It certainly looks like great news from Iran. The BBC:
Moderates and reformists have dealt another blow to Iran's hardliners, winning all but one of the seats for Tehran in the Assembly of Experts.
President Hassan Rouhani and his allies won 15 out of the capital's 16 seats on the clerical body, which may choose the country's next supreme leader.
Hardliners in Iran have been dealt a humiliating blow after reformist-backed candidates in Friday’s hard-fought elections appeared on course for a sweeping victory in Tehran, with a combination of moderates and independents sympathetic to President Hassan Rouhani leading in provinces.
A coalition of candidates supported by the reformists, dubbed “the list of hope”, is likely to take all of the capital’s 30 parliamentary seats, according to the latest tally released by the interior ministry, in surprising results seen as a strong vote of confidence in Rouhani’s moderate agenda.
So, finally, we're seeing the payback from Obama's hand-of-friendship.
Well - maybe. Or maybe not:
If you are following the Iranian elections, prepare to be dazzled. According to major news outlets from the BBC to the Associated Press, the reformists beat the hardliners.
But wait. Didn't Iran's Guardian Council disqualify most of the reformists back in January? Of course it did, but thanks to the magic of Iranian politics, many of yesterday's hardliners are today's reformist.
Take Kazem Jalali. Until this month, Jalali was one of those hardliners whom President Barack Obama had hoped to marginalize with the Iran nuclear deal. Jalali has, for example, called for sentencing to death the two leaders of the Green Movement, who are currently under house arrest. And yet, he ran on the list endorsed by the reformists in Friday's election.
Two former intelligence ministers, accused by Iran's democratic opposition of having dissidents murdered, Mohammad Mohammadi Reyshahri and Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi, also ran on the list endorsed by Iran's moderate president for the Assembly of Experts, the panel that is charged with selecting the next supreme leader.
The initial Iranian reform movement of the late 1990s sought to allow more social freedoms and political opposition of the unelected side of Iran's government, such as the office of the Supreme Leader and the Guardian Council. Over time however, the changes supported by the reformists like Mohammed Khatami, who was president between 1997 and 2005, were stymied by these unelected institutions. When the next generation of reform politicians ran for office in 2009 under the banner of the green movement, the unelected part of the state arrested their supporters when they demonstrated what they saw as a stolen election. On Friday, many of the hardliners that opposed the reformists in the late 1990s and in 2009 are running under this banner.
As Saeed Ghasseminejad, an expert on Iranian politics at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, recently said: "Putting a reformist or moderate label on hardliners does not make them reformist or moderate." ...
Headline writers should be given some slack on this. After all, President Hassan Rouhani -- a moderate, but no reformer -- himself has celebrated the preliminary results in the elections as a major victory. After criticizing the disqualifications, he has held his tongue and tried to make the most of a bad situation, encouraging Iranians to vote nonetheless.
The same is true for many of the marginalized reformists. Khatami, who the state has decreed an unmentionable figure for Iranian media, took to the social network Telegram to urge his countrymen to vote. The logic here is that at the very least, voters could protest the most reactionary hardliners in favor of the slightly less reactionary hardliners. This is hardly a victory for democratic change in Iran. And that is what is important for Westerners trying to make sense of Iran's elections. While Iranian politicians have to make the best of a bad hand, we don't. Western journalists and analysts don't need to confer legitimacy on illegitimate elections, nor should we call hardliners "reformists." At the very least, it's important to hold out a higher standard for the day real reformers are allowed to compete fairly for power in Iran.
And yet many of Iran's alleged supporters in the West have gone along with the spin. Trita Parsi, an Iranian-Swedish activist whose U.S. organization played a key role in lobbying for the Iran nuclear deal, wrote on Sunday evening that critics of Friday's election didn't misread what he euphemistically called the "flaws in the Iranian political system." Rather these critics "misread the strength of the Iranian society and the sophistication of the Iranian electorate, who once again have shown that they have the maturity and wisdom to change their society peacefully from within, without any support or interference from the outside."
It's quite something when an Iranian who claims to support the opening of Iran's society praises the "maturity and wisdom" of an electorate offered "reformists" who support the disqualification of reformers.
But this is the magic of Iran's elections. In the end, Iran's supreme leader doesn't need to defend their legitimacy. He has plenty in the West eager to do it for him.
To mark the death of Adonis Nasr, the Lebanese fascist who famously attacked Christopher Hitchens in Beirut, and who was recently killed fighting for Assad in Syria, Michael Totten reprints his first-hand account, from 2009. The Man who Punched Christopher Hitchens:
I later sat down with Christopher over coffee in the hotel lobby and asked him to reflect on the recent unpleasantness.
“When I told you that I should have warned you,” I said, “that I take partial responsibility, you said. . .”
“It wouldn’t have made any difference,” he said. “Thank you, though, for giving me a protective arm. I think a swastika poster is partly fair game and partly an obligation. You don’t really have the right to leave one alone.
Meanwhile, in the Kingdom:
A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a man to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for expressing his atheism in hundreds of social media posts.
The report carried in Al-Watan says the 28-year-old man admitted to being an atheist and refused to repent, saying that what he wrote reflected his own beliefs and that he had the right to express them. The report did not name the man.
It added that ‘religious police’ in charge of monitoring social networks found more than 600 tweets denying the existence of God, ridiculing the Quranic verses, accusing all prophets of lies and saying their teaching fuelled hostilities. The court also fined him 20,000 riyals – or, just short of £4,000.
In 2014 the oil-rich kingdom, under the late Saudi King Abdullah, introduced a series of new laws which defined atheists as terrorists, according to a report released from Human Rights Watch.
In a string of royal decrees and an overarching new piece of legislation to deal with terrorism generally, King Abdullah attempted to clamp down on all forms of political dissent and protests that could "harm public order".
Article one of the new provisions defined terrorism as "calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based".
And, in Egypt:
An Egyptian court on Thursday sentenced three Coptic Christian teenagers to five years in jail for contempt of Islam after they were seen in a video mocking Muslim prayers.
A judge in the central Egyptian province of Minya also sent a fourth defendant, aged 15, to a juvenile detention centre for an indefinite period.
Defence lawyer Maher Naguib said the four had not intended to insult Islam in the video, but merely to mock the beheadings carried out by jihadists of the Islamic State group.
The video was filmed on a mobile phone in January 2015 when the three teenagers who were sentenced to five years were aged between 15 and 17.
Their teacher who is also seen in the video has already been sentenced to three years in jail.
From the Sunday Times (£):
The Islamic law propagated by some sharia courts in the UK is more antiquated and extreme than in parts of Pakistan, according to a new book that claims they are prepared to condone wife-beating, ignore marital rape and allow a father to annul his daughter’s marriage if he dislikes her choice of groom.
The book is the result of a four-year investigation into the network of about 80 Islamic “councils” that decide disputes within Muslim communities by Elham Manea, an expert in Islamic law and human rights who is herself a Muslim.
Manea, a political scientist and professor at Zurich University in Switzerland, visited sharia courts in London and the Midlands where she interviewed clerics who have passed judgment on thousands of British Muslims, as well as listening to online recordings of their speeches....
In the book, entitled Women and Sharia Law: The Impact of Legal Pluralism in the UK, Manea is critical of the political establishment, including Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, for its support of sharia courts.
She argues that the courts, which have been allowed to dispense Islamic justice openly since 1982, increase “segregation, inequality and discrimination” and eventually foment “political instability and home-grown terrorism”....
Among several harrowing cases in the book is the example of a young British woman who was forced to marry her cousin in Pakistan and was raped on her wedding night.
Manea says the young woman returned to Britain and appealed to clerics at several sharia courts for an annulment. “They did not care that she was forced to marry,” Manea wrote. “They did not care that she is being raped in marriage, they do not see that as rape in marriage.”
Clerics interviewed by Manea admitted that “many” fathers had been able to annul their daughter’s marriage unilaterally because they did not approve of her choice of husband.
One imam in the Midlands said women who appear before him would inherit less than men.
“We are very happy to give the woman half and the man double because I think this is a very fair way of dealing with the situation,” he said.
Manea quotes a prominent cleric from a sharia court in east London who said there was “no particular age” for a girl to marry, before adding: “Normally the younger the better.”
Asked if that complied with the “rule of the land”, he replied: “Not necessarily . . . if there is a way to live and avoid those anti-Islamic laws . . . you should go for that choice.”
A different imam suggested “puberty is the right age” for a girl to marry if her father agrees, adding: “In some societies, 12 or 13-year-old women, girls, they are more or less fully fledged women . . . you in western societies . . . are having babies, they are having sex, so they are fully grown and fully mature.”
Another cleric is quoted as saying “a man should not be questioned why he hit his wife because this is something between them ”.
In a blunt assessment of the evidence, Manea writes: “The fatwas and opinions of these men have consequences — grave consequences. A child will be raped in the name of religion. Raped. And it will be legal. A woman will be beaten in the name of religion. Beaten. And it will be legal.”
She discovered that a number of them believe girls as young as 12 can be married and agreed with the notion that some offenders should have their hands chopped off as “corporal punishment”.
According to Manea, the “totalitarian” Islamist ideology behind sharia courts also condones wife-beating, permits men to have up to four wives simultaneously and awards fathers powerful “guardianship” rights over children, even when UK courts award custody to the mother.
Martin Heidegger remains one of the most significant influences behind the general anti-Western animus of much "radical" philosophy, despite recent revelations that he was an ardent Nazi. It's his critique of the "imperious dehumanising movement of western modernity" which many find so compelling. If he was a rabid anti-Semite, railed against the influence of "World Jewry", and even believed that the Holocaust was an act of self-destruction by the Jews, well, hey, we all have our little foibles.
What I hadn't realised till now, though, is that Heidegger's brand of anti-liberal mystification has been influential not only in Western academia, but also outside the West, most notably in Iran and in Russia. Here's Alexander Duff:
Since the end of the Cold War, it has been an open question whether any organizing political principle could successfully vie with the liberal consensus of a secular state, limited by democratic accountability and the rule of law. To date, neither the remnants of Soviet-style communism, authoritarian capitalism, reactionary fascism, nor Islamic theocracy have achieved a successful combination of military strength and political legitimacy even among their own citizens, let alone among sympathizers in the world at large. But the political legacy of Martin Heidegger—if the strange and conflicting paths of his influence can be so termed—points to a combination that is sufficiently threatening to liberal democracy to be taken seriously, precisely because of the breadth of its evident appeal abroad and at home.
This is because Heidegger’s thought, while not lending itself to any politically cohesive opposition to the liberal West in a manner that characterized Marxism, recommends itself to virtually every variety of particularist opponent of Western universalism. For those inspired by Heidegger, the universalist claims upon which the liberal order is based are too thin, too weak, and too ignoble to provide tangible and meaningful sources of human identity...
To understand Heidegger’s political influence, it helps to compare him to Marx. Heidegger does not stand as the organizing intellectual figure behind a coherent international political movement, as Marx does to Marxism. Heidegger never had a Lenin, but like Marx, he offers a comprehensive analysis of the dissatisfactions and alienations of late-modern life and points hopefully to their possible remedy. Whereas Marx traces the sources of dissatisfaction to the alienation of labor in the predominant economic system, Heidegger looks to the very character of human reason. This is the source of the anxiety, distress, boredom, and terror that characterize our time. According to Heidegger, rationalist philosophy in the West—and the more-or-less rationalist forms of communal life that followed in its wake—has blinded us to the deepest sources of authentic meaning in human existence....
Several leading Iranian thinkers prior to and following the 1979 Revolution were formed by their understanding of Heidegger, drawing on his thought in both their diagnosis of the toxicity of Western civilization and their aspiration for a future-oriented, permanent revolution that would retrieve something of an Islamic past lost beneath the stomping boots of history.
It was the eclectic sociologist and activist Ali Shariati who first introduced Heidegger’s thought to Iran. Shariati encountered Heidegger’s work in the 1950s and 1960s in Paris, in the revolutionary intellectual milieu of Frantz Fanon’s Third World Marxism and Jean-Paul Sartre’s Maoist existentialism. In a self-conscious counterpoint to these Marxists, Shariati propounded an activist social theory that appealed to the “authentic” religion of the people of Iran.1 Shariati’s “Red Shi‘ism” stood for social justice and revolution, in opposition to the politically quietist “Black Shi‘ism” of the established Shi‘i clerisy. Shariati died in the custody of the Shah before the Ayatollah Khomeini made manifest his hopes for a retrieved and transformed political Shi‘ism. He is remembered today as a more benign, open-minded figure than the progenitors of the “official” Heideggerianism espoused by the intellectual organs of the Iranian regime.
The regime Heideggerians draw their intellectual inspiration from Ahmad Fardid, one of the most influential thinkers of the Revolution. Fardid, called “Iran’s Heidegger” by New York University Professor Ali Mirsepassi, taught at the University of Tehran for decades prior to and after the revolution.2 His lectures are legendary, though he never wrote, earning a reputation as an “oral philosopher.” He is the source of the influential concept of Gharbzadegi, though this was popularized in the writings of Jalal Al-e Ahmad. This concept transplants Heidegger’s critique of the rationalist West to the context of Iran.
Gharbzadegi has been variously translated as “Occidentosis,” “Westoxication,” or “Westitis.” In Fardid’s construction, it began with Greek rationality and culminated in the universalistic pretentions of Enlightenment secular, materialist humanism. Fardid identifies this spirit as the chief enemy of the authentic Islamic essence of the Iranian revolution and credits Heidegger for diagnosing this disease. In a 1979 lecture course, Fardid identified three lonely lights in the world otherwise condemned to absolute darkness: the Iranian Revolution itself; the thought of Martin Heidegger, who provided the intellectual means to diagnose Westoxication; and the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini. Fardid was haunted, though, by the prospect that Westoxication would undermine the Iranian Revolution, dissolving its revolutionary fervor into the quotidian, bourgeois patterns of life. It was necessary that the revolution, therefore, be “permanent,” in order to keep Iran from returning to the Westoxic culture of the “modern cave” of “self-founded nihilism.”3 So, in a way, Fardid was to Heidegger what Trotsky was to Marx.
Fardid’s Heideggerianism has become something of the orthodox or official “philosophy” of the regime—buttressing the central premises of its theocracy and in particular the still-controversial doctrine of Vilayat-e Faqih. Its most prominent contemporary proponent is the president of the Iranian Academy of Science, Reza Davari Ardakani. Ardakani was Fardid’s student, and has further developed his teacher’s Heideggerian understanding of Gharbzadeghi in his analysis of the “West.” For Ardakani, the “West” is explicitly not a geographic or historical category but a permanent spiritual (that is, not merely political or economic) temptation. Like Fardid, Ardakani invokes Heidegger as having understood the “inner essence” of “the prison of the West.”
The name of Aleksandr Dugin is well known among those concerned with the role of fascism in the developing political and military situation in Eastern Europe, especially Ukraine. Less well known is his reliance on the thought of Martin Heidegger to supply some intellectual ballast to the creation, or re-creation, of a distinctive Russian political and spiritual identity from the wreckage of the Soviet Union and the tumultuous flirtation with liberalism in the post-Soviet era. Dugin has conceived a post-communist political project of Eurasian Imperialism characterized by a Russian cultural, spiritual, and economic “revolution in archaic values.”
Dugin presents himself as a postmodern intellectual and political figure, at once a learned scholar and television pitchman, both a monk and a militant. An erstwhile professor at Moscow Lomonosov State University, he also professes to be close to numerous Kremlin figures, not least Vladimir Putin himself. Dugin’s relationship to Putin is fraught with all of the intrigue of a Byzantine court drama, but he remains the source of such notions as “Eurasianism,” which is emerging as the ideological veneer of Putin’s opposition to the European Union and the West.
Dugin attempts to use Heidegger’s notions of Dasein and Ereignis to retrieve a Russian identity, buried in the language of Orthodox Church Slavonic, that can rescue the spirit of the country from the damage inflicted by the collapse of international communism and the triumph of Atlanticist, liberal capitalism. He sees Russia as uniquely positioned to carry out the “metapolitical” confrontation between East and West that Heidegger called for in order to correct the errors of Western rationalism, though he never followed through on it himself. Russia would embody, then, a “fourth political theory,” repairing the failures of the three theories of the modern West: liberalism, communism, and fascism.
In concrete political terms, this means a Russian empire, purportedly respectful of the various ethnic identities of the captive peoples over whom it would rule. That is, it would respect these identities by sparing them from the homogenizing, leveling forces of Atlanticist universalism, but at the cost of placing them in their due rank, subject to Russian hegemony. This Russian empire would ally with other opponents of Western universalism to oppose the plutocratic, materialist, atheistic Atlanticist powers, chiefly the United States and its supposed proxy, the European Union.
In other words, philosophy in the service of reaction, theocracy, and Putinism. But, mainly, the mystifications of religion:
For both [Iran and Russia], the discrediting of rationalist universalism points to the revival of certain forms of religious order. The retrieved community is shaped by a purified religion, though the religion is different in each case: Russian Orthodox Christianity and Shi‘i Islam.
Happy associates for our brave "radical" theorists.
The article goes on (and on), but for me Duff takes Heidegger's philosophy altogether too seriously. As I argued here - citing philosopher Jonathan Glover - Heidegger was always a second-rate thinker who built his reputation on obfuscation:
The moral case against Heidegger the man is obvious. The central moral case against Heidegger the philosopher is easier to get wrong. It is not about a link between his theories and Nazism. It is about undermining philosophy's role in developing a climate of critical thought. His books are an embodiment of the idea that philosophy is an impenetrable fog, in which ideas not clearly understood have to be taken on trust. Karl Jaspers was right in seeing this "incommunicative" mode of thought as linked to being dictatorial.
Deference is encouraged by having to take it on trust that the obscure means something important. And since things not understood cannot be argued about, the critical faculties atrophy. Philosophy could not have served the Nazis better than by encouraging deference and by this softening of the mind.
It's another debt that so many modern theorists owe to the man.
What's happening with the 50,000 or so workers - and their families - who lost their jobs when South Korea decided to close down the Kaesong Industrial Complex? Is there any sign of their grievances developing into some sort of organised resistance to the Kim regime? Well, no, not yet. This is North Korea, after all. But the authorities are, it seems, concerned.
From the Daily NK:
On the 23rd, our Daily NK reporter spoke with a source in North Hwanghae Province who informed us that following the withdrawal of the South from Kaesong, workers and their families, along with local residents, are “wishing it hadn’t come to this.” Those who had, until recently, been employed at the complex, and their families who had reaped the benefits by extension, cannot shake the feelings of sadness and regret as they recall happier times when they worked together, he said.
Some of these stakeholders still cling to hope, habitually returning to look for signs of life around the industrial park, but without any hope of a change in sight, “can do nothing but uselessly stare at an abandoned [joint venture] before turning around and going back home again.”
The rest of their time is mostly filled by Party cadres from the provincial and city levels affiliated with the complex. These officials have been gathering both former workers and ordinary citizens several times a day to hold propaganda sessions premised on cementing animosity toward the South, but our sources indicate that these sessions are ineffective, and the harder the Party cadres push the “blame the puppet-government in the South” narrative, the harder it becomes for its recipients to “suppress their incredulous snorts.”
“People around Kaesong know better than anyone that the reason the South closed Kaesong is because they were nervous about the rocket launch and nuclear test; they just presume that in the end the South became exasperated and decided to pull out,” the source pointed out.
“When the South pulled out, we were left with nothing but darkness,” he said, as relayed to him in a conversation with one despondent resident in the area.
Added a different source in North Hwanghae Province close to the issue, “Party propaganda cannot override the goodwill amassed by the workers towards their Southern colleagues that was born of ten years of contact with our brethren from ‘the neighborhood below [South Korea].’”
Workers from the complex, and their families, feel grateful towards the South for supporting their livelihoods during that time, she said, and cannot brush off these feelings. Even residents of the area recognize that although the water and electricity may have been cut off to the area now, during the time Kaesong was operational, they lived in relative luxury--a “golden decade,” many called it-- compared to people in other areas.
That's despite the fact that they received only about 20% of the money paid out by the South Korean companies. The rest went straight to the Fat Controller.
Their fate still in the balance, the former KIC workers have spent any time not devoted to informed nostalgia or state propaganda to airing their grievances together, with particular focus on the regime’s inability, unwillingness, or likely both to mitigate the fallout from KIC’s closure--at the very least for those most directly affected. These conversations often turn to talk of war, not just for former KIC workers, but all North Koreans, who broadly view the KIC’s operational status as the state of inter-Korean relations writ large.
The years of collaboration with and affinity for the South experienced by the KIC labor force leads most residents to conclude that “if a war does break out after this, 80-90% of the workers previously tied to Kaesong will flee South immediately,” she concluded.
So, no - not organised resistance. That would be expecting too much. But a very far from loyal populace.,,,