måndag 5 juni 2017

Nothing to do with Islam

Following the incident in London on Friday night, there are still journalists and politicians who attempt to distance the present round of terrorist attacks from Islam and to blame them on Britain having made itself a target by interference in the affairs of Muslim countries.

The policies of UK and US governments have indeed aggravated the situation and spread the problem by destabilising, in particular, Iraq and Libya. However, since similar incidents have also been occurring in Germany and Sweden, which have done nothing but help fleeing refugees, and in the latter case, been very supportive of the Palestinian cause, that explanation does not hold water.

These is also concern about the guilt-by-association that is now affecting Muslims in general. Clearly, the large number of lapsed Muslims are not responsible, any more than those Muslims - probably the majority - who follow the peaceful parts of their religion's teaching.

The difficulty here is that Jihad is a fundamental precept of Islam. There have been some, throughout history, who have taken this to mean violent Jihad, to that extent, the present spate of terror attacks are not un-Islamic.

We should give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that the majority of practising Muslims are either unaware of this or understand Jihad in its metaphorical sense. However, in the present circumstances, they do have a duty to study their religion more deeply and evaluate it critically; in fact all of us have that duty. If they then chose to walk away, they need to have the assurance that they will not be hounded by the fervent believers who choose to hold to their faith, and society needs to offer them all the protection they will need.

Also, in the present circumstances, one has to question the wisdom and sensitivity of individuals who go about in clothing which identifies them as Muslims, thereby indicating that they are in a sense supportive of the actions of the terrorists; they are not obliged to wear the badge.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/04/theresa-may-british-values-muslims-terror-threat

söndag 4 juni 2017

Orthodox Whit Sunday



It was not my original intention today, but my plans were put out by a variety of circumstances so I ended up going to the Orthodox church this morning.

I have been experiencing a "pull" towards the Orthodox church for much of the past year, though it dates back for several years. A conjunction of events in 2013 was the initial trigger but the thing bubbled up again last autumn, after the Pope's visit to Sweden; I wrote a piece on the subject on this blog but it disturbed me in a way that has niggled ever since.

It is a considerable blessing to have a congregation locally which celebrates the Divine Liturgy in Church Slavonic. The parish is Serbian, but the services are also attended by Russians and a few Swedes who are spouses and converts.

At some point, Deo volente, a choice will have to be made, probably in about twelve months time. Or possibly not. I am not going to rush things. It is necessary to learn more, which will mean a lot of reading to be done.

As a non-Serbian, to be received into the Serbian church would seem strange, not to say perverse. It would take a lot of explaining. To join the Russian Orthodox would make slightly more sense, especially given the international reach of that church these days and the status of its Patriarch as a world Christian leader. Both, however, have political associations, which is the underlying problem with Orthodoxy as a grouping of national churches, not to mention the Church of Euphorbia.

There is a Swedish Orthodox church in embryo, attached to the Antioch patriarchy, now based in Damascus and under the protection of the Bishop in Paris. However, the Swedes have their liturgy on a Saturday and their church is out in the country. So from a practical point of view it would work less well. In any case it makes little difference to go to liturgy not understanding all the words in Church Slavonic or not understanding all the words in Swedish; the Serbians and Russians probably do not understand it all, since Church Slavonic is roughly as close to Russian as Latin is to Spanish or Italian. Either way, one needs to study the readings in English beforehand, and now that the priest has kindly given me a calender, I can have a look during the week.

How much more will the British tolerate?

The British are phlegmatic, tolerant and slow to rouse. Thus there was no great reaction after the terrorist attack in July 2005. The murder of Lee Rigby created a sense of outrage, but nothing more, since it appeared to be an isolated incident. Two serious incidents within a fortnight are another matter.

Since the first major terrorist incident in 2001, authority has tried to persuade the public that Islam is a religion of peace, that these were isolated events, or the actions of deranged "lone wolves", having nothing to do with Islam, or to reassure that the chances of being killed in a terrorist attack were infinitesimally small.

These assurances are are beginning to wear thin. They no longer convince. If government does not act effectively, people will take the law into their own hands. What, however, would effective action look like? What sort of effective action would not amount to rough justice for a lot of innocent people? Given the difficulties of keeping large numbers of people under constant surveillance, preventative action would involve taking many thousands into preventative detention, an action that would lead to further radicalisation. That in turn would eventually lead to the need to screen tens or even hundreds of thousands. Such measures are not acceptable in a liberal society with Enlightenment values.

Things will get ugly. The Manchester and London murders (yesterday's was the second in four weeks) will no doubt help to attract recruits to the unlovely English Defence League; retaliatory action will quickly follow the next Jihadi attack.

Thinking Muslims ought to take the opportunity to reconsider their position. Is their religion really the peaceful doctrine they have always believed it to be? Is it not time to distance themselves from it? What do they imagine is the effect on the wider community of going about with clothing that advertises their allegiance to Islam when appalling things are being done in the name of their religion?

onsdag 31 maj 2017

In the Holy Month of Ramadan...

In Afghanistan, "Scores of civilians have been killed after a massive explosion in a highly secure diplomatic area of Kabul left 64 people dead and wounded more than 300, the Afghan interior ministry said on Wednesday."

In Iraq, "An Islamic State car bomb that targeted families eating ice-cream after breaking their Ramadan fast has killed at least 17 people and wounded 32 more in southern Baghdad."

In the Philippines, "Police and security services have imposed a night-time curfew and increased their presence in a second Philippine city following reports that Islamist militants fighting fierce battles in Marawi might pose as civilians to sneak out and open a new front. More than 90% of Marawi’s 200,000 population have fled a week of street clashes and aerial strikes. Many have relocated to Iligan City, 24 miles to the north, where authorities have implemented a 10pm to 4am curfew."

Also in the Philippines, "The CCTV monitor was showing a live feed of gunmen in the hospital lobby. From the safety of another floor, Jan Yamit, a 23-year-old health worker, watched in horror as the militants shot a police officer and then a security guard before storming into the building.

“I can’t explain what I was feeling. I was nervous. I am pissed by those kinds of people. They kill defenceless people,” he said of the attack in Marawi, a city on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

He and his brother, who worked as a lift operator in the building, sneaked from one room to another. Eventually, they found a wooden plank and made a bridge from the third floor to a neighbouring building.

“Those who were killed were Christians,” he said.

The attack on Marawi, a mainly Muslim city of 200,000 people, by the Islamic State-linked Maute group this week has led to a fierce three-day battle, with the army deploying attack helicopters and special forces. At least 46 people – 15 members of the security forces and 31 militants – have been killed. On Friday, the Maute held its positions on bridges and remained hidden in buildings, despite heavy overnight artillery and airstrikes."

 In Egypt, at least 26 people, including children, were killed and 25 wounded in a gun attack on a bus carrying Coptic Christians south of Cairo.

And this was just the first week of the Holy Month. Into the second week, we now have 7 dead and 21 critically injured in London - less than a fortnight after the Manchester attack.

söndag 28 maj 2017

Our values will only prevail if we speak up

"After Manchester, our values will only prevail if we speak up for them." So writes Guardian correspondent Nick Cohen this morning.

Except that our values have not prevailed. The article is not open for comment. In fact, very few articles in the Guardian are open for comment any more. The essential contradiction having now been realised, the portrait of its renowned editor, C P Scott, together with the strapline "But comment is free", has been removed.

Comment is free no longer.

lördag 27 maj 2017

Corbyn is spot-on

It is not often that I find myself in agreement with a left winger like Jeremy Corbyn, but he is spot-on in his analysis when he says that the Manchester bombing would not have happened if the western powers had not destabilised Libya by getting rid of Gaddafi, and that ISIS would not have risen to power if it had not been for the intervention in Iraq.

We would probably not, however, agree on the reasons. The project to turn these countries into western-style democracies were never going to succeed; their societies are too fractured and tribal for democracies to be able to work, and that is why they have always been ruled by dictators and tyrants. Fortunately, the attempt to get rid of the tyrant ruler of Syria was stopped in its tracks. Had Assad been got rid of, the consequences would have been immeasurably worse than the present situation, bad as it is.

Western countries need to stop the meddling.

fredag 26 maj 2017

Manchester - discussion shut down

It is noticeable that the newspapers have closed down web site discussion on articles about the Manchester bombing. On the Guardian site - the strapline "Comment is Free" now seems ironic - only the most trivial and uncontroversial articles are now open for comment these days.  The Financial Times was more open but has subsequently removed all the comments.

This leaves the field open for conspiracy theories and claims that the authorities knew about the bombing threat and just allowed it to happen, for the sake of having a pretext for imposing tighter controls and surveillance.

However, what we do know, since the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, admitted as much, is that the bomber was known "up to a point" to the British intelligence services and police. Which raises the question of why he was allowed through immigration control without detention and close questioning. This would be difficult politically, since detention of suspects is open to accusations of racial and ethnic profiling.

Perhaps the law needs to be strengthened so that whatever he was known "up to a point" for is made a chargeable offence. That, though, could mean that tens of thousands of people could end up in prison. However, in this case, it now turns out that Islamic terrorism was the family business, so one would have expected that the bomber would have been known more than "up to a point". But if these people are not put out of harm's way, the alternative is the frightening one of allowing them free, when resources are inadequate to keep them under effective surveillance

There is also a refusal to acknowledge the nature of the "extremism" and "radicalisation" which is behind this and similar incidents. Since they are not committed by extremist Methodists or radical Christian Scientists, their actions must be motivated by something to do with the nature of the particular faith when radicalisation leads them to commit acts of terrorism. Radical Catholic men, for instance, become monks and friars. But this beast is rarely named.

It is also why initiatives like "Prevent" are bound to fail; in order to be effective, the beliefs of what is now a significant minority would have to be openly challenged. This is an impossible task when the dominant belief in society is no belief at all, leaving it impotent when it comes to presenting counter arguments. The widespread belief in nothing at all also makes it difficult for people, including opinion-formers, to understand the power of beliefs and the risks of having a community within society which holds to beliefs which are potentially dangerous.

This incomprehension is a problem peculiar to western countries which have not previously had Muslim communities in their midst; if you talk to Christians from countries like Syria and Iraq, they will spell out what they have had to deal with for centuries.

If there is any conspiracy, it is one of silence based on fear of giving offence, of being confrontational and of being accused of racism. We will pay a heavy price in the end. Actions by the authorities will be useless. And there is a limit to what the public will tolerate. People are not fooled. As Morissey has said, the bomber was an extremist. Extremist what? Extremist rabbit? Morrisey was accused of making a dumb statement, but that accusation only serves to increase the gap between the pulsillanimous media and politicians, and what is plain as daylight to everyone else.

Nothing to do with Islam

Following the incident in London on Friday night, there are still journalists and politicians who attempt to distance the present round of t...