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Is climate policy doing more harm than good?

manila-environment

Real environmental problems are being neglected: picking through the detritus left behind by Cyclone Haima at Manila Bay on Thursday.

Matt Ridley  22 Oct 2016  The Australian

After covering global warming ­debates as a journalist on and off for almost 30 years, with initial credulity, then growing scepticism, I have come to the conclusion that the risk of dangerous global warming, now and in the future, has been greatly exaggerated while the policies enacted to ­mitigate the risk have done more harm than good, both economically and environmentally, and will continue to do so. And I am treated as some kind of pariah for coming to this conclusion. Increasingly, many people would like to outlaw, suppress, prosecute and censor all discussion of what they call “the science” rather than engage in debate. We’re told that it’s impertinent to question “the science” and that we must think as we are told. But ­arguments from authority are the refuge of priests.

These days there is a legion of climate spin doctors. Their job is to keep the debate binary: either you believe climate change is real and dangerous or you’re a denier who thinks it’s a hoax. But there’s a third possibility they refuse to ­acknowledge: that it’s real but not dangerous. That’s what I mean by lukewarming, and I think it is by far the most likely prognosis.

I am not claiming that carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas; it is. I am not saying that its concentration in the atmosphere is not increasing; it is. I am not saying the main cause of that increase is not the burning of fossil fuels; it is. I am not saying the climate does not change; it does. I am not saying that the atmosphere is not warmer today than it was 50 or 100 years ago; it is. And I am not saying that carbon dioxide emissions are not likely to have caused some (probably more than half) of the warming since 1950. I agree with the consensus on all these points.

Some of my scientific friends accuse me of inconsistently agreeing with the scientific consensus that genetic modification of crops is safe and beneficial, but refusing to agree with the scientific consensus that climate change is dangerous. I agree with the scientific consensus on GM crops not because it is a consensus but ­because I’ve looked at sufficient evidence. There is no consensus that climate change is going to be dangerous. Even the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says there is a range of possible outcomes, from harmless to catastrophic. I’m in that range: I think the top of that range is very unlikely. But the IPCC also thinks the top of its range is very unlikely.

Besides, consensus is a reasonable guide to data about the past but is no guide to the future and never has been. In non-linear systems with feedbacks, like economies or atmospheres, experts are notoriously bad at forecasting events. There is no such thing as an expert on the future.

It is undeniable that the ­climate models have failed to get global warming right. As the IPCC has confirmed, for the period since 1998, “111 of the 114 available climate-model simulations show a surface warming trend larger than the observations”. That is to say there is a consensus that the ­models are exaggerating the rate of global warming.

The warming has so far resulted in no significant or consistent change in the frequency or intensity of storms, tornadoes, floods, droughts or winter snow cover. The death toll from droughts, floods and storms has been going down dramatically. Not because weather has got safer, but because of technology and prosperity.

As two climate scientists, Richard McNider and John Christy, have put it, “We might forgive these modellers if their forecasts had not been so consistently and spectacularly wrong. From the ­beginning of climate modelling in the 1980s, these forecasts have, on average, always overstated the ­degree to which the Earth is warming compared with what we see in the real climate.”

In 1990, the first IPCC assessment predicted a temperature ­increase of 0.3C per decade (with an uncertainty range of 0.2C to 0.5C). In fact in the 2½ decades since, even though emissions have risen faster than in the business-as-usual scenario, the temperature has risen at an average rate of about 0.15C per decade based on surface measurements, or 0.12C per decade based on satellite data; that is, less than half as fast as ­expected and below the bottom of the uncertainty range!

What about 2015 and 2016 both being record hot years? Well, because of the massive El Nino, the HADCRUT4 surface temperature line just about inched up briefly in early 2016 into respectable territory in among the lower half of the model runs for a few months before dropping back out again. That’s all.

So why is the atmosphere not doing what it is told? Actually it is. These results are precisely in line with the physics of the greenhouse effect. A doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere cannot on its own produce dangerous warming. The sensitivity of the atmosphere to CO2 is about 1.2C per doubling. That is the consensus, spelled out clearly (if obscurely) by the IPCC several times over the years. And that’s what we are on course for at the moment.

So what is the problem? Well, the theory of dangerous climate change depends on a whole extra step in the argument — the ­supposed threefold amplification of carbon dioxide’s warming ­potential, principally by extra water vapour released into the ­atmosphere by a warming ocean, and accumulating at high altitudes. And the evidence for that is much more shaky.

Recent attempts to measure the sensitivity of the climate system to carbon dioxide using real data nearly all find that it is much lower than the models assume. So, if it’s consensus that floats your boat, there is an emerging consensus from observational estimates that climate sensitivity is low.

What’s more, all the high estimates of warming are based on an economic and demographic scenario called RCP 8.5, which is a very unrealistic one. It assumes that population growth stops decelerating and speeds up again.

It assumes that trade and innovation largely cease. It assumes that the ability of the oceans to ­absorb CO2 fails. It assumes that despite all this the income of the average person trebles. And most absurd of all, it assumes that we go back to using coal for almost everything, including to make motor fuel, so that by 2100 we are using 10 times as much coal as we are today. In short, it is a barking mad scenario.

It is beyond question that global warming has generated enormous research funds, measured in many billions, that this has stimulated all sorts of scientists, from botany to psychiatry, to link their work to climate change, and that almost none of this money flows to those with sceptical views.

As the distinguished NASA climate scientist Roy Spencer has written, “If you fund scientists to find evidence of something, they will be happy to find it for you. For over 20 years we have been funding them to find evidence of the human influence on climate. And they dutifully found it everywhere, hiding under every rock, glacier, ocean, and in every cloud, hurricane, tornado, raindrop, and snowflake. So, just tell scientists 20 per cent of their funds will be targeted for studying natural sources of climate change. They will find those, too.”

Suppose I am right and our grandchildren find that we were greatly exaggerating the risks, and underestimating the benefits of CO2. Suppose they do indeed ­experience carbon dioxide levels of 600 parts per million or more, but do not experience dangerous global warming, or more extreme weather, just a mild and decelerating increase in global average temperatures, especially at high latitudes, at night and in winter, accompanied by spectacular ­global greening and less water stress for both people and crops.

Does it matter that our politicians panicked in the early 2000s? Surely better safe than sorry? Here’s why it matters. Our current policy carries not just huge economic costs, which hit the poorest people hardest, but huge environmental costs too. We are encouraging forest destruction by burning wood, ethanol and ­biodiesel. We are denying poor people the cheapest forms of ­electricity, which forces them to continue relying on wood for fuel, at great cost to their health.

We are using the landscape, the rivers, the estuaries, the hills, the fields for making energy, when we could be handing land back to nature, and relying on forms of energy that nature does not compete for — fossil and nuclear.

But there is a further reason why it matters. Real environmental problems are being neglected. The emphasis on climate change as the pre-eminent environmental threat means that we pay too little attention to the genuine ­environmental problems in the world, things like overfishing and invasive species.

And here is the maddest thing of all. Current policy is not even achieving decarbonisation. In 2012 Bjorn Lomborg calculated that 20 years of climate policy had reduced global emissions by less than 1 per cent. During that time the world had spent more than a trillion dollars to subsidise wind and solar power, yet between them they had still not achieved 1 per cent of world energy ­provision, and had cut emissions by even less.

Original article here

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Jaded generation ditches hi-tech for simple delights of the dumbphone

Introducing, The NoPhone Air

It was at a retreat in the middle of nowhere in Canada that two young entrepreneurs unveiled the next big thing in tech. They called it “the least advanced NoPhone ever”. The device inside the sleek, slimline packaging had no buttons, no screen and no way to tweet, take a selfie or even make a call.

In fact, the NoPhone Air was nothing but an empty package, the size of a smartphone.

It was a joke. But the dig at the relentless pace of reinvention in the mobile phone industry, at the same time as Apple launched the iPhone 7, tapped into something very real: the growing desire to turn off, tune out, unplug.

The signs suggest smartphone addiction has hit iPeak. Next month, the Light Phone — which is the size of a credit card and can make calls, store ten numbers and do nothing else — will be launched in the US by two friends who met at a Google “incubator” for whizzkids and grew jaded by the constant pressure to come up with increasingly addictive and life-consuming apps.

The Light Phone Video

In London, Liverpool, Berlin and Los Angeles people are participating in “killyourphone” workshops, creating their own signal-blocking pouches with glue and copper-coated cloth, and dipping their devices into cement to take a symbolic time-out from Tinder and Twitter.

Even Kanye West has called time on his timeline, declaring: “I got rid of my phone so I can have air to create,” in a tweet that has so far been retweeted 38,000 times by people who have, presumably, yet to embrace his example of digital detox. The singer Katy Perry appeared to agree, replying: “Unplug to connect.” The actor Eddie Redmayne also confessed to having swapped his smartphone for an old-fashioned handset because he was sick of “being glued permanently to my iPhone”.

Given that the average user taps their phone 2,617 times a day, with 89 per cent of us unable to resist checking our device at least once between midnight and 5am, it is perhaps inevitable there has been a reaction that has prompted a surge of interest in “retro tech”.

nokia-3310-2

Your phone away from phone

Dumbphones are now de rigueur, with old, trusty, uncrackable Nokia handsets selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay. About 4,700 Nokia 3310s, a classic, 16-year-old model, have been sold on the online marketplace in the past three months — two every hour. And 23 Nokia N70s have been sold every day over the same period.

It was partly rebellion against the Apple ethos and partly a desire to return to something that had been lost, that encouraged Joe Hollier, a 26-year-old skateboarder and graphic designer from Brooklyn, and his friend, Kaiwei Tang, who spent a decade designing phones for Motorola, to launch their own bare minimum device.

The pair met on a Google program for new talent two years ago.

“Everything was about creating apps to get users hooked, rather than developing something people needed,” said Mr Hollier. “We felt that is not how it’s supposed to be.” Worst of all, he said, “they were trying to frame it as if we were making the world a better place, by getting people addicted and selling them more stuff. I couldn’t help but call B.S on that. We felt they were missing the point.”

They created the Light Phone — a dollars 100 device, available in the UK by the end of the year, which shares the same number as your main number, forwarding on calls and offering little else, for the times when email and gadgetry may not be necessary. They call it “going light”.

“Do I really need a computer in my pocket when I’m skateboarding, or going out for dinner with my girlfriend? No,” said Mr Hollier.

He realised that constantly checking what other people were doing on Instagram and Facebook was chipping away at his own contentment.

“I found I was getting lost in these scroll holes. I would always come out of them feeling not necessarily good about myself. My smartphone was sucking me in. As soon as I stepped away — I call it breaking through the fomo threshold, getting over the fear of missing out.”

“I felt free. I realised I was happier in those disconnected moments, when I can watch a sunset, appreciate my friends. We want to make a product that helps people appreciate their lives, not control their lives.”

He stressed that the Light Phone was not a substitute, but simply a supplement. “It doesn’t have to mean going completely off-grid. It could mean just taking 20 minutes to get a coffee.”

He insisted his product was refining, rather than regressing. “We’re sparking a conversation. What do I want my technology to do for me?”

Aram Bartholl, 42, a conceptual artist in Berlin, started his killyourphone workshops a couple of years ago. “We all have these little computers in our pockets but we don’t really know how they work or who’s recording our data. For me, the pouch is a way to think a little more about what they do, and how we live with them.

“Suddenly, you have a person who’s used to technology sitting down with scissors and glue and a sewing machine — a machine from another revolution — in a completely different social situation. It gives connection a whole different meaning.”

Lucy Bannerman,The Times – The Australian   24 Sept 2016

Original article here

Sam Dastyari pledges to support China on South China Sea beside Labor donor

Yuhu Group CEO Huang Xiangmo, unsuccessful Labor candidate for Bennelong Lyndal Howison, Sam Dastyari, unsuccessful ...
Yuhu Group CEO Huang Xiangmo, unsuccessful Labor candidate for Bennelong Lyndal Howison, Sam Dastyari, unsuccessful Labor candidate for Reid Angelo Tsirekas and former Dastyari staffer Paul Han, at a press conference for the Chinese community in Sydney on June 17. Supplied

Primrose Riordan

Labor Senator Sam Dastyari pledged to respect China’s position on the South China Sea at an election campaign press conference he held with a Chinese political donor who had previously paid his legal bills.

He has also urged Australia to drop its opposition to China’s air defence zone in the contested region.

The comments, reported in the Chinese media, conflict with Labor’s official position on the issue which is that Australia should oppose China’s stance and authorise our navy and airforce to conduct freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea.

Experts say the ultimate aim of Chinese soft power is to shift Australians toward’s China’s position on the South China Sea. On Wednesday, outgoing US Ambassador to Australia John Berry warned of growing interference by countries such as China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran, and urged Australia to increase transparency around political donations.

Yuhu Group CEO Huang Xiangmo and Sam Dastyari at a press conference for the Chinese community in Sydney on June 17.
Yuhu Group CEO Huang Xiangmo and Sam Dastyari at a press conference for the Chinese community in Sydney on June 17. Supplied

Senator Cory Bernardi on Wednesday labelled Senator Dastyari the “Manchurian candidate” after he admitted in the Senate that he was wrong to ask an Australian-Chinese donor, Top Education Institute’s Minshen Zhu, to pay an expenses bill of $1670 for him when he exceeded publicly funded travel entitlements. Senator Dastyari told the Senate he had donated a similar amount to charity.

Labor has taken a much stronger position on the South China Sea than the Coalition. After China rejected The Hague’s ruling against its claims to sovereignty over disputed islands in the South China Sea, Labor’s previous defence spokesman Stephen Conroy accused China of aggressive bullying and urged Foreign Minister Julie Bishop to authorise the Navy to join the US and sail over the areas China claims.

Now it can be revealed that on June 17 in the lead-up to the July election this year Senator Dastyari assured the Chinese community he would respect China’s stance on the South China Sea, according to articles in the Chinese media.

“The South China Sea is China’s own affair. On this issue, Australia should remain neutral and respect China’s decision,” he said.

Also speaking at the Sydney press conference beside Senator Dastyari was political donor and philanthropist Huang Xiangmo, who The Australian Financial Review reported on Tuesday had complained that Australian MPs were not delivering on donations from the Chinese community. He suggested the Australian Chinese community should use political donations to satisfy their political requests.

Mr Huang has previously paid a legal bill for Senator Dastyari.

Senator Dastyari urged Australia to drop its opposition to China’s “Air Defence Identification Zone” (ADIZ) over contested islands in the East China Sea, according to an article from 2014 – a stance which saw Julie Bishop publicly rebuked while on a trip to China by the nation’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi. 

“The Australian government must abandon its hostile stance on the ADIZ,” Senator Dastyari is quoted as saying.

Further, a staffer to Senator Dastyari, Paul Han, who resigned from his office to run for a Senate position in NSW for the Labor Party in the recent election, effectively echoed the Chinese government’s position on the South China Sea in a statement he sent out to the Chinese community in July which was then reported in Chinese media.

“[The dispute] in the South China Sea should be settled between neighbouring countries through friendly consultations. External interventions will not solve the issue and will only complicate the issue.

Neutral stance

“The Australia government should keep a neutral stance on this issue and urge neighbouring countries in the South China Sea to solve the differences between these countries by friendly consultation.”

Rory Medcalf, head of the National Security College at the Australian National University, has previously told The Australian Financial Review that the ultimate aim of Chinese soft power and donations was to shift Australia’s government away from the US and make us less likely to oppose China in the South China Sea.

“The long-term goal is to make Australia less likely to oppose China in regional confrontations,” he said.

In a statement to The Financial Review Senator Dastyari said he supported Labor’s position on the South China Sea.

“There is no difference between my position and Bill Shorten’s position on the South China Sea – the best outcome is one where the rule of law is recognised. That was also the position of Senator Conroy when he was previously the shadow defence minister.”

He said he did not agree with Mr Han. “Paul’s comments are in his own capacity as a Senate candidate. They are not my views.”

Mr Huang, who heads up the Yuhu Group, has donated to both parties and donated hundreds of thousands to the Liberal Party according to the latest declarations.

Ambassador Berry said he was worried countries which did not value a free press were increasingly involved in media in Western countries.

“They do not share a core value of freedom of the press and yet somehow they’re getting involved in the United States in terms of acquiring papers and acquiring television and playing roles that we have to be careful of,” he said at a National Press Club address.

“If that money directly is coming from the Russian government and being funnelled through a Russian-American then we might have some issues … nothing is ever hurt by increased transparency and increased sunlight and disclosure.”

Original article here

It’s time to consider the death penalty for major drug dealers

Despite the Government’s best efforts, both international and domestic statistics demonstrate that Australia is currently awash with illegal narcotics and that Australians have globally the highest or close to the highest per capita illicit drug usage across several categories including cannabis, opioids, cocaine, amphetamines and ecstasy.

This is demonstrated by the Australian Crime Commission’s recent illicit drugs report which stated that Australia, in FY 14, recorded the highest number of illicit drug related arrests (in excess of 112,000), the highest number of drug seizures and the largest amount of drugs seized.

According to the ACC, sophisticated organised criminals are at the centre of the Australian illicit drug market.

Moreover, 42% of Australians, according to the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, have used illicit drugs during their lives demonstrating that Australia has an entrenched illicit drug culture.

Disturbingly, the toxicity of the current supply of illicit substances across several categories has never been stronger.

Long-term cognitive, psychological and physical damage, the deterioration of social capital and the lost labour productivity resulting from illicit drug use is both real and undeniable.

The current ice epidemic sweeping the nation has devastated the lives of many Australians including in several rural, remote and very remote communities.

On any possible objective measure, Australia’s current approach to the war on drugs is an example of gross public policy failure.

Billions are being consumed in drug law enforcement, tens of thousands of traffickers and users are languishing in Australian jails, violent crime is being waged on Australian streets and precious health care resources are being consumed dealing with the consequences of illicit drug use.

Australia’s current policy posture projects weakness to international criminal narcotics syndicates in Asia and South America.

We are seen as a soft target and therefore illegal drugs flood the country.

Despite the issue not dominating the national conservation, it is incumbent on policy makers to investigate alternative policy solutions that best provide pathways to resolving the current crisis.

The collective harm that currently arises from illicit drug use discredits the drug legalisation community’s argument that an individual’s personal use should not be the concern of the Government as it does not cause harm to others.

Developments in neuroscience and psychology demonstrate that, as social animals, an individual’s consumption of illicit drugs can significantly influence on behaviour of others.

The alternative is to consider radically different policy frameworks such as Singapore’s, which has a comprehensive approach to meeting its openly-stated policy objective of having a ‘drug free’ Singapore.

The Singapore model includes a multi-pronged strategy consisting of strong preventative education in schools, mandatory drug rehabilitation for first and second time caught users involving family and community networks as well as the mandatory use of the death penalty with a reverse onus of proof for individuals caught with a prohibitive substance above a legislatively prescribed weight. Singapore’s policy approach is brutal, but it works.

Singapore enjoys one of the lowest per capita rates of illicit drug use in the world, its streets are safe, organised drug crime syndicates do not have a stronghold and, because of its projection of resolute strength, Singapore’s use of the death penalty is sparing.

The effectiveness of Singapore’s policy approach over two decades has resulted in the halving of arrest rates from approximately 6,000 to 3,000 annually as well as the rate of recidivism from 60 percent to 30 percent.

Given the seriousness of Australia’s illicit drug crisis, examination and potential adoption of the Singapore model should be considered by policy makers, including the re‑introduction of the death penalty.

Australians must be willing to acknowledge the seriousness of the current crisis and be accepting of tough unconventional measures coupled with determined and unwavering leadership.

The scale of policy change required is immense.

John Adams is a former Coalition advisor.

Original article here

Dead men walking: Philippine President Duterte to name dozens of officials allegedly involved in drug trade

PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo “The Punisher” Duterte is set to name up to 50 officials allegedly involved in drugs as state-sanctioned street executions of civilians soar to 600.

Mr Duterte’s lawyer Salvador Panelo said that 27 local executives identified in intelligence reports would be unmasked this week that figure had almost doubled.

“My God, you will be shocked,” Mr Panelo said last night, according to the Philippine Inquirer.

He declined a request to give examples, citing operational reasons, but revealed many on the list were from prominent families and included provincial mayors and police generals and military figures.

The extraordinary development comes a day after Mr Duterte issued a “shoot on sight” order for Mayor Rolando Espinosa of Albuera and his son Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa after three mayoral staffers were caught with ice, known as shabu in the Philippines.

The Radyo Inquirer said that the mayor surrendered on Tuesday after police shot dead six bodyguards during an early morning raid at the heavily fortified family compound.

Authorities have vowed to hunt down and kill his son, who vanished weeks ago after learning Duterte was coming after him.

Kerwin is said to have undergone plastic surgery while on the run in a desperate bid to elude capture.

Father and son are being investigated for allegedly protecting drug traffickers. Espinosa is the first local executive linked to the narcotics trade under the Duterte administration, according to The Philippine Star.

The officials about to be unmasked in the “executive kill list” can consider themselves dead men walking unless they turn themselves in and confess.

Rolando ‘Kerwin’ Espinosa (pictured) the fugitive son of a provincial mayor, has been told to ‘surrender or die’.
Police chief Ronald Dela Rosa (left) with Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa at a press conference

‘I’M OKAY WITH YOU KILLING MY SON’

Espinosa, who was not present at the raid on his home, surrendered to authorities on Tuesday before the expiration of a 24-hour ultimatum given by Mr Duterte.

He reportedly met with the president at Malacañang Palace before presenting himself to Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa.

Chief Dela Rosa paraded Espinosa at a press conference last night, telling reporters the order to shoot on sight was still active for his son, who is the subject of a massive manhunt.

“Kerwin, you better surrender or die,” he said in a message to the younger Espinosa.

Chief Dela Rosa said Espinosa had admitted to him that Kerwin was involved in drug dealing and was in business with convicted drug trafficker Peter Co — an inmate at the maximum security New Bilibid Prison.

The top cop told reporters that he had twice asked Espinosa “if it would be okay if police killed Kerwin if he tried to resist arresting officers”.

“Okay,” Espinosa replied, GMA Network reported.

An alleged drug dealer lies dead in a street execution in Manila.
An executed alleged drug dealer with his head wrapped in tape

BODY COUNT SOARS TO 600

More than 120,000 drug addicts — most of them shabu (ice) dependent — have been forced to “surrender” to police since Duterte took office in May.

Users are required to attend mass ceremonies where they register as drug criminals and pledge to never take drugs again.

Those who don’t register, or break their contract, do so at the risk of being hunted down and killed, either by police or at the hands of vigilantes.

Mr Duterte, whose “death squads” were linked to dozens of unexplained murders during his 20 year reign as mayor of Davao, has given police and civilians the power to kill users and pushers on sight.

“Rehab is no longer an option,” Mr Duterte told a cheering audience in Davao City.

“So those of you in your neighbourhood, feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have a gun. You have my support.”

In another well-received speech, he told the crowd: “In an arrest, you must overcome the resistance of the criminal. You must really overcome it. And if he fights, and he fights to death, you can kill him.

“Then I’ll give you a medal.”

More than 1000 residents of Tanauan City, south of Manila, queue up in a gym to register as drug users. Picture: Bullit Marquez
Drug addicts take their oaths to reform after a call by authorities in Tanauan City, south of Manila

Activist group Human Rights Watch says 600 suspected drug dealers and users have been killed in street executions since May 10.

The murders have occurred in several parts of the country including Manila, Bulacan, Cebu, Rizal, Abra, Bataan, Pangasinan and Cavite.

A series of photographs of the victims made world headlines and generated widespread condemnation of Mr Duterte’s murderous crackdown on drugs.

Mr Duterte has dismissed the images as “melodramatic”.

“International drug control agencies need to make clear to President Roderigo Duterte that the surge in killings of suspected drug dealers and users is not acceptable ‘crime control,’ but instead a government failure to protect people’s most fundamental human rights,” Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phelim Kine said a statement yesterday.

Originally published as Punisher to issue ‘executive kill list’

Original article here

Rodrigo Duterte: New President’s ‘war on drugs’ reaping lethal results on Manila’s streets

Updated 18 Jul 2016, 12:21pm

Freelance correspondent Ben Bohane goes on patrol with police and the media in Manila to document Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

Warning: This story contains graphic images

I had been enjoying the hospitality of Manila’s night-crawling media and police photographers at their base for barely 20 minutes when the first call came through.

Jumping into a convoy of cars at the city’s police headquarters in Ermita, we moved at speed through the tangle of traffic, racing to document the next killing in the Philippines’ “drug war”.

It was 11:00pm and the dozen photographers from local media, such as the Manila Bulletin and Philippine Star, and wire agencies, had already covered one slaying earlier in the evening.

“Last night there were 12 killings around Manila,” one says. “Most nights recently there are at least 10.”

We head to Marikina City in north-west Manila and find a crime scene being established by police. A body lies in an alley next to a convenience store.

As we wait for permission to go under the yellow tape and photograph, we get the next call — a shoot-out nearby.

“Let’s hop to the next one — it is an ex-cop who has been killed, so it will be more interesting,” freelance photographer Linus Escandor says.

Fifteen minutes later, we are at the next scene. There, spread-eagled with gruesome head wounds and a trail of blood, lies the former police officer, dead.

He had been killed in a shoot-out with officers from the Station Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Group during a midnight raid, 25 minutes earlier.

The man was identified as Pelito Basan Obligacion, an alleged drugs and guns dealer — and like most cases — had supposedly “fired first, causing police to respond”.

A Colt 45 pistol lay near his limp hand.

The scene is ablaze with headlights, flashing police lights and TV camera lights, as forensics teams go to work — once the photographers have got their shots.

Yellow tape then cordons off the area, spent bullet casings are circled in chalk and numbered.

“Most of the killings happen in the outer suburbs or central Manila, not so much in Makati [the main business district] because there is a lot of CCTV there,” Linus says.

Addicts race to rehab

The killings began before Mr Duterte had even been sworn into office, as if in anticipation.

Two weeks after his inauguration, 200 drug dealers and users have been killed in shoot-outs in the withering crackdown where police have a licence to “shoot first, ask later”.

About 60,000 addicts have handed themselves in for treatment at clinics around the country in recent weeks, fear now overriding hardcore addiction.

In 2012, the United Nations said the Philippines had the highest rate of methamphetamine use in East Asia.

According to a US State Department report, 2.1 per cent of Filipinos aged 16 to 64 use the drug, known locally as “shabu shabu”.

Chinese triads have been accused of importing it from China and meth labs have reportedly been operating in prisons, implicating jail wardens.

Last week Mr Duterte named and shamed five of the nation’s highest police chiefs as “narco-generals”, who protect criminal syndicates.

More than 120 officers have been sacked in one province alone, the Visayas region, according to the Philippine Enquirer.

Mr Duterte has even enlisted the willing help of the New People’s Army — the communist insurgents —to take out drug dealers in their areas.

The Philippines leader has vowed to risk everything to put an end to the drug problem, which he says is a major security and corruption issue.

A former mayor of Davao, on Mindanao, he is credited with creating one of the safest cities in the country with his tough-on-crime approach, although critics have denounced his vigilante-style methods.

In a recent speech, Mr Duterte summed up his stance: “If you destroy my country, I will kill you. If you destroy our children, I will kill you. If I am asked by anybody, including the Commission on Human Rights, I do not know you”.

Not only legal and human rights organisations, but ordinary Filipinos who voted for him are alarmed by what they see as a war on drugs, that is also a war on poor people.

A taxi driver, Bobby, says he voted for Mr Duterte, but told me:

“We have courts for a reason. You can’t let cops be judge, jury and executioner.”

Summary executions common in drug war

In the early hours back at the station, the police and general media are smoking and strumming guitars when a fourth call-out comes.

This one is a “salvage job” — slang for a summary execution — so named because the victims are often wrapped in plastic and dumped.

The local media refer to these as vigilante killings, often aimed at silencing potential informers. But according to Linus, not all of them deploy the “salvage job” approach.

“They can’t be bothered wrapping them in plastic. They just shoot them and say there was a shoot-out,” he said.

Once again we are speeding through the traffic, heavy for this time of night. This is actually the most dangerous part of the job, as usually the press and police photographers arrive after the killings and there is not much risk.

But the rush to get to a crime scene and document it before police cordon it off and remove the body and the evidence, is the riskiest part, as I soon discover.

Changing lanes in light rain, a taxi brakes hard in front of us and suddenly we are fishtailing and nearly slam into buildings on the sidewalk.

At that point, it is after 3:00am and back at the station I decide to call it a night, leaving the photographers waiting for the next macabre scene, as the bodies in Mr Duterte’s drugs war keep piling up.

Original ABC News article here

 

Philippines: Duterte vows to bring back death penalty

  • 16 May 2016
  • From the sectionAsia

Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said he will seek to return the death penalty, in his first comments to reporters since last week’s election.

He added that he would also seek to give security forces shoot-to-kill powers for suspects who evade arrest and those involved in organised crime.

It is unclear how easily he could enact such proposals, but analysts credit his success to his tough stance on crime.

He is set to be sworn into office on 30 June for a term of six years.

While official election results have not yet been announced, Mr Duterte has an unassailable lead. He will need the backing of Congress to see through his plans.

Profile: From ‘Punisher’ to president

Speaking at a press conference on Sunday in the southern city of Davao, Mr Duterte is also quoted as saying that he wanted to forge closer relations with China, and that he was open to direct talks over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

The Philippines has taken one of its claims to a court of arbitration at the Hague.

Controversial record

Mr Duterte’s record as the crime-crushing mayor of the southern city of Davao, once notorious for its lawlessness, has earned him the moniker The Punisher.

“What I will do is urge Congress to restore death penalty by hanging,” Mr Duterte told reporters. The Philippines abolished capital punishment in 2006.


Duterte: From ‘Punisher’ to president

  • Born in 1945 into a political family but with a more modest background than many Philippine politicians
  • Married twice but now single, he says he has several girlfriends
  • A lawyer, he became vice-mayor of Davao in 1986 and mayor in 1988. He has also previously held a seat in congress
  • Built a reputation fighting crime, militancy and corruption. He has promised to continue his tough stance as president, but has offered few specific policies
  • Well known for incendiary comments, such as saying he would kill thousands of criminals without trial

“If you resist, show violent resistance, my order to police (will be) to shoot to kill. Shoot to kill for organised crime. You heard that? Shoot to kill for every organised crime,” he is quoted by the AFP news agency as saying.

Rights groups say hundreds of criminals were killed by so-called “death squads” in Davao during Mr Duterte’s stewardship of the city. In 2015, Human Rights Watch described Mr Duterte as the “death squad mayor” for his strong-arm tactics in Davao.

Whether Mr Duterte is able to persuade Congress to back such policies remains to be seen.

Last week his spokesman put forward a series of proposals such as a ban on alcohol in public places and a “nationwide curfew” for children.

Mr Duterte was not afraid of courting controversy throughout his election campaign. He vowed to give himself and members of the security forces immunity from prosecution after leaving office, saying: “Pardon given to Rodrigo Duterte for the crime of multiple murder, signed Rodrigo Duterte.”


Duterte in quotes

Philippines presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte (12 April 2016)
Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionMr Duterte made a series of controversial remarks during his election campaign.

On vowing to kill criminals

“Forget the laws on human rights… You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better go out. Because I’d kill you. I’ll dump all of you into Manila Bay, and fatten all the fish there.”

On the rape of a female missionary

“I saw her face and I thought, son of a bitch. what a pity… I was mad she was raped but she was so beautiful. I thought, the mayor should have been first.”

On the Pope’s visit holding up traffic

“We were affected by the traffic. It took us five hours… I wanted to call him: ‘Pope, son of a whore, go home. Do not visit us again’.”

On taking Viagra

“I was separated from my wife. I’m not impotent. What am I supposed to do? Let this hang forever? When I take Viagra, it stands up.”

“Duterte Harry” in quotes

Original article here

 

Singapore’s policy keeps drugs at bay

By Michael Teo   The Guardian   Sunday 6 June 2010

Many criticise using the death penalty against those in the drug trade, but our strategy has saved thousands from addiction

Drug abuse blights modern societies.

That is why many governments are focused on tackling addiction, preventing drug-related crimes and ultimately protecting their populations.

Singapore’s tough stand and use of strict laws and stiff penalties against those involved in the drug trade, including capital punishment, have sometimes come under criticism.

The comment by Patrick Gallahue and Rick Lines of the International Harm Reduction Association prompted by the trial of a drug trafficker, Yong Vui Kong, and the imposition of the death penalty on him, is a recent instance.

Singapore pursues a comprehensive national strategy to combat the scourge of drugs, comprising a high-profile public education campaign, treatment and rehabilitation of drug offenders, as well as strict laws and stiff penalties against those involved in the drug trade.

Public education against drug abuse starts in schools.

For abusers, our approach is to try hard to wean them off drugs and deter them from relapsing. They are given two chances in a drug rehabilitation centre.

If they go through counselling, kick their drug habit and return to society with useful skills, they will not have any criminal record.

Those who are still addicted go to prison, where they are put on general rehabilitation programmes to help them reintegrate into the community.

Strong community support against drug abuse has been critical to our fight against drugs.

Singapore society resolutely rejects drug abuse.

Several voluntary welfare organisations run halfway houses to help recovering addicts adjust back into society.

Many employers also come forward to offer reformed drug addicts employment opportunities.

Drug traffickers are a major part of the problem on the supply side.

They make drugs available in our communities and profit from the human misery they help create.

This is why tough laws and penalties are needed, including capital punishment for trafficking in significant amounts of the most harmful drugs.

This sends a strong deterrent signal to would-be traffickers.

But unfortunately, attracted by the lucrative payoffs, some still traffic in drugs knowing full well the penalty if they get caught.

With all these efforts, Singapore has one of the lowest prevalence of drug abuse worldwide, even though it has not been entirely eliminated.

Over two decades, the number of drug abusers arrested each year has declined by two-thirds, from over 6,000 in the early 1990s to about 2,000 last year.

Fewer than two in 10 abusers released from prison or drug rehabilitation centres relapse within two years.

We do not have traffickers pushing drugs openly in the streets, nor do we need to run needle exchange centres.

Because of our strict laws, Singapore does not have to contend with major drug syndicates linked to organised crime, unlike some other countries.

According to the 2008 World Drug Report by the United Nations office on drugs and crime 8.2% of the UK population are cannabis abusers; in Singapore it is 0.005%. For ecstasy, the figures are 1.8% for the UK and 0.003% for Singapore; and for opiates – such as heroin, opium and morphine – 0.9% for the UK and 0.005% for Singapore.

Singapore’s use of capital punishment has come under criticism.

However, contrary to the assertions of anti-death penalty campaigners like Gallahue and Lines, Singapore laws that specify the death penalty for certain drug offences do not contravene international law.

Notably, at the United Nations general assembly in 2008, 46 countries, including some of the world’s largest democracies, voted against a draft resolution proposing a moratorium on the death penalty. Another 34 countries abstained.

In the recent case of Yong Vui Kong, the court of appeal acknowledged that the mandatory death penalty is constitutional, and the high court expressly found that Yong Vui Kong knew he was carrying the drugs.

Every society strikes its own balance between the rights of the individual and the rights of society.

Capital punishment is an integral part of our successful comprehensive anti-drug strategy.

Our tough stance against drugs has saved tens of thousands of lives from the drug menace.

It is therefore not surprising that the majority of Singaporeans continue to support the death penalty. ”

Original article here

Hanson wants referendum on definition of marriage

child marriage yemen

Child Marriage – Yemen

Pauline Hanson in push for same-sex marriage referendum

THE AUSTRALIAN   JULY 12, 2016   By Jared Owen

Pauline Hanson will push Malcolm Turnbull for a referendum to hard-wire a definition of marriage into the constitution, warning the approaches advocated by Labor and the Coalition could lead to polygamy and child marriage.

The constitution does not define marriage and allows parliament broad scope to decide which relationships are granted legal recognition.

However the One Nation Party leader wants a “fresh and clear definition” of marriage built into the constitution, so future parliaments cannot cave into demands to extend marriage rights.

“A plebiscite simply gives the green light for legislative change to include same-sex marriage. However, that legislation could run the risk of being revoked or further altered to pave the way for reducing the marriageable age or the introduction of polygamy,” a party spokesman said.

Pauline Hanson wants a “fresh and clear definition” of marriage built into the constitution

“By holding a referendum on the matter, it provides a fresh and clear definition of marriage, that can be enshrined into the Australian constitution. Therefore, that definition cannot be altered by future Governments without a follow-up referendum.”

The Coalition is committed to putting the marriage question to the people at a plebiscite within months. As Labor opposes subjecting gay people’s civil rights an opinion poll, One Nation’s support may be crucial to push through government legislation enabling the national vote.

One Nation already has one senator provisionally elected to the new parliament, and could have several when outstanding ballot papers are counted and preferences are allocated.

Although a plebiscite would be carried by a simple majority, the constitution can only be amended by a referendum carried by an overall majority of voters and a majority of the states.

The result of the Coalition’s plebiscite would not bind MPs to support or oppose same-sex marriage, although the bulk of government MPs would be expected to ensure the people’s decision is implemented.

Labor MPs have temporarily been granted a conscience vote on the issue, but will be bound to support the party’s policy of legislating same-sex marriage in future parliaments.

Original article here

Child Brides – National Geographic article here 

OTHER LINKS….

Child marriage | Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse …

About child marriage – Girls Not Brides

http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/about-childmarriage/

Child marriage violates girls’ rights to health, education and opportunity. It exposes girls to violence throughout their lives, and traps them in a cycle of poverty.

The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise

myth of andalusion paradiseIslamic Spain in Middle Ages no paradise for Christians, Jews, women

PAUL MONK,  THE AUSTRALIAN   JULY 9, 2016

There is a widely held belief that in Spain, during the European Middle Ages, Islam, Christianity and Judaism co-existed peacefully and fruitfully under a tolerant and enlightened Islamic hegemony. Dario Fernandez-Morera, associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Northwestern University in the US, with a PhD from Harvard, has written a stunning book that upends this myth.

The myth itself has been a comforting and even inspiring story that has underpinned the so-called Toledo Principles regarding religious tolerance in our time. It has buttressed the belief that Islam was a higher civilisation than that of medieval Europe in the eighth to 12th centuries and that the destruction of this enlightened and sophisticated Andalusia should be lamented.

“Focus Today” video with Prof. Fernandez-Morera  here 

The great Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, a century ago, saw it that way. US President Barack Obama and The Economist magazine have both very recently cited Muslim Andalusia as evidence that Islam has been a religion of peace and tolerance. In short, the myth of Andalusia has been a beacon of hope for working with Islam in today’s world with a common commitment to civilised norms.

This vision was spelled out in Maria Rosa Menocal’s The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain (2002) and reinforced by David Levering Lewis’s God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 (2008). But it has deep roots. Edward Gibbon, in his famous 18th-century history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, wrote in glowing terms of the 10th-century Umayyad caliphate in Spain as a beacon of enlightenment, learning and urban living, at a time when Europe was plunged in bigotry, ignorance and poverty.

As someone who has long taken this vision for granted, it came as a considerable shock to me to discover that the conventional wisdom is quite unfounded. In The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise, Fernandez-Morera systematically refutes the beguiling fable. The picture he draws is starkly different from the conventional one, troubling in what it reveals and compelling in its arguments.

If we are to satisfactorily resolve current disputes about Islamophobia and the future of Islam as a world religion, this book is required reading. International reviewers have greeted it as a desperately needed corrective to delusion and propaganda. That will invite pushback from those who either remain committed to the myth or believe it is too important a beacon to allow it to be extinguished.

However, Fernandez-Morera argues trenchantly that we must shake off the sense of the superiority of Islam to medieval European culture. He makes the point, for example, that, given Islam’s antipathy to graphic art and music, had Europe been Islamised in the 8th century, we would never have had Gregorian chant, orchestral music or opera. No Bach, Mozart, Beethoven or Verdi. No Caravaggio, Michelangelo or Titian. Ponder that, at least as a thought experiment.

He shows that the Muslim invaders of Spain in the 8th century did not arrive as a higher civilisation conquering Visigothic barbarians. They arrived as barbarians intruding on a strongly Romanised, Catholic and materially sophisticated culture. As other scholarship has shown, the Arabs in the 7th and 8th centuries were barbarian invaders every bit as much as the Germans or Bulgars in Europe. They plundered, enslaved and sacked from the Middle East across North Africa and eastwards to Central Asia and India. As the great Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun would put it in the 14th century, war in the name of religion was integral to Islam.

Secondly, Fernandez-Morera argues that Islam was not the vehicle through which classical Greek learning was preserved, as is so often claimed. It was chiefly Constantinople that archived and protected the patrimony of Greek antiquity, philosophical, medical and mathematical. The Arabs acquired all this through Greek Christian scholars translating the classics for them. Greeks from the east and Christians in the west later revived such learning for themselves. Meanwhile, the rise of Islam had disrupted the flow of trade and ideas between the Greek east and the Latin west, thus harming rather than fertilising European civilisation.

Even these background theses will strike many readers as controversial, but they are only the beginning. The real thrust of Fernandez-Morera’s critique of the myth of Andalusia is that Islam in Spain, far from setting a high bar of tolerance, was characterised by plunder, domination, the harsh application of sharia law, the persecution of Christians or Jews who openly avowed their non-Muslim beliefs, and the violent suppression of ‘‘heresies’’ and apostasy within the Muslim community.

He also points out that the Christian and Jewish communities tended towards dogmatism, enclosure against the other religions and the fierce persecution of both heretics and apostates. Andalusia has been extolled as a convivencia, he remarks, but in reality it was what he dubs a precaria co-existencia between the three monotheistic religions that eventually dis­integrated.

Chapter four, The Myth of Umayyad Tolerance: Inquisitions, Beheadings, Impalings and Crucifixions, and chapter five, Women in Islamic Spain: Female Circumcision, Stoning, Veils and Sexual Slavery, reveal what has been airbrushed from history. The Moroccan Muslim feminist Fatema Mernissi and others have laboured to argue that the sexual slaves in Andalusian harems were somehow ‘‘free’’ women. Fernandez-Morera draws attention to the considerably greater freedom of women in Christian Spain, by contrast, in terms of everyday outdoor work and access to political power.

The myth of Andalusia has been based on neglect of primary sources and selective adulation of worldly Muslim rulers, as if they were representative of the clerical ulema and Muslim masses. In fact, as Fernandez-Morera shows, both mullahs and masses tended to bigotry and anti-Semitism. There were anti-Semitic pogroms every bit as violent and irrational as those in Christian Europe. And many Christians were expelled from Muslim Spain.

Among the many shocks to my settled beliefs in reading this book was learning of the atrocities committed, publicly and privately, by Muslim rulers I had long seen as models of enlightened despotism, notably Abd al-Rahman I (731-788) and his descendant two centuries later Abd al-Rahman III. Both committed abhorrent deeds of torture and murder.

Far more shocking is Fernandez-Morera’s documentation of the harsh sharia law in Spain under the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, something endorsed even by the celebrated 12th-century philosopher from Cordoba, Averroes (Ibn Rushd). It was neither pluralist nor ‘‘secular’’. It offers no model at all for what we might want or do now in civil society.

I learned things reading this book that I wish were not true, but the documentation is voluminous and compelling. There are occasional errors of fact and some surprising omissions — no discussion, for example, of the great library of Cordoba or of its other public amenities in the 10 century — but the overall impact is profound. His book will surely run into hostility, but Fernandez-Morera is a formidable scholar.

The classic works of Patricia Crone or John Wansbrough on the origins of Islam are the best comparison with what Fernandez-Morera has achieved. They demonstrated that the Koran as a canonical text dates from long after the traditional death of Mohammed and the hadiths (sayings attributed to Mohammed) were overwhelmingly just made up by storytellers long after he was gone.

In Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam, Crone argued that the traditional story of Mecca as a great spice-trading centre where Mohammed founded Islam from whole cloth (‘‘revelations’’) does not stand up to scrutiny. The actual history of early Islam and the traditional religious ­account of it diverge radically. Yet this extraordinary finding has never sunk in. It is, understandably, resisted strenuously by Muslim believers and an academic establishment that makes a living out of writing about that traditional story.

Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam and books like it are vital works. The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise is one of these books. Rather than accepting conventional or politically correct views about either Islamic Spain or the rise of Islam ‘‘in the full light of history’’, read these probing works of historical scholarship.

We do need the ‘‘cultural secularism’’ that Menocal and others think they can point to in Muslim Andalusia. We do need to find a way for those who still adhere to the old religions to live in reasonable harmony. We should want a tolerant, cosmopolitan order here and abroad. What we cannot do any longer is take Muslim rule in Spain as our model for accomplishing that laudable goal. We need to invent something new. There is no Andalusian golden age to emulate.

Paul Monk is a consultant, writer and speaker. He is the author of Opinions and Reflections: A Free Mind at Work 1990-2015.

The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews Under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain

By Dario Fernandez-Morera   ISI Books, 336pp, $59.95 (HB)

Original article here

The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise

29 May 2016

I cannot recall reading a work of historical scholarship clearly written out of sheer irritation until I read The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise: Muslims, Christians, and Jews under Islamic Rule in Medieval Spain by Spanish-American historian Dario Fernandez-Morera.

Fernandez-Morera is clearly irritated and annoyed by recurring failures of Anglophone scholars to acquaint themselves with Spanish and French language scholarship on medieval Spain when writing about medieval Spain. He is clearly irritated by the failure of many such scholars to use the available Muslim and Christian sources; by their preciousness about using the word Spain (which, as he points out, many Muslim writers happily used); by their presenting medieval (particularly Muslim-ruled) Spain as some sort of golden age of multicultural co-existence; he is irritated by the notion that the invasion by Arab-led mainly Berber armies somehow raised the cultural level ofVisigothic Spain; he is irritated by the dismissive treatment of Christian resistance to Muslim rule; he is irritated by the positive, even glowing, treatment of Muslim conquest and rule.

One way to tell he is so irritated–apart from simply reading the text–is his habit of starting chapters with quotes from noted scholars which the chapter then presents evidence clearly contradicting. There is no doubt about who his scholarly jeremiad is aimed at: he tells you in general in his Introduction and then by quoting from specific scholars at the start of chapters. Nostrawpersons allowed; they are hardly necessary, when so many large targets present themselves so clearly.

The irritation clearly helped motivate writing the book, and it does add a certain spice or zest to the reading, but it in no way detracts from the scholarly value of the book, which is very extensively footnoted–reading the footnotes is an education in itself–and filled with quotes from Christian, Muslim and Jewish sources. (The book is a particularly informative entree into the Jewish communities of medieval Spain.) He may push some arguments a bit far, as this sympathetic reviewer suggests, but effective rebuttals would have to be at least as well supported in the evidence.

Fernandez-Morera is also quite cutting about some obvious, and persistent hypocrisies–such as turning the Christian calendar into “Common Era” but being very respectful of the (equally religious) Muslim calendar. Or being dismissive of wider Christian connections but respectful of Islamic ones.

Really, it was jihad
It is startling to read claims by contemporary scholars stating or implying that jihad was not a significant motivating factor in the original Muslim conquest of most of the Iberian peninsula by Arab-Berber armies. Fernandez-Morera points out that the nice, sanitised, “inner struggle” contemporary Western construing of jihad is not actually supported by the Muslim or Christian chronicles. He is not above a bit of pointed irony in doing so:

Now, it is certainly possible that, for centuries, the medieval Muslim scholars who interpreted the sacred Islamic texts, as well as Muslim military leaders (including perhaps Muhammad himself when he led his armies into battle against infidels unwilling to submit), misunderstood (unlike today’s experts in Islamic studies) the primarily peaceful and “defensive” meaning of “jihad” and that, as a result of this mistake, Muslim armies erroneously went and, always defensively, conquered half the known world. (Chapter 1)

Moreover, when the texts of the Maliki school of Islamic fiqh (jurisprudence) which dominated inal-Andalus are consulted:

… they talk of war against infidels–a Sacred Combat, or Holy War, or Holy Struggle or whatever other name one may choose to give this religiously mandated war against infidels. … Thus what many Islamic studies academics call today “little jihad,” as opposed to “greater jihad” (the “spiritual” one), turns out to be the only jihad examined in Maliki religious treatises and actually practised in Islamic Spain. (Chapter 1)

I started reading The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise while I was finishing Perfect Soldiers, veteran journalist Terry McDermott’s book about the 9/11 hijackers. It was striking, even startling, to come across the same rhetoric from Islamic sources across a gap of over 1300 years; one contemporary, the other from early periods of Islamic conquest. Notably:

This willingness to die is found, for example, in the words of the Islamic Caliphate’s Arab commander Khalid Ibn Walid in 633, ordering the Persians to submit to Islam, or else: “Otherwise you are bound to meet a people who love death as much as you love life.” (Chapter 1)

The same rhetoric can be heard in our times from Hamasfrom Osama bin Laden, from the Fort Hood killer, from jihadis in the US, in Francein the UK.  All ultimately derived from the QuranSura 62:6.

Fernandez-Morera cites or quotes a series of Maliki and other medieval Islamic sources emphasising jihad as fighting the infidel who do not convert or submit, citing Medinan suras, noting that Bukhari’s collection of hadith elevated such jihad to a key obligation on free Muslim males after believing in Allah and His Prophet.

Fernandez-Morera also notes some controversy about how late in Islam the notion of inner struggle jihad and defensive jihad may have arisen. In Destiny Disrupted, Tamin Ansary dates the promotion of “inner jihad” as the “greater jihad” to Sufis during the Abbasid period, (p.107) though, as he also points out, some Sufi orders effectively became warrior orders (p.167). (Moreover, the original connection to Muhammad is via a statement of one of his companions of doubtful authenticity and apparently fails to appear in any of the six authoritative collections of hadith.) Fernandez-Morera is quite right to insist that the notion of Crusade (a late, and terminating, development in Christianity which required Papal authorisation) is quite different from jihad (a universal obligation on free Muslim males operating from the origins of Islam).

The original Muslim invasions included tabi’un, in charge of establishing proper Islamic rule and the first mosques. As with the invasions of Sassanid Persia, it included burning of captured books of philosophy and logic. The evidence of the religious motives are extensive, including from archaeology:

Coins minted in North Africa shortly before the invasion of Spain call upon the protection of Allah for jihad. (Chapter 1).

The notion of separate political and religious motives does not really apply, and the Islamic histories themselves are clear on the religious motives for conquest. Muslim chronicles mention the destruction of churches–usually in triumphal terms and often to celebrate their being turned into mosques (Chapter 1). Southern Spain has no churches built prior to the Catholic reconquest (Chapter 2).

Destructive conquest
The speed of the Islamic conquest (less than 10 years) was, as Fernandez-Morera points out, not that historically remarkable and was aided by deep divisions with the elite of the Visigothic kingdom. He uses the Arab conquest of Persia to illustrate the common patterns in both conquests at the opposite ends of the Mediterranean-Middle Eastern region. The willingness to offer protection for (humbling) submission as an alternative to war and death or enslavement was part of the conquest strategy. (The Mongols would later offer a very similar choice; most conquerors offer some version of it–with Islam, it is sanctified and incorporated as the default mode for dealing with non-believers.)

Without denying its weaknesses and oppression of Jews and heretics, Fernandez-Morera seeks to rehabilitate the Visigothic kingdom, arguing that the Islamic conquest saw the destruction of a nascent civilisation built on Roman, Germanic and Christian foundations. He notes that:

Spain was under Roman control and influence longer than any Western land outside of Italy and produced more Latin writers and emperors than any other Roman province. … the Visigoths were the most Romanized of all the peoples took over the Latin Roman Empire … (Chapter 2).

A civilisation that was legally innovative, included ruling queens and the establishment of which was much less disruptive than the subsequent Muslim conquest. Muslim sources refer to the wealth and splendour of the society they conquered (even if the major measure of the wealth was the acquired loot).

Fernandez-Morera points out how deeply implausible the notion is that an Arab-led army mainly of Berber nomads somehow raised the cultural level of a urban civilisation drawing on Roman and Classical heritage. Especially given that much of the cultural sophistication the Arab elite had acquired had come from their Iranian and Christian-Greek subjects. He is somewhat caustic on the notion that the Islamic world “preserved” the heritage of Greek thought, given that the Greek-Roman Empire never lost it and it was Islamic conquests and piracy that profoundly disrupted the previous connections across the Mediterranean (Chapter 2).

Being Romans
Fernandez-Morera shares my dislike of the “Byzantine” formulation for people who regarded themselves as Romans and were called such by their contemporaries:

… the term Byzantine Empire was invented in 1557 by the German scholar Hieronymous Wolf, who as a Protestant would not have been sympathetic to Eastern (or Orthodox) Christians. to indicate that these culturally Greek people of the Eastern Roman Empire were not Romans, and somehow not even Greek …
Eighteenth century Enlightenment scholars such as Montesquieu, who despised Orthodox Christianity perhaps even more than Roman Catholicism, adopted the term, thereby emphasizing that these presumably retrograde Christian Greeks had nothing in common with those pagan Greeks admired by the Enlightenment. (Chapter 2).

About the other
One of Fernandez-Morera’s continuing themes is how the juxtaposition of Muslims with Christians and Jews led to great concern (particularly among religious scholars, clerics, priests and rabbis) with not having defections among the faithful to the blandishments of other faiths. One of the strongest responses to living with other religious communities was to more strongly define what differentiated them.

In the case of the Jewish communities, that led to strong efforts against the non-rabbinical Karaites, who were pushed into marginal status. The rabbis clearly had an interest in encouraging hostility to those who denied their authority, but it is also clear that their success was partly based on their success in portraying the Karaites as being a path to defection from the Jewish community (Chapter 6).

But there were similar concerns, and analogous responses, within the Christian and Muslim communities. Except, of course, the Muslims were the ruling community, so Islamic law, administered by the ulama, the religious scholars, ruled all. The existence of significant Christian and Jewish communities tended to elevate the role of the ulama:

As several Spanish and French scholars have pointed out, in no other place within the Islamic empire was the influence of Islamic clerics on daily life as strong as in al-Anadalus. (Chapter 3)

Al-Andalus was dominated by the Maliki school of fiqh, which took decisions by early Rashiduncaliphs as sources of law, particularly Umar. Including the Pact or Condition of Umar. Andalusian Maliki jurisprudence was intolerant of adherents of other Islamic schools of jurisprudence, let alone non-Muslims:

… the practice of Islam in Spain was much more rigorous than in the East. If anything, the presence of large Catholic populations to the north and in their midst, along with the conversion to Islam of many of their earlier inhabitants, seems to have exacerbated the Andalusian clerics’ zeal in adhering to Maliki teachings. In other words, far from being conducive to tolerance, living close to Christians exacerbated Islamism in al-Andalus. (Chapter 3).

Andalusian Maliki fiqh forbade musical instruments and singing. The ban was less than entirely successful, but was a major impediment to the development of a musical culture. Strict purity concerns also got in the way of interactions as the founder of the school:

… forbade using the water left over by a Christian, or using for ablutions anything a Christian had touched, or eating food left over by a Christian. (Chapter 3)

These and other food purity rules meant that “breaking bread together” was not a practical option between a devout Muslim and a Christian. As I have noted before, it is not morality that buttresses the role of clerics as gatekeepers of righteousness, but moral taboos.

Just because three different religious communities lived in the same cities and under the same rulerships did not mean there was much in the way of mixing, beyond that useful for commerce. The public celebration of non-Muslim religious festivals was banned, for example. Living in different areas was a practical solution to the religious barriers to mixing:

… “fear of the “other” as a source of influence and possible conversion, the three religions’ marked differences in worship and purification practices, and the religious laws’ exclusionary dictates and warnings against socializing with other groups made living even in the same block difficult at best. (Chapter 3)

As the Reconquista proceeded, Muslim clerics issued fatwa calling on Muslims to leave Christian-ruled areas. The pressure on Christians in particular was such that the last Andalusian state, theEmirate of Granada, largely became a Christian-free state (Chapter 7). (Catholic Spain would, of course, eventually expel all its open Jews and Muslims.) The last Emir of Granada, in the treaty of surrender, insisted on a provision that no Jew would have authority over any Muslim or collect any taxes from them (Chapter 3). Fernandez-Morera notes that the Muwatta, a key source of Maliki fiqh in particular, says that:

Zakat is imposed on the Muslims to purify them and to be given back to the poor, whereas jizya is imposed on the people of the Book to humble them. (Chapter 1)

Yet there is this persistent myth of Andalusian convivencia.  Particularly under the Umayyad‘s, there was considerable repression internally and regular raids and attacks externally:

The celebrated Umayyads actually elevated religious and political persecutions, inquisitions, beheadings, impalings, and crucifixions to heights unequaled by any other set of rulers before or after in Spain. (Chapter 4)

Something Fernandez-Morera establishes from both Muslims and Catholic sources. The implications are not all that encouraging for simplistic multiculturalism:

… multicultural and pluralistic al-Andalus was plagued with religious, racial, political, and social conflicts, so that the most successful rulers must apply brutal and terrifying force to keep the place from disintegrating, as in fact it ultimately did. ….
In contrast, the relatively more ethnically and religiously unified Catholic kingdoms did not present the same problems for their rulers and therefore did not encourage the same drastic solutions. (Chapter 4).

And (to continue the story beyond where Fernandez-Morera takes it), having completed theReconquista, the eventual response of the Catholic kingdoms of Spain and Portugal was to use forced conversions and expulsions to re-create such unity.

Status of women
It is no surprise that concern for clear differentiation between the faithful and other faiths fell particularly strongly on women. Indeed, the higher the status of the Muslim woman (status which derived from the key man in her life), the more strict the requirements of separating differentiation.

The cultural and other activities of Andalusian women cited by those keen on pushing theconvivencia narrative were either slave girls (or, in the case of celebrated love poetry, largely aboutslave girls) or otherwise restricted to the private sphere. While, as one would expect in apolygynous society where stealing infidel womenwas sanctified, sexual slavery was rife. So rife, that (along with the aforementioned expulsions) there is very little Arab or Berber genetic imprint in the present-day Spanish population. Conversely, the situation of Catholic women in Catholic Spain was markedly better than that of even high status Muslim women in al-Andalus(Chapter 5).

Submission and domination
As for the dhimmi system for Christians and Jews, which is presented as enlightened toleration under the convivencia model:

The system of “protection” then, was in reality, a system of exploitation and subjugation. (Chapter 7).

With Muslim historians emphasising that the various conditions and requirements were structured to humiliate Jews and Christians. Nor can we look elsewhere for this alleged Andalusian tolerance:

There was no more a culture of tolerance in what remained of the Christian community in Islamic Spain than there was in the Muslim or Jewish communities (Chapter 7).

An issue which preceded the Muslim conquest. Upon the conversion of King Recared (r.588-601) to Catholicism (589), Visigothic law persecuted Arianism and Judaism, aiming for the extinction of both. In this it did not succeed, but it did alienate the Jewish community enough that the invading Muslims successfully used them as allies against the Christians. Fernandez-Morera notes various parallels in the exclusionary laws and rules of Christians, Muslims and Jews (Chapter 7).

Andalusian Muslim society was a stratified one:

Arabs were at the top of the social scale, with Berbers in the middle, followed by freed white Muslim slaves who had becomemawali; the muladis, further divided into first-generation converts and the rest, occupied a lower echelon, above that of only dhimmis and slaves. (Chapter 7)

With the muladis being a recurring source of unrest and revolt.

Something which clearly particularly irritates Fernandez-Morera is how Islamic imperialism in Spain often gets remarkably favourable treatment by Anglophone scholars, while Catholic resistance is ignored or belittled. As he notes:

… the relative scholarly neglect of the Christian sources on the Islamic conquest as testimonies of the Christians’ loss–a neglect of the vision de los vencides (“the views or testimonies of the defeated”) not present, for example, in studies of the Spanish conquest of the Americas. (Chapter 7)

He continues:

The implication is clear: these people should be grateful to the tolerant Muslim authorities for so graciously allowing them to practice their religion. Never mind the lowly status Christian dhimmis and even muladis occupied in Muslim society; the harsh restrictions they lived under; the extortion and humiliation they suffered through their special “taxes” (the jizya); the destruction of their ancient churches … or even harsher punishments Christians faced for violating Islamic laws. Those punishments included drastic measures such as ethnic cleansing … The punishments also included, as we have seen repeatedly, executions of the most painful and public forms.
Such was the spirit of Islamic Spain’s “convivencia“, which Norman Roth hails as “one of the many things that made Spain great, and which the rest of Europe could have learned from it to its profit”. (Chapter 7)

Fernandez-Morera brings the threads together in the Epilogue, including the central thesis of the book:

Few periods in history have been more misrepresented than that of Islamic Spain.

A misrepresentation that wildly over-praised Islamic tolerance and treats the achievements of Visigothic Spain, and subjugation of Christians and Jews, remarkably dismissively. The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise is at once an informative corrective to much historical misrepresentation and a worrying documentation of scholarship going systematically wrong.

Motivated misrepresentation
In his Introduction, Fernandez-Morera wrestles with why this persistent scholarly mythologising has occurred. He raises various possibilities–including the significant flows of Muslim oil money into funding academic activity. With associated pressures:

Doubtlessly, professional self-preservation as well as political correctness and economics as well as political correctness and economics have affected academic research in certain fields of study in contrast to the fearlessness demonstrated by professors when unmasking horrors in such dangerous areas of investigation as Christian Europe (the burning of witches! colonialism!) and Catholic Spain (the ubiquitous Spanish Inquisition!). Islamic Spain is no exception to the rule. University presses do not want to get in trouble presenting an Islamic domination of even centuries ago as anything but a positive event, and academic specialists would rather not portray negatively a subject that constitutes their bread and butter. In addition, fear of the accusation of “Islamophobia” has paralyzed many academic researchers. (Introduction)

The farce over the Yale University Press published work on the Mohammad cartoons sans cartoons provides him with an excellent illustrative example. It is not surprising that the Introduction also includes a strong plea to focus on where the evidence leads us, while being aware of the context of what we use as evidence.

There is also, as Fernandez-Morera points out, something of a prejudice against religious motives as explanations:

Failing to take seriously the religious factor in Islamic conquests is characteristic of a certain type of materialist Western historiography which finds it uncomfortable to accept that war and the willingness to kill and die in its can be the result of someone’s religious faith–an obstacle to understanding that may reflect the role played by religious faith in the lives of many academic historians. (Introduction)

And even more so in other humanities and social sciences.

There is, of course, something of a tradition in Anglophone writings to be down on Catholic Spain; a tradition kept alive, at least in the popular mind, by the tales of Gloriana and theSpanish Armada. After noting the “stakeholder” problem, Fernandez-Morera suggests that:

Or perhaps since the eighteenth-century Enlightenment the critical construction of a diverse, tolerant and happy Islamic Spain has been part of an effort to sell a particular cultural agenda (Introduction).

Perhaps indeed.  Moreover:

In the past few decades, this ideological mission has morphed into “presentism,” an academically sponsored effort to narrate the past in terms of the present and thereby reinterpret to serve contemporary “multiculturalism,” “diversity,” and “peace” studies, which necessitates rejecting as retrograde, chauvinistic or, worse, “conservative” any view of the past that may conflict with the progressive agenda. (Introduction)

Something that the decreasing ideological diversity of the academy (particularly in the humanities) tends to aggravate.

Still, while scholars such as Fernandez-Morera are willing to take a well-wielded scholarly axe to pretentious pieties, there is hope.


blog article here

Fairytale Castles

Some amazing drone footage of some of Europe’s most beautiful castles.

Great exploits don’t come easy

An bull African elephant feeding at the precipice of Victoria Falls.

An bull African elephant feeding at the precipice of Victoria Falls.

David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and explorer, came on three expeditions to Africa.   He loved the African people and his great desire was to see Africa set free from the curse of the slave trade.  He died alone, riddled with malaria, kneeling beside his cot in the heart of Africa.  He committed his ways to the Lord Jesus Christ right up to his last breath.

Looking from the outside in, one might think Livingstone failed at his mission. He didn’t find the source of the Nile. Nobody seemed to listen to him.  The London Missionary Society (LMS) struck him off their books because they considered him a failure.  He buried his wife beneath a baobab tree at the mouth of the Zambezi River.  His children didn’t know him.

Yet, after he died the whole world sat up and realised that the slave trade could not continue.  People began reading the letters that he had faithfully written and sent back to Britain, as well as over to America.  Just weeks after Livingstone’s death in 1873, Britain realised that the Arab [Islamic] slave trade in East Africa – the horrors of which Livingstone had highlighted in letters home – could not continue.  Finally the slave market in Zanzibar was closed, ending the eastern trade in slaves, and subsequently thousands of young university students went into the East African mission field preaching the gospel.

Livingstone_lionstatue

Livingstone was attacked by a lion while staying in an African village, trying to defend the village’s sheep from the animal.

“Commit your ways to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass”  Psalm 37:5.  As you read this, are you thinking that it was all very well for someone like David Livingstone to serve God with such fervour and commitment?  You feel that you cannot serve God wholeheartedly because you have too many problems, too many things that are holding you back.

My friend, no one who has done great exploits for God has had it easy.  I can mention name upon name to you of people whom God has used mightily down through history; every one of them has known hardship and difficulty.

Psalm 37 goes on to promise: “He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday”  Psalm 37:6.  Wait patiently for Him, trust in your God – commit your ways to Him and he will bring it to pass in His own time.

Edited from “Walking by Faith” by Angus Buchan [Page 22]

4065241-David-Livingstone-statue-at-Victoria-Falls-1

Dr David Livingstone: A 200-year legacy

By Gillian SharpeBBC Scotland

More at this link

Lament for a Vanished Middle East

Aleppo_Souk_Al_ZirbBy Charles Gave   27 Nov 2015

It is desperately saddening to see the terrified population of the Middle East fleeing for refuge towards a Europe that has utterly forgotten what the region looked like just a few decades ago. Yet nobody can hope to understand the disaster that is unfolding if he knows nothing of the events that shaped the modern Middle East.

Through an accident of family history, I was born in the Syrian city of Aleppo 72 years ago, my father having been one of the few French army officers stationed in Syria at the time – 12 out of 500 – to have sided with the Free French forces of Charles de Gaulle, rather than with the Vichy regime of Philippe Pétain.

How can I possibly describe the Syria of my birth? It was a marvel of diversity, a true kaleidoscope of races and religions. All the great empires of the past – from the Mesopotamians to the Ottomans – had passed through, and all had left their traces. Clustered around the citadel of Aleppo, the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, one found the Armenian quarter, next to the Jewish district, itself next to the Greek settlement. All were surrounded by Muslim areas, variously inhabited by Druze, Kurds, Alawites, Sunni, and Shia. And for the most part all these various peoples lived peaceably together, doing business with each other in good faith. Education was provided by the religious orders. Boys attended schools run by the Jesuits, and the girls were taught by Christian nuns – regardless of denomination.

Before the Conquest

Really “Most of the Christian sects had lived in the region since long before the Moslem conquest, and felt a perfect moral right to live in what was, after all, their home. In the Iraqi capital Baghdad, for example, half the 18th century population was Christian. The Assyrians of Northern Iraq claimed to have been converted to Christianity in the 1st century by Saint Thomas. In the mid-20th century they were a strong community – a true nation. Today there are almost none left. The survivors are in Sweden. In Egypt, the minority Copts, descendants of the original Egyptian population, held important positions in trade, the universities and in politics, with more than a few appointed ministers.

Throughout the region, the Jews were absolutely essential to society and commerce. Of course, Jews had lived in Iraq since the time of Nebuchadnezzar II. But they had also made up much of the population of Alexandria in Egypt ever since it was founded by Alexander the Great – it was in Alexandria that the Old Testament was first translated from Hebrew to Greek. Elsewhere, in all the great historic cities of the region – Cairo, Istanbul, Damascus, Aleppo – Jewish communities made up the network through which different peoples traded with each other.

Each community was an intrinsic part of the social system, and the result was a diverse and resilient society. Of course, once in a while there were problems, such as the Damascus pogroms at the end of the 19th century. But the authorities had little patience with trouble-makers, and quickly restored order.

Today, however, for the first time in history, there are no longer any Jews on the southern shores of the Mediterranean and, outside Israel, few in the Levant. Christians of all denominations have either disappeared, or are under severe pressure, with the Egyptian Copts facing daily attacks. The old social order has broken down completely. The question is: Why?

Family History

To answer, it will be necessary to highlight two historical missteps that have been slowly destroying the Middle East since at least the middle of the 20th century. The first concerns my family history. My grandfather, Ernest Schoeffler, was governor of the predominately Alawite province of Latakia during the French mandate. The Alawites, who are concentrated in north western Syria, are an offshoot of the Shia branch of Islam. Today, they control the political power in Syria, or whatever is left of it.

Conscious of the extreme diversity of the local population, my grandfather promised the Alawites that when the mandate ended they would have their own independent, or at least autonomous, state. Indeed, he lobbied hard in Paris for each Middle Eastern population to have its own “state” as far as possible. He envisaged a Kurdish state, a Christian state centered on Beirut, a Jewish state around Jerusalem, a Druze state, an Armenian state and so on. The idea was that none of these mini-states would be powerful enough to dominate the others. And if there was trouble, the regional policemen – France, Britain, or even Turkey – would step in to re-establish order.

However, in 1936, the leftist Front Populaire was elected in France. My grandfather was summoned to Paris by the Minister of the Colonies, who informed him that thenceforth French policy would be to create a “Greater Syria”. And of course this Greater Syria would be a secular state, because the French left had one overriding obsession: to destroy religion. In response, my grandfather did something few people do today: he stuck to his principles and resigned.

Disastrous Policy

The French government proceeded with its plan to create a unitary state in Syria, with centralized institutions for the army, police, civil administration, justice, education, and health. The consequences of this policy were all too foreseeable. The main goal of each and every different community became to seize control of the apparatus of the state in order to protect its own community. In Syria, by far the largest community, at 60% of the population, was Sunni. To prevent the Sunnis, with their strength of numbers, establishing total dominance over the country, the Alawites, with the tacit approval of the other minority groups, established their own control over the state, which they have ruled ever since.

I have no doubt at all that the refugees fleeing Syria today are minorities terrified that the Alawites will lose power, which up until the Russian intervention looked highly likely. They know full well that if the Alawites were to fall, the Sunni reprisals would fall on all Syria’s minority communities, not just on the Alawites.

The fundamental historical error here was the attempt by the French and the British to create centralized states in the Middle East, states which both the Quai d’Orsay and the Foreign Office believed would, with a little diplomatic maneuvering, do their bidding. This was a total break with the Ottoman tradition. The Turks generally took a hands-off approach to running their empire, intervening only when someone did something especially silly. When that happened, the Janissaries were quickly sent in, and the old order promptly restored. By imposing centralized structures on communities with little in common, the European powers ensured that every local lunatic would attempt to take control of these structures and use them to impose their vision on the other minorities, all too often through “ethnic purification”. It was a recipe for chaos and civil war if ever there was one.

A Wahhabi Project

This brings me to the second historical misstep. For most of their history the Sunnis of Syria and Egypt were peaceful, tolerant people, who lived in tribal groups under the authority of elders who did a reasonable job of maintaining order. This tradition crumbled in no time in the face of the pan-Arab socialism propounded by Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser and Syria’s Baath Party.

As a result, the Sunnis were easy prey for the puritan Wahhabism exported by Saudi Arabia in reaction to the rise of pan–Arab Socialism.

Wahhabism is by far the most retrograde of all the different sects of Islam. When Ibn Saud created Saudi Arabia by federating the tribes of the Nejd and Hijaz, he did so with help of the Wahhabi clergy. Now, for the last 50 years, money has flowed in a torrent from Saudi Arabia to the rest of the Middle East, Africa, South East Asia, and Europe to build Wahhabi mosques: “schools” where the only things taught – and only to boys – are the Koran and religious extremism.

The goal of this project is to “purify” the Middle East, returning the region, and eventually the rest of the world, to an “original” form of Islam unpolluted by non-Wahhabi religion, or indeed by any influences from the last 1,400 years. Isis is nothing but a Wahhabi project.

Extraordinarily, this project has enjoyed the unstinting support of French diplomacy under the guidance of Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy, and now François Hollande. I cannot imagine that this support for the most regressive of Sunni religious movements is due to the fact that close to 10% of the French electorate is Sunni, and that 90% of those vote for the left. That may explain French policy under Hollande, but it cannot account for the policy stance under Sarkozy and Chirac. There can only be two explanations: sheer stupidity, or that French presidents, both of the right and left, have been “captured” by France’s arms exporters.

At the end of this little historical survey – very much influenced by the family history of the writer – the reader must ask what can be done to stop the rot. The answer is simple. First, the West must clearly identify the enemy, which is not the Muslim religion, but the Wahhabi sect. And it must immediately break off all relationships with the states, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are exporting this virulent form of extremism.

That means closing western embassies in those countries and expelling their citizens from ours. Of course we will have to stop accepting donations from these countries to finance our electoral campaigns, which require ever-increasing amounts of money to win votes for candidates of ever-decreasing legitimacy. That would be very bad news for our media industry, so it may never happen. And needless to say, we must also stop selling these countries warplanes, helicopters, missiles, radars, tanks and other weaponry. That might be sad for our defense industries, but one does not prosper by selling weapons to one’s enemies. As Lenin said: “The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them”. Plus ça change…

Inside ISIS – By John Maudlin

I must confess, I do not know how human beings can commit the atrocities we see from ISIS fighters. I can’t conceive what happens inside their heads. Do they do it for the pre-teen slave girls they get? (The slave trade in girls and women is a major funding component of ISIS) The money? They are paid well. Are they just twisted SOBs? Yet understanding their motives is critical if we hope to end the terrorism threat.

The Guardian ran this Nov. 16 story by Nicolas Hénin, a French citizen whom ISIS held hostage for 10 months. To me, that is a much stronger credential than the supposed “expert” talking heads we see on the news channels. Some of his description:

They present themselves to the public as superheroes, but away from the camera are a bit pathetic in many ways: street kids drunk on ideology and power. In France we have a saying – stupid and evil. I found them more stupid than evil. That is not to understate the murderous potential of stupidity.

It struck me forcefully how technologically connected they are; they follow the news obsessively, but everything they see goes through their own filter. They are totally indoctrinated, clinging to all manner of conspiracy theories, never acknowledging the contradictions.

Everything convinces them that they are on the right path and, specifically, that there is a kind of apocalyptic process under way that will lead to a confrontation between an army of Muslims from all over the world and others, the crusaders, the Romans. They see everything as moving us down that road. Consequently, everything is a blessing from Allah.

Over at Quartz, Emma-Kate Symons wrote that “ISIL is the European Union of terror organizations.” Most of the Paris attackers were French and Belgian citizens who grew up in the continent’s Muslim-dominated ghettos.

“The perpetrators of the attacks are Europeans, Belgians and French,” says French-Iranian sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar, author of ‘Radicalisation’, and director of studies at Paris’s EHESS (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales).

“They come from the “banlieues” (suburbs) in France and their equivalent in Belgium. They are motivated by an unquenchable hate for the Europe that has given birth to them, and more or less badly educated them.

“This is the Europe of terrorists and in a perverse sense these terrorists are more European than the Europeans: they have created the Europe of Jihadists when Europe cannot even equip itself with a police force and a unified intelligence agency.

“This hate encompasses all of Europe. It knows no national borders, making all Europeans a target in their will to punish.”

Khosrokhavar, who makes these arguments in an article in Le Monde available only to subscribers and in French, writes that Europe is home to a “jihadist reserve army whose members are the young underclass of the suburban centers or the poor inner-cities.”

These young people identify with Jihadism less for religious reasons than for reasons of identity. Islam has become a symbol of resistance for them when no other ideology can supply the same kind of “soul” or notion of the “sacred,” especially when the appeal of other ideologies such as the extreme left’s has been exhausted.

How do you reverse the hate drilled into these young heads? I don’t know, but we had better find a way soon.

The Threat Is Here

Rosa Brooks, a Georgetown law professor and former Pentagon official, has a Foreign Policy article that throws cold water on just about everyone.

By now, the script is familiar: Terrorists attack a Western target, and politicians compete to offer stunned and condemnatory adjectives. British, Chinese, and Japanese leaders thus proclaimed themselves “shocked” by the Paris attacks, which were described variously as “outrageous” and “horrific” by U.S. President Barack Obama; “terrible” and “cowardly” by French President François Hollande; “barbaric” by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi; “despicable” by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; and “heinous, evil, vile” by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who possesses a superior thesaurus.

The Paris attacks were all these things. One thing they were not, however, was surprising.

Occasional terrorist attacks in the West are virtually inevitable, and odds are, we’ll see more attacks in the coming decades, not fewer. If we want to reduce the long-term risk of terrorism – and reduce its ability to twist Western societies into unrecognizable caricatures of themselves – we need to stop viewing terrorism as shocking and aberrational, and instead recognize it as an ongoing problem to be managed, rather than “defeated.”

Politicians don’t like to say any of this. But we’re not politicians, so let’s look at 10 painful truths.

You can follow the link and read her 10 truths for yourself. I saved this article for last because it leads right to my own conclusion. If Brooks is right that terrorism has to be managed instead of defeated, there are huge implications for everyone’s investment strategies.

I said last week that the Eurozone cannot long survive as presently configured. That’s only the beginning. There’s a good chance the West may shortly find itself embroiled in yet another Mideast incursion.

Persistently low oil prices could make the present instability spread. The US economy will shortly find itself dealing with higher interest rates and possibly a recession.

Russia under Putin is getting more aggressive. China’s growth is decelerating. Most of these drastic shifts weren’t on the radar screen even six months ago. I may be wrong on this, but I really think we are about to enter a new stage of history. It is more than technological transformation. The world in which those wonders are being created is changing in radical ways, too. Surviving the change with your assets intact will likely take a different approach from the one you are used to.

I’m not turning into a doomsayer, and I’m not heading for the hills. I am simply saying that we need some new thinking in this environment. Following the money flows won’t be enough. We’ll also have to follow a much more twisted – and harder to predict – geopolitical logic in the coming years.

Extracts from the John Maudlin Newsletter

Islamic State sees Paris attacks as sacred strategy

eiffel heartMARK DURIE    THE AUSTRALIAN    21 NOVEMBER, 2015

As the expressions of shock and solidarity subside after the Paris killings, the challenge to understand will remain.

Much comment­ary of the past week has situated these atrocities in oppos­ition to values familiar to Western people. Seen in this light, the attacks­ appear senseless and even insane. US Secretary of State John Kerry called the killers “psychopathic monsters”.

However, the first step in understanding a cultural system alien to one’s own is to describe it in its own terms. We can and must love our neighbour, as Waleed Aly urged this week on Network Ten’s The Project, but this need not prevent us from understanding our enemy, and to do this we need to grasp that this latest slaughter was shaped by religious beliefs.

In July, an Islamic State milit­ant vowed on video to “fill the streets of Paris with dead bodies”, boasting that his terror group “loves death like you love life’’. Yet for Islamic State these attacks­ were not pointless nihilism. Nihilism is a belief that there are no values, nothing to be loyal to and no purpose in living, but these killings were purposeful. They were designed to make infid­els afraid, to weaken their will to resist and to render them self-destructiv­e through fear.

This strategy is made explicit in an Islamic State celebratory post put out after the carnage, which quoted the Koran: “Allah came upon them from where they had not expected, and He cast terror into their hearts so they destroyed their houses by their own hands and the hands of the believers” (Sura 59:2).

The taunt that Islamic State jiha­dis “love death like you love life” is not simply a life-denying death wish. It references multiple passages in the Koran in which Jews (Sura 2:94-96, 62:6-8) and non-Muslims in general (Sura 3:14; 14:3; 75:20; 76:27) are condemned for desiring life.

On this basis, Islamic State considers Europeans morally corrupt, weak infidels who love this life too much to fight a battle to the death with stern Muslim soldiers whose hearts are set on paradise.

The Islamic State post also referre­d to the French victims as “pagans”, by which it made clear that the victims were killed for being non-Muslims.

Many commentators have rightly lamented ‘‘civilian casualties”, but the point is that Islamic State rejects the Geneva Conventions and has no use for the modern­ Western concept of a civilian. Islamic State fighters are taught that non-Muslims, referred to as mushrikin (pagans) or kuffar (infidels), deserve death simply by virtue of their disbelief in Islam.

For Islamic State, killing dis­believers is a moral act, in accordance with Sura 9:5, “fight and kill the mushrikin wherever you find them”, and Sura 9:29, “fight (to kill) the People of the Book”.

Some, such as Australia’s Grand Mufti, Ibrahim Abu Mohamm­ed, have spoken in this past week of Muslim grievances. However, Islamic State needed no appeal to grievances to justify its genocidal killing and enslaving of the Yazidis, whom it targeted solely because they were “pagans”. It has the same fundamental objection to the people of France.

Islamic State objects to Europeans because they are not Muslims, and to European states because they do not implement sharia. Its goal is to dominate Europe­ans as dhimmis under a caliphate. It claims to follow Moham­med’s instructions to offer three choices to infidels: conversion, surrender, or the sword. Or as Osama bin Laden put it: “The matter is summed up for every person alive: either submit (convert), or live under the suzerainty of Islam, or die.”

It may seem fanciful for Islamic State to set its sights on the surrender or conversion of Europe but, mindful of the history of Islamic imperialism, it thinks in time­frames which extend to centuries.

It believes Europe stands on the wrong side of history, and a final act of conquest can be preceded by decades, or even centuries, of milit­ary raids.

To combat this ideology it is necessary to prove Islamic State wrong on all counts. France — or any nation that believes in its own future — must show strength, not weakness. It must have confid­ence in its cultural and spiritual identity. It must be willing to fight for its survival. It must show that it believes in itself enough to fight for its future. It must defend its borders. It must act like someone who intends to win an interminably long war against an implacable foe.

There is a great deal Europe could have done to avert this catastrop­he, which Islamic State has declared is “just the beginning”. It could, long ago, have demanded that Islam renounce its love affair with conquest and dominance. It could have encouraged Muslims to follow a path of self-criticism leading to peace. Instead, the elites of Europe embarked on decades of relig­ious­ly illiterate appeasement and denial­ism.

There is still much that can be done. European armies could inflic­t catastrophic military failure on Islamic State as a counter-argument to its theology of success. This will not eradicate jihadism or bring peace in the Middle East but it would make the terror group’s supremacist claims less credible and hurt recruitment.

Europe also needs to act to suppress incitement of jihadi ideology by its clients, including the jihadism of the Palestinian Authority. It must put more pressure on the militarily vulnerable Gulf states to stop funding radicalism throughout the Middle East and exporting jihad-revering versions of Islamic theology throughout the world.

For Europe, the challenge within will be more enduring and intractable than the challenge without. An opinion poll last year found that among all French 18-24-year-olds, Islamic State had an approval rating of 27 per cent.

While many of the millions of war-weary Muslims now seeking asylum in the West will have had enough of jihad, it seems likely that Muslim communities already established in the West may be the last to challenge Islam’s supremacist take on history, because they have not had to suffer firsthand the harsh realities of life under Islam­ist dystopias such as Islamic State and the Iranian Revolution.

Nevertheless, European states could still do much in their own backyard. They could ban Saudi and other Middle Eastern funding to Islamic organisations, including mosques. They could stop appeasing Islamists in their midst.

They could, even at this late hour, insist that the large and rapidly­ growing Muslim commun­ities now well-established across Europe engage in constructive self-criticism of their religion, for the sake of peace.

If this fails, then according to Islamic State’s jihadi mindset the alternatives are conversi­on, surrender or death.

Mark Durie is the pastor of an Anglican church, a Shillman-GinsburgWriting Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and founder of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness. 

Original article here

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