Category Archives: Islam

Some thoughts on the banishing of Jews at Chicago’s LGBT Pride march

A few days ago at this blog, in a post (which can be read in full here) that outlined my opposition to LGBT Pride culture from an LGBT perspective, I explicitly warned:

“Pride, like all social justice movements, has a goal: to overcome prejudices. But, in taking part, many of its members subscribe to the very narratives and stereotypical behaviours that become magnets for bullying and misunderstanding.

The problem with social justice movements is that invariably they fight what they perceive to be oppression by adopting methods which are counter-productive to their cause.

Racism and sexism are tackled by university students with counter racism and counter sexism. Just as any lasting homophobia is addressed through means which serve only to give life to bigotry.”

So it wasn’t surprising to me to read the following about an LGBT march in Chicago in a Windy City Times report only this morning:

Asked to leave by Collective members of the Dyke march were three people carrying Jewish Pride flags (a rainbow flag with a Star of David in the center).

According to one of those individuals—A Wider Bridge Midwest Manager Laurel Grauer—she and her friends were approached a number of times in the park because they were holding the flag.

“It was a flag from my congregation which celebrates my queer, Jewish identity which I have done for over a decade marching in the Dyke March with the same flag,” she told Windy City Times. She added that she lost count of the number of people who harassed her.

One Dyke March collective member asked by Windy City Times for a response, said the women were told to leave because the flags “made people feel unsafe,” that the march was “anti-Zionist” and “pro-Palestinian.”

“They were telling me to leave because my flag was a trigger to people that they found offensive,” Grauer said.”

Firstly, I refer to LGBT activities of this kind as a social justice movement due mainly to the fact that organisers and activists repeatedly assert that they belong to an oppressed class, and that they need these celebrations to display defiance and overcome the homophobia they often claim to be systemic or rampant.

But, as we see once again, the tactics deployed in bringing about these aims, even if by a small sect of the community, highlight the concerns I shared on June 21st. The new culture we have fostered, in which certain, usually minority groups challenge perceived oppression, is being conducted with the harnessing of self-aggrandising and counter-intuitive techniques.

We all know what is at play here. Many of those at Chicago’s march will have been activists or semi-political Left-wingers, no doubt vehemently opposed to Israeli policies against the Palestinians. The trouble is that LGBT marches ought to be apolitical in the sense that they are designed to unite goers in defiance, companionship and joy.

I am not going to comment on the merits of Israeli policy towards Palestine, purely out of a lack of knowledge, but it must be stated that by latching on to separate, wholly irrelevant political conquests, the LGBT movement splits, weakens and invites fresh hostility unto itself.

A potential consequence of anti-Jewish sentiment of this kind is that it may provoke a counter-response from Orthodox Jews in the United States, especially those who are easily offended or (in some cases) antagonistic or violent, who of course view minority sexual behaviour as sinful and in violation of the word of God.

It is not inconceivable that, by taking partisan stances on fringe issues, much like the National Union of Students has in Britain, the LGBT Pride movement will find itself alienating people that would otherwise be allied or apathetic. American Jews will not appreciate internal subjugation at marches which are designed in such a way as to display harmony and solidarity.

Much like the Right has developed a worrying problem with Islamophobia (not to be confused with sensible critiques of Islam and its role in the spread of Islamism), the Left has for many years had a lingering problem with anti-Semitism. It is largely rooted in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which the Left often uses to advance its favoured power narrative, viewing truth and justice purely in terms of who is stronger and who is weaker.

Not all LGBT representatives or marchers are Left-wing, of course, but the vast majority are. And those responsible for banishing Ms Grauer from her participation in Chicago will have been too.

For years it was religious policy and thought that most hindered the expression of the LGBT community. Let us not, then, in more equal and freer times reject those outstretched arms from religious communities. We ought to be treating others in ways we implored to be treated in decades gone by.

 

 

 


Why defeating ISIS in Mosul is only the beginning for Iraq

The operation to liberate the ISIS stronghold of Mosul is underway, and some encouraging progress has already been made. The Iraqi military and the Peshmerga have recaptured a string of villages, including Nawaran and Khalidiya, and coalition forces are closing in on the centre of Mosul, where an intricate tunnelling network and a moat of oil tankers await them.

If all goes well, the offensive will last just a couple of months. Daesh know that they are running out of time and options in Iraq after a succession of heavy defeats. Ramadi, Baquba and Fallujah were all lost this year to strengthened Iraqi Armed Forces and huge efforts have also been made to attack IS communication through social media.

But let us not get ahead of ourselves. The battle ahead is crucial both for the future of Iraq and in the war against international terrorism, but it isn’t going to be as simple as a few territorial gains. Contingency planning must be precise in order to prevent a local backlash and conflict being waged amongst the powers engaged in the pursuit of ISIS.

It is very interesting, for example, that President Erdogan of Turkey has spent quite a bit of time in recent weeks citing the national oath; an oath which demands the restoration of both Kirkuk and Mosul to Turkish rule. Erdogan told the International Law Congress in Istanbul that it was ‘impossible to remain outside the Mosul equation’, and that “a history lies for us. If the gentlemen desire so, let them read the Misak-i Milli (National Oath) and understand what the place means to us.” A map proposed by the 1920 Ottoman oath can be seen here, clearly including large sections of Iraq: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misak-%C4%B1_Mill%C3%AE#/media/File:Misaki_Milli.jpg

Back in 1926, Turkey and Britain (then the regional colonial power) signed the Ankara Pact, upon the advice of the League of Nations Council, which officially designated Mosul to the newly established state of Iraq. Recep Erdogan, a staunch political conservative who maintains strong domestic support, may well be developing an imperial strategy in Iraq based on his country’s historical political aspirations.

It isn’t as crazy as it may seem. Strategic and territorial Turkish-Iraqi disputes are decades old. Take the case of Bashiqa, a town located 10 miles north of Mosul. Despite strong opposition from Iraq’s government, Turkey maintains a hefty military presence at its base there, and seems more than willing to use its troops to influence the campaign to rid northern Iraq of ISIS.

One side battle, therefore, is how to prevent almost inevitable military conflict brewing between Iraq and an ambitious state of Turkey. The BBC reported just two days ago that “US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter made the point explicitly at the end of last week when, on a visit to Baghdad, he reaffirmed “the vital importance of every country operating with full respect for Iraqi sovereignty”. His words were quite obviously directed at Erdogan. (One has to wonder what the implications for Turkey’s NATO membership would be if territorial goals in Iraq were pursued with vigour over the coming months)

Another battle is more subtle and less likely to be accurately reported on after the offensive is over. Gaining the support of the local population (an objective made harder to achieve by the strategic interests of competing regional powers) is crucial to Mosul’s long-term stability. Patrick Cockburn, one of Britain’s best foreign correspondents, wrote in his book The Rise of Islamic State that ‘the fall of Mosul was the result of a popular uprising as well as military assault. The Iraqi army was detested as a foreign occupying force of Shia soldiers, regarded in Mosul as creatures of an Iranian puppet regime led by Maliki’ (then the shia Prime Minister of Iraq).

Mosul, once a content city of two million Sunni Muslims (more recent population figures are rather difficult to obtain), objected fiercely to being defended by soldiers it regarded as alien. This civil dispute became a handy smokescreen and weakness for ISIS to exploit in the original battle for Mosul in June 2014. Local residents, however wary they were of the Islamic State’s intentions for the city, accepted that as a branch of Sunni Islam they represented the lesser of two evils.

Two years on, though, and it would seem that this is no longer true. The sheer barbarism of ISIS’ regime (recent chemical attacks, the mass execution of citizens and their use as human shields acting as depressing proof of this) has left thousands desperate for liberation. But will Iraqi Armed Forces, directed by the Shia Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, be able to regain the support of the locals who helped to drive them out two years ago? Will civilians in Mosul instead look to Turkey for solace after several years of disenchantment?

Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, revealed recently that his country’s plan was to create a safe haven for refugees in northern Iraq; a move that will certainly heighten Prime Minister Abadi’s sensitivities. Prime Minister Yildirim of Turkey suggested that a haven was necessary in order to protect citizens against what a called ‘a common threat’; namely, the PKK, but it would seem more likely that the policy is designed to grab a piece of the Iraqi pie and maximise influence in an oil-rich and strategically crucial part of the Middle East.

So defeating ISIS in Mosul may well be the easy part. Coordinating the removal of forces and winning over the local population whilst preserving Iraqi sovereignty in Mosul, on the other hand, could be the real battle ahead.


The mainstream media must lay off mental illness now, before it’s too late

I wanted to address a problem at this blog that grabbed my attention earlier this morning, concerning coverage of last night’s stabbing incident in Russell Square. Thanks to a BBC app notification, I was made vaguely aware of the attack before I went to sleep, but only decided to read more carefully into the report once details had emerged a few hours ago. I wish to express my solidarity with the family of the poor woman killed, and wish the five who were injured a speedy recovery.

I have, though, been left extremely disappointed by the immediacy with which fingers were pointed at mental health issues, and felt the need to raise my concern and explain why this is so. I haven’t the time to cite every media publication, for obvious reasons, so will use major outlets as examples.

Just after its introduction, the BBC’s news update reads:

‘Police using a Taser arrested a man of 19 who is being held under armed guard at hospital. The Met said mental health was a “significant factor” in events’.

This angle is also reported in ‘The Guardian’, which (to nobody’s surprise) leads with its involvement:

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/live/2016/aug/04/london-stabbing-russell-square-knife-attack-live

…Daily Telegraph, who note: “Early indications suggest that mental health is a significant factor in this case and that is one major line of inquiry. But of course at this stage we should keep an open mind regarding motive and, consequently, terrorism as a motivation remains but one line of enquiry for us to explore.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/04/russell-square-stabbing-everything-we-know-about-the-attack-on-t/

…and Daily Mail, which reports: “Scotland Yard’s top anti-terror officer Mark Rowley gave a press conference outside Scotland Yard at 3.40am and said the 19-year-old appears to have ‘significant mental health issues’ but admitted terrorism could be a motive.”

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3722796/Woman-killed-five-people-injured-terrorist-knife-attack-central-London.html

How generous of Mr Rowley to concede that terrorism *could* be a motive in a terrorist incident. I can feel comforted this morning by the foresight of our intelligence chiefs.

I am angered by the sudden focus on mental health (though do not deny its involvement) for several reasons. It is obvious to me that ‘The Guardian’ chose to lead with Scotland Yard’s mental health angle, as would be expected of any Left-leaning, liberal publication, in order to avoid immediate anti-Islamic hysteria. The Mail and Telegraph would have no such motive.

Notice how frequently phrases such as “early indications show” crop up in these reports. How often do we hear of ‘sane’ knifeman roaming the streets of London, chopping people to pieces? Which other indications (aside from the blood spilling rampage) *suggest* that mental health issues were a major factor in last night’s stabbing spree?

By definition, terror attacks are committed by people who are not all with it. If they were, why would they take it upon themselves to commit mass (or attempted) murder?

But this is not the point. I could care less by how obvious the cause is, and I am not disappointed by the lack of emphasis on Islamism either. My annoyance at this reporting has been caused by two things.

Firstly, there is the alarming lack of consistency. If the media are intent on pointing fingers and outlining allegedly definitive causes before blood has dried, then they must be consistent about it. Quite rationally, links to Islam or Islamism are not included in premature reports, even if links are suspected, so as to reduce any stigmatisation of Muslims. I am happy for this to be the case, and think it wise to continue with such a policy.

But, as I alluded to a moment ago, we need to ask why the mainstream media display such a startling lack of consistency over the matter. If we are reluctant to engage in the stigmatisation of Muslims, then why are we not so in the case of the mentally ill? The term ‘mental illness’ (far too often used pejoratively, and seldom an expression associated with amazing achievement or ability) is wonderfully umbrella.

Savants and those with strains of autism, for example, often exhibit rare mathematical, kinaesthetic or literary genius. We never attempt to decipher between different kinds of ‘mental illness’ and nor is it fair to associate the ‘mentally ill’ with perpetrators of terrorist acts. In this, or indeed any other circumstance, quick fire reporting on suspected motives before police action or a trial have taken place would seem to me to be a mistake. In my view, media publications should avoid speculating upon motives in the aftermath of such incidents, and should instead stick to reporting on what they know to be cold, hard facts.

On a side note, a video of Nick Ferrari exploding on this very issue on his radio show exists somewhere on social media, but, alas, I cannot find it. It may be worth searching in your own time.

The second reason for my disapproval at this kind of reporting is that it could well help to undo years of good work trying to unravel exactly the sort of mental health stigmatisation that I referred to a moment ago. We have come a long way in recent years and, while we do tend to over-diagnose and perhaps still fail to understand certain conditions, for our progress to be threatened by the actions of murderous terrorists would be a huge step backwards. It is not morally correct to encircle those fighting to overcome a whole range of mental problems with those willing to kill in the name of Islam. I urge journalists to remember this.

Readers may at this point be interested to know that I suffer from a condition called bipolar disorder, also known (more sensibly) as manic depression. I suspect that quite a few people reading are familiar with depression, having experienced it themselves or seen it affect other people. Without making last night’s stabbing incident about me or people like me, I wanted to express my concern that those, like me, who experience difficulty on a regular basis could well find themselves subject to unfair prophecies or labelling. To take steps in this direction would damage our society and split tolerance asunder.

Content with protecting British Muslims from stigmatisation in the wake of terror attacks, the mainstream media has turned its attention towards ‘mental illness’. It’s far too easy, damaging and contradictory. But will anybody listen?


How not to respond to a terror attack

How sad it was to see the people of France once again fall victim to Islamic terrorism late last night. As innocent bystanders celebrated Bastille Day in the beautiful city of Nice, one drug-fueled fundamentalist decided he would use a lorry to massacre almost 100 unsuspecting citizens. I want to send my sympathies and well-wishes to the families and friends of those affected, however meaningless and insignificant they may be.

What a shame also that westerners are beginning to feel desensitised to increasingly common, though equally-horrendous attacks. It has been a truly testing eighteen months for France; a country which (along with Belgium) really seems to be struggling in the fight against radical Islam. The heartbreaking fact is that this doesn’t look like a war that will end any time soon. My fear is that we will see a lot more bloodshed and violence in the months and years to come.

Vigils, candles and hashtags are pleasant gestures, but nothing more than this. They do not constitute progression in terms of public or foreign policy, they do not tackle the core of Islamic fundamentalism, and they do not bring back those killed in acts of vile, merciless terrorism. I suspect some will be comforted by kind displays of solidarity, but most are now left wondering why they are having to occur so frequently.

We can pray for the French if we wish to, but realistically, how helpful has praying proven to be? We can express publicly our love or hatred of Islam, but how useful is this in achieving anything other than divide and intolerance? We can suggest solutions to aiding the war on terror, but Twitter doesn’t seem an appropriate platform for these solutions to be adhered to. In effect, social media has become a tool by which outrage is magnified, tensions are exploited and disunity is encouraged in the wake of despicable incidents of violence and terrorism. For this reason, I try my best to avoid being sucked into emotional cyber spasms.

In the good old days (alas, a time I was not around to see), we used to get on with life immediately after terrorism. Perhaps this was because the war generation found themselves used to bombings and devastation, or perhaps it was down to that famous British stiff upper lip (which seems to have disappeared, I might add). Nowadays, we rant and rave and sign emotionally-charged petitions calling for bans, border closures and infringements to be placed upon cherished freedoms. We need to calm down.

Only those unfortunate enough to have lost a loved one in an act of hatred have a mandate to be emotional. Since social media has brought us all closer together and made life much more interactive, we seem to take the burden of mourning upon ourselves as a means of enhancing our own social desirability. Bizarrely, it is often those closest to an attack that remain the most rational and objective in the wake of its effects, and those furthest away who resort to the kind of bigotry and fear-mongering that terrorists have come to reap the rewards of.

This does not mean Islam, or indeed sects of the Islamic community cannot be held responsible. Islamism continues to thrive in a range of European, African and Asian societies. Intensifying anti-Muslim sentiment hasn’t worked, using terror attacks to justify bombing raids hasn’t worked and simply ignoring the ongoing presence of Islamic fundamentalism clearly isn’t working either. The question is whether or not western societies can respond by upholding the values they champion; of liberty and the rule of law. The question is whether the peoples of Europe can muster the tolerance and encourage the diversity that has brought great benefits to the continent.

Preserving liberty in the face of adversity can be extraordinarily difficult, but wholly worthwhile. It is for this reason that I cannot support the deportation of domestic Muslims in France or indeed my own country, and it is for this reason that I cannot support thoughtless bans on Islamic immigration. Liberty is too precious to be discarded in such a manner. Benjamin Franklin was absolutely right when he said that those who will sacrifice liberty for security will in the end enjoy neither.

An interesting article has cropped up in the Daily Mail, for anybody interested, that has described the attacker as an ISIS fanatic who ‘took drugs and flouted every rule of Islam’. This doesn’t surprise me. Most attacks of this nature, both Muslim and non-Muslim tend to be perpetrated by deranged, drug-obsessed lunatics. I am pleased that a major publication has highlighted the link between drug taking and violence. You can read the article for yourself here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3691019/Several-people-injured-truck-crashes-crowd-Bastille-Day-celebrations-Nice.html

Motives aside, though, I don’t claim to have the silver bullet on this. It is obvious to me that French Muslims are not as integrated as they are in other parts of the world, like Britain. It is also obvious to me that continuing to allow the influence of Saudi Arabia and fundamentalist-supporting regimes to creep into French society is dangerous. France’s ‘state of emergency’ seems set to continue for the foreseeable future. But there is an interesting prospect on the horizon.

French presidential elections take place late next year, and I’m now almost certain that Marine Le Pen is set to take office, swinging France vigorously to the Right. I don’t like Le Pen, but if such attacks are to continue in her country, then support for her presidential bid is likely only to strengthen. I’m not particularly well versed when it comes to French politics, so forgive me, but it seems to me to be plausible to suggest that Francois Hollande’s legacy will be stained by France’s apparent buckling to Islamic extremism.

We will see how the French people respond to the fight against Islamic terror as the months and years progress, and I wish the country well in its battle, but it is time for a different approach. Those of us unaffected by last night’s events in Nice may also want to consider the way we behave in light of horrendous acts of violence. After all, sickening terrorists aren’t worthy of dictating public policy. Keep the healing French in your minds, folks. It is they who matter today.


Don’t be fooled by Saudi Arabia’s front against ISIS

When Prince Bandar bin Sultan, formerly Washington’s Saudi ambassador and head of Saudi Arabian intelligence, sat down with then MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove shortly before 9/11, he warned quite prophetically: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”

Startlingly ominous as we now know this to be, those interested in Middle Eastern conflict would do well to acknowledge the significance of the quote. It provides a clear and incisive backdrop into one of the most deep-rooted and bloody conflicts of the twentieth, and now twenty-first, century. The Sunni-Shia divide, framed much more clearly in terms of Saudi Arabia-Iran, has until the present day created a serious of region-shattering proxy wars, with devastating consequences.

Saudi Arabia’s role, both locally and internationally, in promoting the practice of Wahhabism (a fundamentalist, literalist version of Sunni Islam) is now well-documented. Thanks to brilliant work from Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn and Jason Burke, among many other distinguished writers and journalists, Saudi Arabian involvement in the harbouring and growth of the Islamic State is now widely accepted.

Incessant armament supplies, intense propaganda campaigns and the funding of the spread of Wahhabi practice have allowed the Saudis a strong foothold in both Iraqi and Syrian affairs in the form of ISIS, the shiny new plaything of militant, Sunni fundamentalism. Assisted by Qatar and the other Gulf Monarchies, Saudi Arabian foreign policy has quite literally advocated the scourge of Shi’ite Muslims from the Middle East, a ploy which has, to some considerable extent, succeeded.

If it wasn’t for an equally authoritarian, equally intense and equally hate-filled Shi’ite campaign against the various sects of Sunni Islam, ISIS’ growth would have been far more rapid. The Shia crescent, as it has become known, through Iran, Lebanon and Syria, has waged war with equal merit and pummeling devastation. The Iranian regime, expressed externally through its funding of Hezbollah, (a terror group in Southern Lebanon and now fighting alongside Assad’s forces in Western Syria) has become a potent counterweight to Sunni and Wahhabi expansionism.

With the conclusion of 2015’s Iran Nuclear deal, sanctions lifted against Iran quite recently have allowed the Shi’ite regime substantially more financial freedom. How the Iranians spend the cash will be interesting to see, but I suspect that both Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Saudis will be hugely disappointed. With more money in the coffers, it would be prudent to assume that funding to both Assad’s government and Hezbollah will increase at a notable rate.

And so herein lies Saudi Arabia’s decision to go to war with ISIS. Fearing stronger Iranian-Western relations, the Gulf power knows that it must do anything it can to either reclaim lost support from the United States, or draw attention from bolstered Iranian diplomacy. I wasn’t especially surprised by either Saudi Arabia’s pledge to take 150,000 troops to Syria, nor by the timing of the announcement. Iran and Saudi Arabia’s bitterly competitive, sibling-esque relationship would be humorous if so many innocent lives were not at stake.

Saudi Arabia’s hierarchy do not want military confrontation with ISIS. Firstly, because they support the religious essence of the newly-established regime, and secondly because it may sprout civil conflict between angry ISIS sympathisers (of which there are probably a few million) within Saudi Arabia itself. Instead, the decision to go to war against the Islamic State is merely a tactical foreign policy endeavour, designed to usher in the backing of western powers, whilst simultaneously appearing much more forcefully to bring about peace and stability across the Levant (something made practically impossible by the artificiality of post-war drawn borders).

And so it would be wise to urge caution to all those taken in by Saudi Arabia’s new war against ISIS. Just how a military campaign will work out between the Saudis and the group they actively nurtured remains, for the time being, unclear. I suspect conflict will be minimal and likely non-consequential, just how the monarchy would like it. Nor, too, would I rule out the possibility of armed troops being used to aid the Islamic State in various forms in a bid to retain influence in both Syria and Iraq.

Never have I seen a more transparent military campaign in all my short life, and I certainly hope that my government isn’t reeled in by it. The Saudis are not our allies, (they despise our relative freedom and rampant atheism) and have been far too compliant with the ISIS cause than perhaps members of the Royal Family will care to admit. 150,000 troops seems a hefty contribution, and may even appear productive in the so-called ‘war on terror’, but do try your best not to be fooled by it.