Posts Tagged Islamism

Tel Aviv bus bombing kills chances for peace

**Update**

It seems that nobody has been killed, thank God. Also, it is not guaranteed that Hamas carried this out, but Hamas were definitely celebrating it. There are reports that Israel has stepped-up its airstrikes over Gaza and Hamas/PIJ have stepped-up rocket fire in response. Who saw that one coming?

Just to be clear: an anti-war rally in Tel Aviv was cancelled because of this bombing. Everyone in Israel who wanted to end the offensive has just lost their case. All of the Israeli peaceniks that I follow are as shocked and scared as everyone else. These attackers have essentially guaranteed that there is no end in sight to this war.

**Update** at least 21 injured. Police say it was a definite terrorist attack

Follow live blogs at these links:

http://www.timesofisrael.com/as-iaf-pounds-gaza-pm-meets-with-clinton-pledging-whatever-action-to-defend-israelis/
http://www.jpost.com/Defense/Article.aspx?id=291794
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/blast-hits-tel-aviv-bus-at-least-17-hurt-police-chasing-two-terror-suspects-1.479535

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There are breaking reports of a bus bomb in Tel Aviv, the first attack there since 2006. From what I can gather from Twitter and elsewhere, it was a female terrorist who threw a bomb onto the bus and then left the area. The police has arrested one suspect and are looking for another. There were over 10 injured, three critically. Luckily, the bus was mostly empty at the time.

Most importantly/disgustingly, Hamas is busy celebrating this as a ‘victory for Allah’ over the loudspeakers in Gaza. Celebratory gunfire heard throughout the strip.

This pretty much puts an end to any hope of a ceasefire agreement. What Hamas have just done is won themselves a long-protracted ground war.

Congratulations.

Explosion hits Tel Aviv bus, at least 10 wounded; police suspect terror attack – Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper.

A bus exploded in central Tel Aviv on Wednesday, wounding at least 10 people, three of them seriously.

It was not immediately clear what caused the blast on the No. 66 bus on the corner of Shaul Hamelech and Henrietta Szold Streets, but Israel Police suspect it was a terror attack. Passersby were ordered to keep their distance from the scene.

Large police forces were deployed to the area, and opened a manhunt after two suspected terrorists. Eyewitnesses say they saw a person plant an explosive and run away. Al-Arabiya reported that at least one of the suspected terrorists was a woman.

“A bomb exploded on a bus in central Tel Aviv. This was a terrorist attack. Most of the injured suffered only mild injuries,” said Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Ivory tower watch: ‘racioethnic closure’ in the Netherlands

Remember when I was complaining about the normalisation of the non-whiteness of race? Well I have another highlight from moral relativist Ivory Tower types, this time from over in the Netherlands.

I have just read ‘The Impact of Migrant-Hostile Discourse in the Media and Politics on Racioethnic Closure in Career Development in the Netherlands’ by Hans Siebers, a sociologist from Tilburg University. Yes, the term ‘racioethnic closure in career development’ was a bit of a giveaway that perhaps this article was not going to be one worth paying much attention to.

See, most of us would have said ‘racial discrimination in employment’ – a perfectly adequate term in plain English to describe what Siebers is talking about. But why use plain English when you can write a paper that no-one but a handful of wankers social scientists could ever understand/want to read? After all, if nobody is reading your work, there’s nobody to tell you that you’re wrong.

But I digress. Here is a choice passage from Mr Siebers that I think really captures where he’s coming from (my bold):

Although there were mutterings of discontent in the 1990s, such as statements by liberal leader Frits Bolkestein (see Prins, 2002), a clearly negative tone towards migrants and migration gained momentum in the Dutch media and political arena basically after the turn of the century (Prins, 2002; Vasta, 2007). The events of 11 September 2001 did not fail to leave their imprint, but such a negative tone has also been amplified by domestic developments. For example, populist politician Pim Fortuyn managed to challenge established political parties, in part by mobilizing against minorities. While he called Islam a ‘backward culture’ and called for the abolition of the constitutional article that bans discrimination (de Volkskrant, 9 February 2002), his party became by far the strongest party in the local council of Rotterdam in March 2002. Only his assassination (6 May 2002) could stop him from doing something similar in the upcoming national elections.

Since 2000, it has become standard discursive practice in the media and politics to associate migrants with all sorts of problems – crime, fraud, ghettoization and societal decay – without feeling the need to support claims by facts. Somali immigrant Ayaan Hirsi Ali has become one of the spokespersons of this migrant-hostile discourse. She was welcomed into a governmental party as an MP in 2002 and mobilizes against Muslims and blames Islam for many societal problems. She joined filmmaker Theo van Gogh to produce a film in which texts from the Koran are painted on a naked female body that supposedly legitimize violence against women. She received death threats, and van Gogh was actually murdered on 2 November 2004 by a radicalized Muslim. That event triggered a spiral of violence against Muslim schools and mosques and retaliation against churches.

Is it just me, or was there some glee in the way Siebers described Fortuyn’s assassination? There was definitely a subtext of ‘well luckily he was killed before he could do any more damage’ to it, which makes me very uncomfortable.

What makes me far more uncomfortable, however, is the way he deals with the Hirsi Ali/Van Gogh incident. Let’s be clear: Hirsi Ali is a Muslim apostate from Somalia who left her country and her religion because she was being subjected to horrible abuse. Yes she blames Islam for many of society’s problems, however she has been at the receiving end of these ‘problems’.

When she made the movie Fitna, she was not just using texts that ‘supposedly legitimize violence against women’, she was using texts that had legitimised violence towards her, and are still being used to legitimise violence towards her – by the people who murdered Van Gogh, which again Siebers does not seem too upset about.

The actual research that Siebers did for the paper is quite interesting – he was trying to draw a link between vilification of immigrants in the Dutch media, the way that immigrants are dealt with by their employers and the difficulty that they then face in advancing their careers. I know this because months of reading about discrimination has given me the ability to translate his academese and look past his third-worldism/moral-relativism/borderline endorsement of assassination as a method for combatting anti-Islamist rhetoric. But most (sane) people would never be able want to go through that.

Problem is, he did this (my bold):

Only minority (92) and majority (1267) respondents (N = 1359) were included in the data analysis. In line with official categories and other Dutch studies (see Tesser and Dronkers, 2007), people with a western non-Dutch or Indonesian background were left out because of their successful integration into the labour market.

Ie in his study, he only looked at migrants that were not successfully integrated. He did not think that it may be worth considering why some groups of migrants could integrate successfully when others could not.

And since we’re getting kind of technical, there was this little flaw in his experimental design. See, he explained career advancement like this (my bold):

Career advancement can … be seen as the result of such a process at a certain moment and be measured in terms of one’s position in the hierarchy of job levels. … The old bureaucratic idea was to gradually pass through these increments, being awarded one increment every year. … If this framework were applied mechanically, the factors educational level, age and tenure would simply determine one’s position on this hierarchy of salary scales with little room for racioethnic closure. However, over the last 15 years, these factors no longer automatically determine one’s position on this hierarchy and upward mobility has become more flexible. Nowadays, applicants and employees are assessed on a variety of criteria and competence profiles. 

But designed his experiment like this:

Control variables. Since I wanted to measure racioethnic closure in career advancement, i.e. racioethnic inequality in career advancement that is not due to inequality in human capital, I used level of education, age and tenure (proxies for relevant work experience) and language proficiency as control variables.

Ie he identified that education, age and tenure are no longer the factors that determine career advancement… but just went ahead and used them anyway. He noted that career advancement is assessed on ‘a variety of criteria and competence profiles’, but then used the old redundant criteria plus language proficiency.

In other words, his experiment is looking at migrants who had not integrated successfully and seeing if they were being discriminated against by a system that no longer exists. Surprise surprise, the experiment confirmed his hypothesis that the media causes migrants to struggle to advance themselves in the workplace. This may well be true, but Siebers’ ‘research’ doesn’t confirm that – his experiment was more or less designed to prove him right and not to actually measure anything useful.

The real issue is Siebers’ paternalistic ideology. We can see this when he laments the fact that the Dutch government is trying to push ‘Dutch norms and values’ on immigrants, but does not acknowledge that Hirsi Ali had a legitimate point regarding the treatment of women (including herself!) amongst some immigrant communities.

In his desire to ‘protect’ Muslim immigrants from his fellow Dutchmen, he does not see the immigrants as autonomous human beings capable of flaws. He completely glosses over the culture of violence that led to two prominent critics of the immigrants being assassinated but spends pages and pages on the Dutch response (this happens in the part that I didn’t quote).

That is how he managed to design an experiment that does not consider the possibility that the immigrants are not advancing in their careers because of something to do with them, but only allows for the possibility that it is discrimination holding them back. That is why he refuses to compare immigrant communities that do integrate successfully with those that don’t – he is fixated on the idea that Dutch society must be responsible and not the immigrant groups.

The sad thing is that Siebers is probably right to an extent – immigrants probably do suffer from negative stereotyping by their employers due to vilification in the media. However, there will be much more to it than that and Siebers’ ideological myopia means that he misses a huge part of the picture.

So to Siebers I say this: thanks asshole, you just wasted an hour of my time reading your shitty paper.

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*Update* Siebers’ name is now spelt correctly.

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Why do they hate Mona Eltahawy for speaking about Arab women?

Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy has a piece in this month’s Foreign Policy on the problems faced by women in the Arab world. This is a very important article and I would encourage you all to read it, but I want to highlight the central point in her thesis — which has been proven overwhelmingly by the response that has exploded literally hours since her article went online (the print edition is not even out yet).

Eltahawy begins her essay with the point that when anyone normally brings up the issue of Arab women, they are shouted-down with problems women face in the West. As if this is a reason not to speak about something far, far worse.

This is the third-worldist cultural relativism that I have highlighted a few times. It is the insipid prejudice of low expectations — using “cultural differences” to justify holding others to a lower standard. It’s hard to even imagine the outcry that would follow a white, American pastor coming out in support of female genital mutilation — yet one of the leading clerical celebrities in the Arab world does so unashamedly and no one blinks. He even gets invited to hang out with London Mayoral candidate and career antisemite Ken Livingstone.

If no one says anything, nothing will ever get done about this. Good on Eltahawy for standing up to the cultural pressures trying to crush her into silence. Elections in Egypt will not bring democracy so long as female candidates cannot even have their faces on electoral material.

Why Do They Hate Us? – By Mona Eltahawy | Foreign Policy.

So: Yes, women all over the world have problems; yes, the United States has yet to elect a female president; and yes, women continue to be objectified in many “Western” countries (I live in one of them). That’s where the conversation usually ends when you try to discuss why Arab societies hate women.

But let’s put aside what the United States does or doesn’t do to women. Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend. When more than 90 percent of ever-married women in Egypt — including my mother and all but one of her six sisters — have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty, then surely we must all blaspheme. When Egyptian women are subjected to humiliating “virginity tests” merely for speaking out, it’s no time for silence. When an article in the Egyptian criminal code says that if a woman has been beaten by her husband “with good intentions” no punitive damages can be obtained, then to hell with political correctness. And what, pray tell, are “good intentions”? They are legally deemed to include any beating that is “not severe” or “directed at the face.” What all this means is that when it comes to the status of women in the Middle East, it’s not better than you think. It’s much, much worse. Even after these “revolutions,” all is more or less considered well with the world as long as women are covered up, anchored to the home, denied the simple mobility of getting into their own cars, forced to get permission from men to travel, and unable to marry without a male guardian’s blessing — or divorce either. …

First we stop pretending. Call out the hate for what it is. Resist cultural relativism and know that even in countries undergoing revolutions and uprisings, women will remain the cheapest bargaining chips. You — the outside world — will be told that it’s our “culture” and “religion” to do X, Y, or Z to women.

Understand that whoever deemed it as such was never a woman. The Arab uprisings may have been sparked by an Arab man — Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in desperation — but they will be finished by Arab women.

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Why does Australia’s state media give a column to Hizb-ut Tahrir?

Uthman Badar seems to write regularly for The Drum. I do not understand how the ABC still has a columnist who is a spokesperson for Hizb ut-Tahrir. I don’t have time to go into the details, but suffice to say that everyone in the UK has known exactly who HuT are since the 2006 London bombings — and if they had known before, there may not have been any 2006 London bombings.

Meanwhile, the man himself wrote yesterday trying to claim that giving sons twice the inheritance of daughters is not discriminatory. I do not have time right now to write a whole breakdown, but luckily his argument falls flat on its own accord.

Women undervalued: is Liberalism or Islam guilty? – The Drum Opinion (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

Caroline Overington, who first reported [pay-walled] the case in the media this week for The Australian, wrote:

The imam of the Canberra Islamic Centre, Adama Konda, agreed that the “standard expectation is that a Muslim will leave full shares to sons and half-shares to daughters” because “one boy is equal to two girls”.

Notice how the two directly quoted statements have the word ‘because’ inserted, by the reporter, in between them. Why? Well because the Imam, as is clear in the court transcript, did not say ‘because’, he was simply explaining what the law is, not giving its reasoning.

But Ms Overington felt the need – for that requisite pinch of sensationalism it seems – to present an explanation of what the law was as being the reason for that law, so it could be made out as if Islam attaches, per se, a lower worth to women relative to men, and that this is the reason why a daughter’s share of inheritance is less than a son’s.

To me, the word “because” was not the most influential part of that paragraph, but anyway. Read on (my bold):

… As for the reason why male children inherit double the share of female children, this has nothing to do with the worth ascribed to either gender. Indeed, only those who see the world through the lens of wealth and materialism would infer the worth of people from the material gains they receive. Rather, the law has a context and is part of a larger coherent framework.

Ah! So the female children are not worth less, they just deserve less because, at the end of the day, inheritance is just stuff. Right?

The consideration, which accounts for the differences, is not for who is valued more, but is based on factors such as the degree of kinship between the heir and testator (closer heirs getting more), the placement of the heir in the sequence of generations (younger heirs getting more), and degree of financial responsibility towards others (those with greater responsibility getting more).

The female has no continual financial responsibilities as a child, sister, wife or mother; these responsibilities are always on the men of the family. The husband is obligated to cover the expenses of his wife’s basic needs of food, clothing and shelter, as well as to cover the expenses of their children’s upbringing. The wife is absolved of these duties, though she may assist if she chooses to. She has a set right, by law, in his wealth, but he does not have a right in her wealth.

If we were to apply the atomistic view of liberalism, we may now argue that men are discriminated against! Of course, this would miss the point entirely, which is that the problem is not with Islam, but with the premises of liberalism which divorce the individual from the community and, in an abstract appeal to an intrinsic equality, neglect the circumstances of the real world, taking as a focal point the imagined, apolitical and ahistorical, free individual.

So the dependent female is not valued less than the independent male who is obligated to provide for her and she is, by the same token, obligated to depend on him (well, supposedly she can choose to take on the “duties” of being self-reliant — I wonder if Badar’s wife does).

I bet Badar’s daughters will be forever grateful that Islam has absolved them of the duty to look after themselves and their families. Lucky them.

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Toulouse shootings are Islamist after all

So much for that neo-Nazi theory… French police raid house in school killings case – FRANCE 24.

AFP – A French police special forces unit hunting an anti-Semitic serial killer launched a pre-dawn raid Wednesday on a house where a man claiming al-Qaeda ties was holed up, a police source said. Two police were slightly wounded as the operation got underway, led by officers investigating three attacks by a lone gunman in which three off-duty soldiers, three Jewish school children and a rabbi were killed, he said. A source close to the inquiry told AFP that the suspect had exchanged words with the RAID team and had declared himself to be a member of al-Qaeda, the armed Islamist group founded by late Saudi extremist Osama bin Laden.

**UPDATE**

Reports are coming out on Twitter that the suspect is claiming that he was “avenging Palestinian children”. This goes to show yet again that our enemies do not distinguish between “Jews”, “Zionists” and “Israelis” at all (or, for that matter, between “civilians” and “combatants”, or “adults” and “children”…).

Meanwhile, there may be a reason why everyone was so gleefully jumping on the idea that it may not have been Islamists. Again linking into the third-worldist dynamic, a number of Jews (and other members of the Western intelligencia) seem want to do everything they can to deny that Muslims may sometimes be antisemitic. Jonathan Tobin made this point: Neo-Nazis Versus Jihadists? « Commentary Magazine.

However, if we are discussing what Jews and other civilized persons should be worrying most about today, the idea that there is any comparison between the danger posed by the scattered bands of neo-Nazi extremists and that of Islamism is not a serious proposition. The neo-Nazis are a nasty bunch and capable of violence. But Islamist terror has at its command, terrorist armies, control of sovereign territories (Gaza, Lebanon and a major state such as Iran) as well as the resources to finance a nuclear weapons project. While the persistence of Nazism, even in its current truncated form is upsetting and makes us wonder whether Western civilization really is in trouble, Islamism is a real threat, not a symbolic one. While we may dismiss this argument as the sort of thing that is … for people with nothing better to do, the fact is, a lot of liberal Jews really are more scared of the dangers that existed in the past than they are of their people’s current foes. For many liberal Jews … raising the question of Islamist hate for Jews — something that is the source of the rising tide of anti-Semitic agitation around the globe — is somehow in bad taste if not evidence of the dread charge of Islamophobia. They are so conditioned to believe that Muslim distaste for Israel’s actions is the reason for enmity that they ignore the vicious stream of Jew-hatred coming out of the Middle East and prefer to worry about an altogether mythical post 9/11 backlash against Muslims. Instead, they prefer to dwell on the far less potent danger posed by the tiny groups of Hitler-lovers who are generally too weak and isolated to do anything more than disturb the peace. While such groups are despicable and deserve the attention of law enforcement, to focus on them is to re-fight the last war.

Matthew Ackerman makes a similar point, but stresses the need for Jews to stop making the claim that Israel is the source of antisemitism – recognising that Israel was originally envisioned as the answer to antisemitism. The take-away point: antisemitism existed before Israel and it still exists today, but Israel is a source of pride and strength for the Jewish people that allows us to face this evil in a way that we were not able to before. ; Toulouse a Reminder of the Need to Refute Jewish Cowardice « Commentary Magazine.

There is one Zionist truth that Judt and his ilk pin their hat on, which is that the goal of the Jewish state is indeed and always has been, since Leo Pinsker put pen to paper, to change the way the world looks at Jews. For Pinsker, it was the unique quality of Jewish statelessness that prevented “a certain equality in rank” between Jews and non-Jews, a condition that fostered Jew-hatred and led to the terrible violence of Russian pogroms. For Theodor Herzl, his far more famous successor in Zionist pamphleteering, it was simply the presence of Jews that enraged the masses. He wrote, “We are naturally drawn into those places where we are not persecuted, and our appearance there gives rise to persecution.” The thing Pinsker, Herzl, and their followers got sadly wrong was the idea that Jews could be saved from Jew-hatred by creating a state of their own, either by “normalizing” the Jewish condition or by providing completely for their physical security. No state, though, can provide for the complete safety of all its citizens, let alone its ethnic kin abroad. And hatred of Jews, as should be beyond plain by now, clearly draws from deeper waters than the Jewish political condition, whatever it may be. We should call the fantasy that Jews would be able to live in peace if only they gave up their claim to independence cowardice because that is the term we reserve for those who willingly give up what is theirs in the hope that by so doing that may be freed of physical danger. The Jewish state may not be able to resolve the non-Jewish problem of hatred of Jews, but it can – as has been the case these last ten years in an Israel that has woken up to the truth that many of its enemies can be appeased only by its death – cure the Jews of their fascination with weakness. That is, if we have the courage to stand united against the irrational attacks launched against us and our children.

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Roxon right on Sharia

I have to confess to being a little underwhelmed when I heard that Nicola Roxon had been appointed Attorney-General instead of Robert McClelland – a solid if unremarkable A-G. This, of course, is the same Nicola Roxon who, as then health minister, once referred to herself as “Nanny Nicola”. From what I could tell, she was definitely cast from my least favourite political mould – the “I know what’s best for you and I’m going to make sure you do that whether you want to or not” kind of politician. I am a big boy now, thanks, and I very much resent this attitude.

That said, it seems I may have underestimated Ms Roxon to a degree. I was very happy to read this headline over the weekend:

Roxon baulks at role for sharia by Australian Muslims | The Australian.

“There is no place for sharia law in Australian society and the government strongly rejects any proposal for its introduction, including in relation to wills and succession,” Ms Roxon said.

“The Australian government is committed to protecting the right of all people to practise their religion without intimidation or harassment, but always within the framework of Australian law.”

Note: I will forgive Roxon this, but “sharia” means “Islamic law” – calling it “sharia law” is a tautology.

Roxon was speaking in the context of a woman who wanted to obey the “sharia” with regards to inheritance for her children, which means that her sons inherit double the share inherited by their sister. It is very important to be aware of these kinds of rules within sharia, because many people from Roxon’s side of politics will defend the right of Muslims to their own sharia courts on the basis of moral relativity in various guises, such as “ethnic diversity” or “cultural sensitivity”.

The inheritance law is not the only aspect of family sharia that is inimical to Australia’s (and the West’s) values. For instance, as anyone who has seen Academy Award-winning Iranian film A Separation will know, sharia also mandates that in a divorce, the husband has the right to decide: a) if his wife is even permitted to divorce him and b) who keeps the children. Note that this is not dissimilar form the Orthodox Jewish concept of a “Get” – one that I strongly oppose and one that most Orthodox communities try desperately to find loopholes around (such as effectively excommunicating husbands who refuse to divorce their wives).

I will pause at this point to note that, Read the rest of this entry »

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How to really help Africa/International Women’s Day-after

Our friend Joseph Kony totally overshadowed International Women’s Day yesterday — which is a horrible thing to do, add that one to the list. Also, a lot of people criticised me for being too negative about Kony because I was “trying to stop people to take action”. But more on that later. Anyway, I thought I would post a few items that would have been relevant yesterday while also making a few positive suggestions of campaigns that would help Africans more than wearing a Kony armband.

1. The “Girl Affect”

The crux of this is described in the following moving infographic:

Or much more eloquently by Nicholas Kristof in a recent New York Times Magazine article:

The Women’s Crusade – NYTimes.com.

if the injustices that women in poor countries suffer are of paramount importance, in an economic and geopolitical sense the opportunity they represent is even greater. “Women hold up half the sky,” in the words of a Chinese saying, yet that’s mostly an aspiration: in a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized, and it’s not an accident that those same countries are disproportionately mired in poverty and riven by fundamentalism and chaos. There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism. That’s why foreign aid is increasingly directed to women. The world is awakening to a powerful truth: Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution.

And it can be found on Facebook.

2. Holding Islamists to account

The downside to that Kristof piece was this:

Yet another reason to educate and empower women is that greater female involvement in society and the economy appears to undermine extremism and terrorism. It has long been known that a risk factor for turbulence and violence is the share of a country’s population made up of young people. Now it is emerging that male domination of society is also a risk factor; the reasons aren’t fully understood, but it may be that when women are marginalized the nation takes on the testosterone-laden culture of a military camp or a high-school boys’ locker room. That’s in part why the Joint Chiefs of Staff and international security specialists are puzzling over how to increase girls’ education in countries like Afghanistan — and why generals have gotten briefings from Greg Mortenson, who wrote about building girls’ schools in his best seller, “Three Cups of Tea.” Indeed, some scholars say they believe the reason Muslim countries have been disproportionately afflicted by terrorism is not Islamic teachings about infidels or violence but rather the low levels of female education and participation in the labor force.

This almost certainly confuses cause and effect. The “Islamic teachings about infidels or violence” are, by and large, the reason behind the low levels of female education and participation in the labor force. I particularly dislike calling these teachings “Islamic”; they are not Islamic, they are Islamist. I have spoken to plenty of Muslims who have explained to me in detail why there is nothing Islamic whatsoever about not educating women and slaying the infidels.

Moreover, the denial of Islamist discrimination is an example of a third-worldist well-meaning condescension. This leads to the kind of situation described yesterday by Isobel Coleman, Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at Council on Foreign Relations:

Why the Arab Spring Hasn’t Been Better for Women – Isobel Coleman – International – The Atlantic.

One theme is that women played an essential role in the Arab world’s uprisings, only to be marginalized once transitions began. Moushira Khattab, a former Egyptian ambassador to South Africa and minister of family and population, writes that women joined men in calling for freedom in Tahrir Square. Since then, though, “the train of change has not only left them behind, but has in fact turned against them…

Dormant conservative value systems are being manipulated by a religious discourse that denies women their rights.” Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist, says flatly that “the ‘Arab Spring’ is not an accurate description” of what has occurred. She notes that after Iran’s revolution, “a dictator fell from power, but a religious tyranny took the place of democracy.” The uprisings will only be fulfilled, she argues, “when women achieve their rights.” For many, the rise of traditional and religious-based politics is deeply harmful to women. Rola Dashti, a former member of the Kuwaiti parliament who lost her seat in the election last month (in which Islamists surged and no women were elected), says that “women’s presence and participation in public life–specifically in politics, decision-making positions, and state affairs–moved from marginalization during repressive regimes to rejection with Islamist regimes.” She pulls no punches when it comes to moderate Islamists: “the promotion of moderate Islamism by Islamists in power is nothing more than a hidden agenda of radical and extremist ideologies when it comes to social issues and citizens’ rights, especially as it concerns women.” Rend Al-Rahim, who served as the first ambassador to the United States in Iraq’s post-Saddam government and now runs the Iraq Foundation, says that “the retreat in women’s rights has more to do with the resurgence of patriarchal, narrowly conservative social mores embedded in ancient tribal customs than with religion. Sharia is only a convenient peg for the deeper instinct of male dominance.”

I’ll also throw these two videos in while we’re at it:

3. Mentorship

A little less international relations focussed for a second (well not really, but anyway), some interesting ideas came to light in this post on the Council on Foreign Relations site:

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action » Ask the Experts: Where Are the Women in Foreign Policy?.

There’s a gap in the types of tasks women and men are assigned early in their careers. Intentionally or not, women tend to given more administrative or support work rather than policy or research work; path dependence takes over from there. I recall a prominent scholar regularly asking his female research assistant (RA) to pick up his dry cleaning and take his car to the shop—things he didn’t ask of male RAs.

There’s also a mentorship gap. Young women have trouble finding men willing to act in that capacity because there are few mechanisms to develop the rapport that underlies a good, productive mentoring relationship.  Conversely, men may be concerned about how a mentoring relationship will be perceived and shy away as a result. But mentors are vital for opening doors and offering suggestions and feedback about career choices—efforts that are particularly valuable in the foreign policy world.

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Human Rights Watch and letting Muslim states have the rulers they want but don’t deserve

A whole long list of NGO officials have come out in criticism of Human Rights Watch and its CEO Kenneth Roth, slamming Roth for his hypocrisy in supporting Islamist regimes that are serial abusers of human rights. As usual, my bold:

Women and Islam: A Debate with Human Rights Watch | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books.

You say, “It is important to nurture the rights-respecting elements of political Islam while standing firm against repression in its name,” but you fail to call for the most basic guarantee of rights—the separation of religion from the state. Salafi mobs have caned women in Tunisian cafes and Egyptian shops; attacked churches in Egypt; taken over whole villages in Tunisia and shut down Manouba University for two months in an effort to exert social pressure on veiling. And while “moderate Islamist” leaders say they will protect the rights of women (if not gays), they have done very little to bring these mobs under control. You, however, are so unconcerned with the rights of women, gays, and religious minorities that you mention them only once, as follows: “Many Islamic parties have indeed embraced disturbing positions that would subjugate the rights of women and restrict religious, personal, and political freedoms. But so have many of the autocratic regimes that the West props up.” Are we really going to set the bar that low? This is the voice of an apologist, not a senior human rights advocate.

Nor do you point to the one of the clearest threats to rights—particularly to women and religious and sexual minorities—the threat to introduce so-called “shari’a law.” It is simply not good enough to say we do not know what kind of Islamic law, if any, will result, when it is already clear that freedom of expression and freedom of religion—not to mention the choice not to veil—are under threat. And while it is true that the Muslim Brotherhood has not been in power for very long, we can get some idea of what to expect by looking at their track record. In the UK, where they were in exile for decades, unfettered by political persecution, the exigencies of government, or the demands of popular pressure, the Muslim Brotherhood systematically promoted gender apartheid and parallel legal systems enshrining the most regressive version of “shari’a law”. Yusef al-Qaradawi, a leading scholar associated with them, publicly maintains that homosexuality should be punished by death. They supported deniers of the Holocaust and the Bangladesh genocide of 1971, and shared platforms with salafi-jihadis, spreading their calls for militant jihad. But, rather than examine the record of Muslim fundamentalists in the West, you keep demanding that Western governments “engage.”

A side note, but the term “sharia law” is a tautology – Sharia means “Islamic law”.

Meanwhile, the parts in bold are very important. All across the Muslim world, horrible acts like honour killings become the norm not necessarily because they are official state policy, but because regimes will publicly condemn these acts whenever they are criticised while not actually taking any steps to prevent them.

In fact, they often condemn with one arm while encouraging with the other – as the letter above pointed out.  Qaradawi is not a fringe radical, he is a celebrity cleric with his own show on Al Jazeera Arabic and one of the most prominent spiritual leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood; yet he encourages violence, terror and intolerance with impunity.

This is another example of the “third-worldism” that I wrote about recently. HRW are refusing to listen to the Muslim Brotherhood when they say that homosexuality is a crime punishable by death, Jews are a plague on humanity and should all be killed, Christians should be expelled from Egypt and women should be not seen and most definitely not heard. All it takes is for Muslim Brotherhood members to say “we are committed to the rights of women” and HRW believes that they must be “moderate”. Remember that the “rights” that they speak of are not what our Western minds think when we hear “women’s rights”.

HRW replies

The HRW response is also very revealing:

In the introduction to Human Rights Watch’s most recent World Report, released on January 22, Kenneth Roth wrote that Western governments cannot credibly maintain a commitment to democracy if they reject electoral results when an Islamic party does well. That was the hypocritical stance of the West when, for example, it acquiesced in the Algerian military’s interruption of free elections that the Islamist Salvation Front was poised to win and then in the brutal suppression of that party in the early 1990s, or when President George W. Bush cut short his “democracy agenda” after Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006 and the Muslim Brotherhood did better than expected in Egyptian parliamentary elections in 2005.

Western governments should reject this inconsistent and unprincipled approach to democracy. Human Rights Watch called on Western governments to come to terms with the rise of Islamic political parties and press them to respect rights. As rights activists, we are acutely aware of the possible tension between the right to choose one’s leaders and the rights of potentially disfavored groups such as women, gays and lesbians, and religious minorities. Anyone familiar with the history of Iran or Afghanistan knows the serious risks involved. However, in the two Arab Spring nations that have had free and fair elections so far, a solid majority voted for socially conservative political parties in Egypt, and a solid plurality did so in Tunisia. The sole democratic option is to accept the results of those elections and to press the governments that emerge to respect the rights of all rather than to ostracize these governments from the outset.

Notice that they pulled the “Bush card”. This is an argument reminiscent of the Reduction ad Hitlerum fallacy, a corollary of Godwin’s Law, whereby anything that George W Bush did is considered to be wrong by virtue of the fact that he did it. It’s an argument used by the kind of idiots who genuinely think Bush was comparable to Hitler, not to mention the kind of idiots who would assume that something must be bad just because someone they don’t like did it. That said, Bush was wrong – HRW just don’t understand why.

Bush was not wrong to reject Hamas after they were elected, he was wrong to let them stand for election in the first place. Hamas was always very open about what it was: an organisation that opposed democracy, advocated Medieval morality, called for genocide and committed violence – hell, you can learn all that by just watching their TV channel:

What Bush and HRW do not understand is that the mere fact that a government is “elected” does not make a for a democracy. This is a historical fact that actually can be proven by a Hitler comparison: the Nazis were elected into power in Germany. A measure of whether a government is democratic is not how it comes into power initially, but how it stays in power.

Elections are the last step in forming a democracy, not the first. The single most important component of a democracy is the rule of law – the rulers must be under the law, there must be some kind of peaceful mechanism for removing them from office. In order for that to happen, the society needs a separation of powers – the rulers must be accountable to the legal system and not the other way around; the use of physical force (i.e. army and police) must be separate from both. There also has to be some kind of mechanism for the legal system to find information about the rulers’ activities to see if they must be removed from power and the rulers must be unable to stop this information from getting out: you need freedom of political communication.

Even a society with: the rule of law; free speech; and an independent judiciary, army and government; is not ready for popular elections. For the people to elect their leaders, they need to be informed enough about the different options to make a decision; there needs to be a well-established media and at least two realistic options to vote for who can scrutinise each other, otherwise any election will automatically go to whoever has the most widespread networks (i.e. the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood).

Also, it is perfectly acceptable to exclude parties who are openly anti-democratic. Israel has banned “Jewish terrorist” Meir Kahane’s party from running in the Knesset for that exact reason.

Finally, the most important thing to realise is that democracy does not happen overnight. Rushing into elections is stupid, it will only put revolutionaries into power and if there is anything to be learned from post-colonial Africa, it’s that revolutionaries do not generally make great rulers.

Let Islamists be Islamists and treat them like Islamists

Tragically, while HRW are (I believe genuinely) trying to avoid imposing Western morality onto the Arab people, they are in fact doing something arguably worse. Rather than openly trying to change Arab societies into something resembling Western ones, they are approaching the Arab peoples with an entirely Western mindset and just treating them as though they are Western, no matter how much they themselves reject Western values. This attitude is extremely destructive, it will result in more Afghanistans and less Indonesias.

We must be honest with ourselves and we must be willing to take Arab parties at their word. We want an Egypt that does not oppress women, homosexuals, Jews and Christians; we want an Egypt with democratic institutions where people are not persecuted for anti-government or “un-Islamic” activities. The Muslim Brotherhood do not want this Egypt and they say that openly – why do we refuse to believe them?

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A warning for Arab women, hope from Palestinians but in spite of everything, Israel still way out in front

In an article that I will probably discuss later, Israeli academic Eyal Gross rebuts a theory by another academic that, in his words, “what he calls the ‘racist’ narrative of gay-friendly Israel versus homophobic Palestine confirms Israeli perceptions of the collective others by representing the queer Palestinian as a helpless victim of Palestinian homophobia in need of the benevolence and protection of the Israeli state.” As Gross notes, the reality is that this is true: there are a lot of persecuted gay Palestinians who would find some kind of solace in Israel. Of course, Israel does harbour some intolerance and it is not fair to stereotype all Palestinians as homophobes, but it is equally true that mainstream Israeli society is against homophobia, whereas Palestinian society is a very difficult place to be gay – openly gay Palestinians are quite literally risking their lives.

The reason I am relating this is to illustrate the unfortunate tendency in some parts of the Western “left” to reject as “racist” any criticism of non-Western (and especially Middle Eastern) societies. In their well-meaning eyes, they see all people as basically “good” and do not want to accept that, for instance, Arab society tends to be extremely sexist, homophobic and racist. Ironically, they attribute the belief that this is, in fact, the case to a “colonialist” attitude – white people thinking that non-whites are barbaric savages. Ironically, it is these “third-worldists” who are in fact taking a patronising/colonialist attitude. Even worse than stereotyping Arabs as “backwards”, they are taking their own interpretation of “good values” and imputing it onto the Arabs.

This patronising attitude has been showing-up everywhere since the “Arab Spring” began last year. As “the people” of Egypt, Libya and Syria were protesting dictators, the third-worldist wisdom was that they must want a more democratic society. Then suddenly, after decrying everyone who was worried about an Islamist takeover as “racists”, they are shocked when the Libyan National Transitional Council announce that they plan to implement Shariah. The reality is that the Libyan revolutionaries were always open about where they stood on Islamic law, the third-worldists just refused to listen to them when they criticised Qaddafi for discouraging women from wearing the veil and for being accepting of Jews and Christians.

How short everyone’s memory is. Even if you can’t think back to Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979, remember what happened when the Afghans became free from Russian oppression? Well if your memory could use some jogging, Morwari Zafar has written an amazing obituary for her grandmother, Massouma Esmatey-Wardak, an Afghan leader and politician who was hit as hard as the rest of Afghanistan when the once relatively prosperous and modern nation was taken over by Islamists.

Determination Defined: Remembering an Afghan Pioneer – by Morwari Zafar | The AfPak Channel.

In the wake of her successes at the helm of AWC, President Najibullah Ahmadzai appointed Massouma as Minister of Education in 1990, though she was not a part of his contentious political party. Her appointment at a post formerly held by her husband, who supported her, was part and parcel of the political reformations in the country at that time. Under the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA), the country was progressing socially in a way that seemed incongruous with Islam. And more than ever, Massouma was determined to secure access to education and promote literacy for women. The efforts were condemned by most Mujahideen [holy warriors] leaders, who perceived the developments as a communist endeavor destined to obliterate Islam from the country’s core values, and promote sexual anarchy.

Women’s rights disintegrated in the chaos of the civil war … After the Soviet withdrawal, President Najibullah agreed to transfer power to the Mujahideen in an effort brokered by the United Nations. Headed by President Mojadeddi, the former Jihadists took key ministerial positions in the new Islamic Afghan Government … The Taliban dealt the final blow to the social development and women’s rights of my grandmother’s generation. The current Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan maintains a sketchy record of human and women’s rights, and yet 50 years ago, even women in some rural areas had access to education and healthcare. Neither my grandmother nor my grandfather was born to wealthy families with vast social capital. They came from modest families that understood the value of education — especially for women — as a part of Islam, not divorced from it.

Afghanistan was starting from a better position than any of the “Arab Spring” countries: Wardak was the Minister for Education there, no “Arab Spring” country ever had a woman in a prominent leadership role. The only one that genuinely seems to be showing progress towards a more free and open society is Tunisia, where the Islamist al-Nahda was forced to join in a coalition government with secular parties. Egypt and Libya do not look so lucky, and by refusing to acknowledge how serious the situation there is, the third-worldist West is damning the women, Christians and other groups to some very unpleasant circumstances.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians seem to be actually making some progress against their retrenched prejudices. Jillian Kestler-D’Amours has reported on a Palestinian female-run radio station that could signify something extremely important (my bold):

FM Radio Spells Change, Success for Mideast Women – IPS ipsnews.net.

Launched in June 2010, Nisaa FM is an almost entirely female-run Palestinian radio station based in Ramallah, West Bank and the only radio station in the Middle East devoted solely to women’s issues. Its director Maysoun Odeh Gangat says that the station aims to inform, inspire and empower local women.

“Through the positive role that the women are playing in the society that we portray, we believe that we can empower women economically and then socially and politically. It could be any woman from the rural areas or the refugee camp, or a woman parliamentarian or minister,” Gangat told IPS.

In addition to suffering from a myriad of human rights abuses stemming from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza, Palestinian women face challenges from within their own society.

According to a 2009 report released by the Palestinian Women’s Information and Media Centre (PWIC) in Gaza, 77 percent of the women in Gaza had experienced some form of violence; 53 percent had been exposed to physical violence and 15 percent to sexual abuse.

The bolded paragraph is key: this fact is almost never admitted by anyone on the “pro-Palestinian” side. The Palestinian people have for decades remained in a self-perpetuated misery by blaming everything wrong with their lives on Israel and refusing to look within their own community. In a way, they have been simply believing what the third-worldists tell them; amazingly I have actually heard people blaming Palestinian oppression of women/homosexuals on Israel, in spite of the fact that the Palestinians are no different in that regard from all of the neighbouring Arab countries.

If the Palestinian Authority is now allowing a voice like Nisaa FM to start accepting some culpability and criticising their own culture for its flaws, maybe we will actually start to see progress in peace talks.  Addressing domestic violence and sexual abuse is a start, but a lot can potentially follow. That said, there is still a long way to go until they are even close to Israeli society, as was demonstrated recently. Despite all of the many issues with the ultra-orthodox and gender segregation, all three centre-left parties in the Knesset now have female leaders; this means that if anyone can unseat Netanyahu, Israel will have its second female Prime Minister by next year. Recognising the difference between the two societies is neither racist nor colonial, it is simply allowing yourself to see.

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Driving the men crazy

Saudi women are slowly starting to fight back. This is great to see!

Women who have driving licences obtained abroad are urged to get behind the wheel and use their cars themselves, without relying on male drivers as required by Saudi fatwa.

The campaign’s Facebook page, Women2Drive, said the action was due to start yesterday and would keep going “until a royal decree allowing women to drive is issued”.

There is no secular law banning women from driving in the oil-rich kingdom, but the Interior Ministry imposes regulations based on fatwa, or religious edict, that women should not be permitted to drive.

Note the last sentence there. That is why there needs to be a separation of mosque and state…

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