Incorrectness growing in Austria (Republik Oesterreich)
If mainstream politicians ignore people's dislike of immigration, they just give votes to those who will express it
He has been denounced as a xenophobe and an extreme nationalist. He has been pictured wearing a military uniform at an alleged far-Right gathering. But when Heinz-Christian Strache appears at an election rally in Austria, thousands of enthusiastic supporters, from teenagers to pensioners, give him a roaring welcome. "We are the owners of Austria and we will determine who gets in," Mr Strache, head of the far-right Freedom Party, told a cheering crowd that was chanting his name.
The police film his public appearances because supporters of Mr Strache have, in the past, made the Hitler salute or displayed Nazi insignia, which is illegal in Austria - under a law that Mr Strache is seeking to ban.
The reputation of Austria, which has been tarnished by child abuse scandals, is on the brink of another setback as a new breed of politicians, led by Mr Strache, gain momentum and are expected to capture almost a third of the vote on an anti-foreigner ticket at elections on Sunday.
The growth of extremist tendencies in Austria have caused concern. In 1999 the country incurred sanctions from other members of the EU after a far-right party led by Joerg Haider formed a government coalition. Eight years on, and two years after the controversial coalition was ousted at the last elections, extremist sentiment is still prominent among a large proportion of the population. This time Mr Haider's former protege, Mr Strache, is expected to capture about 20 per cent of the vote, and his new party, Alliance for the Future of Austria, could win more than 8 per cent.
Mr Strache, 39, who overthrew Mr Haider as a leader of the Freedom Party with even more hardline policies against foreigners and the EU, is likely to establish himself as the third-largest political force in the country. The former dental technician has campaigned successfully with slogans such as "Homeland instead of Islam" and "Vienna must not become Istanbul". He once wrote: "We must not allow our own sons to be insulted as `pigeaters' in our schools and our daughters to be exposed to the greedy stares and gropings of whole hordes of immigrants."
The controversial campaign has reshaped the agendas of the mainstream parties, the Social Democrats and the conservative People's Party, which have refocused their campaigns on immigration issues and criticism of the EU. The move was an attempt to prevent haemorrhaging votes to Mr Strache after pollsters predicted that their share of the vote could drop to a record low of below 30 per cent each.
The popularity of Mr Strache was not damaged despite photographs being published of him in his youth wearing military uniform at an alleged far-right gathering and also showing Mr Strache raising his hand and stretching three fingers in an apparent covert version of the Hitler salute, used widely in the neo-Nazi scene. Mr Strache said that he was merely signalling for three beers in a pub.
The Jewish and Islamic community have protested against the extreme agendas of the far-right politicians. Behind the swing towards the far-right is growing dissatisfaction with EU policies and the perceived rise in immigration after the EU expanded eastwards. The country has, however, low unemployment and crime rates and the economy is booming as Austrian companies establish market domination in Eastern European countries.
How the West was lost for free speech
TWENTY years ago today, Salman Rushdie published The Satanic Verses. Four years in the making and supported by a then almost unheard of advance of $850,000 from his publisher, Penguin, Rushdie had hoped the work would cement his reputation as the most important British novelist of his generation. The book certainly set the world alight, though not quite in the way it was meant to.
The Satanic Verses was, Rushdie said in an interview before publication, a novel about "migration, metamorphosis, divided selves, love, death". It was also a satire on Islam, "a serious attempt", in his words, "to write about religion and revelation from the point of view of a secular person". For some, that was unacceptable, turning the novel, in the words of British Muslim philosopher Shabbir Akhtar, into a piece of "hate literature". Within a month, The Satanic Verses had been banned in Rushdie's native India, after protests from Islamic radicals.
By the end of the year, protesters had burned a copy of the novel on the streets of Bolton, in northern England. Then, on February 14, 1989, came the event that transformed the Rushdie affair: Iran's spiritual leader, the ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued his fatwa. "I inform all zealous Muslims of the world that the author of the book entitled The Satanic Verses - which has been compiled, printed and published in opposition to Islam, the prophet and the Koran - and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its contents are sentenced to death," he proclaimed.
Thanks to the fatwa, the Rushdie affair became the most important free speech controversy of modern times. It also became a watershed in our attitudes to freedom of expression. Rushdie's critics lost the battle; The Satanic Verses continues to be published. But they won the war. The argument at the heart of the anti-Rushdie case - that it is morally unacceptable to cause offence to other cultures - is now widely accepted.
In 1989, even a fatwa could not stop the continued publication of The Satanic Verses. Rushdie was forced into hiding for almost a decade. Translators and publishers were killed, bookshops were bombed and Penguin staff had to wear bomb-proof vests. Yet Penguin never wavered in its commitment to Rushdie's novel.
Today, all it takes for a publisher to run for cover is a letter from an outraged academic. US publisher Random House recently torpedoed the publication of a novel that it had bought for $US100,000 ($119,000) for fear of setting off another Rushdie affair. Written by journalist Sherry Jones, The Jewel of Medina is a racy historical novel about Aisha, Mohammed's youngest wife. Random House had sent galley proofs to writers and scholars, hoping for endorsements. One of those on the list, Denise Spellberg, an associate professor of Islamic history at University of Texas, condemned the book as offensive. Random House immediately pulled the book.
In the 20 years between the publication of The Satanic Verses and the withdrawal of The Jewel of Medina, the fatwa, in effect, has become internalised. Not only do publishers drop books deemed offensive but theatres savage plays, opera houses cut productions, art galleries censor shows, all in the name of cultural sensitivity. "You would think twice if you were honest," said Ramin Gray, associate director at London's Royal Court Theatre when asked if he would put on a play critical of Islam. "You'd have to take the play on its individual merits, but given the time we're in, it's very hard because you'd worry that if you cause offence then the whole enterprise would become buried in a sea of controversy. It does make you tread carefully."
In June last year, the theatre cancelled a new adaptation of Aristophanes's Lysistrata, set in Muslim heaven, for fear of causing offence. Another London theatre, the Barbican, carved chunks out of its production of Tamburlaine the Great for the same reason and Berlin's Deutsche Oper cancelled a production of Mozart's Idomeneo in 2006 because of its depiction of Mohammed.
In the past, free speech was seen as an inherent good, the fullest extension of which was a necessary condition for the elucidation of truth, the expression of moral autonomy, the maintenance of social progress and the development of other liberties. Restrictions on free speech were viewed as the exception rather than the norm, to be wielded carefully, and only in those cases where speech might cause direct harm.
In the post-Rushdie world, speech has come to be seen not intrinsically as a good but inherently as a problem because it can offend as well as harm, and speech that offends can be as socially damaging as speech that harms. Speech, therefore, has to be restrained by custom, especially in a diverse society, with a variety of deeply held views and beliefs, and censorship (and self-censorship) has to become the norm. "Self-censorship is a meaningful demand in a world of varied and passionately held convictions," Akhtar has suggested. "What Rushdie publishes about Islam is not just his business. It is everyone's - not least every Muslim's - business." In other words, if I don't like what you say, you can't say it.
Increasingly, Western liberals have come to agree. And where self-censorship is deemed insufficient, there is a battery of laws to enforce state censorship, from legislation against hate speech to the demand by the UN that every member take a stand against the "defamation of religion". It is not just critics of Islam who are being silenced. British laws against the "glorification of terrorism" and moves in the US to alter the first amendment so that it no longer provides protection for Islamic radicals show that Islamic critics, too, can no longer say the unsayable.
Twenty years on from The Satanic Verses it is time we took a stand against this trend. "Give me the liberty to know, to utter and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties," wrote 17th-century poet John Milton. "He who destroys a good book kills reason itself."
Freedom of expression is not just an important liberty; it is the very foundation of liberty, for without such freedom we cannot define what those liberties are. Akhtar was right: what Rushdie or anyone else says is everybody's business. It is everybody's business to ensure that no one is deprived of their right to say what they wish, even if what they say is seen as offensive. As George Orwell once put it, "If liberty means anything, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."
Britain: Purge on Muslim clerics who turn a blind eye to the abuse of women?
Muslim spiritual leaders could be denounced publicly by their own community as part of a campaign to expose imams whose silence on domestic abuse is leading to women being burnt, lashed and raped in the name of Islam.
Muslim scholars are to present the Government with the names of imams who are alleged by members of their own communities to have refused to help abused women. Imams are also accused of refusing to speak out against domestic abuse in their sermons because they fear losing their clerical salaries and being sacked for broaching a "taboo" subject.
Some of Britain's most prominent moderate imams and female Muslim leaders have backed the campaign, urging the Home Office to vet more carefully Islamic spiritual leaders coming to Britain to weed out hardliners. A four-month inquiry by the Centre for Islamic Pluralism into domestic abuse has uncovered harrowing tales of women being raped, burnt by cigarettes and lashed with belts by their husbands, who believe it is their religious right to mistreat them.
At least 40 female Muslim victims and many social workers from northern England - including Bradford, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham - were interviewed as part of the inquiry, which is expected to be published next month.
During its investigation the organisation - the British arm of a long-established US think-tank - received a number of complaints about imams who had turned a blind eye to cases of domestic violence, many of whom are followers of Wahabbism, a puritanical interpretation of the Koran espoused by Osama bin Laden.
There have also been similar complaints about clerics from the Tablighi Jamaat movement, which is accused of radicalising young British Muslims with its orthodox teachings.
The organisation's international director, the Muslim scholar Irfan al-Alawi, told The Times that he would be forwarding the names of the imams to the Home Office, which has promised to investigate the allegations. He called for them to be stripped of any government grants that they may be receiving. He is also seeking legal advice about exposing the imams at public lectures and forums throughout the country. "I have to make sure that I don't end up with a lawsuit on my hands but at the same time expose what is going on in the community," he said.
Yousif al-Khoei, spokesman for the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (Minab) - a government approved body set up to improve the standards among British imams - admitted that some clerics condoned domestic violence although he said it was a "minority practice". He insisted the problem was to do with specific cultural beliefs rather than religious ideology, but said that the board was determined to tackle the problem by promoting "proper Islamic guidelines in the public arena".
However, he gave warning against the idea of publicly identifying imams, saying that would risk turning them into "martyrs" within their own community. "Instead, we should encourage women to seek advice from proper imams," he said.
While the number of domestic violence cases has almost doubled in the last three years, according to the Crown Prosecution Service, the figures fail to reflect the physical abuse cases within the Muslim community. Such cases, on which there is no data because they are largely unreported, are driven by cultural and religious beliefs instead of alcohol and drug abuse, said Shahien Taj, director of the Henna Foundation, which deals with honour crimes and domestic abuse victims.
Ms Taj, who is a member of the Government's Muslim Women's Advisory Group, said women were reluctant to come forward about the abuse they experienced because they were "groomed and brainwashed" into becoming interdependent on their direct families and not encouraged to take their complaints to the outside world.
Dr al-Alawi said there were cultural and religious reasons why some imams would not want to raise the issue of domestic violence in the mosque. "A lot of women who are brought from foreign countries to join their spouse here, firstly they cannot speak English and the imam is very reluctant to have a conversation with a woman because they feel there is a barrier and the woman should not be approachable to the man. "There's a lot of sexual abuse as well, which is apparently considered taboo for Muslims to talk about, whereby husbands are forcing themselves on women after they had been out with other women - rape case," he said.
Sheikh Irfan Chishti, director of the Light of Islam Academy and a former member of Tony Blair's Preventing Extremism Together taskforce, said there was "religious justification" among some imams for the abuse and subjugation of women. He said female victims were in many cases afraid of seeking help because they feared retribution and being accused of tarnishing or disobeying Islam. "Women don't speak up and if they do speak up they can get battered," Sheikh Chishti said. "Some men are brought up to believe that because they are superior therefore inadvertently or by default women are inferior and therefore submissive." He said that female Muslims needed to be empowered by moderate community leaders and the younger generation should be encouraged to condemn and report domestic violence.
Sheik Chishti also said young and British-raised community members should be encouraged to take over mosque committees. "You will not have change in the mosque until you change the culture of the leadership."
They Gave Your Mortgage To A Less Qualified Minority
By Ann Coulter
On MSNBC this week, Newsweek's Jonathan Alter tried to connect John McCain to the current financial disaster, saying: "If you remember the Keating Five scandal that (McCain) was a part of. ... He's really getting a free ride on the fact that he was in the middle of the last great financial scandal in our country."
McCain was "in the middle of" the Keating Five case in the sense that he was "exonerated." The lawyer for the Senate Ethics Committee wanted McCain removed from the investigation altogether, but, as The New York Times reported: "Sen. McCain was the only Republican embroiled in the affair, and Democrats on the panel would not release him." So John McCain has been held hostage by both the Viet Cong and the Democrats.
Alter couldn't be expected to know that: As usual, he was lifting material directly from Kausfiles. What is unusual was that he was stealing a random thought sent in by Kausfiles' mother, who, the day before, had e-mailed: "It's time to bring up the Keating Five. Let McCain explain that scandal away."
The Senate Ethics Committee lawyer who investigated McCain already had explained that scandal away -- repeatedly. It was celebrated lawyer Robert Bennett, most famous for defending a certain horny hick president a few years ago.
In February this year, on Fox News' "Hannity and Colmes," Bennett said, for the eight billionth time: "First, I should tell your listeners I'm a registered Democrat, so I'm not on (McCain's) side of a lot of issues. But I investigated John McCain for a year and a half, at least, when I was special counsel to the Senate Ethics Committee in the Keating Five. ... And if there is one thing I am absolutely confident of, it is John McCain is an honest man. I recommended to the Senate Ethics Committee that he be cut out of the case, that there was no evidence against him."
It's bad enough for Alter to be constantly ripping off Kausfiles. Now he's so devoid of his own ideas, he's ripping off the idle musings of Kausfiles' mother.
Even if McCain had been implicated in the Keating Five scandal -- and he wasn't -- that would still have absolutely nothing to do with the subprime mortgage crisis currently roiling the financial markets. This crisis was caused by political correctness being forced on the mortgage lending industry in the Clinton era.
Before the Democrats' affirmative action lending policies became an embarrassment, the Los Angeles Times reported that, starting in 1992, a majority-Democratic Congress "mandated that Fannie and Freddie increase their purchases of mortgages for low-income and medium-income borrowers. Operating under that requirement, Fannie Mae, in particular, has been aggressive and creative in stimulating minority gains."
Under Clinton, the entire federal government put massive pressure on banks to grant more mortgages to the poor and minorities. Clinton's secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Andrew Cuomo, investigated Fannie Mae for racial discrimination and proposed that 50 percent of Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's portfolio be made up of loans to low- to moderate-income borrowers by the year 2001.
Instead of looking at "outdated criteria," such as the mortgage applicant's credit history and ability to make a down payment, banks were encouraged to consider nontraditional measures of credit-worthiness, such as having a good jump shot or having a missing child named "Caylee."
Threatening lawsuits, Clinton's Federal Reserve demanded that banks treat welfare payments and unemployment benefits as valid income sources to qualify for a mortgage. That isn't a joke -- it's a fact.
When Democrats controlled both the executive and legislative branches, political correctness was given a veto over sound business practices.
In 1999, liberals were bragging about extending affirmative action to the financial sector. Los Angeles Times reporter Ron Brownstein hailed the Clinton administration's affirmative action lending policies as one of the "hidden success stories" of the Clinton administration, saying that "black and Latino homeownership has surged to the highest level ever recorded."
Meanwhile, economists were screaming from the rooftops that the Democrats were forcing mortgage lenders to issue loans that would fail the moment the housing market slowed and deadbeat borrowers couldn't get out of their loans by selling their houses.
A decade later, the housing bubble burst and, as predicted, food-stamp-backed mortgages collapsed. Democrats set an affirmative action time-bomb and now it's gone off.
In Bush's first year in office, the White House chief economist, N. Gregory Mankiw, warned that the government's "implicit subsidy" of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, combined with loans to unqualified borrowers, was creating a huge risk for the entire financial system.
Rep. Barney Frank denounced Mankiw, saying he had no "concern about housing." How dare you oppose suicidal loans to people who can't repay them! The New York Times reported that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were "under heavy assault by the Republicans," but these entities still had "important political allies" in the Democrats.
Now, at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars, middle-class taxpayers are going to be forced to bail out the Democrats' two most important constituent groups: rich Wall Street bankers and welfare recipients.
Political correctness had already ruined education, sports, science and entertainment. But it took a Democratic president with a Democratic congress for political correctness to wreck the financial industry.
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 readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.