Friday, July 06, 2007

Vast British stupidity

THE car-bomb/suicide-terror operations in London and Glasgow should have provided a fresh opportunity for reminding everyone, especially Muslims in Britain, that terrorism in the name of Islam still poses a major threat to public peace and safety. Yet this is not what is happening. Prime Minister Gordon Brown keeps repeating that the attacks have nothing to do with Islam - but, at the same time, keeps inviting "Muslim community leaders" to Downing Street to discuss how to prevent attacks. If the attacks have nothing to do with Islam, why invite Muslim "leaders" rather than Buddhist monks?

Brown hasn't deemed fit to tell it like it is: that Muslims in Britain, indeed all over the world, must come out and condemn terrorism in unambiguous terms. Instead, we are hearing that the attacks may have been prompted by "Muslim bitterness" about Salman Rushdie's knighting, the latest addition to the Islamist litany of woes. Some "moderate community leaders," like a certain Baroness Uddin, drop hints that Muslims have "foreign-policy issues" that might make them unhappy. The barely coded message: Unless Britain reshapes its foreign policy to please al Qaeda, it must expect to be attacked.

The most that "the moderate community leaders" concede is a "yes, but" position: Yes, it is not quite right to blow up innocent people - but, then again, we must understand how anger at the policies of the government of those same innocent people might prompt some Muslim youths to want to slaughter everyone. Worse still, Ken Livingstone, London's quixotic leftist mayor, has shifted the blame from the terrorists to the British at large, who are supposedly tempted by "Islamophobia." Thus, Livingstone works his way into a logical impasse: Do we dislike them because they want to kill us, or do they want to kill us because we dislike them? He implies that the main blame must lie with the British government and its U.S. allies, especially President Bush, who has declared war on terror rather than seeking to cuddle it.

But can one accuse Britain of "Islamophobia"? The answer is an emphatic no. Britain and a few other Western democracies are the only places on earth where Muslims of all persuasions can practice their faith in full freedom. A thick directory of Muslim institutions in Britain lists more than 300 different sects - most of them banned and persecuted in every Muslim country on earth. A Shiite Muslim can't build a mosque in Cairo; his Sunni brother can't have a mosque of his own in Tehran. Editions of the Koran printed in Egypt or Saudi Arabia are seized as contraband in Iran; Egypt and most other Muslim nations in turn ban the import of Korans printed in Iran. The works of a majority of Muslim writers and philosophers are banned in most Muslim countries.

In Britain, all mosques are allowed; no Muslim author or philosopher is banned. More importantly, rival Muslim sects do not massacre each other, as is the case in half a dozen Muslim-majority countries. The only time that the British media practice self-censorship is when an item might be seen as remotely anti-Islamic. Every British publisher has turned down at least one book proposal for fear of hurting Muslim feelings. "Taking Muslim sensibilities into account" is also the reason given for the cancellation of some art exhibitions and the selection of works on display in others.

Even the most rabid anti-West and pro-terror Islamist clerics are granted visas to come to the United Kingdom and spread their message of hatred (at times, as guests of Mayor Livingstone and his friends). Hamas and Hezbollah are strongly present in Britain; the Islamic Liberation Party, banned in all Muslim countries, has its headquarters in London. Pro-Hamas and pro-Hezbollah militants are featured on British TV almost every evening. The Islamic Republic of Iran's "Supreme Guide," Ali Khamenei, maintains a "personal office" in London with twice as many personnel as Iran's official embassy. The latest "Islamophobia" charges come as Prime Minister Brown has appointed two Muslims to his ministerial team, the first in U.K. history.

The terrorists who tried to kill people in London and Glasgow are the same ones killing people in Baghdad and Karachi. They are the same who killed tens of thousands of Egyptians and perhaps as many as a quarter-million Algerians over the decades. They are motivated not by any religious grievance but by an insatiable appetite for political power. They want to seize control of societies, break them into submission and impose on every individual a mad tyranny of terror in the name of God. If Islam is the religion of peace, then the real Islamphobes are those who planted the car bombs in London and Glasgow - not the poor Brits who are censoring themselves and curbing their hard-won freedoms in order not to offend "the Muslim community."


The London car-bomb plot was designed to kill women

Why on earth do people keep saying, "There but for the grace of God ƒ_Ý"? If matters had been very slightly different over the past weekend, the streets of London and the airport check-in area in Glasgow, Scotland, would have been strewn with charred body parts. And this would have been, according to the would-be perpetrators, because of the grace of God. Whatever our own private theology or theodicy, we might at least agree to take this vile belief seriously.

Instead, almost every other conceivable explanation was canvassed. The June 30 New York Times report managed to quote three people, one of whom attributed the aborted atrocity in London to Tony Blair's foreign policy; one of whom (a New Zealand diplomat, at that) felt "surprisingly all right about it"; and one of whom, described as "a Briton of Indian descent," was worried that "if I walk up that road, they're going to suspect me." The "they" there was clearly the British authorities, rather than the Muslim gangsters who have declared open season on all Hindus as well as all Jews, Christians, secularists, and other kuffar or infidel filth.

On the following day, July 1, the same newspaper informed us that Britain contained a "disenfranchised South Asian population." How this was true was never explained. There are several Muslim parliamentarians in both houses, often allowed to make the most absurdly inflammatory and euphemistic statements where acts of criminal violence are concerned, as well as several districts in which the Islamic vote keeps candidates of all parties uneasily aware of what may and may not be said. True, the Muslim extremist groups boycott elections and denounce democracy itself as profane, but this does not really count as disenfranchisement.

Only at the tail end of the coverage was it admitted that a car bomb might have been parked outside a club in Piccadilly because it was "ladies night" and that this explosion might have been designed to lure people into to the street, the better to be burned and shredded by the succeeding explosion from the second car-borne cargo of gasoline and nails. Since we have known since 2004 that a near-identical attack on a club called the Ministry of Sound was proposed in just these terms, on the grounds that dead "slags" or "sluts" would be regretted by nobody, a certain amount of trouble might have been saved by assuming the obvious. The murderers did not just want body parts in general but female body parts in particular.

I suppose that some people might want to shy away from this conclusion for whatever reason, but they cannot have been among the viewers of British Channel 4's recent Undercover Mosque, or among those who watched Sunday's report from Christiane Amanpour on CNN's Special Investigations Unit. On these shows, the British Muslim fanatics came right out with their program. Straight into the camera, leading figures like Anjem Choudary spoke of their love for Osama Bin Laden and their explicit rejection of any definition of Islam as a religion of peace. On tape or in person, mullahs in prominent British mosques called for the killing of Indians and Jews.

Liberal reluctance to confront this sheer horror is the result, I think, of a deep reticence about some furtive concept of "race." It is subconsciously assumed that a critique of political Islam is an attack on people with brown skins. One notes in passing that any such concession implicitly denies or negates Islam's claim to be a universal religion. Indeed, some of its own exponents certainly do speak as if they think of it as a tribal property. And, at any rate, in practice, so it is. The fascistic subculture that has taken root in Britain and that lives by violence and hatred is composed of two main elements. One is a refugee phenomenon, made up of shady exiles from the Middle East and Asia who are exploiting London's traditional hospitality, and one is the projection of an immigrant group that has its origins in a particularly backward and reactionary part of Pakistan.

To the shame-faced white-liberal refusal to confront these facts, one might counterpose a few observations. The first is that we were warned for years of the danger, by Britons also of Asian descent such as Hanif Kureishi, Monica Ali, and Salman Rushdie. They knew what the village mullahs looked like and sounded like, and they said as much. Not long ago, I was introduced to Nadeem Aslam, whose book Maps for Lost Lovers is highly recommended.

He understands the awful price of arranged marriages, dowry, veiling, and the other means by which the feudal arrangements of rural Pakistan have been transplanted to parts of London and Yorkshire. "In some families in my street," he writes to me, "the grandparents, parents, and the children are all first cousinsƒ_"it's been going on for generations and so the effects of the inbreeding are quite pronounced by now." By his estimate and others, a minority of no more than 11 percent is responsible for more than 70 percent of the birth defects in Yorkshire. When a leading socialist member of Parliament, Ann Cryer, drew attention to this appalling state of affairs in her own constituency, she was promptly accused ofƒ_"well, you can guess what she was accused of. The dumb word Islamophobia, uncritically employed by Christiane Amanpour in her otherwise powerful documentary, was the least of it. Meanwhile, an extreme self-destructive clannishness, which is itself "phobic" in respect to all outsiders, becomes the constituency for the preachings of a cult of death. I mention this because, if there is an "ethnic" dimension to the Islamist question, then in this case at least it is the responsibility of the Islamists themselves.

The most noticeable thing about all theocracies is their sexual repression and their directly related determination to exert absolute control over women. In Britain, in the 21st century, there are now honor killings, forced marriages, clerically mandated wife-beatings, incest in all but name, and the adoption of apparel for females that one cannot be sure is chosen by them but which is claimed as an issue of (of all things) free expression. This would be bad enough on its own and if it were confined to the Muslim "community" alone. But, of course, such a toxin cannot be confined, and the votaries of theocracy now claim the God-given right to slaughter females at random for nothing more than their perceived immodesty. The least we can do, confronted by such radical evil, is to look it in the eye (something it strives to avoid) and call it by its right name. For a start, it is the female victims of this tyranny who are "disenfranchised," while something rather worse than "disenfranchisement" awaits those who dare to disagree.



Excerpts from and comments on an article in New Scientist by Ian Roberts

"We tend to think of obesity only as a public-health problem, but many of its causes overlap with those of global warming. Car dependence and labour-saving devices have cut the energy people expend as they go about their lives, at the same time increasing the amount of fossil fuel they burn. It's no coincidence that obesity is most prevalent in the US, where per capita carbon emissions exceed those of any other major nation, and it is becoming clear that obese people are having a direct impact on the climate".

Roberts speciously reasons that obese people, who (allegedly) consume 40% more calories than non obese people, (allegedly) use their cars more because they are too fat to move properly, and (allegedly) "eat the kind of things which are more CO2 intensive, contribute disproportionately to global warming than their thin counterparts." Roberts's argument is not scientific, but a narrow, shallow, and hollow critique of capitalist society:

"The social stigma attached to obesity is one of the few forces slowing the epidemic - even though obesity is not a personal failing but a problem of society. We live in an environment that serves primarily the financial interests of the corporations that sell food, cars, and petroleum."

This serving of 'financial interest' traps people in vicious cycles of low-self esteem and comfort eating, diminished mobility/health and car use - all to the detriment of the environment. "And as the number of obese people increases, a kind of positive feedback kicks in. Obese people in the US are already throwing their political weight around."

Roberts then asks us to panic about the possibility of the political voice of fat Americans being used to demand, elevators, escalators, and other forms of labour-saving mechanisation, which in turn worsens the cycle of increasing fuel use, carbon emissions, and the world's waistlines.

When all that the best clinical minds can offer is the political idea that people's desire for food and labour-saving devices (ie, higher standards of living) are expressions of a kind of false consciousness, small wonder that people complain about 'health fascism'.

Roberts has such contempt for the public that he assumes to know their political and material interests better than they do, and pretends that it is 'capitalism wot makes 'em do it'... that people are too fat headed to know what to eat.

It must be lean times at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, because this poverty-stricken argument is so bloated, it needs four bandwagons to wheel it onto the pages of the New Scientist: obesity, global warming, anti-Americanism and anti-capitalism. All that's missing is a photo of a polar bear perched on a dwindling ice floe.



Concerns are mounting that the smoking ban which came into effect across the whole of the UK this weekend could lead to an increase in carbon emissions as pubs, restaurants and workplaces invest in gas-fired patio heaters to keep warm smokers forced outside by the ban. Recent research from British Gas predicted that increased sales of gas-fired patio burners to pubs as a result of the smoking ban would see carbon emissions from the pub heaters alone rocket to 160,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, representing almost ten percent of the annual reduction the UK needs to meet its Kyoto commitments by 2012.

The report also surveyed 250 pubs in Scotland, where the ban has been in place for a year, and found half had deployed the heaters to help smokers keep warm outside. The research follows separate predictions from the Green Party which warned the CO2 emissions of London alone could increase by over 20,000 tonnes a year as a consequence of the ban.


No easy higher educational choices in Britain

I suspect that the circumstances described below may generalize well beyond Britain. I must say that I always dreaded the thought that my son might want to follow me into the social sciences -- so I was quite delighted when he decided to become a mathematician

The news that one in four lawyers wants to leave the profession because of the stress and long hours reminded me of the (rather grand) party I attended recently where the partner of a law firm confided earnestly that his biggest fear was that his children would decide to follow him into his career. The very important media person I was with said he was rather worried because his son was toying with the idea of going into journalism. The MP who had joined our conversation said that he certainly intended to discourage his own children from entering politics. And my husband, a doctor, said he was grateful every day for our daughter's stated intention never to go into medicine. So there we had it. Four successful professionals, hard-working, well-educated, all of whom thought so little of their own careers that they were determined their own children should not go into them.

We pointed out to the lawyer, not without spite, that he lived in a vast house and enjoyed fabulously expensive holidays. Ah yes, he said glumly, but the hours are relentless, the people dismal and the work very dull. Besides, he added, money isn’t everything. His gloom is echoed by the survey this week of 2,500 lawyers, who say that despite record levels of pay (coincidentally, another survey this week revealed that top lawyers in big City law firms now charge £1,000 an hour), there is widespread unhappiness at their poor work-life balance.

There is no doubt that journalism has its drawbacks, and so, obviously, has politics. Both professions madly envy the lawyers their oodles of dosh, and while we would never go so far as to agree that money isn’t everything (it tends to be people who already have plenty of money who agree with that proposition; you won’t hear it from someone whose stomach is acid with the fear of not paying the mortgage or the electricity bill), we can comfort ourselves that at least our careers have their moments of fun and occasional glamour.

The professionals with real grounds for grievance are doctors. The current jobs fiasco, presided over by the newly resigned Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, means that with less than a month to go before new training posts start on August 1, 11,000 junior doctors don’t know whether they have a job. The term junior doctor refers to anyone not yet a consultant. Of those who do have posts, hundreds will have to relocate to take them, moving homes, uprooting children from schools and forcing spouses to change jobs – all for a position guaranteed at most for one year and often only six months before the merry-go-round begins again.

These are people who were the brightest and hardest working at school; you don’t get to study medicine with much less than three A* these days. They then endured six years of medical school before taking their first bottom-rung jobs, working relentless hours with little sleep. They are now embarking on their chosen speciality, for which they will have to pass two or three stages of gruelling and demanding exams, and for which they must study while also working long and antisocial hours.

Those who survive will then be told by the chattering classes and the media that they should be grateful to have a “job for life” (until they make one mistake and kill someone, that is) and that they earn ludicrously “good” money (although not by lawyers’ standards, obviously). In most other countries in the world, a child’s ambition to become a doctor is greeted with pleasure and, frequently, proud rejoicing. The fact that the same cannot be said of Britain owes much to our increasingly cynical attitude.

How many of us can imagine a normal working day that might include, as my husband’s did not long ago, treating two horrifically burnt children who die despite your best, most sustained, efforts? Which ends with your having to tell their mother, who is incoherent with grief, that her children are dead? Where the purpose of showering, when you eventually get home, is to rid yourself of the lingering smell of burnt flesh? I happen to think that’s worth the £70,000 a year a new consultant earns.

But back to our unhappy lawyers. Of the one in four who wished they had other jobs, the majority wanted to be journalists or writers (only 2 per cent fancied working for the NHS). The most popular reason for not switching careers? “The possible drop in salary.” Not daft, these lawyers, are they? Meanwhile, journalism continues, against all the doomsayers’ odds, to be one of the most popular career choices for teenagers, while in politics Gordon Brown and David Cameron have just assembled teams of unprecedented youth.

And my 11-year-old daughter has been giving the matter of her future career some thought. She arrived home yesterday to tell us: “I still want to be a guitarist in a rock band, but only while I’m at secondary school. After that, I’ve decided to become a doctor.” I assumed that she’d come up with this plan solely to annoy her father (she succeeded, brilliantly), but it turned out she’d been inspired by watching Scrubs, the US TV medical sitcom.

Which all goes to prove the point: the more you obsess about your children, the more they will confound you. Which is just as it should be. Those of us lucky enough to have careers and families should be doubly grateful: first, that we have them at all; and secondly, that the next generation take such little notice of us


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