All that is necessary for evil to triumph, wrote Edmund Burke (though no one seems to be quite sure where), is for good men to do nothing. This naturally raises the question as to where good men are to be found. Besides, there are many forms of goodness, not all of them useful in the struggle against evil. more>>>
It is a symptom of the denial and willful ignorance that blankets the present age that this book even had to be written, and that Ibn Warraq, a historian and social theorist of preeminent insight and wisdom, should have had to devote his considerable talents to it.
Nonetheless, we can be grateful that he has given us The Islam in Islamic Terrorism: The Importance of Beliefs, Ideas, and Ideology, as this book is breathtakingly comprehensive despite its quite manageable length, and is, quite simply, irrefutable. If there remains in the world anyone who holds that Islam is a Religion of Peace and yet has sufficient intellectual honesty and acumen to consider these arguments on their merits, this is the book to give.
First there is the necessary work of clearing away the nonsense. Ibn Warraq takes up each of the major excuses that are commonly given for Islamic jihad violence -- that it is all about Israel, or all about U.S. foreign policy, or all about poverty and lack of opportunity -- and shows why each does not and cannot sufficiently explain the phenomenon at hand.
Then he treads ground that has been much-tilled before: the exhortations to jihad violence in the Qur’an and Sunnah. But here, even the most well-informed reader will find much that is new, especially the detailed description of the Islamic concept of al-walaa wal baraa, commanding the right and forbidding the wrong, and how it leads to jihad attacks against unbelievers.
Also highly rewarding is Warraq’s examination of a subject that receives insufficient attention: the goals of jihad. Authorities in Europe and North America continue to treat jihad attacks as discrete criminal acts that have no necessary connection to any wider movement or imperative. Ibn Warraq shows here, with copious references to Islamic scholars ancient and modern, that jihad is a means of spreading Islam, and that the “greater jihad” -- the spiritualized idea so beloved of Western apologists -- actually has quite slim foundation in the Islamic sources, and is given scant attention throughout Islamic history by the religion’s foremost theologians.
The most rewarding sections of this amply rewarding book are Ibn Warraq’s surveys of jihad in theory and practice from the death of Muhammad up to the present day.
This includes a look at the Kharijites, who are often invoked by contemporary Islamic apologists as the precursors of modern terrorists and the archetypal Islamic heretics. Ibn Warraq, by contrast, demonstrates that “the fundamental principle for the Kharijites was that the Islamic community must be based on the Koran.” Those who claim the Kharijites were twisting and hijacking Islam say the same thing about contemporary jihadis, with just as little justification.
The historical survey that makes up the balance of the book is its most illuminating and valuable material. While many informed readers will know that the Qur’an exhorts jihad and that Muhammad preached and practiced it, few will be familiar with the history of jihad violence in Ninth and Tenth Century Baghdad, or with the Qadizadeli movement in 17th Century Constantinople, or with the career of Ibn Abd al-Wahhab (of Wahhabi fame) and his movement.
This is jihad doctrine as applied by Muslims throughout history. Readers will see immediately that Muslim obedience to the exhortations to jihad warfare in the Qur’an and Sunnah has been remarkably consistent in form since the beginnings of Islam.
Those who would peruse this material and then still insist that Ibn Warraq is “cherry picking” from both Islamic scripture and history, leaving out both the peaceful exhortations and the fabled eras of peace and tolerance, would be willfully and incurably blind. There are no such exhortations of any force, and no such eras, as any serious student of renowned al-Andalus will know.
The facts are, in the final analysis, quite simple: the Qur’an teaches jihad warfare. So does Muhammad. So do the mainstream Islamic theologians and jurists. And Muslims have consequently waged jihad warfare throughout history.
The Islam in Islamic Terrorism offers facts that ought to be taught in every high school and college history class; a saner age than ours would not find this book remotely controversial. It may indeed have mandated that it be put to exactly that kind of use in academic institutions.
As it is, this book will most likely not be used in schools, which will continue to purvey the half-truths and outright lies that pass for scholarly exposition of Islam these days. The students will not be the only ones who lose out. Among the losers also will be those whose lives will be taken when they otherwise could have been spared were it not for all the willful ignorance that prevents an honest evaluation of the threat we face.
Ibn Warraq has performed an immense service in The Islam in Islamic Terrorism. Anyone who wonders, and has the courage to brave the opprobrium of our self-appointed moral superiors to find out, will get the truth in this invaluable and deftly executed book.
One of the great misfortunes of history is that a young, unemployed, mediocre realistic painter of buildings and landscapes named Adolf Hitler was denied admission to the Vienna Academy of Fine Art. If he had been admitted the world would have been saved from one of the greatest calamities of humankind and the murder of millions of innocent people.
It would also have been spared the experience of one of the largest, perhaps the largest, thefts throughout the whole of Europe, and organized official plunder by special military units as more than an estimated 650,000 art objects were stolen, many from Jewish owners, constituting what should be considered as one of the milder forms of the Holocaust. Hermann Goering, in control of the ERR (Institute for the Occupied Territories) gave orders to seize Jewish art collections, and they were housed for a time at the Museum Jeu de Paume in Paris.
Some of these objects, paintings and statues, were found by American and Allied military during and after World War II by groups such as the Monuments Men who saved them from destruction. This was urgent because of the “Nero Decree” of March 19, 1945, an order by Hitler to destroy the German infrastructure to prevent its use by the advancing Allied forces, as well the destruction of the stolen art works, the Eiffel Tower, and Paris as a whole.
But many of the art objects remain missing or are kept hidden, deliberately or otherwise, by major museums in the United States and Europe, and in university sites. Much of the stolen art, by one estimate 100,000 works, has never been returned to their owners or family members. The decent and moral act of returning stolen art to the descendants of persecuted or murdered Jews has not been fulfilled. A familiar episode makes this plain. Only after considerable effort and money was Ronald Lauder able to buy Gustav Klimt’s painting AdeleBloch-Bauer I, (Lady in Gold), that had been looted, displayed in Austria’s national museum, returned after a court battle to its former Jewish family owners in 2006, bought by Lauder, and now on view in his museum in New York.
A considerable amount of missing art taken by the Nazis was unveiled as the result of a chance encounter when an elderly man named Cornelius Gurlitt, a recluse who lived alone in an apartment in Munich, Germany, and owned a house in Salzburg, Austria, was stopped by police in September 2010 during a routine passenger check when returning from Zurich to Munich. An examination of his apartment in Munich, and later his house in Salzburg found 1,406 stolen works of art by many of the great painters, including Picasso, Matisse Cezanne, Manet, and Monet.
Gurlitt had no job, no income, but survived by occasionally selling one of the paintings. All he wanted to do he said “was to live with my pictures.” The problem is that they were not his pictures. They had been acquired by his father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, a German art historian and dealer, friendly to some of the Nazi leaders especially Goering, and who made ten trips during World War II to Paris and who stole or bought art at minimum prices. Hildebrand was also one of the only four people allowed to deal with “degenerate art,” the art that Hitler detested.
Hildebrand was put under house arrest after the war but deceived his American investigators by portraying himself as a harmless academic, whose art collection had been destroyed during the Anglo-American firebombing of Dresden on February 13-15 1945, and was thus released from custody.
Part of the extraordinary collection, 250 of the 1,400 works, is now to be seen publicly for the first time in November 2017 in an exhibition, Dossier Gurlitt: Nazi ArtTheft and Its Consequences, in two museums, one in Bern, Switzerland, the designated heir of Cornelius who died in May 2014, and containing works taken from German museums in 1938, and the other in Bonn, Germany.
A number of problems exist pertinent to the art works. Their provenance is largely unknown at this point: the rightful owners of only five of them appear to have been identified; the decision of which were stolen from Jews and which were bought “legally” had to be determined; it is not clear how many of the stolen works were ever returned to their Jewish owners.
Interestingly, the focus of the exhibitions, Dossier Gurlitt will be on “Degenerate Art” which echoes the infamous Nazi Degenerate Art exhibition of July 1937 in Munich of modern, abstract, non-representational art, including works by Paul Klee, Oskar Kokoschka, Wassily Kandinsky and Max Beckmann. This show of 650 items, fulfilling Hitler’s hatred of his school of art, was deliberately hung badly, with graffiti on the walls insulting the art and the artists.
Whatever the fascination for viewers of the two exhibitions or more likely the painful reminder of the Holocaust, they provide the opportunity to focus on two relatively neglected and interrelated issues: the fact that prestigious art museums have still not evicted looted Jewish art from their holdings and display; and the slow return of art to their former rightful owners.
A just and fair solution of the threat of Jewish art holdings is necessary. This has been acknowledged by 46 states in the Terezin Declaration of June 30, 2009 which called for the restitution of art obtained in forced sales and sales under duress, as well as confiscated. The Declaration is even more compelling as Terezin was a Nazi concentration camp where thousands of Jews were killed or died from malnutrition, or were sent to death camps. Identification of Jewish owned works and restitution of them would be a befitting humanitarian response to evil words and deeds.
The third and final cycle of the French elections has concluded with a smiley. President Emmanuel Macron did indeed obtain the parliamentary majority he needed and now stands alone in majestic elevation. The Socialist party is ground to dust; the Front National's pretention to be The Opposition amounts to 6 deputies, not even enough to form a parliamentary Group; FN Mayfly ally Nicolas Dupont-Aignan narrowly won re-election as deputy but his party Debout la France is flat out; Lider Maximo Jean-Luc Mélenchon's France Insoumise is already bellowing promises to take the struggle to the street while sitting pretty in the Assemblée; the Greens are nowhere to be seen; Bayrou's MoDem reaped the harvest of his devotion to candidate Macron before getting pushed aside (more below) ; and Les Républicains, having lost more than they should have and less than predicted, are further weakened by an internal split but remain the only credible Opposition...as things now stand.
Having won the presidency with the lowest score of the 5th République, Emmanuel Macron will govern with a majority of allegiance grasped by the skin of its teeth with an abstention of 57.36%. Still, the smiley punctuates every word and every phase of the new presidency. Some of this can be chalked up to the utter relief of deliverance from François Hollande whose absence shines upon us. After five years of a "normal president" who did a poor imitation of the Scandinavian model, we now have a slim trim elegant youthful très français head of state upgraded, in the first month of the presidency, from Bonaparte to Jupiter. What do the citizens want? Told that they were tired of the same old politicians from the same old Right and Left alternating power and getting nowhere fast, they chose, lo and behold, a new face without a party, just a movement, a Right Left and Center hybrid en marche on the go. Reminded that voters always give the newly elected president a legislative majority they managed by omission or commission to do just that. Leaving the predicted landslide to slide on its own, voters sat on their convictions and let it happen, though many key races were quite close. Le peuple de la droite, the Right wing nation, supposedly furious at being deprived of its rightful victory was diminished by individual lassitude and undermined by a split in the elected LR (Les Républicains) deputies into two distinct parliamentary groups, the "Constructives" and the others. The former are somehow committed to constructive cooperation with the ruling party, leaving the latter holding the Opposition bag. All of this is subject to change when the government starts passing measures.
Washed clean of their sins
Readers will remember that the LR candidate François Fillon, who started out with a huge lead over the other presidential candidates, was reduced to tatters by an indelible scandal. Accused of paying his wife Penelope a real salary for a fictitious job as his parliamentary assistant, he was further humiliated for accepting the gift of two very expensive bespoke suits from an old friend. This was the beginning of the current rift between elements that remained loyal to Fillon to the bitter end and those that argued for his replacement by Alain Juppé, the rival he had defeated hands down in the LR Primaries. It is not just a question of personalities: Fillon represents conservative values-free enterprise, frugal government spending, increased national sovereignty, and tough security-while Juppé the soft & lite Centrist leans toward compromise on all these issues. Many of his disciples hopped onto the Macron bandwagon. It didn't earn them cabinet posts but they maintain their Macron-friendly stance. Is it true that the charming young François Baroin did not put any starch into the legislative campaign? If so, it would be a reflection of the consensus that François Fillon was not only tainted but also too tough & mean. He scared citizens by telling them their welfare state was going bankrupt, he frightened them by promising to reduce the obese civil service, and he scared them by saying we have to fight Islamic totalitarianism.
The thing about democratic elections is they are over once the votes are counted. Replaying them with what might have been is worse than trying to recover the dropped stitches of an unraveled love story.
However, some questionable financial dealings by personalities in the now victorious camp had to be dealt with before the government reached cruising altitude. Emmanuel Macron's right hand man Richard Ferrand, who served as Minister of Territorial Cohesion in the interim cabinet, was dropped in this week's shuffle. And François Bayrou, short-term Justice Minister charged with drafting the political moralization law, was sent back to his day job as mayor of Pau, while his MoDem party partners Marielle de Sarnez and Sylvie Goulard were bumped from first class seats as, respectively, European Affairs Minister and Defense Minister, to serve as simple deputies.
Though the suspected financial irregularities that led to the downsizing of Ferrand and the three MoDem cabinet ministers had been amply exposed during the presidential race, they apparently had no sting. They did not jeopardize Macron's campaign, and all of the suspected culprits were duly elected as deputies (except for Bayrou who was not a candidate).
Moralizer-in-chief Bayrou is a one-man show. After giving journalists an offhand lecture on le mot juste ("I did not resign...it's just that I will not serve in the newly shuffled cabinet") he went on to claim-convincing no one- that he had already raised the possibility three weeks earlier of an eventual resignation. As for the misuse of EU Parliament salaries, that's easy: faced with a financial crunch, the MoDem hired many of its operatives as EU parliamentary assistants but there was no fictitious employment. Meaning? The employees really did work- for the party, not their Eurodeputies-and let the EU foot the bill. The Front National is accused of the same trick & treat to the tune of 5 million euros. This explains why François Fillon was not worthy of high office whereas François Bayrou was the perfect fellow to draft the Macron government's cornerstone political moralization law.
Richard Ferrand, who directed Macron's campaign and remains one of his closest advisors, is accused of using a mutualist health insurance company as a cash cow for himself, his soon to be ex-wife, his new companion, and his IT engineer son. It is alleged that Ferrand, then director of the Mutuelle de Brest, was instrumental in accepting a bid for a rental property that would house the Mutuelle's clinic. But the successful bidder, who happened to be Ferrand's lady friend, did not acquire the property until after her bid was accepted. She created a real estate holding firm, let the Mutuelle pay for the costly renovation, and has been collecting rent ever since. When monsieur Ferrand stepped down, he was replaced by a trusted friend. Ex-madame Ferrand was reportedly remunerated for consultant's work, their son for IT services, and Ferrand for numerous missions. A preliminary investigation is underway. It may well conclude, in agreement with Richard Ferrand, that all of this was normal, legal, and moral. No sooner was Ferrand bumped out of the cabinet than the Marcheurs unanimously chose him as their whip.
Drinking smoothies on a hot summer day
Was it a glitch? A snitch? Or a proof of integrity? Welcoming the pompous Bayrou with open arms at a crucial moment in the presidential race after Emmanuel Macron, on a visit to Algeria, had accused France of committing "crimes against humanity," giving the overblown MoDem party the biggest boost in its pale career, appointing the warmed over Bayrou Minister of Justice of all things when his party's questionable use of EU Parliament funds was an open secret, and then dropping him from the cabinet like a mismatched sock once En Marche had won an absolute majority in the Parliament... without the MoDem votes...is that the brave new politics we were promised? Was it snidely cynical to appoint Richard Ferrand to the interim cabinet and let the voters of the Finistère, home of the Mutuelle de Brest, send him to Parliament? If they see nothing wrong with all that alleged nepotism, then it shouldn't be so hard to moralize political life.
Emmanuel Macron wanted to be president. He is. Wanted to fabricate a party out of a movement and a parliamentary majority out of disparate bundles of neophytes and he did it. As long as he doesn't have to use that power to accomplish any radical transformations of French society, it's just there, like delicious smoothies on a hot summer day. Everyone loved him at the Brussels conference. A few days later he was playing tennis at the facsimile Olympics set up in the center of Paris to show how much we want the 2024 Games. Journalists admire his mastery of communications. Nothing is left to chance and yet it's all so smooth and natural. The blonde first lady in powder blue visible in the background chatting with her Colombian counterpart, then sexy in black lace holding hands with her husband the President. Macron and Schwarzenegger doing a "make the planet great again" selfie. What could go wrong?
Hot rod on the Champs Elysées
A few days before a floating track was launched on the Seine and Place de l'Etoile was turned over to bicycle races, Adam Dzaziri set out to wreak havoc on les Champs Elysées. After an alert by Tunisian authorities in 2013, French services flagged Dzaziri as a security risk in 2015, assigned him to house arrest in 2016, observed with surprising indifference as he traveled three times to Turkey (notorious crossover point to the ranks of Daesh), granted him gun permits for sports shooting and renewed them in 2016, and waited patiently while he missed three appointments for an interview with law enforcement this summer. Neighbors had been complaining about suspicious activity at the home where Dzaziri lived with his parents, brother, sister-in-law, estranged wife and three children. Weapons and material for explosives were stored in the basement.
Having transmitted to several people his pledge of allegiance to the Islamic State, Dzaziri drove up the Champs Elysées in a car packed with gas canisters, handguns, an automatic Kalashnikov type rifle and 8,000 rounds of ammunition. The idea was to turn the car into a super weapon that would explode, sending shrapnel, flames, fumes, and bullets in all directions. He didn't get past the first step. He crashed into a van full of gendarmes. Yellow smoke poured out of the car. The gendarmes smashed a window, opened the door, pulled the brave jihadi out of the car, extinguished the fire, stripped the inert assailant to make sure he didn't have an explosive vest. He died of asphyxiation. President Macron, whose government is working on a new improved anti-terrorism bill is said to have remarked that gun permit files should be cross-checked with security risk files, but it was another smoothie, no one got hurt but the stupid jihadist. Family members were detained. And released. The Macron presidency is off to an impeccable start.
On the way back from a brief but fruitful meeting with documentary film maker Bo Persson ( the masterful Watching the moon at Night) I am drawn into conversation by a lovely young couple with an 8 month-old baby boy and a sister-in-law who asks if she can take a picture of me. I'm in a buoyant mood, back in Paris after 2 weeks in the United States, basking in a heat wave, no icy air conditioning beaming on me like a laser weapon. Why not? She snaps the photo, I think I can roughly situate their language. Where are you from? Georgia, the young man replies. His French is excellent. The conversation broadens and deepens.
Georgia. Tbilisi. As if I had been there myself, I knew Tbilisi from translating a fascinating memoir by the late Leon Chertok, the courageous résistant and pioneer of hypnoanalysis. He made inroads behind the Iron Curtain with scientific conferences in Tbilisi. And, more recently, I had written about how Russia bit off a chunk of Georgia without disturbing Europe's self-satisfied peace.
Are the Russians leaving you alone now? Not at all, he replied. The Russian mafia is all over the country. They steal, they kidnap people, kill people. We're an island of Christian civilization...trying to defend ourselves...without help...since the fall of Byzantium...
The wages of peace. In 2003, the French badge of honor was opposition to the "invasion" of Iraq. Peace was the precious achievement of European unity. Peace for decades while Central Europe lay crushed under the Soviet yoke and peace when Putin's Russia munched on Georgia and served itself a piece of Ukraine. And today, when Russia fills the gaps wherever the West fears to stray.
Suddenly the question coalesces in this sweet family, an island of civilization surrounded by barbaric conquest...
After meeting with Ukrainian president Petro Porochenko., Emmanuel Macron declares that France does not recognize the annexation of Crimea.
Trump's criticism of The Washington Post is warranted
by Walid Phares
President Trump's exposure of The Washington Post may be part of Washington's politics nowadays. The once mainstream and centrist daily has changed. It has shifted toward the radical side while maintaining the appearance of professionalism and journalistic style. The Post, though traditionally on the center left, has been publishing political attacks which in the 1990s would qualify as "militant" or toeing the party line. Trump is definitely changing the political landscape with his tweets, but the Post also changed from centrist journalism to "activist website" mode. The form and format of the paper and its stories may resemble how they are traditionally known to be, but the substance has been radicalized.
Last year The Washington Post opened its pages to hysterical smears against me after I was appointed as one of Donald Trump's advisors. The smearing parties, known for their support of the “Iran Deal” and their sympathy to Islamists, used the same exact material as was used by pro-Iranian regime propagandists in 2011 when I was appointed as presidential candidate Mitt Romney's national security advisor. But then it was Mother Jones, a far fringe radical weekly. Nothing from these 2011 attacks had any link to reality, and critics of Mother Jones, including individuals the publication wrongly quoted to attack me, decisively demolished the 2011 smear attempt. Stunningly, the "serious and prominent" Washington Post imported the exact same discredited Mother Jones piece and re-published it under a different name four years later after my new appointment. Unfortunately, the mainstream WaPo became a new Mother Jones in 2016. The paper has since, unsuccessfully, tried to obtain interviews and quotes from me. They lost access to significant analysis and assessments—even though they may not agree with the source—because they acted erratically and unprofessionally.
I understand the frustration of President Trump when he labels the "fake news." For I, even at my modest level, had to deal with their "fake news” hit piece last year. Unless the paper reforms and comes back to the serious and centrist positioning it was known for, they will be losing more and more access to real life assessment and diverse opinions. It should be beneath The Washington Post’s stature to cater to the Iranian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood, two fascist parties unworthy of partnership with a so-called US mainstream daily.
The National Congress Party (NCP) regime has been ruling Sudan through deception, intimidation of its opponents and releasing false propaganda through its controlled media. Since June 16, 2017, rumors have spread that General Taha Osman al Hussein, State Minister in the Presidency and the Director General of Presidential Palace, had been arrested in an failed attempted coup to overthrow the genocidal and indicted war criminal President Bashir of Sudan. The media also said that several other senior officers were arrested.
Six of these officers are believed to be from the police corps including the Director General of Sudan’s Police force, Hazim Abdelghadir. The Director of Gulf Bank, Omer Ali, and 12 senior members of the NCP were also said to have been arrested.
Saudi Passport of General Taha Osman al Husseini
Posted and circulated in media that he was arrested in Khartoum Airport trying to travel abroad
Taha, who is believed to have dual Sudan-Saudi Arabian nationality, was allegedly planning to stage a military coup against President Bashir of Sudan. It was widely circulated among Sudanese social media. It was stated that the coup failed after Taha was arrested at the Khartoum Airport when he was trying to travel aboard with his wife by the security forces who were secretly following his activities including phone calls. In addition to the failed coup, Taha was also accused of passing secret information about Sudan to foreign governments. The rumors also suggested that Taha had secured the support of some foreign leaders to overthrow President Bashir during the Riyadh Islamic conference where Taha was representing President Bashir, who declined to attend. Rumors also suggested that the NCP had split into two groups and President Bashir had been placed under house arrest. The rumors went on saying that the government imposed a curfew in Khartoum and ordered removal of all Rapid Support Force/Janjaweed militias from Khartoum and Kordofan sending them to Darfur.
General Hazim Abdelgadir, Director General of Sudan’s Police Force
This picture appeared in the social media that he has been arrested
According to various Sudanese and other social media, Taha was planning a coup with the support of General Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo (Hemetti) the Commander of the Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces to overthrow President Bashir. The information about Taha staging a coup in Khartoum, widely circulated in the social media, probably is not true because there is no apparent political tension creating a security situation. It is also evident that there is neither an expulsion of RSF/Janjaweed militias nor imposition of a curfew in the capital of Khartoum.
What is true is that, General Taha was relieved from his positions. All other information said on Taha failed coup are likely scenarios developed by Bashir’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) agents to draw public attention away from the Qatar-Saudi crisis. It is well-known that President Bashir’s regime needs the support of both Qatar and Saudi Arabia governments. Bashir and his regime cannot survive without their support. Bashir also could not take a position supporting either side and leaving the other. Both Qatar and Saudi governments need Bashir’s support especially Saudi Arabia because of Bashir’s Janjaweed militias supporting Saudis in Yemen war. Qatar is also using President Bashir to train and finance global terrorists such as the groups in Libya, Mali and elsewhere.
President Bashir’s regime is trying to play the role of mediator despite the fact that Saudi Arabia requested the Sudan regime to clearly chose its position. The issue of Taha’s failed coup attempt and arrest is more likely a staged event to draw public attention away from Arab countries’ recent crisis with the State of Qatar. Qatar is a major supplier of funding support for the RSF/Janjaweed genocide campaigns in the conflict zones of Darfur, Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile South Kordofan regions.
However, General Taha was relieved from his positions. All failed coup scenarios were likely developed by Bashir’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) agents to draw public attention away from the Qatar-Saudi crisis. It is well-known that President Bashir’s regime needs the support of both Qatar and Saudi Arabia governments. Bashir and his regime cannot survive without their support. Bashir also could not take a position supporting either side and leaving the other. President Bashir’s regime is trying to play the role of mediator despite the fact that Saudi Arabia requested the Sudan regime to clearly chose its position. The issue of Taha’s failed coup attempt and arrest is more likely a staged event to draw public attention away from Arab countries’ recent crisis with the State of Qatar. Qatar is a major supplier of funding support for the RSF/Janjaweed genocide campaigns in the conflict zones of Darfur, Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile South Kordofan regions .
 Lt. Gen. Abdallah is Chairman of the Sudan Unity Movement (SUM). He is a native of North Darfur who joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in 1984 and became active in the Nuba Hills and Darfurian resistance movements. In 1989 he joined the Patriotic Salvation Movement in neighboring Chad based in Darfur. He served as an officer in the Chadian army for 23 years. He held senior intelligence and counterterrorism posts including as Coordinator of the Multi-National Joint Task Force of Nigeria, Chad and Niger. He was Coordinator of Pan-Sahel Initiative (PSI) Anti-Terrorism Unit of Chad and Commander of PSI Anti-Terrorism Battalion of Chad 2004. He is a December 2002 graduate of the Intelligence Officers’ Advanced and Combating Terrorism Courses, US Army Intelligence Center and Schools, Fort Huachuca, Arizona. He was a Counter Terrorism Fellow and a Graduate of the College of International Security Affairs, National Defense University, Washington, DC, 2005. He was an International Fellow and Graduate of the US Army War College, Class of 2008. He was Graduate of Nigeria Armed Forces Command and Staff College Course 22, of the year 2000.
Obama’s Footprint Blocks Trump’s Success in Western Hemisphere
Uproot Personnel, Apply the Cuba Reversal to Guatemala
by Steve Hecht
On June 16 in Miami, President Trump reversed Obama’s Cuba policy with a new approach that emphasizes basic freedoms and personal opportunity.
On the same day, also in Miami, Vice President Mike Pence met with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales to speak about the need for security and prosperity in Central America.
Pence reiterated the US commitment to aid programs; he made special mention of Guatemala’s Justice Ministry, as well as the International Commission Against Impunity and Corruption (CICIG).
Trump and Pence have taken a giant step forward with Cuba. But for their hemispheric policy to succeed, they must first remove the footprintthat Obama left in Guatemala.
In Morales, Pence encountered a political novice and surprise electoral winner. Guatemala’s president has now served for over a year without getting his hands on the reins of power.
On assuming the presidency in January 2016, Morales had made very few appointments to his government. He knew the people he wanted for the key Ministry of the Interior, which is in charge of police and law enforcement; but Morales’s candidates were not to the liking of the US embassy or the CICIG.
The CICIG’s mandate is to protect Guatemala from extra-legal organizations that threaten the liberties of its citizens. Tied to US aid and appointed by the United Nations, the CICIG is not supposed to involve itself in routine presidential appointments. As for the US embassy, its mission does not include meddling in a host country’s internal affairs.
Morales’s predecessor had said he saw “no problem” with a key Interior Ministry appointee: Oscar Platero, a retired army officer whose expertise is precisely in breaking up the kinds of clandestine organizations that the CICIG is charged with dismantling.
But Platero was suddenly out of a job. An official spokesman explained that the retired officer did not have a “constructive working relationship” with the CICIG.
Nómada, a progressive website, reported that Morales “opted to cede” the Interior Ministry to the coalition of the Justice Ministry, the CICIG, and the US embassy. Those parties, Nómada said with evident satisfaction, “can rest assured because they have a trusted counterpart” in the new interior minister.
Under Obama, the US embassy in Guatemala was an outpost of radical activism. That statement especially applies to the current ambassador, Todd Robinson, an Obama holdover who today acts as if he were representing the views of the Trump administration.
With help from Obama’s three US ambassadors and Guatemala’s Justice Ministry, guerrilla militias have taken the place of legitimate authorities and extended their rule across much of the countryside. Those militias descend directly from guerrilla groups trained and financed by Fidel Castro; their partisans have been working for decades to overthrow Guatemala’s constitutional republic.
The militias, whom we have personally encountered, are agents of impoverishment and destitution. Their rule is brutal, and unopposed. Local police, who take their orders from the Interior Ministry, say they are powerless to act against the militias or to protect the populace from them. According to the UN high commissioner for refugees, the US has seen a nearly five-fold increase in asylum seekers from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras since 2008, on account of “surging violence.”
The rule of the militias in rural Guatemala is an obvious barrier to the Trump-Pence program for greater security and development. Taking them out would reduce the flow of illegal immigrants and drugs to the United States, but Ambassador Robinson protects the militias. After Trump’s accession, Robinson had the cheek to announce — clearly without Washington’s okay — that “nothing will change” in US policy.
In his meeting last week, the US vice president was not really talking to Guatemala’s president. The man on the other side of the table, in effect, was Trump and Pence’s own ambassador.
An opponent of the Obama policy in Cuba and Guatemala is Cristy López, whose Cuban parents fled Castro’s regime in the 1960s. Every Wednesday, López and other women of the protest group “Guatemala Immortal” flood into the spectator gallery at Congress, which under pressure from Robinson is now passing measures that will put the country’s judiciary into the hands of the country’s radicals.
“It is ironic and sad,” López said, “that we have needed to dress in white, like the Cuban Damas de Blanco to go to the Congress and openly oppose changes that leftist groups linked to Castro are trying to impose on Guatemala with the help of the United States.”
If Trump and Pence hope to have a positive impact in Central America, they must undo Obama’s legacy, a process that begins with recalling Ambassador Robinson. Otherwise, the insecurity in the hemisphere and lawlessness on the southern border will worsen rapidly.
For the first time in nearly two decades, Ramadan has come and gone without the White House recognizing it with an iftar or Eid celebration, as had taken place each year under the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations.
And the article by Amy Wang attempts to suggest that the “tradition” of the Iftar Dinner goes all the way back to Thomas Jefferson who, as is well known, was asked by a visiting Muslim envoy of the Bey of Tunis, one Sidi Soliman Mellimelli, to postpone the dinner to which Jefferson had invited him, along with others, until after sundown, which Jefferson, as a matter of courtesy, did.
The Post continues:
Jefferson’s decision to change the time of the meal to accommodate Mellimelli’s [the envoy from the Bey of Tunis] observance of Ramadan has been seized on by both sides in the 21st-century debate over Islam more than 200 years later. Historians have cited the meal as the first time an iftar took place in the White House — and it has been referenced in recent White House celebrations of Ramadan as an embodiment of the Founding Father’s respect for religious freedom. Meanwhile, critics on the far right have taken issue with the characterization of Jefferson’s Dec. 9, 1805, dinner as an iftar.
Notice how in the Post article it is “historians” (disinterested, authoritative, not to be doubted) who cite that 1805 meal as the first Iftar dinner in the White House, while those who deny that the meal was an “Iftar dinner” are described as being on the “far right,” apparently for no other reason than that very denial.
What actually happened is clear for those without an insensate need to make Islam, as Barack Obama has repeatedly claimed it was, “always part of America’s story.” And you can be as left-wing as all get out, and still recognize that Jefferson was not putting on an Iftar dinner. A little history will help: Mellimelli came to Washington as the envoy of the Bey of Tunis. The Americans had blockaded the port of Tunis, in order to force the Bey to halt his attacks on American shipping. Mellimelli was sent to make an agreement that would end the blockade. Invited by Jefferson to a dinner at the White House set for 3:30 (dinners were earlier in those pre-Edison days of our existence), he requested that it be held after sundown, in accordance with his Muslim practice, and Jefferson, a courteous man, obliged him. There is no hint that the dinner had changed in any way; no one then called it, or thought of it, as an “Iftar dinner.” Mellimelli himself did not describe it as an “Iftar dinner.” There is no record of it being anything other than the exact same dinner, the same menu, with wine (no removal of alcohol as would be necessary were it a real Iftar dinner), the only change being that of the three-hour delay until sunset. Nothing Jefferson said or did at the time, or in his later writings, indicates that he thought of that delayed dinner as an “Iftar dinner”; nor did he think he was in any way honoring Islam.
In fact, Jefferson had a very dim view of Islam, which came out of his experience in dealing with the Barbary Pirates, that is, the North African Muslims (in Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli), who attacked Christian shipping and seized ships and Christian sailors, and then demanded ransom. The sums were not trivial; the American Republic found itself spending 20% of its national budget on such payments. These continued until Jefferson became President, stopped the practice of paying such tribute, and instead made war on the Barbary Pirates. And that worked.
In 1786, years before he became president, Jefferson, along with John Adams, met with the Tripolitanian envoy Sidi Haji Abdrahaman in London. Perhaps by then Jefferson had read the Qur’an he had purchased in 1765 out of curiosity (no one knows how much of that Qur’an Jefferson may have read, or when, though some Muslim apologists have baselessly claimed he must have bought his Qur’an out of sympathetic interest in Islam.) If he did read it, it would have helped him to understand the motivations of the North African Muslims. Certainly by the time he became President in 1801, he was determined not to negotiate with the Barbary Pirates, but to implacably oppose with force these Muslims whom, he knew from his encounter with Abdrahaman in London, were permanently hostile to all non-Muslims.
In London, Jefferson and Adams had queried the Tripolitanian ambassador “concerning the ground of the pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury” for the Americans had done nothing to deserve being attacked, and the ambassador replied, as Jefferson reported:
“It was written in their Koran, that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every mussulman who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise.”
And later, Jefferson reported to Secretary of State John Jay and to Congress at greater length, with a nearly identical quote from the ambassador:
“The ambassador answered us that [the right] was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”
These reports do not sound as if they came from someone who thought well of Islam. The more dealings Jefferson had with the representatives of the Barbary states, and the more he learned from them directly of the tenets of the faith, the more he began to understand the aggressive nature of Islam, the centrality of Jihad, the inculcation of permanent hostility toward non-Muslims, and the heavenly reward for Jihadis slain in battle.
The Iftar dinner “tradition” begins not with Jefferson in 1805, and that three-hour delay in a meal that was otherwise unchanged, but with our latter-day interfaith outreach presidents — Clinton, Bush, Obama — each of whom, in his own way, has managed to ignore or misinterpret the texts and teachings of Islam.
That “tradition” of Iftar dinners in the White House is less than 20 years old, as compared with the other “tradition,” ten times as long, that is, the 200 years of Iftar-less presidencies. That short-lived “tradition” has been ended, for now, by an administration that, for all of its self-inflicted wounds and woes in other areas, continues to exhibit a better sense of what Islam, foreign and domestic, is all about, than its predecessors, and has no desire to obliquely honor it.
The interfaith outreach farce that the Iftar Dinner at the White house embodies, honoring Islam — while, all over the world, every day brings fresh news of Muslim atrocities against non-Muslims, more than 30,000 such attacks since 9/11/2001 alone, not to mention attacks as well against other Muslims deemed either of the wrong sect, or insufficient in the fervor of their faith — now comes to an end, if only for four years. That is certainly what Jefferson (and John Adams, and that most profound presidential student of Islam, John Quincy Adams), if not The Washington Post, would have wanted.
And since John Quincy Adams has been mentioned, why doesn’t The Washington Post take it upon itself to share with its readers what that most scholarly of our presidents wrote about Islam. It does not date. And it might prove most instructive.
The new film, Wonder Woman, a blockbuster extravaganza, is the latest in the superhero genre, but several aspects of it are worth noting.
First is the conception of Wonder Woman herself. Even strict feminists will have difficulty with Irving Berlin’s sharpshooter Annie Oakley’s boast to her male rival that “Anything you can do I can do better. I can do anything better that you” More in keeping with the feminist principle of parity rather than superiority, and now illustrated in glorious 3D technology, is the character of the heroine in the new film Wonder Woman who breaks the stereotype of women in action films as weaker than men and can coequal Superman and Batman in accomplishments, but who views herself in the worldwide struggle for justice and truth as an equal partner of the man she lovers rather than his superior. While she sometimes assumes leadership because of her superhuman power, she does not crow about it.
By coincidence, some of the themes in the film, war and peace, partnership, nationalism and cosmopolitanism, familiar subjects, now illustrated by two events in July 2017. One is the auction in Britain of a newly discovered document. It is a secret dossier written on June 12, 1914 by Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, head of the Navy. It suggests, 80 years ahead of its time, the building of a tunnel between Britain and France with an emergency drawbridge in case the UK went to war with France.
The other event, one of the most popular sports events in the world, is the Tour de France, the 2200 mile three week bicycle tournament, starting on July 2, 2017 in Dusseldorf, going through Belgium and Luxembourg, before finishing at the Champs Elysees in Paris on July 23.
The film Wonder Woman tackles serious issues of war and peace and expressions of collaboration and nationalism that leads to bloodshed, as well the conflict between good and evil. They are at the crux of this top grossing film, an imperfect film in its plot, consistency, pacing, and length, but one also a spectacular extravaganza blockbuster with stunning action and violence and provocative by its references and allusions. Historical mistakes, such as the killing of General Erich Ludendorff who in fact died in 1937, a prominent nationalist and promoter of the myth the Germany lost World War I because it was stabbed in the back by Jews and others, are easily forgiven.
Wonder Woman is concerned with actions in World War I in 1917 and 1918. The film is capable of various, if misguided, serious interpretations, and of imaginative allusions to reality, but all these must be set in the context of an entertainment production, of an action film based on comic books, and with a sly sense of humor. How seriously are we to take any messages we think emanating from the film, or unintended contemporary allusions? They would include references to German nationalism, the danger of Islamist terrorism, the production and use of poisonous gases by Germans, the Holocaust, the heroine as Joan of Arc, criticism of the Christian Church because of a church used in the film by a German sniper to kill Belgian civilians, a deceitful British Foreign Office, British appeasement of German aggression, and the “war to end all wars.”
In one sense, WW is a simple adventure story, starting with the life and military training of the group of women Amazons in the Mediterranean island of Themyscira, segregated and isolated in which men are absent and presumably to be shunned. Although the episode suffers from cartoon like exaggeration, of their warrior nature, it may reflect the contrast between these independent tough women and the reality in the outside world of the lack by women of power and authority. The episode suffers from a lack of humanity.
The film is mainly the story of Wonder Woman, the selfless and noble Amazon heroine Diana, no allusion to the former Princess of Wales or to her sad death. One almost hears the crash of glass as if Diana is breaking through the ceiling, as does the woman director, Patty Jenkins, whose film is now the most successful one directed by a woman. It is also telling, and not altogether coincidental, that the character is played by Gal Gadot, former model and Israeli actress, who comes from the suburbs of Tel Aviv, served in the Israel Defense Forces at the age of 20 as a combat instructor, and spoke in 2014 during the Gaza war of Israelis "protecting my country against the horrible acts conducted by Hamas who are hiding like cowards behind women and children."
The character Diana, is a strong, female figure, using her super-strength, magic weapons, and combat skill to combat the enemy. But who is the enemy? She is not protecting her “country,” as Gadot did in real life, but rather “humanity” from the conflicts in the world. At first naïve and idealistic, she learns as a result of her encounters that there is no single monster, such are Ares, the classical world’s God of war, and seemingly the embodiment of Ludendorff to be conquered. Rather it is evil in the human being.
In considering Wonder Woman it is pertinent to look at the role of women, lesser than that of men, in politics. France today illustrates changes. No superwoman has emerged to fight evil in France, though Marine Le Pen sadly and incorrectly thought she might be the reincarnation of one. But Diana would be encouraged and delighted by the recent changes occurring in France especially as the film begins and ends in the Louvre in Paris. Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron may be teasing President Donald Trump with his announcement of a program of making “the planet great again,” as well as his decisions to stop granting licenses for new oil and gas exploration.
Diana, Wonder Woman, would be more interested in the electoral victory of La Republique en Marche, Macron’s political party, winning 350 of the 577 seats in the National Assembly on June 18, 2017, though with a low turnout, which raises the possibility of important changes in France in economic and other matters, and in rejection of extreme nationalism.
More important for Wonder Woman is the fact that 223 women, 38% of the total of 577, were elected to the National Assembly, a record for female representation in the French parliament. Already a law of June 2000 required the political parties have 50% of their candidates be women. A woman Barbara Pompili has been proposed as head of the National Assembly. Women are not unknown in French politics, as Simone Weil, Edith Cresson, Francoise Giraud, and Martine Aubry have illustrated.
However, the number of women elected has increased with each parliament, and reflects the growth of women in all sectors of French life. Macron has illustrated this growth by his appointments of his cabinet, half of whom are women, though only one, Sylvie Goulard at Defense, was at one of the top five roles and resigned on June 23, 2017. It remains for a real life Wonder Woman to break the glass ceiling completely.
A specter haunts Europe—this time, not that of Communism, as the opening lines of The Communist Manifesto famously assert, but that of Adolf Hitler. Nearly three-quarters of a century after Hitler’s death, the mere mention of his name instills fear in disputants’ hearts and brings debate to a stop. The reductio ad Hitlerum is now the most powerful of rhetorical weapons; and the faintest, most far-fetched, or plainly false analogy of an idea or proposal to anything that Hitler said or did is often sufficient to discredit it. I doubt that there are many who, in the heat of an argument, have never scrupled to use it.
The reductio ad Hitlerum (or to Nazism, which, in effect, is the same thing, since without Hitler, there would have been no Third Reich) can be insinuated into the most arcane discussions. A few years ago, on a lecture tour in Germany, I had dinner at the home of the local representative of the group that had invited me. He was a cultivated, friendly man, born after the end of World War II, who ran a forestry company. That very afternoon, he confided, he had held a staff meeting to try to devise a company motto. Someone suggested Holz mit Stolz—“Wood with Pride”—and a two-hour argument ensued as to whether the word “pride” represented the first step on a slippery slope to Auschwitz.
I was astonished, since no one present at the meeting could possibly have been personally responsible for Nazism; but there are those, no doubt, who think that Nazism was the apotheosis of German history and that, for reasons deeply inscribed in Germany’s cultural DNA, it remains, and will forever remain, a danger there.
The story of the republishing of Mein Kampf in Germany is suggestive in this regard. Hitler’s book was not formally banned in the country, but the state of Bavaria held the copyright and, until it expired in 2015, never allowed a reprint. To preempt a surge of republication interest and sales once anyone could put out the book, the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich, with a large subsidy from Bavaria, spent three years preparing a scholarly edition of 2,000 pages, with 3,500 footnotes. This edition was intended to achieve several contradictory ends: to limit purchases of the book by means of its high price while simultaneously satisfying and sapping demand for it, thereby discouraging publishers from putting forth other editions; to intimidate and perhaps bore readers with an overwhelming scholarly apparatus; and, finally, to demonstrate the absurdity, contradictions, nullity, staleness, and evil of Hitler’s ideas.
This manner of dealing with Mein Kampf—discouraging its free circulation while not outright banning it—reveals a profound nervousness, whether justified or not (I think not), about the continued appeal of Nazism to the German population. It assumes a large pent-up demand for the book, which, without detailed refutation of its empirical claims and exposure of its moral monstrosity, would convert a significant proportion of its readers to its worldview, leading to their resurrection of the Nazi party.
Traveling on a train in Germany, I happened to sit opposite a German doctor, a woman a few years older than I. Since I had just visited the Netherlands, we started to talk about euthanasia, now widely practiced there. “What would the world say,” the German doctor asked, “if what was being done in Holland was being done in Germany?”
In the abstract, it should make no difference where euthanasia is being performed. If patients have the right to easeful death in the Netherlands, why should they not have the same right in Germany? Alternatively, if it is unethical in Germany, why should it be ethical in the Netherlands? Philosophers who argue about the question of euthanasia seldom include the historical context in their deliberations. Does the sensitivity of Germans about this topic—doctor-assisted suicide remains against the law in the country, and even the German term for euthanasia is rarely used—do them credit, or does it reveal deep doubts about themselves, or both?
Not that the Netherlands is completely at ease with its record under the Nazi occupation. Seven thousand Dutchmen volunteered for the SS, and a higher proportion of Dutch Jews died in the Holocaust—three-quarters of them, more than twice the proportion in Belgium, for example, and three times more than in France—than in any other occupied country of Western Europe. Whatever the reasons for this disproportion—the relatively unpropitious Dutch landscape for a life of clandestinity is surely one—unease about it is inevitable. According to one historian of the Holocaust in the Netherlands, Marnix Croes:
On the whole, the Dutch reacted to the German occupation, including the persecution of the Jews, with a high degree of cooperation, following their reputed tradition of deference to authority. This did not change when the deportations started, and it lasted until the beginning of 1943. . . . [T]here was for a long time little doubt that the bureaucracy would not sabotage German-imposed measures, and in fact these were thoroughly implemented.
As Croes observed, “the Dutch bureaucracy assisted the Germans, primarily through population registration; the Dutch police helped, and Dutch bounty hunters, lured by blood money, tracked down Jews in hiding.”
It is still illegal to sell Mein Kampf in the Netherlands (as it is in Austria), and in 2014, a merchant of totalitarian memorabilia wound up prosecuted for having done so. He received no punishment (the prosecutor had demanded a fine of more than $1,000) because his lawyer argued successfully that modern technology had overtaken the ban: anyone who wanted to read the book could get it on the Internet. But the court noted that Mein Kampf was a hateful book, inciting anti-Jewish violence, and thus should remain illegal to sell. In other words, for the court, the Dutch were still susceptible to the siren song of Nazism.
Mein Kampf has never been banned in France except under the occupation, when German authorities blacklisted it so as to avoid stirring up anti-German sentiment. But in 1979, a court ordered that it should be published with an accompanying warning—12 pages—about its content. The warning includes the following paragraph:
Mein Kampf, which is certainly an indispensable document for the understanding of contemporary history, is also a polemical and propagandistic work whose violent spirit is not foreign to the present era, and could still thereby contribute, despite the inanity of its theories, to a renewal of racial hatred or to the exacerbation of xenophobia.
On the expiry of the book’s copyright in 2015, a prominent French lawyer, Philippe Coen, founder of the Hate Prevention Initiative, wrote a new introductory warning, more or less repeating the earlier one and urging the public to report any edition that failed to carry an appropriate caution. It is hard to think of any other book—certainly not The Communist Manifesto, which could, after all, contribute to a renewal of class hatred—to which the fixing of such a warning might be considered necessary.
Even today in France, the occupation is a preoccupation. The torrent of books about it shows no sign of diminishing. And though those who experienced the occupation are rapidly dying off, their stories continue to exercise a powerful effect on the imagination.
My mother-in-law, for instance, who lives in Paris, and who lived through the occupation, was traveling on a bus, heading home. She began talking with an old woman sitting next to her, who asked her where she lived. My mother-in-law told the old woman the name of the avenue; the old woman asked about the building number, and then the number of her apartment. On being told, the old woman burst into tears, for it was exactly the flat in which she had remained hidden by Gentiles during the occupation, never knowing from one day to the next whether her presence might be discovered, the police station across the way having become the local Kommandatur.
In May 1944—just three months before the liberation—the brother of one of my mother-in-law’s neighbors was taken from Drancy, the holding camp for Jews in the suburbs of Paris, and deported, with 899 others, to Estonia, from where only 22 returned alive, not including him.
One can easily imagine the appalling distress that those who claim that the Holocaust never took place cause to people who lost relatives in such ways, but that is not the reason Holocaust denial is illegal in France (and in many other European countries). If it were, we could expect repeal when the last person with a living memory of the Holocaust has died. That won’t happen, though, because the purpose of the law is not to prevent distress but to prevent repetition: in other words, the attraction to Nazism or to Nazi-like sentiments must lie just under the surface of European social democracies. Hitler could return.
The fear of Hitler and anything remotely to do with his legacy are evident in the story of Léon Degrelle and his cremation ashes. Degrelle was the leader of the Rex movement in Belgium before the war, and he was never very popular, even at his movement’s apogee. At first, he was a Belgian nationalist, strongly Catholic, but he grew more and more extreme, eventually becoming an arch-collaborator and a committed Nazi during the German occupation of Belgium. He helped raise a Wallonian division of the SS and went to fight on the Eastern Front, part of the one-third of that division that survived. Hitler decorated him in 1944. Degrelle claimed, without corroboration, that the Führer told him that, if he had ever had a son, he would have wanted him to be Léon Degrelle.
In May 1945, Degrelle fled to Spain. He was condemned to death in absentia but was protected by Spanish authorities, including the brother of the future queen of Belgium, Fabiola. Later, the socialist prime minister of Belgium and subsequent secretary general of NATO, Paul-Henri Spaak, made no efforts to have Degrelle extradited (in part because of Spaak’s own political equivocations regarding the occupation, at least until he fled to London to form a Belgian government-in-exile). Until his death at 87 in 1994, Degrelle lived in Spain, writing apologetics and Holocaust-denial tracts, including one directed at Pope John Paul II, demanding to know why, if the pope had been a resister, he had not himself ended up in Auschwitz, where he would have seen that the extermination camp was nothing of the kind—that it was a myth concocted by Jews and Freemasons.
It was Degrelle’s wish that his ashes be returned to Belgium, near his birthplace; but a government decree mandated that his remains should never be allowed on Belgian soil, doubtless to avoid them becoming an object of veneration or pilgrimage. Underlying this rational argument, however, one senses an elemental apprehension, inspired by the legend of Dracula, that somehow Degrelle’s ashes would emanate and spread evil.
Degrelle had been a prolific and talented journalist—of the sarcastic-abuse school. Before the war, he deplored the moral decay of his society, the pettiness and corruption of its parliamentary politics, and society’s domination by financial interests—what he might have called, but did not call, the 1 percent. He did, however, coin and use the term “banksters” for those he viewed as hybrid financiers and gangsters. According to a recent biography of Degrelle by Arnaud de la Croix, the memory of Degrelle is used in Belgium today by those who seek to divert attention from current financial scandals: since Degrelle denounced financial scandals, those who now denounce financial scandals must be like Degrelle. This is the reductio ad Hitlerum at one remove, for just as there would have been no Nazi regime without Hitler, so there would have been no Degrelle, at least other than as the leader of an evanescent, extremist groupuscule.
The reductio ad Hitlerum can reach remote or arcane places. In 1999, Robert Proctor, a historian of science, published The Nazi War on Cancer, which raised the possibility that the man usually most credited with discovering that smoking cigarettes caused lung cancer, the eminent British epidemiologist Sir Richard Doll, had developed his ideas during a prewar visit to Nazi Germany, where the connection between smoking and cancer was first investigated scientifically. Doll neither acknowledged nor cited the German research until 30 years after the publication of his own work on the subject. It is unlikely, though possible, that Doll, who knew German, became aware of that research only late in the intervening period; his few published recollections of his time in Nazi Germany seem evasive, and he was at pains to point out the scientific defects of the German research by the standards of modern epidemiology.
It is likely that Doll feared that an early and frank acknowledgment of any inspiration that he might have drawn from work carried out in a similar field in Germany during the Nazi period would have discredited it; the reductio ad Hitlerum would have been brought to bear against it. Even without such an argument, he had to struggle hard enough against those who did not want to accept the irrefutable evidence (this was a time, after all, when Camel cigarettes were advertised as the brand that doctors preferred).
One of the most important German papers that Doll would not have read until after the war—it was published in 1943, when German medical literature rarely reached the Allies—was translated into English only in 2001 and published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, whose editor, George Davey Smith, another eminent British epidemiologist, said:
The abhorrent legacy of the Nazis, and especially the memory of the medical experiments of Mengele and his collaborators, means that we have overlooked any positive scientific contributions from this era, and this is one such example. . . . While we distance ourselves from the immorality of Nazi medicine, it is ironic that in many ways in Britain and America we now view smoking as the Nazis themselves did in the 1930s and 1940s—we view it as on the one hand a public health pariah, and on the other as an important means of tax revenue. Similarly, the tobacco industry has tried to use the fact that the Nazis were against smoking to discredit the clear evidence that smoking is highly detrimental to health.
Just as there is a positive argument from authority (it is right to do something because X did it), so there is a negative argument from authority (it is wrong to do something because X did it); and I have more than once heard people argue that bans or restrictions on smoking are wrong because they are the first step on the slippery slope to Nazi totalitarianism. The problem with this argument is that one can use it to prove that anything can lead to anything else.
The reductio ad Hitlerum is an argument from historical analogy, and analogy is, by definition, always inexact; otherwise, it would be repetition. As no less a person than Karl Marx put it, “history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”—that is, it does not, and cannot, repeat itself exactly. While analogical historical reasoning cannot be altogether eliminated, therefore, it must be used with judgment, discretion, discrimination, and care. History teaches neither nothing nor everything; and it is as dangerous to use it wrongly as to disregard it altogether.
When the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, decided to take in 1 million migrants and refugees (the precise numbers have yet to be established and probably never will be), it is difficult to believe that thoughts of Hitler and Nazism were far from her mind. Hitler believed that the German national interest was the touchstone of morality; anything that served it, in his opinion, was justified. So catastrophic was this monstrous ethic that for a long time, it seemed virtually impossible for anyone other than a neo-Nazi to speak of the German national interest. When Germany won the soccer World Cup in 2014, the nation exploded in joy and celebration. Newspapers suggested that Germany had finally overcome its postwar feelings of guilt, so that it was possible for Germans to express an unapologetic pride in their country. This, however, seems false: everyone understands that, in this context, sport is unimportant, a distraction. A rally to celebrate the German trade surplus as a vindication of the German people compared with its neighbors would be another thing entirely—and it is inconceivable that it would take place.
One can imagine no policy more distant from Hitler’s than Merkel’s acceptance of the million migrants. Her gesture says: we Germans are as far from Hitler as it is possible to be. We need not think whether the policy is wise or just; it is sufficient that it should distinguish us from what we were before.
It is not only in Germany, however, that the national interest may not be mentioned for fear of appealing to Nazi-like sentiments; indeed, any such appeal routinely winds up labeled as “far right,” a metonym for Hitler or Nazism. The identification is a means of cutting off whole areas of inquiry, nowhere more so than in the question of immigration.
One of the justifications for the European Union that I have often heard is that it brings peace to the continent. This, usually unbeknown to its proponents, is an argument ad Hitlerum, for the likeliest source of war on the continent is Germany: Portugal would never attack Denmark, for example, or Sweden Malta. No: what is being said here is that the Germans, being Germans, are inherently militaristic and racist nationalists, and the logical consequence or final analysis of these traits is Nazism; and that unless Germany is bound tightly into a supranational organism, it will return to violent conquest. I personally do not believe this.
Recently, with Donald Trump’s election as president, the reductio ad Hitlerum has crossed the Atlantic. The comparisons of Trump with Hitler are (as I write) coming thick and fast. Here is what New York mayor Bill de Blasio’s former press secretary, Karen Hinton, wrote in the Daily News:
Normally people hesitate to compare any violator of human and civil rights on a grand scale to Hitler for fear of minimizing what Hitler did. And, while most Americans can never know what it was like to be Jewish in the time of Hitler, perhaps we—after ten days of Trump—can start to imagine, especially if we recall what we know about Germany in Hitler’s adolescent days.
As a matter of observable fact, people are not reluctant to compare others with Hitler in a non-metaphorical way, or to espy full-blown Nazism on the faintest of analogies. In France, I would sometimes see the following graffito sprayed on buildings: SARKOZY = HITLER. I have little doubt that the graffitists, through ignorance and a lack of perspective, meant it literally, or thought that they did so.
There is, moreover, a vast and extensive literature to help Americans (and others) to know “what it was like to be Jewish in the time of Hitler,” much of it of sufficient quality to supply the imagination; and if really we can “start to imagine” it after ten days of Trump, this would be testimony either to our ignorance or to our lack of imagination, or both—the very ignorance or lack of imagination that allows us to make such outrageously far-fetched comparisons in the first place.
If you insist on fighting specters, you may well fall prey to monsters.
Piers Morgan had Tommy Robinson on his show recently, but only very briefly, and he hardly let Robinson have a word edgewise, interrupting him at every turn. Here is how it went:
Piers Morgan, co-host of “Good Morning Britain,” angrily denounced Tommy Robinson, an author and famous British critic of Islam, his guest on June 20, and called him a “bigoted lunatic” while debating his controversial response to the recent attack on Muslims in London.[Morgan had mistakenly identified Muslims leaving the notorious Finsbury mosque as the target; in fact, the target was Muslims leaving a nearby Islamic welfare house].
Morgan registered his objection, saying, “Here’s my point. Right, I’ve read a lot of stuff that you’ve said and done. I know your history, I know all of it. Good, bad and ugly. Some of it is ugly, some of it, I agree with.”
“My issue with what you did, yesterday,” he continued, “is within one hour of this utter lunacy, this terrorist, driving from Wales, and deliberately mowing down innocent people, as it turned out, all Muslims, outside the Muslim welfare house, not the Finsbury Park mosque, killing one, maiming maybe 10 others, is your first thought process was not to express sympathy, for what had happened.”
“I read the tweets in sequential order, right,” he added, “within one hour your thought process was to go on the attack, to talk about another mosque, not the one that had been attacked, to talk about it in historical context, of when everybody knows the Finsbury Park mosque at the turn of the century was a bad place, with Abu Hamza, and everything else, right. And what you were doing, was fomenting hatred and almost suggesting that somehow this attack, this revenge attack as you put it, was somehow deserving because of the historical behavior of certain people at a completely different mosque — that was my problem.”
“OK, Piers,” Robinson responded, “the newspaper you work for said exactly the same within an hour — Abu Hamza’s mosque. Were they fomenting hate, the newspaper you work for? Were they? Were they inciting hate?”
“I don’t run the Daily Mail,” Morgan protested.
“Now, if I hold up this book and say, ‘There will never be peace on this Earth so long as we have this book, it’s a violent and cursed book,’ Can I say that? Sir William Gladstone said that,” Robinson continued, referring to the 19th century prime minister of Great Britain’s description of the Quran.
“Would you say that of the Bible? Show some respect,” Morgan retorted.
“Show some respect? Have you read this book?” Robinson shot back. “Have you read this book? There are a hundred verses in this book that incite violence and murder against us.”
Why didn’t Piers Morgan answer Robinson’s question? Has he read the Qur’an? If he had, why wouldn’t he say so? The problem for Piers Morgan is that either he has not read the Qur’an (which is entirely possible, for study is not his strong suit, and he seems to be noticeably unwilling to engage on its contents, never having mentioned a single one of its verses) and therefore has no business taking issue with what Tommy Robinson, channeling Gladstone, maintains, or he has read it in which case he knows what it contains and and wants to keep that information from the public. After all, if he had said, “Yes of course I’ve read the Qur’an,” Robinson’s next question would have been: “Okay, can you recall even one verse out of the more than one hundred that incite violence and murder against the Infidels?”
What does Morgan do then? Reply with something like this: ‘Oh, I’m sure there are some violent verses in the Qur’an, I don’t deny that, but these all relate to a specific context, in when certain tribes were fighting Muhammad, 1400 years ago and not meant to apply today. And by the way have you looked at the Old Testament recently?” (False “contexualization” followed by tu-quoque.) “?No religion is without some violent passages, I’m sad to say. But let’s not single out Islam, please. And I’m sorry, I can’t recall such a verse — though I’m not denying some exist. But it’s a question of whether the basic message of the Qur’an is one of peace and tolerance, as 1.6 billion Muslims certainly believe, and have told us repeatedly that it is. We mustn’t let extremists, who are only working out their own private demons, nut jobs the lot of them, be confused with real Muslims, who get up, drop off their kids at school, go to work,come home, eat dinner, watch the telly, and go to bed — that is, they do exactly what non-Muslims do.Why should we listen to the likes of of Tommy Robinson, who seems to think he’s more of an expert on Islam than Muslims themselves, and insists that the Holy Qur’an is a manual of war and terrorism?”
That is what, more or less, Piers Morgan would have offered had he had more time: “contextualization,” taqiyya, and tu-quoque.
The next time Robinson faces Piers Morgan or anyone else in the media so intent on defending Islam from Robinson’s criticism, he might try to slip in a verse or two, just to make things more difficult for his unsympathetic host. It need not be a Jihad verse, as 9:5 or 9:29. It could be, for example, one of those that explicitly mentions “terror,” as “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them” (8:12), which is hard to explain away. And so is “Infidels are the most vile of creatures” (98:6). If Robinson can manage to quote those verses on television, pushing them out into the public consciousness, that would be more valuable than a general denunciation of the Qur’an or of Islam.
When Robinson held up a Qur’an, Morgan was outraged.
“Put that book down,” Morgan commanded angrily, “show some damn respect for people’s religious beliefs, right?”
“I should show some respect for a book that incites murder against me?” Robinson responded.
“Put it down,” Morgan said. “Put it down.”
“No, I won’t put it down,” Robinson said defiantly. “Sir William Gladstone held this book above his head in Parliament and he said, ‘There will never be peace on this Earth so long as we have this book. It’s a violent and cursed book.’ Was Sir William Gladstone, who we have statues across our capitol, was he a bigot or an Islamophobe?”
“See now you’re sounding like a complete lunatic,” Morgan said. “You’re sounding like a bigoted lunatic.”
Is Robinson sounding like a “bigoted lunatic”? All he did was accurately quote William Gladstone, four times prime minister of Great Britain. Was Gladstone a “bigoted lunatic”? He who had closely followed the ravages of the Ottoman Turks against the Bulgarian Christians, even wrote at length about the Turkish atrocities (“The Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East”), and who had read the Qur’an, was not a man to shy away from recognizing either the disturbing doctrine of Islamic Jihad, or the disturbing practice of Muslims who engaged in violent Jihad. But of course it was a different time, and truth-telling about Islam not then suppressed, as it is today by the omnipresent piers-morgans of our latter-day media.
If Tommy Robinson is a “bigoted lunatic,” then so is William Ewart Gladstone, the man Robinson quoted so appositely.
Either Gladstone said what Tommy Robinson attributes to him, or he did not. Morgan can’t handle this. He doesn’t deny Gladstone said it, because he can’t, and his method of dealing with it is to deflect attention away from what Gladstone said that was so damning about the Qur’an — to wave away William Ewart Gladstone, with Churchill one of Great Britain’s two greatest prime ministers (and, we should remember, Churchill shared Gladstone’s dim view of Islam, which he formed early when he was in the Sudan, and never recanted) and to prevent Tommy Robinson from quoting him at greater length, by resorting to hysterical name-calling: Robinson is a “complete lunatic…you’re sounding like a bigoted lunatic.” Viewers are left confused, and some will come away with the impression that Robinson has made something up about William Ewart Gladstone. But of course he hadn’t. Gladstone did hold up a Qur’an during a session of Parliament, calling it an “accursed book” and declaring that “so long as there is this book there will be no peace in the world.” His study of the Qur’an, and his own experience the Muslim Turks led him to such a view. When in 1876 the Bulgarian Christians rose up against their Muslim masters, the Ottoman Turks, Gladstone, then out of office, was appalled by the reports of the many cruelties of the Turks in suppressing the Bulgarians — massacring men, women, and children with fantastic cruelty, with 15,000 civilians killed in Plovdiv alone — and wrote a pamphlet: “The Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East.” It was not just about the latest atrocities, but about the long history of what happened when the Muslim Turks conquered Christian lands, including Greece, the Balkans, Bulgaria and Rumania, and extending all the way north into Hungary.
In that work, Gladstone described the Ottoman Turks thus:
Wherever they went, a broad line of blood marked the track behind them; and, as far as their dominion reached, civilisation disappeared from view. They represented everywhere government by force, as opposed to government by law. For the guide of this life they had a relentless fatalism: for its reward hereafter, a sensual paradise.
They were indeed a tremendous incarnation of military power. This advancing curse menaced the whole of Europe. It was only stayed, and that not in one generation, but in many, by the heroism of the European population of those very countries, part of which form at this moment the scene of war, and the anxious subject of diplomatic action. In the olden time, all Western Christendom sympathised with the resistance to the common enemy; and even during the hot and fierce struggles of the Reformation, there were prayers, if I mistake not, offered up in the English churches for the success of the Emperor, the head of the Roman Catholic power and influence, in his struggles with the Turk.
What that “bigoted lunatic” Tommy Robinson was referring to when he invoked Gladstone was not only that statesman’s remark made during a session of Parliament, where he held up a Qur’an and said that “as long as there is this accursed book there will be no peace in the world,” but Gladstone’s condemnation of Islam in “The Bulgarian Horrors and the Question of the East.”
Morgan called Robinson a “complete disgrace” for holding up the Quran in his hand “in a disgraceful manner,” while Robinson continued his argument against Islam. What was disgraceful about it? That he did not show extra-special deference to such a book, handling it with ostentatious hyper-respect as if it were a delicate and precious object, whose sacredness he recognized? How would one demonstrate that a particular book is being shown the necessary “respect”? We can imagine the reverse: someone handling a book with studied contempt, by slamming it down on a desk, or holding it upside down, or tossing it onto the ground. But that is not what happened here.Tommy Robinson merely held the book up, the way he would hold any other book, including the Bible, with no attempt to show disrespect. Apparently that wasn’t enough to satisfy Piers Morgan.
Wasn’t Piers Morgan’s objection really that in his view no Infidel should be holding up the “Holy Qur’an” at all unless the deepest respect was also shown? It’s as if all Infidels should be made to refer to Muhammad as “the Prophet Muhammad” (as some already are). Morgan’s extraordinary panicky reaction was possibly prompted by fear that Muslims, learning of the putative ”mistreatment”of their holy book on his show (meaning: an islamo-critic like Tommy Robinson should not be allowed to even touch the book), might come looking for him as the host, and Morgan wanted to make sure to distance himself, by denouncing Robinson in such extreme terms (“lunatic”…”bigoted lunatic”), for daring to hold up a Qur’an. Such a fear is not unreasonable. But it’s something Morgan must overcome, if his guests are to have any chance of unconstrainedly discussing the texts and teachings of Islam.
What would be a “right way” for Infidels to hold a Qur’an, or is there no “right way,” especially if they are criticizing its contents? Were Muslims in the U.K. to demand that “in the interests of inter-communal peace” there be a law that would “forbid anyone from touching the Holy Qur’an unless in doing so he shows the proper respect,” how long would it take the political and media elites in the U.K., including Theresa May and Piers Morgan, to find this proposal perfectly acceptable? And would “proper respect” include, as I fear it might, constraining criticism of the contents of the Qur’an? How long would it be before an even more dangerous law is passed, ostensibly giving all faiths the same protection, but really aimed at protecting Islam, making it illegal to criticize the contents of any sacred book, on the spurious claim that such criticism is what leads to hate-speech? Free speech, especially of speech critical of Islam, is already under assault, shouted down on campuses, censored on-line (both Facebook and Twitter have censored Jihad Watch as “hate speech”), and islamo-critics, like Tommy Robinson, hysterically denounced on television, while the suave apologists for Islam, such as Tariq Ramadan, now a professor at Oxford, or Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, have no such worries. And this at a time when we need much more instruction, not less, in what Islam inculcates, including the valuable testimony from disaffected Muslims, who must brave death threats.
Meanwhile, there is a telling postscript to the story of William Ewart Gladstone. who so detested Islam. At his death he left money for a library to be built in Hawarden, Flintshire, near where he had lived. He donated 32,000 of his own books, delivering some of them himself — when he was 86 — in a wheelbarrow. In 2011, a new addition, called the House of Wisdom, after a library of the Islamic ”golden age,” the Bayt al-Hikma, full of books on Islam and Islamic history, was added to Gladstone’s Library. According to a news report, “the addition was hailed as just the kind of thing Gladstone himself would have approved of, to help promote inter-faith understanding and co-operation.’” Peter Francis, the Warden [director] of Gladstone’s Library, is quoted as saying that “relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims would certainly have been amongst Gladstone’s central concerns.” Yes, they certainly were, but not in the way Peter Francis allows himself to believe.
Knowing what we do about Gladstone, it is impossible to think that he had much interest in “promoting inter-faith understanding and co-operation.” He knew too much about Islam; his understanding of the doctrine of Islam and the practice of Muslims — the result of study of the Qur’an, and observation of what the Muslim Turks did to the Christian Bulgarians — caused him to conclude that the Qur’an was a work counseling permanent war against the Infidel, which is why he stated that “so long as we have this book, there will be no peace on earth.” But in 1876, the year of the Bulgarian massacres, it was D’Israeli, not Gladstone, who was Prime Minister. And the policy of D’Israeli’s Conservatives, who saw the Ottoman Empire as a counterweight to Russia, was to leave the Turks alone (geopolitics makes strange bedfellows). Gladstone thundered against this cruel calculation, which meant abandoning the Bulgarian Christians. He understood that only force would stop the Muslim Turks — or any other Muslims conducting violent Jihad. The very idea of “interfaith cooperation” with Muslims he would have found both infuriating and ludicrous.
Yet Gladstone, now safely dead and in no position to set the record straight, is being presented by others as the very opposite of what he was: a man appalled not just by the atrocities committed by Muslim in Bulgaria, but by Islam itself.
“And, within the context of his pragmatic politics and humanitarian principles, it is likely that inter-faith understanding and dialogue would have been at the core of his approach.” [Peter Francis again.]
On what basis does Peter Francis claim that “it is likely” that Gladstone would have had “inter-faith understanding and dialogue” as the “core of his approach” in dealing with Muslims?
There is not the slightest evidence that Gladstone, whose name is now being deceptively invoked by apologists for Islam, and enrolled, without so much as a by-your-leave, in a campaign to promote “inter-faith understanding” that he would have found silly and sinister, ever changed his views of Islam; he believed that only force would stop the atrocities of the Muslim Turks against the Christians of Bulgaria. He wrote “The Bulgarian Horrors” to awaken others to the campaign of mass-murder by the Turks. Having read the Qur’an, he understood that the Turks in 1876 were not violating, but hewing to, the texts and teachings of Islam, in conducting Jihad against the Christians. A student of history, Gladstone knew, too, of the 1400 years of uninterrupted hostility toward, and often open warfare against, non-Muslims by Muslims, who were only following the Qur’an’s commands. That is why he held up the Qur’an and declared that “so long as there is this book, there will be no peace in the world.”
Tommy Robinson, who so often is treated condescendingly by the British media as some sort of lager lout (he’s not the suavest of speakers, but he has one uncommon virtue: he tries to tell the truth about Islam) was perfectly justified in invoking Gladstone’s views on Islam when he appeared on the Piers Morgan show. Not everyone who watched that show will have come away thinking he’s a “bigoted lunatic.” Why did Gladstone have the views on Islam that he did? some in the television audience will have asked themselves. Some must even have been prompted to look into what Gladstone wrote about the Muslim Turks, or to find out why he thought the Qur’an such a dangerous and violent book, by reading it themselves. And if they do so, they will realize how false is the claim now being made for Gladstone as a believer in “interfaith cooperation and dialogue” with Muslims. This is the very opposite of the views Gladstone unambiguously did hold, and eloquently expressed. And though the evidence shows that there was a “bigoted lunatic” on the Piers Morgan show, it was not Tommy Robinson.
Muslim extremist Michael Adebolajo, 31, has been described by prison officer as “violent, unpredictable and a major danger to other prisoners”.
But the real threat he poses is his ability to radicalise other inmates, prison sources have revealed. Dozens of prisoners have said to have fallen for Adebolajo’s twisted version of Islam and have vowed to become Jihadis when they are eventually freed. Even non-Muslim prisoners are said to have converted to Islam and sworn an allegiance to Islamic State after being radicalised by the killer.
One prison official said: “Adebolajo spends most of his waking hours preaching his distorted form of Islam to anyone who will listen. He sees every inmate as a potential Islamic State soldier whether they are Muslims or not. He has a big personality and is very charismatic and some of the more vulnerable prisoners will fall under his spell. He is a very dangerous individual.”
The source said that Adebolajo now sees his role in life to recruit as many Jihadis as possible for the remainder of his life. He added: “If he is suspected of trying to radicalise other inmates we step in and move him… But even in prison Adebolajo cannot be watched all the time. We don’t have the staff or the resources.”
It is understood that Adebolajo has been given “special category” status because of the danger he represents.
In August 2016, a report found that political correctness was to blame for the flourishing of Islamic extremism in prisons, with guards reluctant to confront Muslim inmates for fear of being branded ‘Islamophobic’.
It is a commonplace that Switzerland is the only real democracy in the world: that is to say, the only country in the world where the people control the government in more than a nominal and intermittent fashion, and can call it to account at any time, on any subject, at any level of the administration.
In no country is central government less important. The President of Switzerland changes every year, and the position is purely honorific. Many Swiss do not even know his (or her) name. And what non-Swiss has ever heard of a President of Switzerland?
Far from wounding the amour propre of the Swiss, this is a matter of pride for them, a sign of their unique political wisdom. Who needs rulers when you can rule yourself? Even the granting of citizenship to foreigners is not a function of the central government. Social security is under rigorous local control. The population makes decisions on the matters of most concern to it.
Unlike the plebiscites sometimes held in other countries of Europe, à la Napoleon III or Hitler, the Swiss have referendums called by the people at various levels: communal, cantonal, or federal, and whose results are binding on whatever level of government they concern. (The modern European tradition is to hold a national election and disregard the results, thus achieving the worst of both worlds.) The Swiss are forever voting, therefore. If this must sometimes be tiresome, at least the citizen feels that he has a real say in how things are organized.
One of the most notorious of recent Swiss referenda concerned prohibiting the construction of more minarets in the whole country. By all accounts, there were not many to begin with: four mosques for an estimated 400,000 to 450,000 Muslim residents (between 5 and 5.5 per cent of the total population).
While in Geneva recently, I bought two books that took diametrically opposed views of the growing presence of Muslims in Switzerland. The first was titled Radicalism in Swiss Mosques: Islamisation, Cultural Jihad and Endless Concessions by Mireille Vallette, a journalist specializing in the subject, and the second, Switzerland at the Moment of Brexit: Inquiry into a Strange and Truly Unique Country by Jean-Pierre Richardot, a French-Swiss journalist. The contrast between these works—the first evincing alarmism and the second complacency—raises questions of political philosophy about which argument could be endless.
On some facts, Vallette and Richardot agree. A large percentage of the Muslims in Switzerland immigrated from the former Yugoslavia. The vast majority were not practicing, much less fundamentalist. Unemployment being almost unknown in Switzerland, they earned their living and did not form into great ghettoes of young unemployed that are such a problem elsewhere in Europe. There have come to be a growing number of fundamentalists among them, however, and also a number of inflammatory imams, often of origin alien even to the Muslim population.
From there, however, the authors reach very dissimilar conclusions.
Monsieur Richardot begins his chapter giving the historical background, called “Switzerland without Minarets,” as follows: “In contrast to France and several other Europeans countries, Switzerland has successfully integrated its Moslem minorities.”
Madame Vallette says: “Radical Islam infuses Switzerland as elsewhere.”
The difference between them might be summarized this way: Monsieur Richardot rejoices more over 99 good Muslim citizens than he worries over one fundamentalist, while Madame Vallette worries more over one fundamentalist than she rejoices over 99 good Muslim citizens. Which of them is right, if an answer to such a question can be deemed correct?
The Swiss population is probably more inclined to the alarmist view than the complacent. It voted, after all, to forbid the construction of more minarets; and surveys suggest that it would also like to forbid the burqa and the niqab. Monsieur Richardot is worried that anti-Islamic sentiment will undermine the Swiss tradition of religious tolerance, one of the secrets of the country’s success; but Madame Vallette provides evidence that there are imams and others working assiduously to undermine such tolerance, with the eventual goal of replacing it by the domination of the one, supposedly true doctrine.
Compliance with Swiss laws is like democracy for Turkey’s President Erdogan: a train to take until you reach your destination, at which point you get off. As Tariq Ramadan (born and raised in Geneva) once said, he is in favor of a moratorium on stoning as a legal penalty, not an abolition of it. A moratorium pending what? The results of further psychological studies as to its effects—or a change in the vector of social forces?
The future cannot be known, but it is the future that counts in answering the question. Is fundamentalism likely to grow, however seemingly unpropitious the Swiss soil may be for it, with its tolerance, levels of training and education, and prosperity? It has to be remembered that the leaders of the fundamentalists are far from being downtrodden no-hopers that some of the terrorists have been; very far from it. True, Swiss Muslims are largely of European origin and Yugoslavia secularized them (and Albania under communism had banned religion altogether). But the idea that secularism is irreversible—an idea in which I once believed myself—has proved not to be true.
An Egyptian friend of mine told me that there were a thousand female students in her year at university, of whom two or three were scarfed or veiled. Less than 50 years later, the proportions are almost reversed. Moreover, although in Switzerland Muslims constitute only about 5 per cent of the population, their age structure is such that the proportion is bound to increase. While the non-immigrant Swiss reproduce at below the rate of replacement, about 40 per cent of Muslims are under the age of 24, and about 80 per cent under the age of 40.
These are figures that Monsieur Richardot himself gives, but he is convinced that Swiss Muslims, and their offspring, are and will remain sufficiently Helvetianized for fundamentalism to be nothing more than a minor irritation, confined to a tiny and insignificant minority. There is little to worry about in his view, for Switzerland, being sufficiently different from the other countries of Europe, supposedly will not experience the same problems.
He does indeed point to a very important difference (quite apart from difference in origins):
Moslems, or those designated as such, are often grouped in France in neighbourhoods or suburbs, where rents are cheap and they are in the majority . . . In Switzerland, things are different. Immigrant workers find housing for themselves, without public assistance.
Such self-sufficiency is good, of course, but assumes that the attraction of fundamentalism is largely the direct consequence of the conditions in which it arises.
Richardot continues: “[Integration] has been a real success: no school in Switzerland was ever burnt down by Moslems, as they were in France in 2005.”
Yet even with so sanguine a commentator, a note of anxiety creeps in:
It is nonetheless true that fundamentalist Moslems (especially Salafists) gain ground every day in Switzerland, although they are still a small minority. Thus it was that Moslem secondary school pupils in Basel in April 2016 refused, brusquely and collectively, to shake hands with their teacher because she was a woman.
Perhaps it is time to reread The Fire Raisers, a great play by an important Swiss writer, Max Fritsch. In this 1953 play (about which I have written before at Law and Liberty), a wilfully blinkered bourgeois refuses to believe that the men he has allowed to be his lodgers are really the arsonists who are starting fires everywhere in the town and who eventually burn down his house, with him and his wife in it. The play is, as I said on that earlier occasion, an allegory of the rise of Nazism but is applicable in many other situations, and will always be.