An academic book about religious attitudes to women is to be published this week despite concerns it could cause a backlash among Muslims because it criticises the prophet Muhammad for taking a nine-year-old girl as his third wife.
The book, entitled Does God Hate Women?, suggests that Muhammad's marriage to a child called Aisha is "not entirely compatible with the idea that he had the best interests of women at heart".
It also says that Cherie Blair, wife of the former prime minister, was "incorrect" when she defended Islam in a lecture by claiming "it is not laid down in the Koran that women can be beaten by their husbands and their evidence should be devalued as it is in some Islamic courts".
This weekend, the publisher, Continuum, said it had received "outside opinion" on the book's cultural and religious content following suggestions that it might cause offence. "We sought some advice and paused for thought before deciding to go ahead with publication," said Oliver Gadsby, the firm's chief executive. The book will be released on Thursday....
Continuum's book may cause a backlash because it sets out to be a factual examination of religious attitudes to women. British writer Jeremy Stangroom and his American co-author Ophelia Benson, whose previous books on philosophy and science have received favourable reviews, cite ancient Islamic scholars to support their case. They roundly attack previous attempts to "soft-soap" the controversial episode in Muhammad's life. In the aftermath of 9/11, the authors argue, a wave of political correctness aimed at building bridges with the Muslim world has meant accusations of "Islamophobia" have been used to silence debate about the morality of social conduct, past and present.
Through a gruesome catalogue of abuses carried out against women in the name of Islam as well as other major religions, including Hinduism and Catholicism, Stangroom and Benson conclude that most of the world's great faiths are essentially misogynistic....
the most contentious section of their book is likely to be their conclusions concerning the age at which Muhammad first slept with Aisha.
While it is widely accepted that the girl's father first offered her for betrothal to Muhammad when she was just six, many argue that Muhammad married Aisha when she was nine and the union was not consummated until she reached puberty years later.
However, Stangroom and Benson cite extracts from a highly regarded historian of early Islam, Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari, who quotes Aisha as saying: "The Messenger of God consummated his marriage with me in my house when I was nine years old". The authors conclude "religious authorities and conservative clerics worship a wretchedly cruel unjust vindictive executioner of a God. . . a God who thinks little girls should be married to grown men".
Such assertions could invoke the ire of some Muslims. Anjem Choudary, a self-styled sharia judge and former leader of the banned British group Al-Muhajiroun, said: "Talk of Aisha as a child when she married is not true.
"At nine she reached her menses and in those days a girl was considered to be mature when that happened. No one will swallow talk about child brides. It would lead to a huge backlash, as we saw with The Jewel of Medina."
I mentioned the Pretty Things a couple of weeks back, and here's a fine article about them - "the great lost British band" - in the Standard, complete with Phil May reminiscences from the Sixties. They are, apparently, about to be handed Mojo magazine's coveted Hero award. Well no, I'd never heard of it either.
Never commercially successful, they were always admired by critics and fellow musicians:
Outsiders or not, these revered pop Zeligs moved in the most rarefied of Sixties company. Bob Dylan, on a visit to London, insisted that bard and band spent a day together. “We've never met since,” May sighs, but Dylan did namecheck the group on his song Tombstone Blues.
The sweet pretty things are in bed now of course
The city fathers they're trying to endorse
The reincarnation of Paul Revere's horse
But the town has no need to be nervous.,,,
It's not so much that there are concerns about North Korea itself using its nuclear capability: the problem is, the people they're dealing with. Here's Caroline Glick:
North Korea is half a world away from Israel. Yet the nuclear test it conducted on Monday has the Israeli defense establishment up in arms and its Iranian nemesis smiling like the Cheshire Cat. Understanding why this is the case is key to understanding the danger posed by what someone once impolitely referred to as the Axis of Evil.
Less than two years ago, on September 6, 2007, the IAF destroyed a North Korean-built plutonium production facility at Kibar, Syria. The destroyed installation was a virtual clone of North Korea's Yongbyon plutonium production facility.
This past March the Swiss daily Neue Zuercher Zeitung reported that Iranian defector Ali Reza Asghari, who before his March 2007 defection to the US served as a general in Iran's Revolutionary Guards and as deputy defense minister, divulged that Iran paid for the North Korean facility. Teheran viewed the installation in Syria as an extension of its own nuclear program. According to Israeli estimates, Teheran spent between $1 billion and $2b. for the project.
It can be assumed that Iranian personnel were present in North Korea during Monday's test. Over the past several years, Iranian nuclear officials have been on hand for all of North Korea's major tests including its first nuclear test and its intercontinental ballistic missile test in 2006.
Moreover, it wouldn't be far-fetched to think that North Korea conducted some level of coordination with Iran regarding the timing of its nuclear bomb and ballistic missile tests this week. It is hard to imagine that it is mere coincidence that North Korea's actions came just a week after Iran tested its solid fuel Sejil-2 missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers.
Aside from their chronological proximity, the main reason it makes sense to assume that Iran and North Korea coordinated their tests is because North Korea has played a central role in Iran's missile program. Although Western observers claim that Iran's Sejil-2 is based on Chinese technology transferred to Iran through Pakistan, the fact is that Iran owes much of its ballistic missile capacity to North Korea. The Shihab-3 missile, for instance, which forms the backbone of Iran's strategic arm threatening to Israel and its Arab neighbors, is simply an Iranian adaptation of North Korea's Nodong missile technology. Since at least the early 1990s, North Korea has been only too happy to proliferate that technology to whoever wants it. Like Iran, Syria owes much of its own massive missile arsenal to North Korean proliferation.
It's worth bearing in mind that it was the South Korean decision to join the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), requiring the searching of ships to prevent nuclear weapons trafficking, which prompted the greatest fury from the North Koreans last week.
A spot of Friday blues with Jimmy Rushing:
A report in the Times is claiming that more than 20,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final throes of the Sri Lankan civil war, most as a result of government shelling. In light of the extraordinary resolution passed by the UN Human Rights Council praising Sri Lanka for its victory, and condemning the rebels for using human shields, it's worth reading today's editorial:
“Deeply disappointing” was how a human rights group yesterday described the vote in the United Nations Human Rights Council hailing the victory of the Sri Lankan Government. This is a breathtaking understatement. It was an utter disgrace. The 47-member body, set up in 2006 to replace the previous corrupt and ineffectual UN Commission on Human Rights, has abjectly failed one of its first and most important tests.
It was asked by its European members to investigate widespread reports of atrocities and war crimes committed by both government troops and the Tamil Tigers in the final weeks of the conflict. The council chose instead to debate a one-sided, mendacious and self-serving motion put forward by the Sri Lankans. This welcomed the “liberation” of tens of thousands of the island's citizens, condemned the defeated Tigers, made no mention of the shelling of civilians and kept silent on the desperate need to allow the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups into the camps where some 270,000 Tamil civilians have been interned.
Support for this deeply flawed resolution came from the usual suspects - China, Russia, India, Pakistan and a clutch of Asian and Islamic nations determined to prevent the council ever investigating human rights violations in their own or any country. It was sad to see Israel, for obvious political motives, joining in this charade, claiming that massacres, violence, repression and internment are an “internal affair”.
To her credit, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, insisted that there needed still to be an inquiry into “very serious abuses”. Those abuses, it now emerges, are far, far worse than the outside world imagined. The UN estimated that 7,000 people were killed in the first four months of this year; the figure now appears to be at least 20,000. Thousands of these victims died as a result of the shelling by the Sri Lankan Army of the strip of coastline where the final remnants of Tiger resistance were trapped, along with at least 100,000 civilians.
Photographs taken by The Times present clear evidence of an atrocity that comes close to matching Srebrenica, Darfur and other massacres of civilians. In the sandy so-called no-fire zone where the trapped Tamil civilians were told to go to escape the brutal army bombardment, there are hundreds of fresh graves as well as craters and debris where tents once stood. This was no safe zone. This was where terrified civilians buried their dead as the shells landed - after the Government had declared an end to the use of heavy weapons on April 27.
Update: that reference to Israel in the third paragraph has now been removed. See Norm's post.
Update 2: A correction appears in today's Times: "Israel is not a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council and did not take part in the council's vote on the actions of the Sri Lamkan Government (leading article, May 29). We apologise for the error."
A strange error to make. It's not as though they just listed Israel as another backer of the resolution: they actually went out of their way to draw attention to their support.
One of the major supporters of the latest resolution from the UN Human Rights Council, describing the suffering of the Tamils in Sri Lanka as a “domestic matter that doesn’t warrant outside interference”, was, unsurprisingly, China. The huge area of Xinjiang, north of Tibet, is less well known as a site of ethnic and political conflict than its southern neighbour, but it's the same story of an indigenous people and culture being smothered under the embrace of the motherland, using a one-sided reading of history to justify the repression. Whereas with Tibet the Dalai Lama and the apparatus of Tibetan Buddhism are the main ideological enemy, Xinjiang has a largely Muslim culture, providing an ready excuse for crackdowns on any dissent.
A thousand years ago, the northern and southern branches of the Silk Road converged at this oasis town near the western edge of the Taklamakan Desert. Traders from Delhi and Samarkand, wearied by frigid treks through the world’s most daunting mountain ranges, unloaded their pack horses here and sold saffron and lutes along the city’s cramped streets. Chinese traders, their camels laden with silk and porcelain, did the same.
The traders are now joined by tourists exploring the donkey-cart alleys and mud-and-straw buildings once window-shopped, then sacked, by Tamerlane and Genghis Khan.
Now, Kashgar is about to be sacked again.
Nine hundred families already have been moved from Kashgar’s Old City, “the best-preserved example of a traditional Islamic city to be found anywhere in central Asia,” as the architect and historian George Michell wrote in the 2008 book “Kashgar: Oasis City on China’s Old Silk Road.”
Over the next few years, city officials say, they will demolish at least 85 percent of this warren of picturesque, if run-down homes and shops. Many of its 13,000 families, Muslims from a Turkic ethnic group called the Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs), will be moved.
In its place will rise a new Old City, a mix of midrise apartments, plazas, alleys widened into avenues and reproductions of ancient Islamic architecture “to preserve the Uighur culture,” Kashgar’s vice mayor, Xu Jianrong, said in a phone interview.
Demolition is deemed an urgent necessity because an earthquake could strike at any time, collapsing centuries-old buildings and killing thousands....
To preserve the Uighur culture. I think the word we're looking for here is "Orwellian". And the structures that were so badly damaged in the recent Sichuan earthquake were in the main precisely those party-built modern schools and flats, rather than the old buildings that have survived through the centuries.
Urban reconstruction during China’s long boom has razed many old city centers, including most of the ancient alleyways and courtyard homes of the capital, Beijing.
Kashgar, though, is not a typical Chinese city. Chinese security officials consider it a breeding ground for a small but resilient movement of Uighur separatists who Beijing claims have ties to international jihadis. So redevelopment of this ancient center of Islamic culture comes with a tinge of forced conformity.
Chinese officials have offered somewhat befuddling explanations for their plans. Mr. Xu calls Kashgar “a prime example of rich cultural history and at the same time a major tourism city in China.” Yet the demolition plan would reduce to rubble Kashgar’s principal tourist attraction, a magnet for many of the million-plus people who visit each year.
China supports an international plan to designate major Silk Road landmarks as United Nations World Heritage sites — a powerful draw for tourists, and a powerful incentive for governments to preserve historical areas.
But Kashgar is missing from China’s list of proposed sites. One foreign official who refused to be identified for fear of damaging relations with Beijing said the Old City project had unusually strong backing high in the government....
The city says the Uighur residents have been consulted at every step of planning. Residents mostly say they are summoned to meetings at which eviction timetables and compensation sums are announced.
Remember, though, this is a domestic matter that doesn't warrant outside interference.
On Kashgar television, a nightly 15-minute infomercial hawks the project like ginsu knives, mixing dire statistics on seismic activity with scenes of happy Uighurs dancing in front of their new concrete apartments.
“Never has such a great event, such a major event happened to Kashgar,” the announcer intones. He boasts that the new buildings “will be difficult to match in the world” and that citizens will “completely experience the care and warmth of the party” toward the Uighur ethnic minority.
The infomercial also notes that Communist Party officials from Kashgar to Beijing are so edgy over the prospect of an earthquake “that it is disturbing their rest.”
[Check out the Google map to get an idea of the geography: Kashgar is right at the western tip of Xinjiang, far nearer to Afghanistan say, or even Tehran, than it is to Beijing]
A while back I linked to a Human Rights Watch report on the persecution of the Baha'i in Iran, plus, as an added bonus, a MEMRI compilation of Egyptian TV clips showing various Islamists denouncing these puppets of global Zionism. Now here's another Egyptian cleric with a special animus against the Baha'i. He also hates Shi'ites - Iranians in particular - but it's those Baha'i he really really hates:
Muhammad Al-Zughbi: The founder [of the Bahai faith] was Mirza Hussein Ali, may Allah plunge him into Hell. [...]
The Jews showered money on this criminal scoundrel – from the left, from the right, from the rear, from in front. They provided him with security and protected him everywhere, so he could accomplish their goal of destroying the faith of the Muslims. [...]
He was one of the most fanatic Shiites of that time. Whenever there is a disaster – the Shiites are behind it. Let me stress this: Whenever there is a disaster – the Shiites are behind it. [...]
Any woman who marries a Bahai man must know that according to the shari'a, the marriage is null and void, and that if she sleeps with him, their intercourse constitutes fornication. Fornication! Fornication! Let me stress: Fornication! In such a case, she is a whore! a whore! a whore! [...]
[Mirza] told his followers that before the fast, there are "five permissible days" of shamelessness, vanity, pleasure, and promiscuity. Before you fast, before you get tired, take these five days and do what you want. Whoever wants to – has sex with his sister. Whoever wants to – has sex with his dad's sister. Whoever wants to – does forbidden things with his mom's sisters. Whoever wants to – does it with his sister, the daughter of both his father and mother. [...]
I say from the bottom of my heart: I pray that Allah does not restore relations between Egypt and Iran. I say to the Egyptian officials: I pray that Allah perpetuates the bad relations. These people are evil! They are evil! Wherever they are – they turn the place into a quagmire. I call upon our leader – and I pray that Allah enables this – to annihilate them, along with the Bahais in our country, in order to purify the land of their filth, for the sake of future generations.
Lucky no one asked him what he thinks of the Jews.
Sri Lanka claimed a propaganda victory last night after the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution praising its defeat of the Tamil Tigers and condemning the rebels for using civilians as human shields.
China, India, Egypt and Cuba were among the 29 developing countries that backed a Sri Lankan-proposed resolution describing the conflict as a “domestic matter that doesn’t warrant outside interference”. The resolution also supported Colombo’s insistence on allowing aid group access to 270,000 civilians detained in camps only “as may be appropriate”....
Western diplomats and human rights officials were shocked by the outcome at the end of an acrimonious two-day special session to examine the humanitarian and human rights situation in Sri Lanka after the blitzkrieg of the final military offensive that wiped out the Tiger force.
“The vote is extremely disappointing and is a low point for the Human Rights Council. It abandons hundreds of thousands of people in Sri Lanka to cynical political considerations,” Amnesty International said....
The UN in Sri Lanka says that at least 7,000 civilians were killed in the first four months of the year alone, with the casualty rate sharply rising as the endgame approached. Many of those deaths are believed to have been caused by Sri Lankan army shelling. The Government denies that it caused a single civilian death, blaming all of them on the rebels.
Israel will be among the nations angered by last night’s result. The 47-member council, formed in 2006 to deal quickly with urgent humanitarian situations, succeeded in forcing an internal investigation on Israel over its recent offensive in Gaza, which killed an estimated 700 Palestinian civilians.
Western diplomats said that the result called into question the entire purpose of the Human Rights Council — where the 47 members sit as equals with no right of veto for any country. The United States only recently agreed to join it in the belief that the council had been reformed. Divisions between the West and the developing world were exposed last month when dozens of European and other ambassadors stormed out of the council during an inflammatory address by President Ahmadinejad of Iran.
Tom Porteous, the London director of Human Rights Watch, said: “The Human Rights Council had a chance to prove itself by calling for a serious inquiry into violations of the laws of war and human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, and they failed dismally.”
From the Human Rights Watch website:
The United Nations Human Rights Council on May 27 passed a deeply flawed resolution on Sri Lanka that ignores calls for an international investigation into alleged abuses during recent fighting and other pressing human rights concerns, Human Rights Watch said today. The council held a special session on May 26 and 27, 2009, on the human rights situation in Sri Lanka, a week after the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) by government forces.
"The Human Rights Council did not even express its concern for the hundreds of thousands of people facing indefinite detention in government camps," said Juliette de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "The council ignored urgent needs and wasted an important chance to promote human rights."
"It is deeply disappointing that a majority of the Human Rights Council decided to focus on praising a government whose forces have been responsible for the repeated indiscriminate shelling of civilians," said de Rivero. "These states blocked a message to the government that it needs to hear, to ensure access to displaced civilians and uphold human rights standards. They undermined the very purpose of the council."
A majority of council members - including China, South Africa, and Uruguay - ignored the call for accountability and justice for victims by the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay. Instead, the resolution adopted reaffirms the principle of non-interference in the domestic jurisdiction of states, a step backward for the Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch said.
During the special session, Pillay called for an independent international investigation into violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the recent fighting, including those specifically responsible. UN estimates say that more than 7,000 civilians have been killed in the fighting in Sri Lanka since late January 2009.
"The images of terrified and emaciated women, men, and children fleeing the battle zone ought to be etched in our collective memory," Pillay said. "They must spur us into action." [...]
Human Rights Watch said that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had regrettably undercut efforts to produce a strong resolution with his recent comments in Sri Lanka. Ban publicly praised the government for "doing its utmost" and for its "tremendous efforts," while accepting government assurances, repeatedly broken in the past, that it would ensure humanitarian access to civilians in need.
Michael Young in the Daily Star isn't impressed with Erich Follath's exclusive in Der Spiegel - a leak, supposedly, of the findings of the UN special tribunal - on Hezbollah's involvement in the assassination of Rafik Hariri:
If Hizbullah did plan and execute the attack, a theory long discussed in Lebanon, it is virtually impossible to envisage that the party would have taken this action without receiving prior Syrian approval to do so. In fact, it is virtually impossible to envisage that it would have taken such action without Syrian direction to do so - direction that only Bashar Assad, given the centralized nature of Syria's regime, would have signed off on.
Follath provides motives for the assassination that are laughable. He says that Hizbullah got rid of Hariri because his "growing popularity could have been a thorn in the side of the Lebanese Shiite leader Nasrallah. In 2005, the billionaire began to outstrip the revolutionary leader in terms of popularity." Hariri also stood for what Nasrallah hated, Follath continues: close ties to the West and to moderate Arab regimes, as well as "an opulent lifestyle, and a membership in the competing Sunni faith."
This is nonsense. Those who had an overriding motive to kill Hariri were the Syrians, because his expected successes in the summer 2005 parliamentary elections, so soon after passage of Resolution 1559 by the Security Council, would have seriously threatened their hold on Lebanon. Successive reports by the United Nations commission investigating the crime repeated that hypothesis, which has never been challenged.
Follath, intentionally or unintentionally, is being used to draw the light away from Syria by casting it on Hizbullah. However, all the evidence that has filtered out from the UN investigation, as well as circumstantial evidence, leads in the direction of a principal mastermind: the regime in Damascus, regardless of who was implicated in the crime to guarantee everyone's silence. It was only Syrian participation that could have pushed the Lebanese security agencies, then completely dominated by Syria, to corrupt the crime scene; it was only Syrian participation that could lead a Lebanese security chief to distribute the video of Ahmad Abu Adas claiming responsibility for the crime; and it was above all Syrian insistence after 2006 that pushed Hizbullah and Amal to block the creation of the tribunal through Lebanese state institutions. [...]
We are witnessing the consequences of a slipshod UN investigation since 2006. The prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, may have lost control of his case, and those who leaked to Der Spiegel could well be pushing for its complete collapse.