Thursday, 27 December 2007
That's Pakistan

Islamabad, Pakistan (AHN) - Following the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, opposition groups have warned of a civil war in Pakistan. Riaz Malik, of the opposition Pakistan Movement for Justice party (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf), warned, "The impact will be that Pakistan is in more turmoil - it will be the start of civil war in Pakistan." --from this news article

Those nuclear weapons -- what about those nuclear weapons? It was the incredible negligence of Western intelligence agencies and Western governments made possible: A. Q. Khan stole plans from laboratories in the West; the necessary technology came from that West; the money for that nuclear weapons program came from the West -- chiefly the United States, giving aid to its "staunch ally" Pakistan to use to support the "brave Afghani mujahideen" etc. It is the responsibility of Western governments to get those weapons back, or make sure they are handed over "for safekeeping" during this "temporary" (i.e., permanent) "time of troubles" in Pakistan. Musharraf must be threatened with a total collapse of Pakistan, of its economy: no aid, no favorable treatment for its textiles, no travel to and from the West, no children of the zamindars who own, and the generals who run, Pakistan to be allowed to study, work, or remain in the West. A declaration of war, with a non-negotiable demand: give up those weapons.

As for the rest of Pakistan, it can hold together, it can disintegrate, it can do this or do that. Baluchistan may declare itself independent, and the Punjabis may crush them. Or not. The Sunnis may kill Shi'a, or not.  Who cares, as long as Pakistan  ceases to have control over, and has no chance to re-acquire or transmit to others, such weapons as it was foolishly allowed to acquire. That's all that Infidels should worry about  -- what actual damage they can inflict on us, by what means. 

Because, you see, that's the country. That's Pakistan.

Posted on 12/27/2007 7:05 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 27 December 2007
180,000 Muslims

Flemming Rose writes at Northern Light (thanks to Alan):

A study commissioned by Germany’s Interior Ministry warns that 180.000 of the country’s 3 million Muslims are willing to commit violence in the name of Islam, which amounts to 6 percent of the Muslim population of Germany. The number is alarmingly high because a similar study a year ago showed that just 32.000, slightly more than 1 percent, were radical islamists representing a potential security threat.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble says in a foreword that the study leads to the ”worrying conclusion that a serious potential for Islamist radicalization has developed in Germany”.

Christine Haderthauer, secretary general of the conservative the Christian Social Union, told Der Spiegel that her party ”has always warned against the dangers of parallel societies. Our fears have been confirmed in a shocking manner.”

The study was conducted by two researchers from the Institute of Criminology at the University of Hamburg. The authors interviewed 1,750 Muslims of whom around 40 percent were German citizens. Almost 40 percent of the respondents think that ”physical violence is justified as a reaction against the threat of the West’s threat to Islam”. The study doesn’t clarify what is meant by ”threat” and for what exactly the West should be hold accountable.

The survey found that more than half of the respondents felt themselves excluded from German society, and felt they were being treated as foreigners. the study has caused a big debate in Germany about the need for better integration...

[T]he publication of the Mohammed cartoons in Denmark was an act of inclusion and integration of Muslims into the Danish tradition of religious satire, though a majority of Muslims saw it differently. The cartoons send an important message to Muslims saying: We don’t expect more or less of you, we expect exactly the same of you as of everybody else, and that’s a full recogniction of your presence in society as equal citizens.

Posted on 12/27/2007 4:46 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 27 December 2007
Because There Is So Little At Stake...

Stuart Jeffries writes about the unintentionally hilarious spat between Ted Honderich and Colin McGinn (hat tip: Arts & Letters):

It is probably the most negative book review ever written. Or if there is a worse one, do let me know. "This book runs the full gamut from the mediocre to the ludicrous to the merely bad," begins Colin McGinn's review of On Consciousness by Ted Honderich. "It is painful to read, poorly thought out, and uninformed. It is also radically inconsistent."

The ending isn't much better: "Is there anything of merit in On Consciousness? Honderich does occasionally show glimmers of understanding that the problem of consciousness is difficult and that most of our ideas about it fall short of the mark. His instincts, at least, are not always wrong. It is a pity that his own efforts here are so shoddy, inept, and disastrous (to use a term he is fond of applying to the views of others)."...

Don't you regret writing the review that way, I ask McGinn? "I know Ted and know I don't think much of him as a philosopher. But if you ask did that affect the way I wrote the review, absolutely not. If you allow personal hostilities to distort what you write, you're going to get caught out.

"It would have been different if it had been a junior person. I wouldn't do it to a junior. But Ted deserved it. It had to be done."

Honderich replies: "For McGinn to say that is for him to be a philosopher on the moon. Nobody on Earth believes that his review is not motivated by animus. To suggest the tone wasn't dictated by any history of hostility between us is crazy."

Intellectually, they hold very different views on one of the hottest, and most intractable of philosophical problems, consciousness. Honderich calls himself a radical externalist on consciousness, meaning, he writes in his book, that "my perceptual consciousness now consists in the existence of a world".

McGinn thinks Honderich's brand of radical externalism is bogus. "Ted's saying that one's perceptual content just is that thing, a table for example. But if you close your eyes, does the table stop existing? On Ted's account it seems to, which is just wild."

McGinn, by contrast, is the world's leading proponent of the so-called new mysterian position (named after the rock band Quark and the Mysterians) whereby some philosophical problems, consciousness among them, are insoluble. In this, he claims other leading thinkers - Noam Chomsky and Thomas Nagel among them - are new mysterians, too. Chomsky, for instance, maintains that just as a mouse will never be able to speak like a human (because of its biology), so certain problems may be beyond human understanding.

Honderich heaps derision on this new mysterian position, describing it as a "form of intellectual wimpishness". "And in any case, how dare McGinn rubbish my position. Twelve leading philosophers contributed to a book about my theory [in a special issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies last August] and not one of them was as abusive as he was."

Honderich believes there is more than intellectual difference behind his and McGinn's row. "At UCL we had a jokey locker-room relationship," recalls Honderich. "But then I made a misstep. I suggested to him that his new girlfriend was not as plain as the old one, and I could see the blood drain out of his face. That was possibly the start of our frostiness." Forget, perhaps, abstruse philosophical disputes in understanding the men's mutual bile. Rather, cherchez la femme...

Posted on 12/27/2007 3:56 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 27 December 2007
What Is A Racist Chant?

"If the IFA [Israeli Football Association] feels that 'Mohammed is dead' is a racist chant than we think that they should also take action against the Sakhnin fans shouting 'Allah Akbar'. We hope the IFA's Supreme Court will overturn this decision." --from this news article

Any phrase about Muhammad, or any other significant figure important to anyone, is not a "racist" phrase. It may be true or false, clever or silly, in good or in doubtful taste. But whatever it is, it is not "racist." Distinctions matter. Carelessness with words should not be tolerated.

Posted on 12/27/2007 2:44 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Thursday, 27 December 2007
Obituary: Benazir Bhutto, 1953-2007
from The Times, here.
Examination of the usual suspects here.
Posted on 12/27/2007 2:27 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Thursday, 27 December 2007
Benazir Bhutto: Killed By The Real Pakistan
A recent CNN poll showed that 46 percent of Pakistanis approve of Osama bin Laden.

Aspirants to the American presidency should hope to score so highly in the United States. In Pakistan, though, the al-Qaeda emir easily beat out that country’s current president, Pervez Musharraf, who polled at 38 percent.

President George Bush, the face of a campaign to bring democracy — or, at least, some form of sharia-lite that might pass for democracy — to the Islamic world, registered nine percent. Nine!

If you want to know what to make of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s murder today in Pakistan, ponder that.

There is the Pakistan of our fantasy. The burgeoning democracy in whose vanguard are judges and lawyers and human rights activists using the “rule of law” as a cudgel to bring down a military junta. In the fantasy, Bhutto, an attractive, American-educated socialist whose prominent family made common cause with Soviets and whose tenures were rife with corruption, was somehow the second coming of James Madison.

Then there is the real Pakistan: an enemy of the United States and the West.

The real Pakistan is a breeding ground of Islamic holy war where, for about half the population, the only thing more intolerable than Western democracy is the prospect of a faux democracy led by a woman — indeed, a product of feudal Pakistani privilege and secular Western breeding whose father, President Zulfiquar Ali Bhutto, had been branded as an enemy of Islam by influential Muslim clerics in the early 1970s.

The real Pakistan is a place where the intelligence services are salted with Islamic fundamentalists: jihadist sympathizers who, during the 1980s, steered hundreds of millions in U.S. aid for the anti-Soviet mujahideen to the most anti-Western Afghan fighters — warlords like Gilbuddin Hekmatyar whose Arab allies included bin Laden and Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the stalwarts of today’s global jihad against America.

The real Pakistan is a place where the military, ineffective and half-hearted though it is in combating Islamic terror, is the thin line between today’s boiling pot and what tomorrow is more likely to be a jihadist nuclear power than a Western-style democracy.

In that real Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto’s murder is not shocking. There, it was a matter of when, not if.

It is the new way of warfare to proclaim that our quarrel is never with the heroic, struggling people of fill-in-the-blank country. No, we, of course, fight only the regime that oppresses them and frustrates their unquestionable desire for freedom and equality.

Pakistan just won’t cooperate with this noble narrative.

Whether we get round to admitting it or not, in Pakistan, our quarrel is with the people. Their struggle, literally, is jihad. For them, freedom would mean institutionalizing the tyranny of Islamic fundamentalism. They are the same people who, only a few weeks ago, tried to kill Benazir Bhutto on what was to be her triumphant return to prominence — the symbol, however dubious, of democracy’s promise. They are the same people who managed to kill her today. Today, no surfeit of Western media depicting angry lawyers railing about Musharraf — as if he were the problem — can camouflage that fact.

The rest is here.

Posted on 12/27/2007 1:16 PM by Andy McCarthy
Thursday, 27 December 2007
Shire Network News Holiday Greetings

Brian of London writes:

This week's show features an extended piece by Tom Paine on his thoughts of London and a three way chat between Meryl, Damian and Brian of London.

We've not really got Blog News this week so not much to link to. I do mention a new Egyption Coptic site, www.sonsofapesandpigs. org and we have a song at the end of a show that has a rather good video. Go and look at it: The Nose on your Face.

Tom used some spoof tube announcements from Emma Clarke. Go to her site to hear more and check out her hilarious spoof sat nav voice overs.

We will try our very best to be more regular next year. Honest.

You can find Meryl's blog here and Damian Penny posts here.

In the meantime thank you all for listening and for commenting and supporting us all year. We do it all for you and believe me, this is not a simple undertaking. I'm not complaining though, one comment saying we've opened someone's eyes is enough to cheer us all up for a week.

Posted on 12/27/2007 11:26 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 27 December 2007
Hizb ut Tahrir Pamphlet

In the Netherlands Hizb ut Tahrir is circulating the following pamphlet in opposition to Geert Wilders and his upcoming movie on the Koran.


During the past years, Holland has been dominated by a climate of slander and common insult towards Islam and Muslims. It is also evident that certain politicians and influential people are behind the current hostility. In answer to this we, the shabab of Hizb ut Tahrir in Holland, have initiated the campaign "Stop the slandering of Islam".

With the help of this campaign, which entails a substantial signature petition, we want to give the Muslims a voice. This will enable them to react in a respectful and proper manner to the constant slandering of high values within Islam and the feelings of insult and anxiety that are the result of this.

At the same time, the campaign "Stop the slandering of Islam" also makes clear that the common insult of Islam and Muslims creates an altercation in the Dutch society and hereby seriously disturbs the harmony of the Dutch society.

We can report that the first weekend of this campaign has lead to positive reactions from the community. The initiative has been welcomed and we have received messages of support from both Muslims as non-Muslims.

Posted on 12/27/2007 7:49 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 27 December 2007
Benazir Bhutto Killed

ABC: Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was killed in a gun and bomb attack after a rally in the city of Rawalpindi on Thursday, her party said.

"She has been martyred," said party offical Rehman Malik.

Police at the scene said about 15 people had been killed.

A Reuters witness said he saw about eight bodies on a road as well as a mutilated human head.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said initial reports suggested it was a suicide bombing and more than 10 people had been killed...

Earlier, gunmen opened fire on supporters of another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, from an office of the party that supports President Pervez Musharraf, killing four Sharif supporters, police said.

Sharif was several kilometres away from the shooting and was on his way to Rawalpindi after attending a rally.

Sharif, who was overthrown by Musharraf in a 1999 coup and allowed back into the country just last month after seven years in exile, blamed supporters of the pro-Musharraf party for the violence.  

Posted on 12/27/2007 7:42 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 27 December 2007
Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades To Protect Bush In Ramallah

WND: JERUSALEM – Members of the most active West Bank terror organization are set to participate in security forces being deployed to protect President Bush during his visit to the Palestinian territories next month, WND has learned.

Bush is due in the region Jan. 9 as part of a follow-up to last month's U.S.-led Israeli-Palestinian Annapolis summit.

During his trip, the American president is scheduled to hold talks with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem, and meet quickly with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

According to Israeli security officials coordinating deployments of forces with the PA for Bush's Ramallah visit, members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah's declared military wing, have been called upon by the PA to participate in the protection of Bush's convoy and in securing the parameter during the meeting with Abbas.

The Brigades is listed as a terror organization by the U.S. State Department. The group took credit along with the Islamic Jihad terror organization for every suicide bombing in Israel between 2005 and 2006, and is responsible for thousands of shootings and rocket firings. Statistically, the Al Aqsa Brigades perpetuated more terrorism from the West Bank than Hamas, according to the Israeli Defense Forces...

The Israeli Defense Forces will protect the main West Bank highway Bush's convoy will use to approach Ramallah. Security for Bush will be largely turned over to the Palestinians once he enters Ramallah, although security plans are being heavily coordinated with the U.S.  

Posted on 12/27/2007 7:05 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Thursday, 27 December 2007
James R. Russell Responds To Nusseibeh

Winfield Myers posted the following at Democracy Project:

[In] an interview... the president of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, Sari Nusseibeh, makes anti-Semitic remarks during a rant against the presence of Jews in any future Palestinian state. (See them, indented, below.)

Key to the interest of Campus Watch in this case is that Al-Quds has partnered with several American and Canadian universities to offer programs, classes, and research opportunities. The schools involved include the University of Michigan at Dearborn, Northeastern University, York University in Ontario, Brandeis, and George Washington University. Al-Quds also receives U.S. government support.

This afternoon, I sent the email below to the heads of each of these schools. If they reply, we'll make their remarks available; they may choose to speak through the media. Most important is that they not stand for such blatant anti-Semitism from the head of an institution that is supported by the schools they lead.

Dear President X,

I am the director of Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum in Philadelphia.

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has released the translation of a November 30, 2007 interview in Arabic of the president of Al-Quds University, Sari Nusseibeh.

In this interview, President Nusseibeh states:

The Israelis now living in the territories of the future Palestinian state should return to living within the borders of the state of Israel. No Jew in the world, now or in the future, as a result of this document, will have the right to return, to live, or to demand to live in Hebron, in East Jerusalem, or anywhere in the Palestinian state.

Given that X University has close relations with Al-Quds ( link to university web page ), I wondered if you had any public comment on the remarks of President Nusseibeh.

Thank you very much,

Winfield Myers
Campus Watch


Update: James R. Russell, Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies at Harvard, sends the following comment for posting:

I, James Russell, Mashtots Professor of Armenian Studies at Harvard University, have read the statement by Sari Nusseibeh in his official capacity as President of Al Quds University: "No Jew in the world, now or in the future... will have the right... to live... in East Jerusalem" and so on. In response I declare that I refuse to teach or collaborate in any way professionally with any person having any connection whatsoever to Al Quds University, which must be regarded as an anti-Semitic and racialist entity. Furthermore I will oppose by every possible means, including prosecution under the laws of the United States, any association or cooperation of Harvard University with Al Quds. I urge all scholars and teachers of good will to join me.
Posted on 12/27/2007 6:52 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 26 December 2007
MI6 In Secret Talks With Taliban

The Telegraph (hat tip: DW): Agents from MI6 entered secret talks with Taliban leaders despite Gordon Brown's pledge that Britain would not negotiate with terrorists, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Officers from the Secret Intelligence Service staged discussions, known as "jirgas", with senior insurgents on several occasions over the summer.

An intelligence source said: "The SIS officers were understood to have sought peace directly with the Taliban with them coming across as some sort of armed militia. The British would also provide 'mentoring' for the Taliban."

The disclosure comes only a fortnight after the Prime Minister told the House of Commons: "We will not enter into any negotiations with these people."

Opposition leaders said that Mr Brown had "some explaining to do".

The Government was apparently prepared to admit that the talks had taken place but Gordon Brown was thought to have "bottled out" just before Prime Minister's Questions on Dec 12, when he made his denial instead.

It is thought that the Americans were extremely unhappy with the news becoming public that an ally was negotiating with terrorists who supported the September 11 attackers.

The delicate balance in Afghanistan was underlined as it emerged that two diplomats had been ordered by the Kabul government to leave the country after allegations that they had met Taliban insurgents without the administration's knowledge.

The pair, a top European Union official and a United Nations staff member, were declared "persona non grata" and said to be "threatening national security".

They are both Afghan experts who have been working in the country since the 1980s. They are in their forties and cannot be named. One man works as a political adviser to the European Union while the other is employed as a political adviser to the UN mission in Kabul.

One of the men described the charges as "banal and preposterous" and said he hoped the Afghan government would quickly drop its threat to deport them.

MI6's meetings with the Taliban took place up to half a dozen times at houses on the outskirts of Lashkah Gah and in villages in the Upper Gereshk valley, to the north-east of Helmand's main town.

The compounds were surrounded by a force of British infantry providing a security cordon.

To maintain the stance that President Hamid Karzai's government was leading the negotiations the clandestine meetings took place in the presence of Afghan officials.

"These meetings were with up to a dozen Taliban or with Taliban who had only recently laid down their arms," an intelligence source said. "The impression was that these were important motivating figures inside the Taliban."

The Prime Minister had denied reports of talks with the Taliban under questioning from David Cameron, the Tory leader, in Parliament...

Posted on 12/26/2007 4:43 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 26 December 2007
Re: Blair's conversion - why not Islam?

On a dinner date in “The Jerk”, the Steve Martin character demands a new wine, and won’t be palmed off with one of those old wines. In the article linked in Rebecca’s post here, Ajmal Masmoor is thinking along the same lines: why have old when you can have new?


Tony Blair's conversion to Catholicism does not come as a surprise to anyone but I would have liked him to turn to Islam instead. Blair has claimed on many occasions that he has read the Quran and has said he found its teachings "progressive". He is right that the Quran is progressive and as a revealed book of God, it is the latest testament. Why would Blair turn to the older versions of God's testament when there is the Quran? His conversion sounds rather regressive to me.


New is better. Euston Station is better than St Pancras. The New English Bible is better than the King James Version with its incomprehensible “thees” and “thous”. New lamps are better than old - usually. As for new wine, under the progressive religion, it is neither here nor there; forward-thinking Mohammed banned it altogether rather than merely commanding, as fuddy-duddy old Jesus did, that you put it in new bottles. Masmoor goes on to tell us masses more about the progressive religion of  Islam:

According to Blair, Islam "extols science and knowledge and abhors superstition". I agree, but why has he embraced Catholicism with its history of hostility towards science and is embedded with superstition? If Jesus (may peace be on him) was to descend today and walk into a church he would not recognise anything that Christians are practising in his name. So why then convert to Catholicism?


Blair was very clear in his words when he said Islam "is practical and far ahead of its time in attitudes toward marriage, women, and governance". If Islam is a religion that values family and respects women why has he converted to a church that prohibits its priests from getting married, whose holy man are dogged by accusations of homosexuality and paedophilia?


A really progressive religion would legalise paedophilia, as Islam does in the form of child marriage, rather than condemn it.


Blair certainly admires Islam. He said "under its guidance, the spread of Islam and its dominance over previously Christian or pagan lands were breathtaking.


True. The breath of many Christians and pagans was indeed taken.


Over centuries, Islam founded an empire and led the world in discovery, art, and culture." If I admired a faith so much I would convert to it. So I am baffled to know why he has converted to Catholicism and not embraced Islam.Islam certainly stands for tolerance and demonstrates this by giving a special status to the Christians and Jews calling them people of the Book - Ahl al-Kitab. Christianity does not do the same. Blair reminded us that "the standard-bearers of tolerance in the early Middle Ages were far more likely to be found in Muslim lands than in Christian ones". Yes, but why has Mr Blair converted to Catholicism? Surely he stands for tolerance, progress and good governance.


And finally I have one last question for Blair. Did you not say "the faith of Islam is very peaceful and a very beautiful faith"? Why have you not tried Islam? I do not want to dismiss your journey to spirituality, but it is not too late to try Islam - you may like it.


The first reader comment explains laconically why Blair has not converted to this tolerant religion:


I guess the problem is - if he later changes his mind, he might be killed..


Masmoor’s  piece is a masterpiece of what Orwell called “doublethink” and what Bill Warner terms “duality”. With no sense of irony, he extols Islam’s conquest of Christian lands and yet castigates Blair for his warmongering. This is a consistent position if you believe, as most Muslims do, in jihad, the struggle to spread Islam, frequently but not exclusively by violent means. Infidel wars are simply wars; Muslim war is jihad. If infidels fight to resist Islam, such resistance must be crushed.


Returning to the subject of Tony Blair’s conversion, I believe it is sincere. As a politician, Blair would do anything for votes, including praising Islam, about which he is very ignorant. But I can’t see how becoming a Catholic will earn him favours. And at least it means he will never be king.

Posted on 12/26/2007 8:25 AM by Mary Jackson
Wednesday, 26 December 2007
Why Not Islam?

Britain's former prime minister has spoken in praise of Islam - so why has he become a Catholic and not a Muslim? Ajmal Masroor can't understand it. 

Posted on 12/26/2007 7:08 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 26 December 2007
Algeria: Christian converts in Tizi Ouzou trespass against Islam.
This is from the English language version of Echorouk on Line an Islamic Algerian news source. The disapproval and contempt drips from almost every phrase.
On the occasion of the celebration of Christmas marking the anniversary date of the birth of Jesus Christ (Prophet Aissa, peace be upon him)(No, Son of God and your Saviour, if you would only turn to Him) , a group of Christian converts in the city of Tizi Ouzou, 100 km east of Algiers, have called for the scrapping of a pivotal clause in the Algerian constitution stipulating that Islam is the state religion in Algeria.
After the ritual Christmas Mass marked by invocatory prayers, songs and chants in a local Tizi Ouzou Church, several Christian converts, of Algerian origin, took the floor to demand from the Algerian state authorities the above-mentioned constitutional amendment as well as the early officialisation of the Berber or Tamazight language alongside Arabic.
These Christian advocates also spoke out in favour of a broadening of the ongoing evangilisation process to include other regions of Algeria in keeping with the so-called principle of freedom of worship.
They further expressed support for greater "Christian" investment flows in Algeria, stressing that these investments in particular, should be safeguarded and granted the best guarantees on the part of the Algerian authorities.
In a swift reaction, well-advised observers note, in this respect, that the creeping evangilisation campaign underway in the Tizi Ouzou region, with glaring political overtones, could be highly detrimental, if it remains unchecked, to the country's unity and to the unalloyed Muslim character of the Algerian people.
Such an insidious agitation campaign under the cloak of religion, is widely seen inside the country as part of covert schemings hatched by nefarious quarters, to deal a blow to Algeria's hard-won sovereignty, unity, stability and to the religion of Islam as a whole.
I will pray for my brethren in Tizi Ouzou, who I am sure will be praying to forgive those “who trespass against us”.
Posted on 12/26/2007 3:37 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Tuesday, 25 December 2007
Berlinski on Pamuk

Claire Berlinski dissects Orhan Pamuk in The Globe & Mail (hat tip: Arts & Letters):

The novels of Orhan Pamuk, Turkey's most celebrated and controversial man of letters, have been translated into some 20 languages. His novels Snow and My Name is Red are widely considered world-class achievements. The themes of Pamuk's oeuvre include the conflict between the East and the West, the tension between Islam and modernity, and the intense melancholia of his native Istanbul. Admirers find his style complex, multilayered and allegorical; detractors find him faddish and incomprehensible.

On Sept. 11, 2001, writers treating the themes of East contra West and Islam contra modernity hit the literary jackpot. Pamuk - Eastern enough to write novels about Ottoman calligraphers and Islamic radicals, Western enough to write them in a postmodern, magic-realist style - became the darling of the Western literary establishment, serially winning the most prestigious and lucrative literary awards in the Western world: the IMPAC Dublin Award, the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the Prix Médicis étranger, the Premio Grinzane Cavour.

Then, in 2005, Pamuk remarked to a Swiss weekly newsmagazine that "thirty thousand Kurds, and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody dares to talk about it." By "these lands" he meant Turkey. By "nobody," it is not quite clear what he meant; as far as I can tell - and I live in Turkey myself - nobody here will stop talking about it. But the sentiment in Turkey, generally speaking, is that the Armenians had it coming, and quite a few more Kurds want killing.

Pamuk seemed to be suggesting otherwise. The Turkish government brought criminal charges against him under the infamous Article 301, which forbids citizens from insulting Turkishness. Pamuk was in one stroke elevated from symbolist writer to symbol. The European Union's Enlargement Commissioner called Pamuk's case a "litmus test" of Turkey's commitment to European values; writers around the world rightly denounced the charges as an outrage against free expression. In the end, the case was dropped on a technicality.

Facing death threats at home, Pamuk sensibly decamped for New York. But his prosecution, combined with his status as ambassador at large for the westernized Islamic world, functioned like camembert in a mousetrap to the Nobel committee, which in 2006 awarded him the Nobel Prize for literature. Pamuk is a talented writer, but no one in his right mind believes this was an award based on literary merit.

Pamuk has for the past three decades been filling his notebooks with sketches, half-finished short stories, thoughts about literature and reflections on the travails of life as a writer and a Turk. He has compiled them, loosely edited, into Other Colors, "a book made of ideas, images and fragments of life that have still not found the way into one of my novels." Although it contains previously published works, such as his Nobel acceptance speech and the transcripts of various interviews he has granted over the years, it is mostly comprised of non-fiction essays written some years ago but only now seeing the light of day: literary criticism, reminiscences of his boyhood and particularly of his father, reflections on the challenges of quitting smoking, a discussion of his wristwatches, two short meditations on seagulls and their sad fates, ruminations on the pathos of being a Turk and the Turk's endless, resentful fascination with Europe. There are more descriptions of Istanbul in the melancholy vein of his previous memoir, Istanbul: Memories and the City.

But this book is about Pamuk himself, particularly the challenges of being a great writer and a severe depressive. The collection has been received with rapture by many critics, who celebrate this offering as a unique window into Pamuk's interior life. Indeed, it is precisely that. Unfortunately, it seems that Pamuk's interior life is largely that of a lugubrious poseur.

"In order to be happy I must have my daily dose of literature," Pamuk gravely introduces himself. "In this way I am no different from the patient who must take a spoon of medicine each day." If you didn't quite get the point, he repeats it again two sentences later: "For me, literature is medicine. Like the medicine that others take by spoon or injection, my daily dose of literature - my daily fix, if you will - must meet certain standards." If he is forced "to go a long stretch without his paper-and-ink cure," he feels "misery setting inside me like cement. My body has difficulty moving, my joints get stiff, my head turns to stone, my perspiration even seems to smell differently."

Is he serious? Yes, he is. For page upon page, Pamuk stresses in these self-enamoured tones that he is a man who really likes to read books. Good ones, too, by famous writers like Dostoyevsky and Borges - not, you know, easy ones. He's different from other Turks, you see. But he's not like the Europeans, either. He's an outsider, eternally apart, rejected by all, accepted by no one (the Nobel committee aside). Life hurts. A seagull croaks...

The rest is here.

Posted on 12/25/2007 5:37 PM by Rebecca Bynum
Tuesday, 25 December 2007
Al-Qaeda link to gang that killed tourists on picnic in danger zone
A Frenchman in his seventies was recovering from bullet wounds yesterday after surviving an attack by gunmen who killed his two adult sons, his brother and a friend at a desert roadside in southern Mauritania.
François Tauler suffered severe leg wounds when three gunmen fired on his family group with Kalashnikov assault rifles at about midday on Monday.
French diplomats said that the attack appeared to have been carried out by robbers rather than political or religious extremists although two of the gang were linked to al-Qaeda by local prosecutors.
Algerian-based Islamic extremists have become increasingly active in northern Africa. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which was formerly known as the Salafist Group, has long been linked to smuggling and extortion in Mauritania, and Mali and Niger to the east. In September al-Qaeda’s second-in-command called for North African Muslims to cleanse their land of Spaniards and French to restore “al-Andulus” — the parts of the Iberian Peninsula that were under Muslim rule in the Middle Ages.
Posted on 12/25/2007 5:23 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Tuesday, 25 December 2007
One minute we sang peace to all men. The next all hell broke out
Business as usual in Afghanistan. From The Times
The rattle of machineguns did not unduly bother the carol singers of 40 Commando in their desert fortress in southern Afghanistan, even as the battle grew in intensity. The firefight, an hour before dusk, was the third of the day.
This one was aimed at an Afghan army outpost a mile away.
But the young men and women in camouflage fatigues — and bright red Santa hats, reindeer horns and jesters’ caps — started to shuffle nervously as a rousing version of O Come All Ye Faithful was interrupted by the not-too-distant crump of mortar fire.
Their composure lasted until they reached the line “Sing choirs of angels” when a terrific explosion sent them running to grab their body armour. An officer then pointed out that the noise was from outgoing mortar fire aimed at the Taleban.
A minute later, composed again after a good-natured laugh, they started on Once in Royal David’s City.
Christmas Day in one of the most ferociously attacked forward operating bases (FOBs), a few miles north of the key town of Sangin, was just another day of battle interspersed with attempts to be festive.
Afterwards the garrison assembled for the carol service, which resembled a Victorian tableau with a bearded young major faced by his servicemen and women in a circle around a memorial cross, with the bone-dry Afghan mountains in the distance.
The interruption of the gun battle, and the momentary fright at the mortars, was laughed off. Captain Harriet Turner, an army doctor, said: “It was all quite surreal even for Afghanistan. One minute it was peace to all men, then all hell broke out.”
Posted on 12/25/2007 5:11 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Tuesday, 25 December 2007
Accepting Reality

"So it is perpetual conflict? Of infinite hate ? Of forever manning the barricades... waiting for the miracle ... waiting for the oil to run out? I cannot accept that!"
-- a highly revealing admission from the same reader as below

You "cannot accept that!" In other words, you simply refuse to "accept" the reality of what is contained in Qur'an, Hadith, and Sira. You refuse to "accept" the idea that Muslims are taught that they have a central duty to participate in the "struggle" or Jihad to spread Islam, to tear down all barriers to that spread, and then to the dominance, of Islam. You "cannot accept" the idea that Muslims might be inculcated with the notion that the main, the only real division that counts in the world is that between Believer and Infidel. You simply won't "accept" the Muslim view of Dar al-Islam as necessarily expanding at the expense of Dar al-Harb. You won't "accept" the notion that the Muslim Arabs (aided, for reasons that should be obvious, by those local Arabs who can be considered islamochristians, that is those who while nominally "Christians" are also keenly aware of the need to try to win Muslim favor, or at least avoid Muslim disfavor, and have internalized the Muslim view and promote, especially among credulous Christians in the West, the Muslim agenda, the Muslim goals. You won't "accept" the idea that the Muslims will never, can never, agree to permit an Infidel nation-state to exist indefinitely in the middle of Dar al-islam, on land that the Muslims once controlled. You won't allow yourself to think that just possibly this is not the end of the world, requiring one to engage in avoidance of this unpleasant reality. You won't allow yourself to begin to think of ways that Israel, without surrendering what it has a legal, moral, and historic right to possess, can still survive -- not by further dangerous surrenders of land and control of invasion routes and aquifers and refusing to make its own claims known to the world, and refusing to publicly raise the matter of Islam and the goals of Islam, but by intelligently refusing any more farcical "peace processing" and instead relying on the only thing that has ever kept the peace between Israel and the Arabs. And that is the Arab perception that Israel was overwhelmingly more powerful. That power must not be whittled away by succumbing to salami-like tactics, pushed by the Slow Jihadists. It must not be whittled away by an Israeli political elite that consists, so often, of people who have over time been corrupted (often by rich American "supporters of Israel" who know nothing about Islam, but presume to know what concessions Israel should make, and presume further to know all about the "legitimate rights" of the "Palestinian people"), who are mentally and emotionally exhausted, and who cannot see clearly what the real situation of Israel is, and always will be, and lack the intelligence and mental stamina to figure out what must be done, and can be done.

The Cold War lasted 70 years. It looked as if it would go on forever. Finally, the Soviet Union collapsed. It is now an unpleasant place, the Soviet Union. But it is not the threat that it once was. The Russians do not control eastern and central Europe. "World Communism" is no longer a menace. Communists exist, as do Nazis, but they do not possess the power to do damage. If Israel holds on, there are reasons to think that the Money Weapon will diminish, and many of those insisting on it may have not the slightest interest in Israel's survival, or in the menace of Islam, but will be prompted by alarm over anthropogenic climate change. There is reason to think that the entire Infidel world will have to come to its senses about Islam, and help to work to demoralize and divide the Camp of Islam, and even pick some off by appealing to the sense of grievance of non-Arab Muslims, attempting to woo them away from Islam.

That appeal can be based on two things. It can be based on a view of Islam as a vehicle for Arab imperialism, linguistic, cultural, and political and economic as well. It can be based on the fact that Infidels may grasp first, and then in showing that they grasp it, force Muslims to recognize it too, that the failures, political, economic, social, intellectual, and moral, of Muslim states and societies, in or out of Dar al-Islam, are directly connected to Islam itself, with its discouragement of independent thought, its collectivism, its inculcating a habit of mental submission.

This can be done. But you can't think in those terms. It's just too upsetting to think about the reality, and then too difficult to think -- good god, I've done the thinking for you, in a thousand postings on this very subject -- about how the principle of "Darura" or "necessity" may be invoked by the rulers in the circumjacent Arab Muslim states to excuse their failure to attack Israel.

No. You just are going to stomp your foot and say, about the doctrine of permanent Jihad, that "I cannot accept that."

You remind me of Margaret Fuller, the Transcendentalist of Concord, who was reported to have said "I accept the universe!" Hearing this, Carlyle said (perhaps to Emerson, whom he met), "By gad, she'd better."

By gad, you'd better accept the reality of Islam, and the doctrine of Jihad. And so should those who presume to instruct and protect the people of Israel.

Posted on 12/25/2007 4:06 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 25 December 2007
Land For "Peace"

I, of course do not dispute Israel's legal "mandate" claims , it rights over lands it won , its historical rights , its moral rights in establishing a moral society and terraforming desert to green. BUT it is the Stated policy of Israel to trade these 'rights' for peace...which would lead to a Palestinian State. --from the same reader as below

"it is the Stated policy of Israel to trade these 'rights' for peace..."

The policy makes no sense, and those who understand the texts, tenets, attitudes of Islam, and are willing to recognize rather than deny them, know that the policy makes no sense. Just because Israel has a political class far less capable than what the people of Israel need and deserve, and that political class has succumbed to pressure from outside and from within -- for it has failed to instruct its own population, and in failing to instruct, has made its own task of protecting that population more difficult -- doesn't mean that the government of Israel must stick with this ridiculous phrase, and ridiculous idea, of "trading land for peace."

It is not the victor, but the vanquished who trade land for peace. Israel needs to be reminded that it won the war in 1948. And in 1967. And in 1973. It gave up, foolishly, the entire Sinai, to a country, Egypt, that had a claim to that entire Sinai that went back only to the 1920s (surprised at that? so many people are). It gave up Gaza, or at least destroyed Jewish villages, some of which long predated the founding of the state of Israel, and all of which had a perfect legal and moral right to remain there. It now proposes to give up parts of the Arab-occupied "West Bank." These lands contain the aquifers, and lay athwart the historic invasion routes from the east, from Jordan. Such a further surrender is uncalled-for, unnecessary, suicidal. It must not take place. The government of Olmert and Haim Ramon must somehow be undone, or held in check until the next election. Israel deserves better. And so, if it knew what was good for it, does the rest of the Infidel world, whose fate is tied, but in a way that is the reverse of the way it has been led to believe, to Israel's ability to not yield to outside pressure, and not to feed Arab and Muslim triumphalism that will have obvious consequences for the Infidels of Western Europe.

Posted on 12/25/2007 3:43 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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