Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tom Segev on Gaza

A great piece from respected historian Tom Segev in Ha'aretz.

. . .Israel is striking at the Palestinians to "teach them a lesson." That is a basic assumption that has accompanied the Zionist enterprise since its inception: We are the representatives of progress and enlightenment, sophisticated rationality and morality, while the Arabs are a primitive, violent rabble, ignorant children who must be educated and taught wisdom - via, of course, the carrot-and-stick method, just as the drover does with his donkey. The bombing of Gaza is also supposed to "liquidate the Hamas regime," in line with another assumption that has accompanied the Zionist movement since its inception: that it is possible to impose a "moderate" leadership on the Palestinians, one that will abandon their national aspirations. . .
One of the funny things I've been noticing about political commentary on Middle Eastern issues - particularly relating to the Levant - is that the further a given commentator is from the situation, the more hysterical he tends to be. I noticed this during the internal fighting in Lebanon last may. The reporters in Atlanta screamed bloody murder while Beirut's main English paper was pretty sanguine about the whole thing.

It's probably not new. The motivation for the first Crusade was similar propaganda that was spread by the Catholic Church - that the infidel Arabs who controlled the Holy Land were slaughtering the Christians and defiling the Churches. None of it was true, but it got people into the streets.

The same is true about the current bombing of Gaza. People on both sides are screaming "Nazi" at eachother, while the more complex realities are better captured by the people on the ground.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Obituary for Samuel Huntington

The man who coined the phrase "Clash of Civilizations" died on Christmas eve. The Hindustan Times recently carried this short, but informative article about the man:

. . . If the Huntington thesis survived, it was because of 9/11 and all that came afterwards. Today the most fanatical Huntingtonians are Osama bin Laden, the Arab street and the Bajrang Dal. It remains the best intellectual fit for their own conspiracy theories to explain the decline of the Arab world and legitimise their biases.

Huntington continued to produce books based on interesting concepts for which he had no supporting evidence. Among his last was a claim that Mexican immigrants to the US were endangering the country because they, unlike other immigrants, weren’t integrating fast enough. It was as weak as the Clash, but no crisis helped to propel this thesis into the limelight. . .

I started into (but never finished) most famous book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order back in the late nineties, not too long after it came out. I was sort of impressed by it at the time - it did provide a framework to understand the post-Soviet era, and I hadn't done that much reading in the field at that point. Huntington made the interesting observation that both Islamic and Western philosophy and theology were dualistic and universalist - they believe in Good and Evil, and they believe that they have the right answer for everyone. For this reason, said Huntington, they were destined forever to be in conflict.

The thesis, however, has increasingly been proven to be nonsense, its fundamental weakness being in its definition of a "civilization." The only "civilizations" it reasonably described were "the West" and "Islam," while everyone else got an awkward label that didn't really seem to fit. The "Sinic" civilization didn't seem to say much more than "Post-Mao China and current allies." The "Orthodox" civilization didn't say much more than "Latent Russian sympathy for ethnoreligiously similar peoples."

More importantly, the dualism and universalism that Muslims and Westerners share has never been shown to be the reason for their conflict. Bin Laden, for example, in his video after the New York/Washington attack, made fairly reasonable, fairly material demands: troops out of Arabia, end the occupation of the Palestinians, and end the sactions on Iraq. There is no evidence that the subsequent hostility create by the "Global War On Terror" had anything to do with ideology - everybody knows that America didn't invade Iraq to install a democracy, and that Muslim militants aren't travelling to Brazil or Ireland in a search for defenseless Christians to blow up.

Samuel Huntington's Clash got it wrong. Joe Strummer's Clash, on the other hand, was definitely on to something.

They should have made him a prof at Harvard.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Elusive Palestinian Surrender

Yet again, the IDF will be asked to "exercise restraint" as it crushes the Palestinians. According to Ha'aretz, at least 230 Gazans are dead, with over 700 wounded. We will be told how Palestinians have been firing "indiscriminately" (to use the words of one Zionist spokesman) at Israeli civilians, while both the causes and the effect of those pitiful rocket attacks - most of them with homemade weapons - will not be examined; more people die in American school shootings in a year than have died in seven years of Qassam attacks.

And isn't Hamas being oh-so-dastardly by resuming fire as soon as the ceasefire ended? How this latest chapter began, however, will be entirely forgotten, when Israel imposed an embargo on the territory it had supposedly "disengaged" from because it's silly people used their new democracy to elect the wrong people. "The Arabs will just use their tunnels to re-arm!" was what we heard from zionists who opposed the truce. Obviously, they did, but the tunnels also became a way to keep a million people from starving. Hamas agreed to the calm because they thought it would be a step towards getting the siege lifted. For most zionists, however, openly negotiating with the leading Palestinian party is taboo.

This is just as it was before negotiations with the PLO started in 1991, after the Madrid conference. Before then, Arafat and the PLO were supposedly Public Enemy #1, and numerous operations had been launched to smash the organization, including the IDF's initial invasion of Lebanon. As with people everywhere, Israel needed to see tomorrow's enemy rushing at it before it could bring itself to talk to today's.

After all, why would you want peace with the Palestinians when, at long last, their surrender seems so close?

All of that, however, is history. It's lost on those of us who rely on CNN or CanWest Global for our news. Instead, having launched the last massacre in 2006, having blocked their food and fuel, having abducted them by the thousands, and having taken their homelands by force, Israel will be asked that this time, this time, would it please show some "restraint"?"


I received this in an e-mail from a local lawyer who is active on these issues. I can't think of a way to describe it. . .

"A Christmas Card from the Children of Bethlehem"

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

The Proud Islamist would like to wish all my Christian friends a very Merry Christmas. I find your celebration to be quite endearing, and your practices and beliefs to be delightfully quaint.

The rest of you may resume your orgy of mindless materialism and aimless consumption.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

From Somalia to Gaza - A familiar pattern

It's getting repetitive. Muslim government X defies the interests of the West, and is immediately is demonized for treatment of its own people - as if their rights were ever the concern. Following adequate hoopla, it is brought down by a coalition of Western forces or their allies. The mission was supposed to be a cakewalk, but suddenly the cheerleaders and sensible liberals here in West come upon the bewildering realization that we were not welcomed with open arms, and wonder at how ungrateful the occupied population was, or how the powers that be had "failed" to plan properly.

Inexplicably, a motley crew of low-tech fanatics and nationalists send us packing, while those of us who knew the war was a bad idea to begin with are saying "I told you so," but it doesn't do any good: a country that once had an imperfect - perhaps even repressive - but stable, government is now in utter chaos. We failed to bring freedom and democracy, not because we didn't have a good Marshall Plan, but because we never intended to make one anyways. The wise amongst us always knew that it was never about beliefs and values as much as it was about making a small number of people very rich.

I'm talking about Iraq, I'm talking about Afghanistan, I'm talking about Palestine, and I'm talking about Somaila.

Over a year ago, in Noveber 2007, I made this comment on the situation in Somalia:

And that's the rub - the ICU is still a more legitimate government than the Ethiopians, with more local support and a better chance of being interested in Somalia, as opposed to maintaining a the integrity of the Ethiopian state, which is probably the main concern (to be charitable) in Addis Ababa. By entering Somalia, the Ugandans under the AU are providing stability to an order that is inherently unstable, and propping up the power of an aggressor instead of helping a popular, egalitarian Somali political movement to govern Somalia.
The result of the Ethiopian pullout will be a worse situation than Somalia had since the ICU united the capital.

Ha'aretz's Daniel Levy sees the parallels between this, and what the IDF is contemplating doing to Gaza, under the principle, established by the Americans, that democracy is only good if our friends win the elections. The whole article isn't long, and worth a thorough read.
Gaza is not yet Somalia. But the warning signs are there. There was nothing inevitable about the disintegration of Somalia. It happened as a result of misguided policies - notably of the current Bush administration and Ethiopia - which should not be repeated by Israel in Gaza.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

On Jargon

"Obscurity implies complexity, and complexity implies importance."

- John Ralston Saul, The Unconscious Civilization.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Is irreverence possible anymore?

"Is nothing sacred?"

The phrase is often said jokingly, to express hyperbolic disgust over the transgression of some minor tradition. "Pizza with artichoke on it? Is nothing sacred!?" Really, though, what do we have today that IS considered sacred?

That less and less is actually considered taboo in most Western countries is considered by some to be a good thing. I generally agree - this is almost part and parcel of the freedom of expression. The tearing down of taboos means the opening up of new avenues of social and political discourse. We are free to talk about teen pregnancy, STDs, racism, sexism, and abuse of power by all traditional authority figures. We are free to make asses of ourselves, just as much as people are free to point out how assinine we are.

Shock-value entertainment thrives in this environment. Want to see women fight over a wealthy man? Tune in every Wednesday night at 8. Want to become an overnight celebrity? Write a book insulting a religion. Want to make your movie a box-office hit? Gore and sex are your guarantors, but please, go further than the last movie did.

I don't claim that this is new. For the Romans, watching people kill eachother or be torn apart by lions was also wholesome public entertainment. That said, where in "Western" civilization do we find reverence anymore?

There are some topics that still cannot be mocked or exploited for public entertainment. It's still considered bad taste to make fun of victims of domestic abuse or sexual violence. War veterans and cancer patients are also considered above reproach. This is not reverence, though, this is pity, or in the case of veterans, respect.

As for religion, those doors seem to have been flung wide open. Prophets, scriptures, saints, icons, and the Almighty himself are not spared. To ridicule religion seems so overdone that it is cliché.

Today, irreverence is impossible, because that would imply that there was something we revered.

I am not sure that this is a bad thing. If we are free to criticize, then we don't have to hide the thoughts that we might have been silently concealing, and by expressing them we give ourselves the benefit of hearing the response.

That said, reverence is not just a quality of the revered, it's also an emotion that we feel. I wonder what would happen to a society where no one ever felt it.

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Why NATO hasn't "won" - Alternative answer

Following my previous post on why NATO is having trouble crushing the "Taliban" (which seems to have become a catchword for anybody who resists NATO or the Karzai regime), I posed the question to a couple of new acquaintances of mine who have spent time in Afghanistan working with NATO outreach programmes.

According to them, there were several reasons why NATO, with its massive advantages, is still not able to vanquish the Taliban.

1. The Taliban know the terrain by heart. NATO forces don't

2. They kill and terrorize anybody suspected of collaborating with NATO. Consequently, it's hard to find allies on the ground. (Which, ostensibly, NATO would never do to people cooperating with the Taliban . . .)

3. They are good at using the Internet to communicate and call up support rapidly.

4. They currently control major ground supply routes, so while NATO has more resources, it also costs more for NATO to do anything.

5. They move in small groups, whereas NATO moves in large ones. They know where NATO is going and when it's leaving, whereas NATO lacks that information on the Taliban.

6. The population often distrusts foreign forces, particularly Westerners, remembering experiences with the British and the Soviets, as well as recalling how America forgot them once the Soviets were routed. They don't understand that this time, we really ARE trying to help them.

I can't help but snicker a little at that last one.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Eid Mubarak. . .

. . . especially to those who have made the momentous journey this year.

To the rest of you, take a day off, spend time with your family, count your blessings, and pray for the New Year.

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Random politics

I recently received an inexcusably stupid robo-call on my answering machine (yes, answering machine. Yes, the kind with two tape cassettes. Yes, it is over 20 years old. Back when electronics were built to last) from the Konservative party. I might take a moment to get into the details later, but if you awoke last night at 3AM, drenched in sweat, screaming "I wonder what The Proud Islamist thinks about the coalition!!!!!" then the answer is: I support it. In the long run, it might backfire politically on the liberals, but from a principled point of view, it was the right thing to do.

(For those of you who haven't been following the situation, the excellent CBC journalist Neil MacDonald tried to explain it to Americans like this. The old man over at Atlas Hugged also has a lot of insight on this sort of thing; he amazingly predicted it in October.)

People who have been protesting against it as being undemocratic don't understand a parliamentary democracy. People who say that the Liberals are being hypocrites after criticizing Harper for trying to do the same to Martin are ignoring the critical difference - back then, Harper did not have the confidence of the House.

People who say that Harper is being a hypocrite for labeling the coaltion as a deal with "separatists" are bang on. Harper did indeed propose the same thing before Martin went out; he just lacked any ability to make it a reality.

People who say that "separatists" shouldn't be allowed to influence the government have either been living on another planet for the last 40 years, or they hate both Canada and democracy.


In unrelated news, here is an interesting exchange between Imam Zaid Shakir and a reader of his New Islamic Directions website, on the election of Barack Obama. It is long, but worth at least a skim through, especially if you don't understand why people like me are critical of liberal America's latest saviour.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Why can't NATO win?

Much has been made of the fighting spirit of Afghans, particularly the Pashtun (or Pat'hans, as they are commonly known). Every conqueror since Alexander the Great who has swept through Asia has found Afghanistan to be the end of his enterprise. Though their code of honour and hospitality is legendary, so is their ferocity; Pashtuns don't like outsiders waltzing in and telling them what to do. Afghanistan's resistance to British colonialism was immortalized in this famous painting of a British Army doctor, Dr. William Brydon, returning back to British India from the disasterous campaign.

The painting, by a British noblewoman, was called "Remnants of an Army."

That was then, though. Looking back at those times, it seems relatively obvious why the British, who dominated all of India with a relatively small force, were not able to do the same in Afghanistan. I am no historian, but we can safely assume that they were beaten by their opponents' advantages in knowing the terrain and the weather, in having shorter supply lines, and in being versed in a type of warfare that the British army was not built to prevail in.

The famous Chinese strategist Sun-Tzu, author of the ancient but oft-quoted Art of War, wrote that there were 5 factors which would determine victory or failure. He called these The Moral Law, Heaven, Earth, The Commander, and Method and Discipline. In less stilted terms, these meant public approval, weather, terrain, leadership, and training and discipline.

Today in Afghanistan, NATO commanders have been broadcasting waves of pessimism about their mission. Whatever the nuances, it appears that NATO, which is in Afghanistan entirely at the Bush regime's behest, will not have everything its own way. The top military men in situ think that some sort of compromise with hostile elements will be necessary in order for NATO to be able to achieve its stated objectives.

Afghanistan has been the graveyard of foreign armies for a long time, but this current situation is surprising. How is it exactly that a rag-tag band of religious zealots are giving the most powerful military alliance in the world a run for its money? Finger-pointing at Pakistan becomes the knee-jerk reaction, but even if Pakistan were the problem, it is hard to see why NATO can't defeat a Pakistani proxy.

Using Sun-Tzu's analysis, NATO's technological and organizational advantages should give it total dominance. With aerial surveillance, satellite surveillance, all-terrain armoured vehicles, guided weapons, unmanned drones, multi-billion-dollar training programmes, unified command structures, and staggering numbers of academics and corporations devoted to fine-tuning the military machine, NATO should have no trouble putting Heaven, Earth, the Commander, and Method and Discpline on its side of the ledger, or at least neutralizing them. The British were still using swords, riding horses, and firing single-shot rifles, all of which were easy for their Afghan opponents to match. Afghanistan today does not manufacture satellites or tanks.

Which leaves the Moral Law. Clearly, those who oppose NATO's presence in Afghanistan, and who are willing to do so with violent force, are not universally hated by the people they live amongst. It is impossible to operate a guerrilla force if all regions and segments of society believe that your cause is unjust. The corollary to that is that NATO is not universally loved by Afghan people either.

If that is the case, then what is being billed as "liberation" is exactly the opposite.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

English rules, words, and phrases that every supposedly educated person should understand

It bothers me when people with multiple university degrees misuse English, or whatever the lingua franca happens to be. This is especially grating when it happens to be the miscreant's first language. Correcting this will be a hard, thankless task, but I believe that this blog and I are up to the task. I would like to warn readers that much of this will sound awfully self-righteous on its own; for that, forgive me, I need the catharsis.

Where to start . . . ?

Let's start with a rule that I just correctly applied, but that is too often confused - the difference between saying "Jack and me" and saying "Jack and I."

"Jack and me" is not always incorrect. Consequently, people who always use "Jack and I" become transparently pretentious. "Me" is the 1st-person pronoun to be used as a direct or indirect object. In plain language, this means that you can use "me" whenever something is being done to you.

Example: "The teacher reprimanded Jack and me for being slovenly heathens." (correct)
vs. "The teacher reprimanded Jack and I for being slovenly heathens, and I just proved her right." (incorrect, pretentious).

That will be our grammar lesson for the day.

Let's get on to diction and pronunciation.

"Homage" is pronounced the way it is spelled. It is an English word, and has been for a long time. Say the bloody H. You do not sound more intelligent by saying it like a French word, as in "Omaaaajh." On the contrary, you sound like an unlettered savage, trying to feign intelligence.

The noun that corresponds to the verb "to prevent" is "Prevention." You decrease your esteem amongst literate people when you say "Preventation."

The verb that corresponds to "Orientation" is "to orient." You sound like a self-important buffoon when you say "Orientate." Is that consistent with the above lesson on "Prevention?" No, of course not. Merely because a "zealous" person is a "zealot" who is full of "zeal" does not mean that a "jealous" person is a "jealot" who is full of "jeal." Languages are never perfectly consistent, so quit boo-hoo-ing, and live with it.

There is no such word as "irregardless." Nobody ever uses "irregardless" without really meaning an actual English word, "regardless." People who say the former likely do so because they have heard literate people using real words like "irrespective" or "irresponsible." In these cases, the "ir-" prefix actually means something.

A verbal trick you use to remember something is a "mnemonic" device. It is NOT a "pneumonic" device. It will not cause you to be short of breath.

To "forage" means to find and gather something desirable from a relative wilderness. To "forge" means to create or build something from materials that are difficult to work with.

There is no such verb as "to impact." You cannot "impact something." You may "have an impact" on something, or you could "affect something." You have a perfectly good verb and a perfectly good noun to explain what you mean - there is no justifiable reason to "verb a noun."

That's enough of that for today; let's move on to misused phrases.

The phrase "to beg the question" is so abused that instances of its correct use are dwarfed by instances of its abuse. "To beg the question" does NOT mean that it "raises the question." In using it this way, you fortunately do not sound like a pompous fool. Instead, you simply sound like an otherwise normal individual whose experience in intelligent conversation and debate is highly limited. "To beg the question" means to provide an answer to a question or challenge that provides no information that was not already assumed in the question.

Correct usage example: "Why should we cut taxes?"
"Because then people will give a smaller percentage of their income to the government."
"You are begging the question."

Incorrect usage example: "Why should we cut taxes?"
"Because this will allow people to spend their money, resulting in a expansion in private enterprise, which will, in turn, create more employment and prosperity for all."
"But that begs the question: how much to we need to cut taxes in order to see an effect?"

In the first example, the person responding to the question did not provide his interlocutor with any information that was not assumed in the question. The questioner obviously knows that cutting taxes results in people giving less money to the government, he is asking why this is a desirable thing. The responder was truly "begging the question." In the second example, the responder has provided a reasonable answer to the original question, which raises the issue to which the second question is addressed. The response in no way "begged the question."

The opposite of "de facto" is "de jure." You can pronounce the "j" if you like, although to be faithful to the Latin, one should not. "de facto" implies that whatever is being discussed is not the result of an official ruling, legitimized by the accepted authority, but that it has come to be by convention. If it had been legitimized by the accepted authority, it becomes, by definition, "de jure."

At this point, I suspect that the collective attention span of my target audience is on the wane (there is probably an underlying reason why they haven't already learned these simple things). The rest of you could probably go for longer, but since you are already educated, enlightened individuals, I don't want to carry coals to Newcastle. This, therefore, will be the end of this lesson. If you are very fortunate, we will reconvene some other day.

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"House Negro" is not a racist term

At least, not in the way that everyone seems to think.

I walked into a local diner on Wednesday and saw something on the TV that immediately ruffled my feathers. CNN was on, the volume was down, and the caption on the screen read something to the effect of "AL-QAEDA HATE. BIN LADEN NO.2 USES RACIAL SLUR."

Within the Muslim world, it is fairly well known that there is a culture of racism and xenophobia in some Arab countries, and so this was not particularly surprising by itself. It isn't universal, but discrimination against non-Arabs is not difficult to find amongst Arabs privately, or in the policies of Arab governments. I wondered immediately what Al-Zawahiri, whose most familiar file footage was playing across the screen, had said.

"House Negro" is what he had said, and he had said it about Obama.

How insensitive! How primitive! How blindly hateful! Clearly, Ayman Al-Zawahiri is a racist. Only a racist would say "Negro." Our guardians of racial harmony and diversity, from CNN to Rush Limbaugh, stuffed their bellies with the thick honey of moral indignation.

Since I know where the phrase comes from, (and so did CNN viewers, if they watched for long enough and paid attention) I was neither shocked nor disappointed. In fact, a part of me very definitely sympathized, if not agreed. Let's see what Al-Zawahiri actually said:

Filtering out some of the de rigeur bigotry against Jews (which is condemnable), Al-Zawahiri's point is hardly racist in nature; on the contrary, he is explicitly borrowing arguments and concepts from an Afro-American human rights* icon. The validity of his usage of the term may be disputable, but its faithfulness to the original meaning is not.

Obama has indeed been touted as a symbol of change - the black prince who will finally put colonialism, racism, and discrimination to rest. He is widely seen as a man without connections to the neoconservative establishment, who will be garner the admiration and sympathy of the developing world and, because of his heritage, be more willing to deal justly with it.

None of that is true, and while domestically he will likely be better for Americans than McCain would have been, anyone who is expecting a fundamental shift in American foreign policy should have long ago been disappointed. As the Democratic primaries were well under way, Obama had made a remarkable transformation into yet another imperialist hawk, pledging to perpetuate the war in Afghanistan and legitimize Israel's grip on the Palestinians. By criticizing the decision to invade Iraq and suggesting further diplomacy with Iran, Obama may have changed some of the methods of US policy, but not its objectives.

Zawahiri's comments are only racist if you consider it wrong to assume that a black man would not be involved in this. They are only racist if you don't consider such policies to be the doing of "the white man." If it is not race that drives foreign policy, but something else, then black or white should make no difference.

It is clear though, that Zawahiri is not the only person who is claiming that a black president ought to be a different kind of leader.


*Malcolm X himself rejected the term "civil rights." Black people to him were human beings first and citizens second, and so to him it seemed absurd to appeal for civil rights from authorities who had spent so long robbing Afro-Americans (again, his preferred term) of human dignity.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shorter CanWest Global x 3

Today, The Proud Islamist is reading Canada's 3rd-rate journalism so you don't have to.

I give you the latest from Canada's print and television empire, noted purveyors of the American magazine that has become the traditional bastion of Republican wingnuttery.

Shorter David Warren:

Article: Rebuilding

The Judeo-Christian tradition is the only one in the world that believes that people are responsible for their choices. Hopefully, Barack Obama will realize this, and stop trying to help poor people escape what they deserve.

Shorter George Jonas:

Article: The war before the war
George Bush Sr.'s participation in the 1990 war with Iraq was an act of noble self-sacrifice. George Bush Jr's war in 2003 was a reasonable act of self-defense; Saddam shouldn't have spent so much time convincing everyone that he was a threat.

Shorter Baron Conrad Black of Crossharbour:

Article: Obama's victory marked by a wealth of opportunity
Having a lot of time on my hands these days, I've been thinking: even though Obama is a dangerous Marxist, he could institute some important reforms in the US financial sector and labour market. He could also get Iraqis to pay us for all the good we are about to do for them.
His Lordship looks best in stripes

O God, grant me the ability to distinguish stupidity from malice.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

A great farewell

If you knew that your time in this world was coming to a close, what would you say?

Over 14 centuries ago, on the 9th of the month of Zul-Hijjah, 10AH, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), delivered the following sermon in the valley under Mount Arafat. Accounts differ on certain important theological points, but this is a common rendition of what he said.

O people, lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether, after this year, I will ever be among you again. Therefore, listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could not be present today.

O people, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your Lord, and that He will indeed reckon your deeds. God has forbidden you to take usury; therefore, all usury obligations shall henceforth be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer inequity. God has judged that there shall be no usury and that all usury due to al-`Abbas ibn `Abdul-Muttalib shall henceforth be waived.

Every right arising out of homicide in pre-Islamic days is henceforth waived, and the first such right I waive is that arising from the murder of Rabi`ah ibn Al-Harith [a relative of the Prophet].

O mankind, the unbelievers indulge in tampering with the calendar in order to make permissible that which God forbade, and to forbid that which God has made permissible. With God the months are twelve; four of them are holy; three of these (holy months) are successive and one occurs singly between the months of Jumadah and Sha`ban.

O people, beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things.

O people, it is true that you have certain rights
with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Treat your women well and be kind to them, for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, as well as never commit adultery.

O people, listen to me in earnest. Worship God, say your five daily prayers, fast during the month of Ramadan, and give the share of Zakah [tax for those in poverty] in your wealth. Perform Hajj if you can afford to.

All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black, nor does a black have any superiority over a white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is the brother of another Muslim and that Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim that belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.

Remember, one day you will appear before God and answer for your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.

O people, no prophet or messenger will come after me, and no new faith will be born. Reason well, therefore, O people, and understand my words that I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the Qur'an and my example, the Sunnah, and if you follow these you will never go astray.

All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others, and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness, O God, that I have conveyed Your message to Your people.

In his account, literary scholar Martin Lings wrote:
He ended his brief sermon with an earnest question. "O people, have I faithfully delivered unto you my message?" A powerful murmur of assent, "O God, yea!", arose from thousands of throats and the vibrant words "Allahumma n'am" rolled like thunder through the valley. The Prophet raised his forefinger and said "O God, bear witness!"

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Everything old continues to be new again

Another post in my who-knows-how-many-part series on bad ideas that keep getting recycled.

This time, a quote from Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment ca. 1866 (trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky).

"But it is my personal view, if you like, that something has been done: useful new ideas have been spread, and some useful new books, instead of the former dreamy and romantic ones; literature is acquiring a shade of greater maturity; many harmful prejudices have been eradicated and derided . . . In short, we have cut ourselves off irrevocably from the past. . .

"If up to now, for example, I have been told to 'love my neighbour,' and I did love him, what came of it?" Pyotr Petrovich continued, perhaps with unnecessary haste. "What came of it was that I tore my caftan in two, shared it with my neighbour, and we were both left half naked. . . But science says: Love yourself before all, because everything in the world is based on self-interest. If you love only yourself, you will set up your affairs properly, and your caftan will also remain in one piece. And economic truth adds that the more properly arranged personal and, so to speak, whole caftans there are in society, the firmer its foundations are and the better arranged its common cause. It follows that by acquiring solely and exclusively for myself, I am thereby precisely acquiring for everyone. . . A simple thought, which unfortunately has been too long in coming, overshadowed by rapturousness and dreaminess. . ."

"Get to the consequences of what you've just been preaching, and it will turn out that one can go around putting a knife in people." . . . Raskolnikov was lying pale on the sofa, his upper lip trembling; he was breathing heavily.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Oh, how it fills my heart with glee

Beware the Stealth Jihad!
(Ok, I'm kidding. But only a bit.)

This won't make much sense to those of you who don't follow the Fearosphere(TM) , but it had me giggling with glee:

Robert "End Muslim Immigration" Spencer and Charlie "Murdering Peace Activists is Hilarious" Johnson are having a little tiff. The bone of contention? Which one of them is really the fascist.

I can think of an answer to their conundrum!

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Monday, November 3, 2008

George Bush's long lost twin

An embattled president, drawing closer to a presidential election.

A man whose bellicose foreign policy has been perennially controversial, polarizing both his own country and the world

A man of faith, who is suspected of desiring the return of a saviour, and an apocalyptic future for the world.

A leader who is thought by many to be an intellectual lightweight, a frontman for someone with depth and cunning who pulls the strings from the shadows.

His supporters denounce his critics, saying that they are weakening the country at a time when unity is a priority.

"Stay the course!" is his battle-cry, even if the economy is heading into the toilet. The lower classes still rally to him, because "he understands people." "He is one of us."

Meet Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

We don't understand Darfur. . .

And until we do, how can we intervene?

I recently had a couple of conversations with a Canadian advocate for the United Nations Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS). Well-informed and well-connected on all things related to "the responsibility to protect," one of his goals for the project, which is essentially a UN standby intervention force, was to create a mechanism whereby the UN would have both the mandate and the resources to intervene within a state where human security was being trampled.

Conventional wisdom has it that in Bosnia and Rwanda, the failure of the UN stemmed from the combination of opposing political interests in the UNSC and the unavailability of military resources to forcefully intervene. The failure of the international system in Darfur (not to mention the DRC) is often cited as the latest example of the UN's impotence in the face of brutality on the ground. The joint AU-UN force currently on the ground may have done some good, but it arrived late, was too small for the territory, and was criticised for its inability to guarantee human security (for a variety of reasons).

And so Darfur is invoked as a reason for why we need the UNEPS. I don't disagree with the idea. Once we have such a force, however, what exactly would its mandate within Darfur going to be?

"Stop genocide," obviously. The situation in Darfur, however, is not so straightforward. Omar El-Bashir, vile though he is, is not Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin. I have no problem laying the blame for at least some of Sudan's 1-3 (depending on the year) concurrent civil wars on his shoulders, and I hope that he is made to answer for at least some of what has happened in Darfur, in Southern Sudan, and in Eastern Sudan in front of the ICC. That said, however, he is not creating lists of people to be liquidated and marching them in front of firing squads or into gas chambers. His army is prosecuting wars, and either using violence against civilians as a tactic, or assisting other parties to do the same.

I began seriously following the conflict in Darfur in 2005. News wires from all the various agencies always spoke of some point in February 2003, or thereabouts, when Darfurian rebels took up arms against the government, because of "Khartoum's neglect" of their region. Beyond this, it was hard to figure out exactly what the rebels wanted, and what their politicial and military disposition was. As they fractured, and as their internal political differences were brought out by peace talks with the government, the way forward became even more difficult to see.

Fast-forward to the start of 2008, when the actors have all shifted to the point that the initial narrative no longer makes any sense. It isn't true anymore to say that "Arab Janjaweed militias are being helped by Khartoum to wipe out the Black Darfurians," if that even ever was true. This article, from the Lebanon Daily Star and Al-Arabiya, gives an account of just how fluid the lines are, and some idea of each party's interests.

Dealing with the Abdel Wahid "problem" by neglecting him is no longer an option. Nor can the Arabs of Darfur continue to be excluded from peace efforts, on the grounds that the government speaks for them. It neither speaks for nor cares for them. If groups like Hemeti's are engaged, Abdel Wahid is re-engaged and North-South war is averted, there is a chance that Darfur may eventually find peace and stability. If not, the players will take new partners - and the dance of war will continue.
Got it?

That's just the tip of the iceberg.

Given an understanding of the political situation, the sloganeering around Darfur suddenly seems trite, like a hero-fantasy entertained by university students in rich countries. Yet, we know that there is great suffering, and to stand by and do nothing seems inhuman.

So before we do "something," we should have a clear idea of what we are getting into.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Sound advice

If I lived in the United States, I would probably have a different perspective on the US election. As it stands, I am less than thrilled with Obama, who seems hell-bent on intensifying combat in Afghanistan, and perhaps supports its expansion into Pakistan. McCain, for his part, hasn't contradicted such a strategy on anything other than a public-relations basis; he won't say it's wrong, but he doesn't think Obama should talk about it. If I lived in the United States, I might find some reason to believe that Obama wasn't going to turn even more of the federal government's functions over to private stakeholders.

Since I don't live in the United States, though, I think the advice of Hasan Zaidi, writing in Dawn, is particularly wise:

. . . The point is this: it really does not matter to us which party is in power in the US. American interests — or at least the perception of American interests — is what drives American policy towards Pakistan, or anywhere else in the world. We would do well to remember that it was under Bill Clinton that American cruise missiles hit Afghanistan for the first time, and a most crippling economic embargo was imposed on Iraq that reportedly led to the death of hundreds of thousands of children. The differences between the Republicans and Democrats are limited to their domestic arena, and at best to the style of international diplomacy. Yes, Obama being quite possibly the first black president does send a good message to the world about America. Yes, his early schooling in Muslim lands may give him a better understanding of cultures other than American.

But to believe that his ethnicity, his parentage or his party affiliations are going to fundamentally alter real American geopolitical interests with regards to places such as Russia, China, the Middle East or Central Asia is to live in a make-believe world. It’s time Pakistan’s media woke up, and as Americans are fond of saying, ‘smelled the coffee’.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Comparisons with Apartheid

As I have said here before, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not so significant for its magnitude, but rather for the scale of the public relations fraud that has been committed in North America by those who, openly or secretly, support zionism. We thus have the bizarre spectacle here of watching certain people accuse the Muslim world of waging a religious war against non-Muslim nations while simultaneously supporting the creation of a state primarily for European Jews in the heart of the Muslim world, with little more than the Bible as an excuse.

The thuggish tactics of the occupiers against the occupied, though well documented in situ, rarely make it to these shores. The rare occasions on which the occupied successfully lash out with their homemade weapons are each given their own media circus.

Here in Canada, opposition to this bizarre and mendacious narrative has faced difficulty getting off the ground. It is difficult to get your message out when 149 of the country's newspapers, and one of its private national broadcasters were recently owned by a supporter of Likud Canada, who passed the company to his kids.

One great hope is Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East. Well-organized, and representing a broad cross-section of Canadians, this group has already put on some phenomenal events. The next one, with South African human rights lawyer John Dugard, promises to be no different.

If you're in one of the 4 cities where Mr. Dugard will be presenting, I highly recommend attending.

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Conversation with a Muslim South of the Border

Based on a true story.

". . .So what else is new?"

"Not much. I might be coming down there sometime soon."

"Oh really. In my neck of the woods?"

"Yeah. I'll come and survey potential targe- - er, I mean, visit."

"That's not funny!"

"I'm laughing."

"You're an idiot. Echelon's listening."

"Well, all I can say is: 'Jihad, bomb, Sheikh bin Laden, Satan, fertilizer, ammonium nitrate, death to America!'"

"Shut up!"

"Now Echelon's listening!"

"You don't know how things are down here."

"Canada's not that different."

"It's different enough. We have Echelon down here. We have warrantless wiretaps. I don't have citizenship!"

"Relax. They aren't going to come after you just for keywords."

"They've come after people for less."

"Listen, if things have already gotten that bad - to the point where you have to watch what you say over the phone - then it's too late. They're coming for us anyways. They're coming for us anyways, and the only question we have to ask is whether we want to live these last days as free men, or whether we want to live them as cowards, waiting for them to come for us. -- I don't think things have gotten that bad, though."

"That's easy for you to say from Canada."

"Maybe. Maybe not."

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pleasing people

Ibne-Abbas (may God be pleased with him) narrates that the Messenger of God (peace and blessings upon him) said: He who makes God angry for [the purpose of] pleasing people, God becomes angry and makes those people . . . angry with him. And he who pleases God by making people angry, God is pleased with him and makes those people pleased with him . . . so much so that He makes him virtuous in the eyes of those people who were angry and his words and deeds become adorned in their eyes.

(Tabarani, Majma-'uz-Zawaid)

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Shorter Robert Spencer

Another one for the Paranoid Delusions file.

Article: A change of tactics: opting for the stealth jihad

During my latest speech exposing the vast plot to impose a Muslim theocracy over America, agents of jihad did not boorishly disrupt the event, proving just how devious they have become.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

The CMAJ agrees. . .

Even a recent editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal agrees; Stephen Harper hates Canada.

Listeriosis is the least of it

Stephen Harper's hatred of Canada has, up to now, been manifested in small ways - his appeals to patriotism to fund a war that is against the country's interests, his gutting of arts funding, his studied avoidance of health care issues, his Bush Playbook political strategies, etc, etc. The changes in public health policy are an anomaly, in that they make Canada even less civilized than the United States, even though mostly, he has been going for par.

The listeriosis epidemic is a timely reminder that the Harper government has reversed much of the progress that previous governments made on governing for public health. Following the 2003 SARS epidemic and subsequent recommendations of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health,7 the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) was created and given its own minister in government — a direct line to the prime minister. But in 2006, among Prime Minister Stephen Harper's first acts was to eliminate the PHAC minister and public health's seat at the Cabinet table. His government also left the chief medical officer of health within the ranks of the civil service, working under the minister of health. In so doing, it left our country without a national independent voice to speak out on public health issues, including providing visible leadership during this crisis.
I don't think that Harper has the power to undo all the virtues of this country. If, however, he gets back into office - even with a minority - he will have an opportunity to do far more damage than he already has.

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

For all you strategic voters out there

This site gives riding-by-riding information on how to beat your local ReformaTory candidate.

I tend to vote with my heart, but if you are worried enough about a Konservative majority, given that STEPHEN HARPER HATES CANADA, it's very valuable information.

As I've said before, high voter turnout is not necessarily a good thing. If you haven't been following the election, and aren't aware of the histories of the parties or their current platforms, please, don't vote.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

What I like to hear!

The NDP are taking my advice. (Ok, it's improbable that Jack Layton has has dismissed his consultants and is perusing this site for his election strategy, but how do you know he isn't?)

On to the awesomeness:

And in French, it's double the awesomeness:

Polished, unapologetic, knows who its audience is (and more importantly, is not), and strongly suggests that Stephen Harper Hates Canada (TM).

If only they'd start saying it all in English.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Shorter David Warren

Article: Bailout Blues

The current US Financial crisis is happening because black people were encouraged by the government to own homes.

It's thanks to Conrad Black and the Aspers that this tripe is published in Canada. Excellent 3-line rebuttal here.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Settling for crocodile tears

These are the last ten days of Ramadan, and are given special importance by Muslims. The significance of the month is thought of in many ways: it is "the month of the Qur'an," it is a time when Satan is chained and the Muslims must only contend with themselves, it is a time to pull back from the material and devote oneself to the spiritual, and a time to suppress all of the bad habits and attitudes that creep into our hearts during the rest of the year.

The ritual of fasting is likewise construed in many ways, just one of which is an act of solidarity with those who are impoverished. By making ourselves unable to eat or drink, the reasoning goes, we gain an understanding of what it means to be physically deprived, and develop sympathy for those who have no choice but to be.

Reading this piece from Al-Jazeera English today, I was reminded of the huge gap between the symbolism of Ramadan for Muslims the world over, and the action that is needed from them.

Said a Daoud Hari, a refugee from Darfur:

I think that [US President George] Bush has done a really good job with Darfur.

Before Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, and Gordon Brown, the new prime minister in the UK came in, he was acting alone.

No world leaders talked about the genocide or the crisis in Darfur.

Now Bush is leaving office and we want the next president to do more to help Darfur.

Both [Barack] Obama and [John] McCain have to take action and end any negotiations with the government of Sudan.

The next president of the United States has to make this the most important issue for them, as this the most serious humanitarian crisis on the planet.

They could use sanctions, but they also have to take action to pressure China not to support dicatatorships in Africa and to help stop the genocide there."

Does he realize that Bush has no actual interest in Darfur? Does he realize that for all parties in the Western world, Darfur is little more than a matter of political convenience? For the Republicans, talking about it is a way to shore up their claim that they are interested in humanitarianism, a convenient cover for their opposite behaviour in the rest of the world. For "liberals", it's a way of proving the opposite; "if they were so interested in democracy and human rights," the Dems say, "They would have done something about Darfur." For the Zionist lobby, it's a way to deflect criticism of Israel, "why the fuss over a few thousand Palestinians when millions are being killed in Sudan!" they protest.

Maybe he does realize that. The problem is, though, that the people whose first responsibility it would be to help his people have failed to do so, starting with their awkward defense of Omar El-Bashir. Neither Africans, nor Arabs, nor Muslims, writ large, have done anything about that monster despite the havoc he has caused in order to enrich his regime. Their own failure to confront the problems close to home is part of their failure to resist the challenges from outside.

A local imam near where I live always includes Darfur in his supplications after a sermon. It's a start, but it's hardly enough. Until the Muslims act sincerely for Darfur, the people there will have to settle for crocodile tears.

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Shorter Robert Sibley

Article: Recalling another 9/11 Attack

George Bush's glorious "Coalition of the Willing" in Iraq is just like the European army that triumphed over the Ottoman hordes at Vienna in 1683, which is really the main reason why Muslims are angry at the West today.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Tariq Ramadan flattens Philippe de Villiers

Here's an entertaining exchange between Muslim academic Tariq Ramadan and conservative French politician Philippe de Villiers, on the French current events show Ripostes.

de Villiers believes that France's Muslim minority represents a threat to the Republic, and does not consider them to be truly "French." He goes from condescending and disingenuous to desperate and scatterbrained, ending the debate by grasping at ad hominem attacks against Ramadan.

De Villiers' arguments are prototypical of the "The Mozlems are Coming!" hysteria that seems to have gripped the much of the internet and the Western world, relying on isolated anecdotes, confusing Islam with the behaviour of certain Muslims, and holding them to a moral standard which he refuses to apply to anyone else - himself included.

It's in French, so if you don't understand the language, you should learn.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

I know that it's bad
That's it's the kind that they can't operate on
And I know, it's real slow, honey
Painful, and real slow.

Styrofoam coffee cups
And bad drugs that never work enough
And I know, it's real slow, honey
Painful, and real slow.

I get it all the time
Bright eyes, to bat and hide behind
But I know they're just for show, honey
Painful and just for show

Black rooms, to babysit,
White halls, to pace and wait for it
But I know it's too slow, honey
Painful and too slow

- Matthew Good, "99% of Us is Failure."

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

How to beat the Konservatives: "Why Stephen Harper Hates Canada"

I'm fairly certain that nobody advising Stéphane Dion, Jack Layton, or Elizabeth May reads this blog. That said, if they were, here is what I would tell them.

1. Wrap yourselves in the flag, and question Harper's patriotism.

2. Support a vision of Canada as a bilingual, multicultural society, and force the Conservatives to prove that they support it too.

3. Recycle Harper's academic and lobbying past, and remind everybody what and whom he worked for. Run pictures of him whining to the US Congress about how awful Canada is.

4. Don the mantle of Tommy Douglas, and bring back the religious left.

5. Don't bother trying to prove that you "Support the Troops." Prove to everyone that the Conservatives really don't.

Finally a little bit of individualized advice for a) Dion:

You aren't Sarah Palin. You aren't even Jean Chrétien. You are a more like a mild-mannered version of Pierre Trudeau. Don't apologize for that, and don't force yourself to pretend otherwise.

and b) Layton:

Yours is not the party of big money. Bay Street hates you above all. Most people, however, have a legitimate reason to hate Bay street. Exploit that.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Apartheid Yet? How about a Crusade?

The human rights monitoring centre B'Tselem released a report this week about continuing seizure of Palestinian land by colonists in the West Bank, entitled "Access Denied."

Settlers pave patrol roads and place physical obstructions on Palestinian lands adjacent to settlements, at times with the authorities’ approval, at others not. Settlers also forcibly remove Palestinians, primarily farmers, from their lands. B'Tselem has documented cases of gunfire, threats of gunfire and killing, beatings, stone throwing, use of attack dogs, attempts to run over Palestinians, destruction of farming equipment and crops, theft of crops, killing and theft of livestock and animals used in farming, unauthorized demands to see identification cards, and theft of documents.
As usual, the IDF and zionists everywhere try to pass off the seizure of thousands of acres of Palestinian agricultural land by the colonizing power as a "security measure." B'Tselem addresses those absurd excuses:
Indeed, in 2002-2004, Palestinians killed 31 Israeli citizens and injured many others inside settlements in the West Bank. But Israel allows settlers to enter freely, without supervision, the land, which ostensibly was meant to serve as a warning area free of people, but is, in effect, closed only to Palestinians. As a result, settlers move about on the Palestinian land regularly, steal their crops, and even live on and work the land. This practice breaches both the logic of a “warning zone” and the military orders closing the area.
Yet, in what is the most misconstrued conflict in the world, "serious" people in politics and journalism, who will leap to any opportunity to toast Nelson Mandela, are timid when it comes to calling a spade a spade, and labelling such a situation as being only marginally different from apartheid in South Africa or Zimbabwe.

Instead, the victim is serially blamed. Who is responsible for starting the conflict? The Arabs, of course, for failing to accept a UN vote that divided Palestine into two fragmented states, solely for the benefit of a largely European immigrant minority. Who is responsible for continuing the conflict? The Arabs, of course, even though every agreement struck between Palestinians and Zionists has been marked by faster and faster rates of eviction and confiscation. As a Dawn editorial notes, the Annapolis agreement has been no different:
. . .the area under the settlements is now 40 per cent of the West Bank, even though in 1948, when the UN partition plan was adopted, the European settlers possessed only six per cent of Palestine’s land. . . All peace plans have fizzled out because Tel Aviv never had any intention of quitting even an inch of Palestinian land. In November last, Israel signed the Annapolis document, which pledged it and the US to a two-state solution by the end of this year. However, within a week of the signing, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert declared that his government was not bound by the Annapolis timetable.
Finally, who is waging a religiously motivated war for global domination? As the North American narrative has it, the Muslims are, even though one has to reach back centuries to the expansionistic era of the Ottoman empire to find an example where Muslims tried to impose a Muslim regime upon a non-Muslim country.

There is, however, a reason why Zionism has been rammed down the Palestinians' throats so enthusiastically by Western nations, and there is nothing secular about it.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008


"Thoughts become intentions. Intentions become actions. Actions become habits. Your habits define your character. Good thoughts lead to good character."

- A wise friend.

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Shorter Daniel Pipes

The West's Islamist Infiltrators

Over the past 6 years, several Muslims have been accused of supporting terrorists, or fired from jobs in the US where they might have posed a threat, which just proves the need for us to be suspicious of every Muslim.

(What is a shorter?)

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Thursday, September 4, 2008

Mike Huckabee at the RNC: The Viet Cong stole your desks

Please do not judge your American friends by what you see on TV. Really, not all of them are imbeciles.


"...And with that, she went to the door of her classroom and motioned, and in walked over 20 veterans, some of them still wearing the uniforms from days gone by, every one of them carrying a school desk. And as they carefully and quietly arranged those desks in neat rows, Martha said, "You don't have to earn your desk, because these guys, they already did."


These -- these brave veterans had gone halfway around the world, giving up their education, interrupting their careers and families so that we could have the freedom that we have. Martha told them, "No one charged you for your desk, but it wasn't really free. These guys bought it for you. And I hope you never, ever forget it."

And I wish, ladies and gentlemen...


I wish we would all remember that being American is not just about the freedom we have; it is about those who gave it to us.


And let me remind you of something. John McCain is one of those people who helped buy the freedom and the school desk that we had. John McCain helped me have a school desk.

And I want to tell you: I pledge myself to doing everything I can to help him earn a desk, and I'm thinking the one that's in the Oval Office would fit him very, very well..."


In a nutshell, American prosperity is guaranteed by the use of aggressive military force against 3rd-world nations.

This is what Huckabee, along with the great white horde, were essentially celebrating: how else to explain the link between John McCain's service in Vietnam and the school desks in an Arkansas classroom. Were the VC stealing school desks from American schoolchildren? Was there a Vietnamese armada striking out for Americas shores (NB: fleeing refugees do not count)?

"We had to destroy the town to save it, and to get our desks back."

It may be an unwitting admission - but the fact that the crowd cheered so enthusiastically tells you something about the way many Americans view brutal military aggression - not even as a necessary evil, but as the guarantor of their way of life, and something to cheer about.

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Bravo London!

Not, that is, the real London, but the pretend one in southwestern Ontario.

The city has voted to stop the sale of bottled water in public buildings where water fountains are available.

As I have written before, and lectured to friends, colleagues, and astonished strangers, bottled water is the enemy of humankind.

Yes, there's nothing like the pure, fresh taste of the City of Guelph

There is nothing quite so emblematic of the frivolity of consumers, the destructive power of marketing, and the greed of industry than bottled water, a tremendously profitable product that has successfully created a huge, lucrative market for something that is already available for free.

Where public enterprise has created an efficient, affordable, and safe method of distributing a product that is essential for life, private enterprise is trying to supplant it with an inefficient, polluting, and overpriced alternative that exploits and depletes natural resources.

As for the beverage industry's argument, that bottled water is a healthy alternative to sweetened soft drinks, we should take heed, and ensure that cheap, clean, cold city water is ubiquitously available, rather than being supplanted by arrays of vending machines in public buildings.

Or is that not what they meant?

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Monday, September 1, 2008

The Story of Polio in Pakistan

Or. . . "What Happens to Muslim Societies in the Absence of Disciplined Islamic Scholarship."

From Dawn: Sindh, Northern Areas and FATA described as polio nurseries
From The Guardian (Feb 2007): Polio cases jump in Pakistan as clerics declare vaccination an American plot
From IslamOnline (Feb 2007): Pakistani fatwa boosts polio vaccination

Not that I'm a fan of Pakistan's MMA party, but unfortunately, no one else was available to be the adult in the room, and in the absence of even questionably qualified authorities, people look to whatever self-appointed preacher happens to be around.

The good news, however, is that if the four remaining affected countries (Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, and Nigeria) keep making progress, most of you reading this will live to polio go the way of smallpox before it.

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1st Ramadan, 1429

Its here!

Ramadan mubarak to all the Muslims out there.

And to my non-Muslim readers: feel free to eat and drink in front of your Muslim friends and colleagues. Fasting is not famine; that would defeat the purpose.

And for those who know me personally - if there is some verbal abuse you've been waiting to heap upon me, now is probably a good time for you :)

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Corruption Cycle

I found myself sitting around a picnic table the other day, talking about corruption in Pakistan, and then the broader problem of corruption in the Muslim world. By corruption I don't mean what goes on at midnight on a dance floor, but governmental corruption.

Bribery is a problem because it gives people an incentive to NOT do their job. "That area is not zoned for commercial development, so I can't let you build your factory there, unless . . ." When corruption exists in the justice system, it becomes an incentive for officials to actively dole out injustice. That's why it's called "corruption," of course, because it well, corrupts.

One person at the table recounted a story of how his uncle, who worked for a police force in Pakistan, was significantly poorer than his colleagues, because he refused to offer or take bribes. At the lower levels, however, the policemen had much less choice - they were paid a pitence, and had many economic and social pressures to fend off. His uncle, however was only relatively poor, and that is tolerable. When his son was arrested with several others in connection with a robbery, however, the other defendents were quickly released, as soon as they figured out the price. Even an honest man couldn't let his son languish in jail awaiting a suspect trial, when a little cash would get him out like all the others. . .

"It starts at the top," said another Pakistani. It certainly existed there; when the people running the country treat the constitution like a thug treats a public phone directory, people get the idea that laws are just suggestions.

"No," I and one of my brethren said together, "it starts at the bottom." This I had said almost automatically; 'God does not change a people's lot unless they change what is in their hearts' (13:11). The leaders are derived from the population. If bribery is how you get ahead in life, then the young leaders will grow up seeing it as tolerable, even normal. If you draw from a stagnant pond, you can't expect pure water.

The counter, of course, is that the people live under the system made for them by the leaders; corrupt politicians will appoint corrupt judges and ministers, who will run corrupt courts and departments, which will induce their employees to be corrupt, until the ordinary citizen will have to give and take under the table in order to just get by.

It's a perplexing problem. Barring abnormally heroic leaders, of whom there are only a handful (none of them being heads of state), how do you fix it? How do you break the cycle? There must be an entry point somewhere. Is it through the ulema? In most Muslim countries, that is an institution with its own innumerable failures, so I wouldn't hold my breath for it.

There must be an entry point somewhere.

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No righteous ones

I was thinking of writing something about the recent conflict in Georgia, but Uri Avnery, of Gush Shalom, said it pretty well already in a very insightful article:

. . .
This is the historical background to the recent spat between Georgia and Russia. There are no Righteous Ones here. It is rather funny to hear Vladimir Putin, whose hands are dripping with the blood of Chechen freedom fighters, extolling the right of South Ossetia to secession. It's no less funny to hear Micheil Saakashvili likening the freedom fight of the two separatist regions to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. ...
I am not entirely certain if the peoples, writ large, of both Abkhazia and South Ossetia actually wanted full independance from Georgia. Everything I've read and heard over the past few weeks seems to indicate that, but I don't have a familiarity with the politics to really tell.

Let's pretend he's not a war criminal

That is, however, the key to the conflict. No matter what a vile, evil, unspeakably brutal murderer Vladimir Putin is, the morality of the enterprise rides on that - if the people of South Ossetia wanted independence, and were indeed being violently oppressed by Saakashvili's army, then all the hand-wringing from NATO is either irrelevance or hypocrisy: they can't castigate Russia for intervening in Georgia when America is sitting in Iraq.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Everything Old is New Again

Well, I'm back.

While I was away, China held an extravagant and protest-free Olympics, Russia invaded some separatist regions of Georgia, Barack Obama's lead over McCain continued to shrink, Pervez Musharraf agreed to do what might have been the honourable thing in 2007, the US and the "Iraqi government" came to an agreement on permanent US bases in the country, the CMA elected another pro-privatization ideologue to its presidency, and everybody and his dog wrote a review about how deep The Dark Knight was.

Rather than commenting on a current event, though, today's post is about how history repeats itself, and more importantly, how its observers do to. I touched on this a bit in a previous post.

Some of you might have heard of the Democratic Peace Theory, or the Golden Arches Theory, of conflict prevention. For those who haven't, the theories respectively state that nations that are democratic or have liberalized economies (symbolized by McDonald's) don't go to war. Obviously, both theories are nonsense. Georgia and Russia are both democracies with parliaments and elections, and both have McDonald's, as did the United States, Yugoslavia, Lebanon, and the Israelis.

People who believed such drivel, along with those who wrote and published it, no doubt believed that it was based on sound empirical data and an objectively derived rationale.

I would assert though, that the real line of thinking is more like this:

"My country follows system X and I am safe and prosperous, therefore everybody who follows system X will be safe and prosperous. If only everyone were as virtuous as my people were, they too would enjoy the benefits. P.S. Support the Troops!!!"

And it's not a new line of thinking either. The 19th century British theorist Henry Thomas Buckle thought along similar lines, arguing, amongst other things, that "Civilization" decreased the desire of a people to go to war, and that

. . . as the intellectual acquisitions of a people increase, their love of war will diminish; and if their intellectual acquisitions are very small, their love of war will be very great.
It would be interesting to count just how many wars the British empire was engaged in during Buckle's lifetime, that he was able to write that so glibly.

Buckle at least had the rather plausible causes of "Civilization" and "Intelectual Acquisition" to support his theory. Today, we have the "Golden Arches" and "Democracy."

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Monday, August 11, 2008


I'll be on the move a bit over the next 9 days, but I'll be back on August 22nd.

In the meantime, here's a good hadith:

Abdullah b. Mas'ud reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Whom do you count as" Raqub" amongst you? They (his Companions) said: One who has no children (the children are born unto him but they do not survive). Thereupon he (the Holy Prophet) said: He is not a Raqub, but Raqub is one who does not find his child as the forerunner (in Paradise). He then said: Whom do you count as a wrestler amongst you? We said: He who wrestles with persons. He said: No, it is not he, but one who controls himself when in a fit of rage.
-Sahih Muslim, Book 32, Number 6311

While I'm gone, peruse the links to the right, or some of my old posts to keep yourself from jonesing out for a lack of my blogging.


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Saturday, August 9, 2008

A society without homelessness

It would be a nice thing, wouldn't it? I don't know if it has ever been achieved in a country - if it has, then it is probably in some small, fabulously rich country like Switzerland, or an island with only 10,000 inhabitants. Taking the phrase another way though, many of us already enjoy such a society.

I stumbled upon this 2007 report from the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership, based in Calgary, which details the problem of homelessness in Canada, and provides wisdom on solving the problem from both policy wonks and homeless people themselves.

Homelessness is a hard problem to track, for the same reason that it is a hard problem to solve - these people don't have stable addresses. Nevertheless, according to the federal agency responsible for addressing homelessness, Canada had a homeless population of 150,000 in 2005, a figure that, according to the aforementioned report, may be between 200,000-300,000 today.

Taking the more conservative number, 150,000 represents roughly 0.48% of the Canadian population, or about 1 in every 200 Canadians.

Now, think about how many people you know personally - not your bosom friends, just people you've met whose names you can recall, and whom you might recognize if you saw them again. How many people is that?

Now think of how many people you know who are homeless.

I tried it myself.

I am very close to living in a society without homelessness.

And yet I live in a country with lots of it.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008


In 2003, Newsweek published this story, full of mistakes and/or lies.

Today, Aafia Siddiqui has been confirmed to be in American custody, and may have spent the last 5 years as the mysterious and mentally disturbed "Grey Lady of Bagram." The whereabouts of her 3 children, who disappeared on the same day as her, are still unknown.

Some actual journalism (consisting of more than taking dictation from government officials) was done by Katherine Osment of Boston Magazine.

What happened to Aafia Siddiqui and her children that day is anyone's guess. Siddiqui's mother, Ismet, claims that a few days after Siddiqui's disappearance, a man on a motorcycle arrived at her house in a leather suit and helmet and told her Aafia was being held and that she should keep quiet if she ever wanted to see her daughter and grandchildren again.

A report in the Pakistani Urdu press said that Siddiqui and her kids had been seen being picked up by Pakistani authorities and taken into custody. Even a spokesman for Pakistan's interior ministry and two unnamed U.S. officials confirmed this in the press. Several days later, however, Pakistani and American officials mysteriously backtracked, saying it was unlikely that Siddiqui was in custody.

Today she stands accused of shooting a US soldier with his own gun, having miraculously reappeared in Afghanistan.

The lies are maddening.


On another note, I came across this from a friend who is currently attending the 17th International AIDS conference in Mexico City.

Since I am unfamiliar with the background, I cannot vouch for the content or the claims being made, except to say that I agree with this statement:

"The Iranian government must demonstrate that the current allegations are credible and ensure that the Alei brothers have access to legal counsel,” said Joe Amon, Director of the Health and Human Rights division at Human Rights Watch. “And they must recognize that these charges stifle the country’s efforts to effectively address AIDS and to serve as a model for the region."

. . . and that HRW (who have yet to steer me wrong) have also issued a statement to similar effect. For whatever good it might do, I signed the petition (and encourage you to consider it).

If you are the praying sort, please remember Dr. Siddiqui and the Alei brothers in your heart.

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Sunday, August 3, 2008

Blaming Pakistan

There's a little ditty that's gaining popularity around the world. It goes something like this:

If your Afghan war is bloody
Blame Pakistan
If your Afghan war is bloody
Blame Pakistan
If your Afghan war is bloody
But you want it to seem cuddly
If your Afghan war is bloody
Blame Pakistan!

Ok, so I'm no Shakespeare.

Nevertheless, the recent bombing at the Indian embassy has the CIA and the CIA's Kabul frontman, Hamid Karzai, doing what they've been doing ever since Pakistan stopped being their base for harassing the Soviets - blaming Pakistan.

If the weapons involved in the blast were made in Pakistan, there's no surprise - but if the weapons were Russian in origin, would that mean that Russia had sponsored the attack? If it had been a US shell that was used in the bomb? Anyone who has even seen a photograph of a Karachi intersection knows that Pakistan is awash in guns, and has been that way since the last time a foreign power invaded Afghanistan. A lot of the world's ordnance over the last 30 years has found its way to Afghanistan.

Whenever something like this happens, one must ask "who benefits?" Did the ISI see some weakness to exploit in attacking the Indian embassy? Does India have a dearth of eligible embassy staff? Or maybe we are to believe that the ISI is acting out of blind hatred, merely trying to kill Hindus willy-nilly. If that is the case, there is a better place to find Hindus than in Afghanistan. Alternatively, maybe there was something going on at the Indian embassy that the ISI wanted to stop. If so, the Indians certainly aren't saying, and one would in that case have to wonder why?

What did the embassy bombing accomplish? Well, it made everyone blame Pakistan. By using Pakistani ordnance, whoever was supposedly in charge of the operation left a huge, gaping, amateurish liability - not something one would expect from a battle-hardened cloak-and-dagger spy agency. Predictably, a blast at the Indian in embassy in Kabul might kill some Indians, but it does nothing but hurt Pakistan's position.

But then, you might ask, if it wasn't Pakistan, then who? Perhaps it was the same people who attacked the Pakistani Consulate in Kabul this week. Maybe it was India.

Or maybe there is a war being fought in Afghanistan, and maybe it's a complicated country, divided along linguistic, religious, political, and tribal lines. Maybe Afghans are just generally averse to having foreigners tell them what to do, and especially sensitive to having a government imposed upon them by force. Maybe Pakistan is a convenient scapegoat for the difficulties of a war that was initially advanced only to satisfy the American public's desire for a bloody revenge, and little more.

If, however, "Blame Pakistan" turns into overt (because covert might already be going on) action against a country that has already bombed its own citizens in order to please America, then any Pakistani officer who advocated steps against NATO and its Afghan proxy will have been proven right.

As a recent column in the Globe and Mail put it

If Pakistani paranoia about India was the only thing that led its spies to work against the Karzai government, then it may be possible to provide reassurances and push back Indian activity in Afghanistan. However, beyond the fears about India are deep suspicions about U.S. intentions.

The fear, not only in the Pakistani intelligence community but across Pakistani society, is that, once the United States pacifies Afghanistan, Pakistan is next.

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