Taking a short break. Should be back Wednesday (the 8th).
Sticking with early Seventies Soul Train: weird hair again, though not as weird as last week, plus regrettable teletubby-style costumes. But still, a great song from Philadelphia's finest:
From 1972, when Gamble and Huff were starting to build up their Philadelphia International Records as a major black rival to Motown in the smooth Soul market.
Lead singer Teddy Pendergrass went solo in 1976 and went on to a hugely successful career, with four platinum albums and two gold albums, performing to women-only audiences of adoring fans. He was paralysed from the waist down in a 1982 car crash, and died in 2010.
While Hirsi Ali maintains that most Muslims are peaceful, she points out that the actions of the violent minority are nevertheless sanctioned by the religion itself, and she quotes the relevant verses to prove it. There is much brutality in the Jewish and Christian Bibles, of course, but worldwide movements in which Christians and Jews cite scripture to justify mass murder or crimes against humanity simply do not exist in the 21st century. These older religions have reformed or interpreted the brutality out of their traditions.
Much of the Muslim world, by contrast, rather than scrutinizing and nullifying scriptural barbarism, either embraces it or pretends it’s not there. “The majority of otherwise peaceful and law-abiding Muslims,” Hirsi Ali writes, “are unwilling to acknowledge, much less to repudiate, the theological warrant for intolerance and violence embedded in their own religious texts.”...
“Islamic doctrine is adaptable,” Hirsi Ali writes. “Certain parts of the Koran were abrogated over time. So there is no reason to believe the militant verses of the Medina period should always be given priority. If Muslims wish their religion to be a religion of peace, all they have to do is ‘abrogate’ those Medinan verses.”
Those who attempt do so, however, are risking their lives. In a time when drawing the wrong cartoon can get someone killed in Texas or France, repealing parts of the Koran in Riyadh requires uncommon bravery. Set aside the views of ISIS and al-Qaeda; the recognized governments of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Sudan consider such action a hanging offense. “The clerics fear that even the smallest of questions will lead to doubt,” Hirsi Ali writes. And “doubt will lead to more questions, and ultimately the questioning mind will demand not only answers but also innovations. An innovation in turn will create a precedent. Other minds that question will build on these precedents and more concessions will be demanded. Soon people will be innovating themselves out of their faith altogether.”...
In the meantime, we are where we are. ISIS controls vast swaths of Syria and Iraq, and is expanding into Libya and Yemen. Bombs rip through markets in Baghdad. Foreign oil workers are beheaded in Libya. Cartoonists and Jewish citizens are assassinated in Paris, café patrons are taken hostage in Sydney. The majority of the world’s Muslims may stand aghast, but the perpetrators are adherents of Islam—no matter who admits it.
Most Muslims are still in denial because the ramifications of recognizing these monsters as their co-religionists are staggering. But, as Hirsi Ali notes, they’ll eventually have to face the truth.
Newsboy, aged 12, at the corner of 4th and Pine St in Wilmington, Delaware, May 1910:
From a gallery at In Focus on Child Labor in America 100 Years Ago, featuring the photographs and captions of Lewis Hine.
Louis had just started selling, earning 10 cents in a day. His father had passed away. Louis, of his own accord, took up newspaper selling in order to help support his widowed mother. Louis stays out until 12:30 every night and accompanies his brother, Stanley, who is a messenger, on all calls because Stanley is afraid to be out on the street alone at night.
The United States has blocked attempts by its Middle East allies to fly heavy weapons directly to the Kurds fighting Islamic State jihadists in Iraq, The Telegraph has learnt.
Some of America’s closest allies say President Barack Obama and other Western leaders, including David Cameron, are failing to show strategic leadership over the world’s gravest security crisis for decades.
They now say they are willing to “go it alone” in supplying heavy weapons to the Kurds, even if means defying the Iraqi authorities and their American backers, who demand all weapons be channelled through Baghdad.
High level officials from Gulf and other states have told this newspaper that all attempts to persuade Mr Obama of the need to arm the Kurds directly as part of more vigorous plans to take on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) have failed. The Senate voted down one attempt by supporters of the Kurdish cause last month.
The officials say they are looking at new ways to take the fight to Isil without seeking US approval....
The Peshmerga have been successfully fighting Isil, driving them back from the gates of Erbil and, with the support of Kurds from neighbouring Syria, re-establishing control over parts of Iraq’s north-west.
But they are doing so with a makeshift armoury. Millions of pounds-worth of weapons have been bought by a number of European countries to arm the Kurds, but American commanders, who are overseeing all military operations against Isil, are blocking the arms transfers.
One of the core complaints of the Kurds is that the Iraqi army has abandoned so many weapons in the face of Isil attack, the Peshmerga are fighting modern American weaponry with out-of-date Soviet equipment.
At least one Arab state is understood to be considering arming the Peshmerga directly, despite US opposition.
The US has also infuriated its allies, particularly Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf states, by what they perceive to be a lack of clear purpose and vacillation in how they conduct the bombing campaign. Other members of the coalition say they have identified clear Isil targets but then been blocked by US veto from firing at them.
“There is simply no strategic approach,” one senior Gulf official said. “There is a lack of coordination in selecting targets, and there is no overall plan for defeating Isil.”
To return once more (sorry) to the subject of Sir Tim Hunt...
Cathy Newman, in the Telegraph: You wouldn't defend racism. So stop backing sexist scientist Tim Hunt.
It's worth thinking about, I suppose, despite the assumption that because he made a (poor) joke about sexism he must then be sexist. What if he'd joked about race?
Here's how (we believe) he started his speech:
“It’s strange that such a chauvinist monster like me has been asked to speak to women scientists. Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry. Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls?
“Now seriously, I’m impressed by the economic development of Korea. And women scientists played, without doubt an important role in it. Science needs women and you should do science despite all the obstacles, and despite monsters like me....."
What if he'd started off..."It’s strange that such a racist monster like me has been asked to speak to ethnic minority scientists. Let me tell you about my trouble with blacks...."? Could it still be excused?
Doubtless not. For a start no one would have the lack of sensitivity to address a room full of black scientists with such an opening. So why women scientists?
Well....these comparisons are always problematic. We are, at the moment, approaching the last few games of the Women's World Cup in Canada. So - what if we had a Black World Cup? The idea, we can agree, is grotesque and offensive. Is this a killer argument against a Woman's World Cup, then? No it isn't. Why not? Well.... (ducks)....because men and women are different in certain ways. In ways that white and black people are not. So, sex and race aren't always interchangeable equivalents. Which should be obvious, but perhaps needs pointing out.
What about women in science, then? Where does the argument go here? Well, clearly, women in science should be treated on absolutely equal terms with men. Scientific aptitude is not one of those areas where men and women differ. Historically their achievements certainly differed, but those days, we hope, are over. It's not football. So that's not where my argument's going. And indeed, it certainly wasn't Tim Hunt's argument - as he made clear later on in his speech.
No, my argument is that whereas jokes about race are now very largely dead - and good riddance - jokes about sex are not dead - and thank goodness. Sex (gender) differences are an old mainstay of comedy. Race differences are - were - invariably an offensive subject. Gender differences are an endless source of cultural commentary - humorous and otherwise - however much we may disagree about what those differences are, and the extent to which they may or may not even exist. Historically, of course, that's been mostly one way: men joking about women..."My wife..."..."My mother-in-law"...."Blondes.." More recently we've seen the tables turned. "Blokes, what are they like??" Feckless, drunk, childish, violent....
It's a constantly shifting area.. A great deal of what passed for humour in the past now strikes us as crude and sexist. To return to Sir Tim's remarks, though: these clearly aren't of the boorish, laddish kind - Hey laydeez, whassa matter? Lost ya sense of humour? It's awkward, and ineptly done - as I argued before - but no, not offensive.
Which is why, I think, the old racist = sexist argument fails here. The two may be in some ways comparable, but not always.
Dan Cruickshank's Civilisation Under Attack on BBC4 last night - on the destruction and looting by ISIS of architectural and cultural treasures in Iraq and Syria - at least had the advantage of clarifying the arguments for us. The most eloquent and passionate of the interviewees was Matthew Bogdanos, author of Thieves of Baghdad. Cruickshank interviewed him back in 2003 when he was a colonel in the Marines investigating the looting of Baghdad’s National Museum, and interviewed him again now, in New York, where he's an attorney. We can pass all the resolution we like, he said, talk about our horror and disgust at endless conferences and seminars, but it'll make not a blind bit of difference. Nothing's going to happen unless we actually get serious, and use armed force against these thugs.
As Tom Holland, pointed out, though, "I don't see how we can, morally, as a society, intervene on behalf of stones and statues and not intervene on behalf of the women and the children and the men who are being slaughtered." Indeed. Though Holland went on to draw a different conclusion than mine.
Another interviewee was Anjem Choudary. No doubt he was only too pleased to increase his profile, and happily vouchsafed his support for the destruction. In time, he said, as he and Dan chatted in an East End sweet shop, when it's Egypt's turn, all the pyramids and all the other pre-Islamic rubbish will be destroyed - and a good thing too. It'd be nice to think that Choudary condemned himself out of his own mouth, but that's not quite how these things tend to work. With an unflappable Choudary - smug, self-assured - against an increasingly exasperated and red-faced Cruickshank, there was really only one winner. A quote from Yeats comes to mind. But at least it helped to clarify one point: there's no reasoning with these people.
So what are the answers? Cruickshank managed to track down a woman curator from the museum in Mosul, whom he'd interviewed back in 2002. She's now living in exile. Her suggestion? “We have to start with the word love in order to start again – and that’s it.” Well OK. The last word was left to Tom Holland, who believed that any form of intervention would only make things worse. All we can do, he said, is hope.
So there we are. Civilisation is under threat - and we cross our fingers.
It used to be a common theme in left-wing circles that the West creates its enemies in order to perpetuate its power - the rule of the military-industrial complex etc. etc.. After the fall of the Soviet empire, so the argument went, another enemy had to be manufactured to keep the masses in line, and, hey presto, along came militant Islam. Unfortunately, with the best will in the world, it's increasingly difficult to argue that the latest manifestation of Islam can be blamed on Western scheming - though god knows people try. And yet, ironically, ISIS could hardly be improved on as an enemy of everything the West stands for. If they are indeed the creation of Mossad, the CIA, whoever, then those people deserve some kind of award. It's impossible to imagine a more perfect enemy: extraordinary brutality, misogyny, homophobia...the list goes on, and on. Anti-everything that makes civilised life worth living. Anti-civilisation.
And what do we do now that we've found the perfect enemy? - an enemy that's made it clear that, for them at least, it's a fight to the death. We do nothing. Well, not quite nothing. The only group willing to fight ISIS at the moment are the Kurds. Turkey - NATO ally and friend of the West - is apparently planning to invade Syria. To stop, not ISIS, but the Kurds. So - worse that nothing.
That the North were the victims of aggression in the Korean War has always been a vital part of state propaganda. See, for instance, the recent huge Pyongyang rally marking the 65th anniversary of the outbreak of war: part of "Struggle Against U.S. Imperialism Month". But the truth is, inexorably, leaking out. From the Daily NK:
North Korea has up until this day maintained it was South Korea that invaded its territory, sparking up the Korean War, but over the past few years, more people in the North are coming to understand this is not the case.
In the month of June, Pyongyang has been extensively propagating that the June 25th Korean War was an act of aggression initiated by the United States and South Korea, but many members of the public have been criticizing this, Daily NK has learned.
"The number of people who have concluded the Korean War was started by us (North Korea) is growing gradually,” a source from South Pyongan Province recently informed Daily NK through a phone conversation. “Ever since the General (Kim Jong Un) came to power, the frustrations of residents have been building up. And they are criticizing propaganda claiming the Korean War was started by the U.S. and the South, calling it a lie.”
Sources in both North and South Hamkyung Provinces reported the same sentiments to be pervasive in their respective regions.
"Claims that we (the North) invaded the South have been around for a long time. Most men who have served in the military say it does not make sense that we would have conquered most of the South in a matter of days if we had been invaded,” explained the source. “By asserting it would have been impossible to do so without us launching the attack, they are in fact acknowledging we initiated war.”
There are signs of growing dissatisfaction among residents, and since Kim Jong Un took power such sentiments are taking on different forms of expression, he said. Despite authorities holding all kinds of anti-U.S. rallies and events at factories and school nationwide, in light of the June ‘anti-American month,’ most people have snubbed such efforts by saying “we started the war.”
During the month of June, streets have been plastered with anti-American slogans, lectures and classes are being shown on television, and photo exhibitions are taking place as well. Schools and the Chosun Democratic Women’s Union have even organized poetry readings and are screening movies on the Korean War every day, according to the source.
"They also propagate that the Korean War, which broke out 65 years ago, was a war of aggression led by the United States, and that Americans are still looking for the right opportunity, while drawing in massive weapons and military equipment to the South,” he asserted. "They encourage all residents to participate in an ‘all-out resistance movement against American Imperialists and their new provocations for war.'”
However, people now see through the hypocrisy of the leadership, commenting on how it so easily accepts rice and medical support from its sworn enemy. According to the source, some younger people go so far as criticizing the invasion itself saying the North was in fact defeated having not been able to achieve its goal despite invading the South.
Though from the map - just north of Banbury Reservoir - I see that this may actually be the River Ching. Which is new to me.
Wikipedia: The river runs through Chingford, but the name of the river is a back-formation from the name of that area, rather than the town being named after the river.
So there you go. A back-formation. Seems about right.
So where are we now with this regrettable saga? Well, UCL have issued a statement to the effect that Sir Tim would not be reinstated: it would "send out the wrong signal following the professor’s remarks over women in science".
The original story, remember, presented Hunt's comments as though he'd said, in all seriousness, that he believed men and women scientists should work separately: if you criticised women they cried - either that or you fell in love with them.
It was obvious, of course, that he was joking. Not, clearly, a side-splitter - a career in stand-up doesn't beckon - but, rather, the awkward self-deprecatory remarks of a man speaking to an audience of female scientists and trying, as it were, to break the ice. Inept? Very possibly. Offensive? Only if you were determined to take offense. That Hunt's critics should choose to make out that these remarks were meant seriously suggests - to put it kindly - a considerable element of mischief-making.
It's been suggested that Connie St Louis, the main figure here, has a less than scrupulous relation with the truth as regards her CV, so... (It is the Mail, mind). Even she, now, seems to have admitted that the words "now seriously..." followed the supposedly offensive comments:
Connie St Louis, a lecturer in science journalism at City University, initially denied that his comments were made in jest, and said that he did not follow them with the words: “Now seriously”. She has now acknowledged that he did.
She said: “Whatever he said after ‘now seriously’, it’s still outrageous. He talks about women as girls . . . you make them cry, they fall in love with you, is he seriously saying that? Is that his own personal story? Why is he calling them girls? And then he goes on to advocate single-sex laboratories.”
"Is he seriously saying that?" No. No, he isn't. Whatever her other problems, she clearly doesn't understand what this "humour" thing might be.
There might, perhaps, be some excuse for all this if the Seoul audience had generally failed to understand Hunt's opening remarks, and were shocked - as Connie St Louis claims she was shocked - to hear this sexist nonsense coming from a leading scientist. What we need is an independent report.
And now we have one (Times £):
Natalia Demina, a Russian science journalist, who was present, tweeted shortly after the speech that “everybody who heard” Sir Tim “understood he was joking”.
She could not be contacted yesterday but wrote online: “For me Tim Hunt’s speech was a joke. I remember that many of my colleagues smiled and applauded . . . I was completely shocked to see the accusations against him.”
So there you have it. The whole wretched affair falls apart. And UCL are left looking ridiculous.
It is, I suppose, possible to feel some sympathy for David Cameron, with his immediate response to the Tunisian massacre. The attack, he said, was "not in the name of Islam. Islam is a religion of peace". He is, after all, Prime Minister. He has to be careful in his pronouncements. He may feel that, with his recent suggestion that some Muslim communities were quietly condoning extremism, and should do more to confront it - remarks which were, inevitably, condemned by Seumas Milne as scapegoating and Islamophobic - he's done his share of "provocative" straight-speaking for the time being.
It does, nevertheless, make him look stupid. And it doesn't help. Melanie Phillips in the Times (£):
In his recent Bratislava speech, David Cameron sounded as if he was finally getting this right. He spoke about the “Islamist extremist ideology” which held that “religious doctrine trumps the rule of law and caliphate trumps nation state”. Crucially, he said this view was being fuelled by those Muslims who, although not endorsing violence, nevertheless bought into some of these prejudices and so gave weight to the extremist narrative.
This is all too correct. Opinion polls suggest that no fewer than one third of British Muslim students support the notion of a caliphate — a global empire based on sharia, in which all Muslims owe total allegiance to the caliph; a similar shocking number support killing to defend, promote or preserve religion.
After the Tunisia atrocity, however, Mr Cameron regrettably regressed to claiming once again that this was “not in the name of Islam” which was “a religion of peace”. This is utterly ludicrous. Islam has a history of violent conquest.
True, millions of Muslims do not support extremist Islam, which aims to turn everywhere into an Islamic theocracy. Nevertheless, this interpretation has dominated the Muslim world (and oppressed Muslims) for decades. Now it is increasingly taking over territory, as the Arab nation state progressively disintegrates into sectarian tribalism.
Isis, which subscribes to the fanatical Salafi school of Islam dating from the 13th century, is motivated by the desire to return to core Islamic doctrine and example. Its belief in the caliphate and the imminent global apocalypse, as well as its ghastly beheadings and crucifixions, are all drawn from Islamic religious texts.
It is not for us non-Muslims to say which interpretation is the true Islam. Our task is instead not just to destroy those carrying out these terrible deeds but also to defeat the beliefs that motivate them. We need to see this rather like the struggle against Soviet communism: a battle of ideas within the Islamic world.
For that battle is now under way. There are brave and isolated Muslims who understand they need to reform their religion. We should be giving them every encouragement and holding our breath that they succeed. For this menace can only be defeated if the Muslim world reforms itself.
Instead, every time someone says that Islam is a religion of peace, the reformers’ legs are kicked from underneath them. For if there is nothing wrong with Islam, it follows there is no need to reform it.
The West’s problem is that it just doesn’t get religious fanaticism. It doesn’t recognise its appeal to young Muslims stranded between cultures, and whose idealism is channelled into hatred and violence by a cocktail of religious myth and political paranoia (fed, incidentally, by a western intelligentsia that tells them at every turn the West is an evil oppressor). It also doesn’t understand that, in Arab and Muslim eyes, western weakness is an incentive to further violence. In Syria, the West has stumbled from vacillation to paralysis.
Also, Douglas Murray at the Spectator:
In France, Britain, Germany, America and nearly every other country in the world it remains government policy to say that any and all attacks carried out in the name of Mohammed have ‘nothing to do with Islam’. It was said by George W. Bush after 9/11, Tony Blair after 7/7 and Tony Abbott after the Sydney attack last month. It is what David Cameron said after two British extremists cut off the head of Drummer Lee Rigby in London, when ‘Jihadi John’ cut off the head of aid worker Alan Henning in the ‘Islamic State’ and when Islamic extremists attacked a Kenyan mall, separated the Muslims from the Christians and shot the latter in the head. It is what President François Hollande said after the massacre of journalists and Jews in Paris. And it is what David Cameron said yesterday after 38 people, mainly British, were murdered on a beach in Tunisia and a man was beheaded in France.
All these leaders are wrong. In private, they and their senior advisers often concede that they are telling a lie. The most sympathetic explanation is that they are telling a ‘noble lie’, provoked by a fear that we — the general public — are a lynch mob in waiting. ‘Noble’ or not, this lie is a mistake. First, because the general public do not rely on politicians for their information and can perfectly well read articles and books about Islam for themselves. Secondly, because the lie helps no one understand the threat we face. Thirdly, because it takes any heat off Muslims to deal with the bad traditions in their own religion. And fourthly, because unless mainstream politicians address these matters then one day perhaps the public will overtake their politicians to a truly alarming extent....
To claim that people who punish people by killing them for blaspheming Islam while shouting ‘Allah is greatest’ has ‘nothing to do with Islam’ is madness. Because the violence of the Islamists is, truthfully, only to do with Islam: the worst version of Islam, certainly, but Islam nonetheless....
There seems...some presumption that a diverse society requires greater limitations on speech, whereas of course the more diverse the society, the more diverse you are going to have to see your speech be. It is not just cartoons, but a whole system of inquiry which is being shut down in the West by way of hard intimidation and soft claims of offence-taking. The result is that, in contemporary Europe, Islam receives not an undue amount of criticism but a free ride which is unfair to all other religions. The night after the Charlie Hebdo atrocities I was pre-recording a Radio 4 programme. My fellow discussant was a very nice Muslim man who works to ‘de-radicalise’ extremists. We agreed on nearly everything. But at some point he said that one reason Muslims shouldn’t react to such cartoons is that Mohammed never objected to critics.
There may be some positive things to be said about Mohammed, but I thought this was pushing things too far and mentioned just one occasion when Mohammed didn’t welcome a critic. Asma bint Marwan was a female poetess who mocked the ‘Prophet’ and who, as a result, Mohammed had killed. It is in the texts. It is not a problem for me. But I can understand why it is a problem for decent Muslims. The moment I said this, my Muslim colleague went berserk. How dare I say this? I replied that it was in the Hadith and had a respectable chain of transmission (an important debate). He said it was a fabrication which he would not allow to stand. The upshot was that he refused to continue unless all mention of this was wiped from the recording. The BBC team agreed and I was left trying to find another way to express the same point. The broadcast had this ‘offensive’ fact left out.
I cannot imagine another religious discussion where this would happen, but it is perfectly normal when discussing Islam....