Secular Muslims

This amused:

Turkish President Recep Erdoğan has accused Israel of carrying out a “genocide” as more than 50 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in one day of protests.

Well, nobody could accuse the Turks of having a consistent understanding of the term “genocide”, so it’s unsurprising their president continues to struggle with it.

The Turkish president accused Israel of being a “terrorist state” and announced he would pull ambassadors out of Israel and the US. The announcement came as the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, inflaming protests on the Israeli border in Gaza.

This is also to be expected. As support for the Palestinians has waned in the Arab world, particularly among those countries on the Arabian Peninsula, Erdogan has stepped in to fill the void. In parallel, he seems keen to turn the once-secular Turkey into an authoritarian, low-level Islamist state along the lines of contemporary Iran. He may not go as far as the Mullahs but his reforms have seen Islam being shoved to forefront in areas such as education where it was previously absent, and I suspect it is a matter of time before women are unable to walk the streets in some areas without a headscarf. I note that Erdogan is in London at the moment on an official visit; strangely absent are protests over his jailing of journalists, persecution of political opponents, gutting of the judiciary, assault on civil liberties, and erosion of women’s rights. Let’s bear this in mind when Trump comes to visit. Personally, I’m disappointed that nobody from the British government has brought any of this up with Erdogan and the press don’t seem interested in doing so either, but between the current government and media it’s a toss-up between which is the more useless.

I was watching France 24 this morning and it showed a protest march through the streets of Istanbul in opposition to the opening of the new US embassy. They interviewed a woman decked out in a headscarf and carrying a plastic model of a mosque, who I suspect was Syrian rather than Turkish (a lot of refugees have crossed the border). She screamed that “Jerusalem was Muslim”, and if she had anything to say in addition, France 24 neglected to share it with us. However, before that they interviewed a man in his 50s who began with:

“As a Muslim, I…”

Us westerners are – correctly- encouraged not to lump all Muslims together as one homogeneous group, but these efforts are somewhat hampered by Muslims themselves.

A year or so back I met a Turkish lady here in Paris who was as westernised as it’s possible to get in terms of education, lifestyle, social relations, and political outlook. She ate pork, drank alcohol, and claimed she was totally secular. Having got to know her quite well, I believed her. And then Trump signed Executive Order 13769 prohibiting entry to the US for people coming from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. My friend bought wholesale into the notion that this was a “Muslim ban” and she was incensed, because she believed it a result of blatant Islamaphobia on the part of Trump and, sooner or later, these policies were going to effect her. I had several lengthy, heated arguments with her during which I pointed out the seven countries were not selected because they have Muslim majorities but because the civil infrastructure has collapsed in each to the point they cannot verify who is coming and going from their end (Iran being the exception). She was having none of it, and believed she had a right to be concerned and angry at what she saw as a blatantly Islamaphobic policy.

I went away and thought about this. What has someone from Turkey got in common with someone from Libya, Sudan, Yemen, or Somalia? Absolutely nothing whatsoever, and the Turks would be first to insist upon it, but with one exception: Islam. The one and only reason a Turk would oppose US visa restrictions on someone from Sudan is out of Muslim solidarity; there is absolutely no other reason which could apply. So my next thought was why somebody claiming to be secular would be loudly championing the rights of people from collapsed nations in a state of civil war on the grounds of Muslim solidarity?

When I tell people I’m secular, I don’t follow that up by denouncing Trump’s border wall on the grounds that Mexicans are Christian. Nor do I back the Philippines in their territorial disputes with China out of religious solidarity. When I say I’m secular, it means my nominal Christianity does not influence my political or social opinions in any way. But to my friend it seemed to mean something else, so I confronted her. Her first reaction was one of utter shock; she didn’t seem to have realised there was any contradiction in claiming to be secular one minute and raving about Trump’s “Muslim ban” the next. When it dawned on her, she got quite upset.

I realised then what I’d probably known since I lived in the Middle East all those years ago: a secular Muslim is quite different from a secular anything else, and often not very secular at all. I’d noticed back then how often I’d meet a very modern, westernised Lebanese, Egyptian, or Arab who would for all outward appearances be very secular. Then without warning they’d start raving about the Jews, or swearing the Koran represents the word of God. And I don’t know how many stories I’ve heard of western or Russian women getting involved with modern, secular Muslim men only to find they’re nothing of the sort.

But the experience with my Turkish friend was perhaps the most interesting. Here was the most secular Muslim you could ever hope to meet, and one would have thought she would have recognised the elected US government’s right to set visa policy and understood their security concerns. Yet when push came to shove, her being Muslim mattered and that came before anything else. It’s worth bearing this in mind over the coming years as Ataturk’s secular republic slowly gets replaced with something else. It’s also worth remembering when we’re told not to treat Muslims as a homogeneous bloc.

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And the real problem is…

Staying on the subject of the British police, this juxtaposition of tweets doesn’t need any additional commentary from me:

In a way this is a good thing. The more they keep this up, the quicker the British public will get the measure of them.

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Nothing to see here, Australian edition

Well, it turns out I was completely wrong when I said yesterday’s incident in Melbourne would be forgotten by Christmas: it’s largely been forgotten already, disappearing from the front page of the BBC to be replaced by a story about kids dying in Yemen. At least it’s not the Rohingyas, anyway.

As BiG pointed out in the comments, before the ink was dry on my post the Australian authorities had declared it the work of a lone nutter and hence was not terrorist-related. The fact that the guy was an Afghan refugee, complained about worldwide “mistreatment of Muslims”, and was filmed in action by one of his co-religionists who was carrying a sack of knives doesn’t mean a damned thing, it seems. Because, as Streetwise Professor put it, lone lunatics are always accompanied by knife-wielding cameramen.

The authorities are taking the piss, secure in the knowledge the Australian population – like so many others – will just lie down and take it, with a good percentage actually siding with the men with the beards. But they’re not outright lying, it’s more of a lie by omission. I am quite sure the guys who carry out these vehicular attacks are mentally ill and are quite possibly loners. All societies have them, and Australia’s approach to nutters is to not to care for them or make them seek treatment (because that would be judgmental), but instead to clap them on the back and encourage them to roam the streets panhandling and yelling at passers-by. The irony is that most of Melbourne’s head cases congregate around Flinder’s Street Station where the attack took place, so there is an outside chance our Afghan friend has spotted a mate from way back in the funny-farm and just wanted to say hello.

The problem is, mentally-ill Muslims don’t just hang around stations yelling at people; instead they can tap into a large and well-funded network brimming with anti-western sentiment which will welcome them with open arms. There are supposedly moderate mosques and preachers all over the world who will happily embrace lone nutters and, instead of helping them, turn them into jihadists carrying out amateurish but deadly attacks on western targets safe in the knowledge they have no links to an actual terrorist network and the authorities will play along. By refusing to acknowledge the obvious and dangerous link between mentally-ill Muslim men and organised Islamic terror, western governments have entered into a quite astonishing collaborative agreement with terrorist organisations. Then again, given both see the ordinary native populations as representing the greatest threat to their ambitions, this is perhaps less surprising that you’d think.

But their culpability doesn’t stop there. One day I fervently hope that western politicians and their lackeys are held accountable for their considerable role in perpetuating among Muslims this perception they are being mistreated everywhere, and that westerners are to blame. From the hand-wringing over non-existent Islamophobia to the gleeful reporting of the Muslim world’s reaction to Trump moving an embassy, the western media and many, many governments are as much to blame for filling this idiot’s head full of angry feelings of victimhood as any radical preacher. Once again, it is a collaborative effort.

The good news is that I think fewer and fewer people are buying this crap, and compared to five years ago, more of the population are openly mocking the pathetic, craven, and self-serving response of the authorities to Islamic terror attacks. This is a small but important step along the road to doing something about it. When that time comes, I hope little distinction is found between the terrorists and those in power who currently help them.

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America’s Embassy in Israel

From the BBC:

US President Donald Trump will recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, senior administration officials have said.

He is due to announce the controversial decision in a speech later.

Mr Trump is also expected to approve moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but not for several years.

Nowhere in this article does it mention that in June the US Senate voted on a resolution to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital which passed by 90-0. To do so would detract from the narrative that Trump is making rash, unilateral decisions which bring the world closer to war.

Israel welcomes the changes but the Palestinians and Arab leaders have warned they will jeopardise any Middle East peace process.

Note they don’t specify which Middle East peace process would be jeopardised, presumably because none exists.

Successive presidents have signed waivers to get round the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, which mandates moving the embassy.

Oh. So basically Trump is the first President to actually uphold a law that was passed by Congress over 20 years ago. This is a bad thing, apparently.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud told Mr Trump the relocation of the embassy or recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital “would constitute a flagrant provocation of Muslims, all over the world”

Could it be that, having listened to Muslims all over the world spending the first year of his presidency branding him an enemy of Islam, Trump isn’t really interested in what they think at this juncture?

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas warned of “the dangerous consequences such a decision would have to the peace process and to the peace, security and stability of the region and of the world”

Yeah, that might have worked ten or twenty years ago, but it’s now worn so thin you can wear it as a mask and still watch TV.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya called for a “day of rage” this Friday and said “Palestinian people everywhere [would] not allow this conspiracy to pass”

Business as usual, then.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country could sever ties with Israel

I doubt there are many in Israel counting on ties with Turkey since Erdogan’s rise to power.

France, the European Union and the Arab League have also expressed concern.

The Arab League? We have proxy wars raging in Syria and Yemen, Qatar and Saudi Arabia at each other’s throats, Iran and Turkey sending troops to prop up Arab governments, Libya overrun by jihadists and Egypt heading in the same direction. I didn’t even realise the Arab League still existed, but the minutes of their AGM must make interesting reading.

By recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital President Trump is fulfilling a campaign promise. There is no other obvious reason he is doing this now.

Fulfilling campaign promises, enacting Senate resolutions, upholding the law as passed by Congress? Is there nobody who can save us from this monster?!

Administration officials said he would simply be acknowledging reality

A rare trait among modern politicians.

Jordan and Saudi Arabia are custodians of Islam’s holy sites and have issued strong warnings that this move could inflame the Muslim world.

Okay, we’ll add it to the list.

It sounds like the Palestinians will get nothing.

Except for the four or five hundred million dollars per year the US sends them, of course.

Perhaps there is a wider strategy at work but it looks like a workaround so the president can satisfy his pro-Israel voters.

And comply with the Senate, Congress, and the law in a manner that his predecessors refused to.

In other news:

The BBC is to launch a new scheme to help young people identify real news and filter out fake or false information.

They’re perfectly placed to do it.

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Why nobody cares about the Rohingyas

I’ve noticed a concerted effort on the part of the mainstream media over the past few weeks to get everyone interested in the plight of the Rohingyas, a minority Muslim group in Myanmar who are being hounded by the majority ruling Buddists.

I have also noticed that nobody seems to give a shit. It might be tempting to put this down to the fact that westerners don’t generally care about brown people being killed in far-off lands with no oil underneath, but I suspect there is something else at work as well: people in the west are getting a little bit tired of hearing how Muslims are suffering.

There is also a perception, one which is easy to understand, that various western political establishments pander too much to Muslims. Whether it be councils and police ignoring the systematic abuse of children in Rotherham, the British courts jailing a man for leaving bacon outside a mosque, Australian prime ministers taking part in Iftar suppers, newspapers promoting the likes of Linda Sarsour, or police charging people with hate crimes for making Islamaphobic comments on Twitter, there is a growing number of people in the west who believe Muslims are a minority who have got a large chunk of the state apparatus working on their behalf to the detriment of the majority. Whether this perception is valid or not scarcely matters: perceptions in themselves matter.

There is also the fact that most westerners have come to realise that nobody – least of all Muslims – give a shit if Muslims are being killed by other Muslims. The only time we get to hear about Muslims being massacred is if non-Muslims are doing it. And the last few years have also demonstrated that if Muslims are massacring non-Muslims – such as the Coptic Christians in Egypt or the Yazidi people who fell under Isis – the mainstream media and our elites aren’t much interested.

Finally, westerners have now firmly taken note of how unwilling Muslim governments, particularly those wealthy enough to buy football clubs and build skyscrapers in Europe, are to help their fellow co-religionists in their time of need.

It is therefore not very surprising that few people are showing much concern for the plight of the Rohingyas. It wasn’t always this way: back in 1999 when Serbia was persecuting the Muslim Kosovars, the western powers launched a war to protect them. This was partly to do with guilt over Screbrenica and perhaps also because it was in Europe, but also people had more sympathy for persecuted people then, Muslims or otherwise. Nowadays that sympathy has all-but evapourated. Notice how reluctant populations were to endorse their leaders’ desires to go to war in Syria, again on the pretext of protecting Muslims.

This is a situation entirely of our establishment’s making. They quite deliberately set about promoting and favouring certain minority groups in order to virtue-signal, humiliate the majority population, and further undermine the societies they detest so much. In this they have been very successful, only the side effect is now the majority are thinking far more along ethno-religious lines than they have done for decades.

It’s a pretty dismal situation, actually. By implying that Muslims in the west are fearing for their lives surrounded by Islamaphobic hordes, the media has ensured nobody is paying any attention now a Muslim group is being persecuted for real. It’s the old crying wolf once too often thing again. If every five minutes there’s a bloke on telly saying Muslims are suffering in London, New York, and Amsterdam when they’re clearly not, people will simply tune out. And when you need their attention for real, you can’t get it.

It’s probably not too much of an exaggeration to say if the Kosovo situation, or even Screbrenica, arose again today fewer people would care and intervention would be much less likely. But the real tragedy is the attitudes towards Muslims that have been brought about by the establishment’s behaviour, which continues to this day, is eventually going to make things like Screbrenica a lot more likely in future. The antipathy to the plight of the Rohingyas should be taken as a warning.

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Zakat’s role in funding terrorism

From the BBC:

Saudi Arabia is the chief foreign promoter of Islamist extremism in the UK, a new report has claimed.

The Henry Jackson Society said there was a “clear and growing link” between Islamist organisations in receipt of overseas funds, hate preachers and Jihadist groups promoting violence.

Wednesday’s report says a number of Gulf nations, as well as Iran, are providing financial support to mosques and Islamic educational institutions which have played host to extremist preachers and been linked to the spread of extremist material.

At the top of the list, the report claims, is Saudi Arabia. It alleges individuals and foundations have been heavily involved in exporting what it calls “an illiberal, bigoted Wahhabi ideology”, quoting a number of examples.

When most people read a report like this, they assume that thousands of Saudis are intentionally handing over money to extremist and jihadist groups in the hope they will use it to promote or practice violence. Undoubtedly this will be true for some individuals and no doubt some organisations too, but these reports overlook a crucial point that I have only seen mentioned once.

That point was made in Steve Coll’s excellent and highly recommended Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden (emphasis mine):

The money flowing from the kingdom arrived at the Afghan frontier in all shapes and sizes: gold jewelry dropped on offering plates my merchants’ wives in Jeddah mosques; bags of cash delivered by businessmen to Riyadh charities as zakat, an annual Islamic tithe;

Operating in self-imposed isolation, major Saudi Arabian charities and such organizations as the Saudi Red Crescent, the World Muslim League, the Kuwaiti Red Crescent, and the International Islamic Relief Organisation set up their own offices in Peshwar. Funded in ever-rising amounts by Saudi Intelligence and zakat contributions from mosques and wealthy individuals, they, too, built hospitals, schools, clinics, feeding stations, and battlefield medical services.

Wikipedia describes zakat as follows:

As one of the Five Pillars of Islam, zakat is a religious obligation for all Muslims who meet the necessary criteria of wealth.

Zakat is based on income and the value of all of one’s possessions. It is customarily 2.5% (or 1/40th) of a Muslim’s total savings and wealth above a minimum amount known as nisab. The collected amount is paid first to zakat collectors, and then to poor Muslims, to new converts to Islam, to Islamic clergy, and others.

Basically, in any wealthy Muslim country there is an awful lot of zakat money floating about, handed over by individuals as a matter of duty rather than choice. Inevitably, a portion of this cash will be purloined by people who will use it to further their own nefarious agendas. We see the same thing happening in governments: individuals are forced to hand over taxes ostensibly to pay for police, schools, and the army but the money gets hijacked and ends up going on diversity coordinators, lame arts projects, and the housing of child refugees with full beards and impressive combat records.

If you flood a place with money from a source which doesn’t get to say how it’s spent, you’ll lose control of it. If you lose control, some of it will get spent in ways you don’t like. I suspect a lot of this Saudi funding of terrorism is simply zakat money handed over to a charity in all innocence, and then dispersed by people who have made quite an art of diverting funds to extremist groups under the cover of legitimate, peaceful activities. That’s not to say there is no blatant funding of extremists going on in Saudi, but if you really want to tackle the issue you’ll have to either remove the obligation to pay zakat or ensure it is only distributed to groups which have been subject to thorough due diligence such that every Riyal can be accounted for.

Good luck with that.

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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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