Appeasement

Three things caught my attention yesterday, all to do with appeasement.

Firstly Brendan O’Neill:

Islam now enjoys the same kind of moral protection from blasphemy and ridicule that Christianity once (wrongly) enjoyed. All last week, for example, I received furious emails and messages in response to two articles I wrote about the Manchester attack, telling me I was wrong to defend the use of the phrase ‘Islamist extremism’. That term has an Islamophobic bent to it, we’re told. It demeans Islam and its adherents by suggesting they have something to do with terrorism. You should just say ‘extremism’, not ‘Islamist extremism’. Don’t ever name the extremism, don’t label it, because you might hurt people’s feelings.

This is incredibly dangerous. This censorious flattery of Islam is, in my view, a key contributor to the violence we have seen in recent years. Because when you constantly tell people that any mockery of their religion is tantamount to a crime, is vile and racist and unacceptable, you actively invite them, encourage them in fact, to become intolerant. You license their intolerance. You inflame their violent contempt for anyone who questions their dogmas. You provide a moral justification for their desire to punish those who insult their religion.

Next Theodore Dalrymple in the WSJ:

Instead, we have gone in for what a Dutch friend of mine calls “creative appeasement.” Authorities make concessions even before, one suspects, there have been any demands for them. Thus, a public library in Birmingham, one of the largest known to me, has installed women-only tables, a euphemism for Muslim women only. Whether there was ever a request or demand for sex-segregated seating from Muslims is probably undiscoverable; truth seldom emerges from a public authority. But the justification would almost certainly be that without such tables, Muslim women would not be able to use the library at all.

The Birmingham airport has set aside a room for wudu, the Muslim ablutions before prayer. No other religion is catered for in this fashion (nor should they be, in my opinion), so the impression is inevitably given that Islam is in some way favored or privileged. Again, it would be difficult to find out whether they received requests or demands for such a room or merely anticipated them; in either case, weakness is advertised.

This is not a local problem alone. Many European airports now set aside a room for “meditation.” The icon used to indicate it almost always carries more of an Islamic connotation than any other. A friend told me that when she went into one such room, she was told by a Muslim to remove her shoes, ecumenism being, of course, a one-way street.

Finally, the Cheshire Police (via Twitter):

Somebody please tell me what side our ruling class is on, because it sure as hell isn’t ours.

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Getting it Wrong on Russia

Back in February I lamented the fact that finding sensible commentary on Russia is difficult because when it comes to that particular nation, people’s views fall into one of the following two categories:

1. Russia is America’s number one enemy, they rigged the US election in order to install their puppet Trump, they are hell-bent on taking over Europe by force and they must be confronted in Syria.

2. Russia is absolutely no threat to Europe, Crimea rightfully belongs to Russia and the annexation was perfectly above-board, they have been forced to launch a war in Eastern Ukraine because of Western plans to encircle them, they are directly threatened by NATO and they have shown us all how things ought to be done in Syria.

A recent article in The Spectator is a good case in point:

What amazes me is that if you bring up Russia in America and Europe today, people react the way academics used to back in the 1930s if one criticized Stalin and his purges. Fifty to 100 million died in the gulags, and lefties the world over turned a blind eye; now you say one nice thing about Putin and you’re toast.

That is true, and worthy of discussion.

Towards the late-1980s, the Soviet ambassador to Athens befriended my father, the coldest warrior of them all, and convinced him that all Gorby wanted was to conduct business with the West. He also reminded him what Georgi Arbatov had told dad when he had been a guest of the government during the Moscow Olympics of 1980: the greatest danger Russia faced was not America and the West but the 40 million Muslims within the Soviet Union.

I can only assume the author cites the opinion of his Dad’s mate because he believes it is true. It’s clearly bollocks. The greatest predictable threat to Russia in the 1980s was a nuclear war with America; the greatest unknown threat turned out to be the collapse of the USSR. Presumably the author thinks the words hold true today, but even that’s a tough sell. Considering their numbers, Russia has encountered very little trouble of the Islamist variety from Tatars, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Tadjiks, Ingush and other Muslims from the former Soviet Union. The obvious exception is with the Chechens but their push for independence and the two subsequent wars were driven as much by nationalism as Islamism (and the Chechens have always been troublemakers from Moscow’s point of view). Over time the Chechen separatists became out-and-out Islamic terrorists, but they don’t represent the biggest danger to Russia. And it’s worth pointing out that a lot of the hardcore fighters in Chechnya were foreigners, and that the most feared “Chechen” fighters who joined ISIS seem to be ethnic Russians who converted to Islam.

Either way, Russian and former-Soviet Muslims are not and never were the greatest danger facing Russia. If we want me to say what I think that is, I’d go for the insistence of its leaders to concentrate power around themselves, weaken institutions, crush any opposition, and leave no succession plan making chaos more likely each time the regime changes every generation or two. Couple that with a populous and resource-hungry China on its distant borders.

One hundred years ago, after the Tsar’s murder, westerners thought of Russia as a savage, benighted land yearning to become a second America. That was a crock, if ever there was one. Russians are a spiritual people who yearn to connect with Christ, not Wall Street.

I don’t think this chap has spent much time in Russia or around Russians. It would take one to be willfully blind not to notice how much rampant consumerism, paid for with credit cards and bank loans, has gripped Russians. A few text messages passed between family members at Easter doesn’t change that.

After the collapse of communism, America committed its greatest mistake until the Iraqi invasion 11 years later. Instead of listening to George F. Kennan, a Russian expert and diplomat extraordinaire, and to Richard Nixon, who both advised helping the new state financially as well as politically, Uncle Sam heeded neocon siren voices and encircled Russia via Nato.

And just like that, we get the full, unalloyed, Kremlin take on things. It’s hard to know where to begin. The Americans did attempt to help Russia financially and politically: they poured in billions to stop the country from collapsing completely, secure its nuclear weapons, strengthen its institutions, and get a grip on an AIDS epidemic among many other things. As things turned out the economic advice was extremely naive in that they didn’t anticipate the degree to which Russians would murder one another while transforming their economy, but that can hardly be blamed on the Americans. Sure, there was a lot of asset stripping, theft, and other dodgy practices being carried out by individuals, some of whom had state backing, but to say the Americans didn’t try to help Russia after the collapse of the USSR might as well be taken from Putin’s Top Ten List of Things to Blame on America.

What annoys me about these sort of articles is they assume Russians themselves have no agency, as if they bear no responsibility for their own situation, and are always at the mercy of the US. To counter this, I’ll refer to this post from 2007 in which I list the business-related murders in the first part of 2000 alone, a decade after perestroika. Did Americans tell them to behave like this? No. This is simply how Russians behave, American advice or not.

And this:

Uncle Sam heeded neocon siren voices and encircled Russia via Nato.

Oh please. Again, this is straight out of the Kremlin book of propaganda. The Nato expansion was more about a bureaucratic organisation wanting to increase its headcount and footprint more than a grand strategy to encircle Russia. Had America wanted to destroy Russia in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse, they would have done so. As I said here:

By historical standards Russia, as part of a collapsing empire which had been defeated after a long and often bloody struggle against an ideological, military, and political enemy that remained strong, got off awfully lightly.

Now I will concede that some Nato actions – the bombing of Serbia, for example – might be construed as offensive and give Putin & Co some cause for concern, but the idea that Nato represents any sort of threat to Russia is laughable. I am quite sure that the Russians themselves don’t believe it either, no matter how much they repeat it for political purposes.

Neocons then doubled down on their folly by convincing an idiotic president and his poodle Tony Blair to invade Iraq. A trillion dollars and hundreds of thousands of dead later, not a single neocon has been jailed or tried for their crimes. But Putin has been demonised by those same neocons and their networks, and by newspapers such as the Mexican-owned New York Times.

So the idiocy of the Iraq War makes Putin off-limits for criticism? I agree that the neo-cons have no moral ground on which to criticise Putin, but it doesn’t make them wrong. Not that I think they are right either, but the premise is daft.

The Nato expansion into the former Soviet block is now being called a ‘tragic mistake’ by those of us not taken in by neocon propaganda. There was bound to be an authoritarian backlash in Russia as a result.

And there we have the Russians’ lack of agency again. Incorporating the Czech Republic into Nato in 1999 simply forced Putin to embark on aggressive, anti-western policies in 2007.

And then there is the monstrously corrupt privatisation, sanctioned by a drunken Yeltsin. (Chelsea fans and other beneficiaries in London and New York should put up a statue of the drunk. Swiss and Bahama-based bankers pray for him daily.)

The author  appears not to realise that the person he is praising and his entourage are the prime beneficiaries of this monstrously corrupt privatisation. Does he think Putin and Roman Abramovich are enemies? But again, note how a drunk Russian presiding over a corrupt privatisation programme from which ruthless Russian gangsters benefited is something to be blamed on foreigners.

Of course, there is a reason for all this nonsense, and it is contained in a paragraph near the start of the article:

I’ve recently been reading rather a lot about RT. My friend, the film director James Toback — who directed the greatest movie of all time, Seduced and Abandoned — tells me it is the only news channel he watches in New York. I may be biased against the BBC and American networks because of their hypocritical claim of impartiality (as impartial as Saudi clerics judging a Jewish smuggler), but I love RT as it doesn’t do fake news. And, unlike American broadcasters, it has a sense of humour.

Russia Today doesn’t do fake news? Right.

The author has made the same mistake most people do when commenting on Russia: they have (rightly) understood that the Western, mainstream media is wrong, biased, or both and stumbled across Russia Today. They have then, for reasons unknown only to themselves, abandoned all skepticism and accepted without question what they see and hear from the Kremlin-run channel. I have noticed a similar thing with some of my friends on Facebook: they have realised that the BBC is unreliable and so start posting quotes from Zerohedge, as if they are any more truthful.

The idea that perhaps the situation with Russia is complex, each issue must be viewed separately, and the truth lies somewhere between the BBC/CNN and RT escapes most contemporary commentators. Perhaps Putin isn’t benign, but maybe he’s not quite like Saddam Hussein either. Sure, Russia might have legitimate concerns over Nato’s behaviour, but that did not compel them to embark on land-grabs and launch an insurrection in East Ukraine. There is some middle ground here, but boy do I feel like I’m ploughing a lonely furrow through it.

(As an aside, some advice for the author after reading this passage:

And speaking of girls, at our last summer party, towards the end, when I was well fuelled, I met Olga, a very pretty Russian who works for Russia Today. Olga has perfect manners, something her male counterparts are not famous for, and is well spoken and graceful. Even the MoMC thought her too good for me when they met at my birthday party.

For those of us who have spent time in Russia, few things come across as more nauseating than a middle-aged Western man, having encountered a Russian woman for the first time in his life, telling people about it.)

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Preaching Extremism with Impunity

Happenings in France:

A mosque in the eastern suburbs of Paris was ordered closed on Tuesday because authorities deemed it “a threat to security”.
The mosque, located in Torcy in the Seine-et-Marne department, was deemed by authorities to be “a threat to public order”.
Interior Minister Matthias Fekl said the mosque had “become a place where radical ideology was advocated”.
“Some of the preaching was openly hostile to France’s laws and was inciting hate to other religious communities, primarily Shia Muslims and Jews.”
He added that there was a risk of “a breeding ground that threatened security and public order” in France.
In the official police order for closure, Imams were said to have “legitimized armed jihad” over the past two years, “calling on members to pray for jihadists to destroy the enemies of Islam in France and around the world”.

I have a Muslim friend living in a European capital, and I occasionally meet him and speak about the issue of extremism being preached in mosques across Europe. He hails from an Arabic-speaking country where mosques are carefully watched by the authorities and Imams are licensed by the state.

He told me he once went to a mosque in the city where he now lives and was amazed, absolutely staggered, to find extremism being openly preached and leaflets being handed out in support of jihadists in Syria and Iraq. He said back in his home country this wouldn’t have been tolerated for one second: the mosque would have been shut down and the Imam thrown in jail. He said that this particular mosque was hardly unusual.

What he could not for the life of him understand was why the authorities in the west allow these places to remain open, preaching extremism. He says western governments, rather than hassling moderate Muslims and the general population, should simply start rounding up the obvious extremists who preach their poisonous creed with impunity. He said if they are local they should be jailed and if they are foreign they should be deported immediately.

Although I am fully wedded to the ideas of freedom of speech, freedom of worship, and due process I could not help but think my friend did have something of a valid point. It’s all very well us telling moderate Muslims that they should do more, but they might well turn around and ask when we intend to do start doing something about it. As I have said before, why should moderate Muslims put their heads above the parapet and tackle the extremists in their midst when the host governments can’t even bring themselves to admit there is a problem?

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Praying for War

Via Bardon in the comments, I find this article by a Turkish writer to be a good example of what happens when people start to believe their own bullshit.

Under the heading “Turkey’s last warning to the West before it’s too late” we get this:

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Thursday that the new ban on headscarves in the workplace by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) would commence a struggle between the cross and the crescent.

Also speaking on Thursday, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu predicted that holy wars would soon begin in Europe.

Employers are now entitled to ban their staff from wearing visible religious symbols. You may say that it is not just for Muslims, but it is certainly intolerable for them. It is a direct attack on Muslim women wearing hijabs at work.

Can someone show me the difference between the ECJ’s ban on headscarves and new U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban, please?

President Erdoğan is totally right to compare the situation to a struggle between the cross and the crescent. And so is Minister Çavuşoğlu arguing that holy wars will soon begin in Europe. The refusal by the West to accept the equality of Muslims and Muslim nations is the sign of a clash of civilizations.

If you have decided to clench your fists, you are getting ready for a fight; if you hit, you will be hit back.

President Erdoğan and other government officials are raising their voices since Western governments have aggrieved Turks and Muslims.

Turks are warning one last time. They are asking: “Are you aware that you are playing with fire? What on earth is going on? Are you insane?” The rest is up to the Western governments.

To summarise: Western governments must do as us Turks and Muslims want or we will get violent and a bloody, religious war will ensue. But this is just a warning, not a threat. Uh-huh.

Here’s something for the author to consider: if things keep going the way they are, it may not be long before it is those very politicians to whom her countrymen are issuing “warnings” that are all that stand between Muslims and the general population in the war they appear to crave. I wonder how long she and her ilk expects to last should such a war begin and those politicians are out of the picture? Personally, I’d give her a matter of hours.

I might have said this before, but I think Muslims are making an enormous mistake, one that our current crop of leaders are facilitating and for which they will bear an enormous responsibility in future, in believing that the entire Western population has been cowed. Given the behaviour of the government in each country and a good chunk of their citizens I can see why they may think this, but I nevertheless believe it is a rather dangerous assumption to make. They may ought to read some history books and brush up on the fanatical violence we were willing to inflict on each other just a short time ago, and the fact that when push came to shove the Americans were prepared to obliterate two Japanese cities and sleep well that night. Much is made these days about how civilised we all are and how the EU is a guarantor of peace, and I daresay some people believe it. But I don’t see sixty or seventy years as being particularly long in a historical context, and certainly not long enough to have completely pacified an entire continent. Yugoslavia used to be a holiday destination for Brits wanting a beach and sunshine; a few years later we had the Siege of Sarajevo and Srebrenica.

I’m of the opinion that Europe and America still contain enough people who are, deep down, as fanatically violent as their forebears and this is kept in check only by a complex political and economic system which has been arrived at precisely to avoid any more bloodshed. However, two generations have now passed and people have gotten complacent, thinking this happy state of affairs is destined to be permanent, as if it were some sort of historical inevitability. What we are now seeing is outsiders kicking at the pillars of that political system and being encouraged to do so by hubristic insiders who don’t understand quite how delicate it is and what those pillars are made of. When those pillars have fallen in the past they did so rather unexpectedly, often at a time when people thought that peaceful times were here to stay. What were people saying about “the war to end all wars”? Didn’t quite work out like that, did it?

I’ve read about The Bloody Angle, Chancellorsville, Verdun, The Somme, Stalingrad, and Dresden. Not much love lost there, and everyone looked vaguely alike. I’ve also read about Auschwitz and the Gulags, and the Confederate POW camp at Andersonville: again, this was done by one set of people to another who spoke the same language, ate the same food, and listened to the same music. I’ve read about the Provisional IRA and their policy of kneecappings, and accounts of what happened when Russia’s OMON went into Grozny after artillery flattened it. None of what took place needed a translator. I’ve read about what the British, French, Belgians, Portuguese, Spanish, and Americans were prepared to do to people who were brown or yellow and didn’t sound much like them, and it is grisly stuff. When it comes to barbaric savagery, us Westerners have a pretty impressive record and much of it is within living memory.

But hey, perhaps the West has gone soft. Perhaps the current crop of politicians really are representative of their populations and everyone will sit idly by and do nothing as strange foreigners turn up in large numbers and unleash a holy war over issues such as wearing the hijab. All I’m saying is that are running one hell of a fucking risk. Perhaps they ought to tone down the “warnings” and think this through a bit.

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Who Will You Run To?

Who will you run to when it all falls down?

Heart

I’ve been thinking for quite some time, and even mentioned it on this blog, that the transition of the gay rights movement from “keep the government out of the bedroom” to “get the government to insist the public comes in, watches, and claps in approval” will turn out badly for them in the long term. There are already signs that the feminists and trans lobbyists are going to throw gay men under the bus in the great game of victimhood poker, particularly if their political views are not of the approved kind. Look at the vitriol being heaped on Milo Yiannopolous at the moment: being a gay Jew with a preference for black men hasn’t stopped him being branded an actual Nazi by his opponents, including some supposedly respectable media outlets.

By moving away from the principle that consenting adults ought to do as they please towards one of forcing moral acceptance of their choices onto a reluctant public via the legal system, the gays have lost a lot of natural allies in the process, those people who may or may not have approved of what they do but on the principles of freedom and liberty believed they should have been allowed to get on with it. The question they ought to now be asking is who will they turn to when they are stripped of their victim status and chucked under the bus. They’re not going to find a lot of sympathy among those who didn’t care who shagged who but cared very much that the proprietors of pizza restaurants in Indiana were being crucified by the media, politicians, and gay lobby after being goaded into uttering the wrong opinions. The mainstream, in other words.

This latest business about Trump’s Executive Order has revealed that it’s not just gay men who might face this issue in future. I have said enough times that this order was clumsily implemented and the chaos at the airports could have and should have been avoided, but otherwise it is not much more than what any other country does, or indeed any other American President has done in the past. It is not “aimed at Muslims” and with the exception of Iran it affects only those countries which are in various levels of civil war and have no functioning security apparatus with which their American counterparts can liaise. Plus it is temporary. Granted the list of countries does not reflect the citizenship of those who have carried out terrorist attacks on US soil before, but perhaps the Trump administration is looking to the future rather than extrapolating from the past.

One can expect Trump’s domestic political opponents to scream blue murder about it, because they would go into meltdown if he scrapped the US nuclear weapons programme and diverted the funds to orphanages and baby seal sanctuaries. But the knee-jerk reaction of Europeans is an interesting one. Europe has a nasty habit of getting itself into an almighty mess which the United States eventually has to pull them out of. We had two World Wars which required American intervention in Europe, then the military umbrella throughout the Cold War which kept the Russians out, and then the mess in Yugoslavia which the Europeans just watched rumble on for years until the Yanks got fed up and intervened to end it. Given the rather alarming issue of Islamic terrorism in Europe, the latest example of which was (again) in Paris two days ago, and the millions of migrants that Merkel and others have allowed in unchecked and unscreened, one would have thought Europe’s leaders might not have launched into a tirade against Trump exercising the right of the US to decide who enters and on what terms. If things unravel in Europe and the security situation gets out of hand (and I think this is highly likely) then Europe will need the cooperation and assistance of the US in dealing with it. One hopes that Americans will appreciate the distinction between Europe’s supposed leaders and its general population, but there’s no guarantee of that and the more the anti-US shrieking goes on the less they Americans will be inclined to do so. Whether we like it or not, in the absence of the willingness of Europeans to pay for it in terms of military expenditure and tough political decisions, the United States is the ultimate guarantor of European culture as we know it. Trump has already said Europe should address the former, and if Europe keeps ducking the latter while hurling vitriolic abuse at America for trying, however cack-handedly, to get a grip on Islamic terrorism one wonders to whom they expect to turn if and when everything goes to ratshit.

But it’s not just Europeans. A year or so back I knew a woman who was nominally Muslim but very Westernised: perfect English, US educated, secular in the main in that she drank, partied, etc. Only she thought Israel ought not to exist, and she said so with such casualness that I could only assume this passed for an uncontroversial, everyday opinion in her circles. I presented this anecdote on another blog recently and somebody told me a similar story of a moderate Muslim he knew in his office who had all the hallmarks of accepting Western culture only she agreed with the fatwa on Salman Rushdie. Trust between Muslims and everyone else is eroding rapidly, and this is not so much to do with the hardline terrorists as the perception – real or not, it doesn’t matter – that an awful lot of Muslims quietly agree with the aims (and sometimes the methods) of the terrorists and generally would prefer to see Muslims hold more power and influence than they currently do, and all that entails. Anecdotes like the two I mention above do little to improve things, and it is sad to say that when I have drilled down into the opinions of supposedly secular, moderate Muslims their views fall some way short of the ideals espoused by Western culture.

This latest episode on the Executive Order has revealed that further: it has been almost universally opposed by secular, Westernised Muslims who have branded it a “Muslim ban” and decided that they have more solidarity with people in Yemen, Somalia, and Libya than they do an elected American administration simply because the former are Muslim. In theory I am Christian: I certainly have a baptism certificate. However, I don’t have the slightest thing in common with other people on that basis, none whatsoever. I had very much in common with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo massacre because I share many aspects of the French culture which the terrorists were attacking. I also have a lot in common with Israelis subject to daily rocket attacks and suicide bombings, but none of this is based in religion. I show solidarity with one side or another based on shared culture, values, and beliefs. Which is exactly what Muslims do, only I have noticed that a lot of those who claim they hold Western values dear threw their lot in with people with whom they have absolutely nothing in common in Yemen, Somalia, and Sudan except that they are Muslims and this appears to have been the driving factor. I would never show solidarity with anybody simply because they are Christian: yet a lot of supposedly secular Muslims have leaped forward to show solidarity with other Muslims, in opposition to the secular policies of a fairly elected government.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with this per se, Muslims appear to demonstrate an impressive solidarity when faced with what they perceive to be an attack on their religion. The fact that almost every possible slight by a non-Muslim is leaped on by millions and portrayed as an attack on Muslims everywhere, egged on by the useful idiots in the media and academia, doesn’t do anything to change the fact that very, very few Muslims actually speak out against the crowd and take the side of Western values and principles over solidarity with their fellow Muslims.

However, the problem will come when they find themselves on the wrong end of one of Islam’s many internal conflicts. In fact, that problem is already here: few in the West trust the Syrians to police their own ranks of jihadists because they don’t believe the Syrians have an interest in doing so. When push comes to shove, many people in the West believe Syrians, Iraqis, and others will side with the jihadists ahead of their Western host populations. Hence, people don’t want to take in migrants from the Islamic world. Had moderate Muslims been more serious about accepting Western values, adapting, and integrating chances are the Western nations would be ready to accept far more refugees from the conflict zones. Instead they have presented the West with almost two decades of clear demonstrations, one after another, that they are Muslims first and foremost and always will be, and Western values will always come second.

A lot of the secular, modern, educated Muslims who sided with Yemeni, Sudanese, and Somalian Muslims in opposition to the moderate, secular decision of an elected Western government are going to find themselves on the wrong end of a conflict internal to Islam, or possibly even external to it. Like it or not, they are going to be caught up in the actions of the hardliners either at home or in a future conflict between them and secular, Western forces. When that time comes, who will they run to? They’ve already nailed their colours to the mast, and chosen sides. Another few years of this and moderate, secular Muslims are going to find, like the gay men will shortly, that they have no allies left that are worth a damn.

I think there are going to be a lot of people in the near future desperately banging on people’s doors citing principles they abandoned long ago or never held, asking for help. And those doors won’t open, because those behind it think they’re the enemy. And half the time, they’ll be right. I think we’re fast getting to the point when people need to have a long, hard think about what they truly believe in and start saying it loud and clear.

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Terrorist Numbers vs Effectiveness

This tweet has been doing the rounds, and it’s actually pretty funny:

I have heard a few people expressing this same sentiment, i.e. that Trump’s restrictions on immigration will lead to an increase in terrorist numbers. Leaving aside the fact that this rather too casually assumes Muslims are prone to turn to terrorism over relatively mundane things and if this is the case then maybe restricting their movements isn’t such a bad idea, I think the point is anyway moot.

We used to hear this a lot during the American response to 9/11, first with the attack on Afghanistan to remove the Taliban and then the supposedly related Iraq War. But I grew skeptical of that argument when it was applied to Israeli policies, namely their assassination of successive Hamas leaders in 2004 and the building of the security barrier. Many commentators warned that neither would lead to peace and both would result in more Palestinians turning to terrorism.

Only I thought this missed the point spectacularly. At the time these policies were being carried out, Israel was already subject to sustained terrorist attacks carried out by Palestinians. At that point the precise number of terrorists didn’t matter but limiting their effectiveness did, and it was to limit their effectiveness that Israel enacted these particular policies. If the number of suicide attacks fell as a consequence (and they did) then the possibility that a few hundred more terrorists joined the ranks of those who already existed was of secondary importance. Many people condemn Israel policies as making things worse, but in the minds of a lot of Israelis things really couldn’t get any worse in terms of relations with the Palestinians and their supporters so they really oughtn’t to be too concerned about this when enacting policies to keep them safe. Long term Israel might have the luxury of worrying about how many terrorists it is facing, but at the time (and now) I don’t think it matters much to them whether there are 10,000 or 50,000: limiting their effectiveness becomes the priority.

I’m sure Jim Gamble knows this, but judging by his Twitter feed he appears to be more interested in scoring political points. Given the scale of what the British government faced in Northern Ireland it was probably correct to consider the effect on terrorist numbers should they crack down too hard on the Republicans: the conflict was more or less contained, except for the occasional bombing on the mainland, and there was a balance to be had between limiting the effectiveness of the IRA and seriously pissing off the ordinary nationalists. But the situation faced by Israel was quite different, and hence the balance point shifted.

Whether his policy is the right way to go about it or not, Trump is trying to keep terrorists out of the United States. I cannot read Trump’s mind but I might guess that he has looked at America’s efforts in the War on Terror over the past decade and a half and reached the conclusion that trying to eradicate Islamic terrorism is an impossible task and so limiting the ability of terrorists to inflict harm within the US ought to be a priority. Some may argue that it is better there are only 100 Islamic terrorists hell-bent on attacking the USA instead of 2,000 and they’d be right; but if there are currently 100,000 such people and policies to limit their ability to enter the USA bumps these numbers up to 120,000 it is reasonable to ask what the difference is. A cursory glance around the world will tell you there is no shortage of Islamic terrorists and their numbers will be in the tens of thousands even if Trump throws himself off his own tower and Louis Farrakhan gets installed as the Grand Mufti of the newly formed Islamic Republic of North America. At this point their precise numbers mean no more than whether Nato was facing 50,000 or 80,000 Soviet tanks at the Fulda Gap: they were vastly outnumbered, and so they needed to come up with a way with countering them.

There are people who think Muslims will interpret Trump’s Executive Order as a “war on Islam” and it will be “us against them”. Only we’ve heard this line repeated after 9/11, Afghanistan, the Iraq War, and in the aftermath of every terrorist attack since, and when something is repeated often enough it sometimes comes to be. There are a growing number of people in the West who already believe that it is “us against them” and we are already at war with Islam, only the leadership are reluctant to say so. These beliefs are harboured by a good number of those who voted for Trump and support his immigration policies, indeed this is precisely why a lot of them voted for him. If things keep heading in this direction the number of people who believe Islamic terrorism will always exist as long as Islam exists, and the priority for the West should be to put as much physical distance between Muslim populations and everyone else, will increase and will eventually become a majority.

Both Muslims and Western politicians should be a lot more concerned about that group growing than terrorist numbers.

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The Laws in Dubai

I meant to comment on this earlier:

A British woman has been charged with having extra-marital sex in Dubai after reporting she was raped, according to a UK-based legal advice group.

The Detained in Dubai group said the woman was arrested after she claimed she was raped by two British men.

The woman, who is in her 20s, was reportedly attacked by two men from Birmingham while she was on holiday.

And according to the Daily Mail:

Last year, Ms Waterman Smith waived her anonymity to reveal how she was raped when her attackers tampered with her drink at the Rock Bottom Bar in the Regent Palace Hotel.

Here’s a thing a lot of people don’t know about Dubai: the laws there can not only be very strict, but they are also flouted so brazenly people forget they exist.  For instance, it is illegal to drink in Dubai unless one of the following is the case:

1) You drinking in the bar of a hotel in which you are resident, i.e. a paying guest.

2) You are a resident of Dubai or one of the other Emirates and you hold a liquor-license.

In other words, if you are drinking in a bar at a hotel in which you are not resident, you are breaking the law.  The problem is, everyone does this, and the whole place is set up to allow this.  At least one bar – the Irish Village under the tennis stadium – is not attached to any hotel, yet is packed with tourists.  Provided there are no problems, the authorities turn a blind eye.

Also, it is illegal for a man and woman to share a hotel or residence in Dubai unless they are married.  Enforcing this law would destroy the tourist industry overnight, but that is the law nonetheless and if you live in one of the smaller hotels you will sometimes be asked by the hotel staff to prove you are married if you’re trying to bring a girl home.  Which can be a bit difficult if you don’t know her name, as I have seen once with an Arab trying to sneak a prostitute into his quarters.  So if a British woman turns up with her boyfriend in Dubai for a weekend stopover on the way to Thailand and they check into a hotel together, technically they are in breach of the law.  Again, none of this is a problem – until something goes wrong.  Then, usually for the first time, somebody finds out what the law actually says.

Islamic laws apply in Dubai, and they say that a woman is not allowed to be alone in a hotel room with a man who is not her husband.  This is based on the belief that a woman who is alone in a hotel room with a man who is not her husband might have sex with him, and that is prohibited in Islamic law.  Now this might be a bit backward, but that’s how they think.  And the law is also there because they believe a woman alone in a hotel room with a strange man or men might be subject to an attack, and to prevent this they simply make it illegal for her to be in that position in the first place.  It might be illiberal, unfair, misogynistic, etc. but it is not inherently stupid, and it avoids them having to get into the “he said/she said” arguments which plague all such cases everywhere else.

I know Rock Bottom Bar, it is an absolute shithole with a sticky carpet – or at least it was when I was there in 2003-6.  It is chock-full of wasted tourists, and it is a meat-market for those looking for a pick-up.  The bar is well named, which is more than can be said for the hotel itself: there is little that is regal or palatial about the Regent Palace.  I never knew of anyone who stayed there, and would guess the bar provides the bulk of its revenue.  Those people staggering back to a hotel in the company of somebody they just met are unlikely to be met with a sympathetic hearing from the authorities if something goes wrong.

Of course, if she was raped then an appalling crime has occurred.  But the authorities are in a difficult position here: the law says she should not have been with them in the first place, precisely to avoid unpleasantness like this.  Us westerners might not like this law, but that is how the Emiratis govern themselves, and to be fair they give tourists and expats a free pass on this – until something goes wrong and their hand is forced.  When the woman concerned made the complaint she didn’t know the law, and she has now compelled them to enforce it.  If they turn a blind eye then locals – who are more closely policed on such matters than tourists, especially women – will be entitled to ask why the law is not being applied in such an obvious case, and will likely think her being white and Western is the reason (pity the Bangladeshi maids who have been imprisoned and flogged for minor offences).

This will be the case regardless of whether the men are charged with rape or not: the reports are unclear as to whether the two men will be charged, are on bail, or are free to leave but the two offences are separate as I understand it.  Now it may turn out that the woman gets charged and jailed and the men go free without anyone taking her claims seriously, which would be pretty awful.  But it might also be the case that the police take her seriously but don’t have any evidence except for her say-so that she was raped, and aren’t prepared to put them on trial just to make the country look more modern (as if rape trials in Western countries are not fraught with problems).

The accusations of drink tampering only serve to make things worse: the Dubai police will know Rock Bottom well, and the type of place that it is.  Perhaps there have been other cases of drinks being spiked in there, and if so the police would know about it: more complaints would have been forthcoming, and undercover policemen – who frequent the bars – would see it.  Also, the bar managers and security would be keeping a sharp eye-out: the last thing they want is a police investigation.  That’s leaving aside the issue of where a date-rape drug would be bought from.  Sex isn’t hard to come by in Dubai, the place being rammed full of prostitutes.  Drugs might be easily obtained (I have no idea), but I think the police would take some convincing that she had her drink spiked and wasn’t just hammered.  If the two men were residents, the police might consider it a possibility.  If they were tourists, no chance.  I hope to hell she didn’t make up the bit about her drink being tampered to cover for her being totally wasted on tequila, leading the police to doubt her entire story.

I am not writing this in defence of Dubai or the prevailing Islamic laws, I don’t like either the place or the way it is run, which is why I left.  However, I don’t think berating the Dubai police is exactly fair either: rape accusations are notoriously difficult to deal with anywhere, and they have tried to avoid their occurrence by applying laws which I don’t agree with, but then I’m not in charge.  It might simply be the case there is no evidence that a rape occurred, which of course is not proof that it did not, only that charges cannot be pressed with the hope of a conviction.  One could argue that the Dubai authorities should do more to inform visitors of what the laws are, but had they done so would the woman in question have stayed home with a book and given Rock Bottom a wide berth?  I doubt it.  There are serious issues with the way women are treated in Dubai and the wider Middle East, particularly as regard equality under the law and sexual assault/rape.  I just don’t think this is the best case to put forward as an example of why things ought to change.

If she did go to Rock Bottom, have her drink spiked, and was then raped she has my every sympathy.  If that was indeed the case, I think the Dubai authorities will figure this out and find a way to drop the charges in a face-saving manner, which they may do anyway even if they don’t believe her.  What the British press needs to do is resist the temptation to stand on their soapbox and piss off the Emiratis so that they throw the book at her just to make a point.

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There Was Once a Road Through the Woods

Perry de Havilland at Samizdata has linked to a piece in the Christian Post written by somebody apologising for being an ardent defender of Islam in recent times, somebody who now feels the critics of Islam were right all along.  This paragraph in particular nudged me into writing a post I’ve been meaning to for a while:

Though we claim the mantle of human rights, free speech and equality, we lack the courage of our convictions when it offends someone. We make the cowardly lion look like Churchill.

Principles are strange things in the sense that they do not necessarily have to be pleasant to be attractive, and that even appalling principles can be more attractive (to some) than none at all.  I recall a section in David Hackworth’s book About Face where during the Vietnam War he interviewed an NVA prisoner to try to understand what made them fight.  Once the prisoner realised Hackworth wasn’t going to torture him, and in fact wasn’t after military information at all, he opened up.  It transpired that the prisoner was four-square behind the idea of Communism and the principles that the leadership in Hanoi was preaching and practising.  Hackworth remarked that although he didn’t agree with the cause the man was fighting for, he could not help but admire the fact that his prisoner was willing to endure extreme hardship in order to do so, and noted that he had a fist-sized hole somewhere on his person (I forget where) that was a result of some battlefield injury incurred earlier in the war.  Hackworth contrasted his prisoner’s dedication with those of the feckless ARVN who generally lacked the motivation to fight, were happy to dodge the action and let the Americans do the (literal) grunt work, and represented a regime that was morally bankrupt, corrupt, brutal and stood for nothing whatsoever other than not being Communist.  He concluded that unless the South Vietnamese get off their arses and start fighting in the way his prisoner was, they would ultimately lose the war.  And he was right.

I am about as far from a Communist as it is possible to get, yet there is no denying the ideas and principles attracted – and continue to attract – millions of people.  I have read enough Cold War history to know that the Chinese fought with fanatical, suicidal dedication to the Communist cause in North Korea, that millions of Russian soldiers died with Stalin’s name on their lips, and that a huge percentage of the Soviet people worked willingly in support of the Socialist cause for decades.  These people might be brainwashed, and they might be complete idiots, but the fact is that having been presented with a set of principles – however warped both in theory and practice – millions of them followed with unflappable dedication.

So how come the Commies lost the Cold War?  Theories vary, but one crucial element in the Western victory was the upholding of certain principles which the Communist Bloc didn’t recognise: free speech, liberty, property rights, the right to a fair trial, freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, freedom of artistic expression, etc.  Granted most, if not all, Western countries upheld these principles imperfectly at various times but this does not equate to an absence of principles any more than the largesse of the Politburo meant an absence of collectivist principles in the Soviet Union.

By upholding these principles that were alien to the Communists, the West was able to achieve two things:

1. Demonstrate how they were fundamentally different from the Communists in a positive way, i.e. better than them.

2. Provide an alternative set of principles for those in the enemy camp who wished to reject the Communist principles.

Convinced of its own superior system of government, the West thought nothing of blasting the populations trapped behind the Iron Curtain with propaganda, urging them to convert to its own way of thinking.  An American president – the leader of the free world – called the Soviet Union an evil empire not only because it was, but also because he knew those living under its rule against their will would take great heart from his words and continue to struggle.  The conviction of the West in shamelessly and incessantly promoting its own principles over the Communists’ likely did as much to inspire internal resentment over the Soviet leadership as their own degeneracy: without the former, against what standard could the Soviet leaders and their own circumstances be measured?

This brings me onto what I want to talk about, which is a thought that first started churning in my head in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.  That is, the question as to why moderate Muslims don’t speak out and condemn the atrocities carried out in the name of Islam.  It is tempting to say that many probably agree with the atrocities, leading one to question just how many moderates there actually are.  But shortly afterwards I read a comment in a blog by somebody who suggested putting yourself in the shoes of a moderate Muslim and asking whether you yourself would speak out.

And in doing so it became a lot clearer why they don’t.  What we are asking moderate Muslims to do is speak out against those whose actions are incompatible with our way of life.  But what we really want is confirmation that moderate Muslims have themselves accepted our way of life and the principles that underpin it, and will therefore reject the extremists in their ranks.  In theory, this isn’t much different than hoping citizens of Communist countries would accept our way of life and make things difficult for their overlords by seeking change.  But whereas during the Cold War we had clearly defined principles that we genuinely believed were superior and were not afraid to advertise them, what principles are we supposed to be waving in front of Muslims?

And that’s a question I can’t answer.  Whatever free speech we currently enjoy is fast being eroded: when citizens can be jailed for offensive Tweets or nasty Facebook comments, and homophobic remarks are grounds for arrest as a matter of course, then we can probably say that this isn’t solid ground on which we can fight a battle of ideas.  Individual freedom is rapidly disappearing as a concept now that refusing to bake a wedding cake is a matter in which the full force of the law is brought to ensure conformity: I’d not fancy my chances arguing that individual freedoms in the West are nowadays sancrosanct in a way that they are not in the Muslim world.  The state is becoming ever more intrusive, particularly into family matters: with Scotland now setting up a truly Stalinist system of shadow parenting by state officials (H/T Samizdata) it would take a brave soul to try to win over a Muslim by pointing to our superior methods of running a family.

That’s not to say the West has nothing to offer Muslims, because it clearly does.  But the differentiator which enabled them to offer all people – not just Muslims – something better was the society that resulted from first fighting for, and then upholding, the principles on which it was based.  The West appears to have forgotten that it was these principles that made its society attractive in the first place, and it doesn’t seem to realise that if it abandons those principles then it won’t be the same society; and if it’s not the same society, who is to say it will be an improvement on any other, particularly one that’s been aroud awhile?

To repeat what I quoted from the Christian Post:

Though we claim the mantle of human rights, free speech and equality, we lack the courage of our convictions when it offends someone.

If our leadership – and I use that term loosely – lacks the conviction to uphold the principles which supposedly define the West, why the hell should we expect Muslims to come out in support of them?  I suspect for many, faced with a choice between leaning towards Islamic principles and Western principles, many moderate Muslims are choosing the former because they are unconvinced that the latter even exist.  Hell, I’m not convinced they exist in any meaningful sense any more, so why should somebody who comes from a culture where they have been historically absent?

As the aforementioned blog commenter asked, if you were a young Muslim living in Britain over the last few years, which way would you lean?  Which way is the wind blowing?  When you have elected officials condemning the publication of blasphemous cartoons, and newspaper columnists suggesting Charlie Hebdo was probably at fault, would you stick your head above the parapet and argue that insulting the Prophet is a fundamental right?  When any atrocity is immediately followed by politicians mumbling vague approximations of supposed bedrock principles which they contradict in the very same sentence through use of the word “but”, and fall over themselves to assure you – a Muslim – that this is nothing to do with your own principles and faith, and then an utter headcase is invited for an interview on the state-owned TV channel where he defends the bloodshed and nobody says a peep: which way are you going to jump?

As the Christian Post article goes on to say:

In reality, those who criticize Islam, especially reform minded Muslims, are the bravest of the brave. They are literally putting their lives at risk by the simple act of criticizing the Quran, Muhammad, and Sharia.

It’s hard enough as it is to get Muslims to question aspects of their faith they might find distasteful and risk the opprobrium of their family, friends, and community.  But it was equally hard to get Russian citizens to criticise their own people and system as well.  Back then, we realised the importance in upholding our own convictions and demonstrating our principles in the struggle to convert people away from Communism and to adopt our way of life.

But today we have abandoned our principles, yet at the same time we expect Muslims to start questioning theirs.  Somebody with principles will not abandon them – even if they are appalling – unless there are alternatives on offer.  And although I see much merit in the principles on which Western society was based, the past decade or two has seen them eroded to such an extent that their function as an alternative which others can adopt has diminished to the point that few appear to be taking them up any more.  What’s more worrying, as David Hackworth’s prisoner demonstrated, those with principles – regardless of what they are – tend to prevail over those who are operating with none.

If the West wants its way of life to continue its citizenry had better rediscover the principles on which it developed and not only start upholding them, but demanding their leaders do the same.  They’d be wise to consider that the Muslims they are hoping to convert already have principles, they’ve been following them faithfully for hundreds of years, and there is very little they would have seen in recent years which would make them do otherwise.

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The March of the Impotents

Well, I’m glad I didn’t go on that march through Paris yesterday.

On Friday, French President Francois Hollande said in a public address:

“These fanatics have nothing to do with the Muslim religion”.

Which is a flat-out lie, and Hollande knows it.  These fanatics have everything to do with Islam.  Now it may be fair to say they are not representative of ordinary Muslims, and I would agree.  If may also be fair to say that these fanatics are operating on the extremes of Islam, and I would also agree.  But to say it is nothing to do with Islam?  Nothing?  Utter bullshit.

The problem is, this bullshit has been swallowed not only on a national scale, but a global scale.  The response – pretend to give a shit, but downplay the Islam angle – was utterly predictable, because we have heard the same bullshit time after time.  This is why I pretty much stifled a yawn last Wednesday, even whilst the attackers were still fleeing through the city.  I knew it would change nothing.

Of course, Hollande needs to choose his words carefully.  France is home to several million Muslims who are not murdering fanatics, and loose words from a president could easily pose a danger to innocent people.  But nobody is calling for retribution against Muslims.  Nobody is asking for mass deportations.  Nobody wants Hollande to introduce illiberal restrictions on Muslims.  It would be grossly irresponsible and unjust for Hollande, or anyone else, to come out and say Muslims are collectively to blame or that these attacks are the natural result of practicing Muslims.

But saying this is nothing to do with Islam is also grossly irresponsible: there is a real and present danger posed to citizens everywhere by an unknown number of well-organised, well-connected, and well-armed fanatical Muslims who genuinely believe they are acting in accordance with Islamic teachings.  Regardless of whether their intepretations are theologically correct or in accordance with other Muslims, this is what drives them to kill.  Unless and until Western leaders acknowledge this, it will happen again and again and again.

What we’re seeing here is politics, politics in the absence of leadership.  Hell, it isn’t even governance.  Modern day politicians operate under no principles whatsoever, save for that which makes their own lives easier (meaning, it makes their election or re-election more likely).  There was a time when politicians would make unpopular decisions because it was the right thing to do.  Nowadays these charlatans posing as world leaders do whatever they think might make them popular, and haven’t the faintest idea what is right or wrong.  It’s all about them, and nobody else.

As I said before the march, this wasn’t a demonstration by a million people that enough was enough and something had better be done, or else.  No, this was called because Hollande saw the event as a way to nail French unity in the face of a national tragedy to his re-election campaign.  And people took part in it not to demand change, but to be assured that nothing would change.  People marched in support of free speech, did they?  Then what did they propose is done differently to protect it?  Nothing.  They just marched to say “Yes, we stand for free speech – just don’t expect us to do anything to protect it from another attack.”

Supposing a French politician proposed re-integrating the disaffected Muslim population in the banlieues by tearing up the stupid, outdated employment legislation which ensures they remain jobless for life.  You’d see those same people who marched yesterday out in twice the numbers to protest.  Or if the authorities proposed closer surveillance of Muslims in French prisons and those recently released on terrorism-related charges.  The human rights lawyers would descend like vultures, and half the people marching yesterday would be screaming “racism”.  Hell, they couldn’t even bear the prospect of somebody saying something different, so they stopped the National Front from joining in.

Now I don’t know what the answer is, or what the government should do.  I’m an engineer, not an expert in terrorism or the leader of a country.  But I know sticking our collective heads in the sand is not the answer.  Maybe once, in case such atrocities are an aberration.  But now, after almost 15 years of repeated attacks by Islamic headcases across four continents, a response of some sort is seriously needed.  But yesterday’s march wasn’t to demand a response, it was to demand there isn’t one.  Where the hell is the leadership?  All they’ve done is kick the can down the road another two years.

But we’re living in an era of non-action, easy decisions, and can-kicking.  Life has gotten too comfortable for most people, and few are prepared to take the necessary hardship to ensure our way of life continues.  Look at the western economies, FFS.  Two of today’s generations are utterly fucking over the next two or three, and congratulating themselves in the process.  How many of those marching yesterday are so scared of change that they won’t even consider a 10% chance they might have to get another job at some point in their lives in order to save their own country from bankrupcy?  The modern-day “manager” is no better: facing crippling mortgage repayments due in no small part to his own idiotic voting record, he cowers in fear of even a bad word being passed down by his superiors despite ironclad employment protection, and any decision he makes is either utterly spineless, solely in his own interests, or both.

Bush Jr. was a damned clown, but at least he went and kicked the shit out of the Taliban after 9/11.  Whether this was sensible or not is largely beside the point, something needs to be done when 3,000 of your citizens have been spectacularly murdered and mere words just don’t cut it.  “The pen is mightier than the sword” was the message of many cartoonists following the massacre last Wednesday.  Not if you’re shit scared of wielding that pen it isn’t, and especially not if some crazy cunt is running at you with a big fucking sword.

I am of the opinion we need leadership and action based on sound principles of liberty and justice, not more of the same lame speeches and empty soundbites.  It seems a million people marching yesterday disagreed with me.

Probably just as well I didn’t go, then.  See you for the next massacre.

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