Paris attacks

No place is safe. You can be hit anywhere where people gather. This seemed to be the message of the six co-ordinated attacks in Paris on a sports stadium, a concert hall, three restaurants and a shopping centre. As the Paris metro ground to a stop, as air and sea ports were closed, as the streets emptied, as France closed its borders, and as the army fanned out onto the streets of Paris the terrorists’ strikes seemed to be successful.

Coverage is everywhere. The BBC has a blow by blow account, finishing with a chronology. They also have live updates. The Guardian has collected its coverage on this site. Please share sites that you have found of interest.

At least 120 people have been killed, I’ve seen estimates as high as 158. The purpose seemed to be to kill as many people as possible. eight terrorists have been killed. Three at the Bataclan concert venue exploded their suicide vests.

Natalie Nougayrède says:

    France is one of the European countries from which hundreds of Isis recruits, often French-born and educated and sometimes converts, have travelled to Syria. Online radicalisation has been growing – a phenomenon not unlike a sect. A lot of this plugs, of course, into a social and economic context of high youth unemployment, especially in suburbs, and racist discrimination against Arabs and Africans.

    Muslims in France will now increasingly fear being associated with fanaticism and terror. Populist, far-right groups may well fuel more hatred. After Charlie Hebdo, thousands of French soldiers were dispatched across the country to secure key installations, schools, train stations, institutions.

    It will be key for French officials now to send the signals that might prevent the kind of social dislocation and national breakdown that those who orchestrated this latest onslaught are no doubt trying to provoke.

    For the wider European scene and the west, what has happened in Paris can only be a watershed and many will see it as a crude, violent, traumatic reminder of the fact we all still live in the post-9/11 era.

At the BBC live coverage Europe Correspondent Damian Grammaticas asks some questions:

    What happened in Paris last night is exactly what Europe’s security services have long feared, and tried to foil. Simultaneous, rolling attacks, with automatic weapons and suicide bombers in the heart of a major European city, targeting multiple, crowded public locations. These tactics have been used before in Mumbai and elsewhere. But how they’ve come to Europe many questions will have to be answered. Were the attackers French citizens, if so, how they were radicalised, armed and organised? In France, in Syria, by whom? Why weren’t they detected? Is France, after two major attacks this year, uniquely vulnerable? Or does the carnage in Paris mean all of Europe faces new threats to our public places and events? And if a Syrian link is proven, will France recoil from that conflict or will it redouble its commitment to the fight against radical groups there?

That was at 06:54. At 10:04 Francois Hollande has said that Islamic State was behind the attack in Paris, which he called an “act of war”. He also said the attacks had been planned and organised from abroad with help from inside France.

About an hour later, at 11:02, Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks.

    In a statement published online, the jihadist group said the attacks were designed to show France it remained a “top target”.

Perhaps, but it certainly seems likely the attackers had some outside help.

Perhaps France has indeed been attacked because it has been more active than the rest in tackling Syria.

There was a feeling in the German press coverage that a line had been crossed. Europe would never be the same again.

It seems to me that the only way the authorities can prevent such strikes is by good intelligence, and that means getting friendly with the local mainstream Muslim population.

It seems to me that closing borders within the Schengen group of countries will be difficult and disruptive. Hollande gave a fine speech saying that “our fight will be merciless”, but it’s not immediately apparent what form the fight will take, or what his security forces are doing when are “staging an assault”.

Malcolm Turnbull was generally supportive, an improvement on what that other bloke would have said.

Finally, I’m with Jeremy Corbyn, who said:

    My thoughts are with the victims in Paris tonight. We stand in solidarity with the French. Such acts are heinous and immoral.

And finally, finally, here’s the Sydney Opera House in the colours of the French flags:

Sydney opera house 6941734-3x2-550

158 thoughts on “Paris attacks”

  1. Given their holy book is riddled with commands to convert or kill non-muslims, should the other 60 million be forced ,under threat of death, to convert ?

    A democratic plebiscite may be required here, I’m guessing ” expulsion ” will carry the day.

  2. One of many examples;

    Qur’an (9:5) “But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem; but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them…”

  3. I am hoping that now we will see a powerful response from Muslims who wish to declare their disgust with this atrocity and all terror activities.
    It is a great opportunity for the majority of Muslims to distance themselves publicly from terror in all forms. For too long, in my view, Muslims in Australia seem to have been pretty silent about opposing terror and some aspects of Sharia law. Again, in my view, it is time they stood up and declared themselves as opposed to terror. Failure to take such as step might be seen as tacit support for such atrocities and the dark side of the Muslim religion.

  4. al-Bukhari, apparently the “…most proficient and celebrated hadith (hadith is the reported saying or action of Muhammed and second only to the Qur’an…”) scholar collected and examined some 600,000 sayings (of Muhammed) and retained only 7225. Other scholars kicked in some more and collectively that became the Summa that represents the body of sacred law.
    How good the distillation process was can be discussed but likely the quality suffered as much as Christian debate did.
    All that is to say Jumpy, is that to me, citing Qur’an is not to cite automatic authority of Muslim thought even if the citation itself is accurately drawn from the Qur’an. Same thing with the bible.
    (Google ISBN 978-0-307-47365-3 Holland, T. 2012 In the Shadow of the Sword for my source. Difficult but fantastic read)

  5. Geoff,
    You and I may disregard a directive from Uncle Mo, moslems may not.
    They promise that 5 time a day.

  6. But Jumpy, they clearly do not obey in the majority, with your quote of 6:13 am est today.
    And there is no way I could tell how earnest their prayers are or whether or not it is a public display of obeisance to satisfy a form of passive surveillance. Christian church-goers I am sure do the same thing – personal experience.

  7. Brian,

    No, if I was French I most certainly wouldn’t be arguing for fellow citizens to be expelled. I think the West must handle this challenge in a way that demonstrates that Western secular values are superior.


    Addressing your point from the other thread- French Algeria, which I have read about it, has absolutely nothing to do with this. The French left Algeria more than 50 years ago and relations with that country have been . Are the Indo-Chinese blowing up Paris because of French colonialism in that part of the world?

  8. Karen, Obama mentioned both “liberty, equality, fraternity” which came out of the French Revolution and “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” from the US Declaration of Independence.

    It seems to me that we need to pursue policies that culturally integrate our Muslim minorities in a way that minimises radicalisation. I can’t accept though, that religious values are inherently inferior. That, for me, is in the too hard basket.

    Jumpy, expulsion could never be justified on ethical grounds, even if voted for by the majority. Essentially, the question should not be put to the vote.

  9. Jumpy,

    the Christian Bible is also full of vile commands to kill, rape, commit genocide and so on. IMO Jesus himself was nothing more than a common criminal who ran a religious cult. Even the New Testament, which probably excludes much of the ugly truth, lets enough through to reveal the nature of the beast.

    Some Jesus quotes:

    “Then he told them, “But now whoever has a wallet must take it along, and his traveling bag, too. And the one who has no sword must sell his coat and buy one.” Luke 22:36

    “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword.” 10:34-36

    If I was the French Prez I would point out that all these old Abrahamic religious texts are the work of barbaric desert dwelling camel jockeys.

  10. Jumpy, I think it was last year that I read Karen Armstrong’s Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence. There are reviews by David Shariatmadari , by James Fallows and by Emma Green.

    I agree with Fallows that it would have been better if Armstrong had not tried to make her argument watertight. Nevertheless she shows pretty comprehensively that violence overwhelmingly has social, cultural and political causes. Religion gets pulled in. Christianity’s record historically is no better than Islam.

    Religions are embedded in society in their origins and their foundational texts cannot be taken as manuals for daily living. The Bible, for example, sanctions slavery.

    Armstrong goes into detail about the genesis of the Muslim faith within the contemporary society. There was endemic violence amongst the tribes around Mecca. They had a code of virtue and honour called muruwah, encompassing courage, patience and endurance, but with a violent core. There was an inherent tendency to violence and retaliation. She says that the bedrock message of the Quran was “simply a reminder of what a constituted a just society that challenged the structural violence emerging in Mecca.”

      Unlike the tribesmen, who retaliated violently at the slightest provocation, Muslims must not strike back but leave revenge to Allah, consistently treating all others with gentleness and courtesy. Socially, the surrender of islam would be realised by learning to live in community: believers would discover their deep bond with other human beings, whom they would strive to treat as they would wish to be treated themselves. ‘Not one of you can be a believer,’ Muhammad is reported to have said, ‘unless he desires for his neighbour what he desires for himself.’

    She then talks about how Muhammad and his followers went to Medina to escape Meccan capitalism, but couldn’t make a crust there and ended up dispatching raiding parties to attack Meccan trading caravans, ironically of their own tribe.

    It’s all pretty complex and tied to the conditions of the times, but Armstrong says:

      There is no univocal or systematic Quranic teaching about military violence. Sometimes God demands patience and restraint rather than fighting; sometimes he gives permission for defensive warfare and condemns aggression; but at other times he calls for offensive warfare within certain limits; and occasionally these restrictions were lifted.

    Later Muhammad returned to Mecca in triumph. His proclamations seemed to vary with the circumstances.

    Early scholars varied in where they placed the emphasis, but Armstrong says that by the ninth century more militant interpretations prevailed probably because by that time they had an empire to defend. Nevertheless Muslims as imperial overlords often treated their Christian subjects quite well.

    As a result on the chequered history, for Muslims now there is plenty to pick from to support whatever suits, but Armstrong insists that the historical mission given Muslims by the Quran was “to create a just community in which all members, even the weakest and most vulnerable, would be treated with absolute respect.”

  11. It seems to me that we need to pursue policies that culturally integrate our Muslim minorities in a way that minimises radicalisation.

    And where islam is the majority ?
    Hows the tolerance and integration going there ?

  12. Christianity’s record historically is no better than Islam.

    We’re living now Dude, how our ancestors acted is not relevant.

    Christians are not, at this moment, slaughtering christians because they’re not christian enough.
    Mohammedans are.

  13. Karen

    If I was the French Prez I would point out that all these old Abrahamic religious texts are the work of barbaric desert dwelling camel jockeys.

    Me too.
    Dont confuse condemnation of one theology as support for another, too many here do that already.
    Yet some, at points in time, deserve it more than others.

  14. Jumpy, if you want to argue that a religion is inherently violent you have to look at history.

    Karen Armstrong did and you can’t conveniently wave away what she found because it doesn’t suit you.

    Geoff, I have seen some Muslims declaring their “disgust with this atrocity and all terror activities”, but it’s not coming through strongly yet.

    There is a problem in what is counted as ‘news’, and how that related to what we see and hear.

  15. It seems two of the dead terrorists had passports showing they had been to Egypt and Syria.

    Some of those in the Bataclan concert venue were heard to be speaking “native French”. One was identified from a finger print as a 30 year-old Frenchman who was known to police and flagged as a possible extremist.

    Three men living in the same flat in Belgium have been linked to the attacks.

  16. Brian

    Jumpy, if you want to argue that a religion is inherently violent you have to look at history.

    I do and I do.
    The trouble is most have wiggle room for universal Liberty, islam does not.

    Why do you expend such energy defending an ideology that hates you and insists you go against every one of your strongest beliefs.

    Look up surveys of moslems in any country in the world on instituting sharia law or support for jihadis, no results under 50% will you find, closer to 85%.

  17. So he grew up in the same ” social and political ” environment as every other French person but his ” culture ” was at odds, hmmm….

  18. not quite in agreement jumpy. no one could have predicted Christianity would become at least vaguely civilised during the inquisition etc… islam will probably do the same but it might take five hundred years. until they civilise themselves i don’t want them living near my daughters.

  19. Hahahahaha!!!

    I just had a look at this article at The Conversation about the Paris attacks. Out of 152 comments, the lefty luvvies who moderate The Conversation deleted every comment bar two.

    According to The Economist, over 40% of the white French working class now votes National Front and just 24% vote Socialist. This was before the Paris attacks.

    Both of these vaguely related facts are indicative of how the Left has almost completely lost touch with the Great Unwashed White Masses.

    The future of the Left looks bleak, which is a huge pity because so much of the Right is absolutely Looney Tunes.

  20. What really struck while watching the ABC’s one hour evening news special on the Paris bombings was just how small the damage done to Paris compared with all the damage that has happened elsewhere as a result of the mess in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq as well as the bitter conflict between Sunni and Shiite.
    Perhaps this facebook post on the subject puts it better than I could:

    “Woke this morning deeply disturbed by the news from #Paris, but more amazed by the attention it received on social media. I understand Paris is a beloved and familiar space for a lot of people, but it troubled me that #Beirut, a city my father grew up in, had received so little attention after the horrific bombings two days earlier. It also troubled me that #Baghdad, a place I have absolutely no connection with, received even less attention after the senseless bombing that took place there last week. Worst of all, I found the understanding of the refugee crisis skewed and simplistic. If you’ve been following the journeys of the people leaving their homes around the world right now, perhaps you’ll understand why the words #SyrianRefugeeCrisis are just as devastating as #PrayForParis. It’s time to pray for humanity. It is time to make all places beloved. It’s time to pray for the world.

  21. Jumpy, I did look at some surveys, and came to the conclusion that there is no decent research showing whether the Muslim populations in places like Britain, France, Germany, the US etc are radicalising, which is my main concern. From a few bits that turned up it looks as though they may be, at least in France.

    You are still looking through the wrong prism. A civilised society requires a functional modern secular state where all citizens have equal rights, which according to Fukuyama has three elements. First you need a strong and capable state which collects taxes, can defend itself externally, maintain order internally and provide necessary services like education, hospitals etc.

    Secondly, there must be a rule of law that applies equally to everyone, and a competent justice system to which everyone has access.

    Thirdly, the government of the state needs to be accountable to the citizens through universal suffrage.

    Such states have only existed in the 20th century. Many fall short in their justice system including us to some extent.

    I think there is a fourth, which Fukuyama doesn’t mention. It’s the notion of economic growth, and a standard of living that provides dignity for all. In most countries that didn’t happen before WW2. Until about 500 years ago wealth was a zero sum game. If you wanted more you had to take it off other people.

    There is also a fifth, which can be thought of as identity – something that binds us together and distinguishes us. Here ethnicity, culture, language and religion can play a part.

    Religion also may be the source of some of the values and norms that are codified into law. There are some religious values and norms that the law should prevent or curtail, and Islam has thrown up some of these IMO.

    Religion playing into identity is problematic if it tends to exclude, which almost inevitably it does. That’s true of all religions, including Islam.

    I noticed in the 2013 Pew survey, (but I’ve lost the reference) that well over 90% of Muslims believe that people should be free to believe what they want to believe.

    The survey also said:

    American Muslims are even more likely than Muslims in other countries to firmly reject violence in the name of Islam. In the U.S., about eight-in-ten Muslims (81%) say that suicide bombing and similar acts targeting civilians are never justified. Across the globe, a median of roughly seven-in-ten Muslims (72%) agrees.

    Obviously I’d wish both of those numbers were higher.

    I don’t think the numbers on sharia law mean much, because as the survey said many Muslims have different ideas about it and many think it should only apply to Muslims.

    Wahhabism was/is a virulent form of Islam designed to take us back to the 7th century. It needs to be actively opposed.

    What’s coming out of Islamic state is worse, and difficult because it gained a foothold through the failure of the Iraqi state, post our intervention. I don’t know what is to be done about it.

    Clearly, though, there is a battle of hearts and minds to be won amongst Muslim minorities in free democratic states, and if we stereotype moderate Muslims, we’ll lose.

  22. The attacks in Paris were fundamentally political acts, just as 911, the various atrocities carried out by both sides of the troubles in Ireland and the bombing of the King David Hotel were political acts.
    That in all of these cases the perpetrators identified with a particular sect of an Abrahamic religion is correlation, not causation.

  23. Very good points, Brian. High rates of chronic unemployment certainly aren’t helpful. Economic uncertainty in part also explains why much of the white working class has flocked to the National Front which opens up the possibility of some serious political blowback for French Muslims.

  24. Worth reading in thinking through the issue of “religious violence” is William Cavanaugh’s study “The Myth of Religious Violence”. Study which explores the emergence of the categories of religion and secular and their close connection to the development of the nation-state.

  25. Douglas, that’s excellent. I read Karen Armstrong’s book on religious violence shortly after I read Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order, along with Tom Holland’s Millennium, which looked at political/religious situation in the centuries before and after 1000AD, including the struggles between pope and emperor for supremacy.

    Armstrong and Fukuyama seems complementary and from what you say Cavanaugh works in the space where they intersect.

    I’ve added to the second sentence of the second paragraph of my earlier comment to read “A civilised society requires a functional modern secular state where all citizens have equal rights…

    zoot, I think you are right. Fundamentalist religion is being used politically.

  26. Zoot: You are right about the exploitation of fundementalist religion. It is not just Islam. For example, fundamentalist Christianity certainly seems to be being used in the US.
    In the US context it is worth noting both the US and overseas reaction to the terrorist killings by non-Muslims. (I am thinking of the endless mass shootings.) In these cases we understand that the people are not representative of the subcultures they come from except where the terrorists come out with Islamic statements.
    There are over 6 million Muslims living in France. The bombings were done by a few extremists who don’t represent French Muslims – yet the reaction is all about Islam. A reaction that may inspire the next group of Muslim extremists.

  27. @Karen
    Thank you for providing scripture references to the Christian Bible and saving me a task. I completely agree with the points you have raised.

    Using your logic, all the Christians who fail to publicly condemn priests for kiddy fiddling are obviously in support of it.

    ISIS represents mainstream Islam no more than the KKK or Westboro Baptist Church represents mainstream Christianity.

  28. Initially John Davidson tried to attribute the ISIS Paris Attacks to French colonialism in Algeria (which ended more than 50 years ago) and the ban on women wearing full face coverings in public.

    Now Davidson complains that the French reaction “may inspire the next group of Muslim extremists.” Davidson makes this complaint even though we are not seeing random mosque burnings or Muslims citizens being beheaded by vigilantes in the streets of Paris or anything of the sort.

    Davidson articulates a view that is now dominant or almost so within the academic Left and the Australian Greens and like circles in other liberal democracies. In this view, white people and their governments are accountable moral agents and almost always evil whereas non-white people are moral patients who can’t be held responsible for anything they do because they are forever and always will be responding in an understandable way to evil whites.

    The big winners out of this morally atrophied worldview are the populist anti-immigrant political parties and conservative parties because much of the white working class sees that the modern Left really does despise them.

  29. You have excelled yourself Karen!
    I do agree that the workers are often manipulated by right wing populists who play the racist card while despising and exploiting the workers.
    However, I don’t think the solution is for the left or Greens to support all the rants against “the others.” I really think that encouraging people to try and put themselves in others shoes is important. Consider the Pygmalion effect before blaming the others and declaring them evil or whatever.

  30. Karen re your comment, I’ll skip the first para thanks, the second is nonsense, but the third contains this gem:

    In this view, white people and their governments are accountable moral agents and almost always evil whereas non-white people are moral patients who can’t be held responsible for anything they do because they are forever and always will be responding in an understandable way to evil whites.

    This seems to me a complete caricature of what John was saying.

    Governments of states like France belong to all citizens, and not all of them are white.

    Governments act and any act has a moral dimension, but to characterise them as ‘moral agents’ goes too far. Their actions are more effective, or less effective, but often there is room for improvement. Certainly they are accountable for their actions to the citizens. The notion of ‘evil’ is unhelpful, inappropriate and misleading, but it allows you to slide into a different lexicon and paint a phantasmagorical picture of what John has been saying.

    If the actions of the French government perchance help to alienate and radicalise Moslems, this does not absolve terrorists from responsibility for acts of terror, and I don’t think John is saying that it does.

    I’m sorry to say this again. Comments like this may excused as robust debate, but I do not find them respectful. Nor do they contribute to creating and maintaining a congenial and inclusive space.

  31. Brian says:

    “Governments act and any act has a moral dimension, but to characterise them as ‘moral agents’ goes too far.”

    Try typing something like: “are governments moral agents”
    into Google.

    In many ethical theories the government is considered a moral agent. Are you unfamiliar with the use of the terms moral agents and moral patients in ethical philosophy?

    Earlier on the Saturday Salon thread JD said “… On a similar theme I have also said in the past that Abbott was one of the best things ISIS recruiters had going for them in Australia.”

    JD does appear to be apportioning blame to everyone but the perpetrators themselves and the Muslim homes and neighbourhoods that incubate these individuals.

    Finally, are you familiar with the views of Maajid Nawaz, a reformed former Islamist who gets a reasonable amount of media coverage in his homeland, Britain? Nawaz is highly critical of the apologist Left camp to which JD apparently belongs. I think he is spot on.

  32. Brian I would like to add one very practical consideration to this debate and I hope some of the commenters here will really take it on board and think about it.

    One likely reason that you will not get many Muslims (or even non-Muslims who have Muslim friends and relations) joining in these public discussions is that the risk of vilification and possibly worse is too great.

    If anyone thinks I am exaggerating, I can tell you that I posted a message about a rally for refugees on Facebook recently (not even specifically about Muslims) and got a really vile comment from a perfect stranger that was both anti-Muslim and also directed at me in a particularly nasty personal way (and I’m fairly obviously not Muslim).

    Imagine what might get if you publicly declared yourself as a Muslim or someone of Muslim heritage and made a comment in a public conversation on these issues. Why should anyone be expected to expose themselves to that?

  33. Val: You are quite right about the pressures on Muslims to just shut up. If they make a public statement they may attract attacks from both Muslims and the non-Muslim extremists. There is not only the concern about people attacking you but a concern that people will attack spouses and children.
    After 9/11 one of my wife’s Muslim friends (who was horrified by 9/11) said that the bus her kids were in was stoned on the way to their Brisbane school. (The mosque she belonged to was also fire bombed and had to be rebuilt.)
    The things that happened during a very bitter industrial conflict in Newman also gave us an insight into what it would be like to live in a place like Northern Ireland. It was bitter to the point where someone’s pool was fired and brake lines cut. Bitter to the point where I made a concious decision to move the beds away from the windows in case someone threw a brick through the window at night.
    My wife as she does started a “I speak to everyone” campaign with badges to try and keep separate the industrial campaign bitterness from the normal community spirit. After she appeared on TV she had to field an angry phone call.
    As the conflict continued we became more and more careful about what we said, in part because of a concern about violent responses.
    I remember saying at the time that I started to understand what it would be like to live in Northern Ireland. Not just the niggling fear but the pressure to keep your head down and be loyal to your faction.

  34. This one put it all very nicely:

    I heard it explained well over the weekend: “If you can differentiate between ‘all Christians’ and ‘the KKK’, and their actions, surely you can differentiate between ‘all Muslims’ and ‘Islamic State’ and their actions.” It’s not terribly difficult.

    I have also seen commentators suggesting that “ISIS uses religion to justify their political agenda – Their political agenda was not inspired by religion.” Think of all the wars for political gain that have been blessed by the religious leaders.

  35. Absolutely John I think that fear of what could happen to children or family is a huge deterrent.

    Because the issue is that people who are calling for Muslims to speak out are actually putting themselves in a position of judges rather than trying to have a dialogue. So Muslims would know that whatever they said, someone would probably find fault with it.

  36. I suppose I’m a militant atheist. If one lives in a free country and chooses to follow the teachings of a warlord, bandit, murderer and child sex offender (Aisha, only 9 years old) whose religious teachings talk of the dhimmi status of unbelievers; persecution of homosexuals; subjugation of women; desirability of slavery; persecution of apostates; and hacking of limbs and so many other vile things then one is automatically suspect. A religion such as this defiles all of humanity.

    In truth, ISIS reflects the teachings of the Prophet far more so than “moderate” Muslims.

    Mind you, when a Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon visits my farm to try to convert my family to their evil religion, which happens once every two years or so, I bring out my bookmarked copies of the Old Testament and New Testament and ask them to explain the filthy text I’ve highlighted. None of them ever can.

    Marx was right, religion is the opium of the masses. In my view the right thing to do is hate the sin (religiosity) but love the sinner (the weak and depraved addict).

    Maybe I read to much Richard Dawkins 😉

  37. Not a quote from Tony Abbott in a Murdoch rag yesterday but from Voltaire in France around 250 years ago,

    “The Koran teaches fear, hatred, contempt for others, murder as a legitimate means for the dissemination and preservation of this satanic doctrine, it talks ill of women, classifies people into classes, calls for blood and ever more blood. Yet, that a camel trader sparks uproar in his tribe, that he wants to make his fellow citizens believe that he talked to the archangel Gabriel; that he boasted about being taken up into heaven and receiving a part of that indigestible book there, which can shake common sense on every page, that to gain respect for this work, he covers his country with fire and iron, that he strangles fathers, drags away daughters, that he leaves the beaten a free choice between death and his faith: now this is certainly something that no-one can excuse, unless he came as a Turk into the world, unless superstition has stifled any natural light of reason in him. ”

    If John and Val think moslems are in fear to speak out, ask a media outlet or a politician to express the above sentiment.
    Then you will see fear.

  38. I’m still trying to catch my breath about this business, and the range of comments underscores the narrow views I have developed over the years.
    I will say though that I have little sympathy for the fear Muslims have about speaking out about terrorism or Sharia law for that matter. Sometimes you have to show courage, to stand in front of the assailant and so “No!” Sometime you need to see ahead and vision what if I don’t fix this thing?

    And Karen says: “In truth, ISIS reflects the teachings of the Prophet far more so than “moderate” Muslims.”
    That might be the case but it is unlikely. He was widely credited with hundreds of thousands of hadiths, most of which when scrutinised were rejected as being his words. Same with Christ probably. Here is a link I came across whilst trying to verify a “saying” (hadith).

  39. Geoff, I could point you to similar apologetic websites for National Socialism, Scientology and the Exclusive Brethren. Would you also believe them? Fact checking is fairly easy these days, thanks to Google. Your nominated website is not in the least bit factual. Do your own due diligence.

    Brian invokes Karen Armstrong. Armstrong is a Catholic nun turned mystic who wants the three major Abrahamic religions to come together in a kumbuya moment. I think the skeptic community is right to dismiss her as a fuzzy minded lightweight and falsifier of history.

    As I see it, the Prophet was just another cookie cutter warlord who died while carving out an empire in the Middle East. The content of his sayings (Hadiths) and the Koran reflected whatever was politically expedient at the time. All empire building warlords, even Hitler, gave wonderful speeches about peace love and understanding when they thought it tactically advantageous. But what matters most is your actions; the Prophet engaged in offensive military action and slaughtered people when it suited him. And you can’t airbrush out the stomach churning words of the Prophet.

  40. Yes Karen. I don’t come from a position of certainty. I make that clear enough and am quite comfortable with my imperfection. I can’t muster acerbic certainty the way you seem to and I am OK with that too. Placing your trust in a Google search is only a few keystrokes past Wikipedia.
    To dismiss the Prophet as a “…another cookie cutter…” undermines your admirable intellect Karen.

  41. Google gives you access to crap but it also gives you access to what was once only accessible in libraries.

    What makes the Prophet more admirable than other warlords, Geoff? Is it the fact that he has sexual contact with pre-pubescent girls?

  42. I’ll have a bit of a go tonight, and then probably leave it, or nothing new will appear on the blog.

    I haven’t had the time to fully investigate issues relating to the Muslim religion, ISIS, French government policies or terrorism in general as a phenomenon. I wrote the post to introduce the topic and provide a facility for sharing links. So I’m not blessed with certainty.

    Similarly my position on the existence of God is roughly speaking agnostic, in the sense, I don’t know. I won’t however, assert that all others are false in their beliefs. So “Catholic nun” and “mystic” are not derogatory terms for me.

    That doesn’t actually fully capture my position, but it’s as near as I can communicate in this context.

    On Karen Armstrong, James Fallows says:

    when she touches on areas I do know about, mainly involving the histories of the United States, Japan and China, she seems careful, fair and true. This naturally inclines me to trust her elsewhere.

    I don’t think she can be dismissed as lightweight and a falsifier of history.

    Val, I think your warning is timely, and Geoff, I think we need to give people space to determine themselves whether they speak out or not. We don’t walk in their shoes.

  43. Karen:
    ” Is it the fact that he [the Prophet] has sexual contact with pre-pubescent girls?”
    No one can ever establish that to have been the case Karen. And it is hardly part of the conversation.

  44. A few sundry bits:

    Paul Syvret’s piece in the CM is probably worth a read, His main is that tarring all Muslims with the same brush is playing into extremists’ hands.

    Similarly Waleed Aly made an impassioned plea which went viral. This piece says 16 million hits, I heard 34 million by today.

    Time had a piece on Muslims of the world speak out. There was an even more comprehensive one on a blog, but the blog didn’t link to individual posts.

    Steve Austin on ABC Brisbane local radio has been exploring the use of social media in radicalisation. He reckons there are 10 people here in Oz pumping stuff out. He said 90,000 messages a day, but that seems a bit much. Nevertheless something significant is going on in that space.

    I heard that Singapore has a system of lincencing mosques. It includes setting up panels of moderate Muslims who determine the curriculum of their schools.

  45. Karen, your comment is supposed to be a gotcha. To some degree it is, but my comment stands.

    You’ve used fancy language to convey a statement that is simplistic and wrong-headed, and amounts to name-calling. Geoff used the term ‘acerbic’ but I think your use of ridicule is a problem in commenting.

  46. Jumpy,
    Quoting Voltaire on religion, any religion, to bolster an anti-religious argument is a bit like quoting George Pell to bolster a pro-Catholic argument.

  47. “I don’t think she can be dismissed as lightweight and a falsifier of history.”

    Some of the critics of her book Fields of Blood would disagree re: falsifying history.

  48. From the Guardian, no less:

    This urge to sanitise unflattering facts is nowhere more obvious than in biographies of Muhammad, of which Karen Armstrong’s ubiquitous contributions are perhaps the least reliable.

    … Spencer has written a provocative book likely to arouse passions. But the arguments he presents are rigorous, and the evidence compelling, if disquieting. Spencer argues that at present it is the jihadists, not moderates, who have the stronger theological argument.

    [A]s Spencer ably documents, the evidence for Muhammad’s all-too-human shortcomings is not some malicious fabrication on the part of infidels. The evidence is found in the writings of Islamic scholars of the period and in the very texts millions of Muslims regard as the embodiment of God. Denial, as they say, is not just a river in Egypt.

    So a murderous warlord who built an empire on the back of his sword turns out to be a murderous warlord who built an empire on the back of his sword. What a surprise!

  49. Paul Burns

    I quote Voltaire because he seems to carry some weight here on Brians blog, appearing every Saturday, no less.
    Even to illustrate islam hasn’t changed since Voltaires observations.
    I hear some knowledgeable are chatting of christianity and it’s turning from violence because of something called the Enlightenment ( that I know nothing of ) and that the islamic folk could benefit if they had one.

    As an historian of sorts, I be happy to hear your view on this.

  50. Jumpy, I love conversations. Voltaire was a famous conversationalist with Fred the Great for a time. If you can find me another conversationalist I’ll consider them.

    There is zero chance Mark will revive LP, IMO. I think he’s moved on.

  51. Karen, FYI Karen Armstrong is not a nun, she’s an ex-nun. Seems she left disillusioned in 1969, so don’t falsify history!

    The charge that she falsified history is a serious one. Fields of Blood has 366 pages of text, 70 pages of footnotes and a bibliography of 43 pages. She’s put a bit of work in. Does she quote sources as saying the opposite of what they say, like Ian Plimer, or other ways deliberately mislead? I’ve found no-one saying so. I haven’t found any negative reviews. I did find this positive one, possibly the best so far, certainly the best exposition of her main thesis. The review says:

    Her treatment is strikingly even-handed. If anything, she is throughout her book sharpest on Christianity, which is her own faith tradition. There is no adherent’s spin or blinkeredness to any of her accounts.

    So, Lee, who are her critics who say she falsifies history?

    Of course scholars can disagree on interpretation. She obviously disagrees with Robert Spencer, but if this is the one I’m not sure he counts as a scholar.

    Karen I notice the article you link to is from 2007 and it’s by David Thompson who makes the statement you quote. I can’t get a handle on David Thompson.

    Certainly Spencer wrote a book in 2007 which Armstrong apparently reviewed negatively, to which Spencer responded. In Fields of Blood, published 2014, in the chapter Global Jihad, Armstrong goes into some detail as to why Spencer is wrong.

    Her chapter on Muhammad and the emergence of Islam is 22 pages (The Muslim Dilemma) and I’m not going to summarise it here. However, where you have a bunch of warring tribes one way of stopping it is by instituting a hegemonic power over the top.

    She says Muhammed expanded his territory as much by diplomacy as by warfare, as did his successors.

    In a later chapter she says:

    Wahhabism is not inherently violent; indeed Ibn Abd al-Wahhab had refused to sanction the wars of his patron, Ibn Saud of Najd, because he was simply fighting for wealth and glory.

    She also says:

    while the Quran certainly orders Muslims to come to the aid of their brothers, Shariah law forbids violence against civilians, the use of fire in warfare, and prohibits any attack on a country where Muslims are allowed to practise their religion freely.

    I haven’t read Spencer and can’t arbitrate on who is right. I can say, however, that Fields of Blood was an impressive book for reasons which go beyond what we’ve discussed here.

  52. Brian, I said ” Armstrong is a Catholic nun turned mystic”. I originally had the word “former” in there but deleted it because it is unnecessary.

    Armstrong is a mystic with weird and wonderful theories about monotheism. She has written books that selectively uses sources and gives the most positive spin to buttress her theories. Her books tell left-wingers of your stripe what they want to believe, hence she has achieved some prominence.

    The Quran contains some nice verses as Armstrong mentions but it also contains plenty of obscene verses that contradict them. There are plenty of verses that oblige believers to wage war on the infidels, for instance:

    Sura 9:123 O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him).

    Check for yourself.

    It is dishonest of Armstrong to ignore such versus. Groups like ISIS are easily able to justify many of their actions, including enslavement and forced marriage of captive women, by quoting the Koran and Hadiths.

    I think Spencer goes too far the other way. The truth lies between the two authors but is most definitely vile by modern western standards.

  53. Karen, Armstrong doesn’t ignore the verses urging violence. She addresses the problem of inconsistency directly, and gets into word counts on at least one occasion. She says that the Quran is not a coherent revelation. It came to Muhammed piecemeal in response to particular events. There are inconsistencies, not least about warfare.

    She describes how the text was transmitted orally for some time and was fluid during this period. The issue of violence was problematic from the outset, according to her. After the text settled the issue of violence was treated variously by Islamic scholars, and there were several schools of thought.

    She quotes examples from a number of religions where clerics reach varied and opposite conclusions based on the same stories, texts, and/or bodies of ideas, sometimes, quite obviously, to suit the political stance of their rulers.

    Her overall thesis is that religion gets mixed up in politics. It had the attraction of giving ultimate value to what people do, and sometimes this is violent.

    Christianity, for example, went through contortions to justify the role of knights whose early role was as armed thugs, exploiting and extracting wealth from the local subjects. The misuse of religion to support violence perhaps reached a nadir when Pope Urban II called for a crusade to retake Jerusalem from the infidels.

    She says that violence is structurally inherent in societies built on agricultural surpluses, which throw up wealthy and powerful elites who seek to gain and increase power and possessions. Her view is that no religions are violent at core, but are appropriated and used to support this structural violence.

    It could be that she is on balance wrong in saying that the historic mission coming out of the Quran is essentially to “create a just community in which all members, even the weakest and most vulnerable, would be treated with absolute respect.” But people who should know have commented on her skill and fair-mindedness in treating historical sources.

    Many modern Muslims also see their religion as a religion of peace.

    Historians repeatedly tell us that history is important so that we don’t repeat it. Yet mostly their prescriptions for current policy are embarrassing IMO and it would not surprise if Armstrong was no exception. I haven’t come across her mystic ideas, but true mystics tend not to talk about it. Mystic ideas are not evident in Fields of Blood.

  54. There is a terrific article in today’s AFR by David Brooks based on the ideas of Rabbi Jonathon Sacks.

    It is actually compatible with Armstrong but does a better job of explaining the current violence and takes the matter forward in terms of what we should do in a way that I haven’t seen elsewhere.

    Brooks writes for NYT and the article is probably a reprint. Gotta go now. I’ll try to find a link tonight.

  55. Brian, I don’t think it is possible to disentangle politics and religion. Jesus and Muhammad *were* politicians. I can’t buy the line that religion is inherently good but gets corrupted by politics.

    The monotheistic religions *do* divide humanity up into us and them and if you belong to *them* you are an infidel, evil, sinner or whatever. This is as the heart of the monotheisms and lends itself to conflict.

    It also worth noting how Roman law and custom pre-Christianity was relatively tolerant, homosexuality was generally accepted (there are even contemporaneous accounts of gay marriage) and women had a relatively high status and various legal rights. The status of woman was also relatively high, at least in some locations, elsewhere in pre-Christian Europe.

    It was the churchmen, unfettered by the now Christian sovereigns, who eroded the status of women, reducing them to infants and chattels at law and demonising homosexuals.

    The Brooks article is here. I disagree with much of what he says but I do agree with this part of what he says Sacks says:

    Sacks’s great contribution is to point out that the answer to religious violence is probably going to be found within religion itself …

    But this bit at the end of the sentence is fluffy mystical nonsense:

    … among those who understand that religion gains influence when it renounces power.

    That’s why I said earlier that I think Islam will eventually reach a state of civility, although it may take several hundred years.

    As I see it, the Abrahamic texts are mostly vile and Jesus and Muhammed were probably just as manipulative, demented and egotistical as any modern era cult leader who claims special knowledge of the divine- let’s say L Ron Hubbard of Scientology fame.

    However the contradictory nature of the texts, the conflicting secondary documents, the fog of time and the irrational nature of faith means that one can claim to be a Christian, Muslim or Jew and believe practically anything. As Islam rubs up against the more liberal, advanced and civilised West, and social changes occur within (even in Saudi Arabia females now outperform males in tertiary education) I can see a more peaceful and liberal Islam developing.

    However I think the clincher will be the end of trillions of dollars flowing into the Middle East economies courtesy of their oil deposits. Currently this is widely viewed by Muslims as a blessing from Allah and it contributes to chauvinism. When the tap runs dry, there will be a humble reckoning.

  56. Karen, I agree with some of what you say, disagree with some of it, likewise with Brooks/Sacks. But as I’ve said before, I don’t have the gift of certainty. Sacks reminds us that the major religions will be around for the long haul and the weight of demographics favours them. It’s not something I welcome.

    I outlined here what I think is necessary for a civilised society. My preference would be that private schools should not exist as they tend to foster and perpetuate elitism and exclusionary outlooks.

    A couple of points.

    First, I think Karen Armstrong is not saying religions are inherently good. When she sums up she begins with the following:

    We have seen that, like the weather, religion ‘does lots of different things’. To claim that it has a single, unchanging and inherently violent essence is not accurate. Identical religious beliefs and practices have inspired diametrically opposed courses of action.

    Which is different.

    Second point. I’m not sure you can say the Romans had no religion before Christianity. I understood they had plenty gods to go around.

    Third, David Anthony in his book The Horse, the Wheel and Language which I posted about here, suggests that patriarchy got a huge boost when hunter/gather societies moved to herding. He cites a number of societies that moved from being matrilineal to patrilineal with this change in the economic base.

    Nevertheless, one of the defects of both Christianity and Islam has been their treatment of women, and the Romans with their female gods were probably ahead of them. BTW Anthony says that the speakers of the original Indo-Germanic language had a single, male sky god.

    Finally, if I had the time, and I don’t, I wouldn’t personally be reading the Quran to determine its true religious nature. I think you would need to go back to the 7th century Arabic, study the society of the time, and work it out from there.

  57. Karen, there is unfinished business on your comment, my response, your gotcha comment, and my response.

    My dictionary tells me that moral philosophy is a synonym for ethics. I did a one year subject (equivalent to two semesters) in ethics as a second-year philosophy offering at QU in 1961. The lecturer was a Methodist minister, and it was boring.

    In my second degree, a B Ed Studies in the 70s and 80s (a ‘graduate degree’, ie you had to be a graduate to enrol), I took courses in philosophy, sociology, psychology and management within the education context and schooling in particular.

    The quote from you I commented on was:

    In this view, white people and their governments are accountable moral agents and almost always evil whereas non-white people are moral patients who can’t be held responsible for anything they do because they are forever and always will be responding in an understandable way to evil whites.

    I find on my bookshelves a book from 1984 by Robin Barrow entitled Moral Philosophy for Education. I’d forgotten it, but I annotated it extensively. It has no moral agents or patients in the index, but has chapters on Freedom, on Autonomy and on Kant and the Respect for Persons. Your jargon must have come later.

    A central issue in schooling is child growth and development from infancy to the point where people can become full participants in adult society.

    Seeing governments as ‘moral agents’ presents no conceptual difficulty, and an analysis in those terms would be of interest. We used other terms from sociology and psychology as well as philosophy. However, I think your use of the term in this context was tendentious, as it led seamlessly into your characterisation of governments as evil.

    ‘Moral patients’ is clearly a jargon term. It turns out that moral patients function as the object of the moral responsibilities of moral agents, but can also themselves be moral agents. Your use of the term seems to imply that they don’t.

    In any case, on a blog where you assume a lay audience there should have been more elaboration and explanation.

    The real stunner, however, is your introduction of the term “evil”. Is that a term commonly used in modern moral philosophy? I’ve heard criminologists and psychologists dealing with criminals say that the term carries baggage and explains nothing that they can work with.

    Anyway I think there you went over the top, and as John D said, and excelled yourself.

  58. Brian,

    yes I’m aware that the Romans had plenty of Gods. They didn’t insist on converting everyone to their own religion, and they tended to tolerate difference much better than the monotheists. On the negative side, they enjoyed blood sports and didn’t have the charitable giving ethos of monotheistic religions.

    I strongly disagree with you on hunter/gather societies. The evidence I’ve seen, including evidence from Australia, very clearly indicates women were generally viewed as chattels and that it was normative for indigenous men to openly rape and bash them. Historical sources note the extraordinary extent of head injuries to indigenous women and even today indigenous women are 70 times more likely than other women to be hospitalised with head trauma suffered at the hands of a husband, son or other family member.

    I think many on the Left get the warm and fuzzies when they think of hunter/gatherers which precludes facing up to the harsh facts.

    You say:

    The real stunner, however, is your introduction of the term “evil”.

    I was parodying JD’s position. You might also remember Greens MP Peter Whish-Walton making an idiot of himself when he said ISIS aren’t really terrorists. I do find this type of moral relativism to be repugnant. Mind you, the bleatings of Andrew Bolt and Janet Albrechtson on the Right are just as horrible. I think JD has excelled himself with false equivalence and moral relativism.

  59. I think this parody sums up my position re the likes of Whishy-Washy-Wilson quite nicely. I aded speaker names for clarity:

    ISIS Rep: “We did this because our holy texts exhort us to to do it.”

    Clueless Lefty: “No you didn’t.”

    ISIS Rep: “Wait, what? Yes we did…”

    Clueless Lefty: “No, this has nothing to do with religion. You guys are just using religion as a front for social and geopolitical reasons.”

    ISIS Rep: “WHAT!? Did you even read our official statement? We give explicit Quranic justification. This is jihad, a holy crusade against pagans, blasphemers, and disbelievers.”

    Clueless Lefty: “No, this is definitely not a Muslim thing. You guys are not true Muslims, and you defame a great religion by saying so.”

    ISIS Rep: “Huh!? Who are you to tell us we’re not true Muslims!? Islam is literally at the core of everything we do, and we have implemented the truest most literal and honest interpretation of its founding texts. It is our very reason for being.”

    Clueless Lefty: “Nope. We created you. We installed a social and economic system that alienates and disenfranchises you, and that’s why you did this. We’re sorry.”

    ISIS Rep: “What? Why are you apologizing? We just slaughtered you mercilessly in the streets. We targeted unwitting civilians – disenfranchisement doesn’t even enter into it!”

    Clueless Lefty: “Listen, it’s our fault. We don’t blame you for feeling unwelcome and lashing out.”

    ISIS Rep: “Seriously, stop taking credit for this! We worked really hard to pull this off, and we’re not going to let you take it away from us.”

    Clueless Lefty: “No, we nourished your extremism. We accept full blame.”

    ISIS Rep: “OMG, how many people do we have to kill around here to finally get our message across?”

  60. Jumpy,
    No, not the Enlightenment. That came about 100 years later.
    It was through the Peace of Westphalia which came about 1648, when the European Catholics and Protestants finally realised that if they kept up wars motivated by religion they would irredeemably wreck European society. So they more or less agreed to put up with each other. And that’s all it was: tolerance, not acceptance of the other.
    IMHO, the Enlightenment institutes the separation of church and state, and the origins of the secular state. It’s a French thing.

  61. Karen, re your parody, there’s a Muslim woman who lives in my neighbourhood. We’re friends in a casual neighbourly way. On social occasions she drinks tea while I drink wine, and she doesn’t celebrate Christmas, but apart from that we’ve got a lot in common – retired (her) or semi retired (me) professionals who like to talk about our families, travel and such.

    She’s never once tried to convert me, let alone threatened to kill me for being an unbeliever, which is strange because according to you, Muslim fanaticism is inherent in the religion, nothing to do with politics and socio-economic factors.

    I live in an area which has quite a high proportion of Muslims (around ten per cent) in a prosperous and peaceful city with a strong commitment to multiculturalism. I’ve been here for about 15 years and there has never been any trouble between Muslims and others (of course I sincerely hope that continues). Call me a bleeding heart lefty (I’m sure you would be happy to do so) but I think your thesis that it’s all just about religion is nonsense. Moreover I think the sort of anti-Muslim sentiments that are being stirred up in Australia now are much more likely to lead to violence than any of my bleeding heart lefty attitudes.

  62. Val

    She’s never once tried to convert me, let alone threatened to kill me for being an unbeliever, which is strange because according to you …

    You’re attributing ideas to me that I don’t have. Your comprehension skills are poor for someone who is tertiary educated. I don’t have any Muslim acquaintances now but in my youth I dated a very charming Muslim medical student. I never felt threatened. Do you understand the word “nuance”?

    It is worth reading Maajid Nawaz, a Muslim who was once a radical Islamist but is now critical of Islamism but also the behavior of what he calls the regressive left.

  63. Nice personal anecdote Val.
    I once worked, every work day for 3.5 years with a ” moderate ”
    drug dealer.
    He never once offered me any drugs.
    Obviously we talked of this from time to time but I could never defend him in ethical grounds.

  64. Val:

    Think it could have been your post that was lacking in nuance.

    No, you’re rude and your comprehension skills are sub-optimal. I clearly never said every Muslim wants to kill me.

    On Jumpy’s point, neighbours said one of the Charlie Hebdo shooters was a pleasant and helpful man for instance he helped elderly ladies with get their shopping trolleys up the stairs. People are complicated.

  65. Karen, I was just thinking you were being rude to Val, when you up and accused Val of being rude. Val was commenting on your comment, you were commenting on her. You do go ad hom at times rather than deal with what people are saying.

  66. Umm, Brian, Val falsely and maliciously accused me of saying all Muslims want to kill us. That was our first interaction. Grotesque behaviour.

  67. Karen, I don’t see any malice in what Val said. The specific charge was that you believe “Muslim fanaticism is inherent in the religion, nothing to do with politics and socio-economic factors.”

    That may be wide of the mark, but I don’t see it as malicious.

  68. BTW, I’m not defending Val’s comment as a counter to your argument. It reminds us of common experience, but I think it misses the point of your argument as represented in the parody, which was about the left.

  69. I missed what Senator Whish-Wilson said, so I googled and found this quote (never thought I’d link to Andrew Bolt!)

    I think we need to find better words than ‘terrorist’ and ‘terrorism’ because, to me, this implies a very one-sided view of the world. Often our forces could be seen by Iraqi civilians as being terrorists. ‘Terrorist’ is a word that is very commonly used against us by those same people in Iraq who have been radicalised—anything that creates terror is, by definition, terrorism. We use that word because it is a very simple word to use and it demonises people.

    There was also this article.

    Why he should worry about demonising terrorists and calling a spade a spade has me stumped.

    However, Karen, you are saying something a bit different. You are saying that the left typically exonerates terrorists of any blame whatsoever and all the blame accrues to the governments (of “white” countries) that made them do it.

    I’ve have never heard anyone say that.

    But then I haven’t been reading The Guardian on the issue, and what I see from your Nawaz link is pretty amazing, and clearly a worry.

    You seemed to be implying that everyone on the left was clueless.

    The worrying part is that Nawaz gives further evidence that Muslim minority populations in ‘The West’ may be radicalising.

  70. Karen, I didn’t say anything about how women were treated in hunter/gatherer societies. I’ve read Jared Diamond’s The World until Yesterday. He talks about child-rearing and the treatment (and mistreatment) of the old, but is silent about how women are treated. I’ll take on board provisionally what you said, subject to confirmation from scholarly sources.

    Strongly hierarchical societies headed by elites and having a class structure came with agriculture (herding and farming), and they were mostly patriarchal. This is hardly controversial. Along with this came the capacity for rulers to exercise control over larger pieces of territory.

    Also a warrior class developed at this time along with the capacity for more organised violence known as war.

    Anthony’s big point is about the technology of the wheel, the wagon and the domestication of horses in all this. He describes chariots used for fighting on the steppes before Rome was thought of and points out that the skills involved require the professionalism that comes with a standing army.

    I would love to see a feminist analysis covering this period of the development at the base of the development of the modern nation state.

  71. Brian, I am on the Left. My concern which is echoed by Maajid Nawaz pertains to a significant strand of thinking on the Left, especially among folk likely to vote for the Greens. If you look at the comments section in The Guardian for example you will see plenty of lefties blaming the French for provoking the Muslims. Then you have folk like Whishy Washy Wilson, who’ve been elected to parliament thanks to the inner city lefties who’ve abandoned Labor.

    You might recall that a few years ago a Christian pro-lifer murdered a security guard at an abortion clinic in Melbourne. Similar killings have occurred on numerous occasions in the USA. If I was to say the aetiology of these killings mostly mostly resides within Christianity, would the Lefties who are so vigorous in their defence of Islam jump on me? Would I be canned for calling these cowards Christian terrorists? No, of course not.

  72. Karen, anyone that opposes the islamisation of Australia has extreme, far right, racist views, the ABC told me so.

  73. Religions influence and are influenced by the time, place and sub-cultures in which they exist. (Think for example, of the emergence of saints (=replacement for minor gods) as Christianity morphed from a Jewish sect into the dominant Roman Religion.
    Religions also split into sects to satisfy the needs of particular places, classes etc.
    The idea that we can judge major religions on the basis of what happened in a particular place at some time in the past is a ridiculous. Ditto assuming that, in reality, current members take much notice of everything written in holy books. Like the Christian bible.

  74. Brian I have recommended previously Gerda Lerner who wrote a major study on Patriarchy (The Creation of Patriarchy). She was not the first historian to look at patriarchy, there was a lot of interest and debate about this in the late 19th and early 20th century (including Engels) but she was I guess the first major feminist academic historian to do so.

    There have been many attacks on her since, some of them not well- founded, but I think she and Riane Eisler (The Chalice and The Blade) are both worth looking at. (I feel sure we’ve discussed this before haven’t we?) I’ve written a little about feminist theory on my blog in the context of discussing war and there are some further references there

    I’ve just written part of an early draft chapter on feminist theory for my thesis and will be happy to discuss this at more length when I have comments back from my supervisor.

    As far as Karen’s views about me being rude are concerned, she may be right. I thought the post about the soppy lefty and the ISIS person (which Karen reproduced with names in case we didn’t get it) was silly. I think the claim there was quite clearly that Muslim fanaticism and terrorism derives only from Islam rather than being related to socioeconomic and political circumstances. Taken to its logical conclusion, this would suggest that all Muslims must be fanatics, which as we all know, including Karen, is nonsense. I wasn’t trying to be rude to Karen per se, but I did think the post was foolish.

  75. Val:

    ” I think the claim there was quite clearly that Muslim fanaticism and terrorism derives only from Islam rather than being related to socioeconomic and political circumstances.”

    The parody lampooned the idea that islamist terror has **nothing** to do with religion. It is beyond me how you can read that as saying socioeconomic and political circumstances don’t play any role. You keep reading things that aren’t on the page for whatever reason. Nuance is more than just a village in the south of France.

    I very clearly said earlier that I consider Jesus and Mo political as well as religious figures. I don’t believe you can separate religion from politics any more than you can separate wetness from water, the implications of which are obvious.

  76. John Davidson:

    “The idea that we can judge major religions on the basis of what happened in a particular place at some time in the past is a ridiculous. Ditto assuming that, in reality, current members take much notice of everything written in holy books.”

    You miss the point. Islamic scholarship continually rakes over the coals of the past and the terrorist Islamic groups have an intellectual core of scholars who play a key role in the ideology of these groups.

    We know that some radicalised Muslim youth who have gone to join ISIS in Syria know so little about Islam that they’ve packed Islam For Dummies in their travel kit, but so what? When they get to Syria they’ll be indoctrinated by the intellectuals.

    Contra what you say, there is a spectre haunting the Middle East, and that spectre is very much about what happened in a particular place at some time in the past, namely the Caliphate.

    History matters.

  77. Karen: The Caliphate was where the enlightenment actually started with a flowering of scholarship and a Muslim culture that had the confidence to debate with people of other religions and examine the teachings of older societies.
    It is also worth noting that the Turkish empire tolerated people with a wide variety of religions including those that are now being persecuted by ISIS.
    Then think about Christian fundamentalists who want to use the bible as their guide to living.

  78. JD:

    “It is also worth noting that the Turkish empire tolerated people with a wide variety of religions including those that …”

    Do you mean the Armenians? You’re truly perverse.

  79. Another intriguing example proving John Davidson’s point about the Turkish Ottoman Empire ” tolerat[ing] people with a wide variety of religions”, this time from Bulgaria.

    Are folk now beginning to understand why the Greens frighten me almost as much as the Islamists?

  80. Karen, I think the point may be that the Ottoman Empire didn’t force subjects to change their religion, although under the millet system you were then a second class citizen.

    The millet system of Islamic law has been called an early example of pre-modern religious pluralism.

    At the time the system in Christendom was cuius regio, eius religio, where the ruler dictated the religion of those ruled.

    I think that broke down pretty much after the Treaty of Westphalia, which ended the Thirty Years War. It had broken down earlier in the case of John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg, who converted to Calvinism in 1613 and tried to make his Lutheran subjects follow suit. His missus, Anna of Prussia wouldn’t have a bar of it!

  81. Brian:

    Karen, I think the point may be that the Ottoman Empire didn’t force subjects to change their religion

    This is not even remotely true of the smaller religious denominations. One of the major groups persecuted by ISIS is the Yazidi religious group, who are ethnically Kurdish. Kurdish websites document numerous attempts by the Ottomans to force them to convert to Islam along with various massacres subsequent to refusal. Wikipedia also says this:

    A large Yazidi community existed in Syria, but they declined due to persecution by the Ottoman Empire.[80][81] Several punitive expeditions were organized against the Yazidis by the Ottoman governors (Wāli) of Diyarbakir, Mosul and Baghdad. The objective of these persecutions was the forced conversion of Yazidis to the Sunni Hanafi Islam of the Ottoman Empire.[82]

    I have no way of knowing how accurate all the Kurdish claims are, so I will not link to the Kurdish websites

    I also recall reading about a book that came out last year about how the old pagan religions persisted for several centuries after the Roman conversion to Christianity, but the authorities under pressure from the Church, became ever more repressive until paganism became impossible.

    The past seems truly awful everywhere you look.

  82. Karen, the link on the Ottomans says:

    Similar millets were established for the Ottoman Jewish community, who were under the authority of the Haham Başı or Ottoman Chief rabbi; the Armenian Orthodox community, who were under the authority of a head bishop; and a number of other religious communities as well. (Emphasis added)

    But you wouldn’t expect any bunch of autocrats to be consistent.

    The Kurds were probably persecuted because they were culturally, ethnically, linguistically different.

    In Christendom, were the Jews given citizenship anywhere?

    I agree with

    The past seems truly awful everywhere you look.

  83. On Sunday listening to the ABC’s NewsRadio I heard 4 or 5 hours of programming around the Paris attacks and the issue of Muslims in Australia and Europe. They rebroadcast this one from March this year:

    Muslim immigration into Europe

    and Background Briefing from earlier in the day on RN. Then a couple of programs from the BBC and a couple from Deutsche Welle.

    It seems to me you need the full background rather than concentrating on Islam as a religion.

  84. Now that this thread has quietened down….
    I was dismayed by my lack of understanding of this whole event and the history of it. I was amazed by the depth and breadth of the arguments from Karen and Brian, and the insights offered by others.
    I need to learn more. Would someone please suggest a starting book or site where I can get a toe-hold on what is happening and why? Greatly appreciate some help.

  85. This is not an answer to Geoff’s question, but an idea about how we get beyond the whole blame game and the existential questions about violence. I think a good starting point would be laws (beginning with UN resolutions and progressing to action by states) to make the manufacture of goods for the purpose of killing human beings illegal.

    I know that might sound absolutely out there but it’s really a way forward.

  86. Karen, while I was scrolling through the earlier comments to see if anyone else had talked about arms manufacturing, I came upon this earlier comment by you

    islam will probably do the same [become more civilised] but it might take five hundred years. until they civilise themselves i don’t want them living near my daughters.

    That’s terrible thing to say about all Muslims. I am particularly surprised because you said you went out with a Muslim man when you were young (and you didn’t suggest there was anything bad about him).

    Surely you can see that to make that kind of generalised slur about Muslims is wrong?

  87. Geoff,

    I have no book to recommend to you but I would suggest you read books that come to different conclusions. I think there is always the temptation to read only books that we know in advance are likely to say something we are comfortable with. I would go to Amazon, type in appropriate keywords, and see what comes up. That is often my first step when I am unfamiliar with a topic.

  88. Val,

    I’m very sorry but my “slur” is objectively reasonable precisely because it is generalised. Note that I never said all Muslims are dangerous. Some Muslims are lovely people.

    Only a small minority of American Pit Bulls have ever attacked people but as a class they are recognised as a dangerous breed. I would be petrified if my neighbours had American Pit Bulls as pets.

    If you think I’m being alarmist may I suggest you acquaint yourself with the many resources on terrorist activity now available on the internet. The Global Terrorism Database is a good starting point. It logs 140,000 terrorist attacks since the 1970s.

    You might also want to consider whether it was inevitable that France would suffer events like the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the Paris Attacks and sundry other less reported Islamist terror events simply because it now has a population that is 10% Muslim. I think the answer is yes.

    BTW, I am not saying all Muslims should be forced to leave Australia. All citizens should be treated equally. My view is simply that Muslim immigration to Australia should be cut to almost zero (perhaps a few hundred annually) until Jihadism is no longer a clear and present danger.

  89. Val might also like to consider the Pew Global Muslim Attitudes survey.

    Some highlights:

    76% of South Asian Muslim sharia supporters think apostates should executed
    56% of ME/North African Muslim sharia supporters think apostates should executed

    Support for sharia law is as high as 99% in Bangladesh and well over 50% in many other Muslim countries.

    In most countries surveyed, majorities of Muslim women as well as men agree that a wife is always obliged to obey her husband. Indeed, more than nine-in-ten Muslims in Iraq (92%), Morocco (92%), Tunisia (93%), Indonesia (93%), Afghanistan (94%) and Malaysia (96%) express this view.

    Honor killing and stoning women to death is widely supported. More than half of all Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Egyptian, Iraqi etc … Muslims say it is OK to kill women who dishonor the family in certain circumstances.

    Why would I want my loved ones surrounded by people who have these types of attitudes? Do you support honour killing, Val? Do you think smashing a woman’s body until she is dead with stones is funny?

  90. Yep, as I have stated in the past here, it astounds me that feminists aren’t leading the march against islam every day.

    I can only come up with 2 reasons, 1) A ” the enemy of my enemy ( conservatives { men } ) is my friend ” thing, or 2) some type of weird Stockholm syndrome thing.

    Any other explanations that folks want to offer are greatly appreciated.

    [ and the gay lefty support for islam conundrum can wait till the above is solved )

  91. I know that might sound absolutely out there but it’s really a way forward.

    True if you have a mental age of five but otherwise just plain childish. World War Two would never have happened if American Isolationism and Chamberlainesque appeasement hadn’t conspired to allow Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan to build their armies.

    As George Orwell famously said:

    Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one.

    Those who advocate pacifism in the face of Islamofacism are objectively pro-Islamofacist.

  92. Karen: haven’t got a link but I have read that a “tit for tat tat strategy is better at ending a conflict than tit for tat which just rolls on and on.
    I suspect that no tits for repeated tats doesn’t work either.

  93. Geoff, I found in 2001 with the destruction of the Twin Towers that I knew nothing about Islam, but had very negative feelings towards it.

    It’s been a long road since then, but I’ve never read enough to have definitive views and I can’t recommend anything to get you started.

  94. OK, and thanks Brian and Karen. Since I already have Hollands “In the Shadow of the Sword” I’ll keep going with that. I have no idea where it goes yet so it might be close to Karen’s suggestion.

  95. Geoff,
    On “modern” Islam, a good overview is Eugene Rogan, The Arabs. A History. (2nd. ed.)
    Kennedy is good on early Islam, but he can get a bit hard to follow on the break up of the Abbasid Caliphate. (Its too difficult for me to find the title on my bookshelf but Google etc.)

  96. John D:

    haven’t got a link but I have read that a “tit for tat tat strategy is better at ending a conflict than tit for tat which just rolls on and on.
    I suspect that no tits for repeated tats doesn’t work either.

    I’m surprised the Australian Greens aren’t working hard to get you a seat in parliament. Pure genius.

  97. You might also want to consider whether it was inevitable that France would suffer events like the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the Paris Attacks and sundry other less reported Islamist terror events simply because it now has a population that is 10% Muslim. I think the answer is yes.

    I think that’s highly speculative.

    Other than that 10% is probably on the high side. The numbers of ‘observant’ Muslims is likely to be lower.

  98. Brian,

    Many terrorists in Europe are unobservant second generation Muslims who are “born again”. The standard est. for France is ~7.5% Muslim.

    I’ll being putting popcorn in the microwave and monitoring Deutschland very closely over the next decade. I can already smell the charred bodies …

  99. We had a rash of young Western terror groups in the seventies that killed a few people then withered away because the terror attacks were so pointless. ISIS is going the same way. The Paris attacks may have stirred up an ants nest but the attacks were essentially against very soft targets and innocent people.
    Many of those that blew themselves up sacrificed their lives to kill or injure a very small number of people.
    It is not the sort of stuff that will help ISIS recruiters.

  100. Just wow John, perhaps view them as a multinational corporation with unethical company policies if that helps ffs.

  101. “”Many (6) of those that blew themselves up sacrificed their lives to kill (130) or injure (350) a very small number of people.


  102. I’m with Jumpy on this one. The Australia Greens and their supporters appear to be modeling themselves on Lord Haw Haw.

    Brian, do you have any comment on John Davidson’s increasingly vile slurs, blaming the French for the ISIS attacks and now dismissing the close to 500 casualties of the Paris Attacks as a ” a very small number of people”.

  103. Jumpy, you are deliberately misquoting John D.

    Elsewhere, Rosie Hancock, Associate Lecturer at the University of Notre Dame, Australia, gave a paper on Islamic social justice activism and Islamic liberation theology at the TASA Conference in Cairns.

  104. I was thinking of one of the attackers who blew herself up and injured a couple of people. Not a good message for young people who want to die in a way that “really makes a difference”.
    It is one of the reasons
    I think ISIS will go into decline as more potential recruits realise that they will be required to commit suicide to either kill other Muslims or have no real effect at all on their targets power structure.

  105. Brian:

    Elsewhere, Rosie Hancock, Associate Lecturer at the University of Notre Dame, Australia, gave a paper on Islamic social justice activism and Islamic liberation theology at the TASA Conference in Cairns.

    Not so, according to your link. Most of the links reflect the usual sociological idee fixe – “We don’t really know what neoliberalism is, but we know we don’t like it!”.

  106. Brian

    Jumpy, you are deliberately misquoting John D.

    Misquoting ? How ?
    I just included the numbers for clarity.
    And the bolding just highlights the idiocy of his words.

  107. I agree with you, John D. Recognising the tragic loss, but then putting things in the perspective of Greater Paris’ 11.7 million now very angry people, the attack was a futile and counter productive exercise, every way.

  108. Jumpy, you can’t change or add to what John said and use quotation marks.

    It was always clear that he wasn’t referring to the sum total of the attacks, as he has since made clear.

  109. Karen, I can assure you that Rosie Hancock did present a paper at TASA. The fact that it doesn’t show up on the site does not it didn’t happen.

    Your assertion to the contrary is why I don’t altogether trust the way you deal with information.

  110. Karen, to answer your earlier proposition, given the existence of Islamic fundamentalism in the modern world and the state of play in the Middle East it is indeed likely that there will be significant attacks in major Western European countries which have their borders as open as they do.

    My initial reaction is to tend to disagree with anything you say because of the aggression and emotion you use in saying it.

    The more interesting question is whether France might have acted differently.

    ISIS claims they selected France because France was to the fore in bombing them.

    I believe ISIS needs to be dealt with, that is wiped off the map as a geo-political entity. That is going to be tricky, but air power and diplomacy is probably all that western European countries can offer.

    Unfortunately what we’ll probably get in Syria/ISIS/Iraq is a collection of Islamic states. Eradicating extreme cells within them would take time.

    Generally speaking, though, I don’t think France is suffering blowback from its former colonies. My knowledge in that area is not great, but my impression is that France goes out of its way to maintain good relations.

    The list of countries and dependent entities where French is an official language is quite long.

    Algeria is a special case.

    Last weekend one of the commentators said that banning school girls from wearing head scarves was one of two signal events in the radicalisation of Muslims in Europe.

    Again I haven’t followed this closely, but it appears that French law has been upheld in European human rights courts, with the latest case a few days ago.

    I’m with them on face covering, but I wonder whether they might have been a little too zealous in a separate law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools.

    A third area of concern is the alienation that ensues from the inability to find work. On Friday Laura Tingle in the AFR pointed out that in Broadmeadows we had a concentration of Muslim families together with youth unemployment estimated to be above 40 per cent. Tingle felt that addressing this issue was missing from Turnbull’s four tiers of policy against terrorism.

    I’m not sure what government’s can do in this regard, but it’s is bound to be insufficient. Generally, though, it is said that European governments did not realise early enough that the guest workers were staying and would have to be integrated.

    It’s essentially unknowable whether different policies and actions on the part of the French government would have made any difference. Probably not.

    In any case anything the French government did or didn’t do takes no responsibility whatsoever away from the terrorists.

  111. Brian: You say:

    Unfortunately what we’ll probably get in Syria/ISIS/Iraq is a collection of Islamic states.

    I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. Many of the post colonial stuff-ups have been caused by colonial powers creating countries that have bitter enemies living shoved into the same country. Often with borders running through the middle of the area that used to be controlled by a particular group.
    Iraq is a good example. The geniuses that created Iraq were either stupid for creating a country by combining Shiite and Sunni areas with what should have been part of an independent Kurdish state. Or perhaps they were vindictive haters of everything non European? Doesn’t really matter which – They certainly caused a lot of misery.
    The other model worth thinking about is pre-eurozone EU. You get the desirable cooperation without taking away subcultures sense of independence.

  112. Unfortunate in the sense that they will be Islamic states of some stripe or other, and probably still intolerant of minorities.

    Secular democracies would be too much to hope for.

  113. Since nobody else has spoken out, I condemn the terrorist attack that took place in Colorado Springs this week.
    It seems that only brown “terrorists” upset our Colonel Blimps.

  114. zoot,
    The venue and apparent motive prevented me from mentioning that here.
    The MSM are a bit tight lipped, presumably due to the same sensitivities.
    On righty sites it’s being discussed and condemned openly. ( obviously the odd nutbag will try to find excuses and justifications where there are none, but that happens everywhere.)

  115. ABC’s RN reports on a talk-fest in Sydney’s west “about the root causes of radicalisation and Islamophobia.” Professor John Esposito from Georgetown University in Washington was today’s keynote speaker.

    It’s less about religion, and it’s more about political grievances, that Western governments invade their lands, that large numbers of Muslims are being killed. So they play to those kinds of grievances and of course, they also wed that with an appeal to a distorted notion of religion to legitimate what they are doing.

    That’s his opinion.

    Professor Greg Barton from Deakin University also spoke:

    There’s no country that can assume that they are immune from attack. A small group of people can get military assault rifles and do something similar to what we saw happen in Paris. So even if it is not on our shores in Australia, it’s likely at some point Australians are going to lose their lives to this.

    More likely in some countries than others, though.

    Prof Barton again:

    We talk about how much we stand with Paris, or how much we regard this as a great threat of our time. We’ve been slow in matching the resources with the rhetoric.

    The particular problem we’re faced in Australia, and it’s not unique to us, is doing the level of community engagement to try and prevent, or at least reverse in the early stages, radicalisation. We certainly understand this to be important, we’ve certainly talked about it, but it’s been difficult to get programs rolled out.

  116. zoot

    Good one dopey. On the same day as the Colorado attack several much more deadly Islamist attacks occurred in many brown people died. The primary victims of your “correlation not causation” Islamist friends are brown. Does this not matter to you?

    Also note that I’ve made it clear that I dismiss all religions as primitive savagery.

  117. John Davidson:

    Many of the post colonial stuff-ups have been caused by colonial powers creating countries that have bitter enemies living shoved into the same country … Iraq is a good example.

    The country with the most arbitrary borders in the region is Jordan, a country which by Arab standards has been incredibly peaceful.

    As to Iraq:

    A quick tour of present-day borders reveals a few key similarities with the local Ottoman boundaries in place before the French and British arrived. The three separate provinces — Mosul, Baghdad and Basra — that were joined to make Iraq, for example, were often treated as a coherent economic and military area by the Ottoman government. And of course, the region’s geographic unity going back to the origins of human civilization, had long been recognized in the term “Mesopotamia.” Meanwhile, the fact that Iraq’s eastern border with Iran followed a line set by the 16th-century conquests of Suleiman the Magnificent didn’t prevent the countries from fighting a decade-long conflict over it that killed ten times more people than all the Arab-Israeli wars combined.

    If only Johnno would read a history book …

  118. Karen, that’s a useful link you made. You could have drawn it to our attention, though, without poking your interlocutor in the eye. Same with zoot.

    It’s important to note, though, that the author, Nick Danforth, says that drawing borders is always tricky and he doesn’t suggest that just letting the locals sort it out would have been better.

    Also he draws attention to another negative aspect of colonial rule:

    Our collective fixation with the Middle East’s borders has, however, drawn attention away from the truly pernicious policy of divide-and-rule that the French and British used to sustain their power. In Syria, the French cultivated the previously disenfranchised Alawite minority as an ally against the Sunni majority. This involved recruiting and promoting Alawite soldiers in the territory’s colonial army, thereby fostering their sense of identity as Alawites and bringing them into conflict with local residents of other ethnicities. The French pursued the same policy with Maronite Christians in Lebanon, just as the Belgians did with Tutsis in Rwanda and the British did with Muslims in India, Turks in Cyprus and innumerable other groups elsewhere.

  119. ‘Got too much free time today and I suddenly recalled the 1985 attack by the French on the Rainbow Warrior. A proven act of terror perpetrated by the French.
    Just musing over it and the role of context.

  120. Not sure whether this one is paywalled, but Fred Pearce in the New Scientist takes a closer look at the link between drought and the Syrian crisis.

    I’m not sure anyone is claiming that drought was the sole or even the main cause. Any way some sociologists have gotten a bit antsy about climate scientists wandering onto their patch and say that it somewhat lets the real perpetrators off the hook.

    Pearce points out that the drought was from 2006 to 2009, whereas the conflict didn’t start until 2011. The government’s failure to respond to the humanitarian crisis which came out of the drought “may have formed one of the triggers of the uprising”.

    Pearce thinks it’s fair enough, though, for climate scientists to raise the possibility of a link. And

    a lot of the ability to adapt to climate shifts will come from ensuring stable, flexible and fair societies in countries on the front line. All things Syria turned out not to be.

  121. Brian

    JDs contributions so far (on this thread unless otherwise noted):

    (1) Perhaps there were too many Jumpys in France whose endless hostility to Islam made a few young Muslims easy to recruit? Then there was the problem of French colonialism and France’s determination to retain its colonies. (14/11 Sat salon)

    (2) Go and do some homework on France and the treatment of Muslims including wanting to force some Muslim women to dress in a way that was considered indecent. Also have a look at French colonial history in Algeria.
    On a similar theme I have also said in the past that Abbott was one of the best things ISIS recruiters had going for them in Australia. (14/11 Sat salon)

    (3) What really struck while watching the ABC’s one hour evening news special on the Paris bombings was just how small the damage done to Paris compared …

    (4) There are over 6 million Muslims living in France. The bombings were done by a few extremists who don’t represent French Muslims – yet the reaction is all about Islam. A reaction that may inspire the next group of Muslim extremists.

    (5) I have also seen commentators suggesting that “ISIS uses religion to justify their political agenda – Their political agenda was not inspired by religion.” Think of all the wars for political gain that have been blessed by the religious leaders.

    (6) It is also worth noting that the Turkish empire tolerated people with a wide variety of religions including those that are now being persecuted by ISIS.

    (7) The geniuses that created Iraq were either stupid for creating a country by combining Shiite and Sunni areas with what should have been part of an independent Kurdish state. Or perhaps they were vindictive haters of everything non European?

    So John Davidson has downplayed the scale Paris Attacks, blamed the French (and Jumpy and Tony Abbott), and made numerous historically false claims about the Turkish empire and European colonialism. This is why I dislike the Greens. They are traitors. According to them, everything bad that happens in the world is the direct result of something done by the West. Every culture is beyond criticism apart from our own. Anyone who apportion some blame for Islamist terror to Islam itself is denounced as a reactionary Islamophobe. Etc …

  122. Brian

    I’m not sure anyone is claiming that drought was the sole or even the main cause.

    Christine Mildew, representing the greens did.

    We have already seen, with the global food crisis in 2008-which was caused by extreme weather events wiping out crops around the world through fire and drought-an incredible rise in prices for grains. Ultimately, that led to the Arab spring. The first marches in the Arab spring were in Tunisia and were because of the increase in the price of bread.

    And the Ebola crisis and just about everything else…..

  123. Jumpy, we were talking about Syria, not the Arab Spring.

    Quite early on the US security authorities expressed a concern about the relationship between climate change and security. They tend to see it as as an “accelerant of instability” or a “threat multiplier”. Obama is certainly on the case.

    Here’s a current link, and a link about a Pentagon report.

    The German WBGU has also studied the matter.

    Like the attribution of extreme weather events it may be difficult to sort out the specifics in each case.

  124. Brian

    You may be interested in this article on atheism in the Middle East. I particularly liked this bit:

    In 2013 an Egyptian extremist cleric appeared on television and issued a death fatwa against Abdel-Samad after he’d asserted that Islam had developed fascist tendencies since the time of the prophet.

    On left wing websites I’ve been denounced as a racist and banned for making similar observations. We live in strange times. The Left was at one time the champion of progress and it had no problem denouncing archaic and reactionary cultures that stood in the way of that progress. Nowadays, identity politics rules and all talk ofprogress is regarded as white triumphalism.

    I fear the Left have nothing to offer the world this century. No wonder idiotic right wingers capture hearts and minds and get into government by default. Where did we go wrong?

  125. Yes, thanks for the link, Karen. If we have to wait for moderate Muslimism there is a long way to go.

    On the state of the left, I would characterise it differently, but I agree there is a problem. I checked out Immanuel Wallerstein to see whether he had anything to say recently. He reckons there is a world-wide resurgence of the left, but it is really a bit of a wobble in the centre and means squat overall.

    He reckons that the left started as an antisystemic movement in the 19th century. From 1945 to 1970, leaving aside the communists, the social democrats gained power in democracies just about everywhere. The idea was to gain power, then change the world.

    What happened was the the left joined the system – Animal Farm, if you like.

    The question is whether we can civilise capitalism, a system based on greed, hierachy and expansionism.

  126. Karen, I’m sure John D appreciates your collection of his contributions. To be honest I don’t think they amount to “increasingly vile slurs”.

    My main worry is that John is likely to be wrong, I think, in the comment where he suggests that the terrorist attacks are a passing phase and will wither away. For starters, the terrorists of the 70s wanted to live. The Islamic suicide terrorists want to die as a fast passage to heaven.

    As you said here:

    Many terrorists in Europe are unobservant second generation Muslims who are “born again”.

    From lives devoid of meaning they suddenly have a mission beyond compare.

    I can’t, don’t want to comment on everything that moves in the comments threads, so I think I’ll leave it there.

  127. Another terrorist attack. Those Muslims just won’t give up:

    zoot may be correct, although, at the time of his comment he could have been being sarcastic.
    Shooting from ones hip can cause loss of ones toes !

  128. It’s good to see zoot supplementing his meagre old age pension by doing PR work. He may be bitter, old and poor but at least he’ll enter paradise with the promised allotment of wine and virgins.

  129. Zoot, is it true that you are bitter, old and poor and headed towards a paradise of wine and virgins? I never suspected…

    Of course, who ever promised that those virgins were all of one’s preferred sexuality anyway? And no telling how good the wine is or even if you are allowed to drink it.

  130. We should ease up on zoot.
    The Guadian wished for a tea party/christian/republican with abortion issues but got a islamic democrat with xmas ham issues.

    Garbage in, garbage out syndrome, it appears.

  131. Geoff

    Unfortunately for poor old Zoot, the fine print in the Paradise guestbook says you must behead the virgins and pour the wine down the sink.

  132. Karen if that were so, our troubles with the radicalised ones would be over. Unless I supposed, giving head has taken on a new meaning.

  133. I recon the definition of ” virgin ” will be the next to be redefined based on preferential grounds, like ” gender ” and ” race “.

    But enough of that.

    Do we have a motive for the 3 ( or more ) lone wolf, disaffected, quasi-victims that did this yet ?

    zoot, any updates ?

  134. Karen if that were so, our troubles with the radicalised ones would be over.

    Nah, the fine print is written in Yiddish so none of the faithful can read it. The Almighty has a wicked sense of humour.

  135. At one level it looks like a row at a staff Christmas party, but the couple who seem to be responsible were also very well prepared.

    Also they left their 6-months old baby with grandma, claiming they had a doctor’s appointment.

    Police Chief Jarrod Burguan:

    “These people came prepared to do what they did as if they were on a mission,” Burguan said. “They were armed with long guns, not with handguns.”

    I heard today that there has been a ‘mass killing’ (defined as four or more) in the US every week since 2013.

  136. My best guess is that they had something planned but brought it forward. Still, that’s just a guess based on limited info- we shouldn’t rush to judgement.

  137. Good guess, I think Karen. It seems they had assembled an impressive array of armoury which could have no purpose in a ‘normal’ lifestyle.

  138. Has the Nobel Peace Prize winning POTUS said “You know, when Syed Rizwan Farook was first shot I said that this could have been my son.” yet ?

    And has anyone heard from zoot ?

  139. I wouldn’t be so quick to jump on Obama, Jumpy. Remember it was the dumb right wing Republican Prez George W bush that laid the foundations for ISIS by turning Iraq into a failed state in a disastrous two trillion dollar war.

    In a just world, Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney would spend the rest of their lives sharing a rancid cell in Gitmo with a big hairy gay jihadist named Abdul.

  140. Quite so Karen.
    These big strong active governments, that you love so much, have a tendency to march around and step in dog shit.
    Left boot or right, they come back home and stain the carpet.

    Some say governments should be stronger, more active, further reaching and more bold, and that will result in the citizens being stronger, more active, further reaching and more bold.

    I say that’s nonsense, quite the opposite.

  141. You sound like a Jehovah’s Witness, Jumpy.

    True ?
    Not that I mind at all, the ones I’ve met are nice.
    Even the most devout ones are pacifists, they don’t seem to get all stabby/sploaddy.
    A peaceful kinda doomsday cult, if I may.

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