Photographer Robert Polidori:
James Kirchik on PC victimology, where Muslim > gay, black > female, and everybody > the Jews:
As a gay, Jewish man (consider privilege duly checked), I am not unfamiliar with, or unsympathetic to, the idea of highlighting the problems faced by victimized minorities. Earlier this month, for example, I came across a story that made me want to mount the barricades in righteous indignation. Images circulated by the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights showed a group of Islamic State thugs in the city of Tal Abyad shoving an elderly, blindfolded man from a plastic chair from the heights of a seven-story building. Nothing special in the land of the Islamic State, except for the “crime” that the man was accused of committing: homosexuality.
According to the Observatory, the man survived the fall (one photo depicts Islamic State members huddling around their victim, sitting upright on the ground, checking to see if he was still alive). But he was soon put out of his misery when the crowd that had gathered to watch this macabre scene stoned him to death.
Here is an instance when identity politics, put into practice, could be eminently useful. Islamists kill homosexuals for something they cannot change: their sexuality. It’s the same reason they kill Jews, by the way, and the motive is quite clarifying, or it at least should be. Indeed, the recent spate of attacks against Jews qua Jews in Western Europe ought be a wake-up call to that segment of the global left that insists there exists some sort of quasi-moral license for Arabs who kill Israeli civilians because of the existence of settlements. Those who obsess over identity politics—who believe that every political and social question can be reduced to somebody’s skin pigmentation or what’s between their legs—ought to realize that there is no truck with people who kill people precisely because of their immutable traits. When it comes to fighting violent Islamist supremacy—theocratic, sexist, genocidal, homicidally anti-gay—the identity politics brigade should put warmongering neocons to shame.
Yet just at the moment when we need our identity-politics warriors to be most outraged, they are notably silent. Why?
Many progressives would claim that they believe in “intersectionality”: that aspects of an individual cannot be separated out to highlight the oppression associated with that group. And so we cannot understand Muslims killing gays without first understanding the effect of Western colonial power on the peoples of Muslim lands. The embrace of insersectionality by progressives is ironic in that it has undermined one of the left’s greatest (and most fundamental) attributes—universalism—and replaced it with a myopia that obsesses over the minute concerns of ever-narrowingly defined minority groups, rather than those of broader segments of society, like, say, the American working class. Traditional liberals committed to addressing widespread disparities related to class, race, and gender...become enemies of the intersectionalists because they fail to pay sufficient obeisance to the grievances of each and every imaginable minority amalgamation....
But while intersectionality goes some way to explaining the penchant for moral equivalence that has overcome much of the online left, even that’s just a cover. The truth is simpler, which is that there exists, in the progressive universe, a victim hierarchy. It used to be quite fashionable to root for the gays, but that was back in the 1980s when they were dying of AIDS and Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were arrayed against them. Today, HIV is a manageable disease, gays can get married, and many of them are white, live in the suburbs, and sometimes even vote Republican. Same with Jews.
The discussion of vital issues today has been reduced to a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, in which the validity of one’s argument is determined not by the strength of your reasoning but by the relative worth of the immutable qualities you bring to the table, be it skin color, sexual orientation, or genitalia (or, in the case of pre-operative transsexuals, wished-for genitalia). In the game of Race, Gender, Sexuality, black beats white, woman beats man, trans beats cisgender, and gay (or, preferably, “queer”) beats straight.
There's much more. From an American point of view, certainly, but still worth a read.
Taslima Nasreen has put together a list of quotes from the Koran and the hadiths which makes a nonsense of claims that ISIS etc. are somehow not real Muslims. Unfortunately, they very much are:
The Islamic killers used big sharp knives to kill Dr. Avijit Roy, the well known blogger. ISIS terrorists use sharp knives to behead people. They like knives because Muhammad liked knives to kill nonbelievers. Islamist leaders convince fellow Islamists to kill nonbelievers for the sake of Islam. Allah Himself advised people to kill. There are many Islamic organizations in Bangladesh working to indoctrinate young people with Islam. The leaders of those organizations insist people to believe in the Quran, the words of Allah and the Hadith, the words of Muhammad. Governments and almost all established organizations encourage people to believe in Allah the God and Muhammad the messenger.
If you are a Muslim, you have to believe in the Quran and Hadith. And if you believe in the Quran and Hadith, you have to agree with Allah that atheists should be brutally killed. These are the texts that inspire Islamists to kill Avijit Roy, the atheist who wrote books and blogs about universe, evolution, philosophy, criticized all religions including Islam. These are the texts that inspire ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab etc. to kill infidels and non-Muslims.
It's a long list; taken from here:
Unlike nearly all of the Old Testament verses of violence, the verses of violence in the Quran are mostly open-ended, meaning that they are not restrained by the historical context of the surrounding text. They are part of the eternal, unchanging word of Allah, and just as relevant or subjective as anything else in the Quran.
The context of violent passages is more ambiguous than might be expected of a perfect book from a loving God, however this can work both ways. Most of today's Muslims exercise a personal choice to interpret their holy book's call to arms according to their own moral preconceptions about justifiable violence. Apologists cater to their preferences with tenuous arguments that gloss over historical fact and generally do not stand up to scrutiny. Still, it is important to note that the problem is not bad people, but bad ideology.
At the turn of the twentieth century Christians accounted for 20 to 25 percent of the population of the Middle East. Today they are barely 2 percent.
Hisham Melhem on the twilight of Middle Eastern Christianity:
The plight of the Christian communities in the Middle East is a dire warning, that unless the written and unwritten policies and practices of intimidation, discrimination against the Christians and their exclusion from Political life is confronted and ended, the fate of these indigenous and ancient groups will be similar to the fate of the old Jewish communities who lived in the major cities of the region; immigration, exodus and /or expulsion. A similar fate befell the Greek, Italian and Armenian communities that made Egypt and the Levant their homes. This rich human mosaic was at the heart of the cosmopolitanism that made Alexandria and Beirut such vibrant cultural and economic centers, and Damascus and Baghdad modern Arab capitals celebrating religious and ethnic diversity and pluralism, but that was mostly before WWII, before formal Independence, the rise of xenophobic nationalism, the military coups and the first Arab-Israeli war.
We Muslims are too quick to play the race card. Iram Ramzan in the Sunday Times (£ - scroll down):
There are problems in some Muslim communities that allow for unpleasant and often dangerous views to fester. A BBC poll of 1,000 British Muslims, published last week, found that 27% had sympathy for the motives for the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. A Muslim man from Bradford, when asked on Radio 4 about the cartoons, remarked, “If they hadn’t poked fun at our prophet, no one would have died.”
Even seemingly modern Muslims share these views. Many do not support violence or murder, but they believe their communities are always under attack and unfair scrutiny. Just listen to the BBC Asian Network’s phone-in show on any given day and hear how many Muslim callers either deny the existence of Isis, insisting it is a CIA plot (no, really), or condemn as non-Muslims anyone who follows a different interpretation of Islam.
Some on the political left have lent support to Islamist organisations such as Cage — a pseudo human-rights group – and are silent about the rise of fundamentalism, possibly because they do not wish to be labelled as racists.
Unfortunately, such groups receive support not just from local politicians but also from naive Muslims who want to tackle Islamophobia, little realising that they are tacitly supporting shady organisations.
These push forth poisonous ideologies, yet in the same breath claim to be victims of Islamophobia and racism. They blame everyone else for radicalisation.
It is not just Islamists who play the victim card. Whenever there is a discussion on anything relating to Islam or terrorism, conspiracy theories are wheeled out by many Muslims: 9/11, 7/7 and Osama bin Laden’s death were all CIA or Israeli (read: Jewish) plots to justify more wars, they say.
The bar is set low for Muslims. We are satisfied with people condemning murder, as though that is something to be congratulated. But condemnation alone is nothing if the root causes are not tackled.
Foreign policy and other grievances are exploited by extremist preachers, many of whom have been given platforms in mosques and university Islamic societies. Activists have long been warning institutions and those on the left not to cosy up to soft Islamists, who have been arguing for the creation of a caliphate for decades.
The seeds of this destructive and reactionary ideology were sown a long time ago. Until we stop getting defensive and start challenging the mindset within our own communities, nothing will ever change.
As we now know, Jihadi John., aka Mohammed Emwazi, attended Westminster University. So did Avinash Tharoor:
My first impression was that the university was an example of multiculturalism’s success.
But the longer I spent on campus, the more I noticed strange occurrences and remarks that seemed to fit with an Islamist ideology. Eventually, I realized, these ideas were deeply ingrained at Westminster, allowing individuals to feel comfortable advocating dangerous and discriminatory beliefs.
The entrenched nature of Islamist extremism on campus became most apparent during my final year at Westminster. Gay friends told me of derisive comments they overheard from individuals who made no attempt to hide their flagrant homophobia.
A Christian friend who campaigned to be student union president faced intimidation and harassment regarding his beliefs and his appearance. He has a beard, and supporters of his opponent alleged that he was growing facial hair to trick voters into thinking he was Muslim. A female friend of South Asian ancestry told me how she was intimidated in the university library by a group of men who deemed her a “non-Muslim b----” after she declared her support for my Christian friend.
These are just a few examples of what I believe to be a more widespread phenomenon of religiously motivated intimidation experienced by students at Westminster. Several of my peers — the targets of these comments — filed complaints with the student union, but they were met with indifference and vague assurances that the issue would be dealt with. In my frustration at the time, I wrote an article about this discrimination for our university’s newspaper, but I received no response from the university or the student union.
From my experiences, I believe that the university is unwittingly complicit in perpetuating such radicalization, as it has often allowed Islamist extremism to go unchallenged. I don’t think the university itself is advocating extremism, but by failing to prevent the advocacy of such ideas, the institution is attracting students who are sympathetic to them. Students who do not identify with extreme Islamist ideology are being put at risk of discrimination, intimidation and potentially radicalization by the university’s failure to properly handle the situation.
Grim stuff. And I doubt, frankly, that Westminster is that much worse than many other UK universities.
I hope that the humiliation of having Jihadi John among its alumni leads Westminster to implement big changes to quell extremism. If it does not, I fear for how many new recruits the Islamic State might garner from the graduating class of 2015.
Cyclist Danny MacAskill on Sgurr Dearg, aka the Inaccessible Pinnacle, a feature of the Cuillin Ridge on Skye:
[Photo: Chris Prescott, National Geographic Your Shot]
Taken during the filming of The Ridge. Looks like he actually carries the bike up there. It's all a wee bit scary.
Interesting - as always - from Paul Berman:
It is...true that, in the Middle East, the Kurds have never figured as a big power, or even a medium power. You could argue that, realistically speaking, the minority status of the Kurds should lead us to temper our applause. Some years ago, when I was spending a lot of time in Paris, I used to ruminate over this question. I had the honor of participating in the activities of a group that called itself the Circle of the Anti-totalitarian Left, which put out a first-rate magazine and held some well-attended meetings. The participants in the Circle of the Anti-totalitarian Left took the view that Islamists and Baathists were equivalent evils. And the participants took the view that Saddam Hussein deserved his fate, even if George W. Bush was responsible for inflicting it upon him. These were enlightened opinions, I thought.
Only, I did begin to notice that, among my comrades in the anti-totalitarian circle, nearly everyone seemed to belong to a marginal population of one stripe or another, with a history of being persecuted. A number of Algerians were active in the circle—and the Algerians turned out to be Kabyles instead of Arabs. The French people in attendance in the meetings turned out to be, upon closer inspection, Jews and Protestants, which is to say, members of ancient French minority groups. Not all of them, but most. The meetings took place in a hall provided by a friendly Protestant minister. There were Iranians, too—who proved to be Bahais. And there was a cluster of Kurdish exiles. The Circle of the Anti-totalitarian Left turned out to be, in sum, a United Nations of the minoritarian, the defeated, and the marginal.
But so what? The Middle East has always been the sort of place that, if you were to work up a color-coded map of its ethnic and religious variations, would look kaleidoscopically chaotic. Algeria is an Arab country, but its Kabyles might conceivably be a majority, depending on how you define Kabyles and Arabs. The Bahais figure within an Iran that, if you break down the statistics, may contain barely a majority of Persian Shia. As for the redoubtable Kurds, it is getting harder to believe that statelessness will forever be their national destiny. I draw a policy conclusion. In faraway America, we ought to adopt, for own benefit and everyone else’s, the shocking new strategy of treating our friends as friends, even if our friends have enemies. The Kurds in Paris just now, the Kurds in northern Syria, the Kurds in Iraq—these people are our friends, not just militarily. These people are our friends philosophically. Shouldn’t this count for something?
This is new to me (via this Metafilter post): bluesman Robert "Wolfman" Belfour. From a 2011 concert at Colorado College:
No, not the most wide-ranging or sophisticated music; but it is kind of mesmeric, this Hill country blues.
ISIS thugs at the museum in Mosul:
Update: video now taken direct from MEMRI after its removal from YouTube.
Update 2: According to the Times (£), some of the smashed artefacts were in fact modern plaster casts, with the originals held elsewhere. Not all, though:
Western experts said that all the artefacts shown being destroyed in the video appeared to come from the Nergal Gate museum rather than the city’s better known central museum.
The destruction depicted in the Isis video included original artefacts of incalculable value, experts said. A set of huge winged bull statues destroyed with hammers and drills stood at the Nergal Gate, one of the ancient entrances to Nineveh, said Dr Sam Hardy, an academic at University College London who runs the Conflict Antiquities blog.
They were original Assyrian artefacts from the 7th-9th centuries BC, said Professor Eleanor Robson, of the Ancient Near Eastern History department at University College.
“They were gorgeous,” she said. “They are not unique, there are other examples in Chicago and London, Istanbul and Paris, but they were the last ones in Iraq. For local people to have access to their own history ... that’s the end of that.”
Other “precious and original” pieces destroyed, she said, included funerary monuments from Hatra, a Seleucid Empire site a few miles south of Mosul
Experts expressed relief that in some instances metal frames in the statuary, visible as they were smashed, demonstrated that the pieces were modern moulded reproductions.
A pair of statues seen being broken up were of men wearing pointed hats from Hatra, the only Unesco World Heritage Site in Iraq, dating from the 2nd century BC, said British experts. They were copies, however, and the originals are thought to be held in another Iraqi museum.
A frieze smashed out of a wall in the video was a reproduction of an Assyrian exhibit whose original is at the British Museum.
More on Muslim apostates, from Nick Cohen:
A few days ago Imtiaz, a solar engineer; Aliya, a campaigner for secular education; Sohail, a gay Somali in his twenties; and Sara, a bright student, went to Queen Mary University of London in the East End and made an astonishingly brave stand.
Astonishing because they volunteered to step forward to the front line after the Islamist murders of satirists and Jews in Paris and Copenhagen. Before an audience and in front of cameras, they explained why they had left Islam. They had become ‘apostates’, to use a dangerous word, which blackens what ought to be a personal decision that free adults in free countries ought to be free to make without anyone threatening them. In the mouths of theocrats, ‘apostasy’ turns individual rights to freedom of conscience into a sin and a betrayal.
The ex-Muslims knew all about the costs of challenging the taboos of their families. Sara was sparkling and funny, but her voice cracked when she described how her parents ‘chose religion over me’, and how the last words she remembered her sister saying were to wish that she were dead.
Any child who breaks away from a devoutly or fanatically religious background or a sectarian or political cult faces the same pain. Your parents hate you for rejecting their dogmas. Shame at your treacherous rejection of your tribe and its taboos supplants love, and you become an outcast.
But there is something else with Islam. Most ex-Muslims are in the closet because they live with the fear of violence. If you want to go to one of their meetings, they will vet you first to see if you are a spy who will denounce them to their violent enemies. This in London, the supposedly cosmopolitan capital of a democratic country, with a Human Rights Act that supposedly guarantees religious freedom.
Except that in practice Britain does no such thing. The religious have the freedom to proselytise and seek converts, and to insist that their remarkably tender feelings be treated with ‘respect’. But the converse does not apply. If ex-Muslims denounce religious bigotry, they put themselves in danger....
Across the Muslim world today the tyrannical are triumphing over the tolerant. It is not just the Islamic State, Iran and other enemies of the West who punish apostasy with death, but the West’s ‘allies’ in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Unsurprisingly in an interconnected world, the foul belief that you can punish men and women for following their consciences flourishes in Britain too.
Last year Britain’s Council of ex-Muslims produced a report on the publicly quoted opinions of the leading figures in the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IEra). Do not let its numbingly bureaucratic name fool you. One minute a supporter called Ifthekar Jaman was distributing Islamist propaganda in Portsmouth while dressed in an IEra-supplied T-shirt. The next he was fighting and eventually dying for Isis in Iraq. Its leaders peddle all the usual prejudices about gays, women and Jews. And alongside those enemies stand apostates. Hamza Tzortzis, a founder and leading speaker of IEra, was asked whether Islam condones a death penalty for blasphemy and apostasy.
‘Yes it does, yes,’ he replied, before going on to opine that beheading would be a painless means of killing ex-Muslims.
Luckily you have the chance to hear the very same Hamza Tzortis live and in person this evening, courtesy of Goldsmiths Islamic Society. That's the same Goldsmiths College, remember, where comedian Kate Smurthwaite's gig was cancelled a few weeks back because they supposedly couldn't guarantee her safety (she holds the wrong views on the sex industry for certain feminists, who threatened disruption). A guest speaker who believes apostates should be beheaded, though? Absolutely no problem. What self-respecting student nowadays would object to that? They'd only be revealing themselves as Islamophobes.