Quotulatiousness

April 14, 2014

Queen’s student goes looking for racism, doesn’t find it, declares it’s happening anyway

Filed under: Cancon, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:44

Your source of all sorts of odd news, the Daily Mail has this little gem from up the lake in Kingston, Ontario:

A Canadian college student recently conducted a social experiment to see if people treated her differently if she wore a hijab — a traditional Muslim veil that covers a woman’s head and chest — and what she discovered was a bit unexpected.

Anisa Rawhani, a third-year student at Queens University in Ontario, wore the traditional Muslim garb for 18 days in January as she worked at the university’s library, visited stores and restaurants near the campus and as she did volunteer work with local children.

According to Rawhani — who conducted the experiment to see if people in her community were racist towards minority groups — she noticed that people actually treated her more kindly and with more respect than when she didn’t wear the hijab.

Rawhani, who is not Muslim, wrote about her experience wearing traditional Muslim clothing in the March edition of the Queen’s Journal, where she works as a copy editor — the article is titled ‘Overt to Covert.’

Fortunately, as the Queen’s Journal account makes clear, she was able to get a clear explanation of the phenomenon from a professor:

Leandre Fabrigar, an associate professor in the department of psychology at Queen’s, cited “impression management” as a possible explanation for my experience.

He explained that often individuals who harbour biases, but fear social disapproval, will publicly act respectfully towards minorities. “Impression management is when [someone] very strategically, and usually quite deliberatively, tries to manage the impressions that others have of [them],” he said.

Impression management is focused on manipulating others’ perception of the self, but there are more genuine reasons why someone would be kinder towards minorities. Fabrigar said that sometimes individuals realize that they harbour biases, or other unwanted influences on their behaviour. Then, when interacting with members of minority groups, they experience an internal conflict between their negative biases and the egalitarian values that they believe in.

So the fact that Rawhani didn’t encounter overt forms of discrimination actually proves that the people she was interacting with in her Islamic disguise are hugely bigoted, hate-filled wretches who just don’t want to show it. Cool, got it, thanks.

February 19, 2014

Polygamy and the inevitable “bachelor herd”

Filed under: History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:11

William Tucker suggests that societies that practice polygamy will always produce a violent fringe of men too poor or too powerless to have even a chance of marriage (or any kind of stable relationship with women):

Polygamy? What does that have to do with anything? Am I suggesting that because some minor sheik outside Baghdad takes two wives, two young Muslim brothers in Massachusetts feel compelled to blow up the Boston Marathon?

Well, yes. In any human society there are approximately the same number of men and women. Under monogamy, which limits each man to one wife, everyone gets a fair chance to marry. When powerful and successful men are allowed to take more than one wife, however, as they are in a polygamous society, this creates a pool of unsuccessful men at the bottom of society who are constantly in conflict with the system.

The history of Islam has been one continuous story of rebel groups off in the desert and deciding that the religion being practiced by the authorities and their harems back in the cities is not the “true Islam.” They come crashing back upon the palaces, overthrowing the leaders (no Ottoman Sultan ever died of natural causes) and establishing a new regime that is just like the old one, where powerful are allowed to take multiple wives.

[...]

The fruits of polygamy are visible all over the Middle East. Because women are always in short supply, families can charge a “bride price” to any man who wants to marry their daughter. Because daughters are now worth money, they must be veiled and sequestered so they don’t run off with some callow youth. Older men desperate for wives push down into younger and younger cohorts of the population. Marriages between 35-year-old men and 13-year-old girls become common. [...]

But the main product of polygamy is a population of angry young men who are ripe recruits for terrorism. The Koran supposedly limits a man to four wives but in countries where there are vast disparities of wealth this is routinely violated. Osama bin Laden’s father, a successful Saudi businessman, had 22 wives and 54 children. The unbalance between unmarried men and the available women in Saudi Arabia is the highest in the world.

January 24, 2014

The “charter of Quebec values” is starting to look like an election winner for Marois

Filed under: Cancon, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:22

Paul Wells initially dismissed the proposed charter of Quebec values as unlikely to appeal to the majority of Quebec voters. He now admits that he may have been wrong, as the minority PQ government has been gaining support since introducing the charter proposal and if the trend continues, we might expect to see Premier Pauline Marois a snap election. He attributes this to a few key elements in Quebec politics and culture:

A secular imperative. I have friends who disagree with the PQ on just about everything — but who applaud the notion that it should be impossible to tell a person’s religion by looking at him or her. These people tend to be atheists who view religion as inevitably backward and retrograde. They tend to keep books by Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins on the nightstand. They’d sooner everyone got over religion altogether. In the meantime they don’t want to have to look at evidence of religion.

[...]

The suggestive power of government. Canadians, including Quebecers, tend to trust and listen to their governments. Governments can lead opinion, and often do. I know all this sounds crazy. And the people least likely to notice the willingness of the public to be led are those who consider themselves full-time opponents of any given party in power. But it’s one reason why highly ideological politicians seek power: not for its own sake, but because it gives leaders the hope of being followed.

Islamic fundamentalism. Does anybody believe the PQ would be on this — what’s the word? — this crusade today, if 9/11 had never happened? Is anyone surprised that so many witnesses at public consultations on the PQ charter focus exclusively on Islam that government officials are left pleading with witnesses to mention other religions at least once in a while?

[...]

The moral collapse of the Quebec Liberal Party. These days you can’t find the Liberals’ new leader, Philippe Couillard, with a dog and a flashlight. I wish this were more of a surprise. The notion that diversity is a strength and that there are different ways of being Québécois is on trial. That notion has animated the Quebec Liberal Party, on its better days, for more than a century. But the Liberals decided 40 years ago that there’s room for only one party with any convictions in Quebec, and that’s the PQ. Couillard represents the third consecutive case — after Daniel Johnson and Jean Charest — where the party chose the most viscerally federalist leadership candidate on offer, then surrounded him with advisers who systematically advise him not to say what he believes. The results are predictable. The PQ sets the debate’s terms, the Liberals hide under the coffee table.

January 11, 2014

Poll on women’s head coverings in Islamic countries

Filed under: Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:17

From this graphic, you’d have to draw the conclusion that most people in Islamic nations are scandalized by the appearance of women’s hair:

Click to see the original report (PDF)

Click to see the original report (PDF)

An important issue in the Muslim world is how women should dress in public. A recent survey from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research conducted in seven Muslim-majority countries (Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey), finds that most people prefer that a woman completely cover her hair, but not necessarily her face. Only in Turkey and Lebanon do more than one-in-four think it is appropriate for a woman to not cover her head at all in public.

The survey treated the question of women’s dress as a visual preference. Each respondent was given a card depicting six styles of women’s headdress and asked to choose the woman most appropriately outfitted for a public place. Although no labels were included on the card, the styles ranged from a fully-hooded burqa (woman #1) and niqab (#2) to the less conservative hijab (women #4 and #5). There was also the option of a woman wearing no head covering of any type.

Overall, most respondents say woman #4, whose hair and ears are completely covered by a white hijab, is the most appropriately dressed for public. This includes 57% in Tunisia, 52% in Egypt, 46% in Turkey and 44% in Iraq. In Iraq and Egypt, woman #3, whose hair and ears are covered by a more conservative black hijab, is the second most popular choice.

Update: Of course, no discussion of the oppression of women in other countries can be considered complete until we’ve managed to find an angle where Western culture is significantly worse:

Studies have found that the average woman in the UK spends £26,500 on her hair over her lifetime, with 25% of respondents saying they would rather spend money on their hair than food. And women don’t just spend serious money on their hair, they spend serious time on it. On average, British women spend just under two years of their lives styling their hair at home or in salons.

Whether it’s covered by a veil or coloured by Vidal Sassoon, hair is a feminist issue. Indeed, hair is so bound up with ideals of femininity that, to some degree, the measure of a woman is found in the length of her hair. In the semiotics of female sexuality, long hair is (hetero)sexual, short hair is non-sexual or homosexual, and no hair means you’re either a victim or a freak. When Natalie Portman shaved her head for a film role she summed up these stereotypes with the observation that: “Some people will think I’m a neo-Nazi or that I have cancer or I’m a lesbian.” But Portman also added: “It’s quite liberating to have no hair.”

[...]

In a sense, women’s hair in the west functions as it’s own sort of veil, one which most of us are unconsciously donning. The time and money women spend on their hair isn’t just the free exercise of personal preferences, it’s part of a broader cultural performance of what it means to be a woman; one that has largely been directed by men. Rather than fixating on what the veil means for Muslim women, then, we should probably spend a little more time thinking about our own homegrown veils. Because it’s still an unfortunate fact that, across the Muslim and non-Muslim world, women are often judged more by what is covering their head that what is in it.

September 12, 2013

Stirring up opposition to the Charter of Quebec Values

Filed under: Cancon, History, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:23

In Maclean’s, Paul Wells gives a bit of sovereigntist history and brings us up to date on the proposed Charter of Quebec Values:

When Bernard Drainville, another minister in today’s post-cosmopolitain PQ government, released the text of his proposed Charter of Values — complete with handy wall charts showing the articles of clothing (Veil! Kippah!) that will heretofore be banished from public servants’ bodies while at work — he had the handy effect of smoking out two federal party leaders who have been equivocal until now. The Liberal, Justin Trudeau, has opposed the charter since the PQ started putting up trial balloons nearly a month ago. The New Democrat, Thomas Mulcair, has most of his seats in Quebec, and had resisted comment until now. So, mostly, had the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, although he did tip his hand when asked about the PQ plan in Toronto: “Our job is making all groups who come to this country, whatever their background, whatever their race, whatever their ethnicity, whatever their religion, feel home in this country and be Canadians. That’s our job.”

On Tuesday the trial balloons became official government policy. The NDP and Conservatives came out unequivocally against the PQ. Speaking for the government, Jason Kenney suggested a possible federal court challenge.

This, too, happens to be one of the tactical tricks Jean-François Lisée cooked up during the long years before he entered electoral politics. In his 2000 book Sorti de secours, Lisée suggested the PQ cook up some scheme that would be rejected by the rest of the country, so Quebecers would feel insulted and want to secede.

Such a plan would depend for its success on a clear distinction between Quebec public opinion and the actions of national parties. So far it’s not going well for the PQ. Mulcair and Trudeau are Quebecers whose parties hold 66 of the province’s 75 seats. The Bloc Québécois did not hurry to embrace Marois’s scheme. Every Montreal mayoral candidate opposes it, as does the Quebec Federation of Women.

The inspiration for the PQ’s decision to retrench is purely electoralist. It is a reaction to 30 years of failed efforts to make the sovereignty movement every Quebecer’s fight. Forced generosity having failed the PQ, the party is falling back on cynicism and pettiness. It’s make-or-break for the entire sovereignty movement, and I’m pretty sure Marois, Lisée and Drainville just broke it.

September 4, 2013

QotD: Quebec and religious minorities

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

As this blog has pointing out for many years now, too many for these tired old eyes, at its core Quebec nationalism is an ethnic nationalism. By their nature ethnic nationalists are bigots. Certainly the sort of bigotry that emanates from the pure laine wing of the PQ is fairly tame. This is Canada and even our fanatics have a dullness about them. Still bigotry is bigotry. Tyranny is tyranny. Telling people what they can wear in the workplace, regardless of any objective public health and safety concerns, is tyranny. A private employer may discriminate at his leisure. The government cannot. It must represent all its people.

Our tax dollars, for Quebec is the great mendicant of modern Canada, are financing a policy of religious bigotry. Some conservatives might welcome this decision as it seems, on the face of it, to be going after the burqa. The ban, however, is on all religious headware. At the moment it applies only to the public sector, which is vast in Quebec, but knowing the statist inclinations of the PQ it will soon apply to the private sector as well.

To borrow from Churchill, this is worse than a crime, it’s a mistake.

Quebec is not an appealing place for ethnic and religious minorities. It’s why so many flee to Ontario when they receive their citizenship papers. Expect a second Exodus from La Belle Province should this Charter of Quebec Values come into force. Just as talented Anglos were driven from Montreal and the Eastern Townships in the 1970s, we’ll soon have waves of Sikhs arriving in Toronto. I will be delighted to greet them. There is a large community here in the Imperial Capital and they are peaceful and productive. If Quebec wants to put their bigotry ahead of economic common sense, let them. Then let us cut the equalization life line that has propped up these statist and bigoted policies for over forty years. First they discriminated against the English. Then the Jews. Now the time comes for all the others who are not of the blood.

Richard Anderson, “Quebec Values”, The Gods of the Copybook Headings, 2013-09-02

July 4, 2013

Egypt’s new post-Morsi era

Filed under: Middle East, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:14

Daniel Pipes sees joy in the aftermath of Morsi’s removal from power, but also worry. Lots of worry:

The overthrow of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt delights and worries me.

Delight is easy to explain. What appears to have been the largest political demonstration in history uprooted the arrogant Islamists of Egypt who ruled with near-total disregard for anything other than consolidating their own power. Islamism, the drive to apply a medieval Islamic law and the only vibrant radical utopian movement in the world today, experienced an unprecedented repudiation. Egyptians showed an inspiring spirit.

If it took 18 days to overthrow Husni Mubarak in 2011, just four were needed to overthrow Morsi this past week. The number of deaths commensurately went down from about 850 to 40. Western governments (notably the Obama administration) thinking they had sided with history by helping the Muslim Brotherhood regime found themselves appropriately embarrassed.

My worry is more complex. The historical record shows that the thrall of radical utopianism endures until calamity sets in. On paper, fascism and communism sound appealing; only the realities of Hitler and Stalin discredited and marginalized these movements.

In the case of Islamism, this same process has already begun; indeed, the revulsion started with much less destruction wrought than in the prior two cases (Islamism not yet having killed tens of millions) and with greater speed (years, not decades). Recent weeks have seen three rejections of Islamist rule in a row, what with the Gezi Park-inspired demonstrations across Turkey, a resounding victory by the least-hardline Islamist in the Iranian elections on June 14, and now the unprecedentedly massive refutation of the Muslim Brotherhood in public squares along the Nile River.

But I fear that the quick military removal of the Muslim Brotherhood government will exonerate Islamists.

May 26, 2013

Reporting (and omitting to report) certain news items

Filed under: Britain, Media, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:59

Mark Steyn on what was top of the issue-sheet for journalists discussing the Woolwich murder and the Swedish “youth” riots:

For the last week Stockholm has been ablaze every night with hundreds of burning cars set alight by “youths.” Any particular kind of “youth”? The Swedish prime minister declined to identify them any more precisely than as “hooligans.” But don’t worry: The “hooligans” and “youths” and men of no Muslim appearance whatsoever can never win because, as David Cameron ringingly declared, “they can never beat the values we hold dear, the belief in freedom, in democracy, in free speech, in our British values, Western values.” Actually, they’ve already gone quite a way toward eroding free speech, as both prime ministers demonstrate. The short version of what happened in Woolwich is that two Muslims butchered a British soldier in the name of Islam and helpfully explained, “The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying every day.” But what do they know? They’re only Muslims, not Diversity Outreach Coordinators. So the BBC, in its so-called “Key Points,” declined to mention the “Allahu akbar” bit or the “I”-word at all: Allah who?

Not a lot of Muslims want to go to the trouble of chopping your head off, but when so many Western leaders have so little rattling around up there, they don’t have to. And, as we know from the sob-sister Tsarnaev profiles, most of these excitable lads are perfectly affable, or at least no more than mildly alienated, until the day they set a hundred cars alight, or blow up a school boy, or decapitate some guy. And, if you’re lucky, it’s not you they behead, or your kid they kill, or even your Honda Civic they light up. And so life goes on, and it’s all so “mundane,” in Simon Jenkins’s word, that you barely notice when the Jewish school shuts up, and the gay bar, and the uncovered women no longer take a stroll too late in the day, and the publishing house that gets sent the manuscript for the next Satanic Verses decides it’s not worth the trouble … But don’t worry, they’ll never defeat our “free speech” and our “way of life.”

One in ten Britons under 25 is now Muslim. That number will increase, through immigration, disparate birth rates, and conversions like those of the Woolwich killers, British-born and -bred. Metternich liked to say the Balkans began in the Landstrasse, in southeast Vienna. Today, the Dar al-Islam begins in Wellington Street, in southeast London. That’s a “betrayal” all right, but not of Islam.

May 25, 2013

James Delingpole, that intellectual lightweight

Filed under: Britain, Law, Media, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:16

Here he is again, banging on about his failings, particularly over the Woolwich murder:

On occasions like this I really do feel a bit of an intellectual lightweight, I must say. There am I, stuck in the fuddy-duddy mindset where you see a 25-year old father of a one year old boy being hacked to death with meat cleavers on a busy London street and all you can do is respond with the gut feeling that “This is wrong. This is totally wrong!”

Whereas if I were a bit younger, less reactionary and I’d had a proper educational grounding somewhere serious like the LSE, what I would have realised is that you just can’t judge things like this at face value. Sure, there’s a temptation to dwell on what a terrible way to go it must have been for that poor young man; to think about what his family must be going through — his wife and mother especially, who will surely be re-living his imagined death every day from now on till they die; to get quite angry, even, about the perverted political values and warped mindset that led to this barbaric act — and also about the cultural relativism that helped make it possible. But succumbing to this temptation would, of course, be a serious mistake.

No, if you’re a truly enlightened citizen of the modern world, the correct way to respond is the way all those sophisticated intellectual types on Twitter did. You recognise straightaway that the horror of the murder is just a distraction from the real issue. The real issue being, of course, that this regrettable event was the sadly inevitable consequence of Britain’s racism, intolerance and Islamophobia — as demonstrated by Nick Robinson’s bigoted, ignorant and inflammatory use of that reprehensible “of Muslim appearance” comment on BBC news for which he has since, quite correctly, apologised.

Until, as a society, we learn to face up to our collective responsibility for Drummer Lee Rigby’s death, young men like Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale ought to have every right to go on drawing attention to this rampant injustice in whatever way they deem fit. It is frankly outrageous that in order to make their point they had to resort to the blunt instrument of execution by motor vehicle and butcher’s knife. A truly considerate society would have made public funds available for them to afford some properly functioning automatic weaponry. That way these gallant, oppressed freedom fighters could have made their vibrant and refreshingly direct contribution to our national debate with a lot less fuss and a lot less mess — perhaps preventing the disgraceful public overreaction we have witnessed over the last couple of days, everywhere from the hateful, violent racist English Defence League to the hardcore, fascist right-wing BBC.

May 23, 2013

Identity politics and the Woolwich murderers

Filed under: Britain, Media, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:26

Brendan O’Neill on yesterday’s brutal murder in Woolwich:

One of the most shocking things about the brutal attack in Woolwich yesterday was the arrogance with which one of the bloodied knifemen claimed to be acting on behalf of all Muslims. In what sounded like a South London accent, this British-seeming, casually dressed young man bizarrely spoke as if he were a representative of the ummah. He talked about “our lands” and what “our people” have to go through every day. He presumably meant Iraqis and Afghanis, or perhaps the broader global “Muslim family”.

How can a couple of men so thoroughly convince themselves that they speak for all Muslims, to the extent that they seriously believe their savage and psychotic attack on a man in the street is some kind of glorious act of Islamic resistance? Perhaps because they live in a country in which claiming to speak “on behalf of” a community, even if you’ve never been elected by or even seriously talked to that community, is taken seriously. A country where one’s identity, one’s racial or religious or cultural make-up, now counts for everything, certainly for more than what one does or what one believes. A country in which the politics of identity, the narrow and deeply divisive communal politics of shared cultural traits, has been privileged over all other kinds of politics.

The Woolwich murderer’s impromptu claim to be acting on behalf of the grievances of Muslims everywhere echoes the statements made by the 7/7 bombers. “Your democratically elected governments continue to perpetuate atrocities against my people all over the world”, said chief bomber Mohammad Siddique Khan. “My people” — what extraordinary arrogance and self-righteousness. Did Khan ever talk to “his people” or win a mandate from them? Of course not, no more than the knife-wielding nutter in Woolwich engaged with the inhabitants of what he thinks of as “his lands”. Rather, in this era in which any old fool can claim to be a “community spokesperson”, and can be treated seriously as such, these murderous loners seem to be trying a psychotic version of the same trick — claiming that by dint of shared skin colour or common religious sentiment they have the authority to speak on behalf of millions of people they have never met or whose lands they have never visited.

May 5, 2013

Sorcery, conspiracy theories, and a magical worldview

Filed under: Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:12

Strategy Page looks at some of the widely held beliefs in some Islamic countries:

… in most countries where there is a dominant religion, especially a state approved one, there is usually still a fear that the previous religion (or religions) will try to make a comeback. The former faiths often involved some really old-school stuff, including magic and sometimes animal, or even human, sacrifice. It is not uncommon for there to be civil laws covering those accused to be practicing such sorcery, and severe punishments for those convicted. At the very least, the accused will be driven from any senior government jobs they might hold, and that’s what’s being done to dozens of Ahmadinejad associates.

All cultures have a certain belief in magic and what Westerners call “conspiracy theories” to explain otherwise unexplainable events. In the Islamic world, there is a lot of attention paid to sorcery and magic, and people accused of practicing such things are regularly attacked and sometimes executed. Conspiracy theories are also a popular way to explain away inconvenient facts.

For example, back in 2008 many Pakistanis believed that the then recent Islamic terrorist attack in Mumbai, India was actually the work of the Israeli Mossad or the American CIA and not the Pakistani terrorists who were killed or captured and identified. Such fantasies are a common explanation, in Moslem nations, for Islamic terrorist atrocities. Especially when women and children, and Moslems, are among the victims, other Moslems tend to accept fantastic explanations shifting the blame to infidels (non-Moslems).

[. . .]

American troops arriving in Iraq after 2003 went through a real culture shock as they encountered these cultural differences. They also discovered that the cause of this, and many other Arab problems, is the concept of “inshallah” (“If God wills it.”) This is a basic tenet of Islam, although some scholars believe the attitude was a cultural trait that preceded Islam. In any event, “inshallah” is deadly when combined with modern technology. For this reason, Arab countries either have poorly maintained infrastructure and equipment (including military stuff), or import a lot of foreigners, possessing the right attitudes, to maintain everything. That minority of Arabs who do have a realistic attitude towards maintenance and personal responsibility are considered odd, but useful.

The “inshallah” thing is made worse by a stronger belief in the supernatural, and magic in general. This often extends to technology. Thus many Iraqis believed that American troops wore sunglasses that enabled them to see through clothing, and armor vests that were actually air conditioned. When they first encounter these beliefs, U.S. troops thought the Arabs are putting them on. Then it sinks in that Arabs really believe this stuff. It’s a scary moment.

April 23, 2013

The myth of radicalization

Filed under: Liberty, Politics, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:41

In sp!ked, Frank Furedi examines the recent phenomenon of “nice guys” turning into terrorists:

… homegrown terrorism is viewed as a problem of ‘radicalisation’, where young people are seen as having effectively been warped by some imam or ideology promoter. So within days of the Boston bombers being identified, a local mosque was blamed for radicalising Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Others have looked for alternative sources of radicalisation, such as jihadist courses on YouTube or extremist Islamist websites. The theory of radicalisation is based on the premise that the lure of jihad politicises otherwise disgruntled individuals and transforms them into hardened militants.

Yet it is not clear what exactly constitutes the lure of jihad. Young people who are attracted to jihadist websites rarely adopt a new worldview. In fact, their perspective is very similar to numerous non-Muslim Westerners who visit nihilistic websites and become fascinated by destructive themes and image. Those who visit jihadist sites are choosing a fad rather than a coherent ideological outlook. In this regard, it is worth noting that some radicals arrested for terrorist activities in Europe are neither religious zealots nor political idealists. A study of ‘The Mujahideen Network’, a Swedish internet forum, discovered that its members’ knowledge of Islam was ‘virtually non-existent’ and their ‘fascination with jihad seems to be dictated by their rebellious nature rather than a deep ideological conviction’ (5). In other words, these people seem to have been driven by their estrangement from society rather than being pulled by a vibrant and dynamic alternative.

[. . .]

In fact, there are formidable cultural forces that denigrate the West’s historical achievements and its traditional belief in progress and enlightenment. Some commentators argue that the West, finding it difficult to believe in itself, faces a moral crisis. In such circumstances, is it any wonder that many young people feel deeply estranged from the Western way of life? Fortunately, only a handful opt for the nihilistic course of action taken by the Boston bombers. But the real problem is not to be found in the impressionable minds of youths but in the failure of society to inspire these young people with positive and forward-looking ideals.

Young people are not being seduced by mystical jihadist ideologies; they are being driven away by a society that fails to lead or enthuse or move them. There will, of course, always be a handful of confused and disturbed individuals who opt for acts of violent destruction. But as long as their community believes in itself, the damage they cause will be contained. The experience of the post-9/11 world shows that winning the arguments for an open society is the most effective answer to the threat of terror.

February 12, 2013

Palestine as a useful symbol, but Palestinians as inconvenient “guests”

Filed under: History, Middle East, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:28

Strategy Page on the paradoxical Arab view of Palestine as worth fighting for, but actual living Palestinians as less-than-welcome pests (or worse):

While most Arabs will admit they hate Israel, they will also deny that this has anything to do with anti-Semitism and has everything to do with the Palestinians. This is not true, as Arabs have long demonstrated a hostility towards the Jews, something which is part of their religion. It’s in their scriptures, the stories of how Jews refused to support Mohammed, the founder of Islam. Long held grudges are popular in this part of the world.

Meanwhile, there are many more recent reasons for Arabs to dislike the Palestinians. When the state of Israel was established in 1947 there began a series of bad decisions by Arab governments that are setting records for failure. Although the UN tried to broker the creation of Israel, Arab nations misjudged their own power and told Arabs in Israel to flee their homes, so that the Arab armies could come in and kill all the Jews. When that didn’t work, the Arabs refused to absorb the 600,000 Arab refugees, and continues to treat (actually, mistreat) them as refugees. At the same time, the Arabs expelled 600,000 Jews who had been living among them for centuries. Most of these Jews went to Israel and become Israelis, and prospered.

Thus began decades of hostility between Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world. The Palestinians that fled to Lebanon proceeded to trigger a 15 year long civil war (1975-90) that devastated the country and left in place a Shia militia in the south (Hezbollah) that prevents the country from being truly united. The Palestinians that fled to Jordan eventually (1970) staged an uprising against the king, and were defeated and largely expelled. The Palestinians that went to Kuwait welcomed the Iraqi invasion of 1990 because Saddam Hussein had always been very loud about wanting to destroy Israel. When Arab and Western troops tossed Saddam out of Kuwait five months later, the Palestinians were forced to flee the vengeance of the Kuwaitis. The Palestinians that went to Iraq also had to flee in 2003, because they had helped Saddam terrorize the Shia and Kurdish majority and were, well, you know the story.

February 3, 2013

US poised to increase involvement in Mali

Filed under: Africa, Military, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:27

Sheldon Richman explains why it could be a problem if the American presence in northwestern Africa is further expanded:

Ominously but unsurprisingly, the U.S. military’s Africa Command wants to increase its footprint in northwest Africa. What began as low-profile assistance to France’s campaign to wrest control of northern Mali (a former colony) from unwelcome jihadists could end up becoming something more.

The Washington Post reports that Africom “is preparing to establish a drone base in northwest Africa [probably Niger] so that it can increase surveillance missions on the local affiliate of Al Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups that American and other Western officials say pose a growing menace to the region.” But before that word “surveillance” can bring a sigh of relief, the Post adds, “For now, officials say they envision flying only unarmed surveillance drones from the base, though they have not ruled out conducting missile strikes at some point if the threat worsens.”

Meanwhile Bloomberg, citing American military officials, says Niger and the U.S. government have “reached an agreement allowing American military personnel to be stationed in the West African country and enabling them to take on Islamist militants in neighboring Mali, according to U.S. officials.… No decision has been made to station the drones.”

The irony is that surveillance drones could become the reason the “threat worsens,” and could provide the pretext to use drones armed with Hellfire missiles — the same kind used over 400 times in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, killing hundreds of noncombatants. Moving from surveillance to lethal strikes would be a boost for jihadist recruiters.

January 27, 2013

In Britain, ignorance of the law is a valid excuse (under certain circumstances)

Filed under: Britain, Law, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:25

Words fail me:

The failure of an Islamic faith school in the UK to provide a pupil with any knowledge about sexual relations, other than to teach him that women were “no more worthy than a lollipop dropped on the ground”, led to the trial of an 18-year-old who was charged with raping a 13-year-old girl.

But, according to this report, instead of being jailed, the “naïve” Birmingham teenager, Adil Rashid, was handed a suspended sentence in Nottingham Crown Court by Judge Michael Stokes, who said:

    Although chronologically 18, it is quite clear from the reports that you are very naive and immature when it comes to sexual matters.

The judge added that because Rashid was “passive” and “lacking assertiveness”, sending him to jail might cause him “more damage than good”.

Rashid admitted having sex with the girl, saying he had been “tempted by her” after they met online.

After they had had sex, Rashid returned home and went straight to a mosque to pray. He was arrested the following week after the girl confessed what had happened to a school friend, who informed one of her teachers.

He told police he knew the girl was 13 but said he was initially reluctant to have sex before relenting after being seduced.

Earlier the court heard how Rashid had “little experience of women”due to his education at an Islamic school in the UK, which cannot be named for legal reasons.

After his arrest, he told a psychologist that he did not know having sex with a 13-year-old was against the law. The court heard he found it was illegal only when he was informed by a family member.

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