Thursday, 29 November 2007
Bin Laden:"I Am Responsible" for 9-11
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Just how much evidence do the 9-11 truthers need? And he's trying to split Europe from America - the obvious move, yawn.

(Thanks to Jeffrey Imm) DUBAI (AFP) - Osama bin Laden urged Europeans to break ranks with the United States and quit Afghanistan, while stressing he alone was behind the 9/11 attacks, in a tape attributed to him on Al-Jazeera television on Thursday.

The United States "insisted on invading" Afghanistan even though it knew that the Afghans were not behind the 2001 attacks, and "Europe walked behind it," the voice purported to be that of the Al-Qaeda chief said in a "message to the European peoples."

"It would be better for you if you (restrained) your politicians who flock to the White House and worked actively to end the wrong done to the oppressed," he said in the audiotape.

"I am responsible" for the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, the speaker said.

Qatar-based Al-Jazeera aired a head shot of a smiling bin Laden wearing a white headdress of the type used by Muslim fundamentalist clerics. There was no indication of the timing of the tape.

"The truth, as I said before, is that the Manhattan events were in retaliation for the killing of our kinfolk in Palestine and Lebanon by the US-Israeli alliance and that I am responsible for them," the voice said.

"I affirm that the Afghans -- government and people -- had no knowledge whatsoever of these events and America knows that," since it captured and interrogated some ministers from the Islamist militant Taliban movement, which was ousted from power by a 2001 US invasion.

By following in the footsteps of the US in Afghanistan after 9/11, Europe could only be a "subordinate" to Washington, as attested to by the fact that "you entered this war and US soldiers were exempted from accountability in European courts."

"That is why my message is addressed to you, not to your politicians," said the typically soft-spoken voice thought to be that of the world's most wanted man.

"It is no longer a secret that (former British prime minister Tony) Blair, (British Prime Minister Gordon) Brown, (former Italian premier Silvio) Berlusconi, (former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria) Aznar and (French President Nicolas) Sarkozy and their ilk like to be under the shadow of the White House," the speaker said.

"They're not much different from many Third World leaders."

The voice claimed that US influence was waning, saying US forces will go back home and "leave neighbours to settle scores."...

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Posted on 11/29/2007 6:33 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Thursday, 29 November 2007
Britcom interlude and quiz
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It's buy one, get one free time again. BOGOF, as they say. This time the interlude and quiz really are rolled into one. I'm not sure how well "The Two Ronnies" will travel across the Atlantic, but what the heck. Ronnie Barker - Fletcher in "Porridge" -  was one of the finest comedians that ever lived. Ronnie Corbett was usually the straight man, and in a way he is in this sketch too. They're both straight men - it's the script that's funny. Click on the pic for a giggle. And if you're American and/or don't really get it, keep tuning into my Britcom interludes - you'll get the hang of them in time:

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Posted on 11/29/2007 5:17 PM by Mary Jackson
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Thursday, 29 November 2007
Identities Constructed Here
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BOTH "Palestinian" and "Israeli" are constructed identities. -- from a reader

What isn't these days presented as a "constructed" identity? Is being "French" or "English" (or "British") or "American" -- pace Hector St.-John Crevecoeur's "what is this new thing, this American?" -- a "constructed" identity? Yes? No? Mebbe? Yes, "identity," we are told, is "constructed" and "fluid." You can be anything you want to be, and no nasty Westerners have a right to hold onto an identity, their own, which of course doesn’t, being American or Western European, exist. Other lands have “identities” and can hold onto them. But the United States, England, France, and all those other places to which so many others, especially Muslims who arrive, their inculcated hostility undeclared at customs, packed carefully in their mental package, and to be unpacked as soon as they are safely in the country.

 We live in an age when so many things are claimed not to embody any truth based on the considerable evidence of one’s senses (including the “eyesight” that permits one to read books), but are claimed, rather, to be "socially constructed." Think of the kind of words Terri Gross, in those intolerable NPR interviews, likes to dwell upon with her quests, questioning them about “coming to terms” with, or “discovering” or something-or-other, with their own "Sexuality" and "Identity.” And of course “race” is merely a social construct, isn’t it, which is why the man who parachutes into Beijing, or Iowa, or the Congo, doesn’t notice the slightest difference in the kind of people he happens to meet..

Oh, did I forget to mention "reality"? Yes, nowadays "reality” also doesn't exist. It's merely "constructed." And we all thought it was just jesting Pilate who said "there is no such thing as truth." You can learn about all this from Gayatri Chakravarti Spivak, and Judith Butler, and even the equally-impenetrable-prosist Homi Bhabha (who, by the way, should mind his self-conscious manners and wait before attempting to walk out of a lecture-cum-concern when it only has a few minutes ago).

You, Roobart (isn’t that what they learn to mouth at RADA for the crowd scenes: “Roobart, Roobart, Roobart?) know perfectly well the "identities" which are being discussed here, and which you claim are equally "constructed,” are in fact not so. Get rid of those easy and pious symmetries that may please some, but not, I fear, Mnemosyne, a hard muse to please.

The war in the Middle East is that between Arabs and Jews, not between “Israelis” and “Palestinians” (you know, the Two Tiny Peoples business, each of those Tiny Peoples “struggling for its homeland). Long before there was an Israel, there were Jews living in Yemen, in Iraq, in Syria, in North Africa, in Iran (before expelled by the Muslims from the Jazirat al-Arab, they were even on the Arabian Peninsula; Hebrew lettering has been found on ruins in northwestern Saudi Arabia, Land of the Midianites). The appropriation of the term "Palestinian" -- as in "Palestinian people" -- and its deliberate promotion from adjective to noun (as in "the 'Palestinians'") -- was a deliberate and tendentious act of propaganda. The term "Israeli" per contra, is nothing more than a description of "the citizens of a nation-state called Israel" (not all of whom, by the way, are Jews), and it would be far more accurate to describe the business in Annapolis, or Camp David, and the conflict itself, as being not between "Israeli" and "Palestinian" but between Arab and Jew, or still more accurately, between Believer and Infidel, for the source of the conflict is to be located in Islam, and the refusal in Islam to countenance an Infidel state or power, of any size, controlling land, of any amount, that was once ruled over by Muslims.

If Israel happens to have been at the forefront of Arab Muslim efforts, that hardly means that the same claim is not made on Spain, Sicily, the Balkans, Greece, Bulgaria, Rumania, much of Hungary, almost all of India, and so on. Nor, of course, does the fact that places formerly part of Dar al-Islam are at the top of the Islamic To-Do List (Recover Lands), mean that the claim to the rest of the known world has disappeared, or would disappear, if the denizens of Dar al-Islam managed to recapture every inch of land once part of Dar al-Islam. No, they have bigger fish to fry -- the whole world. And surely at the SOAS there are books, if not courses, that will let you in on that not-exactly well-kept secret.

Tell me. If the Arabs of Iran, those around Ahwaz, where all the Iranian oil is pumped, in Khuzistan, were to go for broke and try to fight off "the Persians" and create a separate, well-funded state for the ethnic Arabs, and began, for the purposes of propaganda, to call themselves the "Khuzistanian people," would you claim that the term "Khuzistanian people" is not more of a "construct" than the term "Persian people" or "Persians"? Think about that for a bit.

You surely know, or perhaps you don't but I do, having read all the records myself, that nowhere in the thousands of pages of U.N. records in which Israel and the Arabs are discussed, prior to the Six-Day War, is the term "Palestinian people" used by any Arab diplomat, from Jamal Baroody, the Lebanese who represented Saudi Arabia for so long, on down. Nor did any of the Arab leaders, or their spokesmen, refer to the "Palestinian people." Care to explain why?

The leader of As Saiqa, one terrorist group under the PLO umbrella, Zuhair Mohsen, “is widely known for having made the following statement in a March 1977 interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw”:

"The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct "Palestinian people" to oppose Zionism.

For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan."

And there are many other remarks like this, sometimes by Arabs, and sometimes even by those engaged in “Arab refugee” work before it was taken over completely by “Palestinians” and other Arabs.

See, for example, what Elfan Rees, the special advisor on refugees to the World Council of Churches, wrote in 1957 in The Refugee Problem Today and Tomorrow:

"I hold the view that, political issues aside, the Arab refugee problem is by far the easiest postwar refugee problem to solve by integration. By faith, by language, by race and by social organization, they are indistinguishable from their fellows of the host countries. There is room for them, and land for them, in Syria and in Iraq. There is a developing demand for the kind of manpower that they represent. More unusually still, there is the money to make this integration possible. The United Nations General Assembly, five years ago, voted a sum of 200 million dollars to provide 'homes and jobs' for the Arab refugees. That money remains unspent, not because these tragic people are strangers in a strange land, because they are not; not because there is no room for them to be established, because there is; but simply for political reasons."

You can read the U.N. records, the records of what every Arab said, threatening or cajoling, from 1948 or well before 1948, right up to the Six-Day War, and even for a short period beyond, and it is only then that, out of the blue, comes this phrase “the Palestinian people.”

Stop making me waste me time having to repeat what all educated people know, or should.

Treve de betises.

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Posted on 11/29/2007 4:41 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 29 November 2007
Family Resemblance
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Tehran, 29 Nov. (AKI) - The word 'women' must now be replaced on Iranian state television by 'family', reformist Norouz news agency reports. --from this news item

And one may detect a family resemblance to these Muslim clerics in those Western women who used to noisily demand (the demand seems to have recently been muted, even possibly disappeared, in the face of widespread ridicule) the replacement of the word "woman" by the word "womyn."

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Posted on 11/29/2007 4:20 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 29 November 2007
When You Have Nabokov, Stravinsky And Borges, Who Needs Desmond Tutu?
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"Nabokov was Jabotinsky's uncle? Now, THAT I didn't know." --from a reader

No, "the writer" referred to is, of course, Vladimir Nabokov, the Russian and American writer, and there is no ambiguity in my sentence. Nabokov, by the way, was always an unswerving admirer of Israel, expressed his delight at Israel's victory in 1967, was eager to visit Israel (an invitation had been extended to him by the Israeli ambassador in Switzerland, and indeed, donated money to an Israeli charity). His affection and admiration for Israel were two of the few things he shared with Igor Stravinsky and Jorge Luis Borges, though their names do come up, sometimes, for other reasons when Nabokov is being discussed.

Though it is true that Jabotinsky was a writer, he was clearly not being referred to in my sentence. In Russia he had translated many writers, including Dante and Poe, for the last producing versions superior to those of Bal'mont. Later, living in Western Europe, he worked as a journalist in Italy, writing under the name "Altalena" ("swing" in Italian, and also the name of a well-known pensione in Florence).

Incidentally, his rarest work (only 100 signed copies were printed, and probably fewer than ten still exist) was his memoir about the "Palestine Legion" that consisted of Jewish volunteers, and who were organized and trained by Colonel John Henry Patterson. He titled that memoir, written in Russian, "Slovo o Polku." A most witty title.

Don't you agree that's brilliantly witty?

And could you explain to me why that title is brilliantly witty?

Thank you.

...I was under the impression that Stravinsky was somewhat less-than-stellar when anything Jewish was concerned.

"Slovo o Polku." Never heard of this particular work, I must admit. Not sure why it's witty, though I must admit I'm a total ignoramus when it comes to wit of any kind. The title could be translated as "A Word About the Regiment," or just "About the Regiment." Not sure if "Regiment" and "Legion" are the same thing. --from the reader in answer

See the Stravinsky-Craft diaries, when they get to Stravinsky's visit to Israel where he conducted the orchestra and spent time with musicians. Craft reports him as describing Israelis as the "most egalitarian, and also the most aristocratic, people in the world." That sounds like high praise to me.

When you have Borges, Nabokov, Stravinsky, and others of that level in your corner, admiring you, rooting for you, then who needs Desmond Tutu, or the entire U.N.?

As for "Slovo o Polku" not ringing any bells in your belfry, I take it your instruction was in language, and never proceeded to the stage of literature? Or do I misunderstand?

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Posted on 11/29/2007 4:06 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 29 November 2007
The Core Issue Is The Worldview of Islam
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"Like the Israelis, I know what it is like to go to sleep at night, not knowing if you will be bombed, of being afraid to be in your own neighborhood, of being afraid to go to your church," she [Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice] said.

She added, however, that as a black child in the South, forbidden to use certain water fountains and shunned from certain restaurants, she was also in a good position to understand the feelings of the Palestinians.--from this news article

Her life's performance as the Good Girl, the one who practiced the piano, and then did everything dutifully, if never brilliantly, all the way up to her time as graduate student of Madeline Albright's father, has not been sufficient to allow her first to recognize that there was something new, something especially worrisome, that she had a duty to learn about, and that something was Islam, and furthermore, her even less talented boss has no idea what the actual texts and tenets of Islam are, and if neither one knows them, they have missed the "core issue" of the Lesser Jihad by the Muslim Arabs (with some islamochristians permitting themselves to be used to promote this Islamic cause): the Core Issue is the worldview of Islam, according to which Believers and Infidels are in a state of permanent war (if not always open warfare), and it is the right and duty of Muslims to engage in a struggle, or Jihad, to remove all barriers to Islam, to the dominance of Islam, and of course, as part of that, to enlarge Dar al-Islam until it swallows up, little by little, all of Dar al-Harb. And furthermore, high on the To-Do list of Islam is the recovery of every square inch or dunam of land that was once in Muslim possession, but now -- most temporarily in the Muslim view -- is in the possession of non-Muslims, such as those infuriating and pesky Jews who still control the Infidel state of Israel.

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Posted on 11/29/2007 3:58 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 29 November 2007
Islamo-Slang
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The codeword for explosives was "dough." He added that a "taxi driver" meant a suicide bomber and to "marry" meant dying as a martyr. --from this news article

"Take this dough and use it to get married"

Modern lexicographers have always had a professional interest in underworld slang, as it is referred to by Eric Partridge in "A Dictionary of Slang," , or "canting and thieves' slang" as it is called in such earlier compilations of the same thing in the 1811 work by Francis Grose, "A Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue."

Perhaps now is the time for Western members of NATO to put out a dictionary of Islamo-English, Islamo-German, Islamo-French, and so on, a guide to the special vocabulary of what is not exactly an underworld or malavita, even if many of its members make their living by crime, for they see themselves not as criminals but as the bravest of Muslims, those engaged in violent Jihad rather than in all the other kinds, that other Muslims use and, correctly, find just as or even more effective.

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Posted on 11/29/2007 3:46 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 29 November 2007
Something Black American Converts Aren't Told
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CHICAGO (AP) - A 23-year-old man who once dreamed of waging violent jihad in Illinois now faces 30 years to life when he's sentenced next year.

Derrick Shareef pleaded guilty today to plotting a hand grenade attack on a Rockford mall crowded with Christmas shoppers.--from this news item

I wonder if he knew about how, in Islam, slavery is forever licit, because Muhammad had slaves, and that the Arab slave trade in Africa began earlier, lasted longer (indeed, despite the efforts of Western powers to totally stamp it out, the Arab enslavement of blacks, in Mauritania, in the Sudan, even deep inside Saudi Arabia itself, continues -- in the opinion of many observers, right up to the present day), and claimed far more victims, than did the Atlantic Slave Trade.

See Jan Hogedoorn's article, "The Hideous Trade."

See Sean O'Callaghan's book, published in 1961, "The Slave Trade Today" -- all about slavery in the Arab states, a book that helped cause the outcry that forced Saudi Arabia, most reluctantly, to finally ban slavery (officially, but the practice continued unofficially) in 1962, the last country on earth to do so.

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Posted on 11/29/2007 1:56 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 29 November 2007
Gullible, But Without Remorse
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U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska noted Dr. Rafiq Sabir, 53, showed no remorse after his May conviction for conspiring to provide material support to terrorists by agreeing to treat injured al-Qaida members so they could return to Iraq to battle Americans..

He said a co-defendant, jazz musician and martial arts expert Tarik Shah, had duped him into taking an oath with an FBI agent who posed as an al-Qaida recruiter, never explaining that he was pledging loyalty to al-Qaida or its leader, Osama bin Laden.

"I'm an extremely gullible man," he said. --from this news item

If he was taken in, if he was merely "gullible," if he merely bought a line, then why is he not now, at this point, showing a little of that famous buyer's remorse? The fact that he implacably has shown not the slightest remorse tells us everything. Speaks volumes, possibly more than the 26 that make up the eleventh (onion-skin) edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

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Posted on 11/29/2007 1:49 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 29 November 2007
Some Things Never Go Out Of Style
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"That's me he's calling an idiot. Nice job, Hugh (or Robert, or Hubert Fitzspencer--whoever you are). Very mature and professional." a comical reader

No, mon vieux, I did not call you an idiot. I did something different.

What I wrote was this:

"You surely are not the moral idiot you have painted yourself to be. Surely you have not thought this all through. Surely history, including the last millennium or two, or at least back to the beginning of Islam's conquests and subjugations, and the fantastic story of what happened to the Jews, those who remained, and those who made their way out of the Middle East, should make some impression on you."

I said "surely you are not the moral idiot you have painted yourself to be."

Why not put that brush away, with which you are not merely painting yourself, but now tarring-and-feathering yourself, and holding yourself up to ridicule? Why not take up something that Islam hates even more than painting, music, free and skeptical inquiry, humor, and so on. Yes, why not take up sculpture.

My Russian billionaire friends (magari!) tell me that at the latest billionaire's fair everyone wanted his very own equestrian statue, modelled on the one that Catherine the Great placed in Petersburg. So don't worry. You'll have a market. Billionaires never go out of style.

You know. The Bronze Horseman, the statue to Peter the Great erected by Catherine the Great, Ekaterina II. The one that has two inscriptions, or rather one inscription in two languages.

There's the Latin:

"Petro Primo Catharina Secunda MDCCLXXXII" in Latin.

And there's the Russian:

"Петру первому Екатерина вторая, лето 1782" in Russian.

They mean the same thing. To Peter the First From Catherine the Second. It's a great and lapidary line.

Great, and also lapidary, is the 1833 Petersburg poem by Pushkin, "The Bronze Horseman" in which a poor Evgenij, living in a city whose proportions are not made for men, and that overwhelms him, is caught in the famous flood.

Read "Mednij Vsadnik" in English, or possibly in French. And while you are reading the poem, make sure to read Roman Jakobson's article on Pushkin's play with verb forms -- perfective and imperfective -- as a device (priyom) in "The Bronze Horseman."

And then, if you stop being a moral idiot about Israel, I will help you change your imperfect(ive) statements into more perfect(ive) ones.

What a deal. Up to you -- the first person singular of the Russian non-existent verb "optovat' -- buster.

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Posted on 11/29/2007 1:36 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 29 November 2007
Teddy bear teacher jailed for 15 days
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A British teacher accused of insulting Muslims after her class called a teddy bear Mohammed was found guilty and jailed for 15 days, a defence lawyer said tonight.
Gillian Gibbons, 54, was ordered to be deported after she had completed her sentence.
"She was found guilty of insulting religion and the sentence is 15 days (in jail) and deportation," defence lawyer Ali Ajib said after the trial in a Khartoum courtroom, which lasted less than a day.
Robert Boulos, head of Unity high school where Gibbons worked, said: "We are happy with the verdict. It is fair. There were a lot of political pressures and attention."
He added: "We will be very sad to lose her."
When asked what he thought of the verdict, the head of Gibbons's defence teams, Kamal al-Jazouli, said: "It was not bad."
Gibbons was yesterday charged with insulting Islam, inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs because of the toy's name. Under Sudan's penal code, she could have faced 40 lashes, a fine, or up to one year in jail.
In court, judge Mohammed Youssef listened to two accounts - one from school secretary Sarah Khawad, who filed the first complaint about the teddy bear's name, and one from the official who has been investigating the case, court sources said.
Teachers at the school say that calling the teddy bear Mohammad, the name of the prophet of Islam, was not her idea in the first place and that no parents objected when Unity High School sent parents circulars about a reading project which included the teddy bear as a fictional participant.
Earlier today trucks protected by armed police transported Gillian Gibbons from her cell at the CID headquarters in Khartoum where she had been kept in custody following her arrest on Sunday for allowing pupils to name a school teddy bear Mohammed.
Security was also tight at the city's court building today as fears that extremists might stage a kidnap attempt ran high.
Extreme Islamic groups said Mrs Gibbons "must die" and urged Muslims to hold street protests after prayers tomorrow. However the Muslim Council of Britain said it was "appalled" at the decision by Sudan.
Sudanese reaction to the case had been muted until yesterday, when demonstrations took place at one of Khartoum's student campuses.
Speakers took turns to denounce Mrs Gibbons, brandishing a newspaper bearing her photograph. A statement circulated by members of the Muslim Brotherhood - a multinational Sunni Islamist movement and the world's most influential political Islamist group - also condemned her actions.
"We want to express our boiling anger and deep sorrow about this case caused by this British teacher," it said.
"We want to tell you that the majority of Sudanese are Muslims so we love our Prophet Mohammed so much and we decry this careless way of dealing with our beloved Prophet."
Leaflets distributed outside Khartoum's Great Mosque urged Muslims to march tomorrow in protest at Mrs Gibbons' actions.
There is still the possibility the demonstrations will go ahead.
They condemned what they described as "flagrant aggression" against the Prophet Mohammed and asked imams to address the subject Friday prayers.
The leaflets added: "What has been done by this infidel lady is considered a matter of contempt and an insult to Muslims' feelings and also the pollution of children's mentality as an attempt to wipe their identity."
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Posted on 11/29/2007 1:16 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Thursday, 29 November 2007
'We are at war with all Islam?
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‘We are not at war with “terror”, that would make no sense.’
‘Hear, hear,’ said a voice at the back. ‘Terror is just a tactic used by Islam,’ she continued. ‘We are actually at war, not just with Islamism, but with Islam itself.
But is she right? And what does ‘war with Islam’ mean? I went to find out;
Well, you say that Islam is a violent religion, because the Prophet advocated violence. But isn’t that open to interpretation? I ask. Karen Armstrong, (a non-Muslim biographer of Mohammed) has said the Prophet was a loving man who’d have been horrified at 9/11.
‘Karen Armstrong is ridiculous,’ says Hirsi Ali in her quick, light voice — Africa still audible in the clipped consonants. ‘The Prophet would have not have disapproved of 9/11, because it was carried out in his example. When he came to Medina, the Prophet had a revelation, of jihad. After that, it became an obligation for Muslims to convert others, and to establish an Islamic state, by the sword if necessary.’
But there is such a thing as moderate Islam, I say. Muslims aren’t all terrorists. There are some like Ed Husain (author of The Islamist) who argue that there are many peaceful traditions of Koranic scholarship to choose from. Isn’t it a mistake to dismiss this gentler, acceptable branch of Islam?
‘I find the word “moderate” very misleading.’ There’s a touch of steel in Hirsi Ali’s voice. ‘I don’t believe there is such a thing as “moderate Islam”. I think it’s better to talk about degrees of belief and degrees of practice. The Koran is quite clear that it should control every area of life. If a Muslim chooses to obey only some of the Prophet’s commandments, he is only a partial Muslim. If he is a good Muslim, he will wish to establish Sharia law.’
‘Christianity is different from Islam,’ says Hirsi Ali, ‘because it allows you to question it. It probably wasn’t different in the past, but it is now. Christians — at least Christians in a liberal democracy — have accepted, after Thomas Hobbes, (No, after Christ himself, when he taught render unto Caesar, that which is Caesars) that they must obey the secular rule of law; that there must be a separation of church and state. In Islamic doctrine such a separation has not occurred yet. This is what makes it dangerous! Islam — all Islam, not just Islamism — has not acknowledged that it must obey secular law. Islam is hostile to reason.’
Hirsi Ali looks at me with pity. ‘You, here in the UK, are in danger. Of course you can’t ban Islam outright, but you need to stop the spread of ideology, stop native Westerners converting to Islam. You definitely need to ban the veil in schools, and to close down Muslim schools because that’s where kids are indoctrinated.’
But, what about freedom of belief and free speech? I ask (with a nervous look at the doorman). And if you close down Muslim schools, don’t you, by the same logic, have to close all faith schools?
‘Islam is different from other faiths because it is not just a faith, it is a political ideology. Children learn that Allah is the lawgiver, and that is a political statement. You wouldn’t allow the BNP to run a school, would you?’
But if we crack down like this, won’t it make Muslims angry? I say, thinking about terrorists and my safety. ‘Well perhaps anger is no bad thing,’ says Hirsi Ali, thinking about ordinary Muslims, and their enlightenment. ‘Perhaps it’ll make Muslims more aware, help them question their beliefs. If we keep on asking questions, maybe Muslim women will realise, as I did, that they don’t have to be second-class citizens.’
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is on her favourite topic now (the subjection of women), leaning forward, gesticulating. And as she talks I realise (belatedly) what makes her different from her neocon pals. Whereas they seem motivated by fear of Muslims, she is out to protect Muslims from submission to unreason. When she speaks of a ‘war against Islam’, she’s thinking not of armies of insurgents, but of an ideological virus, in the same way a doctor might talk of the battle against typhoid. ‘Yes, I am at war with Islam,’ she says, as she gets up to leave, ‘but I am not at war with Muslims.’ It’s a crucial difference.
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Posted on 11/29/2007 12:24 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Thursday, 29 November 2007
Britcom interlude
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This sketch about British newspapers, linked in my post here, is from Yes Prime Minister, one of our best sitcoms. Watch it - it's worth it:

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Posted on 11/29/2007 6:33 AM by Mary Jackson
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Thursday, 29 November 2007
Britain invades America
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Not before time. Steve Boriss in Pajamas Media:

For the first time since the Beatles, there is a British invasion. The last one transformed our music, this one may transform our news.

When you visit a news stand in London, you instantly sense you are in a different country. Unlike the 1 or 2 daily papers you would see in a typical U.S. city, you may be confronted by 8 or more. The front pages bristle with excitement and vie for your attention. They are engaged in heated competition, a concept that seems so foreign to newspapers in America.

You might ask, if the competition among London newspapers is so fierce, how can so many of them survive? Wouldn’t all readers naturally gravitate to the best couple of them, putting the rest out of business as happened in so many American cities decades ago? The reason so many survive is that they deliberately appeal to different target audiences, and differentiate themselves from the others largely on the basis of - are you ready for this? - BIAS. While in modern American journalism, “bias” is a four-letter word, mixing facts and opinion has never troubled papers in London. The British also do not share American journalists’ prudish disdain for “boobs” and humor. The differences in their intended target audiences is so obvious, even their front pages transparently appeal to those of different worldviews, socio-economic statuses, and tastes.

For just about any reader, London’s views-papers and boobs-papers make for a lot more enjoyable reading than America's dull fare. Their titles include the Morning Star (Far Left), the Guardian (Left), the Daily Mirror (Center-Left Tabloid), the Sun (Center "T & A" Tabloid), the Daily Mail (Center-Right Tabloid), the Times of London (Center-Right), the Financial Times (Center-Right Business), and the Telegraph (Right).

Using this as a key, you should now be able to follow this skit from the British TV comedy "Yes Prime Minister."
[...]

London's viewsy, witty, and naughty newspapers now point to the future of news. America’s snoozy, prissy, and haughty papers had better wake up.

So, will we see Hillary Clinton's melons on Page 3 of the New York Times? Tastes differ. I may be wrong, but I can't imagine the following passage by Caitlin Moran in the London Times appearing in the New York Times, or for that matter in any quality paper other than a British one. Some readers may recognise it from my article Bossom:

“Boobs” are too Benny Hill. Boobs are perfectly spherical, bouncing, jokey — you might as well refer to your “pink chest clowns” and have done with it. Boobs are also, by and large, white and working class — you don’t really get Bangladeshi boobs, or boobs from Bahrain, or the boobs of Lady Antonia Fraser. Boobs are what Jordan and Pamela Anderson and Barbara Windsor have — except when Barbara had a breast cancer storyline in EastEnders, when they quickly became “breasts”. “Boobs”, of course, can’t get cancer, or lactate, or be subject to the subtle erotic arts of the Tao. Boobs exist only to jiggle up and down on the chests of women between the ages of 14 and 32, after which they get too droopy, and then presumably fall off the face of the Earth, into space, maybe to eventually become part of the giant rings of Saturn. “Bosom” sounds a bit Les Dawson...

“Cleavage” doesn’t work, obviously — “I have a pain in my cleavage” — and neither does “Embonpoint”, because it sounds both embroidered and pointy, and so would cease to exist when you took your bra off. “Tits” seems nicely down-to-earth for day-to-day use — “Give me a KitKat, I’ve just caught my tit in the door” — but struggles to make a satisfactory transition to night-time use, where it seems a little too brusque. Personally, I quite like the idea of “The Guys” — but then that’s also how I refer to my seven brothers and sisters, and as potential confusion there could lead to an even greater incidence of mental illness than we already have, I’ll probably have to leave it be. 

Isn't this all a bit vulgar? Should the New York Times really talk about tits with such gay abandon?  Well, from what I gather, the New York Times, AKA New Duranty Times, should not be too po-faced about this. After all, it's been talking through its arse for long enough. 

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Posted on 11/29/2007 6:06 AM by Mary Jackson
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Thursday, 29 November 2007
See You Anon
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For famous people to say that they hate fame is as much of a cliché as for them to say that they used to be an ugly duckling or geek. It's disingenuous attention-seeking twaddle. The Times leader puts the recluse under the spotlight, where he is happiest:

Greta Garbo so craved anonymity that she became a Hollywood movie legend. Had Howard Hughes confined himself to making money instead of becoming an eccentric recluse, who might recognise his name today? The fastidiously reclusive Lucian Freud is Britain's most famous painter. Stanley Kubrick was as well known for shunning publicity as for making 2001: A Space Odyssey. Would Thomas Pynchon, never photographed or officially interviewed, be so renowned as the author of V and Gravity's Rainbow were he not such a legendary recluse? Pynchon is so famous he has made appearances on The Simpsons; albeit with a paper bag over his head. The reclusive J.D. Salinger, not a word in print in four decades, is nearly as eminent.

Joe Klein did the sales of Primary Colours, his roman à clef about the Clinton presidency, nothing but good by signing it “Anonymous”. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis flaunted her appetite for anonymity by marrying, in turn, a future American president and a Greek shipping magnate.

And the moral? That some are born famous, and some achieve fame; but in order to have stellar fame thrust upon you, just shun it vigorously.

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Posted on 11/29/2007 5:55 AM by Mary Jackson
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Thursday, 29 November 2007
Undercover restorers fix Paris landmark's clock
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Some time ago I read about a "burglar" who would break into people's houses and tidy up. Sadly, he never broke into mine. The French - much as it pains me to say this - have gone one better. "Cultural guerrillas" have been breaking and entering - and restoring. From The Guardian:


Clock watching ... the Pantheon in Paris. Photograph: Alamy


It is one of Paris's most celebrated monuments, a neoclassical masterpiece that has cast its shadow across the city for more than two centuries.

But it is unlikely that the Panthéon, or any other building in France's capital, will have played host to a more bizarre sequence of events than those revealed in a court last week.

Four members of an underground "cultural guerrilla" movement known as the Untergunther, whose purpose is to restore France's cultural heritage, were cleared on Friday of breaking into the 18th-century monument in a plot worthy of Dan Brown or Umberto Eco.

For a year from September 2005, under the nose of the Panthéon's unsuspecting security officials, a group of intrepid "illegal restorers" set up a secret workshop and lounge in a cavity under the building's famous dome. Under the supervision of group member Jean-Baptiste Viot, a professional clockmaker, they pieced apart and repaired the antique clock that had been left to rust in the building since the 1960s. Only when their clandestine revamp of the elaborate timepiece had been completed did they reveal themselves.

"When we had finished the repairs, we had a big debate on whether we should let the Panthéon's officials know or not," said Lazar Klausmann, a spokesperson for the Untergunther. "We decided to tell them in the end so that they would know to wind the clock up so it would still work.

"The Panthéon's administrator thought it was a hoax at first, but when we showed him the clock, and then took him up to our workshop, he had to take a deep breath and sit down."

The Centre of National Monuments, embarrassed by the way the group entered the building so easily, did not take to the news kindly, taking legal action and replacing the administrator...

Klausmann and his crew are connaisseurs of the Parisian underworld. Since the 1990s they have restored crypts, staged readings and plays in monuments at night, and organised rock concerts in quarries. The network was unknown to the authorities until 2004, when the police discovered an underground cinema, complete with bar and restaurant, under the Seine. They have tried to track them down ever since.

"We would like to be able to replace the state in the areas it is incompetent," said Klausmann. "But our means are limited and we can only do a fraction of what needs to be done. There's so much to do in Paris that we won't manage in our lifetime."

The Untergunther are already busy working on another restoration mission Paris. The location is top secret, of course. But the Panthéon clock remains one of its proudest feats.

Incidentally, the age of these "cultural guerrillas" is not given. But however young they are, I doubt very much that they are "youths" in the usual Parisian sense of the word.

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Posted on 11/29/2007 5:22 AM by Mary Jackson
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Wednesday, 28 November 2007
A Literary Interlude: Le Mot Et La Chose
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Le mot et la chose


Madame, quel est votre mot,
Et sur le mot et sur la chose ?
On vous a dit souvent le mot,
On vous a fait souvent la chose.
Ainsi, de la chose et du mot
Vous pouvez dire quelque chose.
Et je gagerais que le mot
Vous plaît beaucoup moins que la chose.
Pour moi, voici quel est mon mot,
Et sur le mot, et sur la chose :
J'avouerai que j'aime le mot,
J'avouerai que j'aime la chose.
Mais, c'est la chose avec le mot,
Mais, c'est le mot avec la chose,
Autrement, la chose et le mot
A mes yeux, seraient peu de chose.
Je crois même, en faveur du mot,
Pouvoir ajouter quelque chose ;
Une chose qui donne au mot
Tout l'avantage sur la chose :
C'est qu'on peut dire encore le mot,
Alors qu'on ne fait plus la chose.
Et pour peu que vaille le mot,
Mon Dieu, c'est toujours quelque chose !
De là, je conclus que le mot
Doit être mis avant la chose.
Qu'il ne faut ajouter au mot
Qu'autant que l'on peut quelque chose.
Et pour quelque jour où le mot
Viendra seul, hélas, sans la chose,
Il faut se réserver le mot
Pour se consoler de la chose.
Pour vous, je crois qu'avec le mot,
Vous voyez toujours autre chose.
Vous dites si gaiement le mot,
Vous méritez si bien la chose,
Que pour vous, la chose et le mot
Doivent être la même chose.
Et vous n'avez pas dit le mot
Qu'on est déjà prêt à la chose,
Mais quand je dis que le mot
Doit être mis avant la chose,
Vous devez me croire à ce mot,
Bien peu connaisseur en la chose.
Eh bien, voici mon dernier mot,
Et sur le mot et sur la chose :
Madame, passez-moi le mot
Et je vous passerai. la chose.

 

Abbé de l'Attaignant (1697 - 1779, Chanoine à Reims)
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Posted on 11/28/2007 10:25 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 28 November 2007
A Musical Interlude: You Gotta Gimme Some
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Posted on 11/28/2007 9:48 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 28 November 2007
N.O.W: No Comment On British Teacher Teddy Bear Case
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Fox News: British opposition Conservative party lawmaker William Hague called on the British government to "make it clear to the Sudanese authorities that she should be released immediately."

"To condemn Gillian Gibbons to such brutal and barbaric punishment for what appears to be an innocent mistake is clearly unacceptable," he said.

What exactly is the mistake? Forgetting that Muslims are complete lunatics when it come to anything to do to with Muhammad, whether it be a cartoon depiction of him or a Teddy Bear named after him?

In the U.S., a spokeswoman for the National Organization for Women said the situation is definitely on the radar, and N.O.W. is not ignoring it.

But she added that the U.S.-based organization is not putting out a statement or taking a position.

Radio personality Tammy Bruce, former president of the Los Angles chapter of the National Organization for Women and past member of their board of directors, criticized the organization for not taking a stand.

“We have a duty to make a difference for women around the world,” Bruce told FOX News. “The supposed feminist establishment is refusing to take a position in this regard because they have no sensibility of what is right anymore. They're afraid of offending people. They are bound by political correctness.”

“The American feminist movement has not taken one stand to support the women of Iraq, the women of Afghanistan, the women of Iran,” she said. “It is the United States Marines who have been doing the feminist work by liberating women and children around the world.”...

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Posted on 11/28/2007 3:38 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Wednesday, 28 November 2007
Not Advent yet, but I'm getting in the mood.
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It’s that time of the year when I rake out the Christmas albums to accompany the washing up and ironing. 
Tonight Jethro Tull’s Christmas Album. Featuring, among many others, this, God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen. This was recorded last Christmas for German television. Three days later we saw them at St Brides Church in Fleet Street. This clip has only been on you tube 2 days so I am glad to be one of the first to watch it.
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Posted on 11/28/2007 3:34 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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