Pollarded plane trees on John Islip Street, behind Tate Britain:
Sir John Everett Millais there - still defiant, despite his exile to the rear of the gallery for being too embarrassingly Victorian.
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.
Dan Hodges doesn't swallow the BBC's attempts to put a positive spin on its latest poll: Most British Muslims 'oppose Muhammad cartoons reprisals'. That's still 27% who said they had some sympathy for the motives behind the Paris killings:
There is no point continuing to stick our heads in the sand: a large number of British Muslims think the Charlie Hebdo attacks were in some way justified. People may not want to accept that. I don’t want to accept it. But it’s a fact.
We are going to have to start to reassess what we mean by “moderate Islam”. At the moment, we essentially define a moderate Muslim as any Muslim who doesn’t go around blowing things up, or who doesn’t go round overtly advocating other people should blow things up. It’s ludicrously simplistic, sickeningly patronising, and actually represents a form of inverted racism....
Two weeks ago I took part in a debate on free speech, hosted by the Islamic Education and Research Academy. It was a good discussion, well attended, with an almost exclusively Muslim audience. Near the end, one audience member began to defend the killing of apostates. I challenged him, as did the other non-Muslim panelists. None of the Muslim panelists challenged him. No members of the audience challenged him. Instead, when he’d finished defending the murder of apostates, a significant section of the audience applauded him.
It’s not good enough. It’s not good for people inside and outside the Muslim community to continue to turn a blind eye to the extremism that continues to fester in the heart of the Muslim community. It’s not good enough for Muslims to keep delivering vacuous homilies about “the religion of peace” when surveys show 27 per cent of Muslims have sympathy with the Charlie Hebdo murderers. And it’s not good enough for us to deploy spurious moral relativism in a misguided attempt to place extremism behind a shield of religious tolerance.
More from Michael Weiss (previously) on the president's determination to bring Iran in from the cold - Obama's one foreign policy goal is making the Middle East worse:
A few weeks ago, I met with a senior US diplomat who characterized the Obama administration’s sole foreign policy objective with one word — “rapprochement.” This was offered unprompted and I’d no doubt insult you to make you guess which regime is the object of the president’s single-minded solicitousness. When I asked if this policy meant that Iran’s terrorism and the atrocities being committed by its militia and death squad proxies in Syria and Iraq would therefore be downplayed or ignored by the White House, the diplomat inclined his head slightly in my direction, adding that during his own recent travels to the Middle East he had encountered many “reasonable” people who were similarly terrified and anxious at America’s acquiescence to expanding Khomeinist hegemony in the region. There are also plenty of unreasonable sorts taking full advantage of this dawning geopolitical reality — Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, for one — which is why the so-called strategy to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State (ISIS) is in fact the jihadist army’s greatest propaganda asset. And to think that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi once had to try to convince Sunnis that the Great Satan and the Islamic Republic were working together…
What began as Mideast conspiracy theory now has the distinction of being an aspirational presidential legacy. Benjamin Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security advisor and the director of strategic communications, privately whispers about what a great ally Iran would make, so much more responsible and well-behaved than those awful Gulf states which are now reluctantly enlisted as avowed partners in a coalition against ISIS....
It’s hard to overstate the sense of anxiety American allies in the Middle East now feel about the course American policy has taken in their neighborhood as the result of a president who wants only one thing before he leaves office: to bring America’s regional nemesis in from the cold. Even allies whose support the current administration deems uncontroversial feel abandoned or short-changed. An official in the Kurdistan Regional Government told me recently that while he applauds US airstrikes, which kept ISIS from storming Erbil, most of the rest of the advertised effort to beat the jihadists is false advertising. “The weapons we have to fight them are fucking ridiculous,” the official said, noting the stark contrast with the heavy-duty materiel such as Abrams tanks and Humvees which both ISIS and the Shiite militias have stolen from the United States. “We should have blown ourselves up or beheaded some soldiers. Then we would have gotten weapons.”
Nosheen Iqbal at CiF:
[D]o you actually remember what it was like to be 15?
This is what springs to mind as I read through many of the comment pieces on the three schoolgirls who seem to have disappeared to Syria. Leave them to rot, scream the headlines. They’re colluding with evil! These jihadi devil-women know exactly what they’re doing, and will get all they deserve on arrival in Syria! But does anyone actually remember, in hindsight, how stupid they were at that age?
When I was 15 I used to go to early morning Sunday communion, having recently been confirmed, and would walk back home feeling especially pious, in a kind of "hello birds! hello bees!" trance. After three months or so I decided it was all nonsense - or perhaps the effects of that sip of communion wine on an empty stomach - and never looked back. Heading off to Syria to join a bunch of head-chopping fanatics may not be quite the same, but she's making a reasonable point here. 15 is 15, whether in the cosy Anglican world, or in the violent world of a would-be jihadi.
They have been brainwashed by an ideology many times more threatening than a regular cult: Isis is offering religious power to its victims, selling the idea that recruits become a type of turbo-Muslim, and that theirs is a legitimate adventure because it is one sanctioned by God. Isis has Hollywood-ised war, made barbarity so blockbuster, that it looks cartoonishly unreal to a young, malleable mind. Plenty of teenagers love violence – this isn’t new. The shock seems to be that girls, as well as boys, appear to have an appetite for it....
It’s difficult to remember when a 15-year-old was last taken seriously as an adult in the national press. Why are we affording three brown Muslim girls that privilege now?
Well yes...why? I have no idea. They were headline news on the BBC last night, not for any new revelations, not because they'd finally been located, but because it's thought they might now be in Syria. I'm not sure why they're considered to be such a major story. No one seems to have been too concerned, for instance, about those young girls in Rotherham.
Nosheen Iqbal may be talking some sense, but Humaira Patel, again at CiF, certainly isn't. She's "a young, Muslim woman from East London". She starts from the premise that none of this can possibly be the fault of Islam, and takes it from there:
Many will assume that what has happened happened because these young women are Muslims, and Isis is supposedly Muslim, so religion must be at the core of this. But Islam is a religion of peace and unity, and growing up in London surrounded by all the peaceful Muslims of the East End, these young women must have known that too. I think something beyond religion is also playing a part.
They grew up in a Britain that is filled with Islamophobia, where people seem to constantly speak ill about their faith....
Young black and minority ethnic women are always under-represented, no matter what measure you look at. As young people, we can’t vote, we’re stereotyped as delinquents, and an easy target for government cuts. As women, we suffer from sexism and misogyny, we are harassed and cat-called by men, and we know we will earn less in the workplace. As Muslims we suffer Islamophobia, with people saying horrible things about our religion. And we live in the East End, where the EDL and Britain First take great pride in marching through our streets to remind us of how unwelcome we are in our own homes.
Maybe we can stop young people like Shamima, Amira and Kadiza leaving this country if we give them proper support, especially those in vulnerable situations, if we present them with equal chances and if we value them. Maybe then they will stay, maybe then they will feel at home here. Radicalisation may end when equality begins.
So nothing to do with Islam; everything to do with Islamophobia. Got it.
North Korea and its foreign slave labourers, from the NYT:
When the North Korean carpenter was offered a job in Kuwait in 1996, he leapt at the chance.
He was promised $120 a month, an unimaginable wage for most workers in his famine-stricken country, where most people are not allowed to travel abroad.
But for Rim Il, the deal soured from the start: Under a moonlit night, the bus carrying him and a score of other fresh arrivals pulled into a desert camp cordoned off with barbed-wire fences.
There, 1,800 workers, sent by North Korea to earn badly needed foreign currency, were living together under the watchful eyes of North Korean government supervisors, Mr. Rim said. They worked from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or, often, midnight, seven days a week, doing menial jobs at construction sites.
“We only took a Friday afternoon off twice a month but had to spend the time studying books or watching videos about the greatness of our leader back home,” Mr. Rim said at a recent news conference in Seoul, the South Korean capital. “We were never paid our wages, and when we asked our superiors about them, they said we should think of starving people back home and thank the leader for giving us this opportunity of eating three meals a day.”
Tens of thousands of North Koreans work long hours for little or no pay, toiling in Chinese factories or Russian logging camps, digging military tunnels in Myanmar, building monuments for African dictators, sweating at construction sites in the Middle East or aboard fishing boats off Fiji, according to former workers and human rights researchers.
For decades, North Korea has been accused of sending workers abroad and of confiscating most of their wages. But in the years since Kim Jong-un took over as leader, human rights researchers say, the program has expanded rapidly as international sanctions have squeezed the country’s other sources of foreign currency, like illicit trading in missile parts.
A 2012 study by the North Korea Strategy Center, a group in Seoul that works with North Korean defectors, and the private Korea Policy Research Center estimated that 60,000 to 65,000 North Koreans were working in more than 40 countries, providing the state with $150 million to $230 million a year. That number has since grown to 100,000, human rights researchers said.
“North Korea is exploiting their labor and salaries to fatten the private coffers of Kim Jong-un,” said Ahn Myeong-chul, head of NK Watch, a human rights group in Seoul. “We suspect that Kim is using some of the money to buy luxury goods for his elite followers and finance the recent building boom in Pyongyang that he has launched to show off his leadership.”