Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Cheers To Suicide! Where's My Martini?

Spotted this in the paper.

Here's to monday mourning the honey suckled dew
tattered kites sheepishly fighting floating o'er
green hills rolling ether
and ether cloggin the brain and sogging
numbed, dulled, misty, muted ...
greyed ...
swayed in a bouyant vacuum
Void and Nulled.

Here's to saluting the ashes of Amurken flags.
Here's to marching the blitzkrieg bop.
Here's to hands dropped and swinging (9 front 6 rear)
fingers curled torpor laugh.

Here's to the missing milk of fumescent flowers,
the keystoned soul holding ancient towers,
Hell, everybody knows
everybody knows
where this train ends.

Slinking slinking back from shadowed white walls
hallowed halls of marble
(not the altars of innocence).

The inexperienced have nothing to offer.
And there's no qwelling a phantom with fears
swelling tears wetting no flesh
nor the tangential tangled mesh of a lover's hair.

Sgt Thomas J Strickland of the 108th Armor Regiment of the US National Guard was killed in Iraq on August 15. He was also the author of a weblog where he detailed his experiences and published poetry. "What I'm after," he wrote, "is an outlet, an escape, a hiding place for the me that takes a back seat when I put on my uniform."

Friday, August 26, 2005

The wrong trousers?

Listening to David "Two Brains" Willets on the radio criticising the EU's embargo on Chinese trousers and some pithy woman defending the decision on the grounds that it was "hoovering up" the global low cost market from Bangladesh to the Philippines got me thinking...

About what if it aint the "end of history" (a very TETT thought this) hardly even the beginning... about what if, dreadful though the mad mullahs are, they're just a side-show... but not in a Power of Nightmares kind of way more your everyday, historical sort, just as back in 1905 the UK was battling Johnny Boer and still pointing most of its guns across the Channel in the direction of La Frog...

And these thoughts percolated with headlines about VJ Day (I was on the Tube by now) and the victory of the democracies over dictatorship... two dictatorships at any rate... and hopes for democracy in Iraq... and I thought...

Are we missing a trick here? Sure we just love those cheap Chinese trousers, as "Two Brains" pointed out, but who exactly are we dealing with? And isn't our avarice for trousers blinding us to the fact that they are produced by a dictatorship that ruthlessly crushes desent? And doesn't this avarice, which will ultimately, as the Pithy Lady pointed out, extend to cut price higher quality goods like plus fours and other specialist trousers currently being produced at home, lead to the destabilisation of our own economy, even democracy?

Were the Chinese simply turning Clausewitz's dictum on its head and conducting war by other means? Were they playing us at our own game, recognising that our greed would forego any democratic demands? Would we a century hence wake up within a society that had bowed to the Metropolis-like logic that the only way to compete in the trouser market was to run our society the "Chinese" way? Was this the masterplan of "Two Brains" and his Chinese backers, for all his silky talk of free trousers for the poor?

And had dashing, dynamic EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson spotted this terrifying trend and was even now battling against it, the un-sung hero of liberty, democracy, and the world's working class?

Go ahead and sneer, but it aint over till it's over... Or as the Chairman might say, see above.

Will history remember Mandy's lonely struggle on behalf of unaffordable trousers and democracy?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

It was God wot done it

Congratulations Nick, finding God in the most unlikely of places. Not only finding the big guy/gal but finding such a nice reasonable very English version as well! In the English countryside God is clearly a shy retiring sort as befits the traditional English character; a sort of kindly old uncle, the type you only remember at high days and holidays. You forget He's alive until Christmas and Easter and then you're a bit embarrassed not to have stayed in touch but He's really old and being all seeing and all knowing means your present to Him is hardly going to surprise Him is it, and He's certainly going to slaughter you at Trivial Pursuit...

We all have voices in our heads, call it conscience call it the Voice Of God, it might just be that you've still got your I-pod head phones on... the point is surely that not many people outside secure accommodation have ever felt it necessary to actually follow that inner voice. "Voices in my head made me do it" is an explanation given by the mad but it is also a common expression voiced by the religiously inclined. Suicide bombers on the internet tend to say they are doing God's work, in the States TV evangelist Pat Robertson has said that God wouldn't mind if the American army was to take out the President of Venezuela... take God out of the equation and what these quarter-wits are saying is I want to blow people up and I want to kill a south American head of state.

God's will always confirms personal opinions, whether it's an athlete winning a medal "with God at my side" or a suicide bomber on the tube set for Paradise and all those virgins (what's so great about virgins anyway? How did they die? Or are they just part of a Branson franchise? Or is it the one preposterous patriarchal fantasy Christians and Muslims have in common?)

David Hume said that religion couldn't be true because if one faith was right it would totally destroy the others, yet no believer is going to concede their one true faith... Organised religion, a recipe for conflict, a global game of my God's better than your God. It's amazing how each nation and time has a very different version; medieval French versus contemporary Islam anyone? Or how about today's Church of England versus its Crusader ancestors? You couldn't make it up... well actually...

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Olde England #1

I heard a really great sermon at church at the weekend.

Ok, that's not that kind of thing you expect to read in this blog, but it's true, I did.

We had left Ikea and instead of turning back into London, decided to keep going up the M11, into that strange land that exists outside the M25, also known as England.

We ended up in countryside on the Essex/Suffolk border, all hedgerows, country pubs and hay fields.

We pulled up in the mostly medieval village of Lavenham, which can't be that behind the times as it has it's own snazzy website. We also checked out Long Melford, which also has its own website, though not quite as snazzy. I wonder if this represents some subtle marketing demographic...

Anyway, we went for lunch, which turned into dinner, which turned into an alcoholic evening, so we stayed. As bells peeled out the next morning, I said: "You know that big church we couldn't get into, how about checking it out now?"

"What, during a service?"

"Why not?"

Although clearly not convinced, my glamorous companion managed to dig out a mother of pearl cross that she placed piously over her breast (for fear of being struck down, I don't doubt) and we headed for church.

And very nice it was too. As we sat waiting for the service to begin, a Margo Best-Chetwynd Lady of the Manor-type complete in twin set and pearls came over to welcome us ("Are you new, or visitors?"

"Oh, we were just passing through then decided to stay the night"

"Why did you tell her that?" hissed glamorous companion, her cross beginning to pulsate hussy-red.)

The bells stopped and behind the alter emerged a procession of folk in white smocks, fronted by a bloke holding up a cross ("High church," I whispered authoratively) and sure enough, there was all that litergy stuff and hymns and things. In short, the usual bum-numbing suspects.

Then the vicar, a stand-in by the name of Richard Titford, began his sermon. It wasn't quite what we had been expecting.

"You don't mind if I come among you, do you?" he said, turning his back on the pulpit to position himself at the head of the central aisle.

He said he had a problem, and perhaps we could help him with it (I think this was a rhetorical bit). That surrounded by all this ancient beauty, how could he connect with us? He said that this was also a problem confronted by the gospel writers (and this was where it got interesting) that even Matthew was writing 50 years or so after Jesus's death, so he couldn't possibly have known what Jesus actually said (I noticed a white haired head begin to shake), that none of the gospel writers did - instead they were considering their own time and trying to make sense of it in the spirit of Jesus.

He said that even the gospels themselves were a self-selected bunch, created to conform with the needs of the time - a time when the Christians were under threat from Rome and there was a desperate need for a unified church to hold them together.

At this point I realised that Rev. Titford must have at least have glanced at my favourite (okay, the only one I've read) theological book, Beyond Belief: the Secret Gospel of Thomas.

Indeed, he went on to speak of the dozen or so gospels excluded from the Bible and his hope that one day he might be able to read from them all. Becoming increasingly excited, he rounded off by saying that although he had a duty to "the bishop and the church" he also had a duty to God, and if he had to choose, then it would have to be God.

He came to an end and hung his head. I for one wanted to burst into spontaneous Houses of Parliament Robin Cook applause, but was stilled by the frosty silence. My glamorous companion and I exchanged a glance, humbled I think, by the first honest sermon either of us had ever heard, even if it had come from a vicar who had clearly got into hot water for expressing these very views and was making a kind of swan song.

Oy tell thee that wall b'aint straight...

It was all the more ironic that Long Melford's usual Rev was away on a sabatical to learn about increasing church numbers when this pair of apostates agreed we would gladly attend more services if they were like this.

And perhaps that's the true trouble with the Church of England - not that it has gone too far, but not far enough. Allowing itself to be guided by members attracted by the simple certainties (read: fables) of the Bible is like the Conservative Party getting its members to choose their leader, or turkeys voting for Christmas. Alpha courses and the like are all very well, but in reality they only attract more of the same (gays to burn in hell? I don't bloody think so...) if via Land Cruisers and Mercedes.

It's not that most people in this country are irreligious (look how superstitious they are for heavens sake) rather that religion has become so irrelevant that they can see right through it. But instead of throwing out all that brutal Old Testament crap (Ten Commandments my foot, Moses needed to keep his people in line) and deconstructing early Christian writing to separate the wheat of what Jesus meant from the chaff the church used to keep his ideas alive, we have on one hand the Archbishop of Canterbury humming and hawing over gays and women and how tough it is to believe in a Tsunami God (never mind the Holocaust) and on the other happy clappers believing they can be "saved" and so can you if only you sign on the dotted line. No wonder most people turn to consumerism, agnosticism or atheism.

But if they won't let you preach in "God's House" Rev Titford, you're always welcome to crash around mine.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Liberty, for some

I've been trying to steer clear of the whole Iraq/ Islam thing of late, not least because people like Harry do it so well, but this morning I read a story in the Guardian which, if it turns out to be true (and the front page suggests it probably is) must turn the stomachs of both pro and anti-war lobbies.

Conservative Shias, dominant in the Iraqi government, had clashed with Kurds and other minorities who wanted Islam to be "a" rather than "the" main source of law.

According to Kurdish and Sunni negotiators, the US ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, proposed that Islam be named "a primary source" and supported a wording which would give clerics authority in civil matters such as divorce, marriage and inheritance.

If approved, critics say that the proposals would erode women's rights and other freedoms enshrined under existing laws. "We understand the Americans have sided with the Shias. It's shocking. It doesn't fit with American values," an unnamed Kurdish negotiator told Reuters. "They have spent so much blood and money here, only to back the creation of an Islamist state."

Dozens of women gathered in central Baghdad yesterday to protest against what the organiser, Yanar Mohammad, feared would be a "fascist, nationalist and Islamist" constitution. "We are fighting to avoid becoming second class citizens," she said.

What will be the ultimate measure of success in Iraq I wonder? Certainly the Iraqis will have won self-determination that "hard liberals" from Hitchens to Cohen, via Aaronovitch, trumpeted, but is Iran 2 what they had in mind?

I was never a knee jerk anti-warrior - a supporter of the war in Afghanistan, I opposed this one because I thought it safer to have a secular dictatorship in place in Iraq during these troubled times rather than create further instability - and I have some admiration for the idealism of those who sought to undermine corrupt Baathist and Islamist regimes by creating a beacon of (albeit Western) democracy in Iraq. But surely the impending betrayal of that dream (along with the secularists, democrats, trade unionists, and women who shared it) far outweighs that of the Marsh Arabs in Gulf War 1?

I was going to end by saying that unlike those of the 20th Century, rememberance of this war may as be as much in the peace as in the fighting, but then I recalled the tragedy of Versailles and its poison legacy, so perhaps nothing much has changed after all.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Bring me the head of Richard Rogers

Okay, maybe the slap across the face of the Royal Festival Hall isn't his
fault, but I don't doubt his Oxofication of London's architectural heritage
is behind blotting the ground floor facade of that graceful Fifties
building with Wagamama, Eat et al. Who can forget his proposed design for a
glass wave to smother the glorious grey "carbunkle" of the National
Theatre? To Richard, no building is complete until it resembles an upmarket
shoping mall or ertsatz piazza. He truly is the Albert Speer of Capitialismus

Of course, people do like it... Oh look, some blonde Trinny archetype said,
they've got a Strada... but that does that make it right?

So I'm behind the times, but surely money isn't everything? The only good
thing about this travesty is that in a more enlightened age the featureless
units look flimsy enough to be torn down and this long-suffering monument
to a more optimistic time restored to its, sadly former, glory.

While they're at it, they could put back the Skylon too.

Like post-war Britain, the Skylon was said to have "no visible means of support". But at least it didn't have to contend with Cafe Nero...

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

May the force of the (Presbyterian Church) be with you

Genius. A Chinese knock off of 'Star War III: Revenge of the Sith' it details some hilarious subtitle mis-translations.

One of the best is the translation of 'Jedi Council' into Chinese and then back into to English as 'the Presbyterian church'. The mind boggles. Kung fu fighting sword play, taking out evil doers with a cut and slice. Now that sounds like church.

 Posted by PicasaRun, run the Presbyterians are coming!

 Posted by Picasa

May the force be with you comes out as "the wish power are together with you". The wishpower? That's great. Does everyone get a free turkey?

There's plenty more of these on this blog

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The end of empire, in a waterbomb...

Walking home the other night a water bomb hurled by a gang of youths narrowly missed my girlfriend and I. I was momentarily tempted to go over and give them what for but fortunately had not binge-drunk enough to fall into that wee trap.

Then this afternoon I was chatting to a PA from South Africa who commented that, despite the constant threat of car-jacking and gang rape at home, at least "the young people aren't like the thugs you see here."

"I blame the permissive Sixties," I replied. "It stems from the moral relativism of back then when everyone was raised to question, if not attack, the status quo. Maybe it was due to the loss of empire whereby the middle class, finding itself without a role, so to speak, turned on itself in an orgy of self-loathing. In any case, it meant that all the traditional figures of authority were mocked to irrelevance..."

Well, something like that anyway... although of course the middle classes simply deconstructed the old elite to become, well, the new elite. It was the working classes that went on to truly turn their backs on the old culture of deference... and hurl water bombs at me and thee.

What's telling though is that you don't really see the same kind of behaviour anywhere else. Certainly not continental Europe where, despite the trauma of war and occupation, the young mostly grow up as reasonably law abiding, respectful citizens who wouldn't be out of place in 1950's England...

So is it empire, class, hippies, out-dated licencing laws, conscription, the birch, ASBOs, Maggie Thatcher, Rupert Murdoch or Richard Littlejohn who is to blame? Or is it none of these? Is it, rather, a return to our natural state? Haven't the English always been in reality the opposite of their stiff-upper-lipped international stereotype?

A cab being sent for, six of us crammed in.... we had got to Covent Garden when Pott, thinking the driver was not going fast enough, damned his blood and bid him move on. The driver made a gruff answer, which offended Bob, who poked at him through the front window. The driver instantly returned the complement and Pott, in a violent rage, plunged through the window and started pummeling the fellow with all his might. After a sharp but short conflict, they tumbled together off the box into the street. A mob collecting, a general engagement ensued. The battle ended with the three of us being seized and dragged to the watchhouse...

The constable of the night, upon seeing us brought in abominibly intoxicated, said, with great good nature: "Come come, this is, I perceive, a drunken frolic. You must therefore pay for your folly and go quietly home to sleep off the effects of too much wine."

William Hickey, 1770.

Passionate, romantic, creative, violent, tempestuous, sentimental... isn't that who we really are, more Elizabethan English than Victorian Britons (who, let's face it, always had too much of a whiff of the buttoned-up Scot about them)? After all, how else did we get to forge an empire? Certainly not by good manners...

So maybe it's not so much society's breakdown, but reformation... just as we've always been an irreligious lot - the irreverent, pagan spirit of the druids never quite surpressed by Christianity - so too the end of empire and all its puritan hypocrisies meant not only the liberation of its subject people, but the English themselves... from the Scots!

A quick one in The Salisbury then?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Eating champion wins new contest

Something on the BBC this morning.

Japan's champion speed-eater has won his second contest in two days by ingurgitating 100 roasted pork buns in 12 minutes in Hong Kong. Takeru Kobayashi ate twice as many buns as the first runner-up, Johnny Wu, who only managed to guzzle 47.

Mr Kobayashi, 27, used a special technique - squeezing the buns tight and sipping plenty of water while chewing to soften them up. Only the day before, he triumphed in Hong Kong's dumpling-eating contest. He downed 83 steamed dumplings.

Just one question. For the love of god why? Seriously.

Get the full scoop, so to speak, here.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

I can't go for that (no can do)

The progress of a relationship set out in Hall & Oates songs. Other amusing lists include Obscentities uttered by Jesus Christ and Less threatening Islamicist groups. No Bhadi Jihadi though...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A very lonely planet

So I'm sitting in the bank in Brussels and still haven't heard from my friends. Sod it, I think, I'm not going to stay here (Brussels is rather boring), I'll spend a couple of days in Antwerp, the hip capital of Flemish Belgium.

I pull out my Lonely Planet, turn to Places to Stay - Mid Range, approaching, as I am, middle age, and read "a sage choice is the Pension Cammerpoorte, tucked away in the fashion quarter". Well, we all like to consider ourselves sage and fashionable, so I dial the number. A guy picks up, says something in Flemish.

"Hi," I say in English, "I'm looking for a single room for tonight. Do you have one?" There's a pause at the other end. "Hello?"


"Do you have a room?"

"Yes, there is a room."

"Is it en-suite, have a TV?"


Great. I book the room and tell him I'll see them later. I conclude my business then catch the train to Antwerp.

Antwerp is quite a discovery - graceful boulevards mix with medieval cobbled markets in a kind of Paris meets Amsterdam way - and I use the ever-reliable Planet map to guide me to the pension. I tend to prefer Lonely Planet over the Rough Guide series, which, like the character in Platform, I find infuriatingly smug and faddish.

I find Steenhouwersvest straat and walk along it, looking out for number 55. There's number 51, 53... but then I'm standing on a street corner. I cross and find myself looking at number 57. I walk around the corner - no 55 - turn back to face number 53, which, I register for the first time, is adjacent to a building site.

Number 53 is a snazzy fashion shop. "Excuse me," I say, setting my case down, "This may seem like a strange question, but where is number 55?"

"Next door," the assistant replies cheerfully.

"You mean the buidling site?" She nods. "Did there used to be a pension there?"

"Yes," she says, "a long time ago. They've knocked it down now."

"I can see that, thanks."

"There's a hotel around the corner," she says helpfully.

Fortunately this hotel still exists and has a room. After I check in, I try the number for the pension again but there's no answer. Belgian humour? Well it is the home of surrealism. A ghost hotel? I read somewhere that air traffic controllers sometimes still pick up radio traffic from the Battle of Britain bouncing about the clouds...

In any case it is only now that I flick to the front of the Planet and look at its publication date - April 2001.

Those damn surrealists: from the walls of The Museum of Contemporary Arts, Antwerp

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Cookin' Up Trouble 4 Later...

Yesterday's Independent front page headlined with:
Robin Cook, who died on Saturday, was one of the most principled and eloquent politicians of our time. Here, in a column he wrote for 'The Independent' in March last year, he holds the Government to account for its war on Saddam. His strikingly prescient words are more relevant than ever
Today's Independent front page headlined with:
Terror fears push oil prices to 22-year high

Meanwhile Tony Blair is busy playing the Islamist's game with his own little political martyrdom operation against Al Muhajiroun and Hizb'ut Tahir.

A point which is gratifying not lost on David T over at Harry's Place.

This is perhaps slightly surprising given the generally hysterical tone of the hardheads in Harry's New Moral Army, though to be fair Mr T has for a while being showing promising signs of not believing that all the world's problems can be sorted out using an extremely well-equipped American van and as many Sam Peckinpah clones as Donald Rumsfeld can lay his hands on - preferably led by a token, but nonetheless impressive, black man.

David has posted 'a lot' on this and there is much good stuff united by the common sense recognition that this is about politics, not clashes of civilization or 'Threats to Our Way of Life' [copyright Georg W Bush, Texas USA - under UK license to Mr T. Blair, Downing Street, London].

In his post 'A Fable' - see August 2005 David makes an interesting allusion around cocaine which I'm sure his ex-colleague at Harry's the dissident Johann Hari would agree with - see Drugs Legalisation

However the Ban 'will not deter extremists' argue some of our less 'radical' self-appointed islamic spokesmen who Like Mr T are not wholly convinced by the Blair vows hard line on fanatics rhetoric and less still by the 'radical' shift in policy this represents.

Tony had better watch himself in this respect (sic) since Monday's Metro was eagerly telling us that 'Radicals May Face Treason Charges as its front page lead, while today we hear Judge-only terror courts considered

...but lets leave the latest authoritarian lurch by Tony's increasingly nervy government aside, particularly as Lord Falconer Tony's old legal beagle says Treason proposal a 'non-runner' ...what I'm concerned about is the latest set of yankee-style language abuse we seem to have started - an abuse which once again tries to limit the breadth of the area in which it is acceptable to think and to narrow the political options of civil society - Lets take another look at that headline:

Radicals eh? those scum who fought for the middle class to have the vote in the nineteenth century maybe? or maybe they mean the Free Radicals or perhaps the Jesus Radicals - or just any old radicals - in fact anyone who isn't toeing a safe middle(way) line? So this is what the Third Way was about eh Tony - neither Moscow nor Mecca but international capital (or something like that?) But heck maybe we shouldn't worry, after all its only directed against those scary religious nutters with their Terrorist Response to our western democracy...

OK there are some scary people out there with some nutty views but if you want to stop them persuading kids to come to London and pave our streets with blood then banning them isn't going to help.

As David infers, at worst it adds glamour, at best it makes little difference. And what certainly helps even less is lumping the terrorists together with people who aren't - thus talking about Islam and what the laughable concept of 'the muslim community' needs to do about 'islamist' terrorists only places the terrorist within a spectrum which is 99.9% non-terrorist - how helpful is that for the non-terrorists tarred, one might say,by the association? And how very very helpful for the terrorist now defined as the 'radical' fringe of the community with all the jazz and best tunes that implies? And all those potential recruits whose chairs you just pushed up against his...

Well thank goodness we have a liberal party in the UK (no I haven't been voting for it or anything, calm down...) otherwise we'd probably be seeing headlines such as 'Liberals May Face Treason Charges' or some such Ann Coulter-isms: Liberals, Treason & True Americans

Meanwhile on the streets local dreads will no doubt be relieved not to be a the prime threat to society any more - see for example Force braced for Yardie threat - now exactly how many yardies were there in Cleveland again?

However one thing is for certain they aren't wearing those Muhammed Ali Nation of Islam T-Shirts too much these days... what was that about 'radicals' again. Oh I forgot - don't mention the war right - wellnot THAT war anyway...

By way of not wholly unrelated diversion boxing fans may want to check out some Ali stuff at the intriguing Edge of Sports: at http://www.edgeofsports.com/2004-01-15-37/

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Boys and toys

Miliblogs are usurping war reporting these days according to Wired. I found 365 and wake up the most interesting, combining as it did honesty and sensitivity with the unabashed awe of witnessing an M1 battle tank go into action.

And there's the rub: what you seem to get in the miliblogs - but which is lacking from most contemporary reporting, somewhat disengenuously I'd suggest - is that war can be fun. Maybe not if you're on the losing side or return home in a body bag or with bits missing, but for many men it can be a defining experience.

I say men because I will never forget the fear on the faces of the Serb women fleeing the victorious Albanian troops in Kosovo. But speaking for myself as we swung into the UN compound or as Bazpinder and I phoned home outside a British MASH unit, having survived the experience (while inside surgeons laboured over a pair of German journalists who did not), was exhilerating. I don't know how Simon, who went into action with Croatian irregulars earlier in the Yugoslav crisis, feels but there can be no denying that for boys raised on war stories and Action Man to find oneself in a scenario one has spent a childhood rehearsing can be a pivotal moment.

Of course we, along with the professional UK or US troops, have the freedom to choose whether to be involved or not. I can well imagine different, less attractive scenarios. But it is indeed awesome to watch an M1 in action, as most miliblogs would agree.

Gratuitous excuse to use a war pic of my own. Where were Respect and the MAB when Tony went to war to protect the muslims I wonder?

Friday, August 05, 2005

Separated at birth?

If Briton Haroon Rashid Aswat (above) is a "Terror Mastermind", then he's got to be a graduate of the Dr Evil School of Terrorist Masterminds (Wanstead), or maybe Hooky's Mini Me...

Available for weddings, christenings, and childrens parties. Sorry, no bar mitzvahs.

On a more serious note, reporting of the story about muslim women being advised to remove their hijabs for fear of attack is worth taking a close look at.

Yesterday's Today programme report included a vox pop in which one hijab-sporting lass stated it was "statistically proven" hair was the most attractive part of a woman's body, so it was safer to cover it. After you've picked yourself up off the floor, consider what a tragic indictment of women in Islam that actually is.

Then we had so-called "leading Islamic cleric" Zaki Badawi, saying it was acceptable in Islamic law to remove the hijab in cases of extreme danger, which was rebutted by gorgeous, pouting Rajnaara Akhtar, chair of the Assembly for the Protection of the Hijab, who remarked:

"We have a right to practise our faith and we're going to maintain that human right and I think to take off the hijab in some ways denies our identities as Muslim and we shouldn't be forced to do that."

Now, can we just step back for a moment...

For one thing, I'm not sure if Zaka Badawi realises, but wearing a hijab is actually contrary to Islam. As this article on the leading Islamic website submission.org points out, sporting the hijab is un-Islamic. Ahmed Okla writes:

In brief, hijab is a traditional dress and has nothing to do with Islam or religion. In certain areas of the world, men are the ones who wear the hijab while in others the women do.

Mixing religion with tradition is a form of idolworship, since the followers of traditions are following laws from sources other than God's scriptures and claim it to be from God. Idolworship is the only unforgivable sin if maintained till death.

Ignoring what God asks you to do in His book, or following innovated laws not stated in the the Quran, is a clear sign of disregarding God and His message.

When tradition supersedes God's commandment, the true religion takes a second place. God never accepts to be second, God has to be always the FIRST and to HIM there is no second.

Does Zaki realise this? Does he care? Is he too intimidated by the rise of extremists to say so? Or is he rather less moderate than he may at first seem? Either way, instead of going on about chaps who have been tortured and the like, he could have simply pointed out that covering your head in the name of Islam is unnecessary, if not un-Islamic. So why didn't he?

Next up, we have Ms Akhtar and her "right" to practice her faith, but a quick Google will reveal that Rajnaara is also a vocal member of the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), the UK branch of Islamicists the Muslim Brotherhood whose goal, as this item on Harry's Place points out "in its weak form is merely opposition to secular democracy and in its strong form is the abolition of democracy and the creation of a Caliphate ruled by god's annointed (i.e. them)."

So here we have a story generated by an arguably immoderate cleric spouting flawed theology being rebutted by a representative of an extremist organisation which is cut to much the same cloth as the Bolsheviks or Fascists of yore. No mention that the hijab is not compulsory, no interviews with bare-headed muslim women (heaven help them). Is it pure ignorance, inverted racism, or, as Bazpinder suggests below, just lust for sensation that drives the media to misrepresent the facts and present extremists as mainstream?

Either way, you can be sure it further alienates the non-Muslim majority while casting extremists as all muslims, much to the delight of Ms Akhtar and the BNP. And so history repeats itself: a determined totalitarian minority harnesses the complacency of a middle class elite to achieve its objectives, in this case the hijack of British Islam. Far-fetched? Or tried and tested? Well the same technique worked in Russia, Germany, and Iran. Why do you think the Trotskyite Socialist Workers Party has teamed up with the MAB, in the spirit of "my enemy's enemy is my friend"? While we're going out, getting drunk, loading up our Ipods, a minor coup is taking place and though it might not threaten our sovereignty, it sure ain't going to make travelling by Tube any safer...

Some young idolterers at the recent post-July 7 conference organised byIslamofacists Hizb'ut Tahrir.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Why the FA should offer to help the moderates

As I was driving home from work today, a propos of nothing, I again marvelled at the way Islam has been so successfully hijacked by a tiny minority within. Although... that's not quite the full story, is it.

But first, there are many theories as to how this 'take-over' has come about. For starters, inflexible, uninspiring and out-of-touch religious leadership; a crisis of confidence among Muslim youth, both creating the vacuum in which extremist views go unchallenged; the role of the CIA in backing the Afghan rebellion decades ago, etc. Also, the war in Iraq... not forgetting social exclusion... the clash of civilisations... or the fact that in Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, church and state are joined at the hip, giving rise to a religious, as opposed to civil, police force. (Contrast that with the UK where our institutions, thanks to the Reformation and having got our civil and religious disagreements out of the way, balance each other out in a neighbourly stalemate.) There are loads of reasons.

But this is all academic. The fact is, whatever the underlying causes, 'all is not well in the state of Denmark', and it appears from the outside looking in, that no-one is at the Islamic tiller, either in the UK or globally. At least, there are no figureheads speaking out. At this point, though, and as a bit of an aside, I think the international news media should take a bow. While not actually helping to detonate any bombs, the Western news media provide all extremists, no matter the cause, the oxygen of publicity they crave: news crews form a sort of partnership with these killers, just as long as certain criteria are met - the bloodier the better. And where are the primetime moderate voices, oh broadcasters? Which led me to think of the FA, and 'football hooligans'. OK, this is a bit of a leap, I grant you.

Times have moved on for hooligans. Frankly we ain't living in the 1970s any more; there's altogether too much surveillance going on; all-seater stadiums aren't as conducive to 'steaming', and after all there are the stadium disasters, still fresh in the mind, to dissuade one and all. It all adds up to the fact that anyone intent on giving strangers a good kicking, no longer has the 'excuse' of football any more. That's not to say there aren't still a few hard cases out there in the game... as well as plenty of racists, witness the terrible events in Liverpool recently. But it's happening less at football grounds, and 'in football' as a rule. Now why is that?

Well, for some of the reasons above. Never mind that it is no longer socially acceptable to plan and implement such activities: it's just been made too difficult. But it's taken years of continual effort by the FA, the police, community workers, and 'ordinary people' to isolate the small minority who caused such misery to so many.

So as I was on my journey home, I wondered whether the FA should pick up the phone and offer to share their best practice with the mosques...

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Myrtis bene felas

Linkmachine is often a good source of random amusement. This site on Pompeian graffiti reminds us that the more things change, the more they remain the same...

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Imitation of Life

A very long time ago I was writing a short story with the somewhat titillating title 'The Central Hackney Masturbation Club'. No, it had nothing to do with goalposts for jumpers, it was strictly 'Adults Only' as is the link which prompted this post.

The story was inspired by a birthday party (not mine). No masturbation took place. Apart from the usual verbal kind. But it was distinguished by the prescence of a couple of literary pornographers and the title was inspired by the level of attention they recieved from many of those present.

Broadly, to cut a short story shorter, the Central Hackney story was about a sort of erotic book club that ultimately got out of hand because the rules it placed on its participants (eg 'no touching') were ultimately transgressed by human nature and arguably lack of self-restraint, (not to mention that those who had joined it did so for a range of questionable reasons).

In other words the club marketed itself as a highbrow fetishisation of the erotic (much as the erotic review always tries to) but was really a manifestation of British sexual repression, inadequacy and in some cases the downright twisted manipulativeness of its participants.

The idea being played with was therefore the old chestnut of where the line is crossed in fetishisation, pornography and sexual gameplay between erotic fetishisation and an ultimately more compromising psychological fetishisation of both sex and erotic subjects - ie people (the pretentious might think Pale Fire though no comparison is intended).

Anyway it came to mind when an arts list I'm part of sent me this ad today:

Stone Soup continues its Adult Storytelling evenings at Joint Cafe, 92 North Hill, Plymouth, on Wednesday August 3rd. This event occurs on the First Wednesday of every month.
Doors Open 7:30pm
Stories from 8 to 10
Suitable for Adults Only
Admission £3
Further details on this, and future, events is available at http://www.stonesoupstorytelling.org.uk

Dirty Mouth

Simple pleasures....while I am of course fluent in French (cough, cough) I still like to run the odd Le Monde story through Google Translate to see how the rest of the world views the day's news. Le Figaro on the 2012 Olympics was one of my favourites, but for a taste of its eccentricities, here is an extract from today's Le Monde on "Les Attentants des Londres..."

"Scotland Yard recognized that the first photograph published showing Hamdi Issac the face hidden by a cap of baseball, was fuzzy. The best stereotyped taken by the cameras of remote monitoring of a bus in which it had flees after the failure of the attack at the subway station of Shepherd' S Bush had been diffused the 28, is after the departure of the suspect for the continent. The ministry for the interior opened an investigation. The preserving opposition sees in this business the illustration of the porosity of the borders of the United Kingdom. Hunting for the man to try to find the accomplices of the presumed authors and the sleeping partners of the attacks continues. The police force gave a report on its intention to excavate the young Moslems specifically. The threat of the offence of "dirty mouth" caused a general outcry at the organizations of defense of the humans right. In addition, under the terms of the future offence of "incitation to terrorism ", the party of the Islamic release, Hizb-C-Tahrir, could be prohibited. This formation, which preaches the caliphate, is banished in many countries. To try to alleviate the apprehensions of the Moslem ghettos of the poor suburbs in front of the threat of racist drifts, the ministry for the interior began to organize several meetings with the Community persons in charge. With the agenda, it Malayan of the young people of the suburbs."