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Islamism

Iran’s loathsome “mullahocracy” at 40

Monday, 11 February, 2019

The theo-fascists who have ruled Iran for 40 years have failed to accomplish anything positive politically, socially or economically for their hapless subjects. Azar Nafisi, author of the wonderful Reading Lolita in Tehran, described life in the Islamic Republic of Iran as comparable to “sex with someone you loathe”. Speaking of sex, the mullahs have created a “society” where women can be stoned to death for extra-marital sex and girls married off at the age of nine. No wonder the people hate them. They have turned faith into something so puritanical and dour that it needs to be policed by religious commissars to ensure compliance.

Those of us who love writing, reading and the unfettered exchange of ideas should never, ever forget that Iran remains unique among modern nations for having put out a contract on a writer. On 14 April 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against the novelist Salman Rushdie because of his novel The Satanic Verses. As the late Bernhard Lewis wrote in The Crisis of Islam: “To supplement and anticipate the rewards of paradise, an Islamic charitable trust in Tehran offered a bounty to anyone who killed Salman Rushdie consisting of 20 million tumans (at the time around $3 million at the official rate, about $170,000 at the open-market rate) for an Iranian, or $1 million for a foreigner. Some years later the bounty, still unclaimed, was increased by the trust.”

In his awful edict, Khomeini informed “all the zealous Muslims of the world that the blood of the author of this book, which has been compiled, printed, and published in opposition to Islam, the Prophet, and the Qur’an, as also of those involved in its publication who were aware of its contents, is hereby declared forfeit. I call on all zealous Muslims to dispatch them quickly, wherever they may be found, so that no one will dare insult Islamic sanctities again. Anyone who is himself killed in this path will be deemed a martyr.”

Putting a bounty on a writer’s head and shutting down a country’s free press are the legacies of the evil Khomeini and his successors. Their fundamentalism is the wretched price the masses in Iran most pay, day in, day out.

Peter Hall, 13 August 1979: “Returned to London, and was diverted to read on the plane, in the New York Herald Tribune, that Miss Piggy [of the Muppets] has been banned from Iranian television during Ramadan because ‘Moslems do not eat pork and consider pigs unclean.'”


Woman of the Year 2018

Friday, 28 December, 2018

No, the Rainy Day award is not going to Camille Paglia, the essayist, author, and professor of humanities at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she has taught since 1984. She would be a worthy winner, however. “I am an equity feminist,” says Paglia. “I demand equal opportunity for women through the removal of all barriers to their advance in the professional and political realms. However, I oppose special protections for women as inherently paternalistic and regressive.”

It was Paglia who said that a society that respects neither religion nor art cannot be called a civilization, and a prime example of a society that cannot be called a civilization is Iran. The 1979 revolution that led to the establishment of an Islamic republic suffocated artistic expression in Iran, and the mullahs have used Islam to spread terror abroad and enforce totalitarianism at home. As a result, the hijab has become compulsory and Iranian women are required to wear loose-fitting clothing and a headscarf in public.

Yasaman Aryani opposes this perversion but she’s paid a high price for her defiance. Still, she’s unbowed and that’s why she’s our Woman of the Year.


The known unknown Plantagenet House of Saud

Friday, 19 October, 2018

What Do We Really Know about Saudi Arabia? That’s the question posed by Kevin D. Williamson over at National Review. Good line: “It’s one of the few extant monarchies that seem serious about keeping the mon in their archy.”

Good point: “Khashoggi wasn’t just a troublesome journalist; he was, as the New York Times puts it, a man who had had ‘a successful career as an adviser to and unofficial spokesman for the royal family of Saudi Arabia.’ A businessman who has spent many years working in the Middle East says: ‘I don’t think the Saudis would send 15 assassins to chop up a ‘mere’ journalist, but they would send 15 assassins to settle some internecine family feud.’ He also cautions that the Middle Eastern tendency to resort to conspiracy theories to explain complicated relationships is likely to muddy the water.”

Williams says this GUBU (Grotesque, Unbelievable, Bizarre, Unprecedented) Saudi spectacle is “a platinum-plated Shakespearean succession drama in the desert, with schisms within the royal family and between the royal family proper and other centers of power.” Sadly, the Saudi’s don’t have a Shakespeare, but neither does the rest of the world right now. Still, the template is there because the 14 Plantagenet monarchs who ruled England from 1154 to 1485 inspired Shakespeare to write eight “Plantagenet plays,” from Richard II to Richard III via the two parts of Henry IV, Henry V, and the three parts of Henry VI. In Plantagenet England, murder was the order of the day, and it’s no different today in the land ruled by the House of Saud.


Saudi Barbaria

Sunday, 14 October, 2018

“The fate of Khashoggi has at least provoked global outrage, but it’s for all the wrong reasons. We are told he was a liberal, Saudi progressive voice fighting for freedom and democracy, and a martyr who paid the ultimate price for telling the truth to power. This is not just wrong, but distracts us from understanding what the incident tells us about the internal power dynamics of a kingdom going through an unprecedented period of upheaval.”

So writes John R. Bradley in The Spectator. His article is titled What the media aren’t telling you about Jamal Khashoggi. Among the things we don’t hear in the reportage about the disappearance in Istanbul of the Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi is his view of democracy. “In truth, Khashoggi never had much time for western-style pluralistic democracy,” writes Bradley. “In the 1970s he joined the Muslim Brotherhood, which exists to rid the Islamic world of western influence. He was a political Islamist until the end, recently praising the Muslim Brotherhood in the Washington Post. He championed the ‘moderate’ Islamist opposition in Syria, whose crimes against humanity are a matter of record.”

Bradley portrays the struggle for the soul of Saudi Arabia is one between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Wahhabi movement. Both hate each other and they’re united only in their hatred of the West:

“The Wahhabis loathe democracy as a western invention. Instead, they choose to live life as it supposedly existed during the time of the Muslim prophet. In the final analysis, though, they are different means to achieving the same goal: Islamist theocracy. This matters because, although bin Salman has rejected Wahhabism — to the delight of the West —he continues to view the Muslim Brotherhood as the main threat most likely to derail his vision for a new Saudi Arabia. Most of the Islamic clerics in Saudi Arabia who have been imprisoned over the past two years —Khashoggi’s friends — have historic ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. Khashoggi had therefore emerged as a de facto leader of the Saudi branch.”

And, says Bradley, there’s another issue: “Khashoggi had dirt on Saudi links to al Qaeda before the 9/11 attacks.”

Bringing Saudi Arabia into the 21st Century — or even the 19th — was never going to be easy, but the feeling in the West up to now has been that if Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could pull it off, the results would be worth it. The brutal reality is that it’s always one step forward, two steps back in the barbaric monarchical autocracy.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the “No Platform” thugs

Tuesday, 6 February, 2018 0 Comments

“I am among those who have been ‘de-platformed’ for speaking critically about the political and ideological aspects of Islam that are not compatible with American values and human rights. The usual justification for disinviting us is that speaking critically of Islam is ‘hate speech’ that is ‘hurtful’ to Muslims.”

So writes Ayaan Hirsi Ali in “The ‘No Platform’ Brigade,” which is published in the Hoover Institution Journal. “The practice of de-platforming must end not just for the sake of politeness but for critical thinking,” she notes, and adds: “Free thought, free speech, and a free press were at the core of Western Civilization’s success.”

Despite the increasing intolerance of the Left and its fundamentalist Islamist allies, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not for turning: “However uncomfortable free speech about Islam may be for some people, enforcing silence on the subject will do nothing to help those who are genuinely oppressed — above all the growing number of Muslim dissidents around the world whose courageous questioning of their own faith risks death at the hands of the very Islamists whose feelings progressives are so desperate not to hurt.”

Background: Ayaan Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu in 1969 and she was subjected to female genital mutilation as a child. Ayaan Hirsi Ali Initially, she was a devout Muslim, but she began to question her faith and, as she tells it, one day, while listening to a sermon on the many ways women should be obedient to their husbands, she asked, “Must our husbands obey us too?” In 1992, she fled to the Netherlands to escape a forced marriage was given asylum and, later citizenship. From 2003 to 2006, she served as an elected member of the Dutch parliament and her name gained international attention in 2004 following the murder of Theo van Gogh by Mohammed Bouyeri. Van Gogh had directed her short film Submission, about the oppression of women under Islam. The assassin left a death threat for her pinned to Van Gogh’s chest and, increasingly disillusioned with the Netherlands, she moved to the United States. She lives now with round-the-clock security because her determination to speak out against fundamentalism has made her a target for Islamic extremists.


Egypt: atrocity terrorism

Saturday, 25 November, 2017 0 Comments

The carnage in the Sinai yesterday elevated atrocity terrorism to a new plane. So far, the death toll from the mosque attack is 305 and it could go even higher.

We’ve become accustomed to Islamist terrorism since the begging of this century but we’re not anesthetized to it, yet. The savage spectacle of murder and maiming inflicted upon the innocent since 9/11 by these jackals continues to shock and it’s important for the leaders of civilized nations to grasp that Islamism is different to previous forms of terror. It is morphing into something that’s nihilistic and sadistic and totalitarian. Yesterday’s slaughter, on the eve of Advent, brings to mind those fearful lines of Yeats from The Second Coming: “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

Atrocity terrorism out of Egypt heralds the arrival of a very modern monster with very ancient features, red in tooth and claw and a dragging in its wake a cruel dogma that’s drenched with the blood of innocents.


Behind the veil in Saudi Arabia

Saturday, 27 August, 2016 0 Comments

“On every vacant lot in time appears the jumble of brownish brick, the metal spines of scaffolding, the sheets of plate glass; then last of all the marble, the most popular facing material, held on to the plain walls behind it with some sort of adhesive. From a distance it lends a spurious air of antiquity to the scene.” Hilary Mantel’s Saudi Arabia, as depicted in Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, is a place of impersonal ugliness and stifling heat, a kingdom of sexual repression, corruption and violence.

Andrew Shore, a civil engineer, accepts a lucrative package from a British firm that has been commissioned to erect an opulent office building for the Saudi government. When his contrary, independent wife, Frances — a cartographer by trade — arrives in Jeddah to join Andrew, she’s instantly disquieted by the city and soon finds herself despising this masked society peopled by expats, who are mostly alcohol-sodden mercenaries, evasive Muslim neighbours and cruel, capricious officialdom. Confined in her apartment for most of the day, she begins to hear sounds of suffering from the supposedly empty flat above. Shopping provides some relief, but not much:

In the supermarket, Francis bought mangos. She put them in a plastic bag and handed them to a Filipino. He weighed them, twisted the bag closed, gave it back to her, but he did not even glance her way. Around her, women plucked tins from shelves. Women with layers of thick black cloth were their faces should be; only their hands reached out, heavy with gold.

She caught up with Andrew, laying her hand on the handle of the trolley beside his, careful not to touch.

“I didn’t know the veil was like this,” she whispered. “I thought you would see their eyes. How do they breathe? Don’t they feel stifled? Can they see where they’re going?

Andrew said, “These are the liberated ones. They get to go shopping.”

Thirty years after its original publication, Eight Months on Ghazzah Street is still as disturbing as ever. Frances Shore is not a radical feminist but Hilary Mantel’s character is a dedicated opponent of fabricated separatism: “I would like to stride up to the next veiled woman I see and tear the black cloth from her face and rip it up before her eyes. I know that would be wrong, but I would like to do it.”

The naqab


The evil inside Omar Mateen

Monday, 13 June, 2016 0 Comments

“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil.

Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions of the world: They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person.” — Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

Omar Mateen


From left to right: Houellebecq reviewed

Thursday, 19 November, 2015 0 Comments

As we approach the penultimate day of our Submission series, it’s time to take a look at how the book has been received on the left and on the right. First up, Mark Lilla in The New York Review of Books. With a nod to the Bethlehem of Yeats in The Second Coming, his review is titled Slouching Toward Mecca. Lilla is at pains to emphasizes that none of the characters in Houellebecq’s novel expresses “hatred or even contempt of Muslims.” Instead, “It is about a man and a country who through indifference and exhaustion find themselves slouching toward Mecca. There is not even drama here — no clash of spiritual armies, no martyrdom, no final conflagration. Stuff just happens, as in all Houellebecq’s fiction. All one hears at the end is a bone-chilling sigh of collective relief. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. Whatever.”

Submission Douglas Murray takes a more robust approach in Quadrant with A Society Ripe for Submission. Like Lilla, however, he stresses that the novel is not the cartoon that its detractors have claimed it to be: “Of course it is worth stating from the outset — since in these times we seem to have to do such things — that even if Submission were the most anti-Islamic, ‘blasphemous’ and offensive novel ever written Houellebecq would have the right to publish it and do so without being judged by politicians or gunmen who in their different ways fire off over books they don’t read. As it happens, Submission is not a simple provocation. It is a deep, gripping and haunting novel which proves a culmination point of Houellebecq’s work so far and, in my view, a recent high-point for European fiction.”

In his conclusion, Mark Lilla interprets Submission as Houellebecq’s reckoning with a country and a continent that have run out of road in the modern world:

“He appears genuinely to believe that France has, regrettably and irretrievably, lost its sense of self, but not because of immigration or the European Union or globalization. Those are just symptoms of a crisis that was set off two centuries ago when Europeans made a wager on history: that the more they extended human freedom, the happier they would be. For him, that wager has been lost. And so the continent is adrift and susceptible to a much older temptation, to submit to those claiming to speak for God. Who remains as remote and as silent as ever.”

The “Who” there is echoed in the “whose” at the close of Douglas Murray’s assessment of the novel:

“Houellebecq’s career has included several fateful coincidences of timing. But perhaps the most propitious is that his work has come to artistic maturity at just the moment to capture a society tipping from over-ripeness into something else. What precisely? More decadence, barbarism, or salvation? And if salvation, then what kind, and whose?”

Tomorrow, here, we conclude our week of Submission.


Knausgaard reads Houellebecq

Wednesday, 18 November, 2015 0 Comments

It was a brave decision on the part of the New York Times to ask Karl Ove Knausgård to review Submission by Michel Houellebecq. Brave because the Norwegian author is not known for his brevity. Knausgård is the author of Min Kamp (My Struggle), six controversial autobiographical novels that stretch across 3,600 pages.

“Before I begin this review, I have to make a small confession. I have never read Michel Houellebecq’s books,” writes Knausgård, warming up to his task. Eventually, he picks up the novel and opens it: “I leaned back in my chair under the bright light of the lamp, lit a cigarette, poured myself a coffee and began to read.”

Submission Submission is controversial, he finds, because “anything that has to do with immigration, the nation state, multiculturalism, ethnicity and religion is explosive stuff in Europe these days. Many of its elements are recognizable, like the newspapers omitting to mention, or mentioning only with caution, conflicts arising out of ethnic differences, or the political left’s anti-­racism overriding its feminism, making it wary of criticizing patriarchal structures within immigrant communities.”

Houellebecq’s savaging of political correctness prepares the ground for “a scenario of the future that realistically is less than likely, and yet entirely possible,” notes Knausgård. In this scenario, the French general election of 2022 is won by the Muslim Brotherhood with which the left collaborates to keep the National Front from power, and France as a result becomes a Muslim state. Snippet:

“What’s crucial for the novel is that the political events it portrays are psychologically as persuasive as they are credible, for this is what the novel is about, an entire culture’s enormous loss of meaning, its lack of, or highly depleted, faith, a culture in which the ties of community are dissolving and which, for want of resilience more than anything else, gives up on its most important values and submits to religious government.

But maybe that isn’t so bad? Maybe it doesn’t matter that much? Aren’t people just people, regardless of what they believe in, and of how they choose to organize their societies? It is these questions that the novel leads up to, since this entire seamless revolution is seen through the eyes of François, a man who believes in nothing and who consequently is bound by nothing other than himself and his own needs… This lack of attachment, this indifference, is as I see it the novel’s fundamental theme and issue, much more so than the Islamization of France, which in the logic of the book is merely a consequence.”

What does it mean to be a human being without faith? For Knausgård, that’s the key question posed by a novel that closes with the faithless protagonist looking forward in time to his own submission, “to the comedy, eventually converting to Islam in order to continue teaching at the Sorbonne, now a Muslim seat of learning.”

In the end, Knausgård is full of praise for what Houellebecq has written and declares Submission to be a great book: “The disillusioned gaze sees through everything, sees all the lies and the pretenses we concoct to give life meaning, the only thing it doesn’t see is its own origin, its own driving force. But what does that matter as long as it creates great literature, quivering with ambivalence, full of longing for meaning, which, if none is found, it creates itself?”


It is 2022 and the votes are being counted in France

Tuesday, 17 November, 2015 0 Comments

On the day that Michel Houellebecq’s Submission was published in France, two Islamist terrorists stormed into the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and murdered 12 people, including eight journalists. Among the dead was the economist Bernard Maris, one of Houellebecq’s closest friends. The tragedy and the coincidence were interpreted as a portent, but nobody could agree as to its significance. Conspiracy theorists wondered if Houellebecq had not somehow provoked the attack. The fact that the publication date of the book had been signaled long in advance did nothing to deter them.

Submission transports readers to the year 2022 as the votes are being counted after the French general election. Marine Le Pen and her Front National are neck-and-neck with the Muslim Brotherhood, led by a charismatic grocer’s son, Mohammed Ben Abbes. The Socialists, under Manuel Valls, decide to form a coalition with the Brotherhood to keep Le Pen out of the Élysée Palace, but negotiations are tricky. One evening during the talks, François, the narrator, meets a friend whose husband works for the DGSI intelligence service, and the three discuss politics with the aid of port. Snippet:

“But what do they want?”
“They want every French child to have the option of a Muslim education, at every level of schooling. Now, however you look at it, a Muslim education is very different from a secular one. First off, no co-education. And women would be allowed to study only certain things. What the Muslim Brotherhood really wants is for most women to study Home Economics, once they finish junior school, then get married as soon as possible, with a small minority studying art or literature first. Sottomissioni That’s their vision of an ideal society. Also, every teacher would have to be Muslim. No exceptions. Schools would observe Muslim dietary laws and the five daily prayers; above all, the curriculum itself would have to reflect the teachings of the Koran.”
“You think the Socialists will give in?”
“The haven’t got much of a choice. If they don’t reach an agreement, they don’t have a chance against the National Front. Even if they do reach an agreement, the National Front could still win. You’ve seen the polls…”

“Are your sure? That sounds so drastic…”
“Quite sure. It’s all been settled. And it is exactly in line with the theory of minority sharia, which the Muslim Brotherhood has always embraced. So they could something similar with education. Public education would still be available to everyone though with vastly reduced funding. The national budget would be slashed by two-thirds at least, and this time the teachers wouldn’t be able to stop it. In the current economic climate, any budget cut is bound to play well at the polls.”

All of this bores François, who Houellebecq depicts as a caricature of the Western middle class: smug, agnostic, narcissistic, alcohol-addicted and sex-preoccupied. But there’s no smoke without fire. The question at the core of the story is how will he manage when his world is engulfed by the approaching wave of zealotry. Sink or swim? If ever there was a book for our times, Submission is it.