Tuesday, 24 August 2010

I first met Frank Ching back in the mid seventies, when he was one of those who "knows about China" to whom new diplomats were directed.  He was solid then, solid, reliable and insightful ever since.  Below he comments on the tendency of this Chief Exec, Donald Tsang, to preemptively give away our autonomy.  One hopes that the "inputs" from these China-appointees to the policies of Hong Kong will be positive and based on some understanding of what makes this place tick: independent judiciary, rule of law, clean and transparent government, minimal government, low tax.
(my apologies to Frank for copying the whole of his article, a practice I've recently found out is called "scraping", as opposed to selective quoting.  I have no choice since the South China Morning Post on-line is only available to subscription.)
So, scraping away -- here the top of the barrel...

Friedman, Kristof and Dowd, STILL on about the "GZM"

"GZM" = the Ground Zero Mosque, though, to be fair to the apologists, it really is not on GZ, but about two blocks north.
[at left, quotation of a Turkish poet, by Turkish PM Erdogan]

I thought the furore would have died down by now, but no, still on the boil, with no less than the NYT Trinity weighing in, taking up both op-ed pages yesterday.
They deserve a longer critique, but for now I'm in a rush and this is just to make sure I get them "filed".
Quick comments are:

Friday, 20 August 2010

View from a balcony, Discovery Bay, Hong Kong

Hmmm.... just wanted to see how this stitched photo came out here: one day, August 15th looking over Central and Victoria harbour Hong Kong to Tiger Head Mountain, Lantau
View from a house in Discovery Bay.
Random, no reason for posting; just out smelling the flowers, enjoying a clear day on the harbour.
From here you could see a sunrise and the sunset as well.


Half the width.  Actually, I think this one's better...

[for those wondering, this is not the view from our house; just a place down the road]

PEW News IQ score

Try this news quiz  from Pew research, it'll just take a minute or two, and see if you can get all correct (as I did..... *glow*).
Hat tip to Planck's Constant.

That Mosque just won't go away....

Well, you know, I got it wrong.  I thought that once it had its planning permissions, there'd be a bit more huffery and puffery from the anti jihad watching crowd, then the builders of this so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" would get on with it and we'd "move on".   But no, the issue has picked up a head of steam and consumed air and band width galore in the last few days.  (Though I'll bet it dies down in a day or two...)
BTW: there's been a lot of talk of just where it is and if it really is on Ground Zero.  It's two blocks north, about 600ft.  [Map above left, hat tip to Unambiguously Ambidextrous]

"If you think... vote Green". Not.

"If you think.... vote Green".  That's the title of an ad -- well, virtually an ad -- which has been done by an Aussie show called Gruen Nation, on Australia's public broadcaster, the ABC.  You can see it on the Green's site, as well as the Greens' policies.  [Postscript: well, well... they've removed the link to the "ad".  Perhaps even the Greens twigged to the fact that it was indeed risible].
For my legions of readers who are uncertain which party to vote for in tomorrow's election... well, don't ask me.  All I can suggest is who not to vote for.  The Greens.  For me they're rather too pink whereas for others they're just not green enough. [hat tip Rosetta Stone photo above left]
Below the jist of an email sent out to a few rellies and friends...

Send the white Darth Vaders in.....

Get this: anti-GM "activists" invaded the fields of poor Signore Fidenato and trampled his GM corn into the ground -- and that they did so while wearing "chemical protection suits"!  [them at left: "oooooh, I'm scared.....]
This, for corn that Sig Fidenanto was eating: that he says requires fewer chemicals, while producing higher yields.  And which have been used for decades in the US with no recorded harm.
The phlegmatic Sig Fidenanto observed that if they'd waited a few weeks they could have made polenta....
There's nothing in the article to indicate what the "activists" think is wrong with the GM corn; they're just scared of it.

Article here.

"Woman sues Disney for trying to hide hijab"

Imane Boudial [at left] says:
"They're saying because I'm Arab, because I'm Moroccan, because I'm Muslim, they don't want to see me in the front".
Well, no, they're not saying that.  She was employed, after all, by Disney.  She asked them "several months ago" if she could wear the hijab and only decided to wear it, in defiance, when Ramadan started recently.  So clearly it had nothing to do with her Moroccan-ness, her Arab-ness or her Muslim-ness.  It had simply to do with a dress code, which is clearly stated by Disney.  Note that they even bent over backwards; they did not say she could not wear the hijab, just that if she did, she would need to work in a back-of-house area.  This is combination Muslim victimhood with doing one's own small part to promote the spread Islam and Islamic practices....
[Postscript: update story here]


Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Ross Douthat on the "Islam in Two Americas"

We've spoken about the Ground Zero Mosque as being about two issues: they "right" to build there, which really noone disputes; and the "sensitivity" of building there, which the opponents are saying should dictate it be built elsewhere.  Why There?
As, as so often when he weighs in on an issue, Ross Douthat does so with insight, sensitivity and constructive points.  Here, for example, he takes these two issues, the "right" to build vs the "sensitivity" of building, and develops it into a theme of two: the "Two Americas".
[who is Ross Douthat (DOW-thut)?]

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

*That* mosque: there's the "right" to build it, for sure; but they shouldn't

When Obama made the speech supporting the building of the Ground Zero Mosque (GZM -- that's the building on the left that's going to be torn down to make way for it), he said they had the "right" to build there, just as any religion had the right to build where zoning allowed.  He framed the issue in terms of freedom of religion, as did Mayor Bloomberg.  Opponents said: the issue's not about "rights" or freedom of religion, we don't dispute those rights; what we're concerned about is the sensitivity, or lack thereof, of building it there.  Pamela Geller's sign on the buses said it all: "Why There?".  As Laura Ingram, speaking to George Stephanopoulos, said:
 ".....600 feet from where thousands of our fellow Americans were incinerated in the name of political Islam?  And we're supposed to be considered intolerant if we're not cheering this?"

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Sharia finance a "huge flop" in the UK

[At left, source Living Journey]
Perhaps the simple fact that Sharia finance is an inferior product -- quite apart from the fact that it's a hypocritical con, costly, and the potential source of funding for terrorist organisations -- will see the death knell of Islamic (aka Sharia) finance.   At least that's what this article, from the Wall Street Journal would seem to suggest. [pasted below]
I've been writing for a while about this issue, and even been interviewed by Australia's ABC new 24-hour TV station, and engaged in some debate with none other than the chief imam of Hong Kong's mosque in the pages of the local newspaper.

"The Steady Erosion of Women's Rights in Egypt: A Photographic Story"

Aha!
I've been looking for this, on and off, since I first saw it some time ago, and have just come across it again. Check out the photos of the graduating class of Cairo University, from 1959 to 2004.  (1959 at left).

Phyllis Chesler says:
These photos, sent by my good friend Tareq Heggy, speak volumes about the politicization of the Islamic Veil. In the 1950s, Cairo University graduates were not veiled. By the twenty first century, the veiling of educated women was fully underway.

"Sceptics challenge Hirsi Ali", Neighbour's weasel piece

Another dopey article by useful idiot, Sally Neighbour [her, at left].  This one about Ayaan Hirsi Ali's recent article on which I commented here.  Neighbour wrote something pretty dhimmi-ish a while back and I was about to do the research to find and reference it, but I see that Sheik Yer Mami has done the job for me and better.  He links to several of her articles, including one in which she says the chador is a "symbol of liberation".
She claims below that there is no Islamic forced marriage in Australia.  But in her very own newspaper, The Australian, there was a report in 2005, in which the Victorian Islamic Women's Welfare Council talks of its concern for Muslim girls forced into unwanted marriages.  The council said then:

Greek Orthodox stymied, while mosque greenlighted

Wow, this snippet about the Ground Zero mosque controversy.  A Greek Orthodox church that was buried on 911 has not managed to get permission to RE-build.  Meantime of course, a new mosque has got presidential and mayoral attention and is given green light.  As the lady says "where are our priorities?"

Deborah Norville [a former co-anchor of NBC's Today]: "... A Greek Orthodox church. That church has run into every conceivable impediment. And in nine years that this church, this place of worship has not been able to get the port authority and other agencies to get them the green light to rebuild. And, yet, a mosque, with no presence in the area, has been given the green light by getting the landmark status of this building rejected, a lot of people look at that and go, where are our priorities?"






Saturday, 14 August 2010

"Interest and Usury are clearly different"

Just for completeness, below is latest letter on Sharia finance, which was started off by mine and then an answer from the chief imam of Hong Kong.

"The United States of Islamophobia"

In an episode of The Simpsons, Homer does a talk show and gets down with some very populist stuff.  Two scaffolders on their break are listening in and agreeing with Homey's observations.  "He's so spot on", says one.  "Yeah," says the other "my neck's sore from nodding in agreement".
That's how I would have felt once, maybe as recently as just a few years ago, about the article below by Arsalan Iftikhar [above left].  And how many, maybe most, of my friends and family would now feel, necks sore from nodding in agreement to such sentiments as the ground zero mosque being a centre of "tolerance", that if there is to be a reformist movement in Islam, "it will come from places like the proposed institute" -- nod, nod, ouch, nod.
But now, my neck hurts from shaking in disagreement.








First about the reformist movement: look at the history of imam Rauf, the guy in charge of pushing the project.  He has written a book, "Good for Islam, good for the US", in which he champions Sharia law (which would not allow for "man-made" laws such as the US Constitution), and restrictions on freedom of speech.  He has implicitly blamed the US for the attacks of 911.  Osama bin Laden was enraged by US policies Rauf says; in fact, if you read OBL's writings and those of al-Qaeda, in the "Al-Qaeda Reader", it's clear that their targets are the infidels of the west, especially the US, which must be defeated and subjugated, given the choice of converting, paying the jizya tax, or being killed.  Nothing about grievances and gripes there; it's an existential battle.
And now, on the say-so of Zakaria, we are to believe that such a man is going to lead the Islamic reformation?  Dream on....
Then there's the quote from Goldberg of the Atlantic Monthly (a left-of centre magazine, to which I subscribe, along with The New Yorker and The New York Times, two others to the Left, to show my broadmindeness.....):

Obama supports supremacist mosque

Hot off the airwaves, report on the BBC World Service that Obama has just made a speech supporting the building of a 15-storey mega mosque right by 9-11's Ground Zero.  He made two key points, according to the Beebs: (i) Freedom of religion is paramount in the US and (ii) we should not confuse al-Qaeda with "ordinary Muslims", for al-Qaeda had "distorted the teachings of Islam".
On this we can make two points too:

Legalise drugs, control with education and medical means....

I first came across Jonathan Power some years ago when he wrote a piece about Islam and the supposedly golden era of tolerance during the Ottoman occupation of Spain, the Andelusian "golden era".  I thought it a piece of apologia, either ignorant or disingenuous, in any case, not a fair presentation of the facts.  So, I'd put him in the dhimmi category, or what my old mate would have called the "DC" category, as in Dead and something rhyming with "punts".  (the world divided into the two: the DC's and the Non-DCs, according to Peter P.).
But now Power has come out with an Op-ed piece carried full-page in the local South China Morning Post, favouring the legalisation of drugs....[more click below]

"Muslim centre's builders didn't foresee ill-feeling"

Another article in The New York Times, carried in the local South China Morning Post, about the supremacist mosque on Ground Zero, good because it brings the issue to broader public consciousness, but not so good in the way the article slyly puts critics of Islamism in the frame, implying -- not quite saying -- they are bigots, racists, "Islamophobes".
[above, left, Daisy Khan, wife of imam Rauf, promoter of the ground zero mosque]
Note, for example, the comment "....a movement had begun to spring up against Muslims who want a larger role in American public life." [para 9]  This "movement", if that's what it is, would have no problem with anyone of any race or faith having a larger role in American public life. What it is concerned about is those who hew to an ideology that would destroy American democracy, American values, the very Constitution that allowed them to participate in public life in the first place.  This is most clearly revealed..... [more click below]

Friday, 13 August 2010

BBC World Service to do program on the Muslim Brotherhood

My letter to the Beebs:

I’m glad you’re going to do a program on the Muslim Brotherhood.
I hope you will have read “Muslim Mafia”. 


And will also mention the stated aim of the Muslim Brotherhood in the US:

“The Ikhwan [the Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions.”  [ref]


Thursday, 12 August 2010

"Too laid-back about immigration"

The wonderful Ayaan Hirsi Ali lets go with both barrels in The Australian, on August 7. [photo left, courtesy The Australian]
She says what I've been on about for some time: that it's not an issue of immigration.  That it's an issue of Islam and values.
The myth is that Muslims are facing the same difficulties and discrimination that previous waves did: those from Italy, Greece, India, Vietnam, China and that just as these groups faced and overcame these difficulties and integrated into and contribute to Australian society, so too will the Muslims in due course.  So, nothing to worry about folks, just part of the argy-bargy of life.
Not so, of course.

"Mosque reaching out on the web during Ramadan"

That's a headline above, in the Miami Herald of 10th August.
Shafayat Mohamed, the Imam at a Florida mosque, says he's going to video-stream some services of his mosque and opines thus:
"Just let us spread the message of Islam, let people know the better of the Koran [sic].... People will learn more, Islam will spread, people will understand...".  
Mohamed's coreligionist, "outreach coordinator" Nidal Hozien adds:
"Some peple have an animosity against us, but that is built on lack of knowledge".
The imam behind the Islamic supremacist mega-mosque, Feisal Abdul Rauf*, claims his baby has the same aim, to "outreach", to teach non-Muslims about Islam, so that there won't be "misunderstandings" from "a lack of knowledge".  [That's Rauf above]

BBCs foot in mouth?....

Just heard on BBC radio: the story of two double-leg amputees who have climbed Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak.  Uplifting (...) story of a couple of blokes aiming to show that handicaps are no barrier to major achievement.
At the end of the piece, the Beebs said that the climb was not without incident.
"At one stage on the scree slope, one of the men lost his footing and slid down".
I thought he'd already lost his footing....

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

"There's no conflict with the U.S. Constitution in Shariah law." Really?

That's what Camie Ayash, a spokeswoman for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, said in yesterday's New York Times article "Across Nation, Mosque Projects Meet Opposition".  "There's no conflict with the U.S. Constitution in Shariah law."

But that's just not true.  Here's the key difference, the fundamental difference, the overriding difference between them:  The US Constitution says laws are made by people; Sharia law says laws are made by Allah.  The Constitution stands on the principle from the  Declaration of Independence: that governments "derive their just powers fromt the consent of the governed".  In Sharia, people are slaves to Allah (to whom they must "submit", Islam itself meaning "submission") and all laws are based on Allah's word as contained in the Koran.
That seems like a pretty big difference to me.  Law of Man vs Law of God.  Law of Reason vs Law of Faith.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Moral equivalence: Turkish genocide equals killings on a boat....

Denis Macshane, Britain’s ex Europe minister, plays the moral equivalence game in "Stop the Blame Game", below.  He claims that Israel has not apologised for the killing of  nine “civilians” on the Gaza flotilla in June, just as Turkey has not apologised for the genocide of Armenians in the 1920s.

This is not only gormless equivalence of the world's first recognised genocide with accidental killings on a ship; it's also plain wrong.

More on the veil....

The issue just won't go away, with the latest bit of idiocy from Lady Sayeeda Warsi -- the "most powerful Muslim woman in the UK" -- claiming the "right of women to wear the burka... 'What it boils down to is choice', she said, 'If women don't have a choice over what to wear, then they're oppressed'..." opined the Baroness.
Much more sensible were the comments in June by another Muslim woman, Saira Khan [a runner up in the first series of The Apprentice], who says "the veil is simply a tool of oppression which is being used to alienate and control women under the guise of religious freedom..... Girls as young as four are wearing the hijab to school: that is not a freely made choice".

Monday, 2 August 2010

The absurdity of French leftists

Letter to the Beebs, Re South Korean presentation of Ionesco's "Rhinoceros" in France. [Postscript: read out on 3 August]

(from BBC radio international here in Hong Kong with Mark Coles, 04:00 GMT, 2 August).

I just heard the French fellow (missed his name, but I think he was the Director) talking about the South Korean version of  the absurdist play “Rhinoceros”, which is now on the road in France.  He said “the real enemy now is capitalism” and goes on to praise collectivism.



"Why HK banks should offer facilities for Muslim residents", SCMP, 1 Aug

The Chief Imam of the Hong Kong, Kowloon Mosque and Islamic Centre has answered my letter of 11th July, as below and left (click to enlarge).
A couple of quick points:
I did not say he was a Mawdudi follower: just that the Islamist Mawdudi was the prime mover of Sharia finance, and that anyone pushing it was -- knowingly or not -- pushing an Islamist agenda.
I did not suggest that the Imam was promoting Sharia finance for all Hong Kong. Just that it is not mandated for Muslims (unless they wish to highlight the Islamist element mentioned above).
Donald Tsang has done more than "welcome" Islamic finance; he has said that changes to the law would be required.  And this would lead to increased cost for the rest of the Hong Kong.  See below, under the Imam's letter, for details of what these costs are: they include changes to tax laws, property laws, insolvency laws and security laws, part of "... the first step of what should be a long journey" -- with all these legislative and legal costs to be born by the community at large.
In the UK, the FSA has said it would neither promote nor hinder Sharia finance, as it was not a religious regulator.
BTW, online the Imam's letter has received an average of 1.5 stars out of 5, whereas my earlier letter had 4.5 stars...

Letter of 1st August: Muhammad Arshad, Chief Imam Hong Kong, Kowloon Mosque and Islamic Centre
"Why HK banks should offer facilities for Muslim residents"

I refer to Peter Forsythe's letter ("It is radical sharia law which has ruled against interest for Muslims", July 11). He referred to my comments in the report ("Islamic finance abroad, not for HK homebuyers", July 4). Let me clarify that I am not Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi's follower.
I did not demand that the Islamic financing system should be applied to the people of Hong Kong, but we would like banks to offer facilities for Muslim residents of the city, as they do in Britain. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen has on several occasions said that he would welcome Islamic finance in Hong Kong.
Islamic finance is a facility for those who, because of their religious beliefs, are not satisfied with the conventional banking system. It has been proved that Islamic banking is safe for customers and banks. That is why during the recent global economic turmoil Islamic banks remained safe.
Islamic banking is necessary for Muslims who do not want to be involved in usury or interest. Mr Forsythe differentiates between usury and interest: it is only a difference of words. In terms of Islamic principle, usury cannot be determined on the subjective basis of percentage.
Since Mr Forsythe addressed my affiliations, I would like to clarify. I grew up in Pakistan and studied in Pakistani University but I never joined Jamat Islami or Islami Jamiat Tulaba. I am a simple Muslim who believes in coexistence and harmony with every fellow human being as Islam teaches us. Everyone should enjoy the freedom to practise their religion.
********

About costs of Sharia Finance: From “Demystifying Islamic Finance”, Zaid Ibrahim and Co, 2010. P.23. [pdf].  Bolding is mine.

Misconception 14: Requires minimal changes to legal and regulatory framework
Islamic finance does not exist in a vacuum; it requires alignment with and support from the whole legal and regulatory framework. This means, while it is important for the banking and financial laws of a country to recognise and accommodate Islamic finance, for example, through a specific legislation, this is far from sufficient in ensuring that the Islamic financial contracts will be effectively enforceable.
At the minimum, other areas of law that may have to be amended to accommodate Islamic finance would include tax laws (for neutrality of tax treatment), property laws (for ability to undertake transactions involving real estates and create valid collaterals on them), insolvency laws (to enable Islamic financial institutions to enforce its claims against debtors and defend itself against creditors as may be needed), and securities laws (for the Islamic financial institutions to be able to offer or trade instruments that are Shariah-compliant).
As Islamic finance transactions becomes more internationalised, proper laws would need to be put in place to establish reciprocal enforcement of foreign judgments from across different jurisdictions. Clarity in the law would contribute immensely in terms of instilling public confidence in the financial system, and remove uncertainty as to whether an Islamic financial contract will eventually be enforceable in court in case there is a dispute.
Furthermore, it must be duly recognised that the forum for resolving disputes arising from Islamic finance contracts, whether a court of judicature or court of arbitration, must be adequately equipped with competent personnel as well as comprehensive legal infrastructures to enable it to precede over such cases smoothly and efficiently. The judges, arbitrators, attorneys, etc. handling such disputes must be very well-trained in order to ensure adequate competence and professionalism.
It must be borne in mind that the real test of the effectiveness of law is in its enforcement. Therefore, besides enacting and amending laws, authorities shall give adequate attention in building capacity for law enforcement.
Hence, it is incorrect to assume that Islamic finance requires only minimal changes to the financial laws and regulations, as indeed this is only the first step in what should be a long journey. At most, an Islamic Banking Act or Islamic Finance Law can be considered as the impetus for a country’s Islamic finance industry, but indeed the whole framework can only be feasible if alignment with and support from the rest of the legal system are also stitched together.
In countries where a comprehensive review and reform of the whole legal and regulatory framework is not undertaken, they will find their Islamic finance industry to remain surrounded by legal landmines.
********