Posts Tagged Islamists

Boston Bombings: looks like Tamerlan and Dzhokhar were homegrown terrorists

Turns out the spurious-sounding rumours that I reported earlier were, in fact, incorrect – meaning that Alan Jones was wrong. Who saw that one coming?

The bombers were not actually radical leftists. It turns out to have been Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tzarnaev – two Muslim brothers from Chechnya.

As of writing, Tamerlan has been shot and Dzokhar is apparently holed-up in a house, surrounded by police and National Guard. There is not a huge amount of information out there about them, but it is coming in drips and drabs – and everything that I have seen so far points to homegrown terrorists.

One of the quickly cobbled-together reports comes from Foreign Policy‘s David Kenner (my bold):

Who is Tamerlan Tzarnaev? | FP Passport.

Tamerlan was apparently a boxer who hoped to gain citizenship by being selected for the U.S. Olympic team: “Unless his native Chechnya becomes independent, Tamerlan says he would rather compete for the United States than for Russia,” Hirn wrote.

Other captions paint Tamerlan as a devoted Muslim. “I’m very religious,” he says at one point, noting that he does not smoke or drink alchol. “There are no values anymore,” he says, worrying that “people can’t control themselves.”

Tamerlan also appears isolated and bewildered by American life. “I don’t have a single American friend,” he laments, despite living in the United States for five years. “I don’t understand them.”

At the time the photos were taken [2009], Tamerlan’s life did not seem all bad: Hirn writes that he was competing as a boxer, enrolled in Bunker Hill Community College and pursuing a career as an engineer, and had a half-Portuguese, half-Italian girlfriend that converted to Islam for him. “She’s beautiful, man!” he said.

At some point, though, it all went wrong. In 2009, Tamerlan was arrested for domestic assault and battery after assaulting his girlfriend.

Dzhokhar, meanwhile, was a second-year medical student.

I don’t have a link for this, but I just listened to an interview of their uncle and I picked up a couple of other facts. Their uncle claimed that it is likely that Tamerlan had been influencing Dzhokhar, and that Dzhokhar was a sweet boy but Tamerlan had problems. He also said that their parents worked extremely hard and were only concerned with putting food on the table, although they both returned to Russia a year ago.

Also of interest is Tamerlan’s social media page. There are not many posts, but one includes a video entitled “Chechnyan accents”, and another has this joke:

Inside a car sit a Dagestani, a Chechen and Ingush. Who is driving?

The police.

According to this photo by photojournalist Johannes Hirn – who did a series on Tamerlan – Tamerlan was not doing too badly for himself. At least according to the designer clothing and the Mercedes he was driving:

Tamerlan by Johannes Hirn

Finally (and most significantly), according to Adam Serwer at Mother Jones, Tamerlan had been consuming and distributing Islamist propaganda.

Putting this all together, we can build a profile of the two boys (well, more so for Tamerlan):

  • Second generation immigrants (they both went to high school in the US, so more or less second).
  • Relatively affluent.
  • Devout Muslims with an Islamist bent.
  • Well educated.
  • Socially isolated – had trouble integrating into America and did not really feel as though they belonged.
  • Viewed Western culture as amoral.

What you have right there is the textbook profile for homegrown terrorists. They tend to be young second or third generation Muslim immigrants feel like the don’t belong anywhere – they can’t relate to their new adopted country, but have grown up there, so don’t fit in back in their old country. They feel lonely and isolated, so begin searching for meaning – and find it in extreme Islamism. This requires that they are affluent/educated enough to read and understand the jihadi propaganda, and to navigate the complex online network that jihadi groups operate in.

The truth remains to be seen, but from what we do know, my bet is that this is more or less the story of the Brothers Tzarnaev.

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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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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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Gaza extremism: what’s wrong with this sentence?

According to Jared Malsin in Foreign Policy, the recent murder of an Italian in Gaza has created some new scrutiny on Salafi (ultra-conservative literalist Islam-ism) Islam in Gaza. Fair enough.

Now try and guess what’s wrong here:

Gaza’s Salafis under scrutiny by Jared Malsin | The Middle East Channel

At the root of these dynamics is the Israeli and Western policy of isolating Gaza and ignoring Hamas. The crippling four-year-long blockade of Gaza has created the conditions of human misery and desperation in which a handful of people have turned to extremism.

Did you get it?

The premise here is that there was no extremism in Gaza before the blockade. So apparently, thousands of suicide bombers willing to end their own lives and kill room-fulls of civilians weren’t extreme. I guess they were just misunderstood.

Read on:

Perhaps realizing that a heavy hand can create further radicalization, Hamas has also recently taken a more nuanced approach to the Salafis, including sending religious scholars into prisons in hopes of nurturing a more tolerant outlook among them.

So Hamas clerics are the moderate ones now? Let’s lok at something one of them said once:

Clip Transcript | MEMRI

[The Jews] want to present themselves to the world as if they have rights, but, in fact, they are foreign bacteria – a microbe unparalleled in the world. It’s not me who says this. The Koran itself says that they have no parallel: “You shall find the strongest men in enmity to the believers to be the Jews.”

May He annihilate this filthy people who have neither religion nor conscience. I condemn whoever believes in normalizing relations with them, whoever supports sitting down with them, and whoever believes that they are human beings. They are not human beings. They are not people. They have no religion, no conscience, and no moral values.

Sounds pretty moderate to me, right?

Ironically, Malsin did stumble across the point somewhere, but seemed to look past it and try to find it somewhere else.

This is the crux of Hamas’ dilemma: if it allows attacks on Israel, it risks massive retaliation from the Israelis; if it imposes too strict a ceasefire, it risks eroding its credibility among its political base in Gaza, particularly among its armed cadres. A U.N. diplomat, quoted anonymously by Crisis Group explained the problem: “How long can Hamas sustain a policy of not engaging in resistance, while this non-engagement doesn’t produce any results in terms of liberating Palestine, easing the blockade, or any other political goal for which the movement exists?”

Hamas here is reaping what it has sown. They have been spreading and practising this kind of extremism for years. The problem for them is that now they control Gaza, they have more responsibility than they had when they were just a militia and their policy determines what happens to the Gazans. If they continue to randomly target civilian populations, they will only escalate tensions and cause more harm to come to everyone – so they are finally beginning to realise that this is not an effective strategy, or finally starting to think at all strategically.

These Jihadi groups that they can’t control are Hamas’ legacy to the Palestinian people. Hamas paved the way for the extreme thought, the violent rhetoric, the weapons smuggling and the kidnapping of foreigners. They brought the idea of violence as an end in itself, rather than a means to an end, to Gaza.

To reign-in these groups, Hamas would have to cooperate with Israel to a degree – as the PA have done to reduce terror in the West Bank. This, however, will be a complete reversal of everything that Hamas stand for – so unfortunately, I can’t see it happening.

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Women just aren’t supposed to drive

Arab News gave us some Saudi women’s perspectives on driving.

I don’t even know where to start…

Not all Saudi women seeking to drive cars – Arab News

“When we want to go to a shopping center or to the hospital, the driver drops us at the main entrance and drives away. We don’t have to care about remembering where we parked our car or parking far away from the door,” said Zaina Al-Salem, a 29-year-old banker. When I travel to a country where I can drive, I’m usually burdened about the part when I get to park my car and walk all the way to the store.”

“We always complain about Saudi men’s driving. What makes women better than them? At least men have been practicing this for a while, and if it happened for women then they would have zero experience,” she said. Even the streets are not built well for driving. The streets are damaged and bumpy and most women will not be able to handle them.”

At least it ends on a kind of high note:

“I know for sure that day will come when Saudi women can drive, and when that happens people will not accept it and fathers will forbid their daughters from driving. In fact they might get recruit a female driver instead of a male.”

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Azania declares independence from Somalia

I almost completely missed this, there was next to no media reporting on it at all. Bizzarely, the only Australian media outlet to mention it was Brisbane’s Courier Mail yesterday.

There’s a new, Kenyan-supported breakaway state from Somalia. Somalia is the world’s least functional state; it has no real government to speak of and has been in a state of complete anarchy for 20 years. The single most powerful group in Somalia is the Islamist group Al-Shabab, members of which were recently convicted of planning a terror attack on an Australian army base in Sydney, so this is pretty significant, one would think.

Also note that another state-but-not-a-state in Somalia, Somaliland, possibly the most functional democracy in North Africa. I guess no one cares about the non-Arab Africans though…

Somalia creates new state, Azania – CBS News.

(AP)  NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Somali politicians are creating a new state in the battle-scarred nation, bringing the number of regional administrations to at least 10.

The creation of Azania was celebrated Sunday in a colorful ceremony in Kenya’s capital. But the country’s fragile government is condemning the move, saying it fractures the already chaotic nation.

Kenya supports the new administration as it creates a buffer zone near its border with Somalia.

Azania President Mohamed Abdi Gandhi says his first duty is to retake his territory from an al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab.

Somalia has been mired in violence since 1991.

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Israeli Arabs having a bad day

Israeli Arab actor Juliano Mer-Khamis has been killed by “masked Palestinian gunmen” in Jenin. Mer-Khamis had been the subject of threats against his “un-Islamic” plays:

Israeli actor Juliano Mer-Khamis shot dead in Jenin – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Some of the criticism focused on the fact that the theater offered co-ed activities, despite prohibition in the Islamic moral code.

Objectors were also outraged when Mer-Khamis staged the play “Animal Farm”, in which the young actors played the part of a pig, which Islam considers an impure animal.

Mer Khamis said he had planned to stage The Lieutenant of Inishmore, a satire of armed resistance, but shelved the idea after someone smashed the window of his car.

In other not-so-pleasant news, it seems that Israeli schoolchildren have been using figures wearing keffiyehs for target practise on a pre-military program. I guess there is racism in Israel after all.

There’s really no excuse for this kind of thing. I hope that the people behind this are publicly relieved of their jobs.

Students on trip to IDF base simulated shooting targets with Arab headdress – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News.

Twelfth-grade students from Herzliya’s Hayovel High School took part in a simulated shooting attack in which the targets were figures decked out with the Arab keffiyeh headdress, Haaretz has learned.

The incident took place at a military base last week during the annual 12th grade trip. The students were being escorted to a commanders’ base in the Negev as part of an “IDF preparation” project, which is sanctioned by the Education Ministry.

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