You may be asking yourself why the world is so crazy. We seem to have lost the ability to agree on fundamental truths. Everyone seems to be running toward something, but could it be that we are running away from something greater? In Dangerous God: A Defense of Transcendent Truth, Albert Norton makes the case that confronting the reality of God in the postmodern world is a dangerous proposition. Dangerous to our most cherished notions of reality. Dangerous to our comfortable worldview and how we see ourselves. To find out why this postmodern turn has come to pass, Norton insists we must ask ourselves Pilate’s age-old question: What is truth?
It could be that in the postmodern age we don’t merely disagree about whether something is true, but that we disagree about how truth and values are formed in the first place. To begin to understand this, we really must start with how we think and form value judgments in general. We share an orientation to objective truth, in our thinking, and we build on rational processes of binary differentiation. This should lead us to an objective and real hierarchy of ideals, rather than a subjective or socially-produced narrative.
To understand this, a history of truth formation is presented, distinguishing the medieval to modern periods, and then the modern to postmodern, highlighting the thinking of Descartes, Rousseau, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Marx, Nietzsche, William James, and John Dewey, among many others. This leads to a discussion of truth at the hands of postmodernists such as Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Richard Rorty. The purpose is to trace the intellectual movements shaping the determination of truth and values, from individualism to collectivism, correspondence theory to pragmatism, anxiety about meaning as expressed in existentialism, and Marxism re-worked for cultural application—the “woke” movement.
The author concludes: Truth exists as a real and extant feature of the universe. It is objective and unchanging and “out there.” It resides in and emanates from and is personified in God, the ideal of the ideals; the pinnacle of the hierarchy of values that we perceive, rather than create.
This is a refreshing reassertion of the unanswerability of the God argument without unnecessary elaboration or extravagant claims, and a learned but never recondite reminder that it is not so difficult to be sensible and morally confident without being unphilosophical or hidebound: an informative, often delightful read.
—Conrad Black, author of Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Champion of Freedom, A President Like No Other: Donald J. Trump and the Restoring of America, and Flight of the Eagle, a Strategic History of the United States.
In Dangerous God, Albert Norton has written an essential philosophical defense of transcendence. In clear and accessible language, Norton logically and methodically demonstrates the reality of transcendent being and in the process undertakes a full-scale demolition of modern and postmodern epistemologies, including reductionist materialism and the ontological denialism of postmodernism. In the process, he shows how collectivism and the denial of God go hand in hand as collectivism serves a means for the individual to hide from the greatest challenge one can possibly face: the confrontation with the divine transcendent.
—Michael Rectenwald, author of Springtime for Snowflakes, Beyond Woke, and Google Archipelago: The Digital Gulag and the Simulation of Freedom.
Whatever your philosophical or religious standpoint, Mr. Norton is sure to challenge it in a constructive and thought-provoking way. His dissection of our current philosophical impasse and its consequences is forthright and illuminating.
—Theodore Dalrymple, author of The Terror of Existence, Threats of Pain and Ruin, and Grief and Other Stories.
ALBERT NORTON, JR. is a writer and attorney working in the American South. He is author of Dangerous God: A Defense of Transcendent Truth (2021) concerning formation of truth and values in a postmodern age; and Intuition of Significance, a 2020 work weighing the merits of theism against materialism. He is also the author of several award-winning short stories, and two novels: Another Like Me (2015) and Rough Water Baptism (2017), on themes of navigating reality in a post-Christian world.
Syrian Anti-Aircraft Missile ‘Explodes in Air’ Near Israel’s Dimona Nuclear Reactor
by Hugh Fitzgerald
The first reports of a Syrian surface-to-air SA-5 missile landing “near Dimona” gave rise to stories which assumed that the Syrians had been deliberately aiming a missile at Dimona’s nuclear reactor, Israel’s most heavily defended site, had the Syrian missile managed to hit it, there would have been untold consequences, with devastating attacks throughout Syria. And there were worries about why the IDF had failed to intercept the missile, which blew up in mid-air, apparently without having been hit, with its fragments landing harmlessly — no casualties, little damage — in Ashalim, a community about 40 kilometers from Dimona. An investigation by the IDF is underway. A report on the incident is here: “IDF probing why air defenses didn’t intercept Syrian anti-aircraft missile,” by Judah Ari Gross, Times of Israel, April 22, 2021:
The Israel Defense Forces launched an investigation to determine why its air defenses failed to intercept an errant surface-to-air missile fired from Syria that landed in southern Israel on Thursday morning.
The Syrian missile exploded in mid-air, sending fragments crashing down, with pieces landing in the community of Ashalim, some 40 kilometers from the nuclear reactor in Dimona, without causing injuries or significant damage.
The IDF worked to prevent a potential strike on critical assets in the State of Israel. A SA-5-model of surface-to-air missile was fired, passed through the area. There was an attempt to intercept it, which did not succeed. We are still investigating the event,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said at a press conference in Tel Aviv.
“Normally we see different outcomes,” Gantz added.
Shortly after 1:30 a.m. on Thursday, Israeli fighter jets conducted a series of airstrikes on targets in the Syrian Golan. In response, Syrian air defense units fired a large number of anti-aircraft missiles, notably SA-5 missiles, at the attacking Israeli planes, according to Syrian state media.
Israeli radar detected that at least one of the SA-5s — also known as S-200 missiles — was on a trajectory that would have it land in the northern Negev desert, which both triggered sirens in the area and prompted Israeli air defense troops to fire an interceptor missile at the incoming projectile.
According to the IDF, the interceptor failed to shoot down the Syrian anti-aircraft missile, a massive projectile with a 200 kilogram (440 pound) warhead. The military said it was launching an investigation into the matter.
Other reports describe the interceptor as a Patriot missile. Wasn’t there reason to think that Israel’s own Iron Dome missile defense system might have had more success? The Patriot has failed too often to intercept Houthi missiles launched at Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. military, in ordering two Iron Dome batteries in early 2019, tacitly admitted to its lack of confidence in the Patriot missile. The Israelis have perfected a multilayered air defense system using the Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow weapons systems in a recent series of tests. Perhaps this incident will push the IDF into hastening the deployment of this system to replace far more of the Patriot batteries Israel still possesses.
Pieces of the projectile were recovered from Ashalim. A number landed in the community’s swimming pool….
In response to the launch of the surface-to-air missile, the Israeli military conducted a second round of airstrikes in Syria, targeting Syrian air defenses, including the battery that fired the SA-5 that struck southern Israel….
In 2019, in a similar case, a Syrian SA-5 missile that was fired at an Israeli jet crashed in northern Cyprus, causing a large explosion and starting a fire.
That a Syrian SA-5 missile fired at an Israeli jet flying over Syria landed hundreds of miles away in northern Cyprus shows just how wildly off-target the Syrian defenders could be, as appears to be the case here as well, with the anti-aircraft missile fired in an attempt either to hit, or to scare off, Israeli jets over Syria ended up landing far off in the northern Negev.
Israel has regularly accused the Syrian military of wildly firing large amounts of anti-aircraft missiles in response to its strikes.
The predawn incident came amid peak tensions between Israel and Iran, weeks after an attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear site earlier this month, which has been widely attributed to the Jewish state. Iran has vowed to retaliate for the alleged Israeli sabotage.
Some may assume – and Iran would certainly encourage that assumption – that the attack was deliberate, that Dimona was its intended target, and that Israel’s failure to intercept the Syrian SA-5 showed how vulnerable Israel is to attacks even on its most heavily defended site, the nuclear reactor and nuclear research facilities at Dimona. But it seems clear that the missile was fired wildly. It may have been fired, some analysts suggest, as part of a wild volley of missiles shot in the general direction of Israel, hoping to do some random damage. One of those S-5 missiles happened to head toward the northern Negev, not at, but In the general direction of, Dimona.
IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman stressed that the military did not believe the overnight incident was a deliberate attack on the country or its nuclear facility.
“There was no intention of hitting the nuclear reactor in Dimona,” Zilberman told reporters.
Israel has now sent a handful of planes to again to bomb Syrian targets, including the very site from which that particular SA-5 missile was launched. Had the Israelis concluded that the Syrians had deliberately targeted Dimona, even if they had failed to hit that target, the IDF’s response would have been much more devastating.
But the worry remains: what went wrong with Israeli attempts to intercept the SA-5? Was it a failure of the Patriot missile system? And if so, don’t the Patriots need to be switched out, and replaced by the multilayered missile defense system of Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow, at a quicker pace than heretofore? Or was there a failure not of the weapons system, but some human error? Whatever it was, the IDF investigators will have to come to the bottom of this failure PDQ.
In the spring and summer of 1915 thousands, about 90%, of the ethnic group of Armenians were driven from their homes through Eastern Anatolia, Turkey, towards the Syrian desert. Historians agree with the Armenian account that 1.5 million died as a result of killings by Turkish soldiers and police, using not only weapons but axes, shovels, pitchforks, and from starvation and disease. It was, in the words of U.S. Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, “a place of horror,” where every man in villages was murdered in cold blood. He later wrote that Jevdet Bey, governor of the province of Van, gave instructions to exterminate all Armenians in the province. The renowned painter Arshile Gorky escaped the massacres only to watch his mother die of starvation and his family scattered in flight from the Turks.
Turkish authorities have admitted Armenians were deported, but “only” 150,000, and that Turkey had no intention of eliminating a whole people. They explain that during World War I Armenian armed gangs were cooperating with Russia, allied to the West, to gain control of the eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey has always rejected any description of the fate of the Armenians as “genocide.”
Western countries in general have been reluctant to condemn the atrocities by Turkey in this extreme way. It was surprising that President Joe Biden on April 24, 2021 spoke of remembering those who died in the Ottoman-era genocide, and that the American people honor all those Armenians who perished in the genocide that began 106 year ago, on April 4, 1915. The speech may be largely symbolic, but it is a reminder of the horrors of history, the corrosive influence of hate, the evils of bigotry and intolerance.
Can and should the massacre of Armenians be characterized as genocide? The term is very specific, meaning crimes committed by deliberate killing of groups with the intention of eliminating all those belonging to particular racial, political, or cultural group. The term was coined in 1944 by Raphael Lemkin, a Polish Jewish lawyer, in a book on the Nazi German policies of destroying and annihilating national and ethnic groups, including the Holocaust, the mass murder of Jews. Largely through his influence, the UN General Assembly on December 11, 1946 declared that genocide was a crime under international law, condemned by the civilized world. This led on December 9, 1948, to the UNGA approving the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Accordingly, genocide, acts to destroy in whole or in part, national, ethnical, racial or religious groups, is established as a crime under international law.
Though Lemkin was primarily concerned with the Holocaust, he said he had been disturbed as a student in lvov University by the persecution of Armenians and was particularly interested in the assassination in March 1921 in Berlin of Mehmed (Talaat) Pasha, political leader of the Ottoman Empire during World War I who is regarded as the main perpetrator and person responsible for ordering the destruction of the Armenian people. Lemkin cited this destruction in 1915 as a seminal example of what he came to call genocide, and it affected his thinking.
President Biden is the first U.S. president to call the treatment of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks a genocide, but other American politicians have been concerned. In April 1981, President Ronald Reagan obliquely referred to events , “like the genocide before it, the lessons of the Holocaust must never be forgotten.” On October 29, 2019 the House of Representatives voted by 405-11 to pass a resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide as part of the policy of the U.S., and a month later, on December 12, 2019 the Senate by unanimous consent passed a resolution formally recognizing the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians had occurred.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Biden to reverse his declaration, saying that his “baseless, unjust, and untrue” remarks had opened a “deep wound” in relations between the two counties. He advised the U.S. to look in the mirror, referring to the U.S. treatment of Native Americans. He again justified the Ottoman action because the Armenians had risen against the Ottoman rulers and sided with the Russian troops in World War I. He is adamant. Turks who refer to the event as a genocide have been prosecuted for insulting “Turkishness.”
However repressive Erdogan may be, he cannot convince international opinion. At present, 32 countries, governments and parliaments, including Russia, China, Vatican City, and Western Europe, though not UK or Israel, declare the 1915 event as genocide. These countries, however, do not blame Turkey or the Turkish people, but blame the Young Turks in power in 1915.
Yet the issue is not completely resolved. France can be taken as an example of lack of unanimity. France in 2001 recognized the event as genocide., the first country to do so. A monument honoring the victims was in April 2003 erected on the northern bank of the Seine. In February 2019 President Emmanuel Macron declared April 24, 1915, the beginning of the deportation, a national day of commemoration in France.
But attempts to criminalize genocide denial have had problems. On October 14, 2016 the French Senate approved a bill that made denial of the Armenian genocide a criminal offence, but the Constitutional Council in January 2017 ruled against it, holding it was an unnecessary and disproportionate attack against freedom of speech, and rescinded the ruling which labeled the ruling as a “hate crime.” However, the problem remains. In October 2020 supporters of Turkey, the far right “Grey Wolves,” nickname for an ultra-nationalist Turkey youth movement allied to Erdogan’s party, AKP party, rioted in Decines, near Lyon, shouting death to Armenians, spraying Armenian monuments, and displaying Turkish flags. Though the Grey Wolves were officially banned by France in November 2020 it still persists in violent actions and threats.
Turkey does not appear as a priority for the Biden administration. However, whether deliberately timed or coincidental, the U.S. declaration on genocide comes at a moment when U.S. relations with Turkey need clarification for a variety of reasons. First and foremost is the issue of Erdogan himself who is becoming increasingly nationalist and Islamist, and unfriendly towards the U.S. which he accused of being involved in the failed coup against him in 2016 because of the presence of his critic, the cleric Fethullah Gulen living near Saylorsburg in Pennsylvania since 1999.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is eager to see Turkey, with its 80 million population, as a regional power, and himself as a rival with the ambitious Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, MBZ, of Saudi Arabia . He has clashed with France and the U.S. over Syria, Libya, Iraq and the eastern Mediterranean, and inability to join the EU. Turkey challenged Greek and Cyprus sovereignty, and ferried Syrian militants to Azerbaijan to take part in the Nagorno-Karabakh war. It has helped the government forces in Libya which are opposed by the Libyan National Army.
In the Middle East Erdogan stressed the importance of the Al Aqsa mosque, is friendly to the Muslim Brotherhood , and Turkey has occupied parts of northeast Syria, and parts of Iraq and Libya. It is planning an airbase in al-Watiya in western Libya, a garrison in Qatar, a 99 year lease over Suakin Island as the result pf rapprochement with Sudan, and has an overseas base in Mogadishu, Somalia. Once, close to Israel in defense, security and trade, friendship has virtually end after the clash between Erdogan and Shimon Peres at the infamous panel in Davos in 2009.
A second problem is the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the area of Nagorno-Karabakh. Macron was the first Western leader to state that Azerbaijan had started the war, and also that Turkey had sent 2,000 Syrian mercenaries to fight in the war. This issue is complicated because the region is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but is controlled by ethnic Albanians. Two other issues have been problems. One is that, against U.S. arguments, Turkey bought Russian S-400 missile defense systems a threat to U.S. F-35 fighter jets., and to NATO. A major difference has been over the war in Syria. The U.S. has been supporting Kurds in Syria, while Turkey claims they are affiliated with the Iraqi Kurdistan Workers’ party, PKK, which Turkey opposes in northern Iraq.
These differences need attention, but they should be seen in the context of history. On June 9, 2000 in a statement in the New York Times 126 scholars including Elie Wiesel signed a document that “the World War I Armenian genocide is an incontestable historical fact and accordingly urge the governments of Western democracies to likewise recognize it as such.” The Armenian genocide may not have been a dress rehearsal for the Holocaust, but it has been subjected to denial and falsification of historical realities similar to the distortion and falsehoods of antisemites denying the Holocaust.
I was raised in a religious Muslim home and practiced the faith for a long time. Eventually, I realized I was not a religious man, after spending a long time educating myself, immersed in our texts. Certain things bothered me after I investigated them deeply. I felt the hijab was misogynistic, and I opposed the strain of violence that had emerged from our holy books. Then there were the blasphemy laws outlined in the Quran, which seemed like the opposite of the liberal values I believe in. As a secular man, I went about my life, working as a contractor for the Canadian military for over a decade in Kosovo, Sudan, Bosnia, Haiti, and then Afghanistan. I encountered other Muslims, and others like me, who were not longer Muslim. But when I came back to Canada in 2014, I returned to a different country than the one I had left.
I had left a country that was proud of being the opposite of what bothered me about Islam, that was proud of a tradition of free inquiry and free speech, open debate and civil discourse. The Canada I returned to resembled the religion of my youth more than it did its opposite.
I left a culture that was steeped in a sentiment that could be summed up as, "I may disagree with what you say, but I respect your right to say it." I returned to a culture summarized by, "I disagree with what you say, so shut up."
Now, Ex-Muslims like me who criticized the religion of our youth were called horrible slurs: "house Muslims," "native informants," "Uncle Toms," or bounty bars, implying we were brown on the outside but white inside. Strangers called me a white supremacist for saying the hijab is misogynistic. In October of 2014, Sam Harris had his infamous exchange with Ben Affleck. Harris laid out a compelling case about Islam and spoke of its concentric circles of fundamentalism. Affleck called his argument "gross and racist."
The dam broke. Once they started calling it racist to criticize Islam, it was easy to shut the conversation down completely. The accusation meant the accused was morally beyond the pale, and thus completely dismissible. Words like micro-aggressions, trigger warnings, and safe spaces became mainstream. An emphasis on pervasive racism grew exponentially. To even question the extent to which racism was everywhere resulted in accusations of being a racist. Like with religious blasphemy codes, you can only talk about certain topics in specific ways.
I couldn't help but notice there was an almost fundamentalist, faith-like aspect to these claims. It was as if in the years since I'd been gone, our society had decided to adopt the blasphemy codes of my youth. When I heard people asked to check their privilege or introspect the ways they have been racist, it sounded like the inner jihad that Muslims are supposed to perform to make sure they are on the correct path.
How did this happen? How did the religious tenets I had abandoned come to take over the liberal culture I had abandoned them for?
To answer this question, I did what I had once done with the texts of Islam: I educated myself. I started reading about critical race theory and Intersectionality. I spent eighteen months reading critical social justice scholarship, and gender and queer theories. It was here I found the rejection of the Enlightenment values that made these theories closer to religion than to its opposite.
But there are many other similarities. In Islam, giving offense to the pious is considered a grave sin. Recall the 2015 murders at the French publication Charlie Hebdo; the artists had insulted the Prophet Muhammad and his followers, and thus deserved to die. But there's a less extreme version of causing harm through giving offense that's known as "fitna"—doing something that causes civil strife. A woman can cause fitna by dressing provocatively, as can someone who questions Islam publicly.
You can see this idea that giving offense causes harm everywhere in the new critical social justice culture. Anything that gives offense to marginalized people must be repressed for the good of society. And anyone criticizing people of color too strenuously or offending them must be deplaformed and canceled.
And just as in Islam, there is a jockeying for who is the accurate representation of the faith, Sunnis or Shia, in the social justice camp, believers decide who the true representatives of each oppressed group are. Fall afoul of the right political view and you will be denounced; people throw around terms such as "political blackness" or "multi-racial whiteness." Just as apostates from Islam are said to not have been real Muslims, detransitioners are told they were never really trans and Black people who speak out against the tenets of critical race theory are told they're not really Black.
In Muslim countries, biology textbooks will censor evolution. Now, due to gender theory, biology is similarly coming into conflict with an ideology—and losing. A mixture of post-colonial theory and critical race theory is behind a push to disrupt texts, a call to decolonize the Western Canon and school curricula. Critical social justice ideologies are in direct conflict with Enlightenment values and the rigors of the scientific method, like Islam, and are thus a huge threat to liberalism—like Islam.
I have had the good fortune to meet and speak with many brave people in the fights against fundamental Islam and critical social justice. As I once did when speaking to Muslims, I keep hearing about the silent majority that is opposed to CSJ.
That silent majority needs to become vocal very quickly. We need more people to be brave enough to speak up and push back. The long march through the institutions is sprinting into the final lap, and it cannot be allowed to win. Take it from an ex-Muslim.
Obaid Omer is a podcaster and free speech advocate. He was born in India and lives in Canada.
Last October, I reported here that French president Emmanuel Macron had just “delivered what, on the face of it, seemed to be a remarkable speech on Islam.” Having previously been wishy-washy on the topic, he now promised a new program “intended to defend French laïcité, or official secularism, from ‘Islamist separatism,’” which he explicitly characterized as an existential threat to the Republic. Acknowledging that “one reason why ‘Islamist separatism’ had been allowed to fester was the ‘cowardice’ of French authorities,” Macron proclaimed that a new day had dawned. In public services, in cultural and athletic associations, in schools and universities, and in other sectors of society, Islamic indoctrination would be officially, firmly, and comprehensively resisted, and Islam itself modernized into an “Islam of the Enlightenment.”
My comment at the time was that a great deal of Macron’s scheme, on close examination, “starts to look not like a program for the secularizing of Islam but, rather, like a blueprint for propping up public laïcité while actively promoting private Islamic observance – a blueprint born, one imagines, of pie-in-the-sky hopes that, when the Muslims take over, they won’t replace the Napoleonic Code with sharia law.” In any event, given the decades of French government inaction on the Islam issue, it was hard to take Macron’s vows any more seriously than a boeuf bourguignon prepared with a Beaujolais.
Two weeks after Macron’s speech, a Muslim named Abdoullakh Abouyezidovitch Anzorov beheaded a history teacher named Samuel Paty, who’d shown his students some cartoons of Muhammed as part of a lesson on freedom of expression. The French took to the streets in outrage (which soon subsided). The government expelled a couple of hundred immigrants who’d been identified as potential terrorists (leaving heaven knows how many hundreds of thousands of others). A mosque was closed (and has since been reopened). Macron praised Paty while also making the usual nice, empty noises about Islam, but admitted that he hadn’t done enough about the problem so far and again promised action. Again I was dubious. “What guarantee is there,” I wrote, “that Macron will keep his eye on the ball after the furor over Paty’s murder dies down – let alone that he will take action that is sweeping enough to make a real difference in this long-term civilizational war?”
Alas, if you’re consistently cynical about the promises of French leaders, you’ll rarely be disappointed. In October, as noted here by Hugh Fitzgerald, France’s ambassador to Sweden, Étienne de Gonneville, had declared on Swedish television that “France is a Muslim country.” As Fitzgerald noted, the veracity of such a statement is dependent not just on the sheer number of Muslims in France but on the question of whether they “see themselves as part of a wider society, contributors to its culture, inheritors of its history.” To ponder Muslim attitudes toward the victory of Charles Martel at Tours in 732 or the central French role in the Enlightenment is to realize that the overwhelming majority of Muslims don’t identify with these achievements.
When an op-ed in the Financial Times described Macron as fighting “Islamic separatism,” he considered the word choice consequential enough to write a reply, insisting in a November 4 letter that he was fighting “Islamist separatism.” France, he explained, has for the past several years been under attack “by terrorists [acting] in the name of an Islam that they have distorted” (yes, that old line) and is at war against “designs of hatred and death that threaten its children – never against Islam. We oppose deception, fanaticism, violent extremism. Not a religion.” A few days later, Macron’s Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, met with the Grand Imam at Cairo’s al-Azhar University. Now, you might have thought that, if anything, he’d have been on the offensive, reading the Grand Imam the riot act about jihadism in the wake of Paty’s murder. Instead, because of the recent reprinting of some Muhammed cartoons by Charlie Hebdo (a publication much of whose staff had been slaughtered in a previous act of jihad), Le Drian contritely assured his host that the French government has a “deep respect” for Islam. It hardly sounded as if the leaders of La Belle République had any serious intention of fighting Islamization.
Indeed, even as Macron and his chief diplomat were trading in defiance for deference, legislators were watering down his “Law against Separatism.” The references to “Islamic separatism” and the word “secular” disappeared. A ban on home schooling – which targets Christians, not Muslims – was added, and the Islam-specific language was generalized in such a way that Jewish and Christian leaders opposed the law as an attack on their own freedom of worship. Some leftists even tried to include an amendment named for outspoken (and frequently fined) Islam critic Éric Zemmour, which would have instituted new punishments for “inciting hatred.” While politicians on the left opposed the bill for failing to address the alleged “root causes” of Islamic mischief, such as “poverty, exclusion, racism, discrimination,” Marine Le Pen, the critic of mass Muslim immigration who is expected to challenge Macron in next spring’s elections, dismissed the law as toothless. In February it passed the National Assembly; in April, a purportedly somewhat tougher version passed the Senate.
In addition to his new law, Macron cooked up a so-called “Charter of Principles for Islam in France” and asked religious leaders belonging to the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) to sign on – the idea presumably being that these new “principles” would then trickle down into the hearts and minds of France’s Muslims (whose numbers de Gonneville vaguely put at somewhere between 4 and 8 million). Of course, this is pure magical thinking. We’re talking here about people who, among much else, accept the legitimacy of forced marriage and honor killing, who consider women inferior and homosexuality a capital offense, and who are convinced that everything they confess and profess and practice was confided in their prophet by Allah himself. How can any sane government official imagine that some charter signed by a few imams is going to alter any of that?
In any event, three of the CFCM members refused to okay Macron’s charter. Among the items they objected to, apparently, was a promise to decriminalize apostasy. Under Islam, of course, apostasy is punishable by death. In at least ten Muslim countries, the death penalty for apostates is the law of the land. This is not, as Macron would have it, “Islamism” – an instance of the misunderstanding of the faith by a handful of radicals. It’s mainstream Islam, pure and simple, straight out of the Koran, and the leaders of French Muslims plainly want to keep it that way. One article suggested that Macron might try to get around this roadblock by doing the Gallic equivalent of packing the Supreme Court – that is, finding “liberal” imams and putting them on the CFCM. But to think that such a move would affect the behavior or beliefs of the devout multitudes is, of course, sheer self-delusion.
It’s hard not to feel that this whole half-hearted project is doomed to failure. Because talking about “Islamism” and “Islamists” is an exercise in diversionary euphemism. Because whatever pretty things Macron may say about it, Islam – the selfsame Islam that sends hordes of Muslims out into the streets of Paris and Nice and Nantes with their prayer mats to get on their knees and block traffic, a daily practice that the gendarmes don’t dare to address – is a problem. The minds and hearts of these people are consecrated to a set of beliefs and practices that represent an existential menace to Western civilization. To pretend that these believers can be reined in by any lame law or charter or pact is sheer folly. As one General Roland Dubois asked rhetorically in a recent commentary: when faced with a choice between “a sacred text, dictated by Allah himself, and therefore untouchable to the end of time” and some newly concocted document, “more or less imposed by the unbelievers,” which text can you expect to win out? Muslims have felt a sense of indomitability in France for some time now; can anyone honestly expect them to turn meek? The bottom line, then, is this: if Islam were harmless in the first place, there would be no need for any laws or charters to control its adherents; but since Islam is not harmless, such documents are useless – except perhaps as part of an effort by Macron to make it look to voters, in the run-up to the next election, as if he’s actually doing something about the issue.
On April 25, an article at the Norwegian site document.no drew my attention to an open letter to the President and government of France in the conservative magazine Valeurs Actuelles. Signed by over a thousand members of the French military, including twenty generals, it declared, in strong and solemn language, that France is “in peril” owing to “fanatical and hateful” people who “despise our country, its traditions, its culture, and who want to see it dissolve by removing its past and its history.” That the Muslim banlieus have become “territories subject to dogmas contrary to our constitution” is intolerable, they wrote, for “there cannot and must not exist any city or neighborhood where the laws of the Republic do not apply.” Hence, they maintained, it is “imperative that those who run our country find the courage to eradicate these dangers. To do this, it is often sufficient to apply existing laws without weakness.” Cautioning against “prudence” and cowardice, emphasizing that the job ahead is “colossal,” and warning that time is growing short, they declared their readiness to take action to “safeguard the nation” and forestall an otherwise inevitable civil war in which the deaths “will number in the thousands.”
So far, alas, nobody is mounting the barricades. While the French, alas, routinely respond to trivial provocations by pouring into the streets to protest, they take longer to volunteer for meaningful – and potentially life-threatening – action than it takes to make a proper cassoulet. Indeed, even as Macron and other French leaders pretend to be turning the page when it comes to the official approach to the Religion of Peace, outspoken Islam critics like Zemmour continue to be tried and fined for articulating objective truths. How seriously can we take any law that promises to curb the excesses of Islam in a country that still bows to the Muslim mob by prosecuting its small number of genuine heroes?
“If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. … We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.”
- Sir Karl Popper, the Austrian-British philosopher regarding toleration.
In my book,Tolerism: The Ideology Revealed, I wrote about the ideology of excessive tolerance of evil, which I termed “Tolerism”.
Tolerism in my definition is an excessive tolerance, in fact a leniency, for the intolerant and unsupportable views that threaten our very freedoms. It has become an ideology for those who hold tolerance to be a higher virtue than Justice and Human Rights. Tolerism is the skill in consuming massive quantities of political correctness, and moral and cultural relativism, without displaying the obvious signs of the drunken leniency toward, and even taking pleasure in, the slow ascendancy of illiberal values. Such illiberal values include those who would force critical race theory on our governments, media, and schools and also Islamist values of terrorism, breach of human rights, and attempted reversals of the wonderful liberties and advances made in western societies, where church and state have been successfully separated, and an enormous degree of freedom reigns.
In my view, this tolerism is now an ideology. Ideology in its most powerful form is hidden from the view of the person who submits to it. Once it can be clearly perceived it effectively loses its power of social control; obversely, to believe oneself to be non-ideological is actually equivalent to being driven primarily by ideology.
No matter which orthodoxy we may live under, Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek explains, we usually enjoy our ideology, and that is part of its function. Paradoxically, it hurts to step outside of it and examine it critically; by default we tend to resist seeing the world from any angle other than the one fed to us.
I would argue that we are being fed now an ideology of excessive tolerance of criminal Blacks, their apologists, and the enforcers of Critical Race Theory, holding that every Black is oppressed and every White is the oppressor and that equality of opportunity is no longer the main goal of civil rights activists – the goal is “equity” so that power must be taken from Whites and given to Blacks in all of our institutions because they are infected supposedly with something called “systemic racism”.
Liberal philosopher John Rawls also wrote about tolerance. Rawls devoted a section of his influential book A Theory of Justice to this problem: whether a just society should or should not tolerate the intolerant. He also addressed the related issue of whether or not the intolerant have any right to complain when they are not tolerated, within their society.
Rawls concluded that a just society must be tolerant; therefore, the intolerant must be tolerated, for otherwise, the society would then itself be intolerant, and thus unjust. However, Rawls qualified this conclusion by insisting, like Popper, that society and its social institutions have a reasonable right of self-preservation that supersedes the principle of tolerance. Hence, the intolerant must be tolerated but only insofar as they do not endanger the tolerant society and its institutions.
Indeed, Popper himself wrote in 1981’s “Toleration and Intellectual Responsibility” that we should tolerate intolerant minorities who wish to simply publish their theories as rational proposals, and that we should simply bring to their attention that tolerance is based on mutuality and reciprocity, and that our duty to tolerate a minority ends when they resort to violence.
More difficult, says Popper, is when an intolerant minority passes from rational thought to violence – for example, what of incitement to violence or conspiracy to overthrow liberal democratic institutions? Popper says that the difficulty in finding the dividing line between criminal and non-criminal acts or words should not pose more of a problem here than in other areas of the law, where illegality is a matter of degree and jurisprudence.
Popper warns of the difference between a political party pledged to uphold all the institutions and laws of liberal democracy even if it obtains a majority which would allow it to do otherwise, and a party that conspires, either openly or in secret, to abolish liberal democracy. Such a party will necessarily resort to violence, and to Popper it is clear that we must not submit to such illiberal acts, even if that party has obtained a majority.
To Popper, then, it is clear that should such a party claim a right to be tolerated, the theory of liberal democracy should say no. Popper states:
“We must not tolerate even the threat of intolerance; and we must not tolerate it if the threat is getting serious.”
Accordingly, this is precisely the problem that confronts America and nowhere was it made clearer than the BLM (Black Lives Matter) riots in major American cities last summer, touched off by the murder of a life-long Black criminal named George Floyd.
American Whites and Asians are told that they must tolerate, even submit to, the worst in our society because supposedly Americans deserve this violence. But Middle America is getting fed up. As an example, a reader from Texas commented on an article in Frontpage Magazine entitled “Black Supremacy: The hate that dare not speak its name” by David Horowitz and John Perazzo. The Texan wrote in as follows:
“Every day it seems I hear about a new atrocity committed by an angry violent black person who is convinced they have the right to do so because of racism against THEM. Whether its murdering Jews in Brooklyn, stomping on an elderly Asian man's head in Manhattan, beating up an Asian woman in front of a crowd of black onlookers who do NOTHING to stop it or even help the woman, burning down stores and small businesses, looting entire neighborhoods, setting fire to police stations, beating and robbing white people and calling it "polar bear hunting", shooting little children at fast food restaurants, stabbing their neighbors, robbing their hosts after staying the night..threatening police officers with murder for saving a young black woman's life, ....I could go on and on. And all of it is excused, condoned and encouraged by their families, religious leaders and black politicians at even the highest levels. When does it end? Never. Eventually all their accusations of racism will become a self-fulfilled prophesy.”
My view of these comments by a frustrated Middle American is that it is not just Black politicians (like Maxine Waters) and Black religious leaders (like Louis Farrakhan) who condone and tolerate this. In fact, this is all tolerated by American elites of any colour, including thought leaders in the universities, public schools, media and government.
Mainstream Americans did not just tolerate George Floyd, but sanctified his name. Floyd was a career criminal in and out of jail his whole adult life, a drug addict and dealer, who assaulted a pregnant women as part of a home invasion and who had fathered about 5 children with different women without supporting them financially or with his presence. In traditional Judeo-Christian ethics we would call such a man wicked but the corrupted media turned him into some kind of hero. Granted that the police officer was wrong to kill Floyd, but Floyd was so drugged up that a medical witness confirmed that he had enough drugs in his system, including the deadly fentanyl, to kill him anyway.
Cases where white officers rarely shoot black criminals overwhelmingly happen where the Black criminal is resisting arrest, pointing a knife or gun at the officer or at a third party and therefore allegations that the system is racist, need a reasoned and careful study of the facts and police policies before activists turn to violent protests. Unfortunately we have BLM on the side of supposed victims of Whites but with nothing to say about Black victims of Blacks which is a lot more common.
BLM activists took part in violent demonstrations where police stations were burned and many businesses were destroyed with inventory looted, as police stood back perhaps afraid to be seen as anti-Black. Few were arrested, and those that were, were back on the street quickly after sympathizers posted cash bail.
In America, nearly 75% of Black families are headed by a female only, the Black father, like George Floyd, takes on no responsibilities of fatherhood. When Black educational performance is so poor, and Black crime rates are so high, it just might be appropriate to discuss how Black communities could take some responsibility for their situations; however, such discussions are prevented by political correctness and cancel culture.
BLM is a loosely run organization with little or no transparency or information about how it spends its money. It was apparently founded by three Black women, one of whom now owns four nice properties, the latest acquisition being a $1.4 million mansion.
NBC News has reported that large iconic American brands have committed major funds to Black organizations seeking “racial justice” and to #BlackLivesMatter movement in response to the death of George Floyd — but many companies have yet to clarify where the money will go and how much they will donate.
One would hope that recipients of the funds should be people who have renounced violence and hate speech whether that is against Whites or Asians or Jews, etc.
This will be something to watch for and it is a test of how far American tolerism may be going in its tolerance of violence and/or anarchy. We shall also need to watch for signs of “intersectionality” where victims groups ally with each other whether it is appropriate or not. For example, should tolerance be extended to groups allied with the violent domestic terrorist group Antifa? Should tolerance be extended to groups allied with or infiltrated by radical violent Islamists.?
If media, schools and universities and government refuse to take a stand against tolerating BLM violence and crime as advocated by the great philosophers quoted in this essay, then Tolerism, the excessive leniency shown to evil, will destroy America and its founding ethos.
Howard Rotberg is a retired lawyer and author of four books on ideologies, political culture and values. He writes for New English Review, Israel National News, Frontpage Magazine and others. His most recent book is The Ideological Path to Submission ... and what we can do about it. He founded Canada’s sole conservative values and pro-Israel publishing house, Mantua Books - www.mantuabooks.com.
Now what seemed most likely is apparently certain: President-For-Life Mahmoud Abbas, now in the sixteenth year of his four-year term as head of the Palestinian Authority, will definitely call off the Palestinian parliamentary election that was to be held on May 22, and the presidential election scheduled for July 30. The reason is simple: all the opinion polls confirm that Abbas’ parliamentary candidates would manage to win only 30 of the 132 seats up for grabs, and Abbas would lose the presidential election decisively against a candidate put up by Hamas, or against either of his two rivals Mahmoud Dahlan and Marwan Barghouti. Abbas wants to appear as still wanting to hold the elections, but unable to do so because the malevolent Israelis won’t let the Palestinians in east Jerusalem vote. So it’s all Israel’s fault if the elections must be called off. A report on this farce is here: “Palestinian Authority reportedly set to announce election delay within days,” Times of Israel, April 26, 2021:
The PA has decided to postpone the upcoming elections and has informed representatives of the international community as well as Egypt of its decision, Army Radio reported Monday….
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has been widely expected to postpone the May vote as well as the planned presidential election in July, which various opinion polls have him losing….
What a shock to the system that must have been, when Mahmoud Abbas realized just how unpopular he is with the Palestinians. He discovered that many members of his own Fatah group had turned against him, sick of his colossal corruption, and that he would certainly lose both control of the Palestinian parliament and decisively lose the presidential race against either of his chief rivals, Mohammed Dahlan and Marwan Barghouti, each of whom would win 60% of the vote. And if Hamas decides to field a candidate, too, that candidate would also defeat Abbas.
As for the Parliamentary election, former Fatah supporters shocked Abbas by declaring that they would not support his list of candidates for the parliament but instead present lists of their own. The most notable of these defectors has been Nasser al-Kidwa, the nephew of Yasser Arafat, who refused to support the list of candidates chosen by Abbas, but compiled his own, and for this display of independence was fired by Abbas from his sinecure as chairman of the Yasser Arafat Foundation. Now a Kidwa-Barghouti alliance has made public its own list of parliamentary candidates. Opinion polls suggest that Abbas’ candidates will win, at most, 30 of the 132 seats in the Parliament. That would be a humiliating defeat.
For the first time in 15 years, the Palestinians thought they would at long last have the chance to vote and express their dismay with their ineffectual and corrupt rulers. If those high hopes are now dashed, the rage among the people is likely to lead to violence. Already there have been reports of Fatah defectors shooting at the home of Abbas loyalists.
Army Radio reported that the official reason to be given for the delay was Israel’s refusal to allow East Jerusalem residents to vote in the May 22 elections, the first Palestinian legislative elections in 15 years.
Israel has yet to say whether it will permit voting in East Jerusalem, which it captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed in a move not recognized by most of the international community.
The Palestinian election commission says 150,000 voters will be able to cast ballots on the outskirts of East Jerusalem, in a process that does not require a green light from Israel. And a symbolic 6,300 will get to vote within the holy city itself under Israeli supervision.
But Palestinian authorities fear that arrangement could still leave thousands of the city’s inhabitants disenfranchised….
Israel has not said whether it will permit voting in East Jerusalem, but it can now point to the Palestinian Election Commission itself, that has pointed out that there is a simple solution to the problem posed by those voters: simply let those 150,000 Palestinian residents – not to be confused with Israeli Arabs, who vote in Israel’s elections — of east Jerusalem who are eligible voters, to cast their votes just outside the city limits. They will have taken part in the elections, and Israel will have maintained its policy of not allowing Palestinians to vote physically inside east Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in 1980.
“It is very important that Palestinians in all parts of the occupied Palestinian territory are able to participate in this very important democratic process,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said….
Never mind the tendentious, inaccurate, and offensive remark about “occupied Palestinian territory” from the UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric. What counts is that the U.N.S.C. has called on Israel to “permit all eligible Palestinians in east Jerusalem to be able to vote” and that is exactly what Israel is prepared to do. It will be happy to provide transportation for Palestinians to voting sites – such as Abu Dis – just outside the city limits.
Of course Mahmoud Abbas will reject this simple and elegant solution. He will continue to insist that even though the Palestinians in east Jerusalem would thus be able to fully participate in the elections, it is important that they cast their ballots inside east Jerusalem itself. It’s a way of planting the Palestinian flag in territory that has been part of Israel since 1980. Since Israel will not permit that, Abbas can then put the blame on Israel for making it impossible – drum-roll and more-in-sorrow crocodile-tears from Ramallah, please – to hold the elections he in fact is delighted to have “been forced by Israel” to cancel.
But his enraged rivals – Al-Kidwa, Barghouti, Dahlan, and all of Hamas — will not support Abbas in his blaming Israel for what, they know perfectly well, was Abbas’ decision alone, and one which he did not have to make. It is he who refuses to accept what the Palestinian Election Commission itself presented as a perfectly reasonable solution: allowing the east Jerusalem voters to cast their vote just a short walk or ride from their homes, right over Jerusalem’s municipal borders.
So far the Israelis have remained mum. But why shouldn’t an Israeli government spokesman pre-empt Abbas and declare that “the government of Israel has no objection to the Palestinians of east Jerusalem taking apart in the elections that they have long awaited; they can do this just outside the city limits, as the Palestine Election Commission has noted; we will be happy to assist in transporting them to voting stations.”
That won’t stop Abbas from cancelling the elections. But it will let others know that he used a transparent excuse to shift the blame for the cancellation onto Israel. The Jewish state remains, in fact, perfectly willing to help those Palestinians who live in east Jerusalem to vote, but cannot allow Abbas to use that vote as a way of staking a claim to part of Jerusalem, which has been part of the Jewish state since 1980.
Two Spanish journalists, an Irish conservationist and a Burkinabè soldier have reportedly been killed after suspected jihadists attacked their convoy in eastern Burkina Faso.
The Irishman was named as Rory Young, the co-founder and president of Chengeta Wildlife, an anti-poaching organisation, according to RTÉ, the Irish state broadcaster. The Spanish government confirmed the deaths of the journalists, named as correspondent David Beriain and cameraman Roberto Fraile. Both were experienced journalists who had worked frequently in hostile environments.
Nusrat-al-Islam (JNIM), a jihadist umbrella group allied to Al Qaeda, has unofficially claimed responsibility for the attack.
An audio message heard by The Associated Press that purports to be from the jihadist group known as JNIM, that is linked to al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for the attack. 'We killed three white people. We also got two vehicles with guns, and 12 motorcycles,' said the recording.
According to a local official, they were filming a documentary about anti-poaching efforts around the Fada N'Gourma-Pama area with a group of soldiers and forest rangers who made up a special military wildlife unit.
David Beriain and Roberto Fraile got out of their pick-up to prepare to take aerial photographs with a drone near Arli National Park when the attack began. Two vans and ten motorcycles with armed men appeared and began shooting, causing the members of the convoy to disperse, according to security sources quoted by the Spanish newspaper El País.
A security source confirmed that the Westerners "were working on behalf of an NGO protecting the environment" in the country, without naming the organisation.
Burkina Faso was once an isle of stability in west Africa. But since 2015, jihadists under pressure from French and United Nations troops to the north in neighbouring Mali have slowly seeped across the border. The jihadists, some of whom are allied to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, have exploited the cracks left by decades of state decay and underinvestment to turn communities against each other.
The country is now widely regarded as one of the most dangerous places on earth. Much of the east of the country, where the Spaniards were killed, has been largely off-limits to Western journalists for years.
‘Tell Tchaikovsky the News’—the Absurdity of Cultural Appropriation
by Geoffrey Clarfield
On March 8, 2021, the National Post reported that pop star Bruno Mars was being attacked for “cultural appropriation” of black culture and music because he’s neither African, nor African American by descent.
This is just one more example of a growing chorus of cultural outrage from the left and from the fellow travelers of Black Lives Matter who would like to racialize all discussion of the arts in terms of identity politics (and make themselves the arbiters of what can and can’t be heard—a musical version of “cancel culture”).
As someone trained in the field of ethnomusicology and who spent some years in Africa recording and studying traditional African music (and who was adopted by an African tribe because I learnt to sing their songs), I thought it may be time to explore this matter deeper.
The first two questions that must be addressed are: is there a distinctive black music and, of course, is there a distinctive white music? For, as any good philosopher going back to Socrates would suggest, we need to start with definitions. There actually is some empirical basis for such an idea.
Until the early 20th century, educated public opinion in the United States held that despite the undoubted musicality of both enslaved and free African Americans, it was believed that they were only able to create worthwhile music in imitation of Western forms such as ballads, hymns, dance tunes, marching tunes, or classical music.
Only with the rise of anthropology and ethnomusicology in the early 20th century did scholars begin to look more carefully at this assumption and thus was born the debate over musical and cultural “Africanisms,” those musical, dance, and other cultural traits that African Americans brought with them from their diverse African homelands to their places of enslavement in the New World, including the Caribbean and much of South America, in particular Brazil.
While simultaneously studying the traditional music of the Americas and that of Sub-Saharan Africa it became possible for modern musicologists to contrast and compare field recordings from a wide swathe of Africa with music drawn from American African communities, as well as with hybrid popular forms such as jazz and big band swing.
The conclusion was and is that there’s a Pan-African Sub-Saharan style of musical performance, and that many of the features of this style have continued in the various musical and dance traditions of African American communities from Brazil to Canada. There are a number of ways of describing this style, but the easiest to comprehend is that list of musical features set out by the late great and very liberal ethnomusicologist Bruno Nettl.
Nettl described the African and African American performance style in the following way:
Instruments are varied and numerous and are used individually and in ensembles.
There’s a tendency to have at least two or more things going on at once and thus there’s widespread rhythmic and melodic polyphony. The most dramatic example of this is rhythmic polyphony: the superimposition of two or more different rhythmic structures one upon each other. Each rhythm is strongly accented and the various parts enter one after another from simple to complex.
The percussive sound is an ideal and can be best explained as an overall aesthetic tendency toward a “buzzing” musical background or more aptly “a percussive surround.”
Plucked instruments far outnumber bowed ones.
They often have jangles of some sort attached to them so that there’s a buzzing sound that’s almost always present.
Variation and improvisation upon short melodic motifs dominate melodic structure.
There’s a close relationship between language and melody.
Melodies are often built upon major seconds and thirds.
Antiphonal and responsorial techniques predominate.
Music is almost always associated with dance.
For those who have ever seen an artist such as James Brown and his musicians and dancers perform, these 10 traits do rather well in eliciting his essential musical performance style. And so, these comprise the essence of the African American style that we see reflected in various ways in blues, jazz, gospel, soul, rhythm and blues. At the same time one must take into consideration that musical genres are not stable categories, but mingle and melt and get recreated over time.
Can we use these 10 categories to contrast the music of another group of people, such as the Scottish, English, and Irish who came to the new world with their Protestant hymns, ballads, and fiddle-accompanied dance music? Yes we can.
Among the elite who came we also we have the operatic and symphonic traditions of the larger European culture area as well as brass bands and marching groups like the old fife and drum. And among the folk we have and continue to have the sung ballad tradition. What are these styles like?
Instruments are also varied and numerous and used in ensembles.
There’s a marked tendency toward organized polyphony or harmony with less emphasis on rhythmic polyphony or cross rhythms.
The percussive is not the ideal. There are two major vocal styles—the tight high lonesome sound of Appalachia and the open-throated style of parlour music, Broadway, and conservatory trained singers.
Plucked instruments don’t outweigh bowed ones and the piano has often become the “master” instrument able to incorporate all and any style that’s either classical or folk.
Jangles on instruments are the exception not the rule.
Variation and improvisation upon short melodic motifs occasional dominate melodic structure, but not usually.
Language and melody can be related but often are far, far different as in the Balkan epics, which are often sung on one line of music, or think of an operatic cantata in Italian, German, French, or English—the melodies of Bizet or Mozart may remain the same, but the language is different and story oriented.
Harmony is much more complex, even at the folk level—just listen to a Georgian or Balkan choir.
Antiphonal techniques exist but are not central to the pan-European folk or classical tradition (but let us not forget those Biblical psalms).
European folk, religious, and classical repertoires are thematic: ballads tell a linear story; operas tell a tale; hymns express one message.
There’s another way of comparing music and that’s by using the 32 feature universal classificatory system worked out by Alan Lomax called Cantometrics.
Cantometrics classifies the world’s music into different styles or configurations. If you apply a generic Sub-Saharan to a generic Anglo-Celtic music configuration there would be both overlap and difference between the gestalt musical style of the “African” and “White” American (descendants of Anglo-Irish) music according to a Cantometric analysis—enough to call one white and the other black, to a degree.
So, what about the cultural appropriation of African American or black music? The central point made here is that although musical repertoires are real, they’re not stable and have very, very fuzzy boundaries that even the best of musicologists can’t define.
Styles, genres, and repertoires are both working and academic abstractions. Musicians are creative types and anything they encounter is grist for the mill. Musicians by definition like to break the rules, mix and match. If the former slaves of the Americas liked European orchestral instruments, when they could they would adopt and play them, especially after they got their freedom from slavery at the end of the Civil War.
Likewise, when poor whites heard the blues on the railway lines they would sing blues, too. Yes, even the descendants of Confederate soldiers. And then there’s the banjo, America’s only real indigenous instrument, based on a West African prototype (played by “Griots,” minstrels in Senegal and Mali) and made Western with the addition of frets and then played by both black and white Americans to this day.
The truth is that African Americans and their fellow citizens and former slave masters (before and after 1865) exchanged and shared both the content and style of their musics, giving rise to creative collisions between the African and Anglo American repertoires.
For example, there’s a lot of blues in county and western music, and there are and have been scores of African Americans who have sung the ballads of the Irish or the oratorios of Americans of German American origin. Then there’s gospel. In that mixed genre we must ask who appropriated what from whom?
The performance style of gospel is very African, but the words are mostly Biblical and Bible inspired, often from a Hebrew original, or from the Greek New Testament and its English translations, which have become the bedrock of the black church in the Americas.
If black Americans have “culturally appropriated” these European and Ancient Near Eastern lyrical forms, are they to be denied the Jewish lyrics of the Old Testament or the Greek-inspired lyrics of the New? Should the clearly European invented piano be denied black churches because it was invented by white men?
Should renowned African American trumpeter Wynton Marsalis give up playing European Baroque music because he self identifies as black? Should have the great African American balladeer Lead Belly given up singing popular ballads in the Anglo-Irish tradition such as “Irene, Goodnight,” which he made a hit song in his day?
Should African American Jimi Hendrix have not written songs and lyrics in the ballad tradition? Should he have passed on singing “All Along the Watchtower,” a Biblically inspired ballad by white Jewish American songwriter Bob Dylan (who can really play a good blues when he wants to)? The whole thing is absurd.
If cultural appropriation is a real concept (and I believe it’s not) then who’s allowed to borrow from whom? Should there be a cultural appropriation committee who decides who is allowed to use which repertoire?
Should all those African American musicians at the start of jazz in New Orleans 120 years ago have given up on their European instruments such as the clarinet and piano because they came from “the white man?” Should all those Brazilian pop stars of African descent such as Baden Powell stop singing in Portuguese because it’s the language of the white man?
The truth of the matter is that music is a universal language and it has many interacting dialects. It has probably been around for more than 100,000 years. These languages became musical dialects as our ancestors populated all corners of the globe. These musical dialects have and continue to bounce off each other ever since. They have merged and created new forms, especially in the Americas.
The ancestral music of the Anglo-Irish descendants of America’s founders and that of its African American citizens are indeed distinctive, but only to a degree as explained above, and they’ve been bouncing off each other for more than 400 years.
What this interaction has given the world is a wealth of musical creativity that’s unstoppable and whose hybrids have dominated the pop music charts for more than 100 years. It is and always has been a two-way street, or even three-way street (including the hymns and classical music of the West, which came to America 400 years back). When that black/white hybrid genre big band swing came to Europe after World War I, it was embraced and imitated widely. There was Polish, German, and even today still a flourishing Azerbaijani big band jazz tradition.
Bruno Mars is a talented young man with a creative vision that captivates millions of young people around the world. He doesn’t care whether his music is black or white (to paraphrase Michael Jackson). He gets his music from wherever he wants. If Mozart were alive today, he would approve. So would Bach and Beethoven.
Cultural appropriation is a non category, a non word, and makes little sense musicologically. As that great African American father of rock and roll Chuck Berry once sang, is it time to “roll over” cultural appropriation, sing some ballads, and play some blues. Just remember to also “tell Tchaikovsky the news.”
The campaign for sanity and fair representation of views of different sides in opinion and news continues against the cancel culture sleuths in the U.S. and UK. The campaigners in the battle are aware that the UK had been the setting for a number of recent cases where individual public figures, politicians and academics, including the former Conservative Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, were forced to cancel appearances because their views clashed with some students. Ironically, Miss Rudd had intended to deliver a speech encouraging young women to get involved in politics.
The campaigners might also be aware of activities by other cancel culture zealots. To characterize those activities, by public bodies and private organizations, as bizarre is to underrate their absurdity. It is bewildering that the British Library, the national library of the UK and one of the largest libraries in the world with over 210 million items, is planning to relabel Geoffrey Chaucer’s TheCanterbury Tales for “transparency,” a concept to learn when and where works were acquired. Chaucer, the first person to be buried in the Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey, wrote the Tales, 1387-1400, long before the start of the Atlantic slave trade, but the manuscript was bought more than three hundred years later by Robert Harley, Chancellor of the Exchequer, who established the South Sea Company in 1711 which was responsible for the transport of 64,000 enslaved Africans between 1715 and 1731, and whose family was connected to plantations in Barbados, Antigua, and Surinam.
The link of the items in the British Library, BL, to slavery is supposedly part of its plan to tell a clearer picture of how the works were acquired. But it is also part of the Library’s anti-racism action plan, to “decolonize” its collection, and to work for a cultural overhaul at the Library. The Library has not labelled Chaucer himself as a slave trader but becomes a target because of the connection with the Harley family. Chaucer who wrote in Middle English with the dialect of London, can have the last word. In his TheMiller’s Tale he wrote, “Sometimes an impression can cut so deep that people can die of mere imagination.”
Basic to the BL’s plan to tell a “clearer history of how works were acquired” is the link to the slave trade and colonialism. Its items, perhaps not all 210 million, are being examined and relabeled to reflect this link. High on the list is Shakespeare’s First Folio, produced in 1623 and including 36 of his plays. Shakespeare may not have had a sea of troubles in his life, but he is now suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune because this precious document was once owned by the members of the Royal Family, Kings George III and George IV, who were opponents of abolition, and were honorary governors of the South Sea Company, the body that had a monopoly to supply African slaves to islands in the “South Seas” and South America.
Many other items in the BL are being examined for their links to the slave trade or which were acquired through officials, soldiers, and missionaries during the British Empire, all seen through the prism of slavery or colonialism. Among the items are the Golden Gospels, written in gold in the ninth century court of Charlemagne, and the Kaifeng Torah Scroll made, perhaps in the 17th century, by the Jewish community in China.
Cancel culture has created a cottage industry of searchers for those miscreants who are considered unacceptable and should be banned, disinvited, or toppled. A recent enlister in the industry is Sheffield University which has proposed a plan to “decolonize” the curriculum of its engineering department, to assess the assumptions of Western thought, to consider who might have benefited from colonial activity, and to incorporate what it terms “historically marginalized or suppressed knowledge.” Central to this plan is the argument that knowledge systems are marked by existing power relations which are rooted in the history of colonialization. Sheffield University holds this Eurocentric epistemology is based on white intellectual traditions regarded as superior and universal and as the West as the originator of knowledge and development. Its revised curriculum will highlight the links of individuals to slavery and colonization.
The new curriculum will examine high profile figures: the most well known are Sir Isaac Newton, Paul Dirac, Pierre-Simon Laplace, and Gottfried Leibniz. It is not yet clear how these intellectual giants were involved in the denounced activities. Newton, once universally known as the father of gravity, will now be better known as a colonialist because he was a shareholder in the notorious South Sea Company. He may also become renowned for illustrating that even genius cannot always beat the market, since he lost all his money in speculation in the South Sea Bubble of 1720.
Cancel culture in the U.S. and the UK has illustrated increasing bias and lack of objectivity. In the U.S. that has led to heads being rolled at the New York Times. The opinion writer James Bennet was obliged to resign in June 2020 because he had allowed Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark) to publish an op-ed, Send in the Federal Troops, arguing that the U.S. military should be used to quell BLM protests, leading to violent rioting in the streets. Bennet has left, and now so has the term “op-ed,” the word for the guest essay that appeared physically opposite the editorial page and not because if offered views contrary to those of the paper. Op-ed apparently is a relic of an older age, and has been replaced in the NYT by “more inclusive.”
The NYT can lay claims to being a repository of cancer culture, being involved in two other events. Staff editor Bari Weiss resigned in July 2020 citing constant bullying by colleagues who disagreed with her views that were critical of woke cancel culture. A column by the writer Bret Stephens was censored because it was critical of the executive editor’s handling of the ousting of the paper’s science reporter who had used the N word during a student trip in Peru in 2019.
In Britain, a controversy has arisen over a proposed official code for public communication that reflects the view that free speech cannot be allowed if it gives offence or hurts the feelings of people. Ofcom, the government approved regulatory authority for broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries of the UK , regulates TV, radio, and Video on demand. Previously, the code of Ofcom had forbidden broadcasters from airing anything that incites hate, giving four reasons. On January 1, 2021, the code was increased to list fourteen categories, which it implied pose a danger to society. The new code to protect the public from harmful or offensive material includes the following; disability, ethnicity, social origin, gender, sex, nationality, race, religion, belief, color, genetic features, membership of a minority, language or political opinion.
On April 22, 2021 a response to cancel culture was issued in a statement underlining a commitment to freedom of expression and academic freedom by the Russell Group, whose name is derived from the venue of the meetings of its members at the Russell Hotel in Russell Square, London. The Russell Group represents 24 British world class, research intensive universities, that can in some ways be seen as an equivalent of the U.S. Ivy League institutions. It is primarily a lobbying group whose objective is to ensure that British universities have the best conditions in which to flourish, and to make social, economic, and cultural impacts through research and teaching.
The Russell Group statement makes clear that academic freedom anchors the commitment of universities to the open and rigorous contestation of ideas, essential to drive knowledge and discovery in research and education. Freedom of speech extends to all who wish to seek, receive, or impart information and ideas of all kinds, and includes the right to protest peacefully.
Yet, the problem is complex. The right to free speech is central to the culture of academic institutions, and to democratic systems, but it is also protected by law. Democratic institutions try to ensure that free speech should not extend to hate speech, to unlawful discrimination, harassment, or victimization that undermines the ability of individuals to engage fully in life.
At heart is the problem of whether this set of limitations, or which limitation, is consistent with the essential commitment to the free and open discussion, the challenging of controversial views, and a culture of mutual toleration of free speech by allowing all voices to be heard, and not making enemies of those who disagree. Contrary to cancel culture, speech should be allowed as long as it discusses controversial topics in polite fashion and will not lead to problems of public disorder.
Labour Leader Keir Starmer Pulls Out of Ramadan Observance
by Hugh Fitzgerald
Keir Starmer, who replaced the obsessively anti-Israel and antisemitic Jeremy Corbyn as head of the Labour Party, and has repeatedly reassured British Jews of his sympathy and support, has just pulled out of participating in a Ramadan event, a virtual Iftar dinner, following revelations about the head of the sponsoring organization. A report is here: “UK Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer Pulls Out of Ramadan Event After CEO of Sponsoring Group Revealed as Supporting Israel Boycotts,” by Benjamin Kerstein, Algemeiner, April 22, 2021:
The leader of the UK Labour party pulled out of a Ramadan event after the controversial anti-Israel views of the CEO of the sponsoring organization emerged in the media.
The Jewish Chronicle reported that Sir Keir Starmer was set to attend a virtual Iftar event marking the meal breaking the Ramadan fast, held by a group called the Ramadan Tent Project.
The Project is a self-described outreach group that, it says, works to bring “communities together to better understand each other.”
On the contrary: the Ramadan Tent Project is intended to prevent non-Muslims from understanding Muslims better by concealing as much as possible the texts and teachings of Islam, and instead offering the feelgood outreach of breaking bread – virtually — together at an Iftar dinner, where nothing of substance about Islam will be discussed, and the non-Muslims present will bask in the warm computer-screen Zoom glow of their new, true friends: their accommodating Muslim hosts, so eager to please those non-Muslims who, the Muslims hope, never find out that the Qur’an describes them as “the most vile of created beings” (98:6), and in dozens of verses encourages violent Jihad against them, to fight, to kill, to smite at the necks of, to strike terror in the hearts of the Infidels. This Iftar dinner is one more of those outreach events — there are so many — where the “war-is-deceit” Muslims, well-versed in taqiyya, can with practiced smiles-and-wiles pull the wool over the eyes of the gullible Infidels.
But Starmer withdrew from the event after he was informed about previous actions by the Project’s CEO Omar Salha. In one case, Salha had endorsed boycotting Israeli products, tweeting, “This #Ramadan, Don’t Eat into #Palestine.”
The Labour party does not endorse boycotts of Israel, and has been working for several years to repair its relationship with the Jewish community, which collapsed while the party was led by Jeremy Corbyn.
Salha was also found to have supported a Twitter group called Cage, which engaged in support for terrorism, such as praising an ISIS terrorist as a “beautiful young man.”
So Omar Salha, the CEO of the Ramadan Tent Project, supports the boycott of Israel that the Labour Party is on record as opposing. How was it that this came to the attention of Keir Starmer only after he had accepted an invitation to attend, and that the information about the unsavory Omar Salha did not come from any vetting by the Labour Party itself, but from a Jewish group that looked into his account on Twitter? How complicated would it have been to simply take a look at the tweets sent out by Omar Salha? These days, checking someone’s Twitter account is the absolute minimum of vetting needed before endorsing them – and attending even a virtual Iftar dinner put on by Salha would have been publicized, and interpreted by some as Starmer’s endorsement of him.
Even more disturbing than Salha’s supporting a boycott of Israel, which Keir Starmer has promised to everywhere oppose, is his support of a twitter group called Cage. Among the tweets at the Cage were many endorsing terrorism, including one that described an ISIS murderer as a “beautiful young man.” Not a group with which, through a virtual Iftar Dinner arranged by Omar Salha, Keir Starmer would want to be associated.
At the time of writing, the Cage Twitter page, which describes itself as “working to empower communities impacted by the War on Terror” and “reviving divine justice,” contained retweets endorsing the idea that “US wars” are “genocide” in order to denounce US recognition of the Armenian genocide, claiming that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has “ties to Israeli lobbying groups,” and lamenting the alleged torture of al-Qaeda terrorist Al Hajj Abdu Ali Sharqawi in Guantanamo Bay.
The Cage Twitter page is all about empowering “communities impacted by the War on Terror,” which means – we can all read between the lines — promoting the interests of, that is, “empowering,” Muslims alone, for it is the Muslims who are the “community impacted” by the War on Terror. It is Muslims who are subject to a higher degree of surveillance, for perfectly legitimate reasons, than non-Muslims. And what does “reviving divine justice” mean? This refers not to man-made laws, but to the “divine justice” of Islam, that is, to the Sharia, the Holy Law of Islam, which will be applied worldwide when Islam everywhere dominates, and Muslims rule, everywhere.
This site – Cage – that Omar Salha supports, also describes US wars as “genocide,” a bizarre description of American interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, which were meant not to kill off the inhabitants, but to provide both Iraqis and Afghans with better lives by freeing them from the barbarous despotisms of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, respectively, and an attempt to create in both countries, however imperfectly, a semblance of democracy. It cost the U.S. a total of six trillion dollars in a good-faith effort to improve the lives of Muslims in the two countries. Both interventions proved to be ghastly mistakes, both were extraordinarily costly, both ended in failure, but they were not “genocides.” That charge was made at Cage’s twitter account as part of a tu-quoque defense of a real genocide by Muslims – that of the Armenians by the Turks – by saying that the U.S. had no right to accuse the Turks of genocide when it was guilty of genocide itself in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The charge made on the Cage’s twitter account that Boris Johnson has “ties to Israeli lobbying groups” is flatly untrue. There are no such ties. Johnson has declared his government’s opposition to the ICC’s attempt to prosecute Israel, because Israel has not signed onto the Rome Statute and thus never agreed to recognize the jurisdiction of the ICC, The ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is simply acting ultra vires. No “Israeli lobbying groups” have been involved, either in this, or in any other of Boris Johnson’s other pronouncements on Israel..
The Board of Deputies of British Jews has called Cage a “toxic group.”
“Time for those who stand for the values of justice and liberty to support UK Cage and not be intimidated by the powers that be,” Salha said in 2017.
It was also revealed that the Ramadan Tent Project had praised the Muslim group Mend in 2019.
The Board of Deputies said in 2016 that it would not collaborate with Mend because the group’s approach would cause “increasing hostility and suspicion between the Jewish and Muslim communities, rather than building trust and empathy.”
Mend – Muslim Engagement and Development – is a group that in its own words works on “Empowering British Muslims across the UK to tackle Islamophobia by getting involved in media & politics. Report Islamophobia.” It is a group that attempts to influence media coverage of Muslims, working to report on, intimidate, and silence those who are critics of Islam by, among other tactics, affixing the all-purpose label of “Islamophobes” on them. It also attempts to finance and otherwise promote Muslim politicians and those non-Muslim political figures who support Muslim causes, including opposing Israel at every turn.
The Jewish Board of Deputies has refused to work with Mend, aware that the group uses non-Muslims only to further its own agenda.
The Board of Deputies’ Tal Ofer, who brought Salha’s boycott support to the Chronicle’s attention, said, “I don’t really understand why Keir Starmer is going to participate in an event of an organization whose CEO’s views are clearly unsavory.”
“His team should check the background of the people in these organizations,” he said.
“We expect the actions to be louder than the words. They should be judged on the actions not just on the words,” Ofer said of the Labour party.
Upon receipt of the information about Omar Salha, the CEO of the Ramadan Tent Project, which was hosting an Iftar dinner to which Keith Starmer had accepted an invitation, Starmer promptly announced he would not be attending after all. This should be applauded; it shows that Starmer’s determination to oppose antisemitism has not diminished, and extends to banning any semblance of conferring approval on those who, like Salha, support a boycott of Israel. Starmer’s change of heart was also prompted by Omar Salha’s connection to two other Muslim groups, brought to his attention by the Jewish Board of Deputies. The first is the Cage, a Muslim group whose twitter account includes tweets praising an ISIS murderer as a “beautiful young man” and defending Muslim Turks against charges of genocide of Christian Armenians by invoking the tu-quoque argument, insisting that the U.S., too, is guilty of “genocide”(against Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan). Salha has also been involved with Mend, a group that demonizes critics of Islam as “islamophobes” and works to silence them.
There is a lesson here, and not just for Keith Starmer, but for all those who are inveigled into interfaith events – whether as simple as a virtual Iftar dinner, or engaging in any of the many feel-good outreach efforts, such as Open Mosque Nights, where Muslim hosts envelop their non-Muslim guests in such warmth as to banish all mistrust, even as they present a ludicrously pollyannish version of Islam to their guests, who come away with a warm feeling but no real knowledge about Islam. Before accepting any of these seemingly innocent inveiglements, we Infidels – and especially those, politicians or celebrities, who by their mere presence will be assumed to have approved of their hosts and the evening’s events. Imagine if Starmer had attended the virtual event, and then the views and company kept by his host Omar Salha had come out.
When invited to any similar outreach event, virtual or in person — do some research on the Muslims behind these efforts. Is there any information about them to be gleaned from the Internet? Do they have a Twitter account — like that of Omar Salha –that you can examine? If invited to an Open Mosque Night, find out beforehand what you can about that mosque’s imam and others who will be in charge of the event. What can you find out from their online record? Does the mosque itself have a reputation for “moderation” or “extremism”? Has there been any trouble with previous imams or the pillars of the local Muslim community who attend that mosque? Do a bit of searching. By their tweets shall ye know them.
Interfaith outreach with Muslims sounds innocent, but it almost always ends with the unwary non-Muslims coming away with dreamy misinformation about Islam and Muslims. They’ve been given a performance of nonstop self-pitying taqiyya. Some Infidels emerge apologetic for the way “Muslims have been so misunderstood — I really had no idea until tonight — and so mistreated.” How do they know that Muslims have been “mistreated”? Because they are told so, by those with a vivid Oriental imagination, embroidering a tale of woe.
The non-Muslims at these interfaith gatherings have almost certainly learned nothing of consequence, beyond the Five Pillars, about the faith itself. Nothing about the dozens of Jihad verses that discus them, the Infidels, about how they are to be regarded, about how they are to be dealt with. Nothing about the many antisemitic verses in the Qur’an, nothing about why Muslims are instructed “not to take Jews or Christians as friends, for they are friends only with each other.” Nothing about nine-year-old Aisha, Muhammad’s last and favorite wife, nothing about the Jewish girl Saafiyah, whom Muhammad – after having had her father and brothers killed, and her husband Kinana tortured to death — took as a concubine, nothing about Muhammad’s attack on the inoffensive Jews at Khaybar, nothing about his personally taking part in the slaughter of the 600-900 bound prisoners of the Banu Qurayza, nothing about the assassinations of those who had mocked Muhammad, Asma bint Marwan, Ka’b bin al-Ashraf, and Afu ‘Afak, nothing about the two famous hadith of Muhammad, where he insists that “war is deceit” and “I have been made victorious through terror.”
Instead, at these affairs, from the Iftar Dinner to the Open Mosque Evenings to which non-Muslims are invited, about Islam they learn only the Five Pillars of Islam: the Shehada (the Profession of Faith), the Salat (the five canonical prayers), Zakat (the charitable tithe), Sawm (the fasting during Ramadan), the Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims should make at least once in their lives, if they can). The visitors are not told that in reciting the five canonical prayers the Muslims are cursing the Infidels seventeen times a day. Nor do they learn that the Zakat they give as charity can only be given to fellow Muslims, not to Infidels.
At the Open Mosque Nights, once the fulsome greetings, the smooth speeches about misunderstood tolerant peaceful Islam, and the tortuous Q-and-A are finished, it’s time for the most important part of the evening: the free food, which the visitors look forward to with such expectation. (This couldn’t, of course, have taken place at the virtual Iftar to which Keir Starmer had been invited by Omar Salha.)
.The visitors are impressed with the mix of Muslim cuisines, from North Africa to Pakistan, on offer. At these mosque nights – I’ve attended a few — the hijabbed Muslimas bring out from the kitchen the platters of humus, tabouleh, pita bread, naan, curried chicken, lamb vindaloo, fruit juices, and at the end, the inevitable baklava and kunafeh. And how impressive the human warmth exuded by the Muslim hosts trying so hard to win their visitors over, mixing protestations of undying friendship with the lament that, “yes, alas, we are too often misunderstood by others.” And “islamophobia is a real problem, and it’s only getting worse,” to which the visitors, of course, as they carefully fill their plates, nod in sympathetic agreement..
Had Keir Starmer attended that Iftar on Zoom, as the leader of the Labour Party, he’d have been “seated” on the screen next to Omar Salha. The press release from the Ramadan Tent Project the very next day would have provided a list of the British notables in attendance; Sir Keir Starmer’s name would likely have led the list. Quite a PR coup for Omar Salha and his Ramadan Tent Project, and quite damaging to Keir Starmer once the truth about Omar Salha came out. Fortunately, Starmer was warned about Omar Salha, and pulled out in time.
Keir Starmer has learned a lesson. He should not have to rely on the Jewish Board of Deputies or the Jewish Chronicle to find out about Omar Salha and all the other omar-salhas who will cross his path. He needs – the Labour Party needs – a researcher who will exhaustively vet such outreaching Muslims as Omar Salha, before being inveigled into attending a gathering arranged by them, so that no more such potential embarrassments occur. And this is a lesson not just for the Labour Party leader, but for many others who need to look before they leap, and find themselves lending legitimacy to Muslims who feign moderation, like Omar Salha, but on closer inspection, including a tell-tale trail of tweets, turn out to be anything but.
MULTAN: Prime Minister Imran Khan says he has a different approach to tackle Islamophobia unlike a religious party’s pressure to expel the French ambassador and is determined to make it work.
“My way is to take heads of all Muslim countries into confidence. Together, we should ask Europe, the European Union and United Nations to stop hurting the feelings of 1.25 billion Muslim like they do not do in case of Jews,” he said while addressing a ceremony to inaugurate the south Punjab civil secretariat here on Monday,
“I want the Muslim countries to devise a joint line of action over the blasphemy issue with a warning of trade boycott of countries where such incidents will happen. This will be the most effective way to achieve the goal.”
Mr Khan said his government was already working on this issue as Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had discussed it with the foreign ministers of four Muslim countries.
'We need to explain why this hurts us, when in the name of freedom of speech they insult the honour of the prophet,' Imran Khan said in a televised address on Monday. When 50 Muslim countries will unite and say this, and say that if something like this happens in any country, then we will launch a trade boycott on them and not buy their goods, that will have an effect.'
He said the approach adopted by the banned Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan to get the ambassador expelled by pointing a gun at the government was never a workable solution to the issue.
Khan said insulting Islam's Prophet should be treated in the same way as questioning the Holocaust, which is a crime in some European countries.
As London prepares to go to the polls to elect their new London mayor, The Telegraph's Chief Political Correspondent Christoper Hope joined Laurence Fox on the campaign trail to see what he stands for and whether he has a chance of being elected. Link here.
Horatio Bottomley addressing a World War I recruiting rally in Trafalgar Square, London, September 1915.
I have a soft spot for swindlers—as observer rather than as victim of their activities, of course. Almost by definition they are charming and polite, for these are usually prerequisites of their métier, as bravery is the prerequisite of that of soldiers. Swindlers are generally intelligent and even talented, and the purists among them would rather make a small but dishonest fortune than a large but honest one. With them, to cheat is a matter both of pride and of principle. This is integrity, or at least consistency, of a kind.
A prisoner in the prison in which many years ago I worked as a doctor came into my consulting room with a volume of Wittgenstein under his arm.
“You are in for fraud, I see,” said I. The deduction was not at all remarkable. Burglars do not read Wittgenstein.
One of the great British swindlers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was a man called Horatio Bottomley (1860–1933). He was exceptional, though one cannot help but wonder whether his given name helped him on his way, since anyone called Horatio is bound to connect himself with the single-handed defense of bridges or with naval battles rather than with safe and humble careers such as clerk in an insurance office. Conversely, “Bottomley” as a surname precluded art as a career.
Bottomley’s origins were not altogether auspicious. He was born in Bethnal Green in the East End of London in 1860. His father was a tailor’s cutter who drank heavily, had once been admitted to a lunatic asylum probably with delirium tremens, and died of a recurrence when Horatio was three. His mother died not long after, and by the age of four Horatio was an orphan.
His mother had been a close friend—just how close is not known—of Charles Bradlaugh, the militant secularist who, repeatedly elected to parliament but refusing to take any oath that mentioned God, would at his meetings stride on to the stage and challenge the deity to strike him dead in five minutes. Horatio strongly resembled Bradlaugh, and it was sometimes suspected that he was Bradlaugh’s offspring, though, if so, Bradlaugh never recognized him as such, as almost certainly he would have done had he known of his paternity.
The young Horatio went to live with his maternal uncle George Jacob Holyoake, a radical propagandist, the editor of a rationalist and socialist review, the coiner of the terms “secularism”and “jingoism,” one of the founders of the cooperative movement that is still in existence today, and the author of a two-volume memoir, Sixty Years of an Agitator’s Life (1892). (Horatio’s other maternal uncle was the fairly successful painter William Holyoake, whose portrait of his brother shows him to have been a respectable Victorian bourgeois gentleman.)
When Horatio was eight, however, George Jacob, who had large numbers of children of his own and could not afford any longer to keep him, sent him to the Josiah Mason Orphanage in Birmingham, where he remained until he ran away aged fourteen. Horatio did not shine academically at the orphanage, perhaps because he was too brilliant to have done so. But he must have been well taught there, the orphanage having been run in a comparatively enlightened way, and he was probably not too miserable either, for he remained attached to the orphanage and never failed to visit it when he was nearby, even making detours in his itinerary to do so.
He ran away to London to seek his fortune—or, in the event, other people’s fortunes. In many ways, his life had parallels with that of the somewhat later pulp-fiction writer Edgar Wallace. And like Dickens before him, Horatio became an accomplished shorthand writer, so good that he was offered the partnership in a company that produced transcripts for the courts. In this way, Horatio learned a lot about the law, often appearing for himself in the more than one hundred twenty lawsuits in which he was subsequently involved, and often defeating in court the most famous advocates of his day. On one occasion, his performance was so brilliant that the judge called him into his chambers afterwards and suggested that he should read for the bar.
Horatio attended debating societies in the East End of London and became an accomplished speaker—or demagogue. He launched a company that published the proceedings of the societies and never looked back from there as a company promoter. In the course of his life he launched at least seventy-seven companies, most of them soon liquidated, restructured, or declared bankrupt, to the great loss of the shareholders but to the great (if only temporary) enrichment of one Horatio Bottomley. In his career, he is estimated to have raised the modern equivalent of two billion dollars, practically all of it lost. Between 1891 and 1922 he had 256 petitions for bankruptcy filed against him, though he was personally bankrupted only three times in his life. He so restructured his companies—which varied greatly in supposed activity, from distant mines to rubber plantations to printing ventures and newspapers to timber plantations to hotels to oil companies to finance corporations to theater productions—that tracing the precise course of his financial operations makes the labyrinth seem like the shortest distance between two points. Among his other techniques was that of selling the same shares to two or more different people, explaining the problem, when an explanation was called for, by mere administrative muddle.
His career was wonderfully varied and colorful. He was always short of cash but lived palatially or even pharaonically. Though his country house had six gardeners and he kept (most unsuccessfully) many racehorses, he would beg of his guests £50, of which he said—no doubt truthfully—that he stood at that moment in desperate need. While preaching strict morality, he kept a harem of women. He would sometimes spend—and lose—the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars a day betting at the races (racing debts being the only ones he ever felt morally obliged to honor) and he so loved champagne that he probably consumed at least $2 million of it in his lifetime, becoming so addicted that he could not function without it. At his trial in 1922, he asked for an adjournment at eleven in the morning so that he could drink some and thus continue to function (it was granted).
He tried to enter parliament at the age of thirty-one, in 1891, doing well in the poll but nevertheless failing. He did win a seat in 1906, however; during the election he paraded his racehorses through the streets of his constituency bearing slogans in his favor, and in those days such signs of worldly success did not evoke envy or resentment but were admired and rather spoke in his favor. Once elected, he was so good a speaker that none of his fellow members of the House of Commons wanted to miss his speeches, and as sophisticated a lawyer and politician as F. E. Smith (later Lord Birkenhead) believed that Bottomley was the finest parliamentary orator of the latter’s time, which was not long, however. In 1912, after a trial the year before for the recovery of monies that Bottomley had, in effect, embezzled, he was bankrupted, and since no undischarged bankrupt was allowed to sit in parliament, he was compelled to resign.
Bottomley was far from crushed: he was more like a cork that bobs up after being pushed for a moment under the water. While still a Member of Parliament, he had begun to publish a wildly patriotic, not to say xenophobic, weekly journal called John Bull that soon had a circulation of half a million, and for which he was the leading writer. He had become by far the most famous journalist in the country.
His generosity—admittedly with what, ultimately, was other people’s money—was legendary. He distributed food to the poor and arranged outings for them (which he attended himself), and no one with a hard-luck story ever wrote to him in vain.
When war broke out, he was against it—for about a week—until he caught the patriotic fervor, and not only did he find a rich vein for his articles in ultra-patriotism and the desirability of hanging the Kaiser and dismembering Germany, but he also became an inspirational and fiery patriotic speaker, encouraging young men to join up (before conscription rendered such encouragement redundant). He claimed that he was not paid for his speeches, and that any money raised went straight to funds for the assistance of the wounded soldiers; in fact he made about $2 million in today’s money by them, and at least much from his flag-wagging journalism during the war. This, unfortunately, was far from sufficient for his needs, which always exceeded his means.
Although he had no religious belief whatsoever, he thought it expedient to give a religious, or religiose, tone to his public declarations. He tailored his speeches to his fees: the larger the fee, the more exalted the tone. We now find his manner of tub-thumping in the midst of general slaughter both repellent and ridiculous, but at the time it was found inspiring:
It may be—I do not know and I do not profess to understand—that this is the great Audit of the Universe, that the Supreme Being has ordered the nations of the earth to decide who is to lead in the van of human progress. If the British Empire resolves to fight the Battle cleanly, to look upon it as Something More than an ordinary war, we shall realize that it has not been in vain, and We, the British Empire, as the Chosen Leaders of the World, shall travel along the road of Human Destiny and Progress, at the end of which we shall see the patient figure of the Prince of Peace pointing to the Star of Bethlehem which leads us to God.
This was known as his “Prince of Peace” speech, and you only got it if receipts for the night were of sufficient size.
Bottomley regarded himself as a valuable recruiter for the British army and asked the prime minister at the time, H. H. Asquith, for a government position, to which Asquith replied, with a feline kind of double entendre, that he thought Bottomley would be of greater value outside the government.
Asquith was not taken in by Bottomley, though he did nothing to halt him, unlike a socialist called C. H. Norman. In common with Bottomley, Norman had been a shorthand writer for the courts, but he was soon to be imprisoned for his uncompromising pacifism, put in a straitjacket, and force-fed (he lived to be eighty-eight, dying in 1974). In 1915, Norman published a pamphlet titled Horatio Bottomley Exposed, in which he quoted from some of the legal judgments made against Bottomley, for example Lord Justice Moulton’s in 1911:
I confess that such a series of transactions [as Bottomley’s] as it has been my duty to travel through in this case I have never seen before. In the course of a somewhat long professional life I have known many Company-mongers, many Company promoters, and many dealers in shares, but I confess I have never seen a transaction which has impressed me more deeply than this one.
As for Bottomley’s journalistic ethics, they were exposed in the case against the solicitor who acted for Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen, the most famous murderer of the first decade of the twentieth century. Bottomley, through John Bull, paid for Crippen’s defense, on condition that the solicitor procure Crippen’s written confession of his crime should he be found guilty. Bottomley had absolutely no scruples in publishing a gross and clear forgery.
Norman’s pamphlet sold very widely, and the problem for Bottomley was that all its allegations were true. But he was a resourceful and inventive man, admirably so in a way: he persuaded a printer in Birmingham, for a fee, to print six copies of the pamphlet, and then to offer no defense in a suit against him for libel. The judge and jury in the case were completely taken in, and Bottomley was awarded substantial damages that he never claimed, instead paying the printer the sum agreed beforehand. Fearing a suit against them, the publishers of Norman’s original pamphlet issued an apology to Bottomley; thus was the pamphlet discredited, though it contained nothing but the truth.
Bottomley’s downfall came through frauds audacious and gross even by his high, or low, standards. He had exhausted the possibilities of bilking the rich who no longer trusted him; now he turned his attentions to the poor, in the process confirming the dictum of the sixteenth-century German bishop who said that the poor were a gold mine.
He had discovered the possibilities of sweepstakes in the years before the war. His method was simple: he arranged the winners beforehand. In one sweepstakes, for example, he announced that the first prize of £25,000 (perhaps sixty times as much in today’s money) was a blind widow of Toulouse called Madame Glukad, who was actually the sister of one of his associates. After much initial publicity, she disappeared from view, allegedly to escape all the offers of marriage she had received. In fact, she had been paid £250, with Bottomley keeping the rest (which he had almost certainly spent beforehand).
During and immediately after the war, Bottomley offered the estimated million and a half readers of John Bull a bond of up to £5 each. The scheme was a simple one: Bottomley said that he would invest the money he received in government stock, and every six months would raffle off the interest with big prizes. The original stakes would be returnable in full on demand.
Astonishingly in view of his record, these bonds were subscribed to in huge numbers. Bottomley used the money received to get himself discharged from bankruptcy and re-elected as a member of parliament, to buy two failing newspapers (which continued to fail), on betting and high living, as well as on donations to the poor of his constituency.
One of his previous associates, Reuben Bigland, whose sister had been a beneficiary of a Bottomley sweepstakes, was stricken with conscience at all this barefaced robbery of the poor and turned with ferocity against Bottomley. (His conscience may have been awakened partly by Bottomley’s refusal to join him in an enterprise to turn water into gasoline by means of a chemical powder.) Bigland wrote a series of pamphlets attacking Bottomley, perhaps the most memorable being titled What Horatio Bottomley Has Done for His Country and the Wounded Soldiers. It has, I think, a strong claim to being the most eloquent pamphlet ever published. It consisted of the title and twenty-four blank pages.
One of Bigland’s pamphlets, however, contained detailed allegations (practically all true) that Bottomley felt had to be answered, and, like Oscar Wilde before him, he took the unwise step of suing for criminal libel. An acquittal of Bigland would almost certainly lead to the conviction of Bottomley, and so it transpired. Aged sixty-two, he was sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment, of which, in the event, he served five.
When he arrived in prison, he was so fat that could not remove his own shoes or trousers. (On a morale-boosting visit to the front during the war—Bottomley and his John Bull were immensely popular with the troops—the general with whom Bottomley was touring told him, when some firing began, to get down on his stomach, but Bottomley refused on the grounds that to do so would make him a bigger target than he was when erect.) When Bottomley was first given his prison bread and cocoa in late afternoon, he turned it down, saying that he would rather wait for dinner, not realizing that the bread and cocoa was dinner.
There were no prison clothes to fit him, and until they could be made, he remained in the prison hospital. As perhaps was to be expected of a man of his commanding personality, he was soon granted respect, and the prison warders addressed him as “Sir.” When the chaplain found Bottomley sewing mail bags, he said, “Ah, Bottomley, sewing?” “No, padre,” Bottomley replied, “Reaping.”
He was much diminished when he emerged from prison, and not only in girth and weight. He tried to start a new journal, John Blunt, but it quickly failed. He tried to revive a speaking career, but the world had moved on, and in one of his biographies there is a photograph of him, on stage not long before he collapsed and died aged seventy-two, in which he looks not pompous and bombastic, as he did in his salad days, but pathetic and supplicatory. One cannot but feel for him what one feels for Richard II.
Bottomley published a book of prison poems after his release, called Songs of the Cell,with a preface by Lord Alfred Douglas, who after all had a strong personal connection with prison poetry. Bottomley was in apostolic succession, as it were, to A. E. Housman and Oscar Wilde in their poetic accounts of execution by hanging:
And naked to the hangman’s noose
The morning clocks will ring
A neck God made for other use
Than strangling in a string. [Housman]
We waited for the stroke of eight:
Each tongue was thick with thirst:
For the stroke of eight is the stroke of Fate
That makes a man accursed,
And Fate will use a running noose
For the best man and the worst. [Wilde]
Three Sabbath days the sentence gave
For penitence his soul to save;
And then to march to gallows shed—
By neck to hang—till he be dead. [Bottomley]
In “A Death,” Bottomley recounts the death in prison of a young man wounded in France during the war:
The warders with uncovered head
Walked slowly past my cell;
And then I knew the lad was dead—
The lad we all liked well:
A lad who played a hero’s part
In Flanders with the best;
Pierced lung and shattered nerves and heart,
And shrapnel in his chest;
An arm, too, left upon the field—
A present to the Hun—
Aye all that sacrifice could yield
This criminal had done.
The lad committed a minor crime:
Then, by the only arm he had,
They dragged him into court;
The case, they said, was very bad—
The trial was very short.
And thus to Wormwood Scrubs he came
(For such there’s always room)
A number now, and not a name;
His “working tools”—a broom . . .
One day we missed him from his round;
Lung haemorrhage, they said—
They found him choking on the ground,
And brought him in to bed.
And day and night he sighed and groaned,
And struggled hard for breath,
And coughed, and bled, and cried, and moaned;
We knew it meant but death.
“Don’t let me die in here!” he cried—
“When will the order come?”
(His wife and brothers had applied
For leave to take him home.)
They told him it was on the way,
But life was ebbing fast;
“Thank God—Thank God,” he just could say—
He spoke no more; another home
Was found for him that day;
The Chariot of Death had come
To take our boy away.
And then, surprisingly, the man who had prided himself so greatly on being the county’s most effective recruiting sergeant adds:
And during restless hours that night,
Half waking, half in trance,
I wondered—Did I wrong or right?
I sent that boy to France.
Bottomley takes us on a tour of the prison hospital; after visiting twelve cells:
Afraid we mustn’t go in there—
What means that dreadful yell?
Just take a peep through this small hole—
You’ll see the padded cell.
Ah! now he’s singing songs and hymns,
And soon he’ll laugh or cry—
Oh yes, we often get them there,
They call it gpi.
gpi: General Paralysis of the Insane, the last stage of neurosyphilis. Bottomley’s description exactly fits one of the only two cases I ever saw as a doctor, and her dreadful screams ring in my mind’s ear still; I can conjure them up mentally forty-five years later.
In the next cell:
Observe this shrivelled up old man
Who sleeps through night and day—
And soon will sleep for evermore—
Advance senile decay!
They brought him in from Workhouse ward,
His sentence, “One month hard”;
His crime—they found a false return
On Old Age Pension Card!
Of course such frauds must be put down—
Sans favour and sans fear;
There’s one thing, though, I must explain—
He doesn’t know he’s here.
There’s one thing though, I must explain: the case to which Lord Justice Moulton referred was that of a senile man in his eighties whom Bottomley had cheated of the equivalent of something like $5,000,000. Was Bottomley, then, simply a heartless opportunist, a total hypocrite, or a man genuinely remorseful? Or was his mind so compartmentalized that he was unable to make any connections between the compartments? Without any knowledge of Bottomley’s life, I would have sworn that these poems were both sincere and deeply felt. But, as it is, he remains for me an enigma, as in the last resort I suppose we all are. The enigma is captured by a gift inscription in my copy of The Real Horatio Bottomley by Henry Houston, for years one of Bottomley’s closest aides and confidants, published in 1923. “Copy this man,” it says, “and you will get there.” But where is there: the height of fame, or the notoriety of prison?
One thing is certain. When Bottomley was penniless and ailing unto death, he was looked after by his favorite mistress, Peggy Primrose, the love of his life, a minor failed actress upon whose career he had spent a fortune trying to promote. She stayed with him until he died. She provided a wreath of red roses at his funeral (for which she paid) with the message “Rest, beloved. I am so glad you worked out the Karma.” She was overcome with grief as they led the coffin away.
At the very least, Bottomley must have been fun to be with. But then that is how a murderer who had dismembered the body of his best friend once described himself to me—fun to be with.
Protesters mass in France, Israel, UK and US to demand justice for Sarah Halimi
Details of the London protest from someone who was there.
The Times of Israel reported the demonstrations to urge the French Government to prosecute the killer of Sarah Halimi under criminal law thus: Protesters gathered in Paris, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, London and other cities on Sunday to demonstrate against the ruling of France’s highest court that the killer of a Jewish woman in the French capital was not criminally responsible because he had smoked marijuana before the crime.
Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Orthodox Jewish woman, was pushed out of the window of her Paris flat to her death in 2017 by neighbor Kobili Traore, who shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great” in Arabic).
The demonstration in London was a ticket only event organised by The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA). 200 people were permitted to attend under police supervision; the Paris demonstration was much bigger. My friend Cliff Dixon was at the London event and I reproduce the greater part of his report and his photographs here with his permission.
I joined with them in solidarity outside the French Embassy in London yesterday (25th April) to express our disgust at this miscarriage of justice.
Simultaneous protests had been arranged in many cities to highlight the case – In London, this was organised by The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA). Numbers here were unfortunately restricted due to Covid19 regulations which the group liaised with the local council and Police to keep within – Around 200 of us attended with tickets. The Paris event was huge and has thankfully received press coverage in the UK due to the sheer size and passion of those involved but so far has seen no comment from the aforementioned politicians and campaigners – a quick search on twitter with the hashtag shows a noticeable silence.
I got to the protest shortly before the start time and was heartened to see a number of activists I had been on previous demonstrations with in attendance.
Opening the Event
First on stage was the Chairman of the CAA, Gideon Falter. He recounted how, as a student in France, he had been shocked at the Police presence around synagogues that he had witnessed in the country due to the ongoing threat against his kin. Significantly, the point was also made that we have seen protests worldwide about racism over the past year but there has been silence regarding attitudes toward the Jews, something I myself have observed when covering marches from the likes of ‘Stand up to Racism’ where blatant Antisemitism has been on display.
Probably the most disturbing part of his speech was where he spoke of another case in France where a man high on Cocaine had thrown a dog out of the window to it’s death and had received a year in prison for the crime. Whilst he did not dwell on it, the question came in to my mind – Does a dog matter more than a Jewish woman in France today and why can one person high on drugs be convicted yet another is deemed unfit to stand trial?
A powerful voice for justice
The next speaker up was Dame Maureen Lipman. I have seen her articulate speeches on other events but I am noticing that she is getting more blunt as the atrocities pile up. I don’t blame her.
She spoke of historic Antisemism in France and how the French government seems paralysed by the fear of Jihadi retribution – Also of how the Antisemitic attacks don’t suit the leftist agenda that this is a response to the actions of the Israeli state.
The question was also asked – ‘Can a drunk driver walk free from their actions due to their intoxicated state?’ It was a point I had made myself to camera earlier in the event when interviewed and I think we know the answer.
Then a real slam dunk of an observation –
Please try to imagine the murder the other way round….would the courts have responded in the same way had a Jewish man of twenty-seven thrown a sixty-five year old devout Muslim woman to her death?
Would the world media and the Black Lives Matter movement and the extreme Left and Right have shown more interest ? I think we all know the answer.
From my own experience covering their events, I make her absolutely spot on. She followed up with the following comment – ‘On the left and in the West, Jews don’t matter’
It was pointed out that in the UK, drunken intent is still intent. This apparently doesn’t hold true in France.
Finally, a very powerful and possibly controversial point was made – The French regard themselves as the most civilised people in Europe. Yet If you can force feed geese until their liver explodes just to flavour your toast, you are probably, over the centuries, capable of putting your knee on the neck of the Jewish race.
A very brave statement that unfortunately resonates with the reality in France where the Jewish community are concerned.
Further speakers take the stage
Next up was Sophie Wiesenfeld, the founder of The Hexagon Society (A Franco-British cultural society) Her impassioned speech was given first in French and then in English urging the Paris government to see justice done.
She was followed by the Political commentator and YouTuber, Raphael Landau. He read out a list of crimes committed against Jews over the last 10 years in France. Strikingly, he pointed out that the Jewish population in France is just 1% of the overall community yet has been subject to 41% of the racist hate crime in the country over the last few years
Finally, Muslims against Antisemitism were represented by one of their trustees, Liz Arif-Fear. She called for justice in the case of Sarah Halimi and that she would always stand with her Jewish brothers and sisters across Europe as we are stronger together
The fight against AntiSemitism
A number of the speakers at the event quoted The comedian and TV personality, David Baddiel – In a recent book, he stated that ‘Jews Don’t Count’ when it comes to the ongoing campaigns against racism.
Sadly, I have seen this over the course of a number of events down the years where ‘anti racism’ campaigners either dismiss or demonise Jews. For some reason, they don’t register in their catalogue of oppressed peoples despite having a history of over 2000 years of persecution, including the Shoah where six million were executed by the Nazis amongst other historical pogroms.
The silence of the ‘woke’ to the case of Sarah Halimi only makes his words more powerful and true. If you are serious about campaigning for women’s rights and against racism worldwide, then you have to confront these issues for everyone, not just a select few. It has often been said that the Jews are the ‘Canary in the Coal Mine’ when it comes to the health of a society or civilisation. If that is the case, then the sickness needs to be confronted now – the ‘woke’ are either a part of the solution or a part of the problem. Their silence suggests the latter