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Book review: Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam by Innes Bowen

In the book Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam, the author – a BBC radio producer (boo, hiss) – attempts to provide an overview of the various strands of Islam in the UK. Her aim is not to tell us what to think but simply to provide the facts – what are they called? how many of them are there? where so they come from? what do they believe? etc. It is up to us, the readers, to draw conclusions.

Along the way there are a number of surprises. One of them is how different Islam is from Christianity. You would expect them to be rather similar given that they are both book-based, mono-theistic religions that revere both Abraham and Christ. Not a bit of it.

For example, in Christianity there is usually a close relationship between denomination and building. In Islam (at least in the UK) it is far more vague. A sect might be said to be “in control” of a mosque, the implication being that that control is temporary and could be lost. Many influential Muslim organisations such as Tablighi Jamaat and Jamaat-e-Islami have no mosques at all or very few.

Another is that the largest two sects in the UK are the Deobandis and Barelwis. No, I’d never heard of them either. For the record they are both Sunni (one definitely Sufi the other arguably so) and both originated in British India. It is worth pointing out that for the most part Bowen focuses on Sunni Islam but that is hardly surprising given that Sunnis vastly outnumber Shi’ites both globally and in the UK.

Another is that interest in Islam seems to be a second-generation thing. The first generation brought their Islam with them but seem to have regarded it as something they did rather than thought about. The second generation are much more inclined to read the Koran, take it seriously and ask questions. Even so, the most influential Islamic thinkers still tend to be based abroad.

I said earlier that it is left up to the reader to draw his own conclusions. So what does this reader conclude? Well, my biggest takeaway was that despite there being many strands of Islam and many weird and wonderful doctrinal disputes within Islam, there is no “good” Islam. The best you get is “less awful” Islam.

We are all well aware of the religion’s major dos and don’ts: praying, fasting (which includes liquids in case you didn’t already know), pork, alcohol, Halal etc. But there are others. The Deobandis, for instance, deprecate watching TV and listening to music. Almost all sects oppose celebrating the birthday of Muhammed which I assume gets extended to birthdays in general. There isn’t even the avenue of creativity in the service of the religion. Christianity has inspired great art, great songs and great buildings. But Islam has nothing to show for itself – at least not recently. The fact is that to be Muslim is to be miserable.

Of course, people are free to be miserable in private. What we really want to know about is whether they are going to blow us up or not. The news is not good. Islamic thought – of whatever strand – has little time for infidels and their institutions. Almost all sects are inward looking and wish to isolate themselves from the surrounding society. In this, they are helped by the welfare state and an ideology of political correctness. There seems to be no inquiry as to why it is that the followers of the one true God have ended up so poor while the non-believers and wrong believers are so rich. At best infidels are to be tolerated. At worst, to be eliminated. As such, Islamic terrorism is a bit like a genetic disease. Millions of Muslims by their faith can carry the disease without ever showing the symptoms but every so often it becomes virulent and people die. Islam and violence are inseparable.

This even has an impact on language. In the West words like “scholar” and “pious” tend to have positive connotations. But when they are applied to Islam – as Bowen does from time to time – they imply something altogether more sinister.

The only real challenge to Islam and violence comes from Ismaili doctrine which allows women to go around unveiled and for alcohol to be drunk in moderation and whose adherents do not appear to have got mixed up in terrorism. Ismailis have never had political power (at least not recently) and have a long tradition of trading. It is a general rule that the more trading that goes on in an Islamic community the less likely it is to produce terrorists. Even so the very small amount of tolerance that the (Nazari) Ismailis permit is largely – if not entirely – due to the influence of the Aga Khan. A different Aga Khan could easily change things.

A television show about what happens to ex-Muslims

I just spotted, in the Radio Times, this:


I seem to recall reading not that long ago about this TV show, at Mick Hartley’s blog. Yes, in this posting. The show goes out on ITV, this coming Thursday, at 10.40pm. I love my Gogglebox (see above right) and will be watching this show, and recording it. I may even, although I promise nothing, have more to say about the show here, after I have actually seen it.

Judging by the blurb about this programme that I just read here, it deals with a quite wide range of nastinesses that ex-Muslims get subjected to by Muslims, nastinesses both legal and illegal, from merely nasty to downright evil.

Although this show will describe and criticise the merely nasty things that ex-Muslims are subjected to (being ostracised by their families, for instance), I doubt if it will go as far as saying that nastiness of that sort should be illegal, any more than I would. On the other hand, the programme will also be noting that many Muslims favour doing things which in Britain are illegal and which elsewhere ought to be illegal if they now aren’t. I refer to things like murder, incitement to murder, assault and the forcible denial of the right of ex-Muslims to express ex-Muslim opinions in public. For that I applaud this programme, and its maker, Deeyah Khan.

I focus on the illegal and thoroughly wicked things that are done by Muslims to ex-Muslims because this particular issue strikes me as one that ought particularly to be focussed on, by all who dislike either the general influence of Islam (as I do – I believe in being nasty to Islam), or by those who merely wish Muslims to stop doing uncontroversially terrible and terror-inducing things to ex-Muslims, and to infidels generally. Me, I think that the content of Islamic doctrine leads pretty directly to Muslims doing terrible things, but that is a different argument, and one that divides those who merely want “Islamic extremism” to abate.

The matter of what is divisive, and for whom, is important. When engaged in an ideological war, it can help to focus particularly on issues which will unite the people on your side, while dividing your opponents. Whatever your opinions about the nastiness of Islam in general (I think it very nasty), you will surely agree with me (even as you perhaps denounce me for telling all Muslims that their religion is nasty and thereby uniting them all against all infidels) that murdering ex-Muslims merely for being ex-Muslims is wrong and should be cracked down on with the full force of the law. So, the illegally evil things that happen to ex-Muslims are an issue that should be focussed on with particular enthusiasm. Hence my particular enthusiasm about this televlsion show.

I recently heard about how a quite prominent British Muslim, of the sort who argues that Western Civilisation, and Islam in approximately its present large and very influential form (just somewhat nicer), are capable of getting along amicably, and even in a state of mutual creativity. I think something like this may one day happen also, but only after Islam has at least been put on the ideological defensive (hence my belief in criticising Islam in general), in other words not for a longish while.

So anyway, this “good Muslim” was asked whether he condemned the murdering of ex-Muslims. He equivocated. I say that people like this should be faced again and again with this question, and made to pick their team. Is he so terrified of offending the many Muslims who, although not themselves murderers, nevertheless side with those who do murder ex-Muslims, that he is instead willing to offend all of the rest of us, including those Muslims who vehemently oppose such murders? Make up your damn mind, mate. In the not inconceivable event that he reads this, he may recognise himself. Good.

And Muslims who do pick their team, by unequivocally and publicly supporting such murders, should be confronted even more severely, in ways that perhaps include them being prosecuted for incitement to murder:

The programme finds that a number of senior British Bangladeshi imams, mainstream figures in society, have called for the execution of atheist bloggers in Bangladesh, claiming they have insulted Islam, and making a number of anti-atheist statements.

Making “anti-atheist statements” is fine, from the strictly legal point of view, provided no incitement to murder or to violence is involved. Just calling atheists wicked and mistaken shouldn’t be illegal. But nor should “insulting Islam”. However, calling for the murder of ex-Muslims is utterly vile, and it is a very good idea to make such Imams either squirm and equivocate in front of television cameras, or else show their true and vile colours, whichever they choose to go with, and for the rest of us to sneer at them for the morally and intellectually vacuous individuals that they are.

More importantly, we should be supplying moral and practical support to all those ex-Muslims who speak out about their beliefs. We should all try to make this an easier path to follow than it is now. This most definitely includes making, and watching and blogging about, television shows about ex-Muslims, full of admiration for them and for their courage and their wisdom, and full of contempt and denunciation of those who want them to shut up.

Security strip

“History,” wrote Edward Gibbon “is indeed little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.” One can well believe that his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire contains many lamentable tales wherein, for instance, after a barbarian attack the citizenry would take some random woman of the same tribe and humiliate her in a misdirected act of revenge.

French police make woman remove clothing on Nice beach following burkini ban

Photographs have emerged of armed French police confronting a woman on a beach and making her remove some of her clothing as part of a controversial ban on the burkini.

Authorities in several French towns have implemented bans on the Burkini, which covers the body and head, citing concerns about religious clothing in the wake of recent terrorist killings in the country.

The images of police confronting the woman in Nice on Tuesday show at least four police officers standing over a woman who was resting on the shore at the town’s Promenade des Anglais, the scene of last month’s Bastille Day lorry attack.

France, like the rest of the liberal West, gets this exactly and lethally wrong. First we forbid individuals their natural right to set the rules within their own property, to exclude and admit who they choose, to demand the burkini or to ban it. Then we set the law on people for the crime of wearing too much cloth on the public beach. A photograph is reproduced worldwide showing three armed male policemen standing over a Muslim woman and making her remove the clothes she considers necessary for modesty. Whatever your opinion of Islam and its clothing taboos, does anyone in the world believe that this makes the next jihadist attack less likely? To call it “security theatre” would be a compliment. The popular entertainment it calls to mind is that of the mob stripping and parading une femme tondue.

Samizdata quote of the day

It wasn’t a failed coup; it’s a successful purge.

Stephen Green, writing about Turkey.

All hail the Bob Crow Brigade

Middle East Eye reports:

Bob Crow brigade ’30 miles’ from IS-stronghold of Raqqa in Syria

The Bob Crow Brigade (BCB), a group of British and Irish volunteers fighting in northern Syria named after a famous British trade union leader, are edging closer to the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa.

A spokesperson from the BCB told Middle East Eye that the group was based on the “Raqqa front” around 30 miles from the IS group’s de facto capital.

The BCB is named after the late leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), who was known for his down-to-earth combative style and a staunch supporter of left-wing causes. He died in 2014.

I must confess that when I first heard of a brigade named after Bob Crow I thought it was a joke. It seems not. They are real, and they are really fighting some of the worst people in the world. Good luck to them.

Added later: Sure, they’re commies. And they support the strikers on Southern Rail. But they are doing it from Northern Syria while fighting Daesh. As Winston Churchill said during WWII, “if Hitler invaded Hell, I would make at least a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons.”

Charlie Hebdo once again seeks to sooth the savage beast

The people at Charlie Hebdo may be a bunch of benighted lefties with only the most tenuous grasp on reality, but they sure know how to thrown a party! Nice to see folks taking it all in calmly.

→ Continue reading: Charlie Hebdo once again seeks to sooth the savage beast

So the Somali who murdered a woman in London might be a jihadi after all…

Gosh who ever would have thought? Trouble is, as the authorities pretty much everywhere seem so keen to banish the very notion that any Muslim who murders someone is motivated by Islam, it is now impossible to believe anything the police say. Yes he may be a nutter, but that does not actually change anything if said nutter was motivated to act on his nuttiness by Islamic notions.

This now means any genuine non-sectarian violence by a Muslim will be assumed to be sectarian by the general public regardless of the facts, and regardless of that the authorities say. And those authorities have only themselves to blame, because they have been misleading or just outright lied so often nothing they they say is credible any more. And that is a great pity. Maybe he was indeed just a common or garden variety nutter (the linked article is hardly conclusive), but I doubt many people actually think that is the case, and that includes me.

Samizdata quote of the day

Our international progressive elite combines arrogance and foolishness. It arrogantly presumes to know more about ISIS than ISIS knows about itself. Then these same elites foolishly seek to conform foreign and domestic policies to address the allegedly ”true” motivations of our Islamic enemies. Thus they increase our vulnerability without doing anything to deter aggression. When it comes to fighting jihadists, the same realities hold in 2016 as they did in 1016. The west’s best weapons against jihad are its warriors, not its theologians — or its politicians.

David French

Ofir Haivry on the current state of Middle East

Via Mick Hartley, I came upon this summary of the state of the Middle East, and in particular of the bloody shambles that was the attempt to unite Sunni Islam, aka: the Arabs. It’s the best background briefing I have recently read on that deeply depressing region of our otherwise moderately undepressing world. Although, that doesn’t say much for I am no sort of Middle East expert, nor even much of an observer of it. Too depressing. But I read all of this piece, by Ofir Haivry of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem, at one sitting as soon as I encountered it, which is quite rare for me and my crumbling attention span.

I haven’t much to say about all this, but one thought does occur to me, which is that it seems rather wrong for Americans to blame other Americans for this bloody shambles. (Haivry himself does not blame America.) The next silliest thing to believing that your country is an unchallengeably magnificent superpower that never ever errs is to believe that your country’s mistakes and crimes are overwhelmingly more important and blameworthy than those of any other country, these two attitudes being far more similar than those who indulge in the latter one typically realise. The Middle East would surely now be a bloody shambles whatever the Americans had recently tried to do about it.

If there are imperialist villains to be blaming, how about Britain and France? But one suspects that, again, even if those notorious “lines in the sand” had never been drawn around a century ago, what would be happening on top of this sand would still now be a bloody shambles.

The only rays of light that Haivry discerns are in the form of the various little non-Islamic and anti-Islamist statelets that are starting to form, such as the newly emerging Kurdistan. The Kurds aren’t the only ones doing this, apparently. Good to hear.

And then of course there is the continuing success of Israel. A particular reason I am convinced by this article is that Israelis cannot afford to be wrong, and in particular they cannot afford to be sentimental, about what is going on around them.

Talking of sentimental, “Lawrence of Arabia” gets a well-deserved swipe of criticism.

Coup d’etat in Turkey

Just heard from someone in Turkey… looks like there is a coup d’etat under way. Interesting.

LATEST: seems they have not grabbed Ergodan, so it remains to be seen if the coup will be successful.

The Edward Cline eviction

This story suggests that there are some truly spineless people out there. A blogger and author, Ed Cline, has been ejected by his landlord because he isn’t particularly nice about Islam:

Readers will note that there is a new feature on this site, a PayPal button at the top or bottom of a new post, which anyone may use if he wishes to donate to my PayPal account to defray the costs incurred from my being evicted from my apartment of seven years because the landlady deemed me a mortal risk to her other tenants. Not because I was a physical menace to my neighbors, but because of what I wrote about Islam and Muslims. None of it flattering and none of it disinterested.

The situation, inaugurated when the FBI/NCIS paid me a visit on May 18th to inform me that my Rule of Reason site was on the radar of ISIS and other Islamic terrorist organizations, but that I was in no imminent danger. Thousands of Americans have been “targeted” by ISIS activists, or by wannabe terrorists. Their landlords or bankers have not told them to get lost. It is hard to ken the mentality of a person who would pretend that evicting me – an unprecedented event in my life – would somehow magically ward off any murderous Islamic mischief from her other tenants. I was instantly relegated to the status of a post WWII displaced person. I am currently “living out of a suitcase.” It has been a very stressful and costly experience for me. Not even several stories about the sheer irrationality of her actions have swayed the person I have not so fondly nicknamed, “The Bitch of Buchenwald.” As Daniel Greenfield noted in his article, the landlady acted, for all intents and purposes, as an agent of ISIS. There are scores, even thousands of her ilk in our federal, state, and local governments. Obsessed with not rocking the Islamic boat, though that boat has rocked with increasing frequency with hundreds of lives lost just in the West.
It is not my purpose here to say whether the landlord in question had a right to act in the way described (the landlord has not been quoted, so there may be other matters here, and it is only fair to make that point). It may well be that landlords in some cases state, in a rental agreement, that persons whose conduct might cause problems for neighbours etc can be evicted, although a lot depends on whether such “problems” are clearly defined, or not. For all I know, some rental agreements and rules in various places such as gated communities can be very tough. (I’d appreciate comments on that.) There may be a lot of expensive litigation and it sounds as if Mr Cline doesn’t have a lot of money. (People can help him out via Paypal.) A broader point, however, is that a man who hasn’t, as far as I know, committed a criminal offence is being turfed out of a rented flat because he is deemed a risk because of what he has written about Islam.
So in today’s West, and certainly Obama’s America, many authorities are determined to do what they can to play down the factor of Islamic totalitarianism as a key driver of violence and mayhem. But if a middle-aged man writes about this, or expresses bracing views on such matters, he can be thrown out of a home.
I can’t stand the man, but when you add up stories such as this, is there really any surprise that Donald Trump might be in the White House next January?

A source of satisfaction

When surveyed about what aspects of their lives give them happiness most people cite such reasons as family and friends, a decently paid job, or interesting hobbies. Sorin Hershko may have some or all of those. I don’t know. But in addition to any other sources of satisfaction he also has this:

40 years on, child hostages look back on Entebbe raid.

But the most emotional part of the day at the Peres Center, for most of the former hostages, came from the chance to reunite with Sorin Hershko, the IDF soldier who became a quadriplegic from an injury sustained during the operation and who was on hand to witness the celebration and receive an honorary certificate from the Peres Center for his bravery and heroism.

“After 40 years to see the children, to see the kids…”

Hershko said, trailing off, a broad smile on his face.

“I still them call children, despite the fact that they are all grown up and have families and their own children.

For me it is very important to see them and I am very satisfied that they are all here and well.”