Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ellen Horowitz on al-Dura

Two very good articles by Ellen W. Horowitz about the al-Dura footage and its uses and abuses here and here. The immediate historical context to the incident is especially interesting.

It includes this quote

If the fatal shot was fired by an Israeli soldier, the image of Mohammed al-Dura is both historically true and artistically true. If it was not, if Fallows and the revisionists are right, the image of Mohammed al-Dura is nonetheless, to borrow Picasso's characterization of all art, a lie that can make us realize the truth.
The man who uttered this paean to Higher Truth was Adam Rose, founder and director of Support Sanity.

(via Augean Stables)

Knocking for understanding

According to Campus Mawtius, the quote below comes from a sermon by St Augustine (one of his Dolbeau sermons: "Sermo Beati Augustini super Verbis Apostoli ad Galatas"). Apart from the 'preach and write books' bit, it describes very well what I am doing writing this blog.

We, who preach and write books, write in a manner altogether different from the manner in which the canon of Scriptures has been written. We write while we make progress. We learn something new every day. We dictate at the same time as we explore. We speak as we still knock for understanding.
(Many thanks to Rogue Classicism)

The Anderton Boat Lift

We visited the Anderton Boat Lift on Sunday and it really impressed me.

It is a light structure that deals with huge weights with little evident effort. It’s also a very elegant solution to a difficult problem. My knowledge of engineering is too meagre to judge the originality of the ideas, but this boat lift obviously gained Edwin Morris a reputation valuable enough to earn him commissions across Europe. What is also impressive is what happened after it was shut down in 1983. A group of enthusiasts got together and stayed and worked together for 20 years to raise the £7 million necessary for its restoration, a project completed in 2002.

This is one of thousands of examples of people getting together of their own initiative to achieve something so big that the mind usually turns to government when faced with it. But government-run enterprises rarely have the type of person we had this Sunday to tell us about the Anderton. The man obviously loved the beast, and bubbled over with information which, had his audience possessed a modicum of expertise in engineering, would have greatly impressed them. There was also a certain sadness when he recounted the manufacture of the great stainless steel shafts, produced in Germany and tooled in Holland – the originals had been made in Stockport. He himself had worked at a blast furnace, “the best years of my life”. Glory that has passed from these shores.

Interview with Choudhury

Choudhury before and after being beaten up by a mob led by members of the ruling party
An interview with Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury from the Jeruselem Post (from whom I have borrowed the photo). Evidently, his trial resumes on the 13th of November.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Peace and pieces

From an article by Mark Steyn.

Asked about poll numbers, [Bush] said that 25 percent of the population are always against the war -- any war.
He then quotes The Brussels Journal:
The Dutch (gay and self-declared “humanist”) author Oscar Van den Boogaard says that to him coping with the islamization of Europe is like “a process of mourning.” He is overwhelmed by a “feeling of sadness.” "I am not a warrior, but who is?" he shrugged. "I have never learned to fight for my freedom. I was only good at enjoying it."

New al-Dura case - Looks like same ol' justice

Neo-neocon is in Paris to see the Lurçat trial. This is another suit brought by France2 over their use of the al-Dura film. Neo-neocon is not impressed by French justice and it seems that things are going to go the way they did in the Karsenty case.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Some clips from Obsession, a documentary on radical Islam's war on the West. There are more here, including The War on the West, which has Nasrallah declaring

The most honorable death is by killing. And the most honorable killing and the most glorious martyrdom is when a man is killed for the sake of Allah.

Trust us, Israel

Why the Israelis do not trust the Europeans.

This is EU Foreign Policy chief Javier Solana speaking in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

"I cannot imagine that the religious imperative, the real religious imperative, can make anybody destroy another country... Therefore that is an abuse of religion...

"I don't think the essence of Hamas is the destruction of Israel. The essence of Hamas is the liberation of the Palestinians," he added. "The liberation of their people, not the destruction of Israel."

History had shown that people and nations "adapt to reality," he said. "I don't want to lose hope."
Hamas is not in a position to act on its Charter; it cannot, at the moment, pose a serious military threat to Israel. Does that mean, given the chance, it wouldn't? Has Iran "adapted to reality"? Or al-Queda? As they see it, they're going to make reality, not adapt to it.

The preamble to the Declaration of Independence is where the big rhetorical guns are fired ("unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"). The preamble to the Hamas Charter includes this sentiment:
Surat Al-Imran (III), verses 109-111 Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors.
They don't leave it there. They return to the charge in a article after article , including Article 7
The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!
And Article 11
The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine has been an Islamic Waqf throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection, no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it.
And Article 32, which names the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as proof of the justice of their cause.

When is Europe going to consider the possibility that these people mean what they say?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Neo-neocon on al-Dura verdict

Neo-neocon concludes that the judgement in the al-Dura case was not down to (or not just down to) political muscle, but to the French defamation laws which require that the defendant (Karsenty in this case) prove that the defamatory statement was true. Likely to be true is not good enough.

Choudhury and persecution closer to home

Another article giving the background to the upcoming trial in Bangladesh of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury though with a fascinating comparison with a big media story in Canada. The latter concerns Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen accused by the Canadian police of collusion with Al-Queda, arrested by the Americans in New York, who then deported him to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured. After a long campaign conducted by his wife in Canada, he was able to return to her and his daughter 374 days after his deportation to Syria. More pressure resulted in an a commission of enquiry which concluded that there was no evidence at all of connections on the part of Arar with any terrorism.

The O'Connor Commission concluded that the RCMP passed false information on to US authorities. They did more than that. When Arar returned to Canada they started feeding the press totally false information to besmear his reputation, information which was dutifully printed and largely fulfilled its purpose.
The other interesting feature is the deportation. The American Government deny that this was a case of Extraordinary Rendition, though many seem to find this unbelieveable. I don't. Perhaps I am naive. Why would the Americans use Syria of all countries to extract information about terrorism? Would they use Iran, as well?

Is this a case of us in the West shooting ourselves in the foot because of the fear of terrorism? It certainly looks like it.


PJM’s Paris Editor Nidra Poller can't stop laughing over the al-Dura judgement in Paris.

Related to which, you might like to see some modern examples of the al-Dura technique in action. Zombietimes has put together a marvellous overview of fauxtography in the recent Lebanon conflict.

Oz politicians on "uncovered meat" sheik

Australian politicians draw lines in the sand. I suppose they have more sand in Australia so they get more practice.

Both the New South Wales Premier, Morris Iemma, and the PM, John Howard, are coming down hard on the Sheik who compared women without the veil to "uncovered meat", and has Satan say that women are his "best weapon".

Morris Iemma
He should retire, he should go. We don't have a system in this country in which the person who suffers - the victim - is the person who is at fault. That's our belief; that's our standard.

John Howard
What I am saying to the Islamic community is this: If they do not resolve this matter, it could do lasting damage to the perceptions of that community within the broader Australian community.

If it is not resolved, then unfortunately people will run around saying, 'Well the reason they didn't get rid of him is because secretly some of them support his views'.
Mind you, it wasn't that long ago that people in the West thought and said things that were not so different.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Casualty reports

When I heard on the Radio 4 News this evening that 60 civilians had been killed in Kandahar province by Nato bombs, my first thought was, "Yeah, and I wonder how many times they counted each body." The reporting from the Lebanon War was so chronically bad and the Western media so willfully gullible before an obvious Islamist strategy that I find any such figures completely fanciful until the army has confirmed them.

Listen to this interview with Richard Miniter of the New York Times. He's just published a book called Disinformation, which gathers and debunks 22 myths about the War on Terror. He's strangely generous in the way he attributes the making of these myths to laziness rather than to maliciousness or to ideology , but the effect is always the same. You hear about the bombings in 4 of Iraq's 18 provinces and about the 25 deaths they have caused, but nothing from the other 14 provinces or about the 35 insurgents killed.

The picture is always distorted the same way so as to throw mud or at least doubt on our soldiers and reinforce the feeling of hopelessness and helplessness in the public. In the end, the natural reaction will be to throw up our hands in frustration and give in thus making it worse for everyone except the maniacs who send in the suicide bombers.

Cartoon lawsuit in Denmark

A lawsuit brought by 7 Muslim organisations against Jyllands-Posten for the publication of the 12 cartoons last September has been thrown out by a Danish court. Nothing much to say about that but, "Good".

The argument of the plaintiffs was that the cartoons

attacked the honour of believers because they portrayed the Prophet as war-like and criminal and made a clear link between Muhammad, war and terrorism.
Their suit against Jyllands-Posten has failed but they could argue the same case with more effect against the makers of a film posted on Islamist websites as "a gift for 'Eid Al-Fitr." Apart from horsemen and a couple of beheadings, the film features some Islamic luminaries calling on their fellow Muslims to act with a certain lack of restraint.
Al-Zawahiri says: "I urge you, in [the name of] the duty of jihad, which is incumbent upon every Muslim, to hurry and pursue martyrdom in order to kill the Crusaders and the Zionists." An armed individual calls: "[Oh] defenders of the faith, hurry and prepare [for jihad], this is no time for [internal] disagreement." Another individual, sitting under a banner that reads, "Expel the polytheists from the Arabian Peninsula," asks: "Are there no men in this nation?" and a masked individual declares: "Jihad is ancient, and the fate of [all] infidel leaders is one and the same: to be slaughtered."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Reasoned Muslim response to the Pope's Regensburg Address

Now this is news indeed. However, as it didn't involve bombings, it obviously didn't merit reporting.

An extraordinary thing happened a week ago. Thirty-eight Muslim scholars and chief muftis, from across the Muslim world, jointly replied to the Pope's speech at Regensburg (and more have associated their names with this document, since). It was presented to the Vatican's envoy at Amman; the full text in English is available through the Islamica magazine website, the Catholic website, Chiesa, and elsewhere. I look through the list of signatories, and they are a "who's who" of the learned leaders of a faith that has always aspired to be led by its most learned.

And the significance of what they said went beyond -- far beyond -- being a formal reply to the Pope's remarks at Regensburg. Truly with reason and restraint, they defend the honour of the Islamic faith as it has come down through 14 centuries of interpretation and experience -- that faith in its breadth, and not in the narrowness of postmodern psychopaths, trying to reconstruct the conditions of 7th-century Arabia.

The signatories renounced and condemned violence against Christians in the name of Islam. They accepted without qualification the Pope's post-Regensburg clarifications, and both accepted and applauded his call for dialogue. They unambiguously denounced and rejected all terrorist interpretations of the word "jihad"; they insisted on the priority of Surah 2:256 of the Koran ("There is no compulsion in religion"), stating explicitly that it is not obviated by later Koranic passages or Hadiths. They went so far as to aver that the declaration of Jesus in Mark 12:29-31 expresses the essence of all Abrahamic religion -- Muslim, Christian, Jewish.

That is Mark's version of the Gospel message that there are "two great commandments". The first is to love God with all thy heart and soul and mind; and the second, to love thy neighbour as thyself.
The open letter is here.

(via Dinocrat)

Iran - Separate state and religion?

Amir Taheri writes about Muhammad-Hussein Kazemaini Borujerdi, a Shi'ite cleric said to be in regular contact with the Hidden Imam, who obviously spends most of his days on whatever he uses for email. (This is the same Hidden Imam for whom Ahmadinejad is putting up the bunting.) Borujerdi has a rather different take on Islamic republics to that of the rulers of The Islamic Republic, one that has had him pitched in jail for the past few weeks. According to Taheri, Borujerdi holds

a classical Shi'ite theological position that maintains that all governments formed in the absence of the Hidden Imam are "oppressive and illegitimate" (jaber wa ja'er).

Under that doctrine, all that Shi'ites must do during the absence of the imam is to tolerate the government in place, cooperate with it to the strict minimum necessary - but never pay taxes to it or feel any loyalty toward it. In the absence of the imam, government is nothing but a necessary and temporary evil.
This is somewhat at variance with the Khomeinist doctrine, according to which
The Islamic Republic is a continuation of God on earth. Thus any disobedience of its rules amounts to a revolt against God.
Evidently, the official line is not at all popular with the majority of clerics in Iran. For Taheri, the evidence for this resides in the fact that "proportionally more mullahs are in prison in Iran than other social strata".

This December a new Assembly of Experts will be elected, one which may propose an amendment to the constitution to break the link between the mosque and the state. One of the potential backers of this amendment is Grand Ayatollah Muhammad-Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, "the man widely acknowledged as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Marjaa al-Taqlid (Source of Imitation)".

To be supported? Maybe. It's just that the outcome of this constitutional change might well be greater power in the hands of the man who wants to wipe Israel off the map.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The point is that we don't know

A bit of context. A more adult perspective. Jeff Jacoby.

Iraq is not the first war to plummet in popularity. At the start of the Civil War, many Northerners giddily anticipated a quick victory. Secretary of State William Seward ``thought the war would be over in 90 days," writes historian David Herbert Donald in his biography of Abraham Lincoln. ``The New York Times predicted victory in 30 days. "

Had they had an inkling of the carnage to come, would they have cheered Lincoln's bid to save the Union? Long before the war's end, the cheers would turn to censure. By 1863, the war was being denounced in Congress as ``an utter, disastrous, and most bloody failure," while Lincoln and his administration were despised for their incompetence. ``There never was such a shambling, half-and-half set of incapables collected in one government," Senator William Pitt Fessendon of Maine said in disgust, ``before or since the world began."

The point isn't that the violent mess in Iraq today is analogous to the Civil War in 1863, or to the Ardennes in 1944, or to the burning of Washington in 1814. The point is that we don't know. Like earlier Americans, we have to choose between resolve and retreat, with no guarantees about how it will end. All we can be sure of is that the stakes once again are liberty and decency vs. tyranny and terror -- that we are fighting an enemy that feeds on weakness and expects us to lose heart -- and that Americans for generations to come will remember whether we flinched.
(via Norm)


I have just for the first time read the Daily Mail interview with General Sir Richard Dannatt. These replies really struck me.

Threats now are not territorial but to the values of our country.

In the Army we place a lot of store by the values we espouse. What I would hate is for the Army to be maintaining a set of values that were not reflected in our society at large — courage, loyalty, integrity, respect for others; these are critical things.

When I see the Islamist threat I hope it doesn't make undue progress because there is a moral and spiritual vacuum in this country. Our society has always been embedded in Christian values; once you have pulled the anchor up there is a danger that our society moves with the prevailing wind.

I said to the Defence Secretary (Des Browne) that the Army won’t let the nation down, but I don’t want the nation to let the Army down.
It seems to me that his real fear is us; he wonders if we have the backbone to stay the course and be worthy of the army, its values and the cause they are fighting for. The values that were once generally acknowledged and according to which the soldier could measure his honour. General Dannat, like Mark Steyn, wonders if we've not lost it already. The best lack all conviction; the worst have nothing else. The word 'vacuum' he uses twice: once as above, but before that in the interview he has referred to the invasion and said,
History will show that a vacuum was created and into the vacuum malign elements moved.
And the vacuum here?

Whose responsibility?

Ken Livingston and the Muslim Council of Britain have published a report on Muslims in London. It highlights the "significant under-representation" of Muslim communities in all spheres of public life.

For example, there is just one Muslim MP representing a London constituency, when proportionally one could expect six. Also, there are only 63 Muslim councillors, where proportionally there should be 169. There are other significant comparisons: 42 percent of 16-to-24-year-old Muslims are economically active, compared with 60 percent average across other groups. Only 15 percent of Muslim women aged 25+ work full time compared with 37 percent of women in the general population. Muslims have the lowest rates of employment and economic activity and the highest unemployment rate of all London's faith groups. In addition, the number of "faith hate" crimes in London in 2005/6 was 87% higher than the year before.

What is the reason for this sorry record? According to the Mayor for all Londoners, Ken Livingston, it is "serious discrimination and prejudice". He doesn't mention on whose part, but I think it goes without saying. Muhammad Abdul Bari, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain delivers the shopping list: "Muslims in London face several barriers to employment, including educational underachievement, discrimination, lack of affordable and appropriate childcare, lack of suitable training, travel costs and housing costs."

Nowhere does anyone say a word about the responsibilities of the subjects of this survey. Whose fault is educational underachievement, or lack of suitable training? These days, the only way to avoid a training course in the UK is to leave the country. But even if you moved to another part of Europe, the figures wouldn't change that much. The impression is the same everywhere: of a group of people who contribute little relative to their size, but demand an awful lot.

Yes, there is prejudice, just as there was/is towards the Chinese or Indians, but that is only half the story. The other half consists of what that group do for themselves. Do they place education above all and insist on effort from their children? Do they accept the 'system' and make the best of it? Or do they stick stubbornly to whatever they were brought up to or has recently been imported from Saudi Arabia? (Is it Tesco that keeps Muslim women in their homes?) Do they expect everyone else to adapt to them and support them?

Ken Livingston is merely being consistent, so it is a waste of time expecting anything different from him. There was the usual rhetorical flourish and, strangely, a simile that just keeps popping out of his mouth. He

accused the media of running a "totally one-sided" debate.

It reflected the Nazi propaganda of the 1930s when Jews were blamed for their own and society's ills, he said.
We're Nazis. The Muslims are today's Jews. It's all down to the media. Book me a seat on the Hindenburg.

Al-Dura case 4

Richard Landes has a first look at the judgement in the al-Dura case recently concluded in Paris. One conclusion.

In the larger social and national context, the court’s decision illustrates the basic principle of prime divider societies: inequality before the law. Karsenty has to meet a very high bar to have the right to criticize Enderlin; Enderlin has no bar. As an esteemed member of a nationally-owned public station, he is protected. His failings are continuously passed over, and in the end, by attacking Karsenty, the court then permits the media to spin the story: “Image Choc de l’Intifada is not staged, says the court.”
More is promised.

Background here.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Al-Dura case - Initial reaction

Richard Landes offers an intial assessment of the judgement in the al-Dura case. However, he has only got an article from L’Express, which quotes selections of the ruling. The complete document is not yet available. It really looks like an awful stitch-up.

The Lebanese Pietà photographer speaks

The Lebanese Pietà - Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
You will remember that this photo, dubbed the Lebanese Pietà, was one of a series in Fauxtography Affair during the recent Lebanese conflict. I posted on it here. Now the photographer, Tyler Hicks, has written an article explaining the circumstances surrounding the photo and how it came to end up with a incorrect caption implying that the man had died during an Israeli bombing.

The editorial process he describes I find believable, the sequence of events leading to the taking of the photo likewise. Some doubts do linger. He says that, at the sound of bombs and the sight of smoke nearby, he rushed to the scene from his hotel.

I did not see any casualties on my arrival. I photographed the search effort, but otherwise there were no injured or dead visible.
Panic then spread as people feared that the Israeli jets were returning and it was in the rush to get away that the man fell and was injured.

Notice that: he could see no dead or even injured, which suggests that the buildings had been abandoned. This would make sense. The inhabitants would know that Hezbollah buildings were the targets, and that the Israelis probably knew which ones were Hezbollah. Moreover, the Isaelis dropped leaflets telling inhabitants at risk thanks to their neighbours that they should leave.

In a sense, therefore, we could this as an example of the Israeli effort to target as precisely as possible the immediate enemy and spare civilian (whatever that means in this context) casualties.

But have a look at the caption that Tyler Hicks himself wrote and that then got lost:
TYRE, LEBANON. WEDNESDAY, JULY 26, 2006: Israeli aircraft struck and destroyed two buildings in downtown Tyre, Lebanon Wednesday evening. As people searched through the burning remains, aircraft again could be heard overhead, panicking the people that a second strike was coming. This man fell and was injured in the panic to flee the scene. He is helped by another man, and carried to an ambulance. (Photo: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times)
Firstly, in his own account, Hicks does not say if there really were Israeli jets the second time, just that people started running because they thought there were. Secondly, while it is true that the original caption does no more than give the same bare details as the fuller account in his article, the impression is that of senseless destruction. The story the photograph tells is that of Israeli jets bombing residential buildings. Why were they doing such a thing? No word. We do not see any dead bodies, but we are not told that there weren't any to see, and that is a most significant fact. It would change the entire tone of the image; the rhetoric of outrage and/or pathos would be considerably muted. That the message in the caption was distorted by some sub-editor towards a more overtly homicidal one is not surprising because it is implicit in the lack of context for the photo itself. And is it not also what a sub-editor of the New York Times would be inclined to think, in any case? Doesn't it fit the standard narrative?

Just one last point. It is just too beautiful. That pose is so precisely one that will speak loud to European sensitivities trained on crucifixions and depositions. I am not saying that the pose necessarily indicates that the photo is 'posed', but does life really deal in such perfection? Pietà is right. The lines of force are so wonderfully balanced - the vigour of the rescuer versus the docility of the prone body (it is almost an equilateral triangle), connected by the injured man's right arm which borrows strength by following the line of the rescuer's body, but evokes pathos with the limpness of the hand. Bloody masterful, I say. Check out how Michelangelo does the same thing with the body angles. Here too, concentration is focussed on the limp hand.

Michelangelo's Pietà

Boom babies

Ahmadinejad has been reading Mark Steyn's latest, and, as they obviously understand each other, is taking action to ensure that Steyn's bleakest predictions come true.

I am against saying that two children are enough. Our country has a lot of capacity. It has the capacity for many children to grow in it. It even has the capacity for 120 million people. Westerners have got problems. Because their population growth is negative, they are worried and fear that if our population increases, we will triumph over them.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Run, rabbits, run

I was watching Robin Hood on BBC1 this evening with Sons N2 and N3 and felt my faint dislike of the programme grow suddenly intense. The Sheriff of Nottingham speaks to the peasants of the village that was once part of Robin's demesne, telling them that he is there to show himself to the "terrorists" that have already killed 5 people, and to say out loud that he will not relent in his "War on Terror" and his fight for Order, Justice and Authority.

The writer and makers of this programme no doubt feel that this is very clever and maybe even daring. There's more. So, the Sheriff is George W Bush. The killer turns out to be a man whose daughter died in the street after the Sheriff's baillif had thrown them out of their house for not being able to pay their taxes. The man has killed the baillif and is now trying to kill the Sheriff and his motive is revenge for what the Sheriff has done to him. He has been shown in previous scenes to be a gentle and sweet man. His murderous rage has a simple and single cause: a great wrong done to him. Is this the writer's sophisticated take on the terror that George Bush makes war on? That it is, as Osama bin Laden says, as the beheaders and suicide bombers claim, all the fault of Westerners, or more precisely, the Americans who have left them no choice but to kill? And if the Sheriff is GWB, is it then so far-fetched to identify those that fight against him with the Jihadists? (Or should it be the BBC?) Perhaps the most powerful weapon the Jihadists have is the Western media, their sloppy thinking and their reflex sympathies. This is a ripe example.

While waiting for Robin Hood, I saw ten minutes of the Channel 4 News. The reporter from Baghdad was on and repeated the misinterpretation of Bush's words about Tet to say that he had "compared Iraq to Vietnam". However, erroneous that interpretation may be, there is this of truth in it: that the media have decided that from now on every word spoken and every setback that occurs is to be read and recounted in the key of withdrawal, just as the media decided after the Tet offensive, which the North Vietnamese thought they had lost. And so they will help to bring about a resounding confirmation of what the Jihadists have believed for many years now - that the West lacks the guts to fight them. And to judge from these two small examples, from between 7 and 8pm this Saturday evening, it will be very difficult to contradict them.

The headscarf 3000BC

The message here for those with deeply held religious convictions is: don't look back - you never know what you might find. Of course, if you do find it, then you've got no choice but to do something ... drastic ... preferably to somebody else.

An eminent 92-year-old Turkish archaeologist is to go on trial for inciting religious hatred, because she angered Islamist circles with a scientific paper saying that the use of headscarves by women dated back to pre-Islamic sexual rites.

Muazzez Ilmiye Cig, who devoted her career to studying the Sumerians, the first known urban civilization dating from the fourth millennium BC, is to appear in court November 1 in Istanbul, her editor Ismet Ogutucu said.

In a book published last year, Cig said that the headscarf - a controversial issue in Turkey - was first worn by Sumerian priestesses initiating young people into sex, but without prostituting themselves.

A lawyer from the western city of Izmir took offense and filed a complaint against Cig, resulting in a prosecutor charging both her and her publisher with "inciting hatred based on religious differences." If convicted, the two risk up to three years in jail.
(via Dorothy King)

Friday, October 20, 2006

Al-Dura case - no clarity

There seems to be no analysis yet of the verdict in the al-Dura case against Philippe Karsenty and in favour of France2. It does seem to be an extraordinary ruling made even more puzzling by the derisory damages awarded.

If Karsenty truly slandered France2, then surely the damages should reflect the harm done to its reputation. The al-Dura footage is historically of enormous importance and France2's part in transmitting it to the world is therefore of commensurate importance. Someone imputing dishonesty on the part of France2 in such an affair should be taken to the cleaners. But he wasn't. The cases presented in court seemed to lead to only one conclusion, just as the cases presented by various investigators do. Yet...? France is so sad these days.

Go to Augean Stables for many links, none of which, however, provide much clarity.The Camera report on the Al-Dura film and Richard Landes' excellent site entirely devoted to it. I posted on it here. The French text of the ruling is here. Unfortunately, my French is not up to it.

Gratuitous moment of good news

On a day that the John Lloyd dates no more precisely than "recent", many luminaries of the BBC and a few invited guests gathered to discuss impartiality. (Don't turn away yet.) The top brass was not lacking: Mark Byford, deputy director general and head of journalism; Jana Bennett, head of television; Alan Yentob, director of drama and entertainment; Helen Boaden, head of news; Mark Damazer, head of Radio 4. They did not discuss whether to use the word 'terrorist' or not. What they agonised about was what Andrew Marr called their "cultural liberal bias".

The corporation's Washington correspondent, Justin Webb, told the assembled unburnished glitterati that the BBC's tone in reporting America tended to scorn and derision and that it didn't give the US "any kind of moral weight". Jeff Randall, an ex- and now editor-at-large (what does that mean?) for the Daily Telegraph labels himself centre-right, but was seen at the Beeb "as an extremist". To his criticism that the BBC accepted multiculturalism uncritically came the reply that "the BBC is not neutral in multiculturalism; it believes in it and it promotes it". His intention to wear Union Jack cufflinks on air elicited, "You can't do that; that's like the National Front".

They also did a role-play. Sacha Baron Cohen appears on Room 101 and chooses to divest us of kosher food, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bible and the Koran. What does the BBC do? The producer Alan Hayling: the first 3 OK, but refer the Koran up. Alan Yentob: all OK, except the Koran. Jana Bennet: the first two OK, but not the Bible and the Koran. Mark Damazer: replace the Bible and the Koran with a book called "organised religion". How surprising is that!? The most pukeable one is the last, but only the most pukeable.

Are you wondering wherein lies the good news bit? They're talking about it. Isn't that something? What do you want, the Balen Report?

This I found in the paper edition of Prospect, which has lots of other goodies as well. The article is available online only to subscribers.

The second item of pianissimo good cheer is from the academy, from several universities in the United States to be precise, where little bleats of joy are to be heard.

We think of the Madison Center at Princeton University, which under the guidance of Robert George has created a vibrant institution-within-an-institution to which students and scholars are flocking, much to the chagrin of the politically correct professoriate at Princeton. We think of the fledgling Center for the American Founding at Amherst College, which under Hadley Arkes promises to end one-party intellectual rule in the People’s Republic of Amherst.
And now at Hamilton College there is something called the Alexander Hamilton Center for the Study of Western Civilization which
proceeds under the premise that the reasoned study of Western civilization, its distinctive achievements as well as its distinctive failures, will further the search for truth and provide the ethical basis necessary for civilized life. The [Center] aspires to create an educational environment of the highest standards in which evidence and argument prevail over ideology and cant… . Thus, for a serious liberal arts college, no more vital understanding of diversity exists than that which would promote intellectual diversity. The proper ends of education imply variegated approaches to the acquisition of knowledge and to the cultivation of intelligence. A liberal arts graduate, properly trained, should possess not only an enhanced capacity to distinguish between career and the good life, but the ability to manage with honesty and dignity the often conflicting claims imposed on adulthood by nature, society, and environment. The great books of Western civilization conserve a distinctive intellectual and spiritual tradition.
Is it too late to save our hollowed institutions? Maybe not. The multitudinous Mohammads may yet do us this service: send us back to what makes us strong.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Al-Dura case lost in France

The judge in the case of France2 against Philippe Karsenty over the Mohammed Al-Dura film and its authenticity has found against M. Karsenty. Those who attended, including Richard Landes of Augean Stables, are shocked as the it seemed a foregone conclusion. Landes:

I have heard from Paris that Philippe Karsenty was found liable for insulting Charles Enderlin and France2 to the sum of 3000 Euros to Enderlin and 5 symbolic Euros to France2. I do not have the judgment and only a vague account of the reasoning, which criticizes Philippe for not having done more research.

The implications of this reversal of Madame le Procureur’s clear recommendations, for what appears to be — we’ll have a translation and analysis of the judgment ASAP — a critique of Philippe that somehow absolves Enderlin of all of his journalistic failings, failings that came out abundantly in court, are deeply troubling.

If these trials are a test of the resilience of Republican culture in France in the face of a challenge to its very core values, then today’s decision is a great loss for the France most people who do love her, love.

War remorse

Norm has said that he now regrets having supported the war in Iraq. Given that his support derived from his disgust at Saddam's treatment of his own people, and given the scale of the violence that is still occurring, his decision is entirely understandable. I don't think anyone anticipated that, 3 years later, people would be dying in these numbers. Before the war, the Robert Fisks prophesied the rising of the Arab street against the infidel, but that is not what has happened. Rather than a populace on the march beloved of Left-wing mythology, the Arab Street has merely become a place where Arabs kill other Arabs (except that stretch of the Arab Street that has moved to Europe where it is acting to type).

I don't regret supporting the war. It's not that I'm cheered by what is happening is Iraq. Anything but. It's rather that the reasons that weighed with me are as compelling now as they were then. The US and the UK did not invade Iraq for the sake of Iraqi lives, but for the sake of their own people (and, indirectly, of most others, too).

As I saw it then, and still do, there were 3 main motivations.

1. Remove Saddam's regime, which was uncontrollable and would remain an incalculable risk for some time to come. The sanctions had only strengthened his hold over (most of) the country, and this country was sitting on one of the largest reserves of petroleum that remain. Sanctions wouldn't bring him down; relaxing them would only have the effect of strengthening him further as well as giving him more money to play his games with. For his own strategic reasons, which had nothing to do with any caliphate but his own, he had given support to terrorists and might well do so again.

2. Establish another base from which to exercise some control over the Middle East. To those who ask why it should be us who control the Middle East, I reply, who else? Look at the alternatives. The area is important for one reason only: petroleum, a resource that has value only because our technology makes it so and that is found, mined and refined only by means of our technology. If the regimes of the Middle East were headed by and built upon an electorate of sensible people, then there would not be a problem. They are not, and there is. Since the entire world economy is based on petroleum, it is in everyone's interest (though above all ours) that its supply not be threatened or be used as a weapon against us.

3. Try to kick-start a process of normalisation, or modernisation of the political culture of the area by erecting a working nation playing a normal part in the world economy. This is the much-maligned neo-con project of spreading democracy. Idealistic, sure. Foolish, possibly. However, though the means we have used are questionable, the end is not. At some point, for their own sakes, the nations of the Middle East have got to throw off the motley of victimhood and start producing things the world wants thus giving their people something to live for that is not self-immolation.

Is all of the above imperialistic? Of a sort. But if not us, then who? The option of everyone sitting like a new reception class in a friendship circle has never been available and never will be. So, again I ask, if not us, who? Of course, 'us' really means the Americans. We Europeans do not really cut too fine a figure - great at giving money to those that press the right buttons (including Iraqi kidnappers); not bad at the rhetoric of peace if the pieces of eight are not greasy enough; not so good at actually doing something such as defend ourselves. But that is beside the point.

We're not doing too well in Iraq for many reasons. We'll be doing a lot worse if we leave.

Choudhury beaten up; office looted

This report details the attack on Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury and his office in Dhaka on the 5th of October. Choudhury was beaten up and left with a fractured ankle and money was stolen from the office safe.

According to the report, 40 people were involved in the attack. The interesting detail is who was leading them.

According to a statement appearing on the Web site of the Weekly Blitz, the attackers were led by Helal Khan, international affairs secretary of Jasas, and included Babul Ahmed, Jasas's secretary-general. Jasas is the cultural wing of the ruling Bangladeshi National Party (BNP).
During the assault, Ahmed is said to have shouted at Choudhury, labeling him an "agent of the Jews."
In a photo taken shortly after the incident that was obtained exclusively by the Post, Choudhury can be seen hunched over a table wearing a torn shirt while a Bangladeshi policeman dressed in blue chats with two BNP officials. Both officials took part in the attack.
No arrests were made, and police refused to allow Choudhury to file charges against his attackers.
Choudhury is due to go on trial for sedition today .

The page from Honest Reporting whose link led me to the article above has other items of interest. There's the Reuters cameraman who has been remanded in prison for egging on rioters in the Arab village of Bil'in to hurl stones at Israeli military vehicles. There's also a link to an article on the BBC which includes this quote:
Journalists and media organizations [are] waging the campaign shoulder-to-shoulder together with the Palestinian people.
This was said by Fayad Abu Shamala, the BBC correspondent in Gaza for the past 10 years, at a Hamas rally on May 6, 2001.

I have written before about the Mohammad Al-Durah case and the recent related trial in Paris. Honest Reporting link to an article by Richard Landes that gives the background.

It turns out that Honest Reporting have tried to get access to the Balen Report, just as Steven Sugar has. They report on their own efforts as well as linking to the Daily Telegraph article I posted on here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Jews unite the world

This is the second report I've seen about this. I await confirmation.

In France, Jean-Marie Le Pen's far right National Front appears to have opted for a can't-lick-'em-join-'em strategy, a rapprochement with France's large immigrant Muslim community -- with undertones of anti-Semitism. Le Pen's reasoning appears to be the recognition that Islamicization is in France to stay with 25 percent of France's under 20 population Muslim (40 percent in some cities), 2nd and 3rd generation North Africans. FN's tough stance on immigration is tempered by support for Arab and Islamist causes in the Middle East (Hamas and Hezbollah are two favorites). There are an estimated 6 to 8 million Muslims among France's 62 million and Islam is now France's second religion. Mosques are well attended on Fridays; churches aren't on Sundays. France's prison inmates are over 50 percent Muslim.

Le Pen's strategic advisers argue the FN must drop its founding mythology and forget about the once popular image of a modern Joan of Arc resisting the invasion of Muslim hordes. Americans and Jews are the new targets. But the party's Christian right-wingers do not agree and are defecting in large numbers. The Islamist threat is their main concern and they are finding a new political home in MPF, Mouvement Pour la France, which is anti-European Union and anti-Muslim, and given only 7 percent of registered voters in a recent poll. Le Pen's followers have dropped back from 11 percent to 9 percent.

Numbers that (don't) make sense

Thank god there are people out there more numerate than me. Iraq Body Count has spelt out the implications of the Lancet's extrapolated body count. If The Lancet's figures are accurate,

On average, a thousand Iraqis have been violently killed every single day in the first half of 2006, with less than a tenth of them being noticed by any public surveillance mechanisms;

Some 800,000 or more Iraqis suffered blast wounds and other serious conflict-related injuries in the past two years, but less than a tenth of them received any kind of hospital treatment;

Over 7% of the entire adult male population of Iraq has already been killed in violence, with no less than 10% in the worst affected areas covering most of central Iraq;

Half a million death certificates were received by families which were never officially recorded as having been issued;

The Coalition has killed far more Iraqis in the last year than in earlier years containing the initial massive "Shock and Awe" invasion and the major assaults on Falluja.
(via Harry's Place)

The question: To kill or not to kill

The Philosophical Society of Trinity College Dublin has organised for Thursday a debate on the use of violence for religious/political ends. Speaking for the affirmative will be Anjem Choudary, Sulayman Keeler, Omar Brooks and Mohammed Shamsuddin.

Anjem Choudary is the former leader of the Islamist group Al-Muhajiroun (now banned in the UK), someone who described the 9/11 19 as "magnificent" and that attack as a justifiable reaction to 70 years of oppression and a part of the battle for the Law of God.

Sulayman Keeler is from al-Ghurabaa, a successor group to Al-Muhajiroun.

I don't believe in democracy. It's man made. You're talking about a government that taxes the people to death. It oppresses many millions of people in the world. It wouldn't be such a shame to have them overturned. You're talking about one man, Tony Blair, sends a bunch of aircraft into Iraq, bombs a bunch of people. You're talking about another man, Osama Bin Laden, who sends a bunch of aeroplanes into America and bombs a bunch of people - what is the difference? You tell me.
Omar Brooks is from the Saviour Sect, another descendent of Al-Muhajiroun.
They are so opposed to the British state that they see it as their duty to make no economic contribution to the nation. One member warned our undercover reporter against getting a job because it would be contributing to the kuffar (non-Muslim) system.

Instead, the young follower, Nasser, who receives £44 job seekers’ allowance a week, said it was permissible to “live off benefits”, just as the prophet Mohammed had lived off the state while attacking it at the same time. Even paying car insurance was seen as supporting the system. “All the (Saviour Sect) brothers drive without insurance,” he said.

Speaking to a group of teenagers and families, [Omar Brooks] declared it was imperative for Muslims to “instil terror into the hearts of the kuffar” and added: “I am a terrorist. As a Muslim of course I am a terrorist.”
Speaking against will be Berki Dibek, the Turkish ambassador, David Pidcock, of the UK Islamic party, and Shaheed Satardien, of the Supreme Muslim Council of Ireland.

I feel a sort of ghoulish fascination for this debate, one which derives entirely from the certainty that the speakers For have at the very least supported acts of violence against us and will more than likely do so again. I compare them to the revolutionaries I heard speak at university and marvel at how completely unserious they were in comparison with this lot. I do wonder how many of the impressionable, the weak-minded and the yearners for great gestures will look on the clarity of such folk and be enthralled. That dreadful simplicity of certainty.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The BBC and Israel

I must admit that until recently I have floated along with the assumption that the BBC was serious about its commitment to at least strive for impartiality and would dismiss any failings as individual cases. My first disillusionment came in the run-up to the Iraq War where the attempt to understand what was going on was inadequate and the resultant coverage thin and narrow-minded. The recent war in Lebanon disillusioned me completely. Though mostly a matter of tone and exclusion, the effect was more or less that of the traditional Left for whom the parts are fixed in stone: the Lebanese/Palestinians are the poor victims; the Israelis the bully on the park.

It seems that there has existed a report since 2004 on the BBC's coverage of the Middle East: the Balen Report. It is believed to be highly critical of the corporation's anti-Israel bias, but it is impossible to say with any certainty. A lawyer, Steven Sugar, has tried to get access to it under the Freedom of Information Act, but the BBC has fought the case through two courts, and because it lost the second case, is about to fight it through a third.

I really really hope it loses.

Bad times to come

Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, Head of the UK Muslim Parliament, says

We have to be wary of a new breed of McCarthyism. It is important to differentiate between Muslim extremists and those taking part in a valid debate, whether it be over foreign policy or veils.

The vast majority in any community are law-abiding and the government has to be careful to make sure they do not say anything that suggest the whole community is to blame.
He is right several times there. The suspicion of Muslims is widespread, the extremist agitators are comparatively few and a Muslim should be able to criticise goverment policy without being labelled a terrorist.

He goes on.
It needs to work with communities. There are a few hundred extremist Muslims that can be tackled, but if they are not then it is the fault of the government and not Muslims.
You might wonder why it is the fault of the government if the extremists are not "tackled". Is it that the police are not effective enough? Is it the fault of immigration policy and practice? If so, he wouldn't be alone in making the criticism. But no.
The very root of the problem that exists is social exclusion and until the government accepts their own responsibility, there is nothing anybody can do.

They have to to ensure everybody has a stake in society and that is a commitment only they can make. Here I feel is where Ruth Kelly has failed.

Extremism is linked with deprivation and our studies show Bangladeshi and Pakistani Muslims are the among the most deprived.

There has been a discussion on extremism and foreign policy, but that is a secondary factor in why there are Muslim extremists.

The main reason is because of the social deprivation and exclusion.
While it is true that Muslim achievement is well behind that of other ethnic groups, I find it difficult to see how that is the government's fault, especially as the same divide is seen in other European countries. How does a government ensure social inclusion? It is good to see that he demotes foreign policy to the second rank of causes, but surely he is managing to not see the camel in the room.

What is the role of Muslims in 'getting included'. Is it helpful to put Muslim loyalties always and everywhere above those to the society in which you live? Does he want us to believe that the terrorism that struck on July the 7th had nothing to do with Islam and was only about social exclusion? How have Muslims made their revulsion of such acts clear? As Mark Steyn puts it
How many Western Muslims have formed "Not In Our Name" groups and marched to protest the bombing of their fellow citizens in New York, Madrid and London? How many have joined "Islam Against Suicide Bombing" or banded together to force jihadist imams out of their mosques? How many are prepared to stand up and say that they didn't come to America or Europe to raise their children as Saudis?

Hello? Anyone out there?
(America Alone, pp 81-2)
I think there's a problem there.

There's also a problem here with us. It is we who told Muslims they could maintain all of their culture no matter how invidious it was to ours. It is we who raised the stick of victimisation so that they could take it and beat us with it. It is we who preached the creed that all failure is down to everyone else. It is we who maligned and belittled the achievements of our own culture and applauded when others learnt the tune and recited it back to us. It is we who allowed such absurdities as the Muslim Parliament (an historical ozymoron) to be erected here. If it is true that it is Muslims who must in the end fix Islam so that it is fit to be lived with, it is also true that we have quite a bit of fixing to do with ourselves.

This is going to get worse. We will pester and pick petty fault; they will complain and throw back in our face principles no Muslim society has ever created or lived by. Who can blame them? But if we don't start to stand up for the better half of ourselves, we will never get back the respect we have lost by displaying the worst.

Welcome to Bangladesh

For a bit of background of the case of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury, currently on trial in Dhaka for sedition, this article from the Wall Street Journal by Bret Stephens. It doesn't look good for Mr Choudhury. (I don't understand the phrase "is running for his life" (twice). As far as I know, he's imprisoned and doesn't have much choice in the matter. I've looked for confirmation that the poor man is on the move, but cannot find any. Is this an American idiom that escaped me?)

Welcome to Bangladesh, a country the State Department's Richard Boucher recently portrayed in congressional testimony as "a traditionally moderate and tolerant country" that shares America's "commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law." That's an interesting way to describe a country that is regularly ranked as the world's most corrupt by Transparency International and whose governing coalition, in addition to the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, includes two fundamentalist Islamic parties that advocate the imposition of Shariah law. There are an estimated 64,000 madrassas (religious schools) in Bangladesh. The Ministry of Industries is in the hands of Motiur Rahman Nizami, a radical Islamist with a reputation of a violent past. In March the Peace Corps was forced to leave the country for fear of terrorist attacks. Seven other journalists have also been brought up on sedition charges by Ms. Zia's government, most of them for attempting to document Bangladesh's repression of religious minorities.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's My Freedom

Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice reviews Ayaan Hirsi Ali's new book. It is an autobiography entitled My Freedom; well, that's the translation from the Dutch in the absence of the English edition. Those familiar with her story will not find much here that is new, but the post is worth a look because of the comments where some Muslims have given their opinions.

Sadly, they are of the same tenor as others I have seen. They either attack the person (that she has a "confused soul" is the gentlest) or dismiss her because she has sinned (ie she has left and criticises Islam). That's as far as it gets. Nothing about the substance of her criticisms or the alternatives she holds out. There is no exchange, no refutation of fact or argument; just she's an apostate and she's wrong. It does not auger well.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Bear Back

Aside from killing journalists, the Russians are returning to old habits in other places too. I'd be worried.

On Tuesday, Russian military engineers landed in Beirut. Their arrival signaled the first time that Russian forces have openly deployed in the Middle East. In the past Soviet forces in Syria and Egypt operated under the official cover of "military advisors." Today those "advisors" are "engineers." The Russian forces, which will officially number some 550 troops, are tasked with rebuilding a number of bridges that the IDF destroyed during the recent war. They will operate outside the command of the UNIFIL.

Mosnews news service reported on Wednesday that the engineers will be protected by commando platoons from Russia's 42nd motorized rifle division permanently deployed in Chechnya. According to the report, these commando platoons are part of the Vostok and Zapad Battalions both of which are commanded by Muslim officers who report directly to the main intelligence department of the Russian Army's General Staff in Moscow. The Vostok Battalion is commanded by Maj. Sulim Yamadayev who Mosnews refers to as a "former rebel commander."
With the deployment of former Chechen rebels as Russian military commandos in Lebanon, the report this week exposing Russia's intelligence support for Hizbullah during the recent war takes on disturbing strategic significance.

According to Jane's Defense Weekly the Russian listening post on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights provided Hizbullah with a continuous supply of intelligence throughout the conflict.
Much still remains to be reported about the impressive intelligence capabilities that Hizbullah demonstrated this summer. But from what has already been made public, we know that Hizbullah's high degree of competence in electronic intelligence caused significant damage to IDF operations. Now we learn that Moscow stood behind at least one layer of Hizbullah's intelligence prowess.

Moscow's assistance to Hizbullah was not limited to intelligence sharing. The majority of IDF casualties in the fighting were caused by Russian-made Kornet anti-tank missiles that made their way to Hizbullah fighters through Syria. Indeed, as we learn more about Russia's role, it appears that Russia's support for Hizbullah may well have been as significant as Syria's support for the terror organization. And now we have Chechens in Lebanon.
The Chechens are there to protect the Russian engineers against outraged Hezbollah activists. Right?

Implacable Al-Queda and Amoral America

Salman Rushdie interviewed in The Independent.

"If tomorrow the Israel/Palestine issue was resolved to the total happiness of all parties, it would not diminish the amount of terrorism coming out of al-Qa'ida by one jot. It's not what they're after," he adds, his foot tapping against mine as he leans forward. "Yes, it's a recruiting tool, rhetorically. Many people see there's an injustice there, and it helps them to get people into the gang, but it's not what they want. What they want is to change the nature of human life on earth into the image of the Taliban. If you want the whole earth to look like Taliban Afghanistan, then you're on the same side as them. If you don't want that, you're not. They do not represent the quest for human justice. That, I think, is one of the great mistakes of the left."

"When people ask me how the West should adapt to Muslim sensitivities, I always say - the question is the wrong way round. The West should go on being itself. There is nothing wrong with the things that for hundreds of years have been acceptable - satire, irreverence, ridicule, even quite rude commentary - why the hell not? "

"But you see it every day, this surrender," he says. He runs through a list of the theatres and galleries that have censored themselves in the face of religious fundamentalist protests. He mentions that the entire British media - from the BBC down - placed itself in purdah during the Mohammed cartoons episode. "What I fear most is that, when we look back in 25 years' time at this moment, what we will have seen is the surrender of the West, without a shot being fired. They'll say that in the name of tolerance and acceptance, we tied our own hands and slit our own throats. One of the things that have made me live my entire life in these countries is because I love the way people live here."
That is very good. However, I am less enthusiastic about this:
And he has another blast at Blair: looking to the United States as our anti-Islamist saviour is, he explains, a "terrible mistake. America, like all superpowers, uses only the criterion of self-interest. That's the way in which a superpower operates, whether it's the Soviet Union or the United States. The criterion is what serves the interests of the power. When that coincides with what we call liberal democratic values then, yeah, it will be on that side. But superpowers of every stripe have a history of installing puppets which will serve their interests. Whether it's in Nicaragua, or the Shah of Iran. You can't look to a superpower as a moral arbiter, because its job is not morality. Its job is the preservation of its sphere of influence."
He then recounts that he has met Paul Wolfowitz, who was intelligent and charming, but ...
... false idealism, as we know from Graham Greene, can be fantastically self-destructive." So Wolfowitz, a former Deputy Secretary of Defense, is Alden Pyle, the Quiet American, wreaking havoc in the name of righteousness? "Yes. I do think that someone in the name of virtue can do terrible damage, for entirely virtuous reasons. But I've never seen great power as having a moral dimension." Just after we meet, it is estimated by The Lancet that 650,000 Iraqis have been killed due to Quiet Americans (and Brits).
1. No state power is a 'moral arbiter', whether super or simpering. The fact is, however, that America's self-interest is far more in line with our self-interest than any other power. (By 'our', I mean us as a country and us as individuals.) Which ally does he choose then? France? Russia? China? Or should we strike out alone and take up an "ethical foreign policy"? To do what exactly?

2. As an excellent illustration of why intellectuals should never be allowed more than dinner-party-contact with power, that "as we know from Graham Greene" cannot be bettered. We don't need Alden Pyle, Salman, to teach us that "someone in the name of virtue can do terrible damage, for entirely virtuous reasons". The various Mohammads doing explosive splits in crowded places for the glory of Allah is a full-colour real-body-parts lesson that is constantly with us.

3. The Independent touch. "650,000 Iraqis killed due to Quiet Americans." What are you supposed to do with figures like those that The Lancet produced and The Independent shoves in here? They can't be confirmed or contradicted. If you were against the war, you can mount the moral high horse and shout about murderers of mothers and babies. But surely you can do that if only 10 have died. Does it mean we should withdraw now before any more die? But then all those that die in the ensuing chaos will be our fault too. Based on other civil wars, should we extrapolate the likely number of deaths,make a comparison and then decide? Stay = 2.2 million. Go = 2 million. Hang it! Let's go and save the lives of 200,000 people!

Obits and Copybooks

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.

He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, life isn’t always fair, and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you earn) and reliable parenting strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place.
Read the rest .

Because the bleeding obvious needs to be pointed out again and again, I would like to add the final four stanzas of "The Gods of the Copybook Headings".

In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul;
But, though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: "If you don't work you die."

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will bum,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return.
Read all of Kipling's poem.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Choudhury on trial

Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury The trial of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury on charges of sedition (he has written favourably of infidels including Israel, and criticised devout maniacs) started today in Bangladesh.

I wrote about this here, and Norm has posted about it today. The American Jewish Committee is organising a campaign to have him free, though I wonder if they shouldn't be working through an umbrella organisation less transparently-named. This is the site Interfaith Strength, set up by Choudury and Richard L Benkin. The photo above is from that site.

Pre-emptive Censorship

It is apt that the inspiration for a term to describe what we're doing to ourselves should come from communist East Germany. The expression they used for second-guessing what their masters would order was pre-emptive obedience. Perhaps we should call it pre-emptive submission, and it may well come to that, but for the moment let's stick with pre-emptive censorship.

I have collected a few recent examples of Western pusillanimity.

Submission (January, 2005) - Rotterdam Film Festival cancelled the screening of Theo van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Submission out of fear of violence. The film’s production company, Column Pictures, withdrew the film from circulation and will not allow it to be officially shown. Since van Gogh's murder by Mohammed Bouyeri, it has been shown only twice, by DR in Denmark, November 11, 2004 and by RAI in Italy, May 12 2005.

Tamburlaine the Great at the Barbican (summer, 2005)- The removal of a scene in which the Koran is burned

The BBC, UK (September, 2005) - The BBC cancels a dramatization of John Buchan’s novel Greenmantle because it is about Muslim extremists in the First World War, and contained “unsuitable and insensitive material.”

Tate Britain, UK (September, 2005) - The gallery withdraws an installation called God Is Great, which consists of a large sheet of glass and copies of the Koran, the Bible and Judaism's Talmud that have been cut apart for fear of offending Muslim sensibilities after the July 7 bombings. The artist claims, "It shows that all religious teaching comes from the same source", which must come as a surprise to Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, etc.

Prison Service, UK (September, 2005) - The Chief Inspector of Prisons tells prison staff to stop wearing Cross of St George tiepins because they could be "misinterpreted'' as a racist symbol.

Carnival in Germany (2006) - Cologne ruled out any jokes about Islam or Muslims, though it was all right to caricature Cologne's Cardinal Meisner as an inquisitor who burns women at the stake

Spain - The Festivals of the Moors and the Christians - Censorship or cancellation of the festivals that have been held for 400 years. However, one that deals with the old Blood Libel of the Jews remains intact, despite protests.

South Park - (April, 2006) - An episode called Cartoon Wars Part 2 had a sequence showing Mohammed cut at the insistence of the cable broadcasters Comedy Central

Utrecht University - (Summer, 2006) - Professor Piet van der Horst has his retirement lecture censored by the university’s dean. In tracing a history of the the myth of Jewish cannibalism, Prof. van der Horst had intended bringing the story up to date by describing the adoption of that myth by Islamic regimes across the Middle East. He was told his lecture would create an immediate security risk.

Twenty Three Years, a biography critical of Mohammad by the late Iranian author Ali Dashti - British publisher cancelled plans to publish it in September

The Sheikh's New Clothes: The Naked Truth about Islamic Suicide Terrorism by Nancy Kobrin (Autumn, 2006) - The publisher cancelled the release of this book about the psychology of fundamentalist Islamic terrorists

Idomeneo by WA Mozart - Berlin's Deutsche Oper cancelled a production slated for this November because of the scene in which King Idomeneo places the four severed heads of Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed on chairs.

Whitechapel Art Gallery (October, 2006) - The gallery removed works by surrealist artist Hans Bellmer from an exhibition the day before it was due to open so as "to not shock the population of the Whitechapel neighbourhood, which is partly Muslim".

British Airways (October, 2006) - The company forbids a member of staff to wear a sixpence-sized crucifix visibly despite allowing Muslims to wear a headscarf and Sikhs to wear a turban. Presumably, the crucifix would offend Hindus. No, Buddhists. No, it must be Zoroastrians.

Scholastic Australia (November, 2006) The publisher pulls John Dale's Army of the Pure before publication because the baddies are two Islamic terrorists.

Mayor of Chicago (December, 2006) The Mayor's Office does not allow the annual Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza to show clips from "The Nativity Story," a movie that depicts the biblical story of Mary, Joseph and the birth of Jesus because doing so would be "insensitive to the many people of different faiths."

Amsterdam (February, 2007) - "There is already a lot of self-censorship among the comedians, and theatres are cancelling bookings, Teeuwen says." ~

University of Cambridge (11 March, 2007) - "A Cambridge University student is at the centre of a race-hate probe after printing anti-Islamic material in a magazine. The 19-year-old, second-year student at Clare College was in hiding today after printing the 'racist' cartoon and other vile material. The article is said to be so inflammatory the undergraduate has been taken to a secret location for his own safety." [He had reprinted one of the Danish cartoons.]

Leeds University (16 March, 2007) - A lecture by Dr Matthias Kuntzel on 'Islamic anti-semitism' is cancelled after 'alleged protest emails' from Muslims .

Washington (April, 2007) Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center, a film on the silencing of moderate Muslims by Islamists and commissioned by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is shelved by PBS for being "alarmist".

The Netherlands (August, 2007) - Bishop Tiny Muskens, Roman Catholic Bishop of Breda, proposes that people of all faiths refer to God as Allah "to foster understanding".

NHS, Scotland (August, 2007) - NHS Lothian advises health workers not to have working lunches to avoid offending Muslim colleagues during Ramadan. USA (August, 2007) - Newspapers refuse to publish 2 episodes of the "Opus" comic because they feature Islamic references and a sex joke.

USA (August, 2007) - Newspapers refuse to publish 2 episodes of the "Opus" comic because they feature Islamic references and a sex joke.

Brussels, Belgium (September, 2007) - The Mayor of Brussels prohibits a demonstration against the Islamization of Europe, to be held next September 11 as he is worried it will upset the large immigrant population of Brussels.

Canada (September, 2007) - Elections Canada changes the law to allow people under the hijab to vote without showing their face. Muslims say they had never requested it and that is absurd.

BBC, UK (September, 2007) - "BBC bosses are ready to AXE a £1million episode of hit drama Spooks in which an al-Qaeda terrorist is shot dead — in case it upsets Muslims."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Inquisitions and crusades

This article by Christopher Orlet is about the treatment of the French teacher, Robert Redeker, first by the Islamists offended by his characterisation of Muhammad as a "mass-murderer of Jews" and then by the French establishment terrified of another rampage in the banlieues. It is the response of the Western elites that worries Mr Orlet, their speed in bending the knee, their barely suppressed anger at those who will not be silent and persist in bringing up unpleasant subjects. He looks back.

The West went through a similar crisis a few years ago during the height of the Feminist Inquisition and Politically Correct Crusade, which matched the worst excesses of McCarthyism for the sheer dread it imposed upon the hearts and minds of Americans. Ironically, it was worst in the press and academia, where untenured professors -- almost all upstanding liberals -- lived in constant fear of being reported to the PC police for gazing wantonly at a young coed, or making an off-color joke.
His point is to contrast the consequences then and now (loss of job vs loss of life). But surely there's a more important point. The methods of those with Right on their side differ markedly in degree, but not in type. I well remember at university the Feminist counter to an opposing point of view was shouting, name-calling and, often, violence. They became the Thought Police of the age and were free to interpret any utterance and condemn any person on that person's perceived adherence to the new orthodoxy. They had quickly acquired Victim status, erected it into a millennial creed and dismissed all of history as either a fabrication of the oppressor or as one long crime.

The anger has receded, but the virus has mutated into the various gender and cultural studies, and the cultural relativism that plagues us today. The institutions that ought to be our first defence against hogwash are either so infected or so weakened by past lost battles that they are a danger themselves to the society they were built to serve. Orlet is right. We have been through this before. Each time the shout goes up for liberation and freedom from oppression. Each time we come out weakened and less able to confront the next onslaught.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Regensburg Address - Endnotes change nothing

The Vatican has added endnotes to the Pope's Regensburg Address. Note 3 gives the sources for the words of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II and adds

In the Muslim world, this quotation has unfortunately been taken as an expression of my personal position, thus arousing understandable indignation. I hope that the reader of my text can see immediately that this sentence does not express my personal view of the Qur’an, for which I have the respect due to the holy book of a great religion. In quoting the text of the Emperor Manuel II, I intended solely to draw out the essential relationship between faith and reason. On this point I am in agreement with Manuel II, but without endorsing his polemic.
Obviously, as with his previous statements, he was sorry for the effect his words had had, not for the words themselves.

Note 5 is interesting.
It was purely for the sake of this statement that I quoted the dialogue between Manuel and his Persian interlocutor. In this statement the theme of my subsequent reflections emerges.
The sentence referred to is
The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this: not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God's nature.
The rest of the paragraph reads
The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality.[6] Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazm went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God's will, we would even have to practise idolatry.[7]
Note 6 merely gives sources, but Note 7 refers us to later in the address, where he speaks of tendencies in late Medieval Christianity (Duns Scotus) towards the position of Ibn Hazm outlined above, tendencies not reflected in Church doctrine.
As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which - as the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 stated - unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language.... [T]he truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself as logos and, as logos, has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf. Certainly, love, as Saint Paul says, "transcends" knowledge and is thereby capable of perceiving more than thought alone (cf. Eph 3:19); nonetheless it continues to be love of the God who is Logos....Consequently, Christian worship is, again to quote Paul - "λογικη λατρεία", worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason (cf. Rom 12:1).
There is no softening of his position at all and the contrast remains between the Christian belief in a God who does not contradict our reason and the quoted Islamic belief in a God that is completely transcendent, that has no necessary connection to our reason.

(via Dorothy King & Cronaca)

Morocco against the veil

I saw this story in Corriere della Sera this morning but haven't been able to find an English-language version of it. I have written a quick summary.

The Moroccan monarchy and government is making moves to discourage the hijab. While it has passed no law, institutions and publically-owned corporations have been asked to make it difficult for its employees to wear it. The Ministry of Education recently pulped 700,000 primary school textbooks only to re-introduce them minus veiled women, and reduced the number of hours devoted to Religion, as well.

Why? The Minister for Education, Aboulkacem Samir, put it like this: "The hijab has become for women what the beard is for men, a political symbol".

This is just the most recent of government attempts to "interpret" Sharia to make it more amenable to modern life. Two years ago they passed the most liberal marriage laws in the Islamic world to make divorce easier to obtain for women and to make polygamy almost impossible. Even the Islamic parties accepted this, just as they accepted the first 50 women qualified to preach in mosques and prisons and to take part in the traditional theological discussions held before King Mohammad VI every Ramadan.

The government have not dealt with the hijab by means of the law, however, because it has become too popular, even among the educated and rich. It's become a fashion item flaunted by actresses and singers as they go to the mosque during Ramadan.

Find a maniac! Quick!

Salman Rushdie has given his support to Jack Straw by saying that "veils suck". One reaction.

Omar Bakri Muhammad, a cleric living in Beirut after being forced to leave Britain because of his radical views, said Rushdie was an apostate whose life was still in danger. He said: "He will continue living his life in hiding. Any fatwa will stand until it is fulfilled. He is always going to be worried about a Muslim reaching him."
The expected response, but why do you think that The Guardian took the trouble to contact him? Because he can be relied upon to supply some good copy. These mad mullahs are truly irreplaceable.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Osama's just this guy

We need more of this, on which see Harry.

Roll call

I've always taken a peculiar pleasure in watching the end credits of American films roll on and on. It's partly the comedown after all the zany fun, it's partly the music. A lot of it, though, is the lists of names. It's like some World Music catalogue. I imagine the paths that led to this confluence and they come from every continent and so many nations. It's obvious that it should be so; it's still an immigrant country, but it seems to be confirmation of that old saw according to which those that have the energy to emigrate will have the energy to make something of themselves once they arrive.

Here's a list I garnered from a couple of DVDs on the IMDb site:

Oleksy, Oguchi, Kowalski, Sevier, Brizio, Sanca, Skillingberg, Fonnyadt, DiSanto, Chun, Kastl, Oka, Ming, Pi
The list of this year's Nobel Prize winners is not quite so various, but it's significant that the variety is at the top as well as lower down. This year's Nobels (with my amateur guesses as to the origins of the surnames)

Ed Phelps (English) - Economics
Roger Kornberg (Jewish, probably from Central Europe) - Chemistry
Andrew Z. Fire (No idea. I bet you it's been Anglicised) & Craig C. Mello (Portuguese) - Medicine
John C. Mather (Scottish) & George F. Smoot (Dutch) - Physics

Finally, I have borrowed this photo from the forum Italians on the Corriere della Sera site. It was taken by Giovanni Gadda (the bearded man third from the right) and it shows a group of research scientists at Georgia State University, Atlanta. Most of these people are foreign nationals. The countries are: Usa, Ethiopia, Italy, Vietnam, Serbia, Thailand, Denmark, Ghana, Nigeria, China, Egypt.

Research Group from Georgia State University
Forza America!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Numbers on a street

via Giulia - Rome (photo: Massim. F.)
I've taken the liberty of stealing another photo from PaNiC rOmE for no other reason than that I liked it.

It shows the via Giulia in the rione Regola. It runs parallel to the Lungotevere from Ponte Sisto until largo dei Fiorentini. It was designed by Bramante for Pope Julius II and was the first Renaissance street to cut throught the tangled alleys of the old centre.

The street numbering is strange. For one thing, it jumps by ones, twos and tens (because of the demolition of various buildings through the ages). For another, the odds and evens are mixed up. But most original of all, on one side they rise while on the other they fall.
I remember when I first went to Italy (and I was a very bad traveller), the numbering of buildings along a street was one of the many little things that brought on severe existential doubts and made me question my fitness for Life on Earth. For instance, I didn't understand that residential and non-residential buildings were given two completely separate sequences so that I didn't need to suffer because of the fact that with one step I went from number 24 to number 2. It was normal. As I have always suspected, it was my own fault that I suffered.