Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Everything is connected...

And, says professor Brian Cox, "You are Vast, and Empty", which makes me feel right at home. Put aside an hour. It's worth it to find out what makes the Universe, and you, tick!

If you want a shorter version, go to where I came across this wonderful presentation, Cosmic Variance, at the post here. Mind: it also has a critique of one of the key points of this presentation: that no matter what you do, it affects, instantaneously, every other electron in the universe....

Obama son of Islam

I'm not one of those who believes that Obama is a Muslim. But as I commented earlier, I can understand why people might say "yes" to a pollster asking if they think that he is, even if they don't believe he is.  The main point being that they might do so as a kind of "protest vote", because he has done things and said thing that are consistent with his being a Muslim.
I counted on that post about eight of his actions that were consistent with Islam, not with interests of the USA, or even the west.
Now Raymond Ibrahim shows us that many Muslims ("most", according to this article my Asma Gull Hasan) also believe that he is a Muslim. What are we to make of this?
Are we to become "Islamophobes" by pointing out to them that they're wrong, when in all other areas we can't point out they're wrong without being labelled Islamophobic?
Ibrahim also points out several new ways (since my 8, above) in which Obama has given Islam a "free pass".
Here's the story.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Religion in the news: Islam dominates... gee!...

The US media didn't discuss religion very much in 2011 (0.7% of stories), according to the latest Pew research results. But when they did, it was Islam that dominated (32%).
Specifically, news of the congressional hearings by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) dominated (9.4% of religion stories).  Pew notes a New York Times report that the hearings were a revival of "McCarthyism".  In fact, there's no equivalence.  McCarthy chased ephemera.  Radical Islamists bent on destroying western civilisation, starting with the "Great Satan" of the US, by contrast, are plentiful. Seeking to understand how they become radicalised ought be a task supported by all.
Rep. Keith Ellison, one of two Muslims in Congress, is quoted as making an "emotional defence of the patriotism of American Muslims [which was] recounted by many journalists".
But the hearings were not about those patriotic American Muslims.  It was about those that seek to kill their fellow Americans. As King notes:
“[U.S. Attorney General] Eric Holder is not saying he's staying awake at night because of what's coming from anti-abortion demonstrators or coming from environmental extremists or from Neo-Nazis. It's the radicalization right now in the Muslim community," King told CNN.
True, 'dat.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Let's fight against anti-anti-Islam bias

In response to the silly "A group to counter anti-Islam sentiment": (email to David Lepeska):
“What’s worse than ignorance is misinformation, and that’s what I find Islamophobia normally falls under: It’s a process of miseducation,” said Mr. Rehab...
There are many people, myself included, who have studied Islam after 911, who are not at all “misinformed” or “miseducated”  I have come to a conclusion about Islam only after years of study.  I find it has many egregious aspects. I speak about those. That does not make me an Islamophobe.
Yet you give voice to the inanities of the likes of Mr Rehab who falsely and tendentiously claims that all of us who criticise Islam are misinformed or miseducated.  The fact that I find some aspects of the doctrines of Islam, after years of study, to be obnoxious and anti our democratic traditions, does not make me an ignorant Islamophobe. It makes me someone concerned to resist the supremacism of Islam.
Peter F
Hong Kong

What's driving Miss Daisy.... crazy?

Islamophobia, that's what.
Daisy Khan penned a piece in The Guardian, claiming that "Islamophobia is America's real enemy".
Yup, that's the headline.  Despite the fact that Muslim-American terrorist attempts have risen steadily since 911.
Part of her absurd claim is based on a report from Duke University, which shows an average number of terrorist attempts thwarted in the US about 20 per year, a trend that the Duke report says is "declining", gleefully reported by Ms Khan, but which is in fact steadily increasing (point 4 below).
A couple of comments:
1.  "Only" 20 terrorist attempts per year is not cause for celebration: in 2001 there were not many thwarted attempts, just one successful one, that killed 3,000 and brought down two skyscrapers.  It needs only one of these attacks to succeed and the results could be devastating. Bearing in mind that they've tried to bring down planes, blow up bridges, flood the Hudson tunnel, use a car bomb in Times square... and so it goes. Imagine if just one of these had succeeded.  As one of the commenters noted, these sorts of attempted murders are attacking the nation; the 14,000 recorded murders last year are the result of domestic and other disputes, not relevant to the issue of terror against the state.
2.  Nowhere in the report, nor in the comments that I've read (not all), is the cost of thwarting these attempts mentioned: the metropolitan police departments, with their beefed up anti-terrorism units, the FBI focus on terrorists, the cost to airlines and passengers of the burdensome security screenings. All of these are a cost both mentally and financially, to keep what Ms Khan calls the "fabric of US civil society" safe from her correligionists.
3.  She doesn't mention the daily killings of Muslims by other Muslims around the world.  Understandable, as she's focussed on the US.  But surely these are part and parcel of her religion and valid cause for concern for those who she dismisses as "Islamophobes".
4.  The Duke University report, "Muslim-American Terrorism in the Decade since 911", says in its first paragraphs that "Muslim-American terrorism is down".  But that's only true if you take 2011 vs 2010, a "fallacy of range", which I'll presume is deliberate.
If you look at the numbers since 9/11 -- which the report claims in its title to be about --  and add a trendline, it's steadily, and rather strongly up. It doesn't matter what trend-line you use: I've put the figures into Excel and tested the following trend-lines: linear, logarithmic, polynomial, power, exponential and moving average (3 year).  No matter which one I use, the trend for Muslim-American terrorism is UP in the decade since 911.
But that would have been a different headline: "US Muslims' attemps to commit mass murder on the increase: Daisy Khan focusses on 'Islamophobia'".  Not such a congenial headline, that.
The commenters that I've read aren't having any of her tendentious contumely.  They tackle her direct and that's interesting because of the left-leangingness of The Guardian. Like the commenters in response to Karen Armstrong's ridiculous article on the Hajj: they tore into her apologia as well.
In that sense, it seems that the left is maybe "getting it" and is not afraid to come out in critique of the egregious elements of Islam, even if it means being labelled "Islamophobe" by the likes of a Daisy Khan.

Beijing moves to root out GM crops

This is an odd one: China moving to ban genetically modified crops.  In the past all I've read about pragmatic China is that it's developing GM crops on its own, varieties like "golden rice".  So it's a surprise to see this ban. It won't help with the predicted 70-100 million tonne shortfall in grain production by 2030.
Greenpeace, predictably, support the ban and call for more environmentally friendly agriculture.
But what's more friendly than varieties that need less insecticide, fewer chemical fertilizers, are resistant to main insect predators, use less water, produce more, cut carbon emissions....
The link is here, though it's behind a paywall. 

More on the Mainland v Hong Kongers tensions.

Bernard Chan makes a good point below the  fold: that the rising number of Mainland visitors to Hong Kong only benefits the few. That it's not "win-win" as the government claims, but "some win, a lot lose".
Bear in mind that this is not racism, or xenophobia, since it's all Chinese we're talking about.  So, it's a cultural and practices issue.  The mainland Chinese as tourists only buy from certain retailers, hence their impact on sales and the Hong Kong economy is limited to the high end, not the middle and lower classes.
I see it myself here in Hong Kong: the large malls are losing their noodle stalls and general interest shops, to be replaced with yet another Prada or Louis Vuitton store...
As Bernard says:
... much of the proceeds from mainland shoppers and property investors go to Hong Kong's developers and landlords. It is also surely true that, as a result, homes are less affordable and noodle shops and cinemas enjoyed by locals have been driven out by big luxury retail chains....
If you are a big landlord or chain retailer in the right place, you will profit massively from this phenomenon. But for smaller businesses and the local customers who rely on them, it can be disaster: higher rents, closed businesses and reduced access to necessary goods and services.
Hong Kongers are entitled to express their angst and concern about these trends, without being labelled racist or xenophobic.  Indeed, just as Bernie Chan has here....

Now the President apologises... oh dear...

Reasoned debate in Afghanistan...
I heard on BBC world service last night that Obama had made an apology to "the Afghan people" for the accidental burning of some Korans by NATO forces.
Surely this is a step (or a kowtow) too far?  I mean, every man and his dog(*) has apologised including a US General on the ground in Afghanistan, who, quite awfully I thought, began and ended his craven apology to the "noble Afghan people", with some greetings in the local language (sounded Arabic to me, but assume it must have been Pashto or Dari -- in which case, I wonder how he chose which one to use; surely use of one would offend speakers of the other...)
For the US president now to apologise is surely to reward the rampaging hordes.  The message being: show irrational violence in the face of any slight and you'll get what you want.  Meantime, the majority of Afghans have not rioted and even president Kharzai has called for calm.
Surely the message from the coalition forces should be something along the following lines: "look, we've apologised for what was a mistake.  Now it's time to stop with the violence, already!".  But no, more apologies to the thugs and thuggocracy, from the US president,  no less!

(*) woops sorry if I upset pious Muslims with the canine reference; I'm afraid it's just a saying.... l

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Islam is Islam... or is it?

The disputes and discussions about the nature of Islam, whether there can be an Islamic reformation, whether there is a benign form and a violent form, rumble on amongst Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
Senior Muslims such as Turkish PM Erdogan, have made statements that "There is no moderate or immoderate Islam; Islam is Islam and that's it".
This is terribly important, if you think about if for a tick.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

"Eventually, All Humans Will Be Palestine Refugees"

All other refugees from the World War II era (including my own parents) have been long settled; the Palestine refugee status has already endured too long and needs to be narrowed down to actual refugees before it does further damage.
So says Daniel Pipes, to which one might respond, indeed, but how likely is that?  UNRWA has a copper-bottomed never-ending job to do and its bureaucrats have cosy jobs for life.  Graham Hancock shows, in "Lords of Poverty", how the international aid bureaucracies have become corporatised and dedicated to their own existence and expansion as much as alleviating the poverty of their "customers".  The same, a fortiori, for UNRWA. No Palestinian refugees, no job for UNRWA... So they've done a good job for themeselves, if not for peace in the Middle East: in 1950: 750,000 refugees, in 2012: five million! Achieved by some pretty fancy, but dubious, footwork by UNRWA.
A good summary of the perverse dynamics of Palestinian refugees, who, uniquely, can pass on their status, even if they settle in other countries....

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Islam uncensored

Check out Jeff King's book "Islam Uncensored", link courtesy GA.
Mind, haven't read it yet, and I'm always a bit leery of "t'other side" having a go, as they can get a touch emotional at times.  Still, looks interesting and quotes the formidable Nonie Darwish, an ex Muslim refugee to the US, who I like and respect. (And, yes, she has, like many others, received death threats for her apostasy).

Monday, 20 February 2012

Keith Ellison's take on the "Third Jihad"

Keith Ellison took his oath of office on Thomas Jefferson's copy of the Koran. 
Jefferson was wary of Islamic supremacism and wrote about it at length.
You wouldn't guess what his take is, would you?  Naaah.  Well, it's simply this: that a video identifying the enemy, clearly objectively is making the US "less safe".  That's right, less safe because it is, in some unspecified way "anti Muslim" and leaves the impression -- according to Ellison, but not on my viewing of the video -- that "American Muslims are the enemy".
His take on the Third Jihad is here.
Basically, he's at it again: deception, which I noted in The case against Keith Ellison.
I'm just going to touch on a few issues where he's wrong, or gives a misleading impression:

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Edgy Gay Canadian Artist Mocks Islam... no, wait a minute!

Would the Faculty of Woollongong accept Bruce LaBruce?  No way, Bruce!

Oh,  Ho Ho!  Oh No, No!  An "edgy" artist is not going to mock Islam, is he? No way, especially if he's gay.

Oh no, it's not Islam Bruce LaBruce, the queer-gay Torontan artist has mocked, of course not: it's Catholics, with his Obscenity exhibition at La Fresh Gallery in Madrid.

No way "edgy" queer-activist artist LaBruce would have done an exhibition mocking Islam.  Especially given mainstream Islam's views on gays: they are to be killed; the only controversy is how.  If LaBruce had mocked Islam, the Islamic mob would have been there in a trice, with signs "Behead those who insult Islam".

Spanish Catholics are upset, but they haven't rampaged.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Defending Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Noah Fitzgerel's straw man argument

They breed 'em young these days, the Islamopologists.  The Huffington Post has a piece on 16th Feb from one Noah Fitzgerel (sic), a 17-year old editor of the Annandale High School Newspaper.  But let me not succumb to an inversion of argumentum ad vericundiam....  The boy is entitled to his views and if Huffpo wants to run them, fine.
Problem is they're rather ill informed views and more to the point, flow from a simple straw man argument.

Friday, 17 February 2012

"The Guidebook to taking a life", Six rules for murder in Islam

Wow, I found this pretty interesting: "The Guidebook to taking a life" by Souad Mekhennet.  It's old news, for sure, nearly five years old, but I didn't know -- did you? -- that there are rules for killing infidels?
I mean, if I were being cruel, which I'm not, nor bigoted, I'd be inclined to mock and say that the only rule of a radical Jihadi, an Islamic Supremacist, or whatever nomenclature you care for these murderous dudes, would be one rule: "See Infidel --  kill Infidel".  But I'm not being cruel, so I won't say that, even though, of course, it's right there in the Koran, in pretty well those exact words...
And I won't say that Rule #1  of Islamopologists is a bit like the Fight Club Rule #1, viz: "don't talk about Islam", even, or maybe especially, its violent manifestations, such as "Rule"-based murder (to do so is Islamophobic, don'cha know).
I came across this "Guidebook" article when I was doing some research on Mekhennet, who had a piece in the New York Times a few days ago which I critiqued here.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

New Mosque design in the US

Email to BBC:
Jane O’Brien’s report [just now on BBC World Service in Hong Kong] of new mosque design in the US would have been rather better and more balanced had she not succumbed to the reflexive use of the word “Islamophobia”, as in “the rise of Islamophobia after 9/11”.
As it happens there was very little anti-Muslim reaction after 9/11 as revealed in FBI statistics on hate crime. Had there been, it would surely have been understandable in the light of what had happened.  But there wasn’t. (which speaks volumes for the tolerance of Americans).
Many people began their study of Islam after 9/11, myself included.  We have learnt of many problematic aspects of the “Religion of Peace”.  It is sheer ignorance — bigotry, even — to tar with one brush all those who have genuine and well-grounded concerns about some of the doctrines of Islam.  To label us all “Islamophobic” is plain wrong and inexcusably ignorant. Shame on Ms O’Brien.

As for the rest, interesting and encouraging to hear of the design of more benign mosques.
Recall that in 1997, Turkish PM Erdogan quoted the poem
Siirt, which includes the lines:
The mosques are our barracks,
the domes our helmets,
the minarets our bayonets
and the faithful our soldiers...
Not very benign, ‘dat!

Islam is the victim -- again! Linda Sarsour and the Third Jihad

Linda Sarsour
Poor Ms Sarsour is "really confused" (Souad Mekhennet: "New York Police Video Complicates Muslim Engagement Efforts", last sentence).
She's confused, apparently, because she feels Muslims are damned if they do, damned if they don't.  That is, if they try to promote moderation and bridge building they are accused by "Islamophobes" of "angling for key positions and power"; whereas if they stay silent, they are accused of not wanting to "engage with the society".
Let me try and clarify it for you, Ms Sarsour.  The criticism many have of moderate Muslims, who we are constantly assured are the "vast majority", is that they do not speak out against their violent co-religionists. From my reading it has nothing to do with their alleged careerism.  Indeed, it would probably be good if genuinely moderate Muslims were able to obtain "key positions and power" to influence the debate and speak out against the violence done in the name of Islam.  No, the main issue we have with those who do "speak out", as you clearly see yourself as doing, is not their careerism, but that so many that do so speak out end up being apologists for Islam instead. That is, that they avoid the very key issues they are supposed to be addressing.
Take an example from Ms Mekhennet's article above, an example of your own Islamic apologetics:

Home truths about trade with China

Having caned Beijing over its veto of the UN Syrian Resolution, I'm back to trying to correct some misperceptions about China.  I've commented in the past on criticism  of China's currency being "overvalued" and "unfairly" so: most of China's trade is denominated in US dollars, so the value of the Renminbi Yuan is largely irrelevant.  Moreover, the Yuan has increased in value by about 25% in recent years, with hardly a dent on China's trade with the US.
I also noted the other day that the proportion of US consumption accounted for by China is only 2.7% by the estimates of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.  And the amount of US debt held by China is only 7% so the hysterical worries about China's control over the US economy are just that: hysterical.
Old mate Jake van der Kamp takes up this case again, in his inimitable way.  If Jake's column is all you read about economic issues in China and Hong Kong you won't go far wrong and you'll be better informed than most (and certainly way more than most US politicians).  If you add another commentator, make it Tom Holland and his daily Monitor column in the SCMP.
South China Morning Post articles are behind a pay wall, so I've copied and pasted it below the fold.
Thanks Jake!

"The Glazov Gang -- See No Islam, Hear no Islam"

Follow up on the silencing of Eric Allan Bell at the Daily Kos, for voicing some truths about Islam, that the good folk at the Kos found too uncomfortable.  I counted here the number of times Kos Kommenters used simple ad hominem: "sockpuppet", "bigot", "troll", and the evergreen "Islamophobe".
The video below is fifteen minutes of analysis of how the Left shuts down discussion of Islam. As Bell points out the firestorm against him was virtually 100% of Kommenters.  I was shocked myself.  Not at the Kommenters being against what he said about Islam, but that not one of them -- well, save a single one called "Seashell3" -- took on Bell over the substance of what he said.  All they did was hurl names.  And got him banned from the site.  Bear in mind in all of this that what he said about Islam and Muhammad, were all based on authoritative Islamic sources: the Islamic Trilogy, of Koran, Hadith and Sirah. None was "out of context", or "cherry picked" or "mistranslated". 
Here's Jamie Glazov and the Gang:

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

"Islamists smash Buddha statues"

The Thoddoo head, destroyed by
 Malidivian Islamists
Photo: South China Morning Post
Our South China Morning Post, carries the story of the "Islamist mob", who smashed irreplaceable buddhist statues in the Maldives National Museum (quoting the New York Times).  A para in the middle really caught my attention:
One of the statues believed to have been destroyed last week was the so-called Thoddoo head, a coral stone representation of Buddha found on Thoddoo Island in the 1950s. Ironically, the statue had been deliberately buried inside a temple, apparently hidden by islanders hundreds of years ago to protect it from destruction after the conversion to Islam. [my emphasis]
That is, the concern of non-Muslims that Muslims would destroy their artworks goes back hundreds of years.  Indeed, t'were ever so: the Islamic urge to destroy all vestiges of cultures before Islam, which we've seen in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi, Iran and elsewhere that Islam is the major religion, dates from the death of Muhammad.  It flows from the Islamic concept of Jahiliyyah, the "Days of Ignorance", prior to the "revelations" of Muhammad, "ignorance" being the alleged "condition that Arabs found themselves in pre-Islamic Arabia".  This belief that there is nothing of value prior to Islam is what led to the criminal destruction of the Buddahs of Bamiyan in Afghanistan in 2001.
[there's no link to the SCMP story as it's behind a paywall. Click below to see my cut/paste.  An earlier report on the NYT is here]:

Help LEAP fight for families

Just in from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition:
As we celebrate Valentine's Day and the bonds that bring people together, let us not forget the policies that tear them apart. The drug warriors have taken millions of nonviolent drug offender parents from their families for crimes no more morally offensive than those of the rum runners who managed to make ends meet during the last prohibition.

Between 1986 and 1999, the incarceration rate for women grew by 888%! From 1986 to 1996, the number of women in federal prison for drug “crimes” increased tenfold, from 2,400 to 24,000, and the number continues to increase. Many leave children behind. Today, more than 2.7 million American children have lost a parent to a prison sentence, and two thirds of those parents are nonviolent offenders.

In the name of the children, in the name of the family, the prohibitionists destroy both.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

"Mainland could learn from HK"

They published my letter in the South China Morning Post yesterday.  This issue of tensions between Hong Kong residents and mainland visitors is bubbling along here in Hong Kong and is getting nasty at times. It was sparked by a video of locals berating some food-eating mainlanders on the MTR (our subway, which doesn't allow consumption of F&B).  Issues include mainland mothers-to-be coming to Hong Kong to give birth, because of our better hospitals and because babies born here can get permanent residence.  There's also tension over mainlanders buying local property, pushing up prices, and often leaving their apartments empty, speculating on rising prices.  These are valid concerns.  Unfortunately, some locals have gone too far in the rhetoric, taking out an ad in the highest circulation paper, Apple Daily, labelling them "locusts". Not nice, evoking, as it does, memories of Rwandan genocide, when Tutsis called Hutus "locusts" (or was it the other way round?), before butchering them...
Politicians and pundits have bought into the brouhaha, and not a day goes by without a number of articles and letters on the subject.
The Editorial today called for "Hate Crime Legislation".  I'd be against that, as it's often used to silence any criticism: Islam in the west is notorious for using hate crime legislation in various jurisdictions (Canada and Australia for example) to shut down any criticism of their religion on the basis that it's "hate".  Legislation already on the books here ought to be enough to handle the current upsurge in angst, I would have thought.
Here's my letter, as published, below the fold.  Was sent on 1 Feb, as "One country, two cisterns":

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Germany goes for Sharia finance: discriminatory and jihad-promoting as it is...

From the Weekly Standard:
Last month, German bank WestLB rolled out a new “Islam-compliant” investment product named the Islamic Strategy Index Certificate. The value of the certificate is based on the value of the WestLB Islamic Deutschland Index, consisting of shares of ten German firms “whose business activities are consistent with the ethical rules of Islam.”... 
The prospectus goes on to explain that “for the selection [of stocks] it is in principle not permitted that the business activity of the chosen firms involve interest-bearing financial services or derivatives, insurance, alcohol, tobacco, pork, armaments, gambling, gold and silver hedging transactions, or the entertainment industry.” [Read more...]
The prospectus does not explain that in addition to those areas not permitted, other areas prohibited include: investments in companies or products that benefit non-Islamic religions; any project that promotes equal rights for women and gays; any western defence industries (but not Muslim ones); any western books, films, TV and radio. And, of course, they prohibit investment in any company having links with Israel.
As for the alleged “interest-free” nature of Sharia loans, deals are structured with sale and buyback of artificial "assets" with profit margins at levels equivalent to prevailing interest rates.  In other words they are an elaborate ploy of form over substance, and inefficient because of that structure.  Moreover, they require western jurisdictions to change their tax codes and related legislation to accommodate it
The trio in charge of ensuring the Index is Sharia compliant include Mufti Abdul Kadir Barkatullah, imam of the Finchley Mosque in London.  It was at his mosque last year that visiting MP Mike Freer was threatened and called a "Jewish homosexual pig" [BBC], about which the Mufti was notably silent.  Those threatening him posted messages saying that politicians are "no longer welcome in any Muslim areas".  [In other words Finchley is considered by those thugs to be a "Muslim area", a no-go area for non-Muslims in the centre of London].
The Finchley Mosque is associated with the Islamic Society of North London, an affiliate of the Muslim Brotherhood.
As for the Sharia mandated 5% that must go to charity: the requirements are that (i) the charity must by Islamic and (ii) that 12.5% of the charity money must be used to wage jihad (Umdat al-Salik, the Manual of Islamic jurisprudence), -- links between Islamic charities and terrorist bodies were recorded in the 9/11 Commission Report [p.517].  That is why Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual head, Yusuf al Qaradawi has called Sharia Finance "jihad with money" [aka "financial jihad"]
In sum, by promoting Sharia finance, Germany is promoting a system that is:
1.  Discriminatory
2.  Artificial and Inefficient, requiring revision of legal codes
3.  Anti-semitic
4.  Jihad-promoting
5.  Associated with the Muslim Brotherhood

See also: Letter to Simon Crean and Nick Sherry

"Who defames the Prophet?" by Ahmd El Aswany

Courtesy Raymond Ibrahim, this article needs posting, as it's part of the small genre of Moderate Muslims criticising the thin skin of radical Muslims who get antsy at cartoons, books or movies, and respond with terrorism bombs and hate.
From Ibrahim's introduction:
The following op-ed, written by Ahmed El Aswany, appeared in the popular news website El Bashayer, December 22, 2011, following several lawsuits against Egypt's Christians, most notably billionaire Naguib Sawiris, for "defaming Islam." Hard-hitting and self-critical, it deals with an important question: Exactly who is it that defames Islam and its prophet Muhammad? Many in the Muslim world insist it is the West—whether through cartoons, books, or simply free speech. However, as El Aswany boldly argues, no one defames Islam as much as "we Muslims, for imposing a terrorist, hypocrite, and life-hating Islamic model that feeds on killing others in the name of jihad and fighting freedom of expression…" [Read more...]

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Meet Kevin Jackson

Kevin Jackson, GOP blogger
[Update 14 Feb: to prove Kevin Jackson's point that most people voted for Obama because he's black, his famous namesake, Samuel L. Jackson said exactly that, this week: "I voted for Obama because he's black"].

What caught my attention in Melissa Kite's article "Race Card" in the Spectator of 28 January was this para, about Kevin Jackson: 
‘The problem is the majority of the people who did vote for Obama were voting for him on one condition and that condition is he’s black and that is racism. My issues with Obama are that if you take colour off Obama’s resumé and look at his ability to run the country, there is no way he would have been elected. If Barack Obama were anything other than half black, if he were half Chinese or half Irish, there is no way on God’s earth that he would have got elected. He got elected based on colour and that is ridiculous.’
This was exactly what my wife, Mrs Battle, said at the time, as in exactly.  I pointed this out to her and she said: "not only would he not have won the presidency, I wouldn't have given him a job!".  Now, I confess she's a bit down on Obama and has been since day one, whereas I was rather taken by his style, his "Change" narrative and voted for him.  Well, I would have had I been American, which I'm not, I'm an Aussie living in Hong Kong, but you get what I mean. We all get caught up in the US Presidential elections, so every four years is fun, fun, fun, with not only that, but the Olympics as well. Yippie!

"Things fall apart": the battle against 'Religious cleansing'

Covering some of the same issues as Ayaan Hirsi Ali's piece on the persecution of Christians and other minority religions in Muslim-dominated countries, is an editorial from the UK Spectator magazine, "Things fall Apart". It suggests the use of a new phrase: "religious cleansing".
Last week, the Islamist group Boko Haram launched a horrific attack, bombing five Nigerian police stations and killing 186 in one day. What started as a campaign targeting Christians in the north has now grown into a crisis that threatens to overwhelm the Nigerian government — and the church leaders who appealed for foreign assistance have had little response. When Nigeria’s president said he is now facing a crisis as grave as the civil war of 1967, in which a million died, his words were barely reported by the foreign press. This former British colony, which we controlled until 1960, has slipped off our political radar.
Just as the Foreign Office missed the emergence of ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia, it is having difficulty recognising the new evil of religious cleansing. It takes different forms in different countries, from pastors being randomly assassinated in the Philippines to the massacres of congregations in Iraq, whose ancient Christian community is now midway through an exodus of Biblical proportions. Behind it all lies a virulent strain of radical Sunni Islam, enlisting young men in a new war where the enemy lies not over a border but in the church, synagogue or temple. [more....]. 
BTW: both the Spectator and Hirsi Ali say that "Boko Haram" means "western education is sinful".  As I understand it, the literal meaning is "books are sinful", which is even more sinister, but can be understood from the Islamic fundamentalist point of view: that all is needed is the Koran.  If it's in the Koran, then you don't need another book to repeat it; and if it's not in the Koran, then it's not needed.
Just a niggle...

"Ayaan Hirsi Ali:The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World"

At least 24 Coptic Christians were killed in Cairo during clashes
with the Egyptian Army on Oct. 9.
PF: this was when I was there...
Photo: Thomas Hartwell / Redux [Ref]
Wow, this is pretty rare: Ayann Hirsi Ali carried in Newsweek.  She's usually reviled by the Left.  Reviled, one must add, for doing nothing other than pointing out the dire situation of women in the Muslim world.  She was one who went through it herself, having been born and brought up in Somalia, underwent FGM, was married off to much older man, etc, etc, before she escaped to the West and became a powerful and sane voice in support of women. For that, western feminists revile her. We ought revile them.
Anyway, here she is in Newsweek: The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World
The comments on this are split between support and criticism. Unlike the Newsweek article by Christopher Dickey last week about Geert Wilders in which the commenters tore him apart.
H/t: "Daily Beast"

Monday, 6 February 2012

China Veto "disgusting"

US Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice: the US is "disgusted"
I'm often accused of being a China apologist, as I often post in support of the China view of life.  But it's hard if the Chinese leadership goes ahead and does something as dopey as veto the UN Security Council resolution which attempts to stop the bloodshed in Syria.  I know why they did: they're concerned it might set a "precendent" for "interference" in another country's "internal affairs" and they have a fear -- indeed a paranoia -- that they might be the target of similar action someday. But that doesn't really stand close scrutiny as it would be hard to imagine a scenario in which China would be attacked, on its mainland, by a coalition of the West.  And in the meantime they lose huge international support.  The only other country to veto was Russia and they have their own, even tawdrier, reason: they sell arms to Syria's Assad. Rotten.

The US Ambassador to the UN used almost unheard of, most undiplomatic, words: "The US is disgusted". And "any further bloodshed will be on their hands".

I'm afraid I agree with that, Oh China!
And that from one of your staunch supporters...

Saturday, 4 February 2012

"The Violent Oppression of Women in Islam"

I just mentioned Richard Dawkins in my earlier post today, and here he is again, this time posting a video narrated by Nonie Darwish.  Nonie knows whereof she speaks, having been brought up in a Muslim country, which she describes in her book "Cruel and Usual Punishment".
For speaking the uncomfortable truth about the place of women in Islam, she's reviled by the Islamopologists, the likes of Loonwatch, Daily Kos and its Kommenters, the Left more widely.  But she's solid. Read her book; it's passionate, but factual.
The video posted by Richard Dawkins is narrated by her and comes with a warning:
WARNING: This video contains violence & graphic content, including two stonings. This is NOT for the faint of heart or those with a weak stomach.

H/t, Richard Dawkins
Related: "Abusing Women in Islam",  15 Aug 09

No to Sharia Finance in Hong Kong

Update, 7 Feb: Christine replied on 5th Feb: "Pointing it out doesn’t mean I support it!!!!..." [exclamation marks in the original!!]
Christine Loh is a fine and sensible woman, head of  Civic Exchange an independent non-profit think tank in Hong Kong. Email to her 4th Feb:
Dear Christine,
You say (“Pressure relief?” Feb 3):
On Islamic finance, Tsang hopes to introduce legislation before he steps down as "we are close to finalising the draft amendments to the relevant legislation". For some reason, this has taken a very long time since a dedicated team was set up in 2007 to promote this type of financial service. [emphasis added]
But do we really want Sharia-Compliant Finance (aka Islamic Finance)?  Sukuk Bonds do not only avoid investment in industries connected with alcohol, gambling or pork. They also prohibit investments in companies or products that benefit non-Islamic religions; any project that promotes equal rights for women and gays; any western defence industries (but not Muslim ones); any western books, films, TV and radio.  And, of course, they prohibit investment in any company having links with Israel. In short, they are egregiously discriminatory in a way that surely we ought not to be promoting; they may even be illegal by Hong Kong’s laws.
As for the alleged “interest-free” nature of Sharia loans, you may know that they structure deals with sale and buyback provisions, with profit margins at levels equivalent to prevailing interest rates.  In other words they are an elaborate ploy of form over substance.  Yet we have to change our tax system to accommodate it?
I am against promotion of Sharia Compliant Finance in Hong Kong.  I urge you to look into Islamic Finance more closely as there are many other problematic issues with it.  I’d be happy to indicate some references to you if you wish.

Yours, etc. 
Christine's article below the fold

Religion as a cultural construct: Respek! No way, man...

Give this boat Respek! The Sheikh earned it... Not...
In one of his books, perhaps "The God Delusion", Richard Dawkins makes two observations, which I think are unarguably true, whether you happen to be a Believer, or, like me, not.
First: that if there is a God, or Supreme Being, or Higher Intelligence, or whatever, there can only be one. That is, there can only be one ultimate Truth, whatever it is.  Either Jesus is the Son of God, or not.  Either Allah spoke to Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel, or he didn't. Either people are reincarnated or they are not; the soul is immortal or it is not; either jinns exist, or they do not... and so on.
Or all the religions in the world may be wrong, in whole or in part. In short: there can only be at maximum one true religion, one true Truth.  I guess one should allow for the fact that two or more religions may share commonalites which may happen to be the true Truth.  But the central point remains: at most one religion can be true in its totality.

Second: people hew to religions almost wholly based on where and into what family they were born.  If you're born a Saudi, the likelyhood that you will be Muslim is 100% (it's the law). If you're born in India, you may be Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim; it will depend on your family.

So, the conclusion is that people almost always take on a religion based on what they're take in with their breast milk and not by analysing all the religions in the world and deciding that one of them appears to make more sense than the others; or by a rational analysis of which one of the competing views seems most likely to be the truth, the true Truth.

That being the case, why should one "respect" what is a purely arbitrary belief system for most believers?

I was thinking of this as I watched Charlie Rose on Bloomberg this morning interviewing the extravagantly named Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani, Prime Minster of Qatar. He, the PM, said "I have a lot of respect for my religion".  That would be Islam.  Well, he would, wouldn't he? I mean as a high ranking official, and part of the ruling Royal family, in a Muslim country he has to say that.  Even if he's read the core documents, the Trilogy of Islam, and thinks it's a pile of dangerous crock.  Which maybe he does, or maybe he doesn't.  Though being a seemingly intelligent fellow I'm guessing there must be some aspects of the religion that make his buttocks tighten in discomfort, so perhaps he's one of those kinda "secular" Muslim guys and doesn't examine the Trilogy too closely.

In any case, why would he not "respect" a religion that allows him multiple wives: he has two, with whom he has fifteen (and counting) children. And allows him and the rest of his family to rule the oil-rich mini state, and become fabulously wealthy thereby.  He owns a 437-foot SuperYacht Al-Mirqab (that's it above, and you can charter it here!), which cost him $1.5 billion and recently bought an apartment on Hyde Park for $100 million.

But this wealth doesn't deserve our respect.  He did nothing to earn it, save for being born into the right family.  Just like the religion, really.  Just there at birth. What's to respect in that?

Friday, 3 February 2012

Do I think this is a good post? No.

You know what I really hate?
People asking questions and answering it themselves.

It wasn't started by Donald Rumsfled, but certainly Rummy popularised it.  Doonesbury even mocked Rummy about it, though I can't find the strip.  Must've been around 2006.  When Rummy grilled himself over troop levels in Iraq and gave himself the answers:
"Do I know that the right number is there? No. Do I think it is? Yes. Is there anyone who is smart enough to prove it is or isn't? No." 

What got on my goat was watching folks interviewed at the Davos conference and doing the same thing. "Do I think that we're going to have difficult times ahead? Yes, I do.  Do I think that we'll manage to work things through? Yes.  Do I think we'll get through unsathed? No..." and so on ad nauseam.

Do I wish this would stop?  You bet.  Do I think it will? No. That's about as likely as giving up saying "going forward".  Could I care less?  Well, I could but don't, I care more, as in caring about American's use of "could care less", when it should clearly be "couldn't care less".  That'll do, you!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Homeland Security's Double-deal duplicity

Center of Excellence??
Just love those government reports on terrorism!  What I love about them is seeing the new and inventive ways they have of turning their eyes away from reality.  Remember the report on the Fort Hood Massacres?  The one, which IIRC, was about 98 pages long and managed not to mention the word "Islam" even once, even though Nidal had been screaming "Allahu Akhbar" over and over, as he mowed down his fellow soldiers, and after having handed out copies of the Koran.
Now we have a two-fer, a double-deal, if you will, in the latest report from DOHS: Hot Spots of Terrorism and Other Crimes in the United States, 1970 to 2008.
Simply put, there's a double duplicity:
First, the duplicity of lumping "Other crimes" with "Terrorism".  Rather like lumping spiders and monkeys together and saying that you're analysing primate behaviour.
Second: the "fallacy of range". Going back to the 70s for terror, of course you're bringing in the leftist terror of the 70s and 80s.  What we want to know is about the terror of today.  I wrote about this "fallacy of range" in more detail at Terrorists are not Muslims... except for the 94% that are!
Shame on the DOHS, and its alleged "Center of Excellence".  What PC crock!
H/T Judicial Watch.

Morgan Freeman: the Easy Reader

This is really cool!  Discovered it appropriately enough, on Discover Magazine's Cosmic Variance Blog, where Sean Carrol posted it as "Mind = Blown"... He says that many years before he went through the wormhole, Morgan Freeman was the Easy Reader on a '70's kids program. And he also notes that the theme song is a dead ringer for Amy Winehouse's "Rehab".  "Flip back and forth between playing them if you don't believe me", says Sean.
Here's Morgan, cool, man...

And here's Amy

"The Third Jihad": see it for yourself and make your own judgement

There's been a big hullaballoo about a new documentary called "The Third Jihad". The first two Jihads were: (1) the expansion, by military conquest, of Islam throughout North Africa, Southern and Eastern Europe in the centuries after the death of Muhammad.  And (2): the Ottoman Empire, which extended to Eastern Europe until defeated in WW1.  The "Third Jihad" the makers of the documentary take as being from the foundation of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928 to today.
Now the hullaballoo:  Mayor Bloomberg is denouncing the film, and the Council of American Islamic Relations, CAIR, itself a branch of the Brotherhood is calling for it to be banned [*]. Various groups have called it a hate-film.
You can see the doco here, to make up your own mind.
Clare Lopez, an ex CIA officer, speaks plainly and clearly about the film; she doesn't come across as a red-neck "Islamophobe" -- hear her on the vid below.  Note her statement that CAIR is the Hamas representative in the US, as proved by in US courts in the Holy Land Foundation trial of 2008. Hamas, in turn, is an arm of the Brotherhood, as stated in the opening paragraph of the Hamas Charter.


Should we deal with the Muslim Brotherhood?
There are some who say that since the Muslim Brotherhood is so anti-western and committed to bringing down the west, (in its own words,"eliminating and destroying western civilization from within...") that we should not deal with them.
But we knew that the Soviet  Union was also committed to destruction of the west, but had extensive dealings with them.  So, I think we should deal with the MB and its arms such as CAIR, and even Hamas.  Just that we should be very clear as to who they are, and what they want, not believe in fairy tales that they are, underneath it all, just would-be democrats and freedom-lovers at heart.  Nor should we allow members of outfits such as CAIR to work in government, certainly not in senior positions.

Is this film McCarthyist?
In a word, "NO", for the following reasons:  Communists were recognised as a danger to the US in the late 40s early 50s.  It was just that McCarthy didn't find many in government, or falsely accused people of being communist, so "McCarthyism" became a pejorative, and synonym for "witch hunt".
By contrast, members of CAIR and other Muslim Brotherhood-related bodies, are not even recognised as a danger by the Obama Administration  (the FBI aside), and hence are allowed free and open access to government officials, and even brought in to government, with no concern as to what the ultimate aim of the MB is -- as clearly stated by the Brotherhood itself, as above. And yet they are many, as opposed to the McCarthy's elusive communists.

[*UPDATE, 11 Feb: CAIR's Crusade against The Third Jihad, Clifford May, 9th Feb.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Mark Steyn should stick to his knitting

Then again: what is his knitting?  He's an expert on everything, isn't he?
I should say I really enjoy reading Steyn's pieces and his books. I'm a regular reader on his blog.  He writes beautifully, wittily, pungently, cogently.  Just not always correctly.
He's robust and correct in his writing on Islam, free speech, human rights and so on.
But when he writes about the US economy?  Fuggedabout it.
Take his latest piece, "Sorry, Newt, only the debt ceiling will reach the moon".
He says the US has "unprecedented world-record brokeness".  The US is not broke.  Broke means you can't repay your debts, and is specifically defined as being when you can't pay the interest on your debt.  The US interest payments on its debt is at 3% of GNP and was higher in the 80s (4%).  Economists say that the level of concern is when interest repayments reach 12% of GNP.  The US is a long way from that.
More: the US interest payment as percent of GNP is dropping. Just yesterday, for example, the US announced that it would need to borrow $US 400 billion less than was previously forecast, so interest payments are dropping, not increasing.
As for "world-record", they're only world-record because the US has a "world record" GNP.  The US debt has been a "world record" since 1945, simply because of the size of its economy. And this debt is known as US Treasuries, a favoured safe-haven investment for investors.  And they still are: US Treasury rates are at record lows.  Were the debt (ie Treasuries) a concern, the markets -- something Steyn strongly supports (as do I) -- would have bid the prices down, and hence interest rates up.  There's no hint of that.  Clearly the markets know something Steyn doesn't.
He talks of the $US 1.5 trillion budget deficit.  And indeed that's what it's projected to be.  But it's coming down, by projections, and is nowhere near the high of the post-war levels. Again these levels of deficit are easily handled by issue of Treasuries.
He's wrong too about China.  He talks scarily of the debt held by his invented "First National Bank of Shanghai".  But as I showed here, the main US debt is owned by Americans. China only has about 7.5% of US debt.  That's not something scary. China is the largest foreign holder of US debt and is not likely to sell, as the US is its major market.
So, no, Mark, the debt won't "reach the moon". It'll stay firmly planted on the earth: in the US to be specific.

One country, two cisterns

Letter to South China Morning Post:
There has been a lot of correspondence recently about clashes between Mainlanders and Hongkongers over public manners.
Regina Yip says we should "learn from each other" (Opinion, Jan 29) and Anthony Cheung says “we must not live on past glory” (Insight, Jan 31).  Fine as those principles sound, we must ask: who has more to learn from whom?
Speaking as one who has studied, lived and worked in China, and now lives in Hong Kong, I believe it’s the Mainland from Hong Kong.
I had my own experience recently of Hong Kong’s public manners coming into conflict with those of the mainland.  In a shop in Pacific Place  a group of mainlanders was smoking (in Pacific Place!).  I said to them -- in Mandarin -- that they ought to stub out their cigarettes as there was a stiff fine for smoking indoors in Hong Kong.  With some bad grace they did so.  When they left, the shop staff thanked me. They said that whenever they told mainlanders they should not smoke, they were ignored...
There are other public manners we take for granted here, but which are not so on the mainland: orderly queuing, not spitting in the street, standing on the right on escalators, not eating on the MTR, and so on.
The mainland does have campaigns from time to time, to promote “spiritual civilisation”; in other words, “public manners”.  But we already have them here.  We should not feel ashamed to stand up for them. Why go backwards, only to need our own “spiritual civilisation” campaigns when public manners have deteriorated?
This goes further than the arguably trivial matter of public manners. Hong Kong’s success has been based on the rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, transparent and clean bureaucracy, a robust ICAC, and so on.  These are all issues the mainland is still grappling with.  But we’re already there.  Why should we be ashamed of that?
We should stand up for our public manners and for what’s made our success and not give them away because of well-meaning but mistaken notions of “learning from each other” or assuming that our “past glory” is somehow irrelevant to our present and future success.

Yours, etc,

[PS: the "two cisterns" is a play on "One Country, Two Systems", the basis for government in Hong Kong, where we are very independent of the Mainland/Beijing and to the very different public toilet situations in China and Hong Kong.  Hong Kong has the best-kept and cleanest in the world.  China, mainland, the opposite.  I didn't point this out in the letter....]

Schettino, "the careless one", steers Costa Concordia onto charted rock

BBC: "Costa Concordia: Ship's previous close pass of Giglio"
Well, guess what? I looked up "the meaning of 'Schettino'" and got this:

Schettino, for instance, can be a diminutive of Francesco; but it also translates as `
. ”

[I was actually looking to see if there was some meaning of "Schettino" that I could use in a smart-arsed title for this blog; but this'll do]

Schettino is, of course, the name of the captain of the ill-fated Costa Concordia, currently lying on her side at the North-east bit of the Island of Giglio in Italy, after a prang with a rock.  And was he "careless"!  Oh boy, was he ever!

The point of this rather off-topic post is this: to say that the accident was clearly and unequivocally the fault of Schettino, the "careless one".