Friday, March 27, 2009

Sometimes it's hard to be a woman

timesonline reports from a region of Pakistan where the brutal Taleban have taken control:

In return for peace the Taleban can administer the region, run Sharia courts, ban women from marketplaces, outlaw music shops and stop girls older than 13 going to school.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Israel's crime

If you are beginning to feel "that Jews who are worried about anti-Jewish discrimination are really mendacious liars seeking to pull the wool over honest Gentile eyes" then please pay attention to this appeal by Eve Garrard.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Religion, theo-politics and race

Paul Sikander at Butterflies & Wheels has cautionary things to say about a phobia that is sweeping the world.

‘Islamophobia’ is a constructed model designed to protect Islam and Islamic politics from criticism. It has little or nothing to do with protecting individual Muslims from discrimination.

Until the late 1990’s, ethnic minorities in this country were conceived of as being susceptible to discrimination on the basis of immutable human factors. That you are black or Asian is a fact that cannot be altered, and you could face discrimination in British society because of it, prejudice sometimes subtle, sometimes violent and visceral. And so, civil and political society sought to counter this by privileging the dignity of the individual in the face of racism. If a Muslim, a Hindu, or a Sikh was to be called a ‘Paki’ it was not because of the religion they actively or nominally belonged to. If a West Indian was called a ‘nigger’ it was not because of any cultural or religious formulation or criticism they were facing. Anti-Semitism when it was expressed, the earlier racism of Europe, that had been present before the post war migration of black and Asian people to the UK, was simultaneously a similar and different mode of prejudice. But crucially, anti-Semitism when expressed and countered was not about defending the theology of Judaism.

The construction of the concept of ‘Islamophobia’ began in the aftermath of the Rushdie affair. The impetus for it was to stigmatise an entire range of individuals and opinions, from those who took issue with religious precepts of Islam, to those who questioned certain values of the religion, certain cultural practices recurrent inside the sub-culture of some British Muslim groups, all the way through to those who critically analysed Islamist politics.

For the first time, ‘racism’ was not considered to be the active discrimination against individuals because of their ethnic background. Now, ‘racism’ was asserted to be anything that remotely offended the sensibilities of religious Muslims, including those from within the Muslim community who dissented from a certain line on any range of issues.

What a victory. To weld together the protection of religion and theo-politics with the whole idea of racism. To no longer privilege the dignity of the individual against racial prejudice, but to privilege the ‘dignity’ of the religion of Islam, and the politics of Islamism, and providing them with an immunity — the righteous immunity of protection from ‘victimisation’.

Save the children from whom?

Norm sums up why people like me have stopped supporting what once were our favourite charities, and Comic Relief to boot.

Save the Children opposed the Iraq war, so doing what too many humanitarian NGOs have been doing lately, namely, adopting partisan positions on difficult and divisive political issues, thereby going beyond their stated and legitimate purposes, and turning away some of their longtime supporters. Save the Children favoured leaving the children of Iraq to the continued attentions of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The first and biggest lie

Brett at HP on a major casualty in the "war on terror".

According to a StWC press release: “Anti-war groups from across the world will meet to oppose any further expasion (sic) of NATO and demand an end to the occupation of Afghanistan.” Another rally will feature “leading speakers from the peace movement.”

That these are “anti-war” groups and that these speakers are from “the peace movement” is the first and biggest lie in what I know will be a flood of many more.

These are NOT “anti-war” campaigners. They are not pacifists. They are not conscientious objectors. They are certainly not against all wars. They are not against the use of armed force. And, perhaps most importantly, they are not even against all sides in current conflicts.

. . . the people invited to speak for the “Stop the War Coalition” are only against the use of military force if it is Western military force.

. . . this same sorry lot have no idea what do do about the theocratic fascists, the Taliban. As their malignant influence spreads into neighbouring Pakistan, as more women are forced into burkas, as more teachers are murdered and schools burned down because they educate girls, as the flirtatious are stoned to death and secularists murdered in their wake, what does the StWC recommend? Of course - western forces pull out of Afghanistan and leave them to it.

It is a position so ludicrous, so reckless and senseless, that the only way to make sense of it is to accept that it is in the interests of the enemies of democracy. Or peace.

There's no best species on earth award

That's what Pam Mason says in today's Guardian, and in so doing she grasps a beautiful truth:

Human achievements only matter to, and improve the lives of, other humans. There's no Best Species On Earth award which we win every year, like the US winning the World Series.

Who, apart from us, says we're so special? God? Darwin? A select committee of chimpanzees and dolphins? Yes, we have more abstract knowledge than we had 1000, 100, even five years ago, but it means absolutely nothing to anyone but us. Our achievements please us alone, and when we become extinct (most likely by our own hands) our vanishing will actually improve life for other species, provided we haven't wiped them out too.

Edward O Wilson was making a similar point:
“If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos.”

Monday, March 16, 2009

It's a fabrication that Britain doesn't make things any more

The truth that dares not speak its name. From timesonline:

Manufacturing output accounts for a larger share of GDP in the UK (13 per cent) than it does in France (12 per cent) or the United States (12 per cent).