Dawkins and the “bin-liner thing”

I can’t think why Dawkins would be courting controversy and tickling pr spinners, it’s not like he has a series of documentaries coming up or has plans to arrest any popes on the horizon.

So I do wonder why he has called the burka a “bin-liner thing” in the Radio Times – the most neutralising, sobering, boring, Titchmarsh publication in all of Christendom.

The Mail had an article on it pretty sharpish. But my guess is that Seyyed Ferjani, of the Muslim Association of Britain, friends of the Stop the War coalition, the Socialist Workers’ Party and the Muslim Brotherhood – an unholy alliance – did not call the move “Islamaphobic”.

That single Mail sub editor must be off sick again…


Erdogan in Iran

Since David Cameron met with Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week, a lot of talk has focused upon the Turkish prime minister and his appeals to “moderate” politics.

Many column inches were devoted to expressing uncertainty about Erdogan. Nick Cohen referred to him as the “supposedly “moderate” Islamist prime minister,” while Melanie Phillips noted he is “no secular Ataturk but an Islamic extremist”.

Erdogan does have a very colourful past. He was friends at university with the Islamist Necmettin Erbakan, who became Turkish prime minister from 1996 to 1997 after being pressured to step down, and later banned from politics.

Despite brushes with the law in the eighties, during the coup, in the nineties Erdogan became a popular mayor in Istanbul, receiving glowing praise even from critics who felt he wasn’t corrupt like other politicians.

In 1998, he disturbed the secular sentimentalities of many in Turkish society by reading a very telling Islamic poem which includes the lines: “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers…”

This earned him 10 months in jail for incitement to religious hatred – of which he served four.

Since entering office he has had his fair share of secular opponents but has attested to a damascene-esque conversion from hardliner Islamist to a more moderate position, although this image has not been helped by, among other things, a recent refusal to join the EU in supporting charges of crimes against humanity in Darfur, which the International Criminal Court has brought against Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.

(I don’t suppose the fact that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has named his grandson after Erdogan will go down well among some either)

In large part owing to his equal distance between the West and the East, Erdogan has earned for himself the position of kingmaker in recent years, notably with Iran and the rest of the world. He came out as supporting Iran by saying it should not be the sole target in the nuclear dispute, and was seen as a crucial figure being able to speak to both President Obama and Ahmadinejad on the subject.

Of late, questions were asked as to whether he would be one to condemn Iran for its decision to stone to death Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. Burak Bekdil for the Hurriyet Daily noted that Erdogen never hesitates to condemn alleged Jewish and Western conspiracies, but here “has failed to intercede with his good friend Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has the power to pardon the condemned.”

However, the international civic organisation Avaaz today writes that:

“President Lula [Brazilian President, whose recent appeal to Iran to send its condemned women to Brazil was shrugged off by Ahmadinejad last week] and Prime Minister Erdoğan are allies and mediators with Iran who enjoy great respect there, and both countries have condemned the case. Now, we need to push them to deploy all their diplomatic forces and persuade Iran to free Sakineh and stop stoning forever.” (The above text is from an email message from Avaaz)

Burak Bekdil then wrote, with a positive tone this time:

“We know by evidence that Mr. Erdogan has a soft spot for Muslims being subjected to cruelty in all corners of the world, and Ms. Ashtiani is a Muslim lady. Besides, Ms. Ashtiani speaks Turkish, not Farsi; and perhaps Mr. Erdogan would view her as kin? Above all, Mr. Erdogan has brotherly relations with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who can pardon her.”

I’m tempted to agree with columnists dubious of Erdogan. His efforts to engage with terrorist groups such as Hezbollah is one thing, but to suggest – as he has – that “It’s not possible for a Muslim to commit genocide,” shortly before welcoming Omar al-Bashir to Turkey, should not be looked upon favourably.

But through whatever reason, he may have the political influence to change Ahmadinejad’s mind on the stoning of Astiani, and despite his character and background, we can only hope that this new found will of his to save this women comes to fruition.

That’s fine, Lutfur Rahman, we’ll use the vote to be rid of you

Dave Hill informs us today that:

former council leader Councillor Lutfur Rahman should be allowed to take part despite having been rejected by the two different shortlisting panels that picked the three and the five.

Hugh Muir in his diary even said:

Perhaps we might call him the high court candidate, for Rahman only appears on the shortlist by dint of a last-minute high court challenge that ultimately forced the party to include him.

In case you don’t know, Lutfer Rahman has been accused by Jim Fitzpatrick MP, as well as from research by Andrew Gilligan of the Telegraph, of achieving the council leadership with the help of a radical Islamist organisation, the Islamic Forum of Europe.

It has been my contention in a previous blog entry that:

There should be no element of the IFE in the Labour party, particularly not while they assume affinity with groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) through Azad Ali – close associate of the IFE  and ELM.

As Muir points out, the courts have allowed Rahman to stand, in spite of party concerns of the nature of his presence in the Labour party, amid cries that he is an entryist of sorts.

Those organisations he is closely related to have no place in a left wing political party, and if his humiliating series of defeats won’t rid him, then it’s up to party members and a local campaign to turn their back on this dubious character.

An Iranian Capitalism and the search for Islam

I’m being cited by a Harry’s Place blogger called Gene, not the Selfish Gene, the other one. In preparation for this I will re-post something that the HP collateral will enjoy: An Iranian Capitalism and the search for Islam.

It was with observations on 9/11 that Slavoj Žižek made his formal introduction into the Englishspeakingworld of politics proper – quietly forgetting for the time being his presidential campaign inthe Republic of Slovenia back in the 1990. Never, however, has he been able to drop the grindingacademic axe; surprised as many commentators were that someone could come along and talkabout Hegel and coca-cola in the same breath, Žižek of late takes to marrying tenets of Lacanianpsychoanalysis with Donald Rumsfeld quotations. But something different, some new sea-change,seems to have occurred again with Žižek’s piece on Iran, ‘Berlusconi in Tehran’, published in theLondon Review of Books, that it is pure politics, that the mode of language is no longer wry butserious. Before, looking closely at Žižek’s texts, one knew that behind the comic references topopular culture there was a serious kernel, of which to use in critically dismantling areas of unseenterror in the usual functioning of the economy, now the wry guard has been shelved, and the comicsubterfuge is the preserve of the enemy itself – “Berlusconi’s capitalism with ‘Italian values’(comical posturing)”

Carry on reading here

Lutfur Rahman third time unlucky

Andrew Gilligan of the Telegraph made efforts to show that the Islamic Forum Europe (IFE) – which operates out of the East London Mosque in Tower Hamlets – were not quite right, in fact they are a bit nasty and quite loopy (not “harmless democrats”).

In a telling paragraph Gilligan notes:

Perhaps our unemotive, factual quotation from original IFE documents has helped still those complaints about “defamation” and “vindictiveness”. Such as, for instance, the transcript of a 2009 recruit training course where the organisation tells its new members: “Our goal is not simply to invite people and give da’wah [call to the faith]. Our goal is to create the True Believer, to then mobilise those believers into an organised force for change who will carry out da’wah, hisbah [enforcement of Islamic law] and jihad [struggle]. This will lead to social change and iqamatud-Deen [an Islamic social, economic and political order].”

Also, Gilligan showed that Muslim moderates were having no truck with them.

In February this year, a Dispatches documentary unconvered entryism by Islamists into the Labour party (which HP picked up – of course).

Gilligan has also continuously written about Lutfur Rahman and his aim to stand for Labour in Tower Hamlets (which he has done three times now). Today Gilligan has written about his last failed attempt. “How much humiliation can a man take?” He asks.

In the same documentary mentioned above, Mr Rahman was accused of achieving the council leadership with the help of a radical Islamist organisation, the Islamic Forum of Europe, accused by Jim Fitzpatrick MP of infiltration.

Perhaps this time Mr Rahman will get the hint. There should be no element of the IFE in the Labour party, particularly not while they assume affinity with groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) through Azad Ali – close associate of the IFE  and ELM.

Correction: In the article by Hitchens, he mentions that Ali criticises Hizb ut-Tahrir “for distributing a leaflet which states that the recent IFE episode shows the futility of political participation and that “Islam does NOT allow joining secular political parties, especially when they promote policies that directly contradict Islamic values…” ” – though Ali does confess affinity with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The lawyer of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is wanted in Iran

Iran has issued an arrest warrant on Mohammad Mostafaei, the lawyer of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani who was convicted of adultery after allegedly having “illicit relationships” with men other than her husband.

Already authorities have arrested Mostafaei’s wife and brother-in-law, ransacked his office and carried out interrogation methods in Evin prison for four hours last Saturday over his human rights activities.

His admission there that could be “no legal obstacle to Ashtiani’s execution being carried out at any time” was seen as a criticism of Iranian’s harsh and corrupt legal system. According to the Guardian, Mostafaei also called Sakineh’s stoning sentence “a bogus conviction” and “absolutely illegal”.

The use of evidence during court hearings in Iran are a subject of much contention. Article 105 of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran states “The Shari’a Judge can act upon his own knowledge in the cases of [defending] the God’s Rights and People’s Rights and carry out the punishment constituted by the God and it is necessary that he documents his knowledge.” The way this law is practised often allows judgements to be made entirely on interpretation rather than documented evidence, which is the case for Sakineh where forensic evidence of her adultery is missing.

Even within Islamic law itself adultery cannot be proven satisfactorily before the perpetrator has confessed under free conditions on three separate occasions, or if four males, whom the court are happy to trust, actually witness the act of penetration – making testimony virtually implausible. If the single opinion of a judge can override that of the collective disagreement from five judges also involved in Sakineh’s case it would seem like that is even a violation of the Islamic Penal Code.

Mostafaei is considered to be a human rights activist as much as a lawyer. The international attention that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s case received made the Iranian authorities even more suspicious of him and the profile he was gaining.

The Guardian also quotes Mina Ahadi, a human rights activist for Iran Committee against Stoning (ICAS), based in Germany, who said: “It is ridiculous that they [officials] have taken Mostafaei’s family as ransom, they have somehow taken them hostage. This confirms what Sakineh’s son wrote in his public letter, that there’s no justice in Iran.”

Finding Mecca and theology on the hoof

Bad news: Idonesian Muslims, who are approximately 86%, or about 200 million, of its population, have been praying the wrong way; not towards Mecca – the intended destination, but Somalia, in Africa.

But the most fantastic thing to come out of this all was the words of Ma’ruf Amin from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI). After admitting the council made a mistake last March when calculating where Muslims should turn to when praying, Amin said “God understands that humans make mistakes. Allah always hears their prayers.”

This sounds like theology on the hoof.

Is this not the “no limbo” moment that the Catholic Church had in 2006. In October of that year the Pope had decided that limbo should be abolished for children.

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger he was on record as saying that “Limbo has no place in modern Catholicism.”

The Mail reported that:

In 1984, he told Vittorio Messori, the Catholic author, that Limbo had “never been a definitive truth of the faith”.

He said: “Personally, I would let it drop, since it has always been only a theological hypothesis.”

When A.C. Grayling talks about the dropping of limbo he uses it to exemplify the stupidity of religion, but actually Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has it correct, or at least half so, when he mentions the theological hypothesis.

I’m not sure how one would reach such a hypothesis, but a hypothesis it is: one based on thin air. But this asks more questions of the limits in human knowledge, more so than the truth of religion – which is the stuff beyond testing, thus, unverifiable.

However, if Islam has had it’s “no limbo” moment, what does this do for the rift between a clerics’ knowledge, and the truth of the Koran, a problematic which divides factions within Islam itself?

Ma’ruf Amin’s theology on the hoof will provide much laughter for those who have suspicion of the “authorities” of the subject.

As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger he presided over the commission?s first sessions. He is on record as saying that Limbo has no place in modern Catholicism.