Saturday, 29 September 2007
A Literary Interlude: Samuel Daniel


By Samuel Daniel

Come, worth Greek, Ulysses, come,
Possess these shores with me;
The winds and seas are troublesome,
And here we may be free.
Here may we sit and view their toil
That travail in the deep,
And joy the day in mirth the while,
And spend the night in sleep.


Fair nymph, if fame or honor were
To be attained with ease
Then would I come and rest me there,
And leave such toils as these.
But here it dwells, and here must I
With danger seek it forth;
To spend the time luxuriously
Becomes not men or worth.


Ulysses, Oh be not deceived
With that unreal name;
This honor is a thing conceived,
And rests on others' fame.
Begotten only to molest
Our peace, and to beguile
The best thing of our life, our rest,
And give us up to toil.


Delicious nymph, suppose there were
No honor nor report,
Yet manliness would scorn to wear
The time in idle sport.
For toil doth give a better touch,
To make us feel our joy;
And ease finds tediousness, as much
as labor yields annoy.


Then pleasure likewise seems the shore
Whereto tends all your toil,
Which you forgo to make it more,
And perish oft the while.
Who may disport them diversly,
Find never tedious day,
And ease may have variety
As well as action may.


But natures of the noblest frame
These toils and dangers please,
And they take comfort in the same
As much as you in ease,
And with the thoughts of actions past
Are recreated still;
When pleasure leaves a touch at last
To show that it was ill.


That doth opinion only cause
That's out of custom bred,
Which makes us many other laws
Than ever nature did.
No widows wail for our delights,
Our sports are without blood;
The world, we see, by warlike wights
Receives more hurt than good.


But yet the state of things require
These motions of unrest,
And these great spirits of high desire
Seem born to turn them best,
To purge the mischiefs that increase
And all good order mar;
For oft we see a wicked peace
To be well changed for war.


Well, well, Ulysses, then I see
I shall not have thee here,
And thereforer I will come to thee,
And take my fortunes there.
I must be won that cannot win,
Yet lost were I not won;
For beauty hath created been
T' undo, or be undone.

                  --- Samuel Daniel  

Posted on 09/29/2007 5:32 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 29 September 2007
A Literary Interlude: Du Bellay

Heureux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait un beau voyage

Heureux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait un beau voyage,
Ou comme cestuy-là qui conquit la toison,
Et puis est retourné, plein d'usage et raison,
Vivre entre ses parents le reste de son âge !

Quand reverrai-je, hélas, de mon petit village
Fumer la cheminée, et en quelle saison
Reverrai-je le clos de ma pauvre maison,
Qui m'est une province, et beaucoup davantage ?

Plus me plaît le séjour qu'ont bâti mes aïeux,
Que des palais Romains le front audacieux,
Plus que le marbre dur me plaît l'ardoise fine :

Plus mon Loir gaulois, que le Tibre latin,
Plus mon petit Liré, que le mont Palatin,
Et plus que l'air marin la doulceur angevine.

     --- Joachim Du Bellay, Les Regrets

Posted on 09/29/2007 5:28 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 29 September 2007
A Literary Interlude: Dante

Lascia parlare a me, ch'i' ho concetto
ciò che tu vuoi; ch'ei sarebbero schivi,
perch' e' fuor greci, forse del tuo detto».

Poi che la fiamma fu venuta quivi
dove parve al mio duca tempo e loco,
in questa forma lui parlare audivi:

«O voi che siete due dentro ad un foco,
s'io meritai di voi mentre ch'io vissi,
s'io meritai di voi assai o poco

quando nel mondo li alti versi scrissi,
non vi movete; ma l'un di voi dica
dove, per lui, perduto a morir gissi».

Lo maggior corno de la fiamma antica
cominciò a crollarsi mormorando,
pur come quella cui vento affatica;

indi la cima qua e là menando,
come fosse la lingua che parlasse,
gittò voce di fuori e disse: «Quando

mi diparti' da Circe, che sottrasse
me più d'un anno là presso a Gaeta,
prima che sì Enëa la nomasse,

né dolcezza di figlio, né la pieta
del vecchio padre, né 'l debito amore
lo qual dovea Penelopè far lieta,

vincer potero dentro a me l'ardore
ch'i' ebbi a divenir del mondo esperto
e de li vizi umani e del valore;

ma misi me per l'alto mare aperto
sol con un legno e con quella compagna
picciola da la qual non fui diserto.

L'un lito e l'altro vidi infin la Spagna,
fin nel Morrocco, e l'isola d'i Sardi,
e l'altre che quel mare intorno bagna.

Io e ' compagni eravam vecchi e tardi
quando venimmo a quella foce stretta
dov' Ercule segnò li suoi riguardi

acciò che l'uom più oltre non si metta;
da la man destra mi lasciai Sibilia,
da l'altra già m'avea lasciata Setta.

"O frati", dissi, "che per cento milia
perigli siete giunti a l'occidente,
a questa tanto picciola vigilia

d'i nostri sensi ch'è del rimanente
non vogliate negar l'esperïenza,
di retro al sol, del mondo sanza gente.

Considerate la vostra semenza:
fatti non foste a viver come bruti,
ma per seguir virtute e canoscenza".

Li miei compagni fec' io sì aguti,
con questa orazion picciola, al cammino,
che a pena poscia li avrei ritenuti;

e volta nostra poppa nel mattino,
de' remi facemmo ali al folle volo,
sempre acquistando dal lato mancino.

Tutte le stelle già de l'altro polo
vedea la notte, e 'l nostro tanto basso,
che non surgëa fuor del marin suolo.

Cinque volte racceso e tante casso
lo lume era di sotto da la luna,
poi che 'ntrati eravam ne l'alto passo,

quando n'apparve una montagna, bruna
per la distanza, e parvemi alta tanto
quanto veduta non avëa alcuna.

Noi ci allegrammo, e tosto tornò in pianto;
ché de la nova terra un turbo nacque
e percosse del legno il primo canto.

Tre volte il fé girar con tutte l'acque;
a la quarta levar la poppa in suso
e la prora ire in giù, com' altrui piacque,

infin che 'l mar fu sovra noi richiuso».

       -- from Divine Comedy, Inferno, Canto XXVI 

Posted on 09/29/2007 5:26 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 29 September 2007
Monday BBC2 at 9pm - Inside a Sharia Court

This should be worth watching. 
Some British Muslims want Shari'ah law implemented in the UK. But how could this work alongside the existing legal system? Shari'ah law is already practiced informally here to resolve Islamic divorce, inheritance and family disputes. But many in the west see Shari'ah as oppressive and brutal with punishments like stoning and amputations.
Award winning filmmaker Ruhi Hamid, a British Muslim goes to Nigeria to see Shari'ah law in action.
The Radio Times says a little more as Todays Choice, actually quite a lot more, on the subject of stoning, a woman's evidence being worth half that of a man and that a woman must have four reliable witnesses to an allegation of rape.
"Hamid doesn't shirk difficult questions and spiritedly tries to pin down the judge, who does his best to hide behind such phrases as "It is divine law. Nobody has the right to change it".

Posted on 09/29/2007 4:31 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 29 September 2007
Singapore and Malaysia

"2. Singapore broke off from Malaysia and established a separate state. What were the main reasons the Chinese of Singapore so desperately sought to be independent of Malaysia? [from my posting with questions for Badawi]

From what I remember, Singapore was expelled from Malaysia so that the country as a whole did not end up with a Chinese plurality. From then on, Singapore prospered, while Malaysia did to a lesser extent, courtesy the Chinese and Tamil work force."
-- from a reader

You have a point. What I should have written is that initially, when both Malaya and Singapore were independent, Singapore not only did not object, but wanted to become part of a federation with Malaya (and Sarawak), for economic reasons, and thus Malaysia came into being. But what happened then was so unpleasant for the Chinese (and Indians) of Singapore that they changed their minds. The Bumiputra system -- a disguised Jizyah paid to the Muslim Malays by the Indians and Chinese - was written into the Federation's Constitution. And when the Chinese, under Lee Kuan Yew, began to protest this and other Muslim acts, there were attacks on the Chinese. Muslims from Indonesia joined in. One such attack, significantly, took place on Muhammad's birthday.

So while it is true to say that the Singaporeans sought the union, they also sought after a few years to get out of that same union with Malaya. You have written that the Malays of Malaysia were glad to see them go; I had always understood that the Malays wanted to keep Singapore in the federation against the will of its Chinese and Indian population, but am certainly prepared to defer to you if you have -- as it sounds like -- investigated this matter.

Any further information about the attitude of the Malays when the Singaporeans wanted out should be posted here.

Posted on 09/29/2007 3:35 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 29 September 2007
A good reason to back Boris

Back Boris Johnson for Mayor of London and annoy the Bemerded  British Muslim Institute. From the absurd site Islamophobia Watch, an unwitting source of sensible comment about Islam:

British Muslim Initiative views the Conservative choice of Boris Johnson as the mayoral candidate as an affront to the sensitivities and beliefs of London Muslims. In a city in which one in eight of its population is Muslim, Johnson has demonstrated an antipathy to the Quran that borders on the realm of the bigotry. ["the population" not "its population" - M.J.]

During the debate on the religious hatred bill Johnson is recorded as saying "if this bill makes any sense at all it must mean banning the reading in public or in private of a great many passages of the Quran itself". He also wrote in one of his articles "the Koran is full of stuff that plainly falls into that category (religious hatred)".

Mohammad Sawalha Chair of BMI said: "In the light of such invective BMI affirms any individual aspiring to represent the people of London must demonstrate respect for all its communities. Mr Johnson is on the hostile path with the religious and ethnic minorities and he would destroy the great harmony enjoyed in London."

Mr Sawalha further added: "What is required at this juncture is a Mayor who has the understanding of the needs of the great many communities in London and unite them, unfortunately Mr Johnson does not fit that bill. Boris Johnson's record of hostilities and disdain for the sacred book of Muslims must automatically disqualify him from their support, to the same degree that his public offence and disrespect for black and ethnic minority communities should equally render him unworthy of their support."

Another good reason to back Boris Johnson is that he would be fun. Just look at his picture.

Posted on 09/29/2007 12:00 PM by Mary Jackson
Saturday, 29 September 2007
Not for the unwary

Spotted while out this afternoon, in a backstreet of a town some distance from home.

I really don't want to imagine what would happen to an absent minded or unwary shopper who entered this establishment and asked for a sausage roll.

But look closely at the door, smoking forbidden, just like in church.

Posted on 09/29/2007 11:40 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 29 September 2007
Maldives bomb blast injures two Britons
Two Britons have been injured in a bomb blast outside a popular tourist park in the Maldives.
At least 12 tourists were wounded when the home-made device exploded about 2.30pm in Male, the Maldives capital.
The British Foreign Office confirmed two British tourists were among the wounded. They were reported to have suffered severe burns, but their injuries were not life threatening.
Two Japanese and six Chinese tourists were also injured. All are believed to be from the Full Moon, Baros and Soneva resorts.
Mohamed Shareef, a Maldives government spokesman, said the blast occurred near the main gate of Sultan Park, a popular garden housing the Maldives national museum.
Reports said the explosion was triggered by a home-made device using a mobile phone and washing machine motor attached to a gas cylinder.
Nails were reportedly found scattered around the park, which is located across the road from Male's main mosque - also a popular stop-off point for tour groups.
Mr Shareef said the park was crowded at the time of the blast, including with many locals breaking their fast during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan.
No motive had yet been established for the bombings, and it was not known if the bombers had targeted tourists intentionally, Mr Shareef said.
Posted on 09/29/2007 11:38 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 29 September 2007
Told by an idiot

It is not often that I disagree with Dot Wordsworth; in fact this may be the first time. The cause of my displeasure is that she fails to regard with sufficient horror a website called No Fear Shakespeare, which purports to translate Shakespeare “into English”:


No Fear Shakespeare puts Shakespeare's language side-by-side with a facing-page translation into modern English—the kind of English people actually speak today.


Speak for yourself. This very aim, or “mission” as it would probably be termed, is absurd. Shakespeare is English. Much of what is written today is not English. From The Spectator:

I have stumbled across a translation of Shakespeare into English on a website called No Fear Shakespeare. Hamlet’s well-known soliloquy goes: ‘The question is: is it better to be alive or dead? Is it nobler to put up with all the nasty things that luck throws your way, or to fight against all those troubles by simply putting an end to them once and for all?’

The double is is certainly a modern touch. Nobler is a surprising survival, considering how much else was jettisoned. I’m not sure about nasty. If it does not have a babyish tone, then it connotes dirtiness, as in that resolution for ‘When I come to be old’ by Jonathan Swift: ‘Not to neglect decency, or cleenlyness, for fear of falling into Nastyness.’


But the abolition of all metaphors can wash away difficulties too. ‘I am but mad north-north-west,’ says Hamlet. ‘When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.’ This the No Fear ironing service smooths into: ‘I'm only crazy sometimes. At other times, I know what's what.’ Crazy, no doubt, to prevent American students thinking that by mad Hamlet means ‘angry’.

I do not deny that No Fear robs Shakespeare of its poetry, and not seldom introduces absurdity. Iago cries out in Othello: 'Even now, very now, an old black ram is tupping your white ewe.' The No Fear translation is: ‘At this very minute an old black ram is having sex with your little white lamb.’ In the minds of our youth, do animals ‘have sex’?

Why “translate” at all? It doesn’t need translating. Anyone who has ever watched a Carry On film can work out what “tupping” means. Let’s see how this site handles Macbeth. First the original:

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Not a word of this should be touched. It can be made ridiculous, but it can’t be made plainer. Nevertheless our fearless translators manage to make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse. (Readers of a sensitive disposition with a feel for language are advised to look away now.)

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. The days creep slowly along until the end of time. And every day that's already happened has taken fools that much closer to their deaths. Out, out, brief candle. Life is nothing more than an illusion. It's like a poor actor who struts and worries for his hour on the stage and then is never heard from again. Life is a story told by an idiot, full of noise and emotional disturbance but devoid of meaning.

The poetry is lost to no good purpose. This is harder than the original. And wrong. “Never heard from again” is not the same as “heard no more”. Why “story” and not “tale”? And “devoid of meaning” is more long-winded than “signifying nothing”.

Dot Wordsworth is too kind when she says:

No Fear as a crib, not a translation into another poetic form, has its uses. To replace Shakespeare with it would be more than a shame, but for a first timer it should light a path through the thickets of Shakespeare.

Wrong. By all means have notes in the back for unusual words. But No Fear is wlatsome and abhominable to God. It should be cast into the lake of fire along with its tin-eared authors.

Posted on 09/29/2007 8:25 AM by Mary Jackson
Saturday, 29 September 2007
Seven Questions For The Prime Minister of Malaysia

New York - Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called Friday for increasing dialogue to repair misunderstandings by the West about Islam. -- from this news item

Seven Questions for Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Prime Minister of Malaysia:

1. At independence, Malaysia (or, as it was then known, Malaya) did not have a Muslim majority. There has been a steady rise in the percentage of Muslims, compared to the indigenous tribes, the Hindus, and the Chinese. What explains this demographic shift?

2. Singapore broke off from Malaysia and established a separate state. What were the main reasons the Chinese of Singapore so desperately sought to be independent of Malaysia?

3. The Bumiputra system, was established to favor in education and in the economy, supposedly, the "sons of the soil" or the indigenes. The "sons of the soil" tribes, however, are mostly Christian. Yet the Bumiputra system, as every Chinese and Hindu in Malaysia knows, favors only one group: Muslims. Why is that, and do you now believe it is time to assure all citizens of Malaysia equality before the law by ending the Bumiputra preferments for Muslims in Malaysia?

4. Your predecessor, Mahathir Mohamed, famously gave an address to the Organization of Islamic Conference, in which he told a crowd of enthusiastic delegates that Muslims must learn to rival the West in their scientific attainments, but the only attainments to which he made reference were those of military technology. There was no mention of any encouragement of Muslim study of the nature of the atom, or of the structure of DNA, or of fractals, or how the brain works, or anything at all that might be described as science for its own sake. There was only mention of military technology, of weaponry. Why do you think that was?

5. Chok Tok On, Prime Minister of Singapore, in a speech he gave in Washington a few years ago, said this:

“Terrorism is a generic term. Terrorist organisations such as the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka or ETA in Spain are only of local concern. The virulent strain of Islamic terrorism is another matter altogether. It is driven by religion. Its ideological vision is global. It is most dangerous. The communists fought to live, whereas the jihadi terrorists fight to die and live in the next world.

My perspective is formed by our own experiences in Southeast Asia, which post 9/11 has emerged as a major theatre for terrorist operations. In December 2001, Singapore arrested 15 people belonging to a radical Islamic group called the Jemaah Islamiyah [JI]. They were plotting even before 9/11 to attack American and other Western interests in Singapore. In August 2002, we arrested another 21 members of this group. Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand have also made many arrests of terrorists.

The JI regional leadership spanned Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and the southern Philippines. Its tentacles even probed into Australia. JI’s objective was to create a Daulah Islamiyah, an Islamic state in Southeast Asia. This was to be centred in Indonesia but would include Malaysia, southern Thailand, Southern Philippines, and, inevitably, Singapore and Brunei.

But the most crucial conclusion our investigations revealed was this: the existence of a transregional terrorist brotherhood of disparate Southeast Asian groups linked by a militant Islamic ideology to each other and to al Qaeda. Whatever their specific goals, these groups were committed to mutual help in the pursuit of their common ideology: they helped each other with funds and support services, in training, and in joint operations.

In 1999, JI formed a secret caucus called the Rabitatul Mujahadeen, meaning Mujahadeen Coalition, to bring together various militant Southeast Asian Islamic groups. Between 1999 and 2000, Rabitatul Mujahadeen met three times in Kuala Lumpur. It was responsible for the bombing attack against the Philippine ambassador to Indonesia in Jakarta in August 2000. The brain behind the attack was Hambali, the link man between Southeast Asian terrorism and al Qaeda. Fortunately, he is now under arrest.

But the threat remains. It stems from a religious ideology that is infused with an implacable hostility to all secular governments, especially the West, and in particular the U.S. Their followers want to recreate the Islam of seventh century Arabia, which they regard as the golden age. Their ultimate goal is to bring about a caliphate linking all Muslim communities. Their means is jihad, which they narrowly define as a holy war against all non Muslims, whom they call “infidels.”

The Arabs call this religious ideology salafi. Our experience in Southeast Asia is not without wider relevance because of what the salafis themselves believe. This is what one of them, an Algerian named Abu Ibrahim Mustafa, has said:

“The war in Palestine, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Algeria, in Chechnya, and in the Philippines is one war. This is a war between the camp of Islam and the camp of the Cross, to which the Americans, the Zionists, Jews, their apostate allies, and others belong. The goal of this war, which they falsely called a war on terror, is to prevent the Muslims from establishing an Islamic state...”

Likewise, JI’s ultimate goal is a caliphate, by definition not confined to Southeast Asia. The dream of a caliphate may seem absurd to the secular mind. But it will be a serious mistake to dismiss its appeal to many in the Islamic world, though the majority do not believe in killing and dying for it.

But there are radicals and militants who do. The terrorist brotherhood in Southeast Asia and its links to al Qaeda were first forged through the struggle against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Ibrahim Maidin, the leader of the Singapore JI cell, underwent military training in Afghanistan in the early 1990s. His encounters with the mujahadeen deeply impressed him. Maidin wrote several letters to the Taliban Supreme Leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and to Osama bin Laden. He asked whether Mullah Omar was to be regarded as the caliph of the Islamic World. After returning to Singapore, Maidin arranged for JI members to visit Afghanistan and to undergo training there.

When one of those convicted of the October 2002 Bali bombings was sentenced to death, he thanked the prosecutors and said that this would bring him closer to God and “the death penalty would mean nothing except strengthening my faith.”

Islamic militancy is not new to Southeast Asia. But what is new is this type of fanatical global ideology (including the phenomenon of suicide bombers) that has been able to unite different groups and lead Southeast Asian groups to subordinate local interests to the broader struggle.

Ibrahim Maidin has confessed to a senior Singapore intelligence officer that, in retrospect, he had made the mistake of moving too quickly and should have waited for Malaysia, Indonesia, the southern Philippines, and Singapore to become an Islamic state before acting against U.S. interests. But he still believes that his side would ultimately win. He also said that as long as the U.S. was “doing things against the Muslims”, the JI would continue to attack the U.S.

From our experience in Southeast Asia, I draw three principal conclusions that I believe have a wider relevance.

First, the goals of these terrorists make the struggle a zero sum game for them. There is no room for compromise except as a tactical expedient. America may be the main enemy, but it is not the only one. What Osama bin Laden offered Europe was only a “truce,” not a lasting peace. The war against terrorism today is a war against a specific strain of militant Islamic terrorism that wants, in effect, a “clash of civilizations” or, in the words of the Algerian I earlier quoted, “a war between the camp of the Islam and the camp of the Cross.”

The JI has tried to create the conditions for Christians and Muslims in Southeast Asia to set against one another. In December 2000, it attacked churches in Indonesia, including one church in an Indonesian island off Singapore. It has sent its members to fight and stir up trouble in Ambon against Christians. At the trial of those responsible for the Bali bombing of October 2002, one of the defendants, Amrozi, dubbed by the media as the “smiling terrorist,” said that he was not sorry for the Westerners killed in the Bali attacks. He said, “How can I feel sorry? I am very happy, because they attack Muslims and are inhuman.” In fact, he wished “there were more American casualties.” What was most chilling is that this hatred is impersonal.

One of those we detained in Singapore was a service engineer with an American company. He confessed that he actually liked his American friends and bosses. He was nevertheless involved in targeting American interests. We have a sense that he had struggled with this. He eventually decided to testify against the spiritual leader of JI, Abu Bakar Bashir, but only because he felt betrayed by Bashir’s denial of the very existence of the JI organization which Bashir headed and to whom he and other members had sworn allegiance.

And just as Osama bin Laden is trying to drive a wedge between Europe and America, in Southeast Asia, JI was plotting to do the same thing by blowing up the pipelines that supply water from Malaysia to Singapore. The JI knew that water from Malaysia is a matter of life and death for Singapore. They knew that race and religion have historically been the major fault lines within and between both countries. The JI’s intention was to provoke a conflict between Singapore and Malaysia and portray a “Chinese Singapore” as threatening a “Muslim Malaysia,” and use the ensuing confusion to try and overthrow the Malaysian government and establish an Islamic state in Malaysia.

That particular plot failed. The governments of Singapore and Malaysia could not have allowed it to succeed. We know only too well what is at stake.

The favorite tactic of terrorists of all stripes has always been to try to provoke a backlash to serve their cause. When news of the JI arrests broke, my immediate concern was to maintain social cohesion in Singapore. Singapore is a multi-racial society with a 15 percent Muslim population. They are well integrated in our schools, housing estates and the workplace. Nevertheless, misunderstandings could easily arise. We met with Muslim leaders in a number of closed door sessions to share details of the investigations and to explain that the arrests were not targeted against the Singapore Muslim community or Islam.”

Would you agree with the assessment of Prime Minister Chok Tong On?

6. Singapore has a very rigorous legal regime covering Da’wa ,with strict requirements that all new converts to Islam be immediately reported to the government . Why do you suppose that is? Do you understand what concerns prompted the democratic government of Singapore to enact such legislation?

7. Your name is “Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.” Would you find strange if the Prime Minister of the Congo were named Anthony Ashley Cooper, or possibly Lord Palmerston? Do you find anything of note, as a Malay, that you bear an Arab name? Or do you find nothing strange in the linguistic and cultural pressures for arabization that accompany, and have always accompanied, islamization?

Posted on 09/29/2007 6:41 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 29 September 2007
While US Tied Up In Iraq, China Making Big Strides

IHT: KADENA AIR BASE, Japan: While the U.S. has been tied up fighting the war in Iraq, China has made huge gains toward modernizing its military and improving its equipment, and its air defenses are now nearly impenetrable to all but the newest of American fighters, the senior U.S. military official in Japan said.

Lt. Gen. Bruce Wright, commander of the roughly 50,000 U.S. forces in Japan, Washington's biggest ally in Asia, said in an interview this week the Iraq war is reducing the availability of U.S. troops and equipment to meet other contingencies and eating up funds that might be used to replace or upgrade planes that are being pushed to their operational limits.

China, meanwhile, is rapidly filling the skies with newer, Russian-made Sukhoi Su-27 "Flankers" and Su-30s, along with the domestically built J-10, a state-of-the-art fighter that Beijing just rolled out in January. China has also improved its ballistic missile defenses and its ability to take the fight into space — as it proved by shooting down an old weather satellite at an orbital height similar to that used by the U.S. military.

Posted on 09/29/2007 6:26 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Saturday, 29 September 2007
Taliban unveils hardline Afghan constitution
The Taliban has published a shadow Afghan constitution outlining an alternative hardline government to that of President Hamid Karzai.
The 23-page document (The Constitution of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) envisages a country where women would remain veiled and uneducated, "un-Islamic thought" would be banned and human rights would be ignored if "contrary with the teachings of Islam".
On freedom of speech the Taliban charter, which is written in Pashto and Dari, is clear: "Every Afghan has the right to express his feelings through his views, writings or through other means in accordance with the law."
However "un-Islamic thought" is strictly forbidden and "violators will be punished according to sharia" - under the Taliban's strict interpretation of Islamic teachings.
Woman in a burkha; Taliban unveils hardline Afghan constitution
It provides for the education of women but only within the limits of sharia and stresses that the government will enforce compliance with Sharai Hejab - that women cover fully cover themselves.
The document also stresses the importance of jihad as an obligation for every citizen. It offers the Taliban's support for the United Nations and upholds human rights - "until it is contrary with the teachings of Islam".
"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wishes good working relations with all the neighbouring countries and specially those who have supported the Afghan nation during jihad," it adds.
The greatest power is vested in an Emir-ul-Momineen, or leader of the faithful. Like its official Afghan counterpart, the constitution states that no law can "be contrary to Islamic sharia".
The words leopard and spots spring to mind.
Posted on 09/29/2007 4:24 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Friday, 28 September 2007
(Pushing) Omeish To Catatonia

"smear campaign...."
-- from Esam Omeish's description of the charges made against him

Please list the "smears" in this "smear campaign" which, you charge, is being conducted against you. Tell us exactly who charged what, and when, and where, and why such a charge is untrue, and therefore constitutes a "smear."

Start with Robert Spencer's description of you, on a show hosted by Laura Ingraham, claiming that there is no capital punishment for apostasy in Islam. Then explain why, in a second appearance with Spencer on the same show, you claimed that Shari'a in the United States would be a Good Thing.

[Far more damning than the video on YouTube are the two recorded encounters with Robert Spencer on the Laura Ingraham show. On the first, Omeish practices taqiyya -- that is "lying" to non-Muslims -- when he asserts that apostasy in Islam is not punishable by death. On the second, he says he looks forward to the imposition of Shari'a in the United States. If what that means is clearly understood, he wishes that you and I and even Governor Kaine, and all the non-Muslim members of that Commission on Immigration to which he was almost appointed, and all the non-Muslim doctors and nurses and orderlies in the hospital he works at, and all the non-Muslim patients he sees, to be relegated to the status of dhimmis, a status that for 1350 years has clearly meant, for those non-Muslims under Muslim rule, humiliation, degradation, and physical insecurity.

What could Omeish have possibly meant, when he said he favored Shari'a in America? How was he taken "out of context"? What else would a sensible and well-informed Infidel be expected to make of that remark?

Forget the video. Listen to the tapes.

Please explain, Mr. Omeish. Take as much time as you need. But remember: those programs have been taped. They can be played over the Internet.

Posted on 09/28/2007 6:03 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 28 September 2007
Concerning Iran?s Revolutionary Guards

WASHINGTON — The US Senate has called for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to be officially designated a “foreign terrorist organisation,” a day after the House of Representatives passed a similar measure.

The Senate on Wednesday voted 76-22 for the non-binding amendment sponsored by Republican Jon Kyl and independent Joseph Lieberman to place the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or Pasdaran, on the US terrorist blacklist. --from this news article

The rationale apparently given for voting against this resolution does not withstand scrutiny. Unless it can be shown that the Pasdaran is not as described, is not a "terrorist group," then it should be labelled as such. That may permit the government to take measures against the group, and its supporters in this country, that it can not take without such a declaration. It is not, that is, a merely symbolic act, but has useful consequences.

Those who say that this "is one step toward attacking Iran" have not made, but merely asserted, their case. If such a measure makes it easier to go after the sources of financial and other support of the Pasdaran, and thereby more effectively put pressure on the Islamic Republic, this might lessen the likelihood of a military attack if the nuclear program can be stopped through other, less violent, means.

Posted on 09/28/2007 5:39 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 28 September 2007
But Is It Art. Or, Those Deadly Hospital Corners

Yes, two can play this game.

A determined secret group, with nothing to lose should now engage in its own version of performance art, as a way of wreaking vengeance on the well-paid con men of this age and those magnates who fall for the con, because they have been told This Is Art. Really Really Great "Art."  Not only Leonardo and Vermeer, but Balthus and Whistler and Morandi will turn over, quite contentedly, in their graves, upon hearing that  at long last something is being done. And there will be many silent supporters among those who, right now, continue, with as much serenity as they can muster (it can't be easy, it sometimes must madden, to hear of the sums raked in by the unworthy, of all the Tracey Emins and Damien Hirsts, and the "performance artists" and the "video artists" and all the rest of those carefully avoiding, because incapable of producing, the artifact in pencil or paint, or carved from wood or sculpted from stone) but given prizes and earning millions that they do not deserve.

At least, a century ago, one could be sure that the rich were a bit more willing to take tuition, and seek advise, from those who had cultivated tastes. If Berenson overvalued Sassetta, at least he did not advise his rich (whether nouveau or vieux) clients and friends to throw millions into whatever then was the equivalent of Hirst's dimidiated cow, and the same gawkers who make it " the most popular" item in the museum in which it is now proudly displayed (by madmen) are descendants of those country bumpkins who would go to the local fair to gawk at the spectacle of a two-headed calf, also preserved in the same kind of formaldehyde.

Education in art, as in so much else, is a mess, with less Shearman and more Nochlin. And so too, therefore, is the education of taste, especially the taste of those who will go on to form collections.  The rich can no longer be assured of attending certain select universities, and even in those universities, no can be sure what they will be getting into. The head of Visual Studies at Harvard, for example, is a Shakespeare "scholar" who was written books on real estate, dogs, and, oh yes, cross-dressing in Shakespeare. The most recent hire has been of somone given a professorship, and tenure, whose special field is Hip Hop Studies.

And sudden-wealth-syndrome , on an unprecedented scale, means that there must be many collectors of "art" who, not possessing even the unjustified self-assurance of those who have attended so-called good schools, and who are not about to take time to study the history of art or visit museums, but want not My Last Duchess hanging on the wall, but intallation art, with lots of lovely blood or urine or dirty underswear, and lights flashing, and rube-goldberg movements, which is exactly what Lorenzo de' Medici, doncha know, would be buying and puttin' up in the palace if he were alive today. So the advsisers today, those "art consultants," far outnumber the few who might recognizably descend from the line of Berenson, Duveen, or Eugene Thaw, for that matter, the kind of people who still exist, here and there, in the nooks and endangered crannies of what is called, deplorably,  "The Art World."

The time for talk, in The New Criterion or elsewhere, is over. Time to take to the streets, to the museums, to the private collections of those hedge-fund operators and real-estate, computer, advertising magnates.

Tracy Emin can be done in by hospital corners. Others will require something more drastic.

Posted on 09/28/2007 12:05 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 28 September 2007
Queer Eye for the Iranian Guy

Scott Ott writes: (2007-09-25) — Producers of the new BravoTV series “Queer Eye for the Iranian Guy” said they’re close to inking a deal with Islamic Republic President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to appear in the season opener.

While it’s a well-known fact that there are no homosexuals in Iran, the network plans to import them to Tehran from the United States in order to give Mr. Ahmadinejad “a radical, extremist makeover.”

During the course of the show, the Iranian leader will be “fundamentally transformed head-to-toe” by a group of homosexual men known as the Fab Five — an interior designer, a fashion stylist, a chef, a beauty guru and a ‘concierge of cool’....

Posted on 09/28/2007 11:58 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Friday, 28 September 2007
Timur Kuran On Islamic Economics

From an interview with Professor Timur Kuran, who despite sitting, for a year, in the "King Faisal Chair"  at USC has done his own work on Islam and Economics, and without paying attention to the desires of his funders, quite unlike so many other recipients of the same Saudi or Arab largesse:

AE: One of your recent publications is “Islam and Mammon.” What is it about?

TK: This is a book on the subject that got me into the study of economics and religion. It offers a critique of the modern doctrine of “Islamic economics” and evaluates its practical achievements. Its most visible practical achievement has been the establishment of Islamic banks meant to avoid interest. Islamic economics has also promoted Islamic norms of economic behavior and founded redistribution systems modeled after early Islamic fiscal practices. I argue that the doctrine of Islamic economics is simplistic, incoherent and largely irrelevant to present economic challenges. Few Muslims take it seriously, and its practical applications have had no discernible effects on efficiency, growth or poverty reduction. You might wonder, if this is so, why Islamic economics has enjoyed any appeal at all. The real purpose of Islamic economics has not been economic improvement but cultivation of a distinct Islamic identity to resist cultural globalization. It has served the cause of global Islamism, known also as “Islamic fundamentalism,” by fueling the illusion that Muslim societies have lived, or can live, by distinct economic rules.

Nota Bene:

The real purpose of Islamic economics has not been economic improvement but cultivation of a distinct Islamic identity to resist cultural globalization. It has served the cause of global Islamism, known also as “Islamic fundamentalism,”

Posted on 09/28/2007 11:37 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 28 September 2007
Frivolous Fred Kagan

From Fred Kagan's My Weekly Standard article:

"The takfiris insist that anyone who obeys a human government is a polytheist and therefore violates the first premise of Islam, the shahada (the assertion that "There is no god but God"), even though Muslims have lived in states with temporal rulers for most of their history. The chief reason al Qaeda has limited support in the Muslim world is that the global Muslim community overwhelmingly rejects the premise that anyone obeying a temporal ruler is ipso facto an unbeliever."

A demonstration of severe mental confusion. Kagan appears to believe that Al Qaeda, because it preaches obedience to the Holy Law of Islam, argues that "anyone who obeys a human (!) government is a polytheist" -- that is, guilty of shirk. This is not what preaching against rulers deemed to be bad Muslims means. Rulers, ideally a single Caliph, who is true to Islam, heads a "human" government that can be obeyed. Indeed, the duty of a good Muslim is to obey any ruler who is himself a good Muslim, however -- to our eyes - cruel and despotic he might seem to be.

Furthermore, when Kagan writes in the same My Weekly Standard piece that "Muslims have lived in states with temporal rulers for most of their history" what should one make of it? The observation is banal. We all know that ayatollahs have not ruled over Iran, nor muftis in Egypt and Arabia. So what? The distinction between "temporal" and "spiritual" that is made in Christianity is not made in Islam. It is misleading to call the rulers of Muslim lands (and Kagan's use of the word "states" also worries, for it evokes misleading thoughts of the non-Muslim nation-state -- "lands" is better at keeping out such notions -- "temporal rulers" for it sets up a temporal-spiritual opposition that does not exist in Islam, but that Kagan apparently believes does so, and means something. It doesn't. Since the Muslim ruler of a Muslim land is always more than merely a "temporal ruler" the only requirement he must fulfill is to be a good Muslim.

Kagan needs to spend six months reading. But he doesn't have time. He's too busy advising Senator McCain and writing his articles for My Weekly Standard and The Wall Street Journal, on why and how America, if it only stays the course, is surely "winning in Iraq." That he never feels the obligation -- never -- to describe exactly what constitutes "winning in Iraq" and how it would help with efforts to stem the world-wide Jihad, and its many instruments, shows the frivolousness and ignorance  to be so widespread as to serve as a universal protection against the appearance of the kind of criticism that matters -- the kind that appears here, and at Jihad Watch, and very few other places.

It's disheartening. And frightening. As if Jay Leno's Jaywalkers had all acquired Ph.D.s and were installed in think-tanks all over Washington. Which has, indeed, happened.

Posted on 09/28/2007 11:07 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Friday, 28 September 2007
Radio Derb
Posted on 09/28/2007 11:04 AM by John Derbyshire
Friday, 28 September 2007
The Political Minefields Of Islam

RICHMOND, Va. - A member of the state's Commission of Immigration resigned Thursday, a few hours after Gov. Timothy M. Kaine was told about online videos showing the appointee condemning Israel and advocating "the jihad way."

Kaine learned of the videos from a caller to his live monthly radio program and accepted the resignation of Dr. Esam S. Omeish about three hours later. --from this news article

One small step for mankind.

But the moral of the tale is this: in order to avoid a misstep that will come to haunt you, if you are a political figure, that will undoubtedly be used, at this point -- and with full justification -- by your political opponents as an example of your naiveté, or failure to exercise due diligence, do not meet with, do not have smiling photographs taken with, do not endorse in any way, and certainly do not appoint to any office, someone who believes in Jihad as a central duty, Jihad through whatever means. That includes almost every Believer. And do not accept, ever, either someone's claim to be a "moderate" or someone else's description of someone -- especially if that someone is in the hopelessly naive Interfaith Dialogue racket -- as a "great guy, no problem, he's really on our side."

Use your head. Enough running from all those in positions of political or academic or other power running around like candidates for Jay Leno's Jaywalkers.

Take, for example, the supposedly "tough" performance of Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, who still has yet to inform himself about Islam. Despite the tongue-lashing he inflicted on Ahmadinejad (and here fortiter in re, suaviter in modo, might have been just the ticket) he became helpless, nearly tongue-tied, when it came to answering back Ahmadinejad when he made his absurd remarks about, for example, Israel. Was it a surprise to Bollinger that that would have been raised? Was he unable to rise to the occasion, and to show up the idiocy of the claim, one so common as Bollinger should have fully anticipated it, that "the poor 'Palestinians' should not have to pay for the Holocaust." For god's sake. Someone well-informed, particularly dealing with the theme of the rights of non-Arabs -- Jews and Persians and Armenians and Copts to start with -- in the Middle East, and also who was given, on a platter, a chance to discuss Persian history and the successful Persian effort to prevent the arabization, and cultural and linguistic imperialism of the Arabs, that has been such a feature of islamization world-wide (and that would have amazed not just Ahmadinejad, but deeply shaken up Iranians back in Iran, and caused them to think). But Bollinger seems only interested in protecting himself, and no doubt preserving the loyalty of alumni. Has he lost the ability to study and think, in the heady rise to the top? Perhaps he can re-acquire that skill. It may inspire some of the undergraduates.

And now Virginia Governor Kaine has had to re-think, and so too has the man he was about to appoint, a man whom Robert Spencer has debated, has tapes of those debates, and can easily show that Esam Omeish lies (denying that death is the punishment prescribed for apostasy in Islam, with textual authority) and also has admitted that he looks forward to the extension of Shari'a across the United States. Had he been appointed, and that information come out and been widely distributed -- and it would have been -- it would have inflicted severe political damage, rightly, on Governor Kaine. There is no need for this, anymore than there was a need for Mayor Menino, without knowing a thing about Islam, a few years ago to enthusiastically support the building of that deplorable mosque, with all the behind-the-scenes below-market sale of city land and the Saudi connection and the BRA employee who, as far as is known, may still be on the BRA payroll. I know many people who have because of that permanently lost any enthusiasm they might have had for Mayor Menino.

For god's sake, did no one think to do a little googling? Or to check, say, with "The Investigative Project" or with "Jihad Watch" to see if there was anything about Mr. X that might, just might, be the kind of thing the governor or mayor or Congressman deciding whom to hire for his staff, would have liked to have known in advance? Or if not those sources, then others -- just something so that one is fully alerted to the real views, not the feigned ones that may be expressed, or the evasions of taqiyya-and-tu-quoque that by now we are all getting so used to, and that must be seen right through, and if not by the Great and Good of this earth themselves, then by members of their staffs, whose duty it is to guide and protect them from such blunders that, in the end, might prove fatal for those who commit them, in one way, and fatal, in quite another, much grimmer way, for those who those in brief (or not so brief) authority presume to instruct and protect.

Do your homework, for god's sake. Do it.

Posted on 09/28/2007 8:46 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
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