Tuesday, March 04, 2008

"He Should Have Kept His Mouth Shut"

The Islamic world is running a protection racket against the entire Western world. We are supposed to stay in line and pay up, or we can get hurt. The part of Guido and his tommy gun is played by the "Muslim street", that amorphous mass of people in the Middle East, South Asia, and more recently the working class neighborhoods of Europe. When the word about the latest outrage against Islamic dignity goes out through the mosques on Friday, the faithful are predictably offended, and they take to the streets to loot and burn whatever is required of them by the imams. So don't get out of line. Don't interfere with the Muslims, don't neglect to pay the "insurance premiums", and above all don't diss the Prophet.

This point is emphasized once again in an editorial entitled "Playing With Fire" from today's Arab News. This time it's the German Interior Minister whose knees are being figuratively broken:
The statement by Germany's Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble that European newspapers should reprint the controversial Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as a show of support for press freedom is astounding.

It is difficult to believe that a supposedly responsible and politically astute politician could say something so irresponsible and dangerous - and Schaeuble is supposedly both. More to the point, Schaeuble knows perfectly well that there are hundreds of millions of Muslims worldwide to whom the cartoons are not merely deeply offensive but an outrage. He also knows perfectly well what happened when the cartoons were first published - the wave of violent protest worldwide two years ago that resulted in dozens of people killed in riots and Danish embassies destroyed. The decision by Danish papers to reprint the most offensive of the cartoons has already led to Egypt protesting to Denmark, Iranian MPs demanding action against the country, mass demonstrations in Sudan and riots by outraged Muslims in Denmark itself.

Schaeuble cannot, therefore, claim that he did not realize the consequences of what he said or that he has been naive. This is no mere mistake or case of insensitivity. He knows the massive damage to Germany that can result from what he said - boycotts of German products, mass protests across the world, German diplomats in danger, embassies under attack - yet still he said it. He is being deliberately provocative.....

He should have kept his mouth shut, regardless of what he thinks about press freedom. In saying what he did and because he is the interior minister, his call to reprint is inevitably seen as Germany's view. It is not for us to demand his resignation but it is impossible to believe that Germans will not do so. He has been grossly irresponsible. He is playing with fire. He has created a crisis for his country where there was none beforehand. He has sown division between Germany's Muslims and non-Muslims and stirred up the potential for discord and disorder. That is hardly what is expected of a government minister whose remit is law and order.

Murderous dictators: cool, huh?

Why does the Left still worship Fidel Castro and all his appalling fellow communists? Daniel Finkelstein comments below on Harriet Harman -- who is Deputy Leader of Britain's Labour Party, the Leader of the House of Commons and a member of the Cabinet. When recently asked in an interview: "Fidel Castro - authoritarian dictator or hero of the Left?" Harman answered unhesitatingly - "hero of the Left".

I had a strange idea yesterday. I had the idea of inviting Harriet Harman home for dinner. This isn't a thought that occurs to me often, but I suddenly felt it might be fun. I'd invite my Dad too. And then, when we'd given Harriet a nice meal (what do you think she likes to eat?), my father could tell her his story.

He could tell her how the Soviets and the Nazis closed in on his home town of Lvov in September 1939 and how the town council chose the Soviets to surrender to. Then he might tell her how the fathers of his friends were taken to the woods at Katyn and shot by the communists.

He might recount the story of his father's arrest as an antisocial element, of Adolf Finkelstein's repeated interrogations leading to a trial in his absence and a jail sentence of 15 years' hard labour. Then Dad could tell the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party about his own experience as a child, exiled to a remote Siberian village. And how he and his mother and his father never saw their home again. And, when he'd finished, he could let Harriet speak. And she could explain to Dad why she thinks that Fidel Castro is a hero.

Its been almost 60 years since my grandfather's arrest and 50 years since the Soviets invaded Hungary. The Prague Spring has come and gone, the Gdansk shipyard strike is history, the Berlin Wall has fallen. We've read Robert Conquest tell of Stalin's murderous deeds and Jung Chang tell of Mao's. We've watched films about the Stasi and recoiled in disgust at the opulent lives of the Ceausescus. We know that Alger Hiss was guilty and that there was, after all, a communist conspiracy in America. We've read Solzhenitsyn and Sharansky. We know.

Yet still the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, the Leader of the House of Commons, a member of the Cabinet, is in love with Fidel. When asked, earlier this week, in an interview: "Fidel Castro - authoritarian dictator or hero of the Left?" she answered unhesitatingly - "hero of the Left". Which brings me to this question - Why? Why does she think that? Why would she say that?

Let's eliminate from our inquiries the idea that Fidel was somehow better than the rest of them, better than Honecker and so forth. Those cigars, those battle fatigues, that beard. Kinda cool, no? No. Death sentences for those who want to flee, prison sentences for dissidents, gags for the press, jail for homosexuals, ruinous central planning for the economy, his support for a nuclear first strike against America, his opposition to any kind of reform, his four-hour long speeches, his personality cult. Fidel Castro was just like the rest of them.

So if we want to understand Ms Harman's response, it is not enough just to think about Cuba. We have to understand why parts of the Left, people who think of themselves as impeccably liberal, still think of communism as an heroic doctrine and communists as basically well meaning and a bit "alternative". It's a pervasive attitude that goes well beyond politicians. Go to Tate Modern and you will find an exhibition of Soviet art - workers joyfully producing tractors or some such. In the bookshop you can buy a book of posters from the cultural revolution. Hitler memorabilia is not on sale. They wouldn't dream of having a room full of artfully designed Juden Raus! posters.

I struggle a little to understand the distinction being made here, but I think it is this. It's not that the liberals are unaware that millions died under Mao and under Stalin. It's just that they think it was different. Hitler had a killing machine; under Mao ("the greatest man of the 20th century", according to Tony Benn) and Stalin many people just up and died.

I've heard this argument made before. When I wrote that my mother had seen Anne Frank arrive in Belsen, I had an e-mail from a Nazi claiming that I was wrong to describe the little girl as having been killed by the Nazis. She had, he said, died of typhoid. I responded that if you imprison an innocent person in terrible conditions or starve them, or both, and they die, you have murdered them. The same goes for the communists.

There is another reason why people prefer communists to fascists. It is that the latter believe we are entirely the product of our genes, while the former regard us as entirely the product of our environment. Somehow genetic determinism is regarded with greater distaste than environmental determinism. I am not entirely sure why. In any case, scientific evidence now shows that both views are wrong. Even if they weren't, neither justifies the killings carried out in their name.

Which leaves me with one final reason for the Left's attitude to communism - that anyone who defies the United States is somehow seen as a valiant progressive, whatever their crimes. I am sure that Castro's resistance to the US is a major reason for Harriet Harman's admiration. From time to time, Left thinkers make an effort to reconcile liberals and America. From Tony Crosland in the Fifties to Jonathan Freedland's admirable and convincing book Bring Home the Revolution, the efforts have failed. Almost anyone - a homophobic, misogynist Islamist cleric for example - is given some credit if the US is their punchbag.

A few months ago the Tory candidate Nigel Hastilow had to resign for saying that Enoch Powell may have had a point. And it was right that he went. Calling Fidel Castro a hero is worse.


The master of Islamist doublespeak comes to Australia

The Swiss Islamic activist Tariq Ramadan has been invited by Griffith University to be the keynote speaker at its conference opening in Brisbane today. The fact that Australia is allowing Ramadan to enter the country at all will raise eyebrows in security circles elsewhere. Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood: the spiritual backers of al-Qa'ida and Hamas and whose goal is to Islamise the world. While it is, of course, unfair to tar someone with his grandfather's views, there is ample reason to think that in the case of Tariq Ramadan the apple has not fallen far from the tree.

Ramadan has been banned from entering the US because of his alleged association with extremists. The Geneva Islamic Centre, with which he is closely associated, has been linked to terrorists of the Algerian FIS (Islamic Salvation Front) and the GIA (Armed Islamic Group). A Spanish police report claimed that Ahmed Brahim, an al-Qa'ida leader jailed in Spain, was "in frequent contact" with Ramadan, a claim he has denied. Yet the Swiss activist has not only been allowed into Britain but is ensconced at St Anthony's College, Oxford as a research fellow and is much lionised by the British establishment, appearing at security seminars on Islamism and even serving as an adviser to the British Government on tackling Islamic extremism.

So how to explain this wild divergence of views about Tariq Ramadan? And does Australia have cause to be concerned? Ramadan's message is highly seductive to a Western world terrified by Islamic radicalism. For Ramadan preaches the comforting message of an unthreatening Islam that can accommodate itself to modernity and to the West. He does so in a charismatic style combining high intellect, a winsome French accent and impossibly hip glamour. To the desperate British establishment, the picture he paints so beguilingly of a way out of the Islamist nightmare has made him into the rock star of the counter-terrorism circuit.

But closer scrutiny of what he actually says - and perhaps even more importantly, does not say - suggests the talented Mr Ramadan is an Islamist wolf in moderniser's clothing. To the Islamic world he says one thing; to credulous Western audiences quite another in language that is slippery, opaque, manipulative and disingenuous. His reputation as a Muslim reformer owes everything to the wishful thinking of those who want so much to believe in him that they fail to grasp what he is really saying.

Partly, this is because much of his work is in French. The writer Caroline Fourest has analysed it and her book, Brother Tariq: the Doublespeak of Tariq Ramadan has just been translated from French into English. All who are concerned to halt the spread of radical Islamism should read this book. For it shows without doubt that the poster boy for Islamic reform is in fact one of the most sophisticated proponents of the global jihad.

Ramadan claims he has "no functional connection" with the Muslim Brotherhood. But he was trained at the Leicester Islamic Foundation in England, the controversial institution that propagates the doctrines of the key Islamist ideologues Maulana Maududi and Syed Qutb and which aims to promote "an Islamic social order in Great Britain". And Ramadan has repeatedly said that his grandfather's views have "inspired" him and "there is nothing in this heritage that I reject".

So what is the heritage of Hassan al-Banna? He did not just promote the most reactionary and oppressive Islamic fundamentalism. He also devised a strategy of "graduated conquest" - pursued by the Muslim Brotherhood around the world - by which not only the countries of the former medieval Islamic caliphate, but all countries where Muslims live, are to be gradually Islamised and then taken over by an Islamic government under sharia law. This is the "heritage" Ramadan endorses. The only difference is that he has developed a particularly subtle strategy for seducing the West into embracing Islamist thinking without realising what is happening.

On the issue of terror, he is particularly slippery. Professing to oppose terrorism, he denies that his grandfather had anything to do with jihadi violence. Yet al-Banna explicitly supported the armed jihad which he considered to be the highest and "most sacred" form of holy war. Ramadan claims his grandfather limited this to "legitimate defence" or "resistance in the face of injustice". But this is precisely the weaselly formulation by which Islamists justify the "resistance" of human bomb terrorism in Israel or Iraq.

Behind the honeyed words about reform and tolerance which have entranced his Western fan club, Ramadan has consistently lined himself up with the forces of obscurantism, intolerance, hatred and violence. The first association he set up in 1994, the Muslim Men and Women of Switzerland, promoted confrontation and stirred up tension. He wrote the preface for a compilation of fatwas by the European Council for Fatwa whose president, Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, has said human bomb operations in Israel and Iraq are a religious duty.

Through his stronghold in the Union of Young Muslims in Lyon, he radicalised thousands of young French Muslims. In 1993, he was involved in a successful attempt in Geneva to stop production of a play by Voltaire on the grounds that it insulted Islam. In a telling exchange with the future French President Nicolas Sarkozy, he refused to condemn stoning to death for adultery, calling merely for a moratorium on this barbaric practice. And all those who oppose him he labels Islamophobes, Jews or Zionists. The desperation to embrace this most devious "reformer" is gravely misplaced. Truly moderate Muslims are undermined and indeed endangered by Ramadan at every turn.

Far from offering a way to modernise Islam, he proposes instead to Islamise modernity. And he is all the more dangerous precisely because his weapon is not a bomb-belt but his tongue. Some may say that, even if his thinking is reactionary, that is no reason to refuse to let him into the country. This naive view ignores the fact that the Islamists' war of civilisation is being conducted principally on the battleground of ideas.

Terrorism merely backs up the Muslim Brotherhood's fundamental strategy of cultural infiltration, incitement, demoralisation and conquest. As Fourest has written, the strategy of Ramadan is to globalise the Islamic awakening that is part of that strategy. In May 2003, the Appeal Court of Lyon agreed that language employed by preachers such as Ramadan "can influence young Muslims and can serve as a factor inciting them to join up with those engaged in violent acts". Wherever he goes, Ramadan is a pied piper leading the young to jihad by his mesmeric tunes. Through his appeal, he is probably the most dangerous Islamist in the Western world.

Thanks to the short-sightedness of the British Government, brother Tariq has been given a platform to radicalise innumerable young Muslims. Does Australia really want to follow suit?


Ideology-blinkered Australian uranium policy irks India

OK to sell uranium to Communist China but not to democratic India?

KEVIN Rudd was lashed yesterday by one of India's most influential foreign affairs commentators over the Prime Minister's ditching of his predecessor's pledge to sell uranium to the emerging economic powerhouse. Brahma Chellaney launched a searing denunciation of Mr Rudd's "abstruse, retrograde ideology" over his reversal of a decision made last year by John Howard to sell uranium to India. Mr Chellaney accused Mr Rudd in The Asian Age newspaper of striking "a jarring note amid a growing convergence of strategic interests" between the two countries.

Under the headline "Rudd's rudderless reversal", Mr Chellaney noted that Mr Rudd was the free world's first Mandarin-speaking head of government, saying he "has made plain his intent to cosy up to the world's largest autocracy, China, while nullifying an important decision that his predecessor took to help build a closer rapport with the world's largest democracy."

The stridency of Mr Chellaney's attack reflects the widespread annoyance at high levels in New Delhi over the Rudd Government's reversal on the uranium issue. The Indian Government was irked when, in January, it sent special prime ministerial envoy Shyam Saran to see Foreign Minister Stephen Smith in Perth and found itself being bluntly told - even though it had not asked - there would be no sale of Australian uranium to India. Indian sources insist Mr Saran was taken aback by the minister's forthright stance as he had gone to Perth only to brief Mr Smith on New Delhi's negotiations with Washington over its civilian nuclear deal and specifically not to ask to buy Australian uranium. "Chellaney is saying what many of us feel about the Rudd Government's pathetic hypocrisy on this issue," one highly-placed official told The Australian yesterday.

The criticism of the Rudd Government is in sharp contrast to the significant strides made in Indo-Australian relations in the Howard years, which are praised by Mr Chellaney. But in overturning the decision to sell uranium to India, Mr Chellaney says, Mr Rudd has been "notably regressive". "Driven by misplaced non-proliferation zealotry, Rudd not only went ahead with cancelling Howard's decision, but his Government also continues to parrot the same lame excuse, as if he has not read the Non-Proliferation Treaty text. "In touting its ideological resolve to uphold the NPT, the Rudd Government wants to be more Catholic than the Pope. Far from the NPT forbidding civil exports to a non-signatory, the treaty indeed encourages the peaceful use of nuclear technology among all states.

"Rudd has no qualms about selling uranium to China but will not export to India, even though the latter is accepting what the former will not brook - stringent, internationally verifiable safeguards against diversion of material to weapons use."

Mr Rudd's office would not be drawn on claims his Government had mishandled Australia's relationship with India. A spokesman for the Prime Minister said only that it remained government policy not to sell uranium to countries who had not signed the NPT. Shadow foreign minister Andrew Robb said the Government's handling of the relationship with India had been "clumsy".



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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