So, I’ve tried the alternative posting schedule for….well, all of three days, and it’s far too stressful to have to be that organised. Back to posting in bulk next week.
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Ever since ISIS/Islamic State began rapping at the doors of Baghdad and its beheadings first blackened the pages of Western print, media commentators have inevitably been searching for a way to describe the organisation to the common, apolitical everyman. It now seems they have settled on the following unconvincing and unpoetic summary:
“Like al-Qaeda, but worse.”
While faintly accurate, this really doesn’t get at the truth about ISIS. Nor (for that matter) does my own article ‘ISIS: al-Qaeda on Steroids’. The comparison with Bin Laden’s organisation I now believe to be generally misleading.
ISIS is something altogether new and its methods and aims almost unprecedented. Perhaps the only way to describe it appropriately is to use the well-worn example of the Nazis.
I would posit that the Nazi Wehrmacht – the Germany army under Nazi command – is roughly analogous to al-Qaeda, whilst ISIS is closer in spirit and practice to the Schutzstaffel or SS.
There are many reasons for this but one in particular. Put simply, al-Qaeda – like the Wehrmacht – fought for conventional, semi-rational goals. al-Qaeda sought to expel Western militaries from the Muslim world. The Wehrmacht fought to defend and enlarge the Nazi empire. Neither of these objectives are beyond comprehension to the outside observer and neither give any hint of madness in those who formulated them.
The SS meanwhile was a completely different beast. Himmler transformed the SS from an unremarkable bodyguard division into a secretive spiritual order charged with a unique, historic destiny. It became an elite racial cult, replete with rituals, codes and quirks of initiation. The SS considered themselves the appointed and rightful rulers of the European meta-race and the last hope it had against the ‘Asiatic hordes’ of Russia.
These objectives are plainly not reasonable or rooted in a rational interpretation of the world.
As with the SS, so it is with ISIS. The fighters of Islamic State believe themselves to be divinely ordained agents of the apocalypse. Their flag – the Black Banner – plays a central role in the eschatological drama of the Islamic end-times.
The Hadith most quoted in relation to the Black Banner (or ‘Black Standard’) is the following:
“Our Prophet (saas) told; “Black banners of Ibn Abbas appear from the East.” That is to say, among the Arabs those with black banners appear. After they proceed for a while, again this time a smaller group with black banners appear from the East (the Middle East). They fight against a man from the descend of Abu Sufyan and come under the obedience of Hazrat Mahdi (note: the promised saviour of Islam).”
The ‘Black Flags’ prophecy is the primary motivation of the ISIS leadership. The activities they endorse (unlike those of al-Qaeda) have nothing to do with removing the House of Saud from power or punishing America for its acts of imperialism. They are telescopically aimed at bringing on the end of the world and the mystical victory of Islam over rival religions and sects.
The Jihadis with Black flags believe they possess a divine mandate to cause chaos across the world – the bloodier and more random the better- in order to bring on the final Day of Judgement.
Irrational beliefs pave the way for acts of astonishing cruelty. The SS shot men, women and children into ditches without a moment’s reflection. Today it was reported that a phone seized from a dead ISIS fighter had photos of a beheaded baby. I’ll repeat that: a beheaded baby.
The historians have mourned for decades that we (the allied nations) did not have the knowledge of what was occurring in the Eastern territories. Had we known all the details at the time, the consensus claims, we could have (and perhaps would have) taken out the machinery of the Holocaust from the sky.
We have no such excuses today, as bearded Einsatzgruppen stalk their way through Kurdish villages and towns.
Last week, a commenter on this blog stressed how important it was for those concerned with the resurgence of Islam to read the Qur’an in its complete form. He was correct to do so, and his recommendation is sound.
I bought a Qur’an many years ago – the Penguin translation by NJ Dawood – and read most of the Suras in a random order. This was before I started writing about Islam, and my only motivation in visiting the text was to see how intolerant it was against Women. As you’ll know, there is a notorious Sura titled ‘Women’, and this contains most of the references to sexual equality in the whole work. The most famous passage from this chapter is undoubtedly verse 4:34 –
“Men have authority over women because God has made one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them, forsake them in beds apart, and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them”.
It’s strange to think that it was 1400 years ago that some gentleman in the Arabian desert wrote these words, and yet every detail in his articulation now affects over a billion living citizens of the world. The sentence “They guard their unseen parts…” has by-itself chosen the dress for a massive portion of female humanity. That person in the desert, scraping these words onto the bones of an animal, or onto papyrus or stone tablets, decided then what a Muslim woman in Leicester will wear today. Such are the giddying quantum mechanics of history.
As for examples of the promotion of violence, we are rather spoilt for choice. The anti-Islam writer Daniel Pipes collected the following excerpts:
“Regarding infidels (unbelievers), they are the Muslim’s “inveterate enemies” (Sura 4:101). Muslims are to “arrest them, besiege them and lie in ambush everywhere” (Sura 9:5) for them. They are to “seize them and put them to death wherever you find them, kill them wherever you find them, seek out the enemies of Islam relentlessly” (Sura 4:90). “Fight them until Islam reigns supreme” (Sura 2:193). “Cut off their heads, and cut off the tips of their fingers” (Sura 8:12).
I’ve no longer got my copy of the Penguin translation. I think I gave it to Age Concern just before I left for University. I will re-order the same volume and would strongly advise anyone concerned about Islam to order a copy too. It is hugely irritating to have one’s Islamophobia returned with the remark “You don’t know anything about Islam”. That was never true. I discovered as much as I need to about the Islamic religious system many years ago.
Nevertheless, a good knowledge of Qur’anic quotation is vital to successfully conduct a live argument with the faithful. A Muslim does not consider this text as Christians consider the New Testament. Muslims devoutly believe that God wrote the Qur’an and that every sentence must be the absolute truth. Given its purported author, Muslims also hold that it cannot be argued with or re-interpreted. It must be followed without question. This makes Qur’anic criticism by far the most effective means of confronting Islam as a manner of life and thought.
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So, the world’s favourite teenager Malala Yousafzai can now add a Nobel Peace Prize to the Taliban bullet as things she has famously received and which qualify her as a global political sage. Does her talent for passively receiving things ever end?
Perhaps Yousafzai might next get run down by a lorry driven by a White Supremacist and immediately become spokesperson for Western race-relations.
I don’t enjoy having to use this silly tone to speak of someone so young. I must use it though because feelings are being demanded of me that I don’t have. I am being ordered to feel awe for someone who hasn’t achieved anything and who is being fattened by book-deals and political funds.
The institution responsible for the latest cheque in Yousafzai’s swelling bank account comes as no great shock. The Nobel Peace Prize committee has suffered for many years now from a dire lack of credibility. Ever since the awarding of the honour to (the then virginal) President Barack Obama, the honour has had a light, floaty, cosmetic feel to it – almost as if it was a means of political expression rather than of reward.
The choice of Yousafzai belongs undoubtedly to the same downward trend.
I should clarify that I don’t have anything personal against Malala. Or at least no more than I have against professional psychics, internet healers or astrologers. She is the kindly target of a storm of stupid emotion. That’s all. It’s not something I can either encourage or endorse.
Nevertheless, it has been uncomfortable to witness people I respect (friends among them) fall for Yousafzai’s sweet-smelling hypnotic. There have even been arguments put to me that I am somehow ‘jealous’ of the political starlet, or that I resent her for other base motivations. That is the purest nonsense. Malala is obviously cashing in at a furious pace, but this is no more offensive to me than the success of any other celebrity. What does miff me is that while Victoria Beckham or Miley Cyrus do not (rightly) enjoy either moral respect or political credit, Malala receives them by the bucketload. And for what?
If Yousafzai truly wanted to earn the respect and power she already possesses, she would leave Britain and return to her native Pakistan. She would stand as a Pakistani MP or set up a local organisation dedicated to the right of children to attend school there.
What possible use can she be to her professed cause in Birmingham or New York? The West is in no need of being lectured on the right of education. We already have that in place and have for some time.
Perhaps behind all the public virtues presented by Ms Yousefzai there is just a normal girl growing steadily accustomed to the pleasures of money, silk curtains and chauffer driven limousines.
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As I write, the passage of the Gay Marriage bill in Saudi Arabia still hangs tensely in the balance. Opposition from the religious establishment shows no sign of relenting with peaceful protests held overnight in Jeddah and Riyadh.
Meanwhile, supporters of the bill have delivered a petition with over a million signatures to the office of domestic affairs in Jeddah. The government has promised to consider both sides carefully.
Divisions between the two sides have been civil but impassioned and both feel strongly that they are on the brink of triumph.
Abu-Majid, a prominent advocate of gay liberties and executive of Saudi Gay Empowerment Committee (SGEC), said to reporters:
“This is obviously very tense. It’s also hugely exciting. The vote could go either way but I have faith it will be in the right direction: Forward. This is a chance to show the world the true progressive spirit of the Saudi people. Our values can help to lead the world.”
Meanwhile, across the ideological barricades, Sheikh Mohammad Sulayyil claimed his camp was the better placed to succeed.
“We represent the conservative majority in this country” he said “.. the silent majority, who oppose the desecration of marriage but are too polite to make their voices heard. We are a progressive, friendly society, but this is one step too far.”
Asked whether he harboured any hostility toward homosexuals (a frequent allegation by the SGEC), Sulayyil responded resolutely; “Of course we don’t. You cannot hate anyone in Islam. We love and care for homosexuals. We wish only that they respect our believes as well as their own.”
Despite observers predicting a close result, the ‘yes’ faction has easily been the most high-profile to date, with celebrities from throughout the Kingdom lining up to demonstrate their support for the bill. The 30 year old Lesbian actress Aafreeda Aftab has spoken at rallies up and down the country, accompanied by such LGBT superstars as Mohammad Badaidah, Abdul Laqiya and Osama Bin Haroum.
Some events in support of the bill have more dramatic than others. Laqiya and Haroum courted controversy by French-kissing in Medina during the Hajj season. Some clerics deemed this to be inappropriate behaviour and letters of complaint were written to various elected officials. Both actors may face a small fine if officials concur with the motion.
Within religious circles the debate has been particularly profound, with liberal and female imams taking a cautious stand in favour of tolerance and hard-line clerics stating frank opposition.
One thing is clear. Whichever way the result goes, the bill threatens to redefine the traditional identity of this gilded Kingdom and cause waves through the settled political landscape.
(That my satire here is almost see-through exposes how alien the Saudi world is to the one we inhabit).
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The day I begin writing this post has seen armed metropolitan police storming properties in West London (not more than 15 minutes tube journey from my house). Those resident there are said to have been planning the opening act in the terror wave against European targets that is almost sure to arrive in revenge for EU involvement in the war against IS.
The area (Ladbroke Grove) is familiar to me. I was walking around those streets the other weekend. Who knows, I may have brushed against the budding militants as I strode about, happy in my ignorance that this part of London is now a haven for violent cavemen.
I predicted some weeks ago that a terror wave will soon blaze across Europe, targeting mostly capitals and dense population centres. I’m afraid that prediction has only been strengthened by these arrests. The police have done a heroic service by preventing this attack, but another attempt is inevitable. Such is the risk of the age. No Londoner can be sure, as we rock back and forward on the subway train, that our carriages will not dissolve into fresh blood and white fire.
Nevertheless, I can take this occasion to remind the scum who plot to shed my blood and that of my neighbours; we are not afraid of you. This beautiful city, this thousand-ringed tree of history decorated with sparkling merit, shall expel you as soon as it finds a singular voice. And that is only a matter of time…
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The other day, as I sat in a train carriage taking me from Birmingham to London, I decided to tilt my head against the window and try to get some sleep. It had been a long, difficult, boring day and the opiate lure of sleep seemed to offer a warm bath for my aching senses.
I didn’t get any though, for no sooner had I shut my eyes than a burly Somali woman crashed down on the seat across the gangway and began to graze like a cow.
Fidgeting around in a small grey trolley bag she removed box after box, flipping off the lids each time with an echoing pop. She prepared what must have been the apperitif – a cold soup, green in colour, similar in appearance to a badly made guacamole.
I remember thinking “Now she is not going to drink that out of the tub….She can’t do.”
Well, she did, and with a noise more distressing than the whoosh of an approaching bullet. An English (or any rate European) woman ( long legs, short dress) stationed in front of the Somali began to wince in time to every slurp. At one point (to my pleasure) she consulted me with a wry, sympathetic smile.
This went on through five courses. After each one, the woman wiped her mouth gracelessly on her flowing black cloak (by the end it looked like the bed-sheets of a mental patient).
When the train docked at Milton Keynes, the Somali woman picked up her bag and departed the carriage, leaving the boxes, wrappers, and copius stains for the poor train crew to deal with.
The train peeled away towards the smoke, and as I took the postponed chance to rest my head, I thought lazily about the differences in moral priotities between a Muslim woman and her equivalent in the West. No doubt for that Somali woman, bedecked in her Hijab and modest cloak, the lady in front who winced at her behaviour was a barbarian. No doubt her short skirt, social independence and unmutilated labia marked her out as someone awaiting civilisation. My thoughts of the Somali – of course – were of the same kind.
And that’s a good (if slightly ludicrous) analogy for the Muslim-Kaffir quarrel itself. As Christopher Hitchens wrote, it is not a ‘clash of civilisations’, but a clash about what constitutes civilisation that most separates East from West.
Or of course, I could be reading too much into a woman with no table manners.
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It would be something of an understatement to say that Emma Watson’s speech at the United Nations last week – in which she argued for a revitalisation of global feminism – has been well received. Such is the intensity of the world’s approval that criticism of the speech could well be greeted as blasphemy.
‘How could you not be moved by that?’ ‘She’s so humble and brave. What right have you got to say anything…?’
And it’s certainly impossible to deny that the speech Watson delivered was delivered extremely well. The 24 year-old actress, dressed in white with a plunging neckline, commanded sympathy with her blandly perfect appearance, her velvet Estuary tone like a well tuned violin, and her balanced and rehearsed acting (some of it very close in quality to the performances which made her name.)
How could anyone criticise that?
Well, if by ‘that’ you mean Emma Watson herself, I don’t want to. But we must all take issue with the content of her speech, for our own sake and for the sake of civilisation.
In order to react rationally to a speech given by a charismatic orator, it is important to read a transcript afterward before making a final judgement. The words on paper, robbed of the distortions of visual and audial bias, must stand on their own two feet, and if they cannot, then something is amiss.
Watson spoke well. But did she speak sense? Let’s examine a few quotes:
“Feminism, by definition, is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes.”
This is quite simply untrue. Feminism, whatever its founding ideals, has mutated into something far stranger and more destructive than the commonsensical sentiment described. Indeed, the notion or belief that ‘men and women should have equal rights and opportunities’ has never been exclusive to feminism and it represents a very arrogant appropriation of moral ground to remark otherwise. Marxism is not the owner of social justice, and feminism is not the owner of sexual equality. Marxism and Feminism thrive on society’s failures to address social justice and sexual equality, and without them, would die.
“Women are choosing not to identify as feminists. Apparently, I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, ‘too aggressive,’ isolating and anti-men, unattractive, even. Why has the word become such an uncomfortable one?”
The answer here is that feminists have a long and ignominious record of making hateful comments about men, up to and including calls for the elimination of the gender entirely. The women who want no part in that are not ‘uncomfortable’ – they are not prepared to sacrifice their humanity for their sex.
“I am from Britain and I think it is right that I am paid the same as my male counterparts. I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body (applause)”
Though the third-worlders who applauded this might have imagined it to be a reference to genital mutilation, that baleful phrase ‘make decisions about my own body’ is more likely referring to abortion; a totally invalid point and a horribly deceptive misuse of language.
When a woman is pregnant, she has inside her body another body. The body inside her body (possibly a woman) also has the right to make decisions about her body, and the only way this is possible is if she/he survives to make those decisions.
“No country in the world can yet say that they have achieved gender equality.”
Not even Sweden – where to be a man is to be guilty from birth? How much more ground can men give?
“We don’t want to talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that they are. When they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. If men don’t have to be aggressive, women won’t be compelled to be submissive. If men don’t need to control, women won’t have to be controlled.”
This is one of the most radical and sinister strains of feminist thought. The idea that men (with their signature aggression and masculinity) must become woman-like in order for women to live in peace and the world in justice. Just how anti-natural and ruinous a thought is that? For the answer, look no further than the West today; where immigrant communities unaffected by feminism rule the streets, and White and East-Asian pansies are trampled demographically underfoot.
The remainder of the speech (which can be found on YouTube in full) was dedicated to emotional posture and snakish charm. The points quoted above were the warheads wrapped so deviously in the fruit.
Let it be understood, I have nothing at all against women’s rights. For a just society to work, a woman must have exactly the same liberties as a man. But this is moral common sense. It does not require the murder of children, the emasculation of men, or the demographic collapse of the only civilisation capable of upholding the rights of women.
The other day (having nothing else to do) I watched an interesting video on the Glenn Beck YouTube channel. In a ten-minute presentation, the flame-haired libertarian mourned the tendency of popular culture to emphasise and celebrate the negative. Where, he asked, is the art celebrating existence as opposed to devaluing it? I really share Beck’s exasperation on this issue and would identify one artistic trend above all as having led to the contemporary state.
Few attitudes have been more corrosive to British (and Western) potential as that we call ‘irony’. Married to the postmodern, irony (a mirage of depth) has deeply wounded, if not retarded Britain for over three decades. The famed British sense of humour now deals in little else. Nothing is said seriously. Sincerity and positivity are frowned upon, deemed to be infantile or unevolved. Those who celebrate openly positive concepts are dismissed as not being in on the joke of the age.
According to this position, life is a burden, a death-sentence. One may as well smoke or inject heroin as go out and exercise. The end result will always be the same; the endless grave. Hope for an afterlife or for a final, lasting justice is suited to childhood. People should be dark, philosophical and counter to all natural principles. Nature is ugly. Humanity overrated.
This poisonous attitude; the taking of life and nature as a joke we have worked out and transcended, must surely be the greatest burden of our history.
I am not wholly immune to its charm. For many years, I idolised the Kurt Cobain approach to living. The introverted poet, prone to self-harm, addicted to cheap pleasure, destined for self-destruction. I thought the painted smiles of White America were corporate illusions, and that when the camera faced another way, the smiles would surely drop. Never did I consider that those Americans were actually living more in tune with the rhythm of the universe than I or Cobain.
What is so wrong with health? What is so wrong with hope for the future, sincerity in emotion, politeness, hatred of death, celebration of life and vitality?
In England, we often associate smiles with stupidity and frowns with depth. Our musicians – even those with great talent like Radiohead – lean towards the dark margins around life, avoiding moments of integrity like spores of anthrax. We mock the happy and exalt the ironic. We are too intelligent to be happy.
Isn’t it time someone launched a cultural movement to counter this?
To be sure, there are some who claim to be making a start, but this is usually not in the way we ought to welcome. The ‘New Sincerity Movement’ in music for example, seeks to degrade the power of irony with the creation of unapologetically sentimental artworks. But sentimentalism is or can be just as corrosive as irony.
What we need is a positivity movement; a trend across the creative disciplines (but especially in literature and music) which resurrects natural principles. The rock band Sportfreunde Stiller are a good example of the way ahead. Stiller, a German three-piece, are known for their simple and positive song-writing as well their celebration of sport (sport and athleticism being far removed from the traditional lyrical themes of rock).
More broadly, culture must be revaluated from top to bottom, and the barometer of worth must be positivity. If self-help books, religious belief, vitamin tablets, Christian rock or therapy increase your feeling of life, pursue them.
Positivity is what the world exists for, lest we ever forget. The anti-natural are foreign to it. They are unnatural. In any other system of life, the rotten parts drop away, rejected by the elements that still have the will to flourish. Perhaps this is how it should be. To be alive at all is a state of indescribable luxury. To waste life is a crime against being.
I’ve been in Italy for five days. A late summer holiday. (I’ll of course be back to writing next week.)
I must admit it has been nice to have a break from thinking about doom-laden things. It’s also a great pleasure to return to Italian soil.
One can hardly overstate the beauty of this country. Every nook and cranny is worthy of a painting or a poem. Streets are glamorously narrow (the kind you see on those posters in Caffe Nero). Houses are artworks in themselves. Even the poorer-seeming buildings, marked with age and sour in colour, retain a strange and ancient dignity, unlike any equivalent on England’s threadbare estates.
I’ve been travelling mainly around the Northern cities this time; a region quite remarkable on its own two feet. The area is referred to as ‘Padania’ by its more nationalistic residents and there is a well-established movement to make it independent. This movement (spearheaded by the Lega Nord – Northern League) is stupid, but its motivating logic is not difficult to grasp.
Padania (Northern Italy) is one of the most productive regions of the European Union. Every Italian carmaker you’ve ever heard of has its base or construction centre here; Maserati, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo being some of the largest and most well known. ‘Padanian’ cities include the historic splendours of Milan, Venice, Turin and Genoa. (Milan incidentally is every inch as beautiful as Rome). The people of Padania are said to be ethnically Celtic and are resented for a snobbish attitude towards their southern countrymen, much like the English North-South divide in reverse.
Despite this affluence, and though I’ve tried to keep politics out of my mind, the signs of the European times are visible even here. Young people seem in a different (lower) mood than the last time I was in Milan. Though the employment rate is better than in the South, there are still many sad and bored looking faces to be found in the afternoon. The Piazza del Duomo is fuller in the daytime than before. There are more drunk people than before. There are more unused buildings than before.
Still, for a comfortable resident or tourist, the life here is almost faultless. The time goes by too quickly. Europe has never seemed so precious.