and much more. She has authored 18 books, all of them eye-openers. 

The biggest bombshell in a book replete with many is Chesler’s account of being raped in 1980 by her boss, a prominent UN official, and subsequently silenced by two iconic feminist leaders, Robin Morgan and Gloria Steinem. Morgan, says Chesler, insisted that confronting her rapist “would make the American feminist movement look racist” because he was a black man from Sierra Leone. Morgan instead made common cause with the attacker, elbowing Chesler out of the book that would emerge from the UN women’s conference in Oslo that Chesler herself had organized. Steinem contributed to the cover-up, promising to support Chesler in confronting her rapist and then reneging on her promise. These betrayals, according to Chesler, were opportunistic moves to gain control of international feminist networks and consolidate the Ms. brand of media-propelled feminism.

Yes, Chesler names names and takes no prisoners. Those who prefer not to air dirty tribal laundry in public may be inclined to decry her account or claim that there are larger issues that take precedence over one woman’s rape. Rape survivors have all too often been silenced. The silencers here, however, are not male leaders or rape enablers but women at the height of leadership in the feminist movement.

Reading Chesler’s memoir brought back my own days as a feminist activist in Boston. My wonderful memories of sisterly solidarity coexist with painful recollections of betrayal. I remember being raked over the coals by the staff of a radical feminist psychology program for speaking for 10 minutes (three over the designated seven) on a panel called What is Feminist Therapy? “Who do you think you are,” they demanded, “taking up more space than the other women on the panel? Are you a JAP [Jewish American Princess]? Where did you grow up, Long Island? What is your class background?”

My sisters backed off when they found out that I was born in a refugee camp after the Holocaust, that I grew up in the South Bronx, and that my father made hats for a living. But the combination of aggressive, McCarthy-style intimidation and frank antisemitism — ferreting out my class and ethnic background in an attempt to discredit my feminist credentials — alerted me, early on, to the dangers of hyper-zealous political correctness and groupthink. These dangers are as present today as they were back then — perhaps more so.

Political power struggles and infighting are endemic to most progressive social movements. The New Left, originally a broad umbrella for social activists in the student, antiwar, and civil rights movements, joined by newly awakened feminists, black power advocates, old-fashioned socialists and anarchists, nascent environmentalists, and Yippie-style cultural warriors, gradually fragmented into increasingly hostile ideological camps dominated by rigid identity politics and PC conformity. In this context, battles among radical, socialist, and liberal feminists were par for the course. The wars over sexuality, pornography, and prostitution were especially fierce. Some of this was principled discussion, but at their worst our fights were not so much attempts to find the truth as to get everyone to think the same way.

When followers give up their capacity to think for themselves, a herd mentality can become a threat, not just to social justice movements but to democracy itself. Unthinking tribalism has become a defining feature of our era, fueled from the top by Trump, with his demagogic appeals to racist, misogynist, and xenophobic currents in the populace. But tribalism is not just a right-wing phenomenon. It is present also in the left-wing PC police who inhibit and silence dissent on campuses and make it difficult to have a rational discussion about hot-button issues such as racism, transgender identity, violence against women in Islamic countries, the politics of Israel/Palestine, and so on, without being shouted down, shunned, and even subjected to death threats.

In the culture of balkanized fundamentalisms in which we currently live, Chesler’s critique of the feminist movement she helped build is both brave and painfully relevant. Internecine squabbles within the Democratic Party and among progressive camps are undermining the unity necessary to forge a mass movement for social, economic, racial, and gender justice to stem the rising tide of proto-fascism in the United States. The refusal to critique one’s own “side” is ultimately self-defeating because, without understanding our own propensity for darkness, we are destined to lose our way.

It is against this current that Chesler writes in her authentic, jargon-free voice, telling it like it was, for better and worse. She is a born maverick whose mind seems to be preternaturally oriented to uncovering and contemplating the dark recesses of the human psyche and the body politic. Her experience of captivity as a young bride in Afghanistan became the seedbed for her understanding of the global plight of women as one of violently enforced subjugation. In a presentation at the 1970 meeting of the American Psychological Association, Chesler threw away her research paper and instead demanded one million dollars in “reparations” to female patients for the harm inflicted by male psychiatrists.

This maverick streak has made many of her books controversial. The New Anti-Semitism (2003), Chesler’s analysis of how Western intellectuals, academics, and progressives demonize Israel, has rendered her terminally politically incorrect, as has her extensive research on Islamic misogyny, a topic she explores in The Death of Feminism (2005). She accuses the woman’s movement of devolving into a relativistic “multiculturalism” that has turned its back on the universal, global oppression of women, maintaining a concerted silence regarding the plight of women in the Islamic world. Chesler has zero tolerance for feminists who label any critique of Islamic purdah and “honor” killing as racist Western “cultural domination.”

One would be hard-pressed to pigeonhole Chesler into a political “camp.” Is she left-wing or right-wing? Certainly she has not abandoned feminism, despite the claims of some of her critics. I may not agree with all of Chesler’s political views, but I know this: she’s as passionate a freethinking feminist as she ever was. And freethinkers, by definition, don’t fit into one ideological club or another.

Nowadays, freethinking may be one of the few bulwarks against the thought police of the left and the proto-fascist lies of the right. Keeping our minds open, flexible, and informed, at a time when thinking itself is under assault, is absolutely critical. In the words of Rebecca Solnit:

Some of us are purely tribal — our loyalty is to our family, posse, gang, political party, identity group, no matter what. [… For] others among us […] our primary loyalty is to values and truth, and we will repudiate or tell harsh truths about even people we love if they violate those values.

Chesler’s genius is her refusal to submit to tribalism. In recounting harsh truths about feminist leaders, whom she takes to task for promulgating herd thinking or abandoning their values for the sake of political expediency, she shows how even the most progressive social justice movements can sometimes betray their own best ideals. Her memoir is a cautionary tale for today’s social activists, who tend to be largely ignorant of the disappeared history of the woman’s movement and are thus repeating some of its mistakes. Those who would continue the struggle for social justice would do well to read this book and take its hard-earned lessons to heart.

Posted on 12/28/2018 6:27 AM by Phyllis Chesler
Friday, 28 December 2018
Who Will Reconstruct Syria?

by Hugh Fitzgerald

Now that the Islamic State has been driven out of the last town it controlled in Syria, the question must be asked: who will reconstruct the country? Estimates for the reconstruction of Syria range from $250 billion to one trillion dollars. Where will that money come from? Nothing will come from the deep-pocketed Saudis, Emiratis, Kuwaitis, or Qataris, all of them Sunni countries, and all but Qatar openly hostile to Iran-allied Syria. What about Russia? The Russians see themselves as contributing, but only if Europe, and especially the United States, agree to participate as well in financing the reconstruction. The Russians have already spent billions in helping to prop up Assad during his seven-year civil war; they are unwilling, and likely unable, to spend much more. Certainly nothing in the neighborhood of tens of billions.

Now comes Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has  announced that not a penny will come from the American government to help in the reconstruction of Syria as long as Iranian forces remain in Syria. The Iranians, of course, have spent directly, and through their aid to Hezbollah, huge sums on supporting Assad. There are several estimates as to the total Iranian aid to Syria. According to Staffan di Mistura, the U.N’s envoy to Syria, the Iranian government spends at least $6 billion annually on maintaining Assad’s government. That aid began in 2012, less than a year after the civil war began, and if Di Mistura is correct, Iran has spent $42 billion on Syria to date. But other figures are far higher. Nadim Shehadi, the director of the Fares Center for Eastern Mediterranean Studies at Tufts University, said that his research puts the actual number at $15 billion annually. That would mean Iran has spent $105 billion on Syria. And the civil war is not over yet.

In Iran, protesters in the streets this past summer shouted “Leave Syria alone and deal with Iran” as well as “Death to Palestine” and “Death to Gaza.” By this, they meant “stop spending money abroad on military adventures, we Iranians are suffering economically.” And Iran is suffering. The rial has sunk to historic lows. Of Iran’s 2.5 million barrels of oil production, Iran now manages to sell only about 1.5 million barrels, thanks to the re-imposition of American sanctions. Iran has just suffered its worst drought in more than a half-century, significantly damaging Iranian agriculture and the raising of livestock. This is another body blow to the economy.

Meanwhile, along with the sums — between $42 billion and $105 billion — that it has been spending on Syria annually, Iran also supports Hezbollah with about $1 billion a year. It is also involved in supporting the Houthis in Yemen. It is believed to supply them with several billion dollars in money, and especially weaponry, including ballistic missiles, each year. Iran is also the largest contributor to Hamas, giving it and Islamic Jihad $100 million annually. And in Iraq, Iranian militias are helping out the Iraqi Shi’a with training and weaponry.

At the very moment when crippling economic sanctions are being re-imposed on Iran, when Iranian oil is difficult to sell and must be offered at a discount, when a catastrophic drought has dealt a severe setback to Iranian agriculture, Iran — still expensively committed in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and Syria — is in no position to pay for any part of Syria’s reconstruction. Iran, in fact, having helped to rescue Assad, was looking forward to finally reaping the benefits of all that help, by being granted permanent bases from which to threaten Israel.

But the Israelis have been bombing Iranian bases in Syria with impunity. When Russia told Israel that it would prevent Iran from establishing any bases within 60 miles of the Golan, the Israelis made clear that was insufficient, and that they were going to hit Iranian bases wherever they were in Syria.

And Pompeo says there will be no American money for Syrian reconstruction unless the Iranians pull completely out of Syria. The Israelis were glad to hear that promise, though a few were apparently hoping he might make a threat of taking military action against Iranian bases. That would have been too dangerous, given the possibility of accidentally hitting Russians and forcing Putin to retaliate. Besides, the Israelis are systematically hitting  those bases, and don’t look like they need any help.

What can Assad now do? If the Americans are not going to participate in the reconstruction, with their usual generosity, the Europeans will not, and the Russians have made clear that they are not going to participate without the involvement of Europe, and especially of America. Long before Pompeo’s remark, last April the House passed a bill that forbade any aid to reconstruct any part of the territory held by Assad, and it did not matter whether Iran remained in Syria or not. This No Assistance for Assad bill (H.R. 4681) was meant  “to keep taxpayer dollars out of the hands of the murderous Assad regime and its proxies.” Speaking in support of the legislation, the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations Ed Royce observed that “it would be unconscionable for U.S. government funds to be used for stabilization or reconstruction in areas under control of the illegitimate Assad regime and its proxies. We are not going to support the building of infrastructure that will benefit Hezbollah, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, or foreign militias.” That bill hasn’t passed the Senate, and with Pompeo’s remark, it has been superseded.

The Iranians, I suspect, are not about to pull completely out of Syria. The top regime figures have invested far too much in Syria to allow themselves to be shown the door by a seemingly ungrateful Assad. They need to keep a presence in Syria to show their own people that it was all worthwhile. And they don’t want America helping to reconstruct Syria, and perhaps taking Alawite-ruled Syria out of the “Shi’a axis” altogether. Assad is a slippery fellow; he’s likely to go with whomever offers him the most aid at the time. Now that he’s secured his country, he no longer needs Iran, but he does need a few hundred billion dollars to pay for reconstruction.

There is one country that, to date, hasn’t spent a cent on either side in the Syrian civil war, has a lot of money, has more experience in giant construction projects than anyone else, and has been showing a deep interest in expanding its presence in the eastern Mediterranean, by acquiring a controlling share in the port of Piraeus, the largest port in Greece and the largest port for containers in the whole Mediterranean. That country would be delighted to take “a leadership role” in the reconstruction in Syria — especially if the money is spent largely on its own nationals, who would be doing most of the work and receiving most of the pay. That country could, in rebuilding Syria, gain a foothold in the Middle East, and another outpost, along with that in Piraeus, on the Mediterranean. That country, waiting in the wings for its Syrian closeup, is China.

First published in Jihad Watch

Posted on 12/28/2018 5:20 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 26 December 2018
Prize Christmas Quiz – Part Five


If you missed them you can find Part One by clicking this link , Part Two by clicking this link , Part Three by clicking this link and Part Four by clicking this link .

Well, I hope you all had a lovely Christmas Day. As you consume the last of the festive fare and resolve that next year you’re going to lay in a better quality sherry here are half a dozen little teasers to ponder over.

All of life is here. We’ve had joyful births and a surfeit of kings, the curiosities of carols and calming Christmas conundrums, so now we get to the inevitable – death on Boxing Day.

1) Who was murdered on Boxing Day AD 1476 by three men one of whom said at his execution for his part in the murder "Mors acerba, fama perpetua, stabit vetus memoria facti" which translates roughly as “Death is bitter, but glory is eternal, the memory of my deed will endure”.

2) Io, Europa, Ganimedes puer, atque Calisto lascivo nimium perplacuere Iovi (Io, Europa, the boy Ganymede, and Callisto greatly pleased lustful Jupiter) or so it is said, but these moons were named by an astronomer who died on a Boxing Day.

            (a) Who was he?

            (b) What did a jury in the Netherlands do for him in AD 1903?

3) What connection in death do ‘Dennis’ and ‘Zurich’ have with Boxing Day?

4) Daniel Pierce Thompson based one of his characters - Charles Warrington - on a real life Green Mountain Boy who died on Boxing Day in AD 1784. So who was this real Revolutionary War officer from the New Hampshire Grants?

5) Sophia Engastromenos, a relative of an Archbishop of Athens, wore the 'Jewels of Helen'. Her husband died on a Boxing Day. Who was he?

6) This so-called emperor, who died on a Boxing Day, claimed that he had swum across every major river that he had ever encountered including, apparently, twice across the Ganges. By what name do we usually know him?

There will be a small prize for the first person, drawn at random, who correctly answers all, or the most, questions in the whole quiz and emails me their answers to

[email protected] .

You may email your answers to each section as you finish it or save them all up and email me the lot when the quiz is complete, so don’t lose your answers in the meantime if you choose to do the latter.

Even if you don’t manage to answer every question, or think that you might have got some wrong answers, do still join in and send me your entry – you might still win.

The winner will receive a copy of 'The Terror of Existence: From Ecclesiastes to Theatre of the Absurd' by Theodore Dalrymple and Kenneth Francis. It’s a terrific and thought provoking read and I thoroughly recommend it.

More to come.

Have a Merry Christmastide.



Posted on 12/26/2018 10:39 AM by John M. Joyce
Wednesday, 26 December 2018
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Remembers Her Jewish Roots (Part Two)

by Hugh Fitzgerald

Asked to explain what she meant by her use of the word “occupation,” Ocasio-Cortez said, “Oh, I think what I meant is that the settlements that are increasing in some of these areas and places where Palestinians are experiencing difficulty in access to their housing and homes.”

“I think what I meant”? You mean you are not quite sure what you meant? But you sorta kinda meant that those Israeli settlements (towns) are increasing in number, and that makes things harder for the “Palestinians” in having “access to their housing and homes.” Let’s get this straight. Those settlements — better to call them towns — are perfectly legal. See the Mandate for Palestine, Articles 2, 4, and, especially, Article 6. When the League of Nations ended, its successor organization, the United Nations, in Article 80 of the UN Charter — once known unofficially as the Jewish People’s clause — preserved intact all the rights granted to Jews under the Mandate for Palestine, even after the Mandate’s expiry on May 14-15, 1948.

Howard Greif has explained in exhaustive, but necessary, detail:

Under this provision of international law (the Charter is an international treaty), Jewish rights to Palestine and the Land of Israel were not to be altered in any way unless there had been an intervening trusteeship agreement between the states or parties concerned, which would have converted the Mandate into a trusteeship or trust territory. The only period of time such an agreement could have been concluded under Chapter 12 of the UN Charter was during the three-year period from October 24, 1945, the date the Charter entered into force after appropriate ratifications, until May 14-15, 1948, the date the Mandate expired and the State of Israel was proclaimed. Since no agreement of this type was made during this relevant three-year period, in which Jewish rights to all of Palestine may conceivably have been altered had Palestine been converted into a trust territory, those Jewish rights that had existed under the Mandate remained in full force and effect, to which the UN is still committed by Article 80 to uphold, or is prohibited from altering.

As a direct result of Article 80, the UN cannot transfer these rights over any part of Palestine, vested as they are in the Jewish People, to any non-Jewish entity, such as the “Palestinian Authority.”? Among the most important of these Jewish rights are those contained in Article 6 of the Mandate which recognized the right of Jews to immigrate freely to the Land of Israel and to establish settlements thereon, rights which are fully protected by Article 80 of the UN Charter.

It should be common knowledge that under the Mandate, all of Palestine was reserved exclusively for the establishment of the Jewish National Home and future independent Jewish State, as was previously decided at the San Remo Peace Conference that took place in April 1920. Or put another way, no part of Palestine was allotted for an Arab National Home or state, since Arab self-determination was being generously granted elsewhere – in Syria, Iraq, Arabia, Egypt and North Africa – which has led to the establishment of the 21 Arab states of today, over a vast land mass from the Persian Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean. There is thus no necessity for a new independent Arab State in the specific area of former Mandated Palestine reserved for Jewish self-determination, most particularly, in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Creating such a state out of Jewish land would be blatantly illegal under Article 80 of the UN Charter and beyond the legal authority of the UN itself.

In this respect, neither the League of Nations nor its successor, the United Nations, ever had sovereign rights over the land we Jews call Eretz-Israel. As a non-sovereign, the UN has no power whatsoever to allot territory to the “Palestinian Authority” where the allotted territory already belongs to the Jewish People.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez needs to study up. She can, and should, make the time.

The Jewish  towns (“settlements”) in the West Bank are being built on land that was part of Mandatory Palestine and that was mostly “state” and “waste” land. Some private land has also been bought from Arab landowners, at exorbitant prices. If the “Palestinians” have had to endure some roadblocks, it is not because Israelis are wantonly disruptive, but because of a long uninterrupted history of terrorist attacks on Israelis in the West Bank. Roadblocks and checkpoints are security measures, and naturally more are installed just after a terrorist attack, and then are taken down when the manhunt for terrorists is over.

Finally, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tells us that “I am a firm believer in finding a two-state solution on this issue, and I’m happy to sit down with leaders on both of these. [sic] For me, I just look at things through a human rights lens, and I may not use the right words. I know this is a very intense issue,” she said.

Well, she can start by finding out just who is harming whose “human rights.” Is it the Jews, who are simply trying to defend themselves, as they have had to for Israel’s entire existence, from enemies within and without, including those many “Palestinians” who have been waging a terrorist campaign against Israeli civilians? And is Ocasio-Cortez prepared to sit down with such people as Abu Marzook and Khaled Meshaal, who have been two of the leaders of Hamas, the charter of which is unambiguous in declaring the group’s goal is to destroy Israel completely and establish the state of “Palestine” from the river to the sea? Is she prepared to ask them about that charter? Does she even know that the Hamas Charter exists and why it is important? And would she dare ask Marzook and Meshaal, if she ever got the chance, as she put it, to “sit down” with them, if just maybe they could find it in their hearts to return to the “Palestinian people” some of the billions both have received (i.e., stolen) from the “Palestinian” coffers? And could she ask the same question of Mahmoud Abbas?

By mentioning her Sephardic Jewish background, Ocasio-Cortez may think that this is a way to allow her to continue criticizing Israel. It’s the calculation made by members of J Street, and Jews for Justice for Palestinians, and Jewish Voice for Peace — they’re all the same, in their hostility to Israel, and in their taking cover behind the fact of their Jewishness, which gives them a free pass, or so they think, to make the most absurd anti-Israel charges.  That is one possibility.

There is another, more hopeful,  possibility. She may have become genuinely interested in Israel, of which she knows, and has admitted she knows, practically nothing. It’s unclear when she learned of her Jewish ancestors, or when that ancestry started to matter to her. Perhaps she is just now beginning to consider, in light of those ancestors, that at the very least she should find out more about that tiny country, Israel, a hardly visible speck on the world map, that is so unfairly maligned, and she might discover that she no longer wishes to be a member of that malignant anti-Israel chorus. Her record is not good: this past August, she enthusiastically endorsed Ilhan Omar, despite Omar’s criticism of Israel. But that was then, and this is now. There is still plenty of time for her to learn some home truths.

The resurrection, after several thousand years, of a Jewish state in the ancient homeland of the Jewish people, is a stirring tale. Ocasio-Cortez could begin by studying a few documents — the  Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, the Hamas Charter, U.N. Resolution 242 — and continue her self-education on Israel right up to the present day. And what does Israel face today? A terrorist group, Hamas, in the south, now entering its ninth month of premeditated mayhem at Israel’s security fence. Another terrorist group, Hezbollah, is in the north, with 140,000 rockets and missiles aimed right at Israel; the group now possesses more firepower than 95% of the world’s armies. And behind both Hamas and Hezbollah, there looms Israel’s greatest current enemy, the Islamic Republic of Iran, with its nuclear project (and who knows what the Iranians have been doing to further it, despite their previous promises under the nuclear deal), its vast army and armory, and its unswerving determination to destroy the Zionists.

Perhaps, after having engaged in that sustained study, which will not be easy, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will arrive at different conclusions about, and greater sympathy for, Israel as it faces, as it has always had to face, mortal enemies bent on Jihad. And she may finally grasp the basis for Israel’s legal claim, under the Mandate for Palestine, and Article 80 of the U.N Charter, and U.N Resolution 242, to the West Bank. Such a change in Ocasio-Cortez’s views will greatly dismay Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, but greatly hearten others, who will be happy to welcome her to the umma of understanding, and the camp of common sense.

First published in Jihad Watch here and here.

Posted on 12/26/2018 7:08 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Michael Odom writes in the Alexandria Quarterly:

I don’t know many NYU professors. I don’t know how common it is for one to be a communist one day and a FOX News commentator interviewed favorably by Glen Beck the next. I know identity politics and the fascism of leftists has chased a lot of Democrats to the Republican Party. I don’t know whether there’s been an exodus of commies. I suspect, however, common or no, such a creature of the ivory halls could only exist in this unique political era.

None of that is what sparked my interest. In reading Dr. Rectenwald’s Springtime for Snowflakes: "Social Justice" and Its Postmodern Parentage, I saw his journey as one I have witnessed going the other way from my own. I have a philosophy degree but wanted poetry. I encountered the early critical theorists and Postmodernists when I went to the English Department. I considered them amateur philosophers with no background in the issues or history of philosophy and no grasp of logic. I expected that fad to pass.

It did not pass. In fact, Dr. Rectenwald was progressing the other way, from poet and mystic Ginsberg apprentice and poetry lover, to high theorist of the holy of holies in the belly of the academy where poetry has been replaced by race/gender advocacy and Marxist, Postmodern, Social Justice, Critical Theory.

Michael Odom: Your journey into Marxist/PoMo/SocJus theory began with a passion for poetry. I think that story is as common in the U.S. now as it once was in the Soviet Union. I am especially interested in the question of how to, or whether one can, be a poet in a culture dominated by an ideology that sees art as secondary, tertiary, or trivial (the Beats would have assumed that's just capitalism?) and sees the individual as an expression of the groups to which he belongs. Even if Social Justice theory is a passing academic fad, is poetry likely to gain status again? 

Michael Rectenwald: The demotion of poetry as a genre is explicable in terms of political economy and not so much ideology. Poetry is not the victim of capitalism per se or capitalist ideology. Rather, as print space increases, poetry declines, because poetry is a condensed generic form that thrives, relative to other genres, when print space is limited. This phenomenon is explained by Lee Erikson in The Economy of Literary FormEnglish literature and the industrialization of publishing, 1800-1850 (1996). Here’s a relatively recent poem of mine that treats the decline in poetry as a genre:

Open Letter to the Poetry Magazine Editor

First let me say,
I am not bitter.
I don’t regularly submit

Neither do I submit
To your periodical.
If you aren’t able to tell yet,
You will be.
So, don’t get any ideas.
Nevertheless, hear me out,
I’m just saying, and I paraphrase,
Poetry is fucked.
That’s right, you heard it.
But I know the history.
Your regulars with their lines
Evidently do not.
Their poems only appear,
My work is read.
I dare you to print this.
It is not a stunt; I really
Don’t care.
But I’m serious,
All the more so
Because, although I’m not playing poet here,
This is too easy.
Dana Gioia was right.
Joseph Epstein was right.
Thomas Peacock was right.
I dare your readers to read,
Before sending yet another batch,
The Economy of Literary Form,
By the critical explorer,
Lee Erikson.
He argues that
The greater the availability of reading material,
The lower the status and demand-ratio for
Poetry. There you have it.
From a classical economic perspective,
In its condensed form, poetry
Is a waste of relatively cheaply filled
I’m sorry to trouble with the probabilistic argument
That my poem will get more attention than these others, either here,
Or anywhere else.

See especially Thomas Peacock’s The Four Ages of Poetry,
Where he laughs you in the face.
Even Shelley, the man, was shaken,
Provoked to write his famous special pleading yet mostly unread
A Defence of Poetry.
Later his wife would take his name
And save it
Along with the rebuttal her dreamy mystic
Cried with to the unhearing muses
Of his art.
As her book would sell scores from the era
Of the sardonic Utilitarian
Right down to the present age
(Down for poetry, that is).
Then poetry was literature and fiction
Was not. Now fiction is not literature
And poetry does not
Bentham had already killed you
Before Adorno killed you.
After Auschwitz,
The latter asked, who could write
Poetry? Poetry,
What’s it for?
Asked the former.
Notice my prosaic style.
It’s a commentary on yours.

James Laughlin,
For those who don’t know,
The publisher of New Directions
Paperbacks and Pittsburgh native,
Loved the Steelers. They’re on now.
You’re not.

My interest in Marxism and postmodern theory did not come by way of poetry. Rather, “theory” effectively killed my literary life, at least while I attended graduate school. The course in “The Construction of Authorship” undermined my poetry and fiction writing for a good while. The course treated the legal, ideological, and cultural underpinnings of the modern “author,” which, in connection with the poststructuralist critiques of Michel Foucault’s “What Is An Author?” and Roland Barthes’s “The Death of the Author,” murdered “the author” within.

Michael Odom:  Your passion for poetry put you in conflict with your working-class father and got you to approach Allen Ginsberg for an apprenticeship. That sounds like a serious commitment to the art. How would you describe your early poetry? Did you imagine what your future would be then? Did you read only the Beats?

My earlier poetry, especially after I was influenced by Ginsberg’s, is best described as “bombastic.” I wrote what I thought of as social and cultural criticism in poetic form. At this point the only model for actually being a poet who could make a living as such was the Ginsberg model of gaining public stature from some sort of scandal, or the academic route. I didn’t like “academic” poetry, so academia seemed out of the question for me when in my twenties. I had no real means for becoming scandalous, so the Ginsberg route wasn’t viable either.

In terms of my reading diet, I read everything, not merely the Beats. I read anthologies of poetry from all eras, but in particular I was attracted to William Blake and other mystics. 

But I was a lost soul when I studied with Ginsberg. I had given up on a pre-med education and simply had no direction. It wasn’t until after I graduated with a degree in English Literature and after I’d worked in advertising for nine years that I could see a future for myself as a professor, but not as a professor of poetry. Theory, cultural criticism, and cultural history opened up this future for me.

I don’t think there is any means for being a poet in the contemporary marketplace. That is, one cannot make a living as a poet per se. One can, however, if one has the “right” identity, become an academic supported for writing poetry and teaching classes in writing. But this is not an indication of the flourishing of contemporary poetry. These sinecures are best thought of as a return to a patronage model.

Michael Odom: During your time as an apprentice to Ginsberg at the Naropa Institute, you had a vision while listening to Ginsberg singing William Blake. Was that common for you?  What did it mean to be an "apprentice" there and do you feel now, given the path to theory your life took, is it still useful to you now?

Michael Rectenwald: During my Ginsberg period, I was very much in the mindset of religious or mystic experiences. I wrote poetry that reflected this sensibility and was prone to religious experience when Ginsberg sang Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience during his Basic Poetics course. This religious or mystic sensibility/experience was likely due to the stress I felt as an extremely ambitious person who’d lost his sense of direction and suffered from panic attacks and a major depressive episode as a result. You can listen to me reading poems at the end of the semester, here, when I was introduced by Allen Ginsberg at the student poetry reading of the Naropa Institute Spring Arts Festival.

The Ginsberg apprenticeship meant a close, intense working relationship with Allen Ginsberg. The apprenticeship included being responsible for undertaking many tasks, including screening Allen’s mail and phone calls. It meant typing his new poems and regularly submitting my new poems to him. The apprenticeship included helping edit an anthology of long-verse poetry. (Allen and I often differed in our opinions of what should be included and what not.) It included long-winded talks about the merit, or lack thereof, of my own work. It meant long, wide-ranging discussions about literature, philosophy, religion, politics, sexuality, and just about everything else we could think of. Despite my compromised emotional state (depression, anxiety, disorientation, etc.), and despite its rather short duration of six months, the Ginsberg apprenticeship has proven to be one of the most important and rewarding periods of my entire life. I remained in contact with Allen until his death in 1997, when I wrote a eulogy for him, published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I wrote this piece to ward off the panic that I felt in knowing that Allen was gone for good and that I would never talk with him again.

Michael Odom:  You go into a digression about William S. Burroughs’ son, a tragic story. People tend to forget Burroughs had a son who watched his mother being shot by his father. That very vivid human drama sits almost painfully between your Ginsberg era and your retreat into advertising, return to academia, and your diversion toward Critical Theory. Is his story there as a counter example toward the “extreme experience” approach of the Beats and others who appear to value art over people? Were you disillusioned with the Beats? Or poetry generally?

Michael Rectenwald:  The story of my encounter with Billy Burroughs could be interpreted as an admonition about valuing art over life, but I meant it more as an indictment of the Beats, in particular William Burroughs. It is also a criticism of the tendency in some traditions of romanticizing the use of drugs for writing. As for my own feelings about literary writing, I believe I became a much better writer and found my real calling when I gave up trying to be a poet. So, ironically, the Construction of Authorship course helped me immeasurably, in the end.

Michael Odom:   Your bio begins in vivid portraits, first of your father. It seems telling that a calloused-hands worker can’t speak with his communist son. Shouldn’t those two be allies? Why are Marxists and their off-spring academics more likely to be allied with corporations, administrators and billionaires than workers and employees (your father then and you now)?

Michael Rectenwald: My father was a manual laborer, but as I stated in the book, he had no sympathy for socialism/communism, or even unions for that matter. He was an independent contractor and believed everyone should fare for themselves. He was a Democrat but liked Ronald Reagan. Ultimately, he believed in rugged individualism. Marxists might say that he suffered from “false consciousness” but I don’t want to put his disposition down to that. I had arguments with my father about all this and I (mistakenly) believed that someone like me (an aspiring poet) would have fared better in the Soviet Union. My father scoffed at such a notion, just as I would scoff at it today. 

I’m not sure what you mean by Marxists being allies with corporations but I will say that I noticed that leftists, who hated my position against “social justice” ideology, sided with NYU, with their notoriously lie-spewing PR agent. They chose to believe NYU over me, a singular individual with only his labor to sell. But we are living in an age of extreme political opportunism, with a leftwing vilifying “them Russians,” as Ginsberg put it in the poem “America.” We have a leftist McCarthyism afoot today. There’s never been a better time to renounce the left. 

Michael Odom:  Do I detect a geographical snobbery as well? Do elite New Yorkers and/or academics look down on Pittsburg? 

Michael Rectenwald:  I’m not sure if you are suggesting that I am an elitist and exhibit snobbery toward Pittsburgh but if so the idea is mistaken. I much prefer Pittsburgh to New York and keep my main residence in Pittsburgh instead of New York. I spend as much time as possible in Pittsburgh and as little time as possible in New York. All snobbery is provincialism and I don’t think I can be credibly accused of it.

Michael Odom: I’m sorry, I was unclear. No, I’m suggesting the opposite. I was asking whether some of what is happening to you is motivated by your colleague’s reaction to your working class, Pittsburgh background. Perhaps what I’m asking is to what degree you were an outsider already in academia generally or at NYU specifically?  

Michael Rectenwald:  I don't think that my colleagues showed any snobbery toward me on the basis of my social class or regional background. If anything, any antipathy that has been directed toward me has to do with my scholarship and my identity as a white, "cis hetero" male. 

Michael Odom:  I've encountered snobbery towards poets by theorists. Is poetry seen as just not as serious? Is that part of what your experience in academia has been?

Michael Rectenwald:  I’ve seen theorists in English departments make fun of poets and the writing of poetry as a kind of solipsistic nonsense. Deep rifts between the theorists and creative writing people in English departments have existed ever since creative writing programs became part of English departments and the theory invasion reconstituted literary criticism. In graduate school I was asked if I had a “dark poetic past,” as if having written poetry was an embarrassing fact to keep well hidden. The reasons for this kind of disdain are complex but they have a lot to do with the post structuralists debunking of the author and the elevation of the theorist in her place. This topic is worthy of a lengthy essay or even a book, but I won’t venture any further right now. 

Michael Odom:  At one point you say “English Studies is no less commodified than any other profession. In fact, the attention and consideration required to “package,” “brand,” and “re-brand” the scholar and her work is as thoroughgoing if not more so than anything I’d done as a pitchman for consumer brands." Isn’t there, or shouldn't there be, an aspect of scholarship that serves the art, that aspect that sends one to discover and popularize a recluse like Emily Dickinson, who was nearly crippled as a careerist? 

Michael Rectenwald:  Perhaps. I have no problem with scholars or others discovering and popularizing authors as such. In my own research in nineteenth-century British science and culture, I work to resurrect working-class intellectuals precisely for their intellection and not for social history alone; treating working-class subjects in terms of social history alone is the wont of most scholars who treat working-class subjects.

Michael Odom:  I am thinking also of your encounter with “Evita”, the Cultural Studies grad student who met your literature emphasis with “…we’ll see who does better in the market in the end – the English literature traditionalist, or the Cultural Studies maven.” Other than marketing oneself, what work does a poet do that a marketable "cultural studies maven" need respect? Is that one thing the death of the author means, that you sell yourself and never an art or artist or work? Or, even more hypocritically, does debunking the status of the author only raise the fetish status of the theorist? Shakespeare is dead. Long live Barthes?

Michael Rectenwald:  No, I don't think that the death of the author means one never sells an art or artist. But yes, the debunking impulse was to elevate the theorist and demote the litterateur.

Michael Odom:  Your story of being removed from an academic hiring committee for opposing the hire of a candidate whose application materials had spelling and grammatical errors: Is that common now? What is the criterion now to be hired as a professor? Does that tie back to the question of the humanities failing to protect their subject matter?

Michael Rectenwald: Identity politics runs academia today. The first criterion for being hired is having the "right" identity. Everything else is subsidiary to that. 

Michael Odom: Being mobbed by SJW’s did not prevent your promotion to full professor, but you said in another interview it has shortened your academic career by ten to fifteen years. Would you explain how that is? 

Michael Rectenwald:  I am on a five-year, renewable contract but the people who will make up the renewal committee will be drawn from the faculty to whom several faculty members trashed me. I have been unable to do committee work because no one will have me on their committees. All of this means that the likelihood that I will be renewed is very, very slim. I had planned to teach for another fifteen to twenty years. That has now been reduced to four more years.

Michael Odom: How does one turn back when Critical Theory/Social Justice is a person’s only education or when leftism seems the only available career path? Would you want to be known as a poet yourself?

Michael Rectenwald: I really don't "identify as" a poet. 

Michael Odom:  Generally, do you think the English Departments have been good for the art of literature, specifically poetry?   

Michael Rectenwald:  No, not at all and that has not been their function.

Michael Odom:   In describing your impending divorce, you tell of your wife asking, “who cares about Victorian poetry?” Your correction is that, at the time, you cared more about Victorian science and the distinction shows how much you had drifted apart. That “drifting” is from poetry toward what most Americans call a “more serious” subject. Isn’t that the same boorishness your ex-wife is expressing but with an academic twist, i.e. art is unimportant and more serious people dedicate themselves to more serious subjects like science and politics? But the attack from the left comes from within the literature, art, and ethnic advocacy departments. Isn’t that even more corrosive to the arts than your ex-wife’s more common dismissal of aesthetics?

Michael Rectenwald:  No, it's just that I was more interested in Victorian science than I was in Victorian poetry. This has to do with the intellectual grist that the sciences provide, and also with a sense that in literary criticism or whatever it's called now, scholars were merely reading whatever they wanted into texts, rather than treating them as historical documents with their own integrity.

Michael Odom:  I know this is a big question, so your answer here will be, necessarily, glib, but…In Social Justice, you've written, “The individual person is reduced to a mere emblem of political meaning….” I wonder what type of poetry could be written with the idea of a person, the writer, the reader, as an emblem of political meaning? Is there a middle ground between a multicultural, relativistic, any-word/any-style-will-do approach and a magical say-the-word-and-it-becomes-fact approach? It seems to me an essential question for poets: just how important is the artful, careful use of language?

Michael Rectenwald:  I'm not sure that I can relate this issue to poetry as such. The point of the passage is that under social justice, politics is utterly personal and yet the person is deemed nothing but an emblem of the political. It's a dreadful situation in which politics has infested everything and yet there is no real politics because politics has been reduced to demonizing and condemning individuals, rather than mass movements. So both the political and the personal are completely disfigured by contemporary, postmodern "social justice" ideology. 

Michael Odom:  Do you read contemporary poets? Which would you recommend?

Michael Rectenwald:  No, I don't, and that's not out of any snobbery but rather just a sense that contemporary poetry is written solely for other poets and not a broader audience. So, since I am no longer trying to be a poet as such, I simply have no "use" for contemporary poetry. I don't mean this in any dismissive way but since I stopped trying to publish poetry I am no longer trying to remain au courant. Years ago, I read a lot of contemporary poetry, but I have gotten out of the practice and feel completely incompetent to say much about it now. When I do read poetry these days, it is mostly quite older material, because I teach cultural history. I love poetry that conveys ideas and sensuality at once. Likewise, my all-time favorite poem is John Milton's Paradise Lost. I love it for the drama, the incredible precision in language, and for the epic tale of the fall that it conveys so heartbreakingly. I'm also quite fond of Tennyson's In Memoriam. In that case, I love the poet's grappling with the implications of evolutionary theory for faith and meaning. 

Poets used to be allowed to be intellectuals and to comment on major developments and ideas. Now they are expected to stay small. I object to that apparent demand. Where is the epic today? Where is the narrative poem? Where is a poem like Paradise Lost that grappled with the major intellectual, scientific, and cultural developments of the time? Probably such poetry is no longer possible. Although a piece of satire, Thomas Peacock's The Four Ages of Poetry really explains this diminishment of poetry quite well. Poetry was once the language of all thought, including what we now call history, science, philosophy, etc... Now it is the language of no thought. It's the language of "feeling" alone. That's a very unfortunate circumstance for poetry and goes a long way to explain its greatly diminished cultural and intellectual stature.  


Michael Rectenwald is a professor in the Global Liberal Studies department at New York University. In addition to numerous articles on social, cultural and political theory, he is the author of Breach: Collected Poems (Apogee Publishing, 2013), The Thief and Other Stories (Apogee Publishing 2013), and The Eros of the Baby Boom Eras (Apogee Books 1991). His latest book, Springtime for Snowflakes: 'Social Justice' and Its Postmodern Parentage (New English Review Press) was published in 2018.  “In another life” he was an apprentice to poet Allen Ginsberg at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colorado.

Michael Odom is the author of Boredom, Vice and Poverty and the chapbook Strutting, Attracting, Snapping.   His poetry has been published in the literary journals, Clean   Well-Lighted Place, The Henniker Review, In Posse, Pucker up, Watershed,   and others, as well as two anthologies, Between the Leaves and Ritual Sex.   Between 1989 until recently, he was a bookseller, Manager, and Buyer   for both independent and chain bookstores. If you shopped for poetry at   the Tower Books in Chico, CA, or Manhattan, in the early 90’s, you   browsed the titles Michael Odom selected to have on sale in that store.   The same is true in the final 7 years of A Clean Well-Lighted Place for   Books in San Francisco (which went out of business before the  unrelated  journal of similar title began) and Windows on the World in  the Sierra  foothills. As a single father with bookstores closing all  around,  Michael Odom pursued and recently received his MFA in Poetry  from New  England College. His latest books, Selene: In Poems and Count Arnau & Other Poems of Joan Maragall are available on

Posted on 12/26/2018 5:22 AM by NER
Wednesday, 26 December 2018
Anti-blasphemy laws, free speech and religious freedom

Anti-blashpemy restrictions essentially require people to accord sanctity to doctrines they do not endorse and subordinate their spiritual ideals to those who consider them infidels.  

by Matthew M. Hausman

Freedom of speech is taken for granted in western society, but it is an essential right that is necessary for the perpetuation of constitutional democracy. Unfortunately, it also seems to be an endangered species under stealth attack by extremism masquerading as diversity and tolerance. As European courts enforce laws criminalizing the critical discussion of certain religions, and as the political left blames western society for inflaming Islamist passions by refusing to accommodate radical dictates, the right to speak freely is being threatened by a stultifying political correctness. What is being eroded are classical liberal values.

Nothing illustrates this better than a recent decision by the European Court of Human Rights affirming an Austrian court’s verdict against a woman for suggesting that Muhammad’s marriage to a young girl as recounted in Muslim scripture was tantamount to child abuse. The Human Rights Court held that her comments could be perceived as “an abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam” and thus were properly subject to prosecution under Austrian law.

The net consequence of this ruling, however, was to enforce an anti-blasphemy restriction against speech, though the offending words were uttered in a pluralistic country that supposedly values freedom of expression.    

Although criticism of specific belief systems could certainly offend their adherents, empirical analysis or even disparagement of any faith would be perfectly legal in the United States, where free speech is constitutionally protected and government is prohibited from favoring or promoting any particular religion...



Posted on 12/26/2018 4:54 AM by Matthew Hausman
Tuesday, 25 December 2018
ISIS storms foreign office in Libya: At least four dead in Tripoli terror attack

From the Express and the Libya Herald Malta, 25 December 2018:

Libya’s Tripoli-based Ministry of Foreign Affairs, aligned with the internationally-recognized Faiez Serraj Presidency Council and Government of National Accord, has confirmed that this morning’s terror attack was a suicide attack.

An explosion and a shooting took place after terrorists stormed Libya’s foreign ministry in the capital of Tripoli. The three attackers were suspected to be Islamic State militants, the security source, who requested not to be named, said. 

The three attackers began their assault with a car bomb, damaging vehicles and buildings, and then opened fire on the ministry. Two managed to get inside and blow themselves up. The other was killed by ministry guards, the source said. The health ministry said at least eleven people were wounded.

Posted on 12/25/2018 10:30 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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