Wednesday, March 19, 2008
  Iraq 5 years on

The reason the posts in Baghdadskies petered out in 2006 was a comprehensive disgust at the mess the Americans had created in Iraq and the feeling that nothing I could say would be anything more than repetitions of this feeling.

Here a selection of posts in Slate on the theme of Why I Did I get Iraq wrong? to coincide with the 5th. anniversary of the invasion on March 2003, stating with Kanan Makiya.

I felt -- desperately hoped -- the invasion might produce a good result for the Iraqi people, even though I knew the reasons Bush and Blair gave for invading were lies.

In recent months Blair (my former prime Minister) has not publicly admitted he cocked it up. Perhaps when he has retired he will do so. If he doesn't he will be plagued with it for the rest of his life.


Monday, March 20, 2006
  Iraq three years on

20 March 2006

Monday, February 13, 2006
  Nonie Darwish

We were brought up to hate - and we do

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Say what you think. The importance of giving offence

Kenan Malik

In December, before the controversy over the publication of a series of Danish newspaper cartoon images of the Prophet Mohammed became a global issue, the Muslim writer and broadcaster Kenan Malik addressed the key issues raised by the furore and others like it at a conference debate convened by Index on Censorship.


Saturday, February 11, 2006
  Muhammed Cartoons (3)

Things are moving on a bit from Cartoons (3) as far as I am concerned. I have shifted into the nether regions of religion per se (What ? Where? When? Why? How?) coming across a few worthwhile contributions clustered round a book by Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained. Let them do the talking:

Religion Explained: The human instincts that fashion Gods, spirits and ancestors
Pascal Boyer London Heinemann 2001


what do the cartoonists themselves think ?

Danish cartoonists fear for their lives

Wednesday, February 08, 2006
  The Art of Controversy

Which of Schopenhauer's 38 ways of cheating in debate does Iranian president Ahmadinajad employ in
his holocaust denial?

They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets," Ahmadinejad said in a speech to thousands of people in the Iranian city of Zahedan, according to a report on Wednesday from Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting.

The West has given more significance to the myth of the genocide of the Jews, even more significant than God, religion, and the prophets," he said. "(It) deals very severely with those who deny this myth but does not do anything to those who deny God, religion, and the prophet.

If you have burned the Jews, why don't you give a piece of Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska to Israel," Ahmadinejad said.


"Our question is, if you have committed this huge crime, why should the innocent nation of Palestine pay for this crime?"



wikipedia: Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy

Cartoon from Jordanian newspaper Al Ghad

Before this it was “Wonderful, Wonderful, Copenhagen!”, Hans Christian Andersen, a mermaid, bacon, pastry, and jokes about blondes and its famous lager. Now this small country with 4% muslim population (and it needs to be said a political current questioning the strictness ofimmigration laws)

will be forever associated with 12 cartoons (and 3 more even more awful ones slipped into the dosssier which circulated around the Middle East courtesy of a Denmarkian Imman.)

Melanie Philips

reminds us

...the cartoons were not an attack on Islam. They were instead a protest against the violent intimidation being practised in its name after the author of a (totally inoffensive) children’s book about Islam had difficulty in finding an illustrator because artists feared they might be attacked.

Children's book that started it all is flying off the shelves

But this response (the only way cartoonists knew how to reply?) was ridiculous. A few paragraphs explaining the difficulty would have been preferrable. It would hardly have been reported. One wonders what said cartoonists – pretty paltry ones by these 12 examples - are thinking now
(9 Feb 06 ....from their places of hiding).

Plus: we have learnt J-P commissioned the cartoons not from the author or cartoonist involved in the book on Islam, but from others. So the paper has the most to answer for in the publishing of cartoons by a selection of other cartoonists. An obvious an act of provocation.

Though the offending cartoons were commissioned, earlier

Danish paper rejected Jesus cartoons

Guardian 6 February 2006

In April 2003, Danish illustrator Christoffer Zieler submitted a series of unsolicited cartoons dealing with the resurrection of Christ to Jyllands-Posten.

Zieler received an email back from the paper's Sunday editor, Jens Kaiser, which said: "I don't think Jyllands-Posten's readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them.


How can we have respect for Islam when we are too fearful to criticise it?
Muriel Gray
Cartoon Debate: The case for mocking religion.
Christopher Hitchen. Slate

A wide range of opinion can be found at OpenDemocracy:

which begins with Roger Scruton, British philosopher and Conservative.

The liberal dilemma: integration or vilification?
Tariq Modood

The origins of the infamous Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed do not lie in an attempt to offer contemporary comment, let alone satire, but the desire to illustrate a childrens' book. While such pictures would have been distasteful to many Muslims – hence why no illustrator could be found – the cartoons are in an entirely different league of offence. They are all unfriendly to Islam and Muslims and the most notorious implicate the prophet with terrorism. If the message was meant to be that non-Muslims have the right to draw Mohammed, it has come out very differently: that the prophet of Islam was a terrorist.

To claim one of the ridiculous cartoons depict the Prophet Mohammed as a terrorist is to show how wide is the cultural divide as much as the religious one. Most westerners would assume this bomb symbolised not some slur on the man himself but on some of his supposed adherents. This is how I interpeted it, and am entitled to my view, though it does not ask the question of my Prophet (if I had one) so I can take more detached view of it. However, the fact that so many muslim commentators claim it is both an insult to the Prophet, Islam and muslims as a whole, is patently ridiculous. This cartoon is certainly provocative (and unnecessarly) but obviously under the rublic of "Is Islam a religion of peace or what?" A question that needs an answer. The west knows to its cost that certain people who claim to be muslim think they at violent war with the west. That is the problem which concerns them more than what Islam is or is not to its adherents.

The cartoons are both in obvious bad taste, certainly unnecessary, and widen the cultural divide, let along the relious one. But muslims must consider that if the Jehad against the west had not been instigated, as exemplified by 9/11, America and western countries would not now be as here

Facing up to Islam in the Netherlands

insisiting on cultral restrictions for the sake of social harmony. What next? All orthodox Jews can't wear dreadlocks and black hats?

Neil Ascherson (anthor Opendemocracy piece) is instructive here:

A carnival of stupidity

Islam a a religion (and indeed a way of life) as a whole has been so intertwined with other issues such as the rights of Palestinians and the killing of innocent Iraqi civilians (who also happen to be muslims) that no debate on TV in the U, for example, does nothave a simple question answered by a muslim leader like Ikbal Sacranie without prefacing his remarks with some linkage of this type. So in essence it is "Oh, yes, we recognise we gain advantages by living in the west, and we respect your laws, but look what you do to the Palestinians", which though an intractible problem is not specifically a muslim problem, simply involing a people which happens to be muslim.

This type of arguing has turned the peaceful religion into a political movement in the eyes of many westerners. And of course there has always been the argument that Islam was always more than a' just a religion', a thought which concentration on Islam in recent years has brought to the attention of people who knew little of the faith. We are now in a situation where non-muslims will know as much about the faith as the average muslim, as they sit of an evening pouring over the Koran, Hadith and other commentries, in the quest for answers to questions they would have never thought to ask before.

Tariq Ramadan

Ramadan, 38, is the grandson(maternal side) of Hassan al-Banna , founder, in 1928, of the Muslim Brotherhood...

Wiki: Tariq Ramadan

Check section headed 'criticism'.

A wider ranging article on Dr. Ramadan based on the U.S. refusal to allow him into the country:

Why Tariq Ramadan?

In Islamica Magazine, also runs through the Daniele Pipes vs. Ramadan issue.


Another way of describing both the unwillingness to criticise or debate Islam in the west and the tactics used by some politically minded muslims with dreams of a caliphate is: Ketmanism.

Christopher Hitchen's Slate piece runs through some aspects:

The Captive Mind Now: What Czeslaw Milosz understood about Islam

You can't have a true political dialogue - or hopes of political and social progress - if two contrary opinions are being expressed by one side with one of these unknown to the other. Well you can - because you do, that's what's happening - but this amounts to subvervision. What my recent reading tells me is all this is what might be called called entryist in the old socialist jargon: there is the overt reasonable agenda and the revolutionary agenda within muslims groups which have their roots in the Muslim Brotherhood. This is known about but it is difficult to engage sensibly at any level, political religious, cultural, with anyone who you know has hidden agendas.

Did this type of thing go on in the hey day of the Fourth International?

Ramadan on BBC2 Newsnight 7 February, 2006, was very reasonable and did not saying anything like what he says here in this article on his own website, is Muslim Brotherhood, Oxford based academic and advisor to British Home Office:

Free speech and civic responsibility

How does one imagine that the average Muslim in Europe who opposes terrorism will react seeing the Prophet Muhammad depicted with a bomb in his turban? Publishing these cartoons is a very stupid way to address the issue of freedom of speech.

Since Muslims do not have a sense of humour about their religion - we are told - it is cut and dried. Of course not. But for muslims and non-muslims who are able to discuss what the cartoons might mean, the one with the bomb, for example, might represent not what Mohammed did or thought or represents, but what some Muslims are perceived to be doing to Mohammed and Islam. The context: the fear of cartoonists to draw for a book on Islam, don't forget. If that might be what this cartoon means, though it is a bit weak as cartoons go, it is understandable, however offencsive to some muslims. Even it was not the cartoonists meaning, one could suggest this is what it might mean and this could be the basis for a debate, within the Islamic world and between muslims and non-muslims, along the lines of: Has Islam been hijacked? Or, Has it been perceived to have been hijacked?

The fact that so many Muslims get so heated about such a cartoon - which in itself no one in right mind could believe is going to bring down the religion - only makes matters worse. It encourages people who are generally anti-religious to claim the religion must be deemed weak in foundation by its adherents to need defending in such a way.


....let’s have a true debate about the future of our society. Muslims have to understand there is free speech in Europe, and that is that. On the other side, there needs to be an understanding that sensitive issues must be addressed with wisdom and prudence, not provocation. Just because you have the legal right to do something doesn’t mean you have to do it. You have to understand the people around you. Do I go around insulting people just because I’m free to do it? No. It’s called civic responsibility.
So, is this perhaps how the entryist talks? No mention of the lack of civility amongst hot-headed muslims. No mention that free speech might be 'a good thing', simply that muslims have to accept free speech, which sounds supiciously like it is 'not a good thing' for anyone. This stirs up more bad feeling and deep suspicion amongst people who might in different times have been very willing to accept difference . It implies there is a deep divide both religiously and culturally. Though the two, religion and culture (or tradition) are often conflated to confuse matters even more. And even as he writes this Dr. Ramadan knows not many non-muslims will overtly criticise Islam or the Prophet because they know their lives might me made hell. He knows the Danish cartoonists, for example, are in hiding asw e engage in our armchair debate.

Perhaps the debate can start with the vexed question of which Islam the West is to deal with, the peace loving one or the revolutionary/ reactionary one? The majority view or the minority view?

Another debating point might revolve around schism - a question that could be asked of the Christian Church too.

Amir Tahiri :

Bonfire of the Pieties
Islam prohibits neither images of Muhammad nor jokes about religion.

Perhaps the British side of the story can best be illustrated by the furore over a young Asian man who dressed up as a suicide bomber to parade his placard in protest against the miserable cartoons, later gave a fulsome apology on prime time TV, presumably at the instigation of muslim elders, then was discovered to be a convicted drug dealer who was violating his parole. So much for the benefits of his faith. or are we to blsme our decadent society and degraded culture for his drug habit?

You can take all this several ways: one, hypocrisy and double standards all round, and the way the media can be manipulated or indeed how it willingly colludes in stirring up trouble on one hand while protesting about its freedoms and everyone else's freedoms on the other; two, that cultures can't mix and the idea that multiculturalism doesn't work.

Vocal Islamic protest is for a few hot-heads the place to be right now. In the old days similar young men across the world would have expressed their anger at the world as it was through some form of Marxism, Trotskyism or Maoism. When there is no longer a theoretical political framework for one's grievances where do you turn? How do you express these grievances?

Even more important: that Muslims and non-Muslims can freely debate the merits and demerits of religion per se and specific religions to society as a whole and to the societies in which muslims by their million have chosen to settle. This freedom is being curtailed by fear of offending muslims. That is to say just one of the many religions which exist.

Freedom of speech, and many other more basic ones, are almost impossible in most of the countries from which these muslims originated. For example, Muslim Brotherhood members are regularly locked up in Egypt in large numbers. Whereas a muslim from Bradford can go to settle in Saudi Arabia and practice his faith, provided it is the Wahabbi version of course, a person of the Christian faith from the same town could be locked up if seen carrying Bible under his arm along a street in Jeddah. There won't be any churches for him to pray in in any case.


wiki: Islamophobia

Islamophobia: A definition
The islamophobia myth Kenan Malik


Of Freedom of Speech: That the same is inseparable from publick Liberty.

Speech For The Liberty Of Unlicensed Printing To The Parliament Of England

John Milton (1608-1674): Areopagitica,1643