Thursday, 30 August 2007
Warner in CSM
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Bill Warner writes in the Christian Science Monitor:

FRANKLIN, TENN. – Arguing about religion is fruitless, but we can and should talk about politics. Discussion about the relationship between Islam and secularism must be based on an understanding of political Islam and its dualism. What is Islam? Answers from Muslims and Westerners are contradictory and confusing. But the scientific method gives clarity.

Scientific analysis shows that there are two Korans, one written in Mecca (the early part) and the second written in Medina (the later part). The two Korans include contradictions. "You have your religion and I have mine" (109:6) is a far cry from "I shall cast terror in the hearts of the kafirs [non-Muslims]. Strike off their heads…" (8:12). The Koran gives an answer to these contradictions – the later verse is "better" than the earlier verse (2:106). The Koran defines an Islamic logic that is dualistic. In a unitary, scientific logic, if two things contradict each other, then one of them is false. Not so in dualistic logic – both can be true!

Read the rest here.

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Posted on 08/30/2007 3:50 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
Steve Emerson's Investigative Project on Terrorism Launches Website
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Steve Emerson has been a giant in the war on terror, which he was fighting before most of America knew we had a problem.  He is America's premier expert on Islamic radicalism, and his organization, the Investigative Project on Terrorism, has long been an invaluable source for policy makers, law enforcement, the intelligence community, the media, academia and people elsewhere who want to understand the threat we face.  Today, Steve announced the launch of the IPT's website.  Check it out.  It is certain to become one of the most important sites around.
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Posted on 08/30/2007 3:48 PM by Andy McCarthy
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
Tout Se Tient
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"the judge relied on a two-year old letter from former French President, Jacques Chirac, that did not refer to the Al Durah incident at all, but simply complimented Enderlin as a journalist."
-- from this article, one of the first of a hundred appalling details in the piece, of which even those who realized early on that the Al-Durah "atrocity" was staged, have until now likely been not fully aware.

Tiens.

Yes, that should do it, that should absolve the French television or Charles Enderlin from having to produce their 27 minutes of tape. A letter, forsooth, from Monsieur le President, Jacques Chirac, he who received that jewel-encrusted falcon (see "Cahiers du Cinema, or, Pardon the French" for more) from Arab admirers decades ago, he who used to have those private meetings with Hariri, who would arrive with a briefcase the contents of which were never disclosed, he who used to require the simultaneous services, so it was said, not of one, not of two, but of three -- count them, three -- poules de luxe, whose ministrations must have cost him, Jacques Chirac, a pretty penny, and who can best supply those pretty pennies nowadays, if not les Arabes qui l'admirent?

Yes, a letter from Jacques Chirac. About what a good journalist Charles Enderlin has been. We began with a "tiens" and we ought, in a cherchez-le-fric mode or mood, to conclude by ringing a slight change on that opening bell to make it a closing knell: Tout se tient.

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Posted on 08/30/2007 3:43 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
No, It's Not Chekhov, But Still.
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Posted on 08/30/2007 2:57 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
But It's Hard To Concentrate On The Back Of A Ute
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Pastor had sex with daughters

"A fundamentalist church pastor had sex with two of his teenage daughters to educate them on how to be good wives, a South Australian court has heard.

The 54-year-old man, who cannot be named, was today sentenced in the SA District Court to eight and a half years jail after pleading guilty to seven counts each of incest and unlawful sexual intercourse.

The court heard that the man had sex with his daughters for nearly a decade from 1991 when they were aged 13 and 15 at the family property.

The sex took place at various locations including in a shearer's shed, a paddock, on the back of a ute and, on one occasion, at the girls' grandparents house.

The man told the court the sex was not about fulfilling his desires but about teaching his daughters how to behave for their husbands when they eventually married, as dictated in scripture.

In sentencing, Judge David Lovell said the misrepresentation of scripture used to justify the abuse of the girls "defied belief", and that he had "hypocritically betrayed" his religion and principles.

"You said the acts were about learning about sex rather than engaging in the acts of sex," Judge Lovell said.

"I do not accept that.

"You treated your daughters as your property ... using them to satisfy and gratify your sexual urges."

Judge Lovell gave full credit for the man's guilty pleas, saying he was genuinely remorseful and had a good chance of rehabilitation as his wife and the church remained supportive.

The man will be eligible for parole in four years."

Well, I never. This is one for the books, provided those books were not written by Alan Clark and inscribed, in triplicate, to three women in South Africa. And not only I never. We of the Never Never also never. Surely the learning curve couldn't, over a full decade, have remained as flat as all that. Or is it something about the water in Alice Springs?

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Posted on 08/30/2007 2:11 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
You lucky, lucky people.
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I used to have a friend who was very fond of science fiction novels which he would insist I borrow. One which sticks in my mind is Ringworld by Larry Niven. An alien creature, a Pearson’s Puppeteer is assembling a team for an expedition to the Ringworld. He recruits Louis Wu, an intergalactic all action hero, aged about 202, a couple of scientists, some other motley aliens with useful abilities and a bimbo called Teela Brown. It turns out that in the over populated Earth of the future reproduction is carefully controlled and limited to people of proven ability, with exceptions granted to winners of the birth lottery. Teela is the offspring of 8 or so generations of lottery winners. The human race has been effectively breeding for luck and the Puppeteer needs some luck to succeed.
There have been sequels but I have not read them, science fiction is not really my preference.
But I was reminded of this character when my attention was called to the website of the Office of the Schools Adjudicator recently, and I looked at his decisions concerning entrance to Secondary Schools of England and Wales for September 2007, which will affect how that school admits pupils in 2008.
Every complaint by parents whose children were admitted or declined by an oversubscribed school by a lottery or at random was rejected.
“. . . is no more likely to cause distress to individual children or uncertainty to parents than any of the available alternatives. . . chosen mechanism is clear and objective and consistent with the requirements of the Code”.
Every complaint that I read where a local authority objected to a school, particularly a school with a speciality (such as “Bogthorpe Comprehensive A Specialist Sports College”) trying to assess whether prospective pupils had any aptitude for the speciality, was upheld and the assessment deemed invalid. Even a school that asked parents to write a brief paragraph as to why they wanted their child to go there was held to be penalising certain sections of society.
Like Mary I went to an old fashioned Grammar School and while the selection process used in 1965 could have been improved I believe that in principle identifying those children who would benefit from the opportunity for an academic education is a good thing.
Certainly better than what we are doing now, which is breeding for luck. 
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Posted on 08/30/2007 1:05 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
Please to take advantage of the chambermaid
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Fun with translation in today's Telegraph:

The pitfalls of translation can cause even top international diplomats to stumble - often much to the amusement of their audience, an insider has revealed.

A new book by Richard Woolcott, who ran Australia's foreign service for four years, recounts the case of an Australian diplomat in France.

The envoy tried to tell his French audience that as he looked back on his career, it was divided in two parts. But his French sparked unintended laughter: "When I look at my backside, I find it is divided into two parts."

Extracts from Mr Woolcott's book, Undiplomatic Activities, have been published in the latest Bulletin magazine, although the book has yet to be formally launched.

Mr Woolcott recalled a speech he gave on a visit to Palembang shortly after he had arrived on a posting in Indonesia.

"Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of my wife and myself, I want to say how delighted we are to be in Palembang," he said in English.

The interpreter said something entirely different. "Ladies and gentlemen, on top of my wife, I am delighted to be in Palembang."

According to the book, the former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke left his Japanese audience bewildered when he used the Australian colloquial phrase "I am not here to play funny buggers" to dismiss a trivial question.

"For Japanese interpreters, however, this was a real problem. They went into a huddle to consult on the best way to render 'funny buggers' into Japanese," Mr Woolcott wrote.

The interpreters told him they had then told the audience: "I am not here to play laughing homosexuals with you".

Australia's Labour Party leader Kevin Rudd, now a master of Mandarin, struggled with the language as a young diplomat in 1984 when he interpreted his ambassador's speech on the close relationship between Australia and China.

"Australia and China are enjoying simultaneous orgasms in their relationship," Mr Woolcott quoted Rudd as telling the audience in Mandarin.

But the best interpretations sometimes involved no translation at all, such as the unnamed Asian minister who told a long joke at a banquet in Seoul.

"The Korean interpreter was lost, but did not show it. He uttered a few sentences and the audience laughed and applauded," Mr Woolcott wrote.

After later being complimented on his translating skills, the interpreter confessed to the real reason for the laughter.

"Frankly, minister, I did not understand your joke so I said in Korean that the minister has told his obligatory joke, would you all please laugh heartily and applaud."

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Posted on 08/30/2007 11:16 AM by Mary Jackson
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
Trouble, Or, What About That Mouse? What About That Cat?
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What about the other dogs? And even a cat can look at a queen. And the mice -- don't they count?

Anton Chekhov in his stories often displayed a special interest and sympathy for animals. And even when he is concentrating, say, on a man and a woman and the trouble they can get into in Yalta, and then deeper trouble back in Moscow, he allowed a dog with only a walk-on part to share the marquee with the main actress in his most famous story: "The Lady With a Lapdog."

And that little dog may have been much like the little dog who just became, according to the Last Will and Testament of Leona Helmsley,  the beneficiary of a $12 million dollar trust. One hopes that the estate lawyer remembers his Casner, and carefully crafted a Spendthrift Trust, so that the dog in question, who looks as if he, or a not impossible she, is used to the high life, now master-less and presumably calling the shots, doesn't overdo it  at Harry Winston or Van Cleef & Arpel and go wild on diamond collars that she, or a not impossible he, really doesn't need, nor does that dog having its day and excellent adventure necessary have to imitate the worst practices of human so-called owners of dogs --see "Richistan" for more --  and have Kobe beef flown in every even day from the best butcher shop in Tokyo, and special biscuits flown in every odd day from Fauchon's in Paris. And those all-platinum leashes may impress some humans, but dogs find them really quite impractical.  

Never mind the humans who were not remembered in Helmsley's will, much less in her non-existent orisons. What about the other animals? The same Chekhov, that dog-lover, a descendant of whose own dachshund  came to be owned by a family bearing  another notable name in Russian literature, the same gentle, all-seeing all-knowing Anton Pavlich who wrote "Dama s sobachkoj" also wrote, many will remember,  the story "Gore" ( in English "Trouble"). And in "Trouble" there is a line that haunts:  "The tears of the mouse come back to the cat." Yes, the tears of the mouse. And then the tears of the cat.

What about that mouse? What about that cat?

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Posted on 08/30/2007 10:03 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
Not A Literary Interlude, Or, Woof-Woof
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I to my perils
  Of cheat and charmer
  Came clad in armour
    By stars benign.
Hope lies to mortals
  And most believe her
  But man's deceiver
    Was never mine.

The thoughts of others
  Were light and fleeting,
  Of lovers' meeting
    Or luck or fame.
Mine were of Trouble,
  And mine were steady,
  So I was ready
    When Trouble came.
                    After -- well after -- A. E. Housman

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Posted on 08/30/2007 9:43 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
Trouble Makes Out
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Leona Helmsley became known as "The Queen of Mean" after details of how she treated her employees were revealed during her trial for income tax evasion. Now comes the news that her dog was bequeathed more from her will than her grandchildren were. 

WaPo...Helmsley left her beloved white Maltese, named Trouble, a $12 million trust fund, according to her will, which was made public Tuesday in surrogate court.

She also left millions for her brother, Alvin Rosenthal, who was named to care for Trouble in her absence, and two of four grandchildren from her late son Jay Panzirer. If those two grandchildren don't visit their father's grave site at least once a year, she wrote, they will lose half of the $10 million she left for each of them.

Helmsley left nothing to two of Jay Panzirer's other children _ Craig and Meegan Panzirer _ for "reasons that are known to them," she wrote...

She ordered that cash from sales of the Helmsley's residences and belongings, reported to be worth billions, be sold and that the money be given to the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust...

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Posted on 08/30/2007 8:22 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
London Editor Prays for Nuclear Attack on Israel
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From the Jerusalem Post (hat tip: JW):

The editor of an Arabic daily newspaper published in London said in an interview on Lebanese television that he would dance in Trafalgar Square if Iranian missiles hit Israel.

Talking about Iran's nuclear capability on ANB Lebanese television on June 27, Abd Al-Bari Atwan, editor-in-chief of Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper, said, "If the Iranian missiles strike Israel, by Allah, I will go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight."...

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Posted on 08/30/2007 8:12 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
De La Vraie Souche, If Only In Spirit?
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"descendant...in spirit.…Marquise de....Vicomte de..."
-- from a reader

Certainly not. In the first place, because powdered wigs would make me sneeze. In the second place, because I've never been able to get the hang of the passé simple. In the third place, because I would look silly in a redingote, even a redingote en (Jean-David) levite or, were I a Madame la Marquise rather than a Monsieur le Vicomte, would look comical and clumsy as I tried to affix a mouche to my cheek. And in the fourth place, because were I even "in spirit" such a descendant I would certainly not choose to be the kind of Frenchman who could flaunt a last name à particule. Google “I Am An American Day” and “Hugh Fitzgerald” for further proof.

As for ladri di biciclette, some of those sympathetic and desperate ladri are able to peddle those bicycles right up into, and then across, a sky backlit by the moon, as in that scene in “Miracolo a Milano” — a scene, incidentally, shamelessly copied, without attribution, in “E.T.”

As for the other losses you refer to, losses that go far beyond bicycles built for one or two, that’s another and more painful story. Woe is me, woe is you, woe are all God’s chillun-- if they only knew.

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Posted on 08/30/2007 8:06 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
Lost And Found
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Some of those weapons missing in action in Iraq have been found in Turkey. I wonder how many times a recruit could show up and tell the Americans, "I lost my AK-47, my helmet, my pistol and all my body armor again last night"?

New Duranty: WASHINGTON, Aug. 29 — Weapons that were originally given to Iraqi security forces by the American military have been recovered over the past year by the authorities in Turkey after being used in violent crimes in that country, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

The discovery that serial numbers on pistols and other weapons recovered in Turkey matched those distributed to Iraqi police units has prompted growing concern by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates that controls on weapons being provided to Iraqis are inadequate. It was also a factor in the decision to dispatch the department’s inspector general to Iraq next week to investigate the problem, the officials said.

Pentagon officials said they did not yet have evidence that Iraqi security forces or Kurdish officials were selling or giving the weapons to Kurdish separatists, as Turkish officials have contended.

It was possible, they said, that the weapons had been stolen or lost during firefights and smuggled into Turkey after being sold in Iraq’s extensive black market for firearms. Officials gave widely varied estimates — from dozens to hundreds — of how many American-supplied weapons had been found in Turkey.

Over the past year, inquiries by federal oversight agencies have found serious discrepancies in military records of where thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces actually ended up.

But that's not all...

The disclosure of the weapons in Turkey, part of those investigations, came on the same day that the Army announced moves aimed at addressing a widening scandal that has generated 76 criminal investigations involving contract fraud in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. Twenty civilians and military personnel have been charged in federal court as a result of the inquiries...

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Posted on 08/30/2007 7:22 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
GAO Draft Report
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The Washington Post has obtained a draft copy of the General Accountability Office report to Congress due to be delivered next week:

...The strikingly negative GAO draft, which will be delivered to Congress in final form on Tuesday, comes as the White House prepares to deliver its own new benchmark report in the second week of September, along with congressional testimony from Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker. They are expected to describe significant security improvements and offer at least some promise for political reconciliation in Iraq.

The draft provides a stark assessment of the tactical effects of the current U.S.-led counteroffensive to secure Baghdad. "While the Baghdad security plan was intended to reduce sectarian violence, U.S. agencies differ on whether such violence has been reduced," it states. While there have been fewer attacks against U.S. forces, it notes, the number of attacks against Iraqi civilians remains unchanged. It also finds that "the capabilities of Iraqi security forces have not improved."

"Overall," the report concludes, "key legislation has not been passed, violence remains high, and it is unclear whether the Iraqi government will spend $10 billion in reconstruction funds," as promised. While it makes no policy recommendations, the draft suggests that future administration assessments "would be more useful" if they backed up their judgments with more details and "provided data on broader measures of violence from all relevant U.S. agencies."

A GAO spokesman declined to comment on the report before it is released. The 69-page draft, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, is still undergoing review at the Defense Department, which may ask that parts of it be classified or request changes in its conclusions. The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, normally submits its draft reports to relevant agencies for comment but makes its own final judgments. The office has published more than 100 assessments of various aspects of the U.S. effort in Iraq since May 2003.

The person who provided the draft report to The Post said it was being conveyed from a government official who feared that its pessimistic conclusions would be watered down in the final version -- as some officials have said happened with security judgments in this month's National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq....

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Posted on 08/30/2007 6:58 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
Pop up cops
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China seems to be embracing the worst aspects of capitalism while retaining many features of totalitarianism. From The Telegraph:

Cartoon police officers are to appear in "pop-up" warnings on the internet every half hour to warn Chinese users that they must steer clear of unapproved websites.

As the country prepares for its landmark five-yearly Communist Party Congress in October, human rights groups said the authorities are exerting even greater pressure on freedom of speech.

Officials stress that "Jing" and "Cha", its two "internet cops" named after the two characters that make up the Chinese word for "police", are on the look out for criminal activity. "They will be on the watch for websites that incite secession, promote superstition, gambling and fraud," an official told the China Daily newspaper. "Secession" refers to support for an independent Tibet or Taiwan.

A second official said it was important to wipe out information that "disrupts social stability", a catch-all phrase often used to refer to emails, bulletin boards and blogs that challenge the political status quo.

One unusual aspect of Chinese censorship is that as it has become more systematic in recent years, it has also become more open, with less sensitive decisions published and even argued over in newspapers.

Jing and Cha don't look all that scary. Or all that Chinese. They remind me of some cartoon characters I have seen before, but I can't think which ones. Fred from the Home Pride adverts?

Perhaps they should try this in Muslim countries, with a muttawa popping up when you try to read, say, The Religious Policeman. (Can you say " muttawa", or does it have to be "one of the muttawa"? I think I'll settle for "muttawawallah".)

Better stop now. A kartoon Ken has popped up in the corner of my screen to tell me this website is "Islamophobic". Wait a minute, though ... a cartoon Boris Johnson - or is that a photograph?- has just bemerded him with a witty apophthegm.

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Posted on 08/30/2007 4:58 AM by Mary Jackson
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Thursday, 30 August 2007
Breakout from Islam?s mental prison
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I missed Janet Albrechtsen’s interview with Wafa Sultan in The Australian while I was on holiday. It’s only a week old and well worth a read.
When gutsy, progressive Muslim women such as Wafa Sultan speak out, the world must listen.
 I AM sitting in a small book-lined room in Sydney’s eastern suburbs with a petite woman in her late 40s dressed in a neat suit and sensible shoes. . . Meet Wafa Sultan.
One question not often asked is why a growing number of Muslim women are speaking out, demanding a reformation of Islam. And the next question is why these brave women are not hailed as heroes and champions by Western leaders at the highest levels. They operate at the fringes on the right side of a crucial battle of ideas. It’s still just a handful. Women such Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somalia-born former Dutch MP and author of Infidel, and Irshad Manji, African-born Canadian Muslim and author of The Trouble with Islam. And Sultan.
The answer to the latter question is one for us to ponder. Sultan is unapologetically curt as to why Muslim women are rising to the challenge: ``Muslim women have lost everything. They have nothing to lose by speaking up.’’ The security surrounding her visit to Australia last week attests to the fact women such as Sultan have, on the contrary, plenty to lose. They risk their lives when they speak out. Whether you agree with Sultan or not, her arguments about Islam ought to be met with words, not violence. Yet Sultan is used to constant security, FBI visits and daily death threats.
Late on Sunday evening she sent me a collection of them, including this: ``I’m warning you to back up or the sword will cut off you’re neck.’’
A crackpot, perhaps. But the slaughter of controversial filmmaker Theo van Gogh in The Netherlands, the heart of multicultural Europe no less, is a reminder that some crackpots deliver on their violent threats. Yet, for Sultan, the choice was obvious. She eschews Islam because, she says, it has so little to offer women. She describes Islam as a war against women, perverted by fear of sex and sexuality that mandates the mistreatment of women.
Sultan spoke to The Australian about her life. ``I remember as a little girl trying hard to avoid passing by my father while he was praying because Mohammed once said that if a dog or a woman passes by a man while he was praying he had to rewash himself and pray again, otherwise his prayer wouldn’t be accepted.
“I remember hearing as an eight-year-old girl that a woman is nothing but shame. Her marriage will cover up one-tenth of her shame and her grave will cover up the rest of it. Can you imagine, at eight, being consumed by shame just because you are female?’’ she asks.
Many find Sultan’s message too confrontational. Her friends have asked her to soften her words. But she refuses, arguing that her experience as an Arab Muslim woman needs to be exposed. She says that before the Al Jazeera interview, her focus was on educating people in the Arabic world.
The Al Jazeera interview was the West’s formal introduction to Sultan. And she attracts her fair share of Western critics. She is, some say, manipulated by Jews and Americans. But, as she points out, ``the Islamic media introduced me to the West, not the other way around. Prior to my interview, I didn’t have any Jewish friends. I said it because I believe it.’’
Yet Sultan is certain that Islam can reform and will reform if exposed to enough information and if Muslims are able to make choices.
``Human beings look for the best, but many Muslims don’t know the best ... they are hostages of their own belief system for many centuries and now I believe, because of the internet, they are exposed to different cultures, different thoughts, different belief systems ... if they are given the freedom to choose, I believe they are ready to mix Islam with other thoughts, to improve it,’’ she says in a voice filled with passion.  “But it will be a long battle of ideas. Look at any Islamic country. Tell me what you see. Poverty, backwardness, oppression, dictatorship, miserable lives. Somehow we have to help them change their way of thinking, their way of life. We have to re-create a new generation clean of hatred. We have been consumed by hatred. We are not practising our humanity. It’s very sad.’’
Her message is clear. The West must be more confident about espousing its own values. And Islam must accept criticism as a sign of intellectual rigour if it is to reform into a belief system that embraces freedom and progress for its followers.
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Posted on 08/30/2007 3:27 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Wednesday, 29 August 2007
New Berber-Jewish Friendship Association
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MEMRI: Interviewer: "Why are the Amazigh [Berber people] - or some of them, let's not generalize - launching an Amazigh-Israeli friendship association?"

Yahya Abu Zakariya, Algerian writer: "Fuad, let me make it clear that, in principle, the Amazigh, throughout the history of the Maghreb, fought off all the colonialist attacks. They stood up to the Vandals, the Romans, and the French who came to the Arab Maghreb. Even before the French, they stood up to the Spaniards. They were the epitome of steadfastness, resistance, and confrontation. Moreover, they did a great service to Islamic civilization, and contributed to it to the greatest degree. The fact that such calls are emerging from the Arab Maghreb - the calls for rapprochement with the Zionist entity, which as the entire world knows, has penetrated our territory, and taken away our security... These calls are, obviously, dubious."

[...]

"There has been a transformation among certain groups, which are saying that the Arab Maghreb has nothing to do with the Arab world, that there are no bridges connecting this region of North Africa with the Arab world, and that relations with the Zionist entity must be rebuilt. Unfortunately, such initiatives receive official blessing." [...]

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Posted on 08/29/2007 5:09 PM by Rebecca Bynum
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Wednesday, 29 August 2007
In Memoriam: Diana, Princess of Wales
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So, farewell then, Princess Di.
Farewell then.
Farewell then,
I said farewell. Adios.Toodle pip.
What? You still here?
Look, Di, it's been ten years.
You've Di-lighted us long enough.
 
© E. J. Throbb, aged 17¾
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Posted on 08/29/2007 4:04 PM by Mary Jackson
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Wednesday, 29 August 2007
The Past Is Never Over
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"The past is over. Let's learn from it and move on. That's the reason I am fighting Islam."-- from the same reader as below

1) The past is never "over." It is simply past or as a famous wit once wrote even more forcefully and truthfully "it is not even past." But one has to have a good grasp of what that past actually was, and what it means, especially if that "past" was not 3000 years ago, or 800 years ago, but within living memory and the lives of people still alive.

2) Yes, let's learn "from it [that past]." Agreed. But how can we "learn from it" if we do not study it, and study it, and not engage in a refusal to do so because it might be vaguely unpleasant for us, or tell us things we have chosen to not think about too deeply, as for example the case of Kurt Waldheim, and the defensive reaction to it, of many Austrians, so clearly demonstrated. The spectacle did not impress -- and further attempts now by some to think that they can depict Waldheim as some kind of victim instead of as a repeated and willing participant in mass-murder and every sort of atrocity, and who wish us to take at face value, after his lying about his service, and then his exploitation of the attacks on him, in order to win votes when running for President, by appealing to the worst conceivable sentiments in Austria, which is not exactly a demonstration of "repentance." As for dropping a ready tear for Waldheim, as he cashed those fat U.N. checks on top of his pension as a former Austrian diplomat and Austrian president, because he could no longer swan about the White House or Davos, though he was perfectly welcome in Austria and all kinds of places -- I don't call that "ostracism."

I'm unclear as to your statement "That's why I am fighting Islam." Why? Are you fighting it because it is doubly-totalitarian, in that it wishes to impose itself on the minds and in the lives of its adherents as a system of Total Regulation, to which it is not theirs to reason why but merely to obey? Is it because Islam encourages the habit of mental submission, and punishes free and skeptical inquiry, and thereby stunts mental growth? Is it because Islam severely limits the possibilities for artistic expression, banning all statuary, and all depictions of living creatures (hence, almost all of Western painting would be banned, or destroyed, under Islam), and music as well (in the strictest interpretation)? Is it because Islam divides the world in two, between Believer and Infidel, and insists that a permanent state of war must exist between the two, and that war can be conducted by Muslims, and it is their duty to conduct it, in order to remove any obstacles to the spread of Islam anywhere in the world (should those Infidels put up any obstacles, or already have in place legal and political institutions that flatly contradict the letter and the spirit of Islam), because the duty of Jihad is central, not tangential, and participation may sometimes be required of individuals, but is always required of the community as a whole, the umma al-islamiyya?

Islam does indeed stunt moral and mental growth. But it is not the only thing that stunts the moral sense. I would like to understand why you think forgetting about "the past" of Nazi war criminals is a good thing, and why we "must get over it," and why Waldheim saving you when you were apparently a hostage of Saddam Hussein (why were you there? What brought you to Kuwait, or was it Iraq?) entitles him to evade or avoid the moral judgment of others, of Posterity, of History? It strikes me as presumptuous for you to offer your own personal connection to Waldheim as a reason why all of us should join you in being so forgiving. We are talking, remember, about mass murder, not shoplifting.

Should I, if the government of Turkey invites me on an all-expenses paid trip, and woos me in every possible way (even mails me, after the fact, a very large rug which I only discover at my house when I return home), let “the past” about this pesky Armenian genocide business simply rest? Should I, because I have no personal connection to any of the mass-murders of the past century, simply forget about all of them, and let the past be the past. Don’t you think the Turks should forthrightly recognize that Armenian genocide, and aren’t you impressed with those Turks whom you meet personally who are willing to do so? And similarly, wouldn’t it be sensible, proper, just, to expect that Austrians might not be more defensive about Waldheim (“as an Austrian”) but make it a point of honor to investigate thoroughly not only Waldheim, but many others, and own up to all of it, and denounce it, and make a point of teaching young Austrians all about those years, and those many waldheims. I allow myself to believe that, upon much greater reflection, your answer – in the privacy of your own soul – will be Yes.

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Posted on 08/29/2007 3:04 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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Wednesday, 29 August 2007
"Hitler's First Victim"
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'He is one of those Austrians who drove the late Thomas Bernhard to maddened distraction, the kind who claim that Austrians were the 'first victims' of Hitler (forgetting those cheering crowds, that delight at Anschluss)."  --quoting this post

"Those Austrians" are only echoing the statement issued by the foreign ministers of the US, UK, and USSR at the Moscow Conference of 1943, which referred to Austria as "the first free country to fall a victim to Hitlerite aggression."

What was ironic about this statement is that the Austrians who were most opposed to the Anschluss were the pro-Habsburg monarchists and the supporters of Dolfuss and Schussnigg [sic], all of whom the Allies were determined to exclude from any signifcant political role in postwar Austria.
--from a reader

This reader has proven himself to be a constant, stout, and very quick defender of those he thinks I much malign, including the Sudeten Germans. He hates any mention of the Benes Decree, and keeps trying to find ways to call it into question, and also tries to make it appear that such mention must necessarily constitute a thoroughgoing endorsement by me. But this is nonsense. The Benes Decree has been adduced as an example of the way in which not merely such regimes as those of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Morocco, Algeria, and Libya, have expelled the nationals, but so too has a modern, advanced, tolerant, Western state, Czechoslovakia, when its tolerant and civilized leaders, Jan Masaryk and Eduard Benes, and many other Czechs, drew from the Czech experience just before and during World War II with the Sudeten Germans living inside Czechoslovakia, who for the most part, under their leader Henlein, willingly allowed themselves to be used by Hitler to promote his own war aims and demands on Czechoslovakia, and then after Czechoslovakia was occupied by German troops, those Sudeten Germs received the same rations as German soldiers, which was much better than what the Czechs and Slovaks received, and otherwise received special treatment (as did Volksdeutsche elsewhere, as in Poland), and many collaborated with their fellow ethnic Germans. The Benes Decree cannot be ignored for it raises an issue that needs to be pondered: what has a universally-recognized tolerant Western regime felt necessary in the recent past to do, by way of enlarging the historical consciousness and understanding of those who may not know enough even about that recent past). This reader also appears to have a penchant for putting in quick, darting remarks designed to explain away Muslim behavior, or to justify it on a Tu-Quoque basis, with the “Tu”in the Tu-Quoque ordinarily being, for him, the endlessly invidious state of Israel, that Mighty Empire that doth bestride the world like a colossus.

I have looked over all of his past postings, and have noticed that his sympathies run deep, but also very narrow. Whatever else he is here for, he is not here to learn about Islam, or contribute to the discussion about ways to handle the world-wide menace of Jihad. And now, this reader takes issue with my comments on Austria as phonily thinking of itself, presenting itself, as the “first victim of Hitler.” He adduces as proof that Austria was indeed the “first victim of Hitler” a statement that was apparently put into some communiqué issued by something he calls the Moscow Conference in 1943 (Yalta?), a conference held in the middle of World War II. Now it is obvious what happened. The Allies, in the middle of the war, put in some remark designed to appeal to some Austrians in the hope that they might be broken off from the alliance with Germany. It was merely a single statement, no more, and who at that point cared if it was an obvious falsehood if it might cause some Austrian soldiers to defect, and to cause greater disaffection with following Germany’s lead among Austria’s civilians.

But one has only to read the best accounts of the best historians – start with William L. Shirer -- about the Austrians in 1938, to understand just how enthusiastic so many of them were about the Anschluss; anyone who has seen newsreels of that period has seen those streets lined with those eager faces on so many screaming, hysterical, often heil-hitlering crowds; anyone who has studied World War II knows that the Austrians, on a per capita basis, contributed even more concentration camp guards than did the Germans. And everyone knows -- every decent historian has noted it -- that the Austrians were quick, after the war, to pretend to have been those "first victims" of Hitler, innocent, gemutlich, “tiny” – only ten million people -- Austria, and the Americans, pushing at that point the British and French (remember that Allied troops, along with Soviet ones, remained in Occupied Austria long after the war), were happy in those Dulles-brother days to pretend that they actually believed this, for it made going easy on the Austrians that much easier to sell at home. No different from the quick re-writing of the past of Wernher von Braun and Arthur Rudolf and other Peenemunde alumni, with Rudolf at least being accused much later of being a war criminal and having to leave the U.S., while von Braun had been made so much of that he was immunized by his own fame. But those days are over; implacable History remains, and the Truth can now be told.

The reader refers to the Hapsburgs and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and tells us, in the un-misleading second part of his post, that the Old Conservatives of that past -- you can see their old-fashioned demeanors, their frac-tails, and their lorgnettes, and the stout women who all look like Margaret Dumont, in the photographs taken by Erich Salomon and collected in his “Portrait of an Age,” where fixed in amber one views the diplomatic salons and interminable meetings of the political class, especially in Germany and Austria (but also in Paris and London), during the entre-deux-guerres period, in that crazed Der-Mann-Ohne-Eigenschaften (Musil’s “The Man Without Qualities”) world. There was a lot to be said for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, no doubt, and its breakup after World War I may have contributed to the monstrousness that followed. But not every “conservative” was stoutly anti-Hitler; some, on the right, simply shifted to the far-right. However, Chancellor Dollfuss was assassinated by Hitler for being Jewish (though author of an anti-Semitic tract himself) and being resistant to Hitler’s aims, and Kurt Schuschnigg – (not “Schussnigg” as in the post above to which I am replying) – resisted Hitler too, and spent part of the war in Sachsenhausen, being tortured by the Nazis.

The best of the “conservative” opposition to Hitler was to be found not only in Austria but in Germany. “Diary of a Man in Despair” by Count Friedrich Reck-Maleckzewen (murdered in 1945 at Dachau), for example, every page dripping with contempt for Hitler and the rabble, or the people who made themselves into a rabble in order to fit in and to follow him, is unforgettable. And then there are all those German-speaking exiles who arrived on these safe shores, and were rescued, and who included Joseph Schumpeter at the Center for Entrepreneurial History at Harvard (22 Mass. Ave., a rickety old structure, long torn down, with fireplaces in every office-suite, and wooden floors that slanted), and Friedrich von Hayek, and a thousand others. Real conservatives, yes, and therefore, of course, implacable enemies of Hitler and his hysterical followers, with their followers’ slave mentality.

The whole point of the article below was to make clear that while Infidels must make common cause, there are limits. And when someone such as Jorg Haider happens to be promoting the right thing, what will happen next is obvious: the Muslim lobby, and those non-Muslims who dangerously defend and promote them, will point to the support given to this measure by Jorg Haider to dismiss not only this measure, but other such measures that might, that indeed should be, supported by all sensible Infidels. It’s a danger, it’s a way for such groups as CAIR to wrap themselves in a moral mantle that they have no business putting on. It is therefore important for those who recognize Islam as a Total System (just as Nazism was a Total System), not make the mistake of embracing absolutely everyone who appears to have the right view of Islam, but is a defender, if not a believer in, one of the other unacceptable Total Systems, or mental totalitarianisms, of this unappetizing age.

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Posted on 08/29/2007 2:35 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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