Kabul, Afghanistan – 1960s
Kabul, Afghanistan – Later
Tehran, Iran – 1970s
Tehran, Iran – Later
Cairo, Egypt – 1960s
Cairo, Egypt – Later
Istanbul, Turkey – Now
Istanbul, Turkey – Later
Kabul, Afghanistan – 1960s
Kabul, Afghanistan – Later
Tehran, Iran – 1970s
Tehran, Iran – Later
Cairo, Egypt – 1960s
Cairo, Egypt – Later
Istanbul, Turkey – Now
Istanbul, Turkey – Later
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.
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.
I’d be lying if I said I was shocked or shaken by the attacks on Charlie Hebdo’s offices in Paris last week. It may be different for the French, but I’ve gotten strangely used to this. Indeed, the only thing which is surprising is how surprised everyone is.
9/11 was a shock, one I remember feeling shaken by even several days later, and waking up the morning after thinking it very surreal. 2002 saw the appalling bombing of the bar in Bali (with a less deadly repeat in 2005). In 2004 came the train bombing in Madrid, which few outside of Spain seemed to care much about once the intial bang had faded from earshot. Then we had 7/7 in the UK in 2005, which to me wasn’t much different from the IRA bombs only this time the perpetrators spoke English better and probably didn’t like Guinness. In 2008 the Mumbai attacks took place, featuring Islamic gunmen massacring people in a hotel. 2013 saw the bombing of the Boston Marathon, the same year Lee Rigby had his head hacked off in a London street by two men shouting Islamic slogans. Last month a headcase waving an ISIS flag took over a coffee shop in Sydney, killing two people in the process in an act which a lot of Australians seemed to avoid condeming. In fact, these atrocities have become so common I’m sure I’ve forgotten several of them, not to mention all the smaller attacks and foiled plots such as Glasgow Airport, the underwear bomber, etc.
A murderous attack on the office of a satirical journal in France by Islamic lunatics is unique only in the specific target, the country, and the date on which it took place. In all other aspects – including the wholly predictable response from the media and politicians – it is dreary business as usual.
At least that’s how I felt. I heard the sirens and saw the flashing lights, and saw this on my way to work on Thursday morning:
I also attended the two-minute silence my employer organised, believing quite genuinely that the murdered deserved my thoughts. The attacks are an outrage – a disgusting event – but shocking, at least to me, they are not.
And nor should they have been, at least to the French. The list of attacks I have posted above notwithstanding, the French have been sitting on a timebomb of their own making for years. In browsing the blog discussions following the attacks, I came across this article written by the splendid Theodore Dalrymple on the ghettos established outside of Paris to house immigrants from north and sub-Saharan Africa. It is impossible to select any paragraphs to quote, so I encourage you to read it all. Sadly, the article was not written in time to alert the French authorities as to the serious problem they have in the heart of their country, published as it was in 2002!!
There are many theories in place which seek to explain why such attacks happen, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to pretend that the politics that has prevailed in western Europe over the past two or three decades has greatly enabled the ability of Islamic nutcases to act, even if we charitably assume these same politics have not facilitated their creation in the first place. Mass immigration followed by a combination of politically correct permissiveness, a soul-destroying welfare system, and no prospects of employment might not be responsible for people wanting to kill us for our beliefs, but they are sure as hell to blame for these people living in our cities with the freedom to arm themselves to the teeth and murder their fellow citizens again and again. Each time the affected nation reacts with faux shock, before going back to reinforce the exact same policies which have led us blind into this situation.
I don’t expect anything will change as a result of this latest attack. And if there is any change, it will be further curtailment of our freedoms and liberty enacted in a manner which will make not the slightest difference to the next atrocity. Today there is an enormous march planned in Paris under the banner of National Unity. I won’t be attending, mainly because I have something else to do but also because of this:
Despite the French president calling for “unity” in the light of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, an almighty row broke out on Thursday after the National Front were not invited to Sunday’s Republican rally.
I hold no truck whatsoever for Marie Le Pen’s National Front party or their policies, but the exclusion of a reasonably popular party from a National Unity march on the grounds their politics are not welcome demonstrates that this march is more about maintaining the status quo and saving the faces and careers of the French establishment. Would I join a march to recognise the attacks on Charlie Hebdo is one attack too many and things must change? Yes. Would I join a march in support of the establishment that has presided over this disaster in the first place, and shamelessly intends to continue with the same policies? No. So I’m not going.
The attacks revealed to many a yawning chasm between two belief systems, filled with mistrust, a failure to find a common language, and the lack of understanding of one another’s culture. Obviously I’m talking about the French and the British. Many of the British commentators referred to Charlie Hebdo’s output as infantile, childish, and unsophisticated. Which indeed it was. But France has long had a much different relationship with cartoons and comics than Britain, one that is probably unique to France. Adult (in the sense that adults read them, as opposed to the content being sexual) comics are very popular here, similar to Japan. Satire via comic stips and cartoons is as much a part of the French culture as Camembert, cafés, and strikes on the SNCF. Our office sees the circulation of a satirical magazine (I have no idea who publishes it) which pokes fun at the company, CEO, and other board members. One of the French unions produces a regular newsletter consisting mainly of cartoons and silly slogans which it hands out in the canteen. A recent edition featured one of the newly promoted directors who looks a bit like Ken photoshopped to be lying in bed with Barbie discussing whether he should speak French or English. I don’t think the concept exports well, with probably only the Asterix books being a success in this regard (mainly thanks to Anthea Bell’s brilliant translations), but it is very much a distinct aspect of French culture.
From what I can tell, it is more the fact that crude cartoons were attacked more than the message being conveyed. Had they bombed Le Monde, chances are the reaction wouldn’t have been so defensive: every country has newspapers, but only France has deliberately offensive satirical cartoons. Nothing highlights the cultural gap between France and Britain more than the uncomfortable suspicion that Charlie Hebdo would not have lasted more than a year in the UK before being hounded out of business by the state and its backers in one form or another, as this article makes clear. Rather than go on a hypocritical jolly to Paris today, David Cameron might want to reflect quietly on that for a moment and ask himself where he thinks his country is headed.
For my part, I’d never heard of Charlie Hebdo before the attack, but I will make sure I buy a copy when it comes out on Wednesday. Having browsed the cartoons that have been displayed online (no thanks to our brave and fearless MSM), I agree that they are infantile – but at the same time, very very French. Although this one I thought made a very pertinent point regarding ISIS:
We need more of this, not less.
This report via the Khaleej Times:
MANY shops and businesses in London continued to withold presents during the days of Christmas at their outlets in violation of the law, John Smith, a resident of Baron’s Court complained to the Khaleej Times Hotline.
“Even after Christmas Eve many of the Iranian and Turkish shops around Leicester Square continued to function as usual. I do not know how they can do it without having any consideration for the hundreds of thousands who are at home enjoying their presents.” “Shops and business’ owners should give presents from their premises. It is not just a violation of law but it is a matter of respect for all those who are celebrating Christmas,” he said.
“With many outlets so openly being mean when they should be giving presents to the public during the Christmas period, the officials should intensify their inspection efforts to curb these malpractices,” he added.
SPEAKING to Khaleej Times, Tony Taylor, Director of Compliance Department, London West, said: “No shops and businesses are allowed to hoard presents on their premises during the Christmas period. The errant outlets will face fines and penalties.”
“During the Christmas period, it is a mark of respect to the faith and belief of those celebrating that others do not refuse to give presents. However, taking into consideration the cosmopolitan culture of London, many shops and businesses have been issued temporary licences to be exempt from the obligation to deliver presents. The public can pick up presents from these places but are not expected to open them on the premises. Outlets flouting the regulation will be subject to fines ranging from £1,000 to £2,000,” he added. Those shops that do not have a licence for witholding presents but need to prepare presents for Christmas Day are permitted to open the outlet but they must not be refusing presents to whomever wants one. By not abiding with the regulations, these outlets can be fined from £2,000 to £4,000,” he said.
Makes me ashamed to be a Brit, that does.