Tuesday 28 August 2012

"Political Islam vs Modernity"

Thanks, Harry!
A very interesting essay by Tarek Heggy at The Almuslih Publishing Project in which he concludes: “In short, after 40 years of studying political Islam and studying its literature and writings – including university theses on the Islamic system of hadd punishments – I can see no possibility of there being any agreement between political Islam and the values of progress and modernity.”
Read on...

You are here.... "They" may be there...

This is the fantastic artwork showing where we are -- 250,000 light years
from the centre of the galaxy, and where the Kepler space
telescope is focussing in its search for earth-sized planets....(here)
Kepler tweets that it's found 41 new planets.  And that now the concentration will be on finding earth-sized ones.
It may be in my lifetime that we find one.  What a fantastic, exciting time for science.  The Higgs is found and may lead to another universe... The Curiosity lands without a hitch and is looking for life present or past on Mars, and Kepler is making great progress in finding habitable exo-planets.....

"There is no fun in Islam". Revellers find out it's..... True!

.... as the Ayatollah Khomeini said in 1979.....
"Allah did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer. An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious." [REF
And following on from the reports in the New York Times of various "misunderstanders" of Islam causing havoc in Sudan, in Libya, in the previously moderate Russian state of Tatarstan, we now have those fun-loving Taliban folk in action in Afghanistan, slaughtering 17 people who had the temerity to try to have some fun in that benighted country.... (South China Morning Post, 28 Aug.):

Taliban behead 17 for partying

Victims had gathered for a celebration with music and dancing when the attack took place

Seventeen people were found beheaded in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province yesterday - punishment meted out by Taliban insurgents for having attended a party with members of the opposite sex, music and dancing, officials said.

Islamic "misunderstanders" in the Paper of Record

These three articles are interesting, coming as they do in the "newspaper of record", the rather left-of-centre New York Times:

We are told repeatedly by Muslim and non-Muslim apologists that those creating havoc in the name of Islam are a "tiny minority", who "hijack" or "misunderstand" Islam.

But... but.... What about whole countries that seem to "misunderstand" Islam?

Iran, a nasty Shiite theocracy; Saudi Arabia, a nasty Sunni theocracy; Pakistan, an incompetent and duplicitous Islamic crypto-theocracy.... are all these "hijacking" Islam? are all these "misunderstanding" Islam? are they all misunderstanding and hijacking Islam, when they brutalise women, when they hang homosexuals from bridges, when they stone to death apostates from their "Religion of Peace"?

In newly spring-sprung Egypt, Pew polls show that 82% favour the stoning to death of women for adultery and 84% favour the death penalty for apostasy.  Are they "misunderstanders", all these Arabian-spring democrats?

In the West, majorities or large pluralities of Muslims want the imposition of Sharia law.

And now, in the "Paper of Record", in which articles about Islam are usually non-critical or outright apologist, we find no less than three major stories in two days, which attest to the violence done in the name of Islam. From Libya to Russia.*

How much more of this do we need to see before people stop with the drivel that Islam is a "Religion of Peace", and that violence done in its name is only by a "tiny minority of misunderstanders"?

*LATER: I have subscribed for some years to the New York Times alert on Islam.  That is, they send me daily links to stories they carry with any relevance to Islam. That's how I know that they are mostly articles favourable or outright apologist for Islam.
By contrast, I also take a Google Alert for Islam.  This trawls the internet, in (one presumes) a neutral way with its algorithms, and gives a result of 4-6 articles per day.  I did a bit of a study of this some time back and found that most articles thrown up by Google were critical of Islam.  Which is how it should be, in my view..... There's more to criticise than to praise....

Thursday 23 August 2012

"Radical Islam Joins the DNC"

This is interesting....
Starting at the end of this month the Democratic National Convention will open with a focus on Islam.  20,000 Muslims are expected to attend according to the Bureau of Indigenous Muslim Affairs (BIMA), the national Muslim American non-profit coordinating the two days of events they claim are non-political.  ”Jumah at the DNC” begins August 29 and will start with a Friday afternoon jummah prayer followed by other unnamed programs and events, leading up to the Islamic Regal Banquet. The following day will be an all day Islamic Cultural and Fun Fest which will include discussions on the topics of Islamaphobia, Anti-Shariah, Middle Eastern Crisis, Patriot Act, National Defense Authorization Act and more.  The purpose, according to BIMA, is to attract national and international attention to the plight of American Muslims and to hold political parties accountable for issues that affect them.  However, not all Muslims feel that BIMA represents them and M. Zuhdi Jasser M.D., Founder and President of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, has expressed serious concerns.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

"Don't Fear All Islamists, Fear Salafis"

A new Salafi Crescent, radiating from the Persian Gulf sheikdoms into the Levant and North Africa, is one of the most underappreciated and disturbing byproducts of the Arab revolts. In varying degrees, these populist puritans are moving into the political space once occupied by jihadi militants, who are now less in vogue. Both are fundamentalists who favor a new order modeled on early Islam. Salafis are not necessarily fighters, however. Many disavow violence.
By Robin Wright in the New York Times, 19 Aug here.
But really, Robin?  I mean, we shouldn't worry about the Islamists, simply because "many disavow violence"?
I mean, you say that "their [Salafist] goals are the most anti-Western of any Islamist parties".  True, but not much comfort... theirs is a virulent and violent anti-westernism, whereas other Islamists are just, let's say, staunchly and adamantly anti-western.
And consider that the term Islamism, while in some ways a "controversial term", most often includes the imposition of Sharia law and the struggle for a pan-Islamic state (aka the "Caliphate").
We should not "Fear" that. No, not "fear".....
But we should staunchly, adamantly and virulently (but not violently) oppose that.
oh... robustly, too..

Friday 17 August 2012

The mother of all unintended consequences...

Making greenhouse gases to cash in on carbon trading.  From price of oil.org.
I always thought the whole concept of carbon trading had a major achilles heel: that it would tend to encourage the production of greenhouse gases so that you could trade them for money.
James Hansen pointed this out in 2009. "Because cap and trade is enforced through the selling and trading of permits, it actually perpetuates the pollution it is supposed to eliminate."
Now we have another, huge, unintended consequence of carbon trading.  The creation of harmful gases in order that its waste products can be traded....
When the United Nations wanted to help slow climate change, it established what seemed a sensible system.Greenhouse gases were rated based on their power to warm the atmosphere. The more dangerous the gas, the more that manufacturers in developing nations would be compensated as they reduced their emissions.
But where the United Nations envisioned environmental reform, some manufacturers of gases used in air-conditioning and refrigeration saw a lucrative business opportunity.
They quickly figured out that they could earn one carbon credit by eliminating one ton of carbon dioxide, but could earn more than 11,000 credits by simply destroying a ton of an obscure waste gas normally released in the manufacturing of a widely used coolant gas. That is because that byproduct has a huge global warming effect. The credits could be sold on international markets, earning tens of millions of dollars a year.
That incentive has driven plants in the developing world not only to increase production of the coolant gas but also to keep it high -- a huge problem because the coolant itself contributes to global warming and depletes the ozone layer. That coolant gas is being phased out under a global treaty, but the effort has been a struggle.
It seems there are factories now producing the "widely used coolant gas" only in order to get the credits for destroying its waste product....

What a year for science!

Artist's conception of the Higgs Boson, from National Geographic
First the discovery of the Higgs Boson on July 4th.  Sean Carroll is a theoretical cosmologist who blogs at Cosmic Variance, one of my favourite science sites.  I understand anywhere from 5% to a touch more of it, depending on the topic.
He live blogged on the announcement of the Higgs Boson and one comment he made really struck home:
"If that’s how nature works, the Higgs is literally a portal from our world to another. This isn’t the end of the show, it’s merely an act break (as we say in the movie biz)....." [end para 5, my emphasis].
Wow!!  Like, wow!  An alternative world!  From a mainstream particle physicist, not some loony on the History Channel.
(That was, by the way, one of the relatively few bits of that blog post that I actually understood.... at least, I think I do.... But then, what does "another world" mean, for example?
(Another by the way: I have on my Kindle one of Carroll's latest books, From Eternity to Here, which I also find a bit of a tough read....  Of course, the Multiverse is now pretty well a mainstream concept, as one of the theories that helps fill out the Standard Model, and is consistent with it.)

Then, just a month later on 6th August, the Curiosity arrives safely on Mars, touches down like a feather after half a billion miles.
For those kill-joys, kill-curiosity types, who say why don't we spend the money on earth, well, there's Michael Benson's "Exploring the Planet Enriches us at Home" (NYT, Aug 10).  Snip:
But let’s set aside the glories of discovery for the moment and look at space exploration’s realpolitik. What do we get out of it, in concrete terms?
To begin with, the money spent to achieve the exploration of the Moon, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn is money spent on Earth, not anywhere else. It powers innovative companies and develops technologies that inevitably — and demonstrably — benefit our economy and our national prospects.  
Read more....

Sunday 12 August 2012

Obama the Iftar troof shiftar. Cairo revisited...

A Chinese compass from 210 BC.  900 years before Islam.
President Obama gave a speech yesterday at the White House, to mark Iftar, the breaking of Ramadan fast, carried in the article: "Obama hails world's Muslims..."
In the speech he says:
Thomas Jefferson once held a sunset dinner here with an envoy from Tunisia -- perhaps the first Iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago. And some of you, as you arrived tonight, may have seen our special display, courtesy of our friends at the Library of Congress -- the Koran that belonged to Thomas Jefferson. And that's a reminder, along with the generations of patriotic Muslims in America, that Islam -- like so many faiths -- is part of our national story.
Now, Thomas Jefferson did indeed have a copy of the Koran.  But not because he was fascinated by the Religion of Peace and wanted to sup of its peaceable tenets, but because he was involved in a negotiation with the Islamic Barbary pirates, and wanted to understand what drove them.
He found out.  The late great Christopher Hitchens shows how he did find out in "Jefferson's Quran"....  Tripoli's envoy told Jefferson that the right of Muslims to make piratical attacks on local shipping, including of the newborn US, was based on the Koran; that it was:
.... founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.
Hence Jefferson needed his copy of the Koran, to see what drove this supremacism.
And so Islam being "part of our national story", as Obama claims, is correct: in that from the founding of the Republic, Islam was at war with the US -- as made clear by the envoy from Tripoli.

STILL LATER: Thomas Jefferson did not hold first Iftar dinner; his Koran was to understand Barbary piracy... [here]

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Only in China... cut-price admission for short skirts

Hot Babes get discount in Guilin, China
From the country that gave us the "go-go Militia"....
This may be "obscenity" to some.  But to others a chance for a cheap ticket.  And how much nicer to have a controversy over this, than to have women beaten as they are in the Islamic countries, when they do not cover every inch of their bodies.... which should one prefer?
Cut-price admission for women who wear short skirts has boosted an amusement park's ticket sales, but has sparked heated debate as word of the controversial offer was picked up by the national media and spread rapidly online.
Rest of article here in pdf.

Monday 6 August 2012

Shafilea Ahmed; Islamic Filicide: Loyalty, Enmity and Apostasy

Shafilea Ahmed was killed by her father and mother.  Pious Muslims both, they suffocated Shafilea with a plastic bag in front of her siblings.   A brutal and horrid crime for which her parents have now been jailed for 25 years.
The judge, Roderick Evans, said it was a crime committed for “shame”, based on “social and cultural attidutes”.  Neither he, nor any one of the articles in the mainstream media have mentioned Islam as a factor.  Indeed, if one looks up “Honour killings” in Wikipedia, one finds the claim that honour killings "don’t have 'any definite connection with religion at all'".
In way Judge Evans's comment is correct, in the sense that “social and cultural beliefs” include religious beliefs. So his error was of omission rather than commission.
But to ignore the religious aspect of the "social and cultural attitudes" that led to the murder of Shafilea is to ignore the most important part of the “culture” that made her parents suffocate her to death.  Consider, for example, that  91% honour killings in the world are by Muslims.  In Pakistan almost all filicide is by Muslims; among non-Muslims in Pakistan honour filicide is virtually unknown.  In neighbouring India, the vast majority of filicide is Islamic. Hindu or Buddhist or Jain or Christian filicide is virtually unknown.
So, surely, one should look at what it is in Islam that encourages the notion that it’s “honourable” to kill one’s daughter for becoming “too westernized”.
It’s easy to find the reasons in Islamic theology and jurisprudence.  First, it's the doctrine of "Loyalty and Enmity" and second it's the doctrinal requirement to kill for Apostasy.  
The doctrine of Loyalty and Enmity:
This teaches that Muslims should have nothing to do with the hated kuffar or infidel.  That is, a Muslim living in the UK should have nothing to do with non-Muslim British.  There’s a good summary of this doctrine in Raymond Ibrahim’s excellent The Al-Qaeda Reader (p 62 et.seq), a book which should be on the bookshelf of everyone interested in Islamic issues. 
A few quick sources for the doctrine from the Yusuf Ali translation of the Koran:
Let not the believers Take for friends or helpers Unbelievers rather than believers: if any do that, in nothing will there be help from Allah… [3:028]
O ye who believe! Take not for protectors your fathers and your brothers if they love infidelity above Faith: if any of you do so, they do wrong. [9:023]
Plus, in a similar vein: 5:051, 5:080, 58:014, 60:013.  
These, and other verses from the Koran and reliable Hadith are regularly quoted by Imams, Sheiks and Islamic leaders throughout the world, in Islamic countries and those living in the west. 
They require Muslims to hate non-Muslims.
Of course the call for “hate” is not necessarily a call for murder, for filicide. So what was it that tipped Shafilea’s parents to murder rather than to simply “hate” their daughter.  Awful enough to have your parents hate you, but rather better than having them stuff a plastic bag down your throat and holding you down till you stop kicking….
What, in short, caused their “hate” to tip to murder in the name of Islam?
The answer is Apostasy.
For a pious Muslim, like Shafilea’s father, becoming “too westernized” is tantamount to Apostasy from the religion of peace.
And the punishment for Apostasy from the Religion of Peaceis death, as is clear from Islamic jurisprudence. [Ref].
That link immediately above is the summary of the jurisprudence in the Umdat al-Salik. There’s also the reliable Hadith of Bukhari:
Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57: Narrated ‘Ikrima:  Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to ‘Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn ‘Abbas who said, “If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah’s Apostle forbade it, saying, ‘Do not punish anybody with Allah’s punishment (fire).’ I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah’s Apostle, ‘Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.
And, to make the filicide even easier for the pious Muslim, there is no penalty for killing one’s child in Islamic jurisprudence:
"Not subject to retaliation is a father or mother (or their fathers or mothers) for killing their offspring, or offspring's offspring." (Umdat al-Salik o1.1-2).
His Honour Judge Evans mentions none of this in his judgment. 
I understand why.
First, he probably doesn’t know it.
Second, even if he does, he knows that if he mentions it he will be attacked for doing so.  He will be called an “Islamophobe” and a “racist”.  He will be upbraided for failing to understand that Islam is a Religion of Peaceand that murderers in its name have “misunderstood” or  “hijacked” this peaceable religion, or that he’s taken out of “context” the theology and jurisprudence that enables the killing of one’s children for wanting to be “western”…. 
In short, the Judge did not want the hassle and stuck to the euphemisms: “social and cultural attitudes”.
But how are we to reduce the increasing number of “honour killings” in the west if we are willfully blind to the root cause of them – Islamic theology  and jurisprudence. 
For the plain fact is that  it is not despite Islam, but because of Islam that her parents killed Shafilea.
That fact that it’s not comfortable to address the issue is not enough reason to ignore it.  What is needed is (i) knowledge of the issue and (ii) courage to speak that knowledge.
Somewhere, somehow, someone, needs to show both the knowledge and the courage to speak the truth of Islamic honour killings.  For it needs to be brought out into the open: surely most of all by those millions of “moderate Muslims” we’re constantly told are the majority of Islam.
It’s up to them to face squarely to true cause of Islamic Filicide. The doctrines and jurisprudence of the religion of peace.

Saturday 4 August 2012

Shock and Ore: David Graeber's ignorant (or duplicitous) sound bite

“There’s not enough metal in the earth’s crust 

for every Chinese to have a car”

--- David Graeber, Charlie Rose, 4 August 2012 (HK).  Author of “Debt: The First 5,000 Years”.
Pretty catchy sound bite. 
But is it true?
He’s wrong by a factor of between 50 and over 200.  (Facts and figures below the fold).
Graeber was talking to Charlie Rose, about his book and his political philosophy.  That, in short, is a kind of Anarchist Progressivism.  Despises capitalism and modern democracy.  Calls for economic decisions to be made by some undefined “getting together” of people to make decisions for “the common good”. Against consumerism (of course) and preaching the whole neo-Malthusian "we're running out of resources" gig.
He’s influential – on Charlie Rose after all – and yet wrong on this simple, clear, and incorrect statement.  If he’s so wrong about that (or, perhaps worse, knows it’s wrong and still duplicitously says it, because it sounds scary), then what else is he wrong about, or deliberately misleading us about?
[Calculations below the fold]
UPDATE (8 Aug): I sent following email to Charlie Rose's program, and got their acknowledgement below:

[my email, 4 Aug, to charlierose@pbs.org]: 
I always enjoy Charlie Rose on Saturday's Bloomberg here in Hong Kong.
On this morning show (HK time) guest David Graeber made a statement along the lines of:
"There's not enough metal in the earth's crust for every Chinese to have a car".
This statement is false and badly so.
I thinks it's significant as it casts doubts on his other statements.  
See here for the stats.
Sincerely, Peter F, Hong Kong.
[Their answer, 7 Aug]:
Dear Peter,

Your message has been forwarded to Charlie. We appreciate your comments and continued loyalty to the program.


Charlie Rose Viewer Services

Friday 3 August 2012

Islam is tolerant towards jews....

Here's a couple of interesting recent links on the reality of Islam's view of Jews:
1.  Ahmadinejad says Israel must be "annihilated".  The Holocaust is a myth.  Here.  [This, btw, from the leader of a whole country, not just an extremist who has "hijacked the religion of peace"]
2.  Prominent Pakistani politician and religious leader says "when the Jews are wiped out... the sun of peace will begin to rise on the entire world".  Here. [This time specifically "Jews", note, not just "Israel"]
3.  Nonie Darwish on "Why Muslims must hate Jews", Here.  [I have a lot of time for Darwish.  She's written a number of books on Islam from personal experience. A recommendation: "Cruel and Usual Punishment", in which, inter alia, she talks of the awfulness of polygamy, from personal experience of her mother and the other wives in their family].
3.  Pew research: Muslim unfavourable views of Jews Here:
  • Jordan: 100%
  • Lebanon: 99%
  • Egypt: 98%
  • Morocco: 88%
  • Indonesia: 76%
  • Pakistan: 74%
  • Turkey: 60%
And as background, Robert Spencer in July 2010 on why so many Islamic clerics think Jews are Islam's "worst enemies". Here.
There is no doubt that the common (shall I say leftist?) view of Islamic tolerance of "people of the book" including Jews, is complete nonsense.
In reality, the common and widespread view of Jews in the Islamic world is that they are "enemies" to be slaughtered.
For a more thorough scholarly study of Islamic anti-semitism, there's Andrew Bostom's "The Legacy of Islamic anti-Semitism", based entirely on original Islamic materials.
[h/t to JW and Google...]

A fairer basis for Olympic Medals table: Weighted point count

An Australian swimmer is devastated that he "only" got a Silver medal.  A Chinese breaks down because he has "let down his nation", because he "only" got Silver.  Bloggers everywhere, including China, are decrying the obsession with Gold.  Of course no athlete wants to be second.  But the handwringing, the tears at not getting Gold, are in large part because of the scoring system, the Medals table at the Official Olympic site, no less, where all that really counts is Gold.
But given that so many of these Golds are won by the slimmest of margins, why do we so diminish the achievement of Silver and Bronze.
There's a simple solution and I don't know why we don't see more (or indeed anything) written about it.
Score countries by points, based on the weighted average of Gold, Silver and Bronze. Gold = 3 points, Silver = 2 points and Bronze = 2 point.
If we ranked our medal table on that simple -- and I would argue, fairer -- system, the results up to close of business last night are:

By contrast the official Medal table is:

Declaration of interest: I'm not American, so I have no agenda to get the USA to the top of the list.  But who could argue that it's fairer for the US to be (just) in front of China, with three more medals overall and equal number of Golds.  Equally, what's to argue about in putting Australia (total medals 11) in front of South Africa (total 3).

This would mean that a Silver medallist would know that s/he's helped the country by 2 points, rather than feeling that s/he's left the country down by not achieving Gold, the only medal that counts, the way the table is now constructed....

Thursday 2 August 2012

Vidal Loco

Letter to the Beebs:
In your World Service and online paeans of praise for Vidal, could you not have included a bit of balance?
Perhaps the best being Hitchens' piece in Vanity Fair, (Feb 2010), showing Vidal to be an anti-semite; a believer in conspiracy theories about 9/11; labelling Timothy McVeigh a "noble boy" no more murderous than Generals Patton or Eisenhower; believing that WW2 was the fault of America and in any case not worth fighting, etc....
The man was a brilliant writer, no doubt, but also, per Hitchens, a "crackpot, surpassing even the wilder-eyed efforts of Michael Moore and Oliver Stone, providing a miserable coda to his brilliant run."
Surely this deserves some note.

Wednesday 1 August 2012

The conversion of a climate-change skeptic

Richard Muller, left, and his daughter, Elizabeth Muller, hold a globe as they talk
about their study on climate at their home in Berkeley, Calif. Photo: 2011. (AP)
Prof Muller's article here.  And pdf here. Now to convince my sceptic son...