Saturday, June 24, 2006
'Public opinion in Britain is mostly favourable towards Muslims, but the feeling is not requited by British Muslims, who are among the most embittered in the western world, according to a global poll published yesterday.'
The details are here.
On Saturday the Grauniad hit back by commissioning its own research. A random sample of one British Muslim (an al-Jazeera TV presenter, as luck would have it) finds the Pew survey incredible. So possibly the people Pew talked to weren't real Muslims at all. A bit like 9/11 (17% of British Muslims believe that Arabs were involved). Oh, the fiendish cunning of the you-know-who's (clue: 32% of British Muslims think they're OK)!
Seriously, though. This head-in-sand response is just pathetic. Certainly we need to examine what the survey is telling us very carefully, without jumping to conclusions. But there is absolutely no excuse for ignoring it. There's a problem which is global in scope, and Britain's approach to it appears to have backfired rather spectacularly. What's to be done?
A week before the poll was published the we learnt from the Grauniad that the use of the word 'continuum' here is evidence of hysteria:-
'[Islamists] are fuelled by an ideology that itself is non-negotiable and forms a continuum that links peaceful, law-abiding but nevertheless intensely ideological Muslims at one end and murderous jihadists at the other.'
I think the writer can be forgiven for saying 'told you so'.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Worst Idea of the Century
I must be having a nightmare.
Saudis Offered Scholarships for Aviation Courses in US. (Hat tip: LGF readers.)
JEDDAH, 20 June 2006 — The Ministry of Higher Education and the General Authority of Civil Aviation are offering scholarships to Saudi men and women to study various majors related to civil aviation in the United States.
The forms are available online at the ministry’s website until July 12 for both bachelor’s and post-graduate studies. Nominations will be announced on July 31. Interviews will take place in August and final scholarship winners will be announced on Sept. 2.
The scholarships are available in majors such as communications, electrical and computer engineering, computer science, systems analysis, air traffic control, flight safety, and other majors related to the airline transport industry.
Applicants for the bachelor’s program must have a minimum score of 85 percent in the science section and 90 percent in other sections, such as Qur’an memorizing, administrative and commercial sciences.
Believe me, I do appreciate the black humour here. But seriously, Charles, what is your point? Are you saying we should be trying to ensure that no Saudi ever flies a plane again? Sounds to me like a good way of achieving the exact opposite of what we want.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Dear reader, I don't need to tell you who thought that was a very bad thing and made it his business to do something about it, do I? And perhaps, rather than being overly critical of him (or indeed of the Ivy League universities which had already pioneered solutions to the problem of excessive numbers of Jewish students), we should after all see the Jews as having been the authors of their own misfortune. For, then as now, was not being too clever by half one of the most infuriating ways in which they failed to live circumspectly?
I think we ought to have that quote again in full. You might like to cut it out and frame it. This is what we learnt yesterday courtesy of the Guardian, Max Hastings and one of his best friends:-
'The experience ... of learning to live circumspectly among more numerous and powerful neighbours is a surer guarantee of survival than the triumphalist illusions of a mere 50-odd years of statehood.'
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
'Following a heart attack earlier this year, Paul Mackney, then general secretary of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (Natfhe), was lying in hospital last month flipping through emails on his Blackberry. A proposal calling on the lecturers' union to encourage an academic boycott of Israel had just been made public, and flooding his inbox were messages accusing him, among many things, of being a "Bin Laden-oriented supporter of Islamic terror and propaganda" and an "ultra anti-semitic Nazi". Later, at the union's annual conference, he leaned over during a debate to show the most recent: "Subject: Jew Hater!" it read. "It's nice to hate Jews and single them out for everything! It's called ANTI-SEMITISM you disgusting piece of shit."'
The heart attack detail is a nice touch: anti-boycott campaigners are not only bonkers but totally callous.
OK, I've given prominence to a couple of wacko comments I've received - but then I didn't have 50,000 to choose from. 50,000 e-mails to NATFHE leaders: a healthy sign of vigourous democratic debate? Well, maybe in general, but not in this particular case. For these are not normal people, but people who defend Israel. The name for what such people do when they make their views known is 'bullying'.
And of course they're only doing it to deflect attention from the Real Issues. Did you know that in Israel different ethnic groups have different levels of participation in higher education? Bet you're shocked. Plainly an apartheid system is the only possible explanation. How can anyone seriously argue against ostracizing a society so uniquely depraved?
So Amos Oz said 30 years ago that Israel would end up like any other Middle Eastern state, and, behold, it has come to pass! It's one of those Life of Brian moments: OK, APART from free elections, a free press, an independent judiciary, equal rights for women, gay rights, religious tolerance and a vibrant economy, what has Israel got that the rest of the Middle East hasn't?
'The experience ... of learning to live circumspectly among more numerous and powerful neighbours is a surer guarantee of survival than the triumphalist illusions of a mere 50-odd years of statehood.' Oh, I SEE. That was where German Jewry went wrong. Just not circumspect enough.
Please, Mr Hastings, a list of all the other peoples for whom the wish to have and defend their own state is a triumphalist illusion.
1. No angle is being spared in the campaign to delegitimize Israel. From Mearsheimer and Walt we've had an attempt to put the case in the language of conservative Realpolitik: it's not in America's true interests to support Israel. Now from the Guardian via Hastings we get kindly concern for Jews: you know, you really ought to give up this Israel business for your own sakes.
2. Note the standard 'it's not me saying this, it's a Jew, so how can there be anything anti-Semitic about it?' defence. If Hastings wants to bash Israel, wouldn't it better become the intrepid former war correspondent to take responsibility for his own opinions, rather than hiding behind his friend who used to be a rabbi?
3. Remember how Ken Livingstone thinks the Daily Mail group is so far beyond the pale of human decency that if someone works for the Evening Standard it's OK to indulge in a bit of anti-Semitic abuse at his expense? Can we now expect Mayor Ken to protest against the Guardian's giving a platform to the former editor of the ES?
Friday, June 16, 2006
Aaro's on fine form - the David Edgar quote in the last paragraph is superbly apposite, and a nicely ironic touch given that Edgar is surely the very embodiment of the Guardianista literary/theatrical establishment.
I can't quite give him ten out of ten, though. This is a crucial passage:-
'It is hard to steer these days between the Scylla of Tullochism (just don’t invade them and they’ll go away) and the Charybdis of the currently fashionable Londonistan paranoia. Tulloch may have been through hell, but that doesn’t make him right when he agrees to that same notion of unique Muslim victimhood that Khan was so desperate to assume. And the mirror image of the Islamic world containing a unique villainy is in the same way both an analytical error and a political one.'
I do agree about the danger of foundering on Charybdis, but I think it's marked at the wrong place on Aaro's chart. The next sentence is characteristic of the kind of analytical error this leads him into:-
'The admixture of victimhood and religious extremism leads to violence [...]'
So Islamist terror is just an instance of a broader sociological phenomenon. But the generalization is wrong - or else it is tautologous. Consider, for example, the Jehovah's Witnesses. I'd say theirs is a fairly extreme form of religion, and I doubt if Aaro would disagree. They are bound to a rigid fundamentalism which announces the imminence of the Apocalypse at regular intervals, and they are expected to spend a large chunk of their waking hours ringing doorbells and flogging the Watchtower. As for victimhood, many are poor and black.
Do we need to go in fear of a JW immolating himself in a tube train? Not unless they scrap their commitment to absolute pacifism. So 'religious extremism' has to mean 'violently intolerant religious extremism', and Aaro's Law becomes pure tautology.
Does the Islamic world indeed contain a unique villainy? Clearly at the very least in the sense that every villainy is unique, it does. Suicide bombing is a villainy replicated (initiated, actually) only by the Tamil Tigers, who are a big problem for Sri Lankans but not for the rest of us (and they're another exception to Aaro's Law, since their motivating ideology is non-religious). It really doesn't help anyone to insist that it's nothing whatsoever to do with Islam. To say that is not to say that it is either a typical or an unalterable phenomenon within Islam. It's just stating the blindingly obvious: there is a connection.
Yes, yes, I know - a comprehensive history of violent intolerance within Christianity would fill many volumes. Nevertheless, I think Christians are entitled to point out that a religion centred on a man who went to a gruesome death without violent resistance is not the same as one whose founder led armies and made converts by the sword. After it had been in business for three centuries Christianity made a convert of the most powerful man in the world and became a state religion, with an exceedingly mixed bag of consequences which it has taken a very long time to unravel. But it is possible for Christians to see these consequences as a secondary accretion to their faith in a way which is not so obviously open to Muslims.
Purely by chance I've just come across this passage in a book by the Pope which I'm reading:-
'It was through Christianity that the idea of the separation of church and state first came into the world. Up to then there had only been the identity of political order and religion. It was common to all cultures that the state bore the sacred within itself and was its real and supreme guardian.'
('Salz der Erde', Munich 1996, p. 254 - my translation)
In Islam the identity of state and religion is powerfully reasserted. It's certainly an overgeneralization, but one supported by many observations, to say that for the individual Muslim this tends to mean that living under a non-Islamic state is easily felt to be 'victimhood' in its own right. There are certainly counter-traditions within Islam - I've linked before to a lecture by Rowan Williams which says interesting things about the history of minority Muslim communities. But the global reach of Islamism seems capable of overarching the most diverse of local conditions and making minority status problematic just about everywhere.
As others have noted, although it's many years since Aaro's membership of the Communist Party of Great Britain lapsed, there's still a whiff of historical materialism about him, making belief systems like religions merely superstructures of the economic forces which are the real drivers of history. Of course this won't do. Ideas have consequences, and big ideas - of which Islam certainly is one - have big consequences.
Aaro makes a superb case for taking what the Ahmadinejads and the Abu Hamzas say seriously. Well, one of the things they say is that they are inspired by their religion. And not by the Bible or by the Talmud or by the Mahabharata or by the Communist Manifesto. Islam says things which are distinctively Islamic, and they make a difference. The Charybdis to be rigourously avoided is the perception that it is a source of nothing but evil. But the assertion that it has a unique and causal relationship with a particular manifestation of evil needs assessing and debating, not ruling out a priori.
PS Shuggy also has the measure of Jonathan Steele.
It never fails to make my day when this happens. Does this make me a sad man who needs to get out more, or just human?
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
1. A Palestinian so deep in denial that he thinks it worth while to try to defend Baroness Tonge:-
'Even if the barrier could be proved to have temporarily reduced the number of Palestinian reprisal attacks, it is hardly a basis for lasting peace between the two peoples.'
Well, lasting peace would be a fine thing, and maybe one day Hamas will decide they want some of it. But meanwhile, Israel must do its bit. Lay out the welcome mat for those bombers!
2. More evidence of Israeli dastardliness: they deal with their moonbat problem by exporting them to Britain...
'As an Israeli born and bred I was brought up to believe that the Palestinians/Arabs are our sworn enemies who have to be defeated on the battlefield.'
How on earth could anyone, circa 1947, have come up with such a bizarre idea?
3. A wise and level-headed British Muslim:-
'Muslim communities have a right to ask questions, but they must stay calm and engage in real dialogue with the police to understand the rationale behind the raids.'
- on a day when the paper is working flat out to milk the last drop of victimhood from the Forest Gate raid. 'I just thought: one by one they're going to kill us' says Mohammed Abdulkahar. An unpleasant thought in a very unpleasant situation, but of course he was actually wrong. They didn't do that because it was not what they intended to do. If it had been, that would of course mean that the British police are as bad as the terrorists they are trying to fight. As Dr Mohammed Ali understands, they are not. Can he and others like him communicate that to those whom Mr Abdulkahar typefies?
Friday, June 09, 2006
'What has been your best blogging experience? > Lernynge that swich goode and lernede folke dide thynke myn litel poostes to be thynges of amusemente and solaas.'
- blogger Geoffrey Chaucer profiles himself at normblog. Priceless.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
'Sir Melanie Phillips (comment, June 6) thinks the doctrines of multiculturalism and minority rights spring from “a systematic onslaught” by the elite against British identity and values.
If so, the elite has taken its time. It is 350 years since Jews were readmitted to Britain, and some 150 since the last formal bars against Jews and Roman Catholics (and atheists) were removed. The Phillipses of the day reacted much as the present one. Does she think they were right?
A pity the writer didn't have space to elaborate on which bits of British identity and values were compromised by the emancipation of the Jews. The Jewish terrorist threat in early Victorian London has somehow got left out of all the history books I've read. Nor does he tell us what formal bars exist against law-abiding Muslims, or what formal bars he imagines that Melanie Phillips is proposing.
But doubtless Melanie is grateful for the gentle reminder that 350 years on she's still not quite One Of Us.
[By the way, a quick google suggests that somebody named Stephen Hugh-Jones (I'll say no more than that - once bitten, twice shy!) has form.]
The Islamist hate sheet from which I have extracted this pearl of great price is not al-Grauniad, so of course it can only be the Daily Fisk. The writer is Jenny Tonge, member of the House of Lords, sometime member of the Liberal Democrat front bench, sometime guest of Christian Aid in Gaza, and by now clearly several votes short of an overall majority.
UPDATE 12 June
This letter hits the nail squarely on the head, and suggests there is hope for the Lib Dems even after they sacked the leader who sacked Tonge:-
Sir: The chief responsibility of a sovereign nation is the defence of its own citizens. If, as Lady Tonge asserts (letter, 8 June), the security wall being erected by the Israelis has forced suicide bombers to "export themselves" to Iraq, then clearly, for the Israelis, the wall is working. I can think of worse ways in which the Israelis could have protected their people.
Nowhere in her letter could I find a condemnation of the atrocities committed by suicide bombers in Iraq, even though their victims are mainly Muslim, and include those Iraqis trying courageously to build a liberal democracy as opposed to an oppressive, bigoted theocracy.
Menzies Campbell may have confirmed the place of the Liberal Democrats in the progressive, liberal centre of British politics through a rethink of the party's economic policies. But as long as he tolerates the hijacking of foreign policy by the likes of Lady Tonge then the Lib Dems will never be trusted to play a part in the government of this country.
CLLR WAYNE CASEY
DEPUTY LEADER, LIBERAL DEMOCRAT GROUP, LONDON BOROUGH OF BARNET, LONDON NW7
For the record, this was my effort, but I'm glad it was Cllr Casey's that got published:-
Sir: Critics of Israel's security barrier have often seemed indifferent to its effectiveness in preventing suicide bombings. Now Baroness Tonge (letter, 8 June) breaks new ground by making it plain that she objects to it precisely because it is effective in excluding the bombers, thereby 'forcing' them to murder Iraqis as surrogates for Jews. If nothing else, she has reinforced the case for the abolition of the House of Lords.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Here's one I haven't made my mind up about.
A British man working for the charity Islamic Relief has been expelled by the Israelis. They accuse him of helping groups linked to Hamas. Read more here.
Islamic Relief have issued a categorical denial of the charges against them and Ayaz Ali, and it is, after all, possible that this can be taken at face value. If the Israeli military authorities have acted with counterproductive heavy-handedness it wouldn't be the first time.
On the other hand, the link at the end of Dumb Jon's post tells us that Mr Ali admitted the charges - not to mention the distinctly dodgy material found on his laptop.
It's interesting to note that Waseem Yaqub, UK director of Islamic Relief, popped up with a guest column in the winter issue of Christian Aid News - and as I recently argued, Christian Aid now sees advocacy for Hamas as part of its remit. One might suspect there is a pattern emerging here, and alliances being forged.
And as for the work that, as the unbiased BBC informs us, Mr Ali will be unable to carry on, thanks to the evil Israelis...
'According to colleagues, one of his projects was a toy and booklibrary for young Palestinian children.'
...we might recall some of the approaches to pre-school education current in the Middle East, before we automatically assume that this puts him on the side of the angels.
So I'm keeping an open mind.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
'Like all people who cry wolf, those who cry Islamophobia are aiding and abetting the real wolves out there. There is an authentic Islamophobia howling in the background. It is the notion that Islam is a uniquely evil religion, more inherently war-like and fanatical than Christianity or Judaism or the other primitive delusions. These bona fide Islamophobes do not have a principled disagreement with superstition and human rights abuses, as Tatchell does. They have a raw prejudice against Muslims, often because they see them as foreign and all secretly sympathetic to the al Quaeda [sic] psychosis.'
- the Independent's Johann Hari (via).
Continuing the broad theme of the last posting. This is very much par for the course in the liberal media these days, and especially the Indie. Johann hates all religions equally, and that's progressive and fine and dandy. But dare to suggest that you believe one religion is in some way better or worse than others and you're a reactionary bigot. Which of course means that, by Johann's logic, all devout Muslims are Christophobes, Judaeophobes, Buddhophobes and Anything-else-you-like-ophobes. And since moderate Muslims are not stupid and are quite capable of perceiving that Johann can't conceal his contempt for their faith, this not doing a lot to encourage them to make common cause with him on gay rights.
Liberals 0, Fundamentalists 1 (J. Hari, o. g.)
He perorates thus:-
'Pope Benedict pointed at Auschwitz to literally the worst crime of our age, which was committed by those who certainly considered themselves emancipated from superstition, and the agents of supposedly scientific notions of race.
'But no amount of theological reflection will render future generations immune from the atavistic forces that aimed at the destruction of every last Jew in Europe, and to which the Church certainly made a historical contribution. I have no interest at all in the fortunes of Judaism, but a great concern in the resilience of historically persecuted peoples. Only by removing the accumulated detritus of malign ideologies can that happen.
'Organised religion, even in the form of so learned a man as Pope Benedict, is one of the obstacles. Revealed truth cannot be discarded, precisely because it does not come from human reason: it can only be accepted or rationalised. Yet revelation turns out to be a highly unreliable guide. There was no revelation to the Catholic faithful till Vatican II that the Jews were not Christ-killers. There has never yet been a divine revelation, to my knowledge, that freedom of speech, tolerance and religious liberty are values to be prized and defended. If there ever is, it will paradoxically be because the way liberal civilisation operates has superseded the traditional religious imagination. It is time it did.'
My head's spinning. Kamm starts out here with the acknowledgement that the Holocaust was the work of people who consciously rejected the claims of organized revealed religion. Two paragraphs later he has arrived at the contention that if we are to prevent future Holocausts we must dispense with... organized revealed religion.
It's not easy to respond to a generalized attack on revealed religion, because one cannot very sensibly do so with a generalized defence of it. The only thing that can unequivocally be said in favour of a claim to divine revelation is that it happens to be true. But since there exists a plurality of such claims and they are frequently mutually contradictory, to uphold one claim is necessarily to reject others (unless one adopts the unconvincing syncretist postion of denying the contradictions), and having done that one is an easy target for the charge of intolerance . However much one insists that one upholds the right of others to believe in their false revelations, the suspicion lingers that one doesn't really mean it.
Nevertheless I must declare myself a believer in the truth claims of the religion which I practise. Provisionally and tentatively, I would assert the following at least as working hypotheses:- God's covenant with Israel is a genuine revelation of God and one which remains valid and sufficient for the Jewish people. The life, teaching, cross and resurrection of Christ constitute God's definitive revelation to mankind - definitive in being the self-incarnation of God and in its universality. The Quran, and the faith tradition built on it, contains valid religious insights, but its claim to the status of divine revelation is one which, because it explicitly contradicts the central claims of Christianity, I must respectfully reject.
From my reading of the Pope I think this would also pass muster as a crude thumbnail sketch of his views.
As a fairly recent convert I'm well aware of the difficulties thrown up by the idea of divine revelation. I'll just say here that it does not seem to me inherently unreasonable to believe that the claims of a particular revealed religion are true and those of others are false. This belief does not require me to be intolerant of adherents of the religions which I reject. It also does not entail the belief that the possession of revelation enables Christians to dispense with the exercise of reason, nor that when they exercise reason they always do so correctly. And indeed this is a powerful argument for tolerance. For it is always perfectly possible that in a particular argument I will want to side with non-Christians against Christians.
Before coming to their failings, there is after all something to be said in favour of revealed religions in general. They have consistently been sources of immense cultural vitality and creativity. Kamm professes indifference to the fortunes of Judaism, but can he really be indifferent to the very existence of Jewish culture and identity, which would long since have faded away had it not been for Jews' extraordinarily tenacious loyalty to the revelation contained in the Torah? For centuries the simple act of accepting baptism held out the promise of an immediate end to persecution, and yet it was steadfastly rejected.
It is clear that revealed religions have prompted and condoned innumerable crimes against humanity. Kamm rightly points to the history of Christian treatment of the Jews as an egregious example, even if the record is considerably less black and white than he implies. But something else should be equally clear, though it consistently turns out to be the point at which rationalists like Oliver Kamm display the limitations of their rationality. That is the fact that the era which saw a turning of the intellectual tide against revealed religion was also marked - and not coincidentally - by crimes against humanity on a hitherto unimaginable scale.
When men started believing that human will and human reason were the only guides they required for their actions, there was nothing to prevent some of them from literally giving themselves an unrestricted licence to kill.
That the Marxism of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot left no space for God hardly needs saying. And for all that OK insinuates that he was some kind of residual Catholic, I'm not aware of a shred of evidence that Adolf Hitler considered himself in any way accountable to a God-given moral code.
To say that the Church 'made a historical contribution' is very different from making it directly responsible for the reality of genocide. We can all agree that the project of punishing the Jews for theological recalcitrance was abhorrent, but it was not a project of racial extermination. Conversely, theology was not on the agenda at the Wannsee Conference. Whatever the correct assessment of Pius XII's wartime record may be, the simple fact is that if Hitler had looked to him for moral guidance the Holocaust could never have happened. Indeed I would question in all seriousness whether any Pope - even the most morally degraded specimens that the late Middle Ages threw up - would have approved of it. Or, for that matter, any Archbishop of Canterbury, or any of the founding fathers of the Reformation, the admittedly appallingly anti-Semitic Martin Luther included. I'm open to contradiction from those better-informed than I am, but I offer that as a hypothesis.
The revelation at the heart of Christianity is that God is love, and I must confess to having no urge to discard it as Kamm would have me do. It is not a contention which can be verified by any process of reasoning, but neither does it exclude reason. It is both possible and necessary to use reason in working out its practical consequences, and the result can and should be a Church which concurs with Kamm that 'freedom of speech, tolerance and religious liberty are values to be prized and defended'. I believe the Christian gospel cannot be turned into a rationale for anti-Semitism without fundamentally distorting and abusing it. If I did not believe that I could not be a Christian. That such distortion and abuse is a historical reality is manifest - Christians are not exempt from human fallibility. It's harder to see the grounds for Kamm's confidence that his own preferred ideology is any less vulnerable to distortion and abuse.
The defence of liberal civilisation is the great cause that unites Oliver Kamm, me and, yes, the Pope. Auschwitz cannot fail to confront us with the fragility of that civilisation. Up to 1933 the German people made immense contributions to it, and, as Kamm acknowledges, they have done so again since 1945. And yet in the twelve intervening years its breakdown was total. Today liberal civilisation faces the threat of a 'traditional religious imagination' which has, paradoxically, absorbed the nihilism of the twentieth century's secular mass murderers. The broadest possible coalition of forces is needed to defend it - and that, if nothing else, makes it folly to write off religion per se as the root of all evil. Oliver, there are many, many religious people on your side, but if you keep telling us we really belong with the enemy, what do you expect to achieve other than persuading us to believe it?
In Albert Camus' great allegorical novel The Plague, the existentialist narrator Rieux and the priest Panneloux are irreconcilably at odds over the ultimate cause and significance of the plague which has struck the city of Oran. But they sink their metaphysical differences in the common fight to contain the plague and assist its victims. Faced again with the plagues of murderous intolerance and racism, we are surely called to the same kind of solidarity.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
It's doubtless purely coincidental that the offending message apparently emanated from the office where a leading British Muslim spokesman works. It has occurred to me, however, to wonder whether I too may have been honoured with a missive from the same source. True, I have neither been threatened nor had onanistic tendencies attributed to me, but a stylistic analysis does suggest distinct similarities. And the concern to out me as, like Charles, a well-oiled cog in the Zionist propaganda machine is very much of a piece with MPACUK's take on the lgf affair...
'Zionist Blogs too, are too well researched and co-ordinated to be the work of individuals. No part time nut could watch every minute for any slip by a Muslim group as vigilantly as they do. Most probably they are part of a well funded central network. They are another weapon in the growing armoury of the Zionist machine that is deployed against the Muslims.'
What is to be done?
'We need volunteers and most of all we need money.'
Well, they could certainly use some help.