Quotulatiousness

September 11, 2017

Smug Canadian vanity over helping (some) refugees may harm a larger number of more desperate refugees

Filed under: Cancon, Middle East — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Jonathan Kay in the National Post:

By my anecdotal observation, these accounts are not overblown. At Toronto dinner parties, it’s become common for upscale couples to brag about how well their sponsored refugees are doing. (Houmam has a job! The kids already speak English! Zeinah bakes the most amazing Syrian pastries — I’m going to serve some for desert!) Syrian refugees aren’t just another group of Canadian newcomers. They’ve become central characters in the creation of our modern national identity as the humane yang to Trump’s beastly yin.

Given all this, it seems strange to entertain the thought that — contrary to this core nationalist narrative — our refugee policy may actually be doing more harm than good. Yet after reading Refuge: Rethinking Refugee Policy in a Changing World, a newly published book jointly authored by Paul Collier and Alexander Betts, I found that conclusion hard to avoid. When it comes to helping victims of Syria’s civil war, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

[…]

What’s worse, the lottery-style nature of the system means that refugees have incentive to take enormous risks. German Chancellor Angela Merkel received lavish praise for admitting more than 1 million Muslim refugees in 2015. But the data cited in Refuge suggest the tantalizing prospect of first-world residency is precisely what motivated so many refugees to endanger their lives by setting out from Turkey in tiny watercraft. We like to believe that generous refugee-admission policies are an antidote to the perils that claimed Alan Kurdi’s life. The exact opposite seems more likely to be true.

Moreover, the refugees who make it to the West do not comprise a representative cross-section of displaced Syrians — because those who can afford to pay off human smugglers tend to be the richest and most well-educated members of their society. (Betts and Collier cite the stunning statistic that fully half of all Syrian university graduates now live outside the country’s borders.) This has important policy ramifications, because refugees who remain in the geographical vicinity of their country of origin typically return home once a conflict ends — whereas those who migrate across oceans usually never come back. Insofar as the sum of humanity’s needs are concerned, where is the need for Syrian doctors, dentists and nurses more acute — Alberta or Aleppo?

[…]

But logically sound as it may be, the authors’ argument also flies in the face of our national moral vanity. Scenes of refugees being greeted at the airport by our PM offer a powerful symbol of our humanitarian spirit. Having our PM cut cheques to foreign aid agencies? Less so. While focusing more on supporting Syrian refugees who’ve been displaced to other Middle Eastern countries would allow us to do more good with the same amount of money, we’d also be acting in a less intimate and personal way — and we’d get fewer of those heartwarming newspaper features about Arab children watching their first Canadian snowstorm.

And so we have to ask ourselves: In the end, what’s more important — doing good, or the appearance of doing good? If we’re as pure of heart as we like to imagine, we’ll seek out the policy that saves the most people, full stop. And Refuge supplies an outstanding road map for getting us there.

August 27, 2017

NDP leadership hopeful says no government can tell a woman what to wear … except in Quebec

Filed under: Cancon, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The federal NDP have gotten themselves knotted up over Quebec-specific conflicts between their rhetoric and political reality in La Belle Province:

One wonders what Jack Layton would make of his party nowadays — of the trajectory it has taken since his untimely passing and of the battle to replace his successor, who seemed like such a good idea at the time. The party’s new support in Quebec had been by design: the 2005 Sherbrooke Declaration essentially argued Quebecers should be free to secede from Canada with a simple 50 per cent-plus-one-vote, and in the meantime offered them a seat at the table in a social-democratic government in Ottawa.

Alas, hitching your wagon to Quebec nationalists only works so long as the horse doesn’t spook. In recent years, Quebec’s politics has become more and more seized with “religious accommodations” in general, with Islam specifically, and with niqabs very specifically indeed. Such is the state of play that the Liberal government’s Bill 62 is considered moderate: it would ban providing and receiving public services with one’s face covered. Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée won’t even say whether women in niqabs would be allowed to ride the bus.

This is something you might expect the left-most candidate to lead the left-most party in the House of Commons to oppose unambiguously. Niki Ashton’s campaign promises to end “the oppression of racialized communities,” tackle “Islamophobia, anti-black racism, and violence towards Indigenous peoples” and address “intersecting oppressions” as well.

But no. In a statement to Huffington Post this week, Ashton said “there is no justification where (sic) a government should tell a woman, or anyone, what they should wear and what they shouldn’t wear.”

“That being said…”

Those three words lit a match, and the tire fire is still burning. (Ashton was not available for an interview on Friday, according to her campaign.)

“There is a consensus in (sic) Quebec’s political leaders emerging on secularism,” the statement continued, “and the Canadian government should respect the will of Quebecers on this matter.” It must also “respect” the “widely different … place” religion has “held in Quebec since the Quiet Revolution.”

August 22, 2017

An unwelcome kind of “how to” article

Filed under: Middle East, Railways — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

R.G. Edmonson on a recent innocuous “how to sabotage a railway” article distributed through Inspire, a quite westernized publication for Al Qaeda supporters and sympathizers:

The Middle East Media Research Institute recently translated a complete how-to guide for making derail devices for use on railroads and transit systems. (via Trains magazine)

These step-by-step instructions, design guidelines, and templates look like any from a how-to-magazine. Then you realize it’s a how-to derailment instruction guide courtesy of Al Qaeda.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Middle East Media Research Institute, the information came out Aug. 13 and 14 in a recent issue of Inspire, Al Qaeda‘s glossy magazine. Institute officials say the terrorist magazine urges attacks by “lone wolf” operators on rail and mass transit system, and provides detailed instructions for making a concrete device to derail trains.

According to the institute’s translation, Ibrahim Al-Asiri, the chief bomb-maker for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, “we will be focusing on targeting means of transportation … Jihad groups and organizations may have the ability to target international means of transportation. As for the Lone Mujahid, his abilities may be limited to targeting internal means of transportation of a country.

The translation of Al-Asiri continues, “O Mujahideen, it is time that we instill fear and make them impose strict security measures to trains as they did with their Air transportation. Continue to bleed the American economy to more losses, increase the psychological warfare and make it worry, fear and weaken much more.”

Translators say Al-Asiri said that “the large numbers and numerous types of means of transportation will always set an environment of looming danger everywhere.” The attack will lead to more extensive and costly security measures, and the loss of rolling stock could force some companies into bankruptcy.

August 19, 2017

Baldwin IV – The Leper King of Jerusalem – IT’S HISTORY

Filed under: History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 27 Jul 2017

On today’s episode on It’s History we take a brief look at Baldwin IV – the 12th century ruler of Jerusalem bound with an incurable disease. Suffering from leprosy Baldwin was known to charge into battle with his right hand paralyzed and yet managed to achieve victory. Learn more about this truly astounding figure!

August 2, 2017

QotD: The fundamental problem of the Middle East

Filed under: Government, History, Middle East, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Western media and intelligentsia don’t seem to have a clue that the issues in the Middle East are not related to competing political ideologies, but to competing religious tribalism.

The ongoing conflicts throughout the region, and in other parts of the world, are not about democracy versus monarchy; or fascism versus communism; or imperialism versus freedom. Or indeed any of the other childish ideologies Western journalists fell in love with during their undergraduate post-modernist deconstructionalist courses by failed ex-Trotsky’s, who simply can’t accept that the last century has proven how appalling and basically evil their over-simplistic ideologies are. (Yes Comrade Corbyn, that’s you and your gushing twitteratti I am slamming!)

In fact the problem in the Muslim world is that they are entering the third decade of the Muslim Civil War.

The Sunni’s and Shia’s are at about the point that the Roman Catholics and the Protestants were at in Europe in the 1620’s to 30’s, and it is only going to get worse. That war was ideological, and paid very little attention to national boundaries. This one is the same. The Christian 30 Years War is about to be repeated in a Muslim civil war, and 30 years might be an optimistic number.

Interestingly the Christian’s split over 3 or four centuries, into Orthodox and Roman, then split again into Albigensian and Protestant etc. Eventually it got to the point, after 14 or 15 centuries of slow development, that major conflict broke out. Is it co-incidence that the Muslims have followed a similar path? Is it inevitable that after 14 or 15 centuries of existence, they too are having a major internal conflict? Or is it just that a century of renewed prosperity and development (largely brought on by Western intrusion into their secular affairs) has given them the semi-educated proto-middle class who traditionally stir up revolutionary stuff they don’t understand?

Whatever the reasons, stupid Westerners are eventually going to have to admit to a few realities:

  1. No matter how much you fantasise about the functionality of republics and democracy, you can’t impose systems that don’t work in places that don’t have the necessary pre-requisites.
  2. No matter how much literacy or free press you do manage to push in, you can’t impose rule of law and understanding of natural law on societies that have very specifically rejected such concepts for 8 or 9 centuries.
  3. No matter how much your secularist ideologies (developed from safely behind 2 millennia of Christian teaching that accepts rule of law and natural law) is offended, you cannot expect a similar acceptance from people whose cultural development of such beliefs is several centuries behind the West.
  4. No matter what you want to believe, the Muslim civil war is happening.

Let’s hope we really are at least half way through the 30 years…

Nigel Davies, “The ‘Arab Spring’, 1848, and the 30 Years War/s…”, rethinking history, 2015-09-19.

July 2, 2017

QotD: Not (yet) ready for democracy

Filed under: Government, History, Middle East, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The absolutely vital elements of a successful democratic component of government (note – component of a system, not the entire system): is that there be a literate population; a free and enquiring press; a well developed and just rule of law; and a tradition of give and take being acceptable to the society.

Tribal societies have none of these things. That is why democracies have consistently failed in African countries where tribalism is still the most important element. (In fact politics in some of these places is still largely a competition between which tribal groups served in the imperial militaries, versus which served in the imperial civil services. With very bloody competition between the two.) The fact that illiteracy is rampant; free presses almost non-existent; and the rule of law where judges are not beholden to tribal interests, or simply threats, doesn’t exist: makes democracy impossible to sustain.

Muslim culture has none of these things. A system where a woman’s evidence in court is one third of a man’s – and dhimmitude is recognized even if slavery officially isn’t – is unlikely to have these things. And for literacy, free press, or rule of law, see Africa, but doubled.

It is also possible to suggest that without a clear understanding of the logic of natural laws, you can’t have a democracy. The fact that Muslim scholarship specifically rejects natural law on the basis that Allah can cause anything, so there are no ‘natural laws’, means you cannot have these things. The reason the Muslim world lost its scientific supremacy of the 11th and 12th centuries relates specifically to their decision to turn their back on empirical evidence. Without that basic understanding, I do not believe democracy is possible. (In fact that basic approach helps explain why democracy is actually anathema to good Muslims, and why Boko Haram literally means ‘Western education is evil’!)

So the concept that an ‘Arab Spring’ could work in the Middle East is a sad indictment on the Western media and ‘intelligentsia’s’ failed understanding about how democracy works.

In fact the entire deluded Western project of attempting to impose ‘republics’ on tribal societies as part of post-colonialism, is an indictment on the western fantasy that republics are workable, let alone good things.

Let’s face it, no western republic, even in the most educated, literate, and rule of law abiding parts of the Anglosphere, has survived a first century without a collapse and or bloody civil war. The most ‘successful’ Western republics have included the American (see above), French (see above), Weimar (heard of the popularly elected Adolf Hitler?), Italian (50 governments in 50 years), Greek (how’s that brilliant financial planning going?) and Polish (are they on their 3rd, 4th, or 5th?). Those are the good ones. 90% of all republics ever founded in Europe, South America, Asia, Africa, or the Middle East, have collapsed into dictatorship, civil war, mass murder, or ethnic cleansing, within 20 years of being set up.

And that’s what we thought would work in the Middle East?

Nigel Davies, “The ‘Arab Spring’, 1848, and the 30 Years War/s…”, rethinking history, 2015-09-19.

June 18, 2017

QotD: Punishment, Coercion, and Revenge

Filed under: Law, Liberty, Quotations, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Because I’m both both a libertarian and famous for conducting a successful propaganda campaign, libertarian activists sometimes come to me for tactical advice. During a recent email exchange, one of these criticized me for wishing (as he thought) to “punish” the Islamist enemies of the U.S. and Western civilization.

I explained that I have no desire to punish the perpetrators of 9/11; what I want is vengeance and death. Vengeance for us, death for them. Whether they experience ‘punishment’ during the process is of little or no interest to me.

My correspondent was reflecting a common confusion about the distinctions among coercion, revenge, and punishment. Coercion is intended to make another do your will instead of their own; vengeance is intended to discharge your own anger and fear. Punishment is neither of these things.

Punishment is a form of respect you pay to someone who is at least potentially a member of the web of trust that defines your ethical community. We punish ordinary criminals to deter them from repeating criminal behavior, because we believe they know what ethical behavior is and that by deterring them from crime we help them re-integrate with an ethical community they have never in any fundamental sense departed.

By contrast, we do not punish the criminally insane. We confine them and sometimes kill them for our own safety, but we do not make them suffer in an effort to deter them from insanity. Just to state the aim is to make obvious how absurd it is. Hannibal Lecter, and his all-too-real prototypes, lack the capacity to respond to punishment by re-integrating with an ethical community.

In fact, criminal psychopaths are not even potentially members of an ethical community to begin with. There is something broken or missing in them that makes participation in the web of trust impossible; perhaps the capacity to emotionally identify with other human beings, perhaps conscience, perhaps something larger and harder to name. They have other behavioral deficits, including poor impulse control, associated with subtle neurological damage. By existing, they demonstrate something most of us would rather not know; which is that there are creatures who — though they speak, and reason, and feign humanity — have nothing but evil in them.

Eric S. Raymond, “Punishment, Coercion, and Revenge”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-07-05.

June 14, 2017

Both Tories and Labour now depend on homophobes for their support

Filed under: Britain, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

The British Tories will survive their drubbing at the polls in last week’s general election thanks to the (negotiated) support of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which is the only socially conservative party represented in the commons. The opposition Labour party, however, also has its own group of socially conservative voters upon whom it now depends for many seats in Parliament:

According to the slogans, the Democratic Unionist Parity is a “hate” group because it is “anti-gay, anti-green, anti-women”. That’s to say, they’re opposed to same-sex marriage, abortion, and take a relaxed view of the impending climate apocalypse.

Oh, my.

Even worse, such views have made them Ulster’s most popular political party – albeit that, for us old-timers of the Irish Question, the new DUP can seem frankly a bit milquetoast next to their continuously fulminating, firebreathing founder Ian Paisley. Still, you can understand why the mob has briefly roused itself from Google to take to the streets to protest this week’s designated haters. It’s certainly unfortunate that Theresa May’s grip on power depends on such “anti-gay” and “anti-women” types, isn’t it?

But surely it’s also unfortunate that Jeremy Corbyn’s grip on power in the resurgent Labour Party depends on “anti-gay” and “anti-women” types, too. As Brendan O’Neill points out:

    And all the while we have Labourites like Jeremy Corbyn mixing with Islamist groups that share all these same social views, except in an even more extreme form. Yet the people beating the streets over the DUP say nothing.

That’s true. Theresa May’s more recalcitrant friends in the DUP think gays are godless sodomites who’ll be spending eternity on a roasting spit in hell. Jeremy Corbyn’s more recalcitrant friends are disinclined to wait that long and would rather light them up now – or hurl them off the roof. Hamas, which Mr Corbyn supports, is fairly typical. Sample headline from Newsweek:

    Hamas Executes Prominent Commander After Accusations Of Gay Sex

Doesn’t that make Hamas an anti-gay “hate group”? Well, no. You can bet that 90 per cent of the Google activists in the street protesting Theresa May’s ties to people who think men who love men shouldn’t be permitted to marry are entirely relaxed about Jeremy Corbyn’s ties to people who think men who love men should be burned alive or tossed off tall buildings.

This contradiction exists all over the western world. Today’s progressives cling to the most cobwebbed cliches: Polygamy? That’s something Mormons do in Utah, not Muslims in Canada, France, Britain, Sweden, with the not so tacit connivance of the state welfare systems. First-cousin marriage? That’s something stump-toothed Appalachians do after a bunk-up with Cindy Mae and a jigger of moonshine, not 75 per cent of Pakistani Britons in Bradford, and some 58 per cent throughout the rest of the country.

As for gays, forget Hamas and consider Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters in the United Kingdom: Fifty-two per cent of Muslims told Channel 4 they believed homosexuality should be illegal. Yet Mr Corbyn’s Labour Party has so assiduously courted these “haters” that it’s now electorally dependent on them. Mrs May didn’t court her haters in Ulster, and she’s wound up depending on them merely as an unintended consequence of her own ineptitude on the hustings.

Just to spell it out even more plainly, last year YouGov polled Britons in general on their attitudes to the aforementioned sodomites. Seventeen per cent thought homosexuality was “morally wrong”. If that sounds unnervingly high to you, what’s the reason? Over-sampling in East Belfast? A few rural backwaters not quite up to speed on the new gayer-than-thou Britain? No. In most parts of the country about 15 per cent declined to get with the beat. But in diverse, multicultural London, 29 per cent of the population regarded homosexuality as “morally wrong”.

June 13, 2017

How to defeat Islamist terrorism

Filed under: Books, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the latest Libertarian Enterprise, L. Neil Smith suggests a different approach to fighting Islamist terror:

Somebody once wisely observed that you can’t fight an idea with guns and bombs, but only with a better idea. One reason we are still having problems with communism — in North Korea, China, Venezuela, and our college campuses — is that we have been trying to fight it, since 1917, with guns and bombs. There are many better ideas than communism, but its strongest advocates, the American mass media, won’t permit them to be discussed.

Much the same is true of Islam, only more so. It is a belief-system almost entirely rooted in fear and ignorance, and has many vulnerabilities. A full, open, and public discussion of it would destroy it utterly, but its advocates are afraid to permit that, turning instead to Molotov cocktails, submachine guns, and large knives. Failing that full, open, and public discussion, a book should be produced that could change the course of history.

When I was a young man, classified ads in Reason magazine and elsewhere offered a publication called 100 Biblical Contradictions. The book I have in mind for Islam would be similar to that, short, plain paragraphs mostly asking dangerous questions. It would be small enough to fit into a jacket or jeans pocket, and durable, like a Langenscheidt’s foreign language dictionary. It could be air-dropped by the hundreds of thousands where it would do the most good — Syria, Iran, Michigan — and audio recordings could be made available to the many — especially Muslim women — who can’t read.

I would borrow a leaf from Heinlein and call it by the Arabic word for Doubt. It would be more powerful than the Father of the “Mother Of All Bombs”.

The trouble with it, and the reason such a book will likely never be produced, is that it would be fully as destructive to other mystical and irrational belief systems, to Christianity and Judaism, among others — all of which are based on faith (which Mark Twain or someone once said means “believing in something you know damn well ain’t so”) as it would be to Islam. Joseph Farah and Glenn Beck and Franklin Graham would all freak out. Of course, there are individuals I’ve known — Christians, Jews, Muslims, and quite a few Buddhists — whose belief is gentle and strong enough to withstand what should be in Doubt, but not a majority.

It would appear that most human beings believe, without examination, whatever their parents and leaders and Hollywood balloon-heads want them to believe. So much for advancing the human condition.

June 8, 2017

Celebrating the Londoners who fought back against Islamist terror

Filed under: Britain, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Brendan O’Neill on the ordinary people who didn’t just run from the terrorists:

I’ve never felt prouder of London, my hometown, than I did on Saturday. When three wicked Islamists rammed a van into pedestrians and then used knives to cut down people whose only crime was to be free and happy and in the throes of nightlife, they caused chaos, yes, but they also brought out people’s heroism. People fought back, confronted the killers, hit them with skateboards, pelted them with bottles, yelled abuse at them. This was the spirit of London in action, defying theocratic violence with the hurl of a beer bottle.

There were many heroes. There was Roy Larner from Peckham who said possibly the best thing that’s ever been said to terrorists. They burst into the pub he was drinking in, shouting: ‘This is for Allah!’ ‘Fuck you, I’m Millwall!’, he fired back. He has since told the press he wanted to ‘take the piss out of these bastards’, which is about as London a response to terrorism as you will ever get. But he did more than rip the piss and give us all the brilliant image of Millwall fans having an apocalyptic showdown with soldiers of Allah: he also punched the killers to try to stop them from stabbing people, leading to his being stabbed eight times. What incredible bravery.

Others turned the paraphernalia of a Saturday night out into weapons against terror. Eye-witness Gerard told the BBC that people threw beer bottles, glasses, chairs and stools — ‘anything they could get’ — at the terrorists. Or the ‘three Muslim geezers’, as he called them, with a brilliant lack of PC that rather rattled the Beeb. There was also Romanian baker Florin Morariu, who ran out of the bakery he works in, Bread Ahead, and into the mayhem to smash one of the terrorists over the head with a crate. He threw a crate at a second terrorist. It wasn’t until the police threw a grenade that Morariu ran back into his bakery. And he took around 20 people inside with him and put down the shutters to protect them from harm. ‘I didn’t want to be a hero’, he told ProFM Radio, but that’s what he was.

A 28-year-old pub bouncer called Ozzy, who said the events outside his pub were like a ‘war zone’, describes how he and his colleagues ‘launched bar stools, bottles and glasses at them to try and disrupt them’. A cab driver called Chris swerved his car around to try to run over one of the terrorists who was stabbing a young woman. A Spanish man, Ignacio Echeverría, was returning from skateboarding in a park with friends when he saw one of the terrorists stabbing a woman. He rushed over and used his skateboard to hit the terrorist away. Tragically, Echeverría is now missing and feared dead. He ran towards danger armed with nothing but a skateboard — that takes real guts.

As I posted on someone’s Facebook status, Mark Steyn noted in a Daily Telegraph article in 2002 that the Millwall team anthem is sung to the tune of “Que Sera Sera”:

Mi-illwall, Millwall
Millwa-all, Millwall, Millwall
Millwa-all, Millwall, Millwall
Mi-illwall, Millwall.

(Repeat until knife fight)

June 5, 2017

“Islam now enjoys the same kind of moral protection from blasphemy and ridicule that Christianity once (wrongly) enjoyed”

Filed under: Britain, Government, Media, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Brendan O’Neill on Facebook:

One of the major problems we face is not that our society is too mean about Islam, but that it flatters Islam too much. Islam now enjoys the same kind of moral protection from blasphemy and ridicule that Christianity once (wrongly) enjoyed. All last week I received furious emails and messages in response to two articles I wrote about the Manchester attack, telling me that using the word Islamist is Islamophobic, because it demeans Islam and its adherents by suggesting they have something to do with terrorism. This is why our political leaders so rarely use the terms Islamism, radical Islam and Islamic terrorism: because they want to avoid offending Islam and also because they don’t want to stir up what they view as the public’s bovine, hateful prejudices. This censorious privilege is not extended to any other religion. We do not avoid saying “Catholic paedophiles” about the priests who molested children for fear of tarring all Catholics with the same brush. We happily say “Christian fundamentalist”about people who are Christian and fundamentalist. We use “Buddhist extremists” to describe violent Buddhist groups in Myanmar. Only Islam is ringfenced from tough discussion; only terms that at some level include the word “Islam” are tightly policed; only criticism of Islam is deemed a mental illness — Islamophobia.

This is incredibly dangerous. This censorious flattery of Islam is, in my view, a key contributor to the violence we have seen in recent years. Because when you constantly tell people that any mockery of their religion is tantamount to a crime, is vile and racist and unacceptable, you actively invite them, encourage them in fact, to become intolerant. You license their intolerance; you inflame their violent contempt for anyone who questions their dogmas; you provide a moral justification for their desire to punish those who insult their religion. From the 7/7 bombers to the Charlie Hebdo murderers to Salman Abedi in Manchester, all these terrorists — *Islamist terrorists* — expressed an extreme victim mentality and openly said they were punishing us for our disrespect of Islam, mistreatment of Muslims, ridiculing of Muhammad, etc. The Islamophobia industry and politicians who constantly say “Islam is great, leave Islam alone!” green-light this violence; they furnish it with a moral case and moral zeal.

There are no quick fixes to the terror problem, but here is a good start: oppose all censorship and all clampdowns on offence and blasphemy and so-called “Islamophobia”. Every single one of them, whether they’re legal, in the form of hate-speech laws, or informal, in the guise of self-censoring politicians being literally struck dumb on TV because they cannot muster up the word “Is…is…is…islamist”. This will at least start the process of unravelling the Islamist victimhood narrative and its bizarre, violent and officially sanctioned sensitivity to criticism. And if anyone says this is “punching down” — another intellectual weapon in the armoury of Islam-protecting censorship — tell them that it is in fact punching up: up against a political class and legal system that has foolishly and outrageously sought to police criticism of a religion. This means that the supposedly correct response to terror attacks — “don’t criticise Islam” — is absolutely the worst response. Making criticism of Islam as commonplace and acceptable as criticism of any other religion or ideology is the first step to denuding Islamist terrorism of its warped moral programme, and it will also demonstrate that our society prizes freedom of speech over everything else — including your religion, your God, your prophets, your holy book and your feelings.

May 29, 2017

On this day in 1453

Filed under: History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 17:29

In the Smithsonian Magazine in 2008, Fergus M. Bordewich described the events of 29 May, 1453:

In the 11th century, the Byzantines suffered the first in a series of devastating defeats at the hands of Turkish armies, who surged westward across Anatolia, steadily whittling away at the empire. The realm was further weakened in 1204 when western European crusaders en route to the Holy Land, overtaken by greed, captured and looted Constantinople. The city never fully recovered.

By the mid-15th century, Constantinople was hemmed in by Ottoman-controlled territories. On May 29, 1453, after a seven-week siege, the Turks launched a final assault. Bursting through the city’s defenses and overwhelming its outnumbered defenders, the invaders poured into the streets, sacking churches and palaces, and cutting down anyone who stood in their way. Terrified citizens flocked to Hagia Sophia, hoping that its sacred precincts would protect them, praying desperately that, as an ancient prophesied, an avenging angel would hurtle down to smite the invaders before they reached the great church.

Instead, the sultan’s janissaries battered through the great wood-and-bronze doors, bloody swords in hand, bringing an end to an empire that had endured for 1,123 years. “The scene must have been horrific, like the Devil entering heaven,” says Crowley. “The church was meant to embody heaven on earth, and here were these aliens in turbans and robes, smashing tombs, scattering bones, hacking up icons for their golden frames. Imagine appalling mayhem, screaming wives being ripped from the arms of their husbands, children torn from parents, and then chained and sold into slavery. For the Byzantines, it was the end of the world.” Memory of the catastrophe haunted the Greeks for centuries. Many clung to the legend that the priests who were performing services that day had disappeared into Hagia Sophia’s walls and would someday reappear, restored to life in a reborn Greek empire.

That same afternoon, Constantinople’s new overlord, Sultan Mehmet II, rode triumphantly to the shattered doors of Hagia Sophia. Mehmet was one of the great figures of his age. As ruthless as he was cultivated, the 21-year-old conqueror spoke at least four languages, including Greek, Turkish, Persian and Arabic, as well as some Latin. He was an admirer of European culture and patronized Italian artists, such as the Venetian master Gentile Bellini, who painted him as a bearded, introspective figure swathed in an enormous robe, his small eyes gazing reflectively over an aristocratically arched nose. “He was ambitious, superstitious, very cruel, very intelligent, paranoid and obsessed with world domination,” says Crowley. “His role models were Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. He saw himself as coming not to destroy the empire, but to become the new Roman emperor.” Later, he would cast medallions that proclaimed him, in Latin, “Imperator Mundi” — “Emperor of the World.”

Before entering the church, Mehmet bent down to scoop up a fistful of earth, pouring it over his head to symbolize his abasement before God. Hagia Sophia was the physical embodiment of imperial power: now it was his. He declared that it was to be protected and was immediately to become a mosque. Calling for an imam to recite the call to prayer, he strode through the handful of terrified Greeks who had not already been carted off to slavery, offering mercy to some. Mehmet then climbed onto the altar and bowed down to pray.

Among Christians elsewhere, reports that Byzantium had fallen sparked widespread anxiety that Europe would be overrun by a wave of militant Islam. “It was a 9/11 moment,” says Crowley. “People wept in the streets of Rome. There was mass panic. People long afterward remembered exactly where they were when they heard the news.” The “terrible Turk,” a slur popularized in diatribes disseminated across Europe by the newly invented printing press, soon became a synonym for savagery.

May 2, 2017

QotD: Tolerance must work both ways

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

If a person wears a hijab… or a Nazi armband… I will indeed judge that particular book by its cover. The individual who dresses thus is not making a fashion statement, they are making a political statement (and Islam is a set of political values). Unlike a person’s race or national origin, a hijab… or a Nazi armband… tells me something profound, because it informs me about that particular person’s world view and their choices.

It is absurd to expect such a thing not to matter to others. If I am to tolerate a person wearing a hijab… or a Nazi armband… I must be equally free to non-violently express myself by stating my view that the things they represent are not just fine by me, and I think poorly of the people who wear them.

I support Joni Clarke’s right to wear what she wants, and to follow whatever crackpot religion she wants. And I hope Joni Clarke is equally tolerant and supports my right to have nothing to do with her, and have complete disdain for her political/religious values. I do not need or even want her acceptance or respect, I only want her tolerance, because that is all I am offering in return. But unless it is reciprocal, I am not even offering that, because tolerance of intolerance is cowardice (not to mention suicidal).

Perry de Havilland, “The right to express yourself must work both ways”, Samizdata, 2015-07-31.

April 19, 2017

Voting against “Father Turk”‘s legacy

Filed under: Europe, Government, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The secular Turkish Republic is fading fast, as the results of the Turkish referendum amount to a concentration of vast powers in the hands of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. We sometimes joke that Vladimir Putin is the new Tsar, but it’s less funny to refer to Erdoğan as the new Sultan … because it’s much closer to being true:

On Jan. 20, 1921, the Turkish Grand National Assembly passed the Teşkilât-ı Esasîye Kanunu, or the Law on Fundamental Organization. It would be almost three years until Mustafa Kemal — known more commonly as Ataturk, or “Father Turk” — proclaimed the Republic of Turkey, but the legislation was a critical marker of the new order taking shape in Anatolia.

The new country called Turkey, quite unlike the Ottoman Empire, was structured along modern lines. It was to be administered by executive and legislative branches, as well as a Council of Ministers composed of elected representatives of the parliament. What had once been the authority of the sultan, who ruled alone with political and ecclesiastic legitimacy, was placed in the hands of legislators who represented the sovereignty of the people.

More than any other reform, the Law on Fundamental Organization represented a path from dynastic rule to the modern era. And it was this change that was at stake in Turkey’s referendum over the weekend. Much of the attention on Sunday’s vote was focused on the fact that it was a referendum on the power of the Turkish presidency and the polarizing politician who occupies that office, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Yet it was actually much more.

Whether they understood it or not, when Turks voted “Yes”, they were registering their opposition to the Teşkilât-ı Esasîye Kanunu and the version of modernity that Ataturk imagined and represented. Though the opposition is still disputing the final vote tallies, the Turkish public seems to have given Erdogan and the AKP license to reorganize the Turkish state and in the process raze the values on which it was built. Even if they are demoralized in their defeat, Erdogan’s project will arouse significant resistance among the various “No” camps. The predictable result will be the continuation of the purge that has been going on since even before last July’s failed coup including more arrests and the additional delegitimization of Erdogan’s parliamentary opposition. All of this will further destabilize Turkish politics.

[…]

The AKP and supporters of the “yes” vote argue that the criticism of the constitutional amendments was unfair. They point out that the changes do not undermine a popularly elected parliament and president as well as an independent (at least formally) judiciary. This is all true, but it is also an exceedingly narrow description of the political system that Erdogan envisions. Rather, the powers that would be afforded to the executive presidency are vast, including the ability to appoint judges without input from parliament, issue decrees with the force of law, and dissolve parliament. The president would also have the sole prerogative over all senior appointments in the bureaucracy and exercise exclusive control of the armed forces. The amendments obviate the need for the post of prime minister, which would be abolished. The Grand National Assembly does retain some oversight and legislative powers, but if the president and the majority are from the same political party, the power of the presidency will be unconstrained. With massive imbalances and virtually no checks on the head of state, who will now also be the head of government, the constitutional amendments render the Law on Fundamental Organization and all subsequent efforts to emulate the organizational principles of a modern state moot. It turns out that Erdogan, who would wield power not vested in Turkish leaders since the sultans, is actually a neo-Ottoman.

Mark Steyn says “I told you so”:

As they used to say way back when in the long Ottoman twilight, the Turk is the sick man of Europe. Following this weekend’s Caliph-for-Life referendum, the Turk is sicker than ever. But he’s no longer of Europe, and instead is exiting for a destination dark and catastrophic for almost all his neighbors.

Sultan Erdoğan – who, a mere 15 years ago, was banned from holding political office – has now succeeded in dismantling almost every defining element of the Kemalist republic. What replaces it will be a crude strongman state in service of Islamic imperialism. I have read a lot of commentary this morning, starting with Douglas Murray’s “Turkish Democracy Has Just Died” and moving on to Yavuz Baydar’s “The End Of Turkey As We Know It” via Alex Alexiev’s “Who Lost Turkey?” And several readers have been kind enough to inquire where’s my own “Who Lost Turkey?” piece. Well, the truth is I published it exactly ten years ago, to the day of Erdoğan’s referendum. From the April 16th 2007 edition of National Review, “De-Boning Turkey“:

    The modern secular Muslim state – a country that gave women the vote before Britain did and was Israel’s best friend in an otherwise hostile region – certainly, that Turkey seems to be being de-boned by the hour: it now has an Islamist government whose Prime Minister has canceled trade deals with Israel, denounced the Iraqi elections, and frosted out the US Ambassador because he was Jewish; a new edition of Mein Kampf is prominently displayed at the airport bookstore. In other words, the Zionist Entity’s best pal is starting to look like just another cookie-cutter death-to-the-Great-Satan stan-of-the-month.

In fairness to the new Caliph, ever since he emerged from his semi-pro footballing career to run for Mayor of Istanbul, he’s played a more cunning game than the stan-of-the-month loons. As he said in one of his most famous soundbites, democracy is a bus you ride to the stop you want – and then you get off. And he was quite happy to take the scenic route, stop by stop by stop. In the two or three years after he came to power, I was assured that he was a “moderate Islamist” not merely by the all the foreign-policy think-tank “experts” but even by his political rivals in the previous Kemalist government. […]

Here’s a third graphic – yesterday’s referendum results. The Kurdish south-east, the old secular Rumelian west – and in between the vast green carpet of a new post-Kemalist caliphate:

Turkish referendum results, “yes” voting areas in green, “no” in red.

Overlay the fertility rates on the electoral results: demography proved destiny. As you’ll recall, Kemal Atatürk was born Mustafa Kemal. The new moniker was a title bestowed on him by the post-Ottoman parliament. Atatürk means “Father of the Turks”. Alas, he wasn’t father of enough of them. And the men who were had other ideas about Turkey’s future. We’ve all met charming, urbane, witty, secular Turks. I worked with one recently, and enjoyed his company immensely. But on that ever expanding big green Islamic carpet from east to west there’s no place for them.

March 22, 2017

QotD: Sharia and women’s rights

Filed under: Liberty, Middle East, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

As a moral and legal code, Sharia law is demeaning and degrading to women. It requires women to be placed under the care of male guardians; it views a woman’s testimony in court as worth half that of a man’s; and it permits a husband to beat his wife. It’s not only women’s legal and sexual freedoms that are curtailed under Sharia but their economic freedoms as well. Women generally inherit half of the amount that men inherit, and their male guardian must consent to their choosing education, work, or travel.

In Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, and parts of Nigeria, where Sharia law underpins the judicial system, women’s rights suffer greatly.

There is a growing trend among some feminists to make excuses for Sharia law and claim it is nothing more than a personal moral guide, and therefore consistent with American constitutional liberties. Yet the rules that such “Sharia-lite feminists” voluntarily choose to follow are also invoked to oppress women — to marry them off, to constrain their economic and human rights, and to limit their freedom of expression — who have not consented to them. The moral conflict between Sharia and universal human rights should not be dismissed as a misunderstanding, but openly discussed.

Many Western feminists struggle to embrace universal women’s rights. Decades ago, Germaine Greer argued that attempts to outlaw female genital mutilation amounted to “an attack on cultural identity.” That type of deference to traditional practices, in the name of cultural sensitivity, hurts vulnerable women. These days, relativism remains strong. Too many feminists in the West are reluctant to condemn cultural practices that clearly harm women — female genital mutilation, polygamy, child marriage, marital rape, and honor violence, particularly in non-Western societies. Women’s rights are universal, and such practices cannot be accepted.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, “On This ‘Day Without a Woman,’ Don’t Leave Women Oppressed by Sharia Law Behind”, The Daily Beast, 2017-03-08.

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