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MSc in Grievance Studies at LSE

By skepticlawyer

Do you aspire to Moan for England? Want a Gold Medal in the Oppression Olympics? Think you can tweak the Four Yorkshireman sketch to fit any circumstance — poverty, race, disability or gender, or even all four at once?

Well, now you can! If you have a 2:1 in a related undergraduate discipline, you can enroll in the London School of Economics’s MSc in Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies where, for a mere £10,272, you can learn to be a professional victim and whiner, and the recipient of government grants forever.

Yes, I am being sarcastic, although the fact that this course even exists, and that one of the most privileged alleged rioters completed it in 2009, makes my job difficult, perhaps impossible. It is almost beyond parody.

[I am using the word 'privilege' properly, you may note, because I possess sufficient information about the alleged rioter in question to be able to consider him 'privileged'. Those who attempt to apply the word to entire groups of people need to be forced to study statistics at gunpoint, and learn when it is and is not accurate to ascribe characteristics to every N in a given set. Here is an example of how not to do it].

From The Telegraph:

Fahim Wahid Alam, who also has a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics, is accused of being part of a mob that attacked police in Hackney last Monday afternoon.

Mr Alam, 25, attacked police as he walked home from a job interview with an organisation that helps to promote a more tolerant and civil society, Highbury Corner magistrates’ court heard.

He is alleged to have thrown two bricks at police officers, one of which hit a constable on the leg, during almost three hours of disorder outside Hackney town hall, on Mare Street. He was arrested at 6.30pm that evening.

The court heard how police on Mare Street came under attack from bricks, bottles, and fireworks. It was the scene of one of the worst clashes witnessed in London during three days of rioting.

[...]

A lawyer representing Mr Alam said that he had not taken part in the riot and was on the street because it was the only way he could walk to his grandmother’s house. Mr Alam, who lives with his parents, two brothers and a sister in Walthamstow, east London, graduated from Oxford University in 2007.

He later studied for a Master of Science degree in race, ethnicity and post colonial studies at LSE. He graduated with merit in 2009.

Yesterday the court heard that on the same day he is alleged to have attacked police, he had attended a job interview with the London Civic Forum.

The organisation’s website says its aims are to “build healthy communities and improve quality of life for all.” The website carries pictures of Londoners cleaning the streets after the riots and a statement that reads: “London Civic Forum has been shocked and saddened by the wave of destruction that has rocked our city and others since last Friday.”

A spokesman confirmed that Mr Alam had been offered a job as an intern researcher, which he had been due to start next Tuesday. Mr Alam, who has been charged with violent disorder, will be on remand until Sept 5 after being refused bail. The London Civic Forum said his job offer would now be reconsidered.

Earlier this year, Mr Alam featured in a newspaper article about Oxbridge students from low-income backgrounds.

Miqdaad Versi went to university with Mr Alam. The pair were involved in organising the Oxford University Speakers’ Corner.

Mr Versi said: “I remember him as a very nice guy. I got on well with him and he got on well with most people. I remember he always wanted to work with those who were underprivileged.”

Well, it’s looking increasingly likely that Mr Alam will get his wish — from within the confines of Wormwood Scrubs or Wandsworth Prison.

One can only assume that someone else was paying the £10,272 in fees, because it is difficult to imagine a course more useless. With your Oxford qualification, Fahim Wahid Alam,  you could have taken a job in the City like everyone else with a 2:1 or better in Oxford law (I know, I’m one of them, and had to make a deliberate choice not to go to the City — although my Scottish job is pretty good). Had you done so, even if Eric Pickles had eaten Walthamstow’s youth club, it wouldn’t matter — because you’d be able to buy them a bloody new one!

But no, that’s the government’s job, innit?

But, let’s leave Mr Alam to one side for the moment and take a closer look at the utterly vacuous MSc that may well have given him the idea that it is all right to lob bricks at the police. This subject — labelled ‘Topics in Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies‘ — is a compulsory component of the course. Here is a decent chunk of the subject guide:

The course offers students a broad exposure to theory and history of race, racism and ethnicity as well as an opportunity to consider a range of contemporary instances in which the social and political problems arising from these factors of division have been manifested. We start by addressing the history and character of the colonial and imperial expansion with which modern theories of race and ethnicity were intertwined. The first block introduces material drawn from various disciplines that is aimed at interpreting the social, political, governmental, cultural and economic characteristics of the colonial “contact zones” which were so important in making racial categories and keeping them alive. The development of racialised conceptions of humanity, progress, civilisation, national identity, cultural difference and geo-politics are tracked through the rise and fall of European empires in the second and third blocks. Block three takes on the scholarly agenda set by the anti-colonial theorists and intellectuals who led the movements against colonial rule as its initial point of departure. The final block engages contemporary approaches to diaspora, interculture and biocolonialism before concluding with a sequence addressed to the failure of human rights initiatives to sufficiently engage the issues of racial hierarchy and racism.
No history of anti-semitism, I note, and no understanding that colonialism is far older than modern Europe’s adventures in the genre (confined, for the most part, to the 17th century onwards). Ah, but that colonialism was carried out, for the most part, by brown people, so that makes it all right.

Christ in a sidecar, can it get any worse? Indeed, it can!

Take, for example, one of the non-compulsory courses, Race and Biopolitics (they do like their silly neologisms, this lot, don’t they?). If you were expecting a science course–an introduction to genetics at least–you’d be sorely disappointed. Instead there’s the inevitable Foucault and Gilroy, coupled with a bunch of humanities academics who likely don’t know how to spell gene expression, let alone what it is.

The London School of Economics, I might add, was the university of Ronald Coase and F.A Hayek and John Kenneth Galbraith. All three of those illustrious gentlemen must be on their way to the earth’s core by now, from spinning so hard in their graves. A once great institution has been reduced to taking money from Colonel Gaddafi so that his son could ‘buy’ a doctorate.

Now, while I’m in this spectacularly irritated mood, let’s take a look at the London Civic Forum. Wander around their website for a bit and see if you can imagine a better definition of rent-seeking. Apart from receiving government money and holding meetings, it’s rather difficult to work out what they actually do. That’s because they exist to derive rents by manipulating the social and political environment in which economic activities occur, rather than by adding value.

And, in case you think I’m being excessively partisan, they’re already well and truly on David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ gravy train. Check this out, for example.

Now, I’m going to make a suggestion (apart from the obvious one that Mr Alam appears to be an ingrate; I mean, the system was so racist and discriminatory it sent him to Oxford and the LSE).

How about we stop taking victims and victimhood so seriously? How about we point out that being a victim (if, indeed, one fits the definition, which needs to be dramatically narrowed) gives one no greater right to a voice or audience than any other member of society? How about we make sure that our criminal justice system doesn’t get any more borked than it already is thanks to the woolly-headed desire to ‘put victims at the centre of sentencing’?

101 Comments

  1. Posted August 17, 2011 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    I think I found the whingeing warm-up…

    “Interventions [such as outreach] aren’t enough to correct a system of education which privileges some over others,” he says. “Furthermore, access is predicated on having social and cultural capital in order to navigate a way through a system that is completely alien to people from a non-traditional background.”

    In which case, how did you get in?

    From an interview in The Guardian.

  2. Posted August 17, 2011 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    At least the little snot went to St John’s, not Brasenose [breathes a sigh of relief].

    St John’s, by the way, is the wealthiest college in Oxford.

  3. Posted August 17, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    Probably a good thing Sir Michael Scholar (college president) was already planning to leave in 2012.

  4. Posted August 17, 2011 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    That really is a most intemperate post. To coin someone else’s phrase, it also seems to be an example of “Al Gore is fat.”

  5. Posted August 17, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    On Science 2.0 recently there was a post about the dangers of research driven by advocacy. This theme was being driven by Paul Ehrlich. Scientists there were appalled by the idea, research should not be determined by advocacy but rather vice versa. What we see here at the LSE is an invitation to advocacy driven research. It is a disastrous turn, a shocking way to indoctrinate young minds to causes rather than thinking.

  6. Posted August 17, 2011 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    John H, have you got a link?

    [Edited to add: Thanks! Very revealing].

  7. Posted August 17, 2011 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    http://www.science20.com/news_articles/scientists_need_be_less_objective_says_ecologist_and_more_political-81654

  8. Posted August 17, 2011 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

    Interesting history if he turns out to be this guy:

    Her former carer and assistant Fahim Alam, who is suing for unfair dismissal at a tribunal in London, claimed she hid the insurance pay-out in her mother’s bank account and spent disability benefits on designer clothes and holidays.

    Ms Bergman, who denies the claims, has accused Mr Alam of being a cannabis dealer who “is mostly intoxicated”.

    The reason I’m wondering about the connection is the odd comment made here by “SHEIKH Fahim Alam” under an unrelated story about Denzel Washington.

    Sheikh Fahim Alam, September 8, 2008 at 10:56 am

    I’ve had the pleasure to meet Ava Bergman in person whilst studying at Oxford and I must say, it was a genuine pleasure: I concur with the Almanac in their view that she is one of the coolest people to exist on the planet and in the Omniverse. I’ve just read the first chapter of the Omniverse Almanac, and it’s great! I can’t wait to read the rest of it or better still, watch the movie: does anybody know when it is to be produced?

    Are there TWO former oxford students called Fahim Alam who know Ava Bergman?

  9. conrad
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    I think you’re being a bit harsh — the course looks like it might have many interesting things in it (although why it’s in economics I don’t know — the wonders of “broadening units” in Orwellian and now general speech). I’m also always surprised at these people that deny everything when I assume it should be pretty obvious if he did do anything thanks to cameras etc… Perhaps he’s telling the truth, although I assume it is easy to find out.

  10. Chris Bond
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 5:49 am | Permalink

    SL: Great post, if I wasn’t unfortunate enough to actually be living in the same country as the utter waste of space that is Fahim Wahid Alam, I’d be ROFL.

    One can only assume that someone else was paying the £10,272 in fees, because it is difficult to imagine a course more useless.

    From a quick trawl thru the LSE fees pages, how about (for the same amount): “MSc Gender (both tracks)”? (WTF??)

    Ah, and the London Civic Forum… keeping feverishly busy consulting, being a hub, exploring, examining… but their About, Vacancies section lies, it says “There are currently no vacancies” but we know from the home page there’s a Mr Fahim Alam-shaped vacancy there for an intern!

  11. Posted August 18, 2011 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    Why colonialism and and not imperialism? Two things to note about imperialism:

    (1) It is as old as rulership. Indeed, it is what rulership typically does to the extent it can and it gets a return on it.
    (2) Niall Ferguson is correct, territorial imperialism is the least distinctive thing about the West.

    In my more cynical moments, I suspect the only thing that really turned Europeans off imperialism was themselves experiencing the Nazi version of it and that the welfare state is what the administering class creates as a substitute for imperialism.

    So, if the welfare state is about colonising your own society, rather than someone else’s, such academic activity is about spreading the new colonialism. ;)

    Also, I have a question: WTF does this alleged Masters of Science have to do with Science?

  12. Posted August 18, 2011 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    I found the whole exercise (in theory) pretty much useless. I remember being set essays by the likes of F.R. Leavis (whom we were clearly meant to hate) and thinking, you know, he makes some good points here.

    Often, though, because I was doing classics, I thought the most intelligent literary criticism was written in antiquity, and hadn’t really been topped — Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Longinus. I’ve since noticed that even some of the Roman jurists make a lot of sense (eg Ulpian complains about playwrights using law and legal procedure and then getting it all wrong). Evidently he’s the ancestor of those lawyers and coppers who watch police procedurals and crime shows and feel like throwing stuff at the telly!

    More broadly, I’ll bring my comment on this issue across from Lorenzo’s thread, to save retyping :)

    On postmodernism: it had thoroughly but not completely infected my undergraduate programs in English, but not in Classics, and I have to say even the ‘masters’ were often not very clever. I remember discussing Foucault’s assertion (in volume 2 of his History of Sexuality) that there were no words in Latin for ‘homosexual’ or ‘lesbian’ in one of the interminable literary theory tutorials. Upon hearing this, I pointed out what the words were (pathicus, cinaedus for the male, tribas for the female, and adding that the latter was not derived from Greek). I then quoted a couple of passages from Roman writers indicating that their understanding of homosexuality was exactly the same as ours, except that they didn’t condemn it very much (and not at all in the case of lesbians).

    This is where it got interesting. I was roundly condemned for attacking one of the ‘masters’ and not treating his work as ‘authoritative’. I responded that this was an ‘argument from authority’ that might work in law or theology but should not work in the humanities, and that in any case I wasn’t responsible for Foucault failing his Latin O-Level.

    Part of Foucault’s argument was that sexuality was socially constructed, a load of bollocks that then proceeded to infect feminism, hitherto relatively free of intellectual sophistry. This has led to the comedic spectacle of feminists arguing with biologists in a manner almost as illiterate as the creationists discussed in Lorenzo’s article over the differential mating strategies of men and women, something for which there is a mountain of empirical evidence.

    Added to post-modernism and social constructivism were some related forms of pernicious rubbish. I was assured in another class (post-colonial literature, if I recall?) that it was either (a) illegitimate or (b) impossible (the position varied, and seemed to be deliberately vague) for writers to adopt the position and identity of someone not of their background or gender. It was in a discussion of Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country and contributed to me engaging in a rather nasty practical joke.

    I was at university in the early 90s, before going back to study law. It was very clear to me that this efflorescence of sheer nonsense (the above three examples are but minor illustrations) was in response to the political academic left having ‘lost’ the cold war and thus retreating into the miasma of ‘authenticity’ and ‘identity politics’, just as the loopier conservatives do now when they insist that some barely literate denizen of the outer suburbs represents the ‘real Australia’; it is the same old, same old all over again. Because the modern left has no imagination, it has fought back by arguing that its groups — women, gays, Aborigines, whatever — are more ‘authentic’ and ‘oppressed’ than the right’s groups — tradesmen, residents of the outer-suburbs, owners of macmansions and wog boxes, whatever, but of course both lots are speaking through a saltine box with all the attendant distortion.

    The idea that putting people into groups and then defining their interests in a post hoc way on the basis of their group membership is both meaningless and pointless does not seem to have occurred to either lot.

    There’s another thing: I got a university medal in English and Classics (a starred first, for our British readers). I earned my grades in my language subjects (Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Icelandic). I also earned my grades in the more traditionally oriented literature subjects (medieval and Renaissance literature, the Restoration, American literature etc). But in the compulsory theory subjects, I literally spent my time producing an undergraduate version of the postmodern essay generator, combing through Derrida and Lacan in particular and engaging in the most ridiculous posturing as I quoted material that can only be described as meaningless drivel. To say that I earned my grades in those subjects would be a monstrous joke at the expense of the people who taught me Latin or Chaucer.

    I wasn’t the victim of a biased university education (the right-wingers who think that university is biased to the left have got it wrong, I’m afraid). I was the victim — in about 30% of my courses — of something far worse than political bias. I was the victim of an education that was, not to put too fine a point on it, bunk.

  13. Posted August 18, 2011 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Is this guy innocent until proven guilty or not?

  14. Posted August 18, 2011 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Fair point, Mindy, although I think he’s a bit of a knob independent of the rioting accusation (read DEM’s link @1), and that the postgraduate course he studied is a heap of tripe. I’m more concerned about the latter than the former, which is why I’ve concentrated on that aspect, and drawn heavily on the Telegraph (I know their law reporters; they’re very careful). Playing the victim/applying privilege classifications to large data sets irritates me enormously, and has come dangerously to destroying my identification with feminism (which has been a part of my political perspective for as long as I can remember).

    Yes, he’s been remanded, and yes, he seems to have put himself in a difficult position (hence conrad’s observations @9), but we won’t know until September 5. I’ll actually be in London on the 5th, so I’m very tempted to trot along to Westminster or Essex Crown Court (that’s where the rioting trials on indictment are being held) and compile a trial report.

  15. Mel
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Mindy:

    “Is this guy innocent until proven guilty or not?”

    LOL. Here’s MIndy over at the hairy armpit blog demonstrating just how much respect she really has for the principle of innocent until proven guilty.

    But Mindy and LE are right of course. I’m surprised SL has, in this case, and for purely ideological reasons, reversed the onus of proof.

    And while I’m in a state of coffee-fueled tetchiness let me address this example of SL’s hypocrisy:

    “I am using the word ‘privilege’ properly, you may note, because I possess sufficient information about the alleged rioter in question to be able to consider him ‘privileged’. Those who attempt to apply the word to entire groups of people need to be forced to study statistics at gunpoint, and learn when it is and is not accurate to ascribe characteristics to every N in a given set.”

    Right, so we should treat each other as individuals rather than subscribe to the fiction that we belong to homogeneous groups. How the heck then do you explain your unseemly view, which originated with the likes of MIchelle Bachmann, about a group of peacenik Sufis wanting to build a spiritual centre two blocks way from Ground Zero?

    Apparently people may be grouped together for the purposes of guilt-by-association but not for the purpose of obtaining a benefit.

    Nonetheless I agree to some extent with the sentiments expressed in the post.

  16. Posted August 18, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    SL@13 Your experience and analysis supports Stephen Hick’s analysis of postmodernism.

  17. Posted August 18, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    M@17 (1) Not a case of privilege. (2) A case about symbolism and tactlessness: why don’t you go the whole hog and denounce her criticism of the Carmelite cross at Auschwitz as originating with evil Zionists? (3) No Sharia-advocacy project, the housing of which is the major element in the NY religious centre proposal and which makes the whole proposal REALLY tactless, is peacenik.

  18. Posted August 18, 2011 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    I’m sorry, I still think building anything Islamic (no matter how fluffy bunny) near Ground Zero is tactless, just like building a cross near Auschwitz is tactless (and, to his credit, Pope JPII pulled his co-religionists into line on the Auschwitz cross proposal; he recognized it was incredibly tactless).

    Should there be a law against it? No, that won’t fly in the USA, for very good First Amendment reasons. But can I still think it’s tactless? You bet.

  19. Mel
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Pope JPII was incredibly tactless on plenty of occasions with regards to Jewish feelings but I don’t recall any of the libertarian graduates from Ayn Rand’s Finishing School for Elegant Young Ladies complaining.

    Hypocrisy. That is all.

  20. Tim Watts
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    PLEASE go along and do a trial report! @skepticlawyer

  21. Posted August 18, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Um, I didn’t have a blog in 2000, Mel — I’m not sure very many people did. I also wasn’t on the libertarian right in 2000: in the London Mayoral elections in 2000, I voted for ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone.

    I was very unhappy with the behaviour of the Australian ‘postmodernist’ left and literary set over my first book and some of the crap I’d been taught at uni, but politically I was about, I’d say, where LE is now (at a guess, it was 11 years ago). Of course I was an atheist, but not the sort that went around putting a flea in people’s ears about it. I just wasn’t religious, or even interested in religion, to be fair.

    You know, I still have a bit of time for ‘Red’ Ken Livingstone, too. He’s right about the bloody pigeons that poop all over London: ‘rats with wings’, he calls them.

  22. Posted August 18, 2011 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I’m sorry, I still think building anything Islamic (no matter how fluffy bunny) near Ground Zero is tactless

    There’s nothing like promoting right wing grievanceology in a post deriding the left wing version of the same.

  23. Mel
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    That’s cool, SL. Three straight days of rain has given me cabin fever and made me a little too grumpy. Sorry :)

    Anyway, I agree that the types of courses you mention are heavily biased. Too much of what goes under the banner of education in the social sciences and humanities is straight out ideological cause pushing. In the interests of self preservation, I bit my lip many times during my undergrad soc sci degree.

  24. Posted August 18, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    D@24 There is an argument for saying “we should display our openness and tolerance by letting the centre go ahead”. But that does not get away from it still being a really tactless thing to do, particularly, when it comes with a Sharia advocacy/implementation project (what do you think the 9/11 bombers think they were workingkilling for?). That is not “grievanceology”, that is just the facts of the matter.

    Rightwing grievanceology is being outraged at being required to treat queer citizens as being full citizens with equal protection of the law. Just as their predecessors were outraged at being required to treat Jews as if they were as much full citizens as Christians.

  25. Posted August 18, 2011 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    I hope you’re not asking me to join Twitter by using that symbol Tim — I’m just the sort of technical incompetent who’d finish up ‘tweeting’ her bank account details everywhere or something — I kid you not. A blog (where someone else does all the ‘under the hood’ maintenance) is very much at the upper limit of my ability to use digital technology.

    Still, if I can cadge some time away from work and they don’t shift the trial date, I should be able to get there. Could be interesting! Knowing my rotten luck with trial reports (you have to do a certain number for your Bar Course), I’ll front up, legal pad in hand, and he’ll change his plea, or the trial will be adjourned to another date…

    Mel: think of the all the things growing and getting over the bushfire damage (IIRC it went through your area pretty badly), and hope that there won’t be an efflorescence of weeds :)

  26. Posted August 18, 2011 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    One of the big lacunae in all the “post-colonialist” bumpf is leaving out the disastrous impact on many post colonial societies of the sort of ideas promoted by, well, academic postcolonialists.

    Comparing the post-colonial experience of South-East Asian countries, clearly it was much better to be subject to British colonialism (Malaya, Singapore: though Burma is a bit of a black mark), retaining independence (Thailand) or Dutch colonialism (Indonesia) than suffering French colonialism (Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam).

    This was not merely a matter of the direct colonial experience but also what framings your post-colonial elite imbibed. Even given the drag the Permit Raj has been on Indian economic growth, clearly it was better to have your post-colonial elite be Oxbridge/LSE-educated by such as Harold Laski than Sorbonne/Ecole-educated by Louis Althusser and his ilk. (I’ll take a wild guess and suggest that various Continental theorists are much more popular in such courses than, say, Laski.)

    But Western intelligentsia criticisms of “colonialism” rarely consider the responsibility of folk like themselves, and coming out of their broad intellectual traditions, for post-colonial disasters.

    Similarly, the folk who like to criticise imperial officials for their “divide and rule tactics” rarely consider how much such colonial official insistence on “authentic cultural identity” looks like modern multiculturalism, nicely summarised here as:

    the ethno-cisation of the world, and multi-culturalism – not as a positive lived experience, but as a social policy that has segregated communities and the world.

    When I talk about welfarism colonising its own societies, there are some real similarities with colonial rule and the more powerless the relevant group is in the wider community, the stronger the resemblances are (e.g. indigenous policy in Oz), though the similarities with various disastrous aid policies are possibly stronger.

  27. Posted August 18, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Hey, SL. I have only flicked through, but aren’t you:
    1. Being unfair to Mr Alam
    2. Conflating two very different things?

  28. Posted August 18, 2011 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Jim, it might help if you read the thread as well as the post. Just sayin :)

  29. Posted August 18, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Hi SL. I did. I will read again and come back with a fuller response.

  30. Posted August 18, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    But that does not get away from it still being a really tactless thing to do, particularly, when it comes with a Sharia advocacy/implementation project (what do you think the 9/11 bombers think they were workingkilling for?).

    My point is that those involved in the project are (presumably) not linked to the terrorists in a direct way. You’re elevating the irrational views of the victims (“all Muslims are trying to kill us”) over the freedoms of those who are living in that area to practice their own religion. It’s the same justification that SL is being critical of in the post, discarding a rational assessment that it was the extremity of the terrorists’ views that were the issue, not the base religion, in favour of the simplistic views of the victims that “muslim = terrorist/islam = enemy”.

  31. Posted August 18, 2011 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    I know this is a sidetrack, but it’s an interesting one, and I think it’s the Sharia aspect that makes me uncomfortable. When I first read the story (being reported, simplistically, as opposition to a mosque near the 9/11 site), I remember thinking: ‘get over yourselves, people, First Amendment, as long as they go through the proper processes, yadda yadda, they can worship a giant pink hairy goat for all I care’.

    Sharia changes it, partly for the reasons Maryam Namazie gives in Lorenzo’s comment @19, but partly because OBL and his merry men have said, over and over, that they want the global imposition of Sharia law.

    If the mosque people dropped their membership of the ‘Sharia Implementation Project’ (believe me, you do not need this to build a mosque), then it becomes much simpler to tell the frothier opposition to go piss up a rope. A mosque may still be tactless, but then so is the Sony Tower in New York (tactless is as tactless does). The problem is that Sharia is linked to Islamist terrorism in a direct way, in the same way that Christianist rhetoric calling abortion doctors ‘baby killers’ is linked to the shooting of said abortion doctors or the bombing of abortion clinics.

    Even more since the Breivik killings, I think it’s become important not to excuse the extreme edges of anyone’s rhetoric (which is why I made this piece humorous; in days gone by, I’d have written a rather serious, po-faced analysis of the loopier reaches of postcolonialism/postmodernism, but that gives bad ideas a dignity they don’t deserve). The best way to deal with bad ideas, I suspect, may be to laugh them off the stage.

    [And I must away, as I have work to do 'tomorrow', even though it is festival, and high summer (ha!)... so sleep is necessary].

  32. Posted August 18, 2011 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    On John H’s point I was interested yesterday to find out about the coming into being of a new branch of science, ‘sustainability science’. It looks to me very much like another case in point – political organisations, with political aims, have seen the need for this sort of science producing research that is congenial to their needs.

    I’d very much like to be proven wrong here.

  33. derrida derider
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    Sheesh, SL, the guy denies being part of the riot and from this distance it seems perfectly possible he’s telling the truth (coppers having bricks thrown at them by people of middle eastern appearance will very naturally grab the first such person they see. And people of privilege are usually too smart to endanger that privilege by such actions anyway).

  34. derrida derider
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    On sharia, you are doing guilt by association again – and in a big way.

    That some of those in the community the centre serves belong to the Sharia Implementation Project don’t make it a thing belonging to that Project. And anyway most such groups in the West are just trying to set up Islamic banking and contract arbitration – in exactly the same way rabbinical courts operate in the very same city. They’re not challenging secular law at all and would (rightly) be squashed by the secular courts if they did.

    Frankly I don’t know what your problem is here – I suspect you’ve been getting your “facts” from the bigot-infested US blogosphere.

  35. kvd
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    dd@35 you are saying that coppers grabbed the first person of middle eastern appearance they saw? And also that people of privilege are too smart to endanger that privilege? Those are pretty broad brush characterisations, I think.

    dd@36 I thought SL’s qualified comment was “tactless”. Much like the Pit Bull Club of Victoria relocating their clubhouse to St Albans Vic., any time soon.

  36. kvd
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    I think there’s an elision of many different ideas here

    I read the post as a ‘rant’ on things itching, not necessarily connecting at base, but certainly connected, through the (possibly totally innocent) fellow who was the subject of the Telegraph article. e,g, riots; a possibly dubious uni course; a possible rent-seeking organisation.

    In other words, I thought SL was walking and chewing gum at the same time ;)

  37. kvd
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    Long may it be LE! The thing that is not acknowledged enough, I think, is that this blog both allows diverse opinion, and seems remarkably open to self correction. For instance if SL does go to the court, I’d be amazed if the ensuing report was in any way slanted to ‘protecting’ any prior opinion expressed here.

    That is very valuable, laudable.

  38. Mel
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    kvd:

    “dd@35 you are saying that coppers grabbed the first person of middle eastern appearance they saw? And also that people of privilege are too smart to endanger that privilege? Those are pretty broad brush characterisations, I think.”

    I seem to recall Jean Charles de Menezes was deemed to be was acting suspiciously, wearing bulky clothes in hot weather, appeared to have a bomb strapped to his waste and looked very much like a crazed Muslim bomber. Accordingly he only had himself to blame when an exuberant copper pumped multiple bullets into his head at close range. Only problem was the CCTV footage and other evidence showed otherwise.

  39. kvd
    Posted August 18, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Mel@43 my point was a polite echo of SL’s “learn when it is and is not accurate to ascribe characteristics to every N in a given set”, while your point is?

  40. Posted August 18, 2011 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    What’s in St Albans, Victoria? Enquiring minds, etc. And to add to kvd’s point, I think all postmodernism is junk; pseudoscience of a sort that needs to be pilloried mercilessly. Its social constructivism is contradicted by biology and genetics, its identity politics by the most basic knowledge of statistics, and its appalling writing by the accumulated body of Western (and Eastern) literature and philosophy. If it has anything to offer, finding it would be like panning for gold in a river of dung.

    I only found out that this £10,000 mountain of nonsense existed via the media reports on this bloke, and spent a day deciding to be bitchy and funny rather than analytical. Change of tone for me on this blog, I know – I suppose. In future I’ll go back to being po-faced and leave the funnies to the incomparable DEM (although she did contribute the Eric Pickles send up).

    Disclosure: I am not a particularly compassionate person. On all those psychological profiles that attempt to place your personality (and I know Dave and Jacques say they’re silly), my actuating principle is always justice, never pity or compassion. It’s why I’m suited to criminal law. I have no problem with locking people up, and am not impressed by stories of victimhood. I don’t think being a victim gives you any special moral leverage, and think that there are times when it is partly self-inflicted.

    This extends to ‘my own side’, however. I do not like what ‘the cult of the victim’ (things like ‘victim impact statements’ and ‘putting the victim at the heart of the justice system’) is doing to the criminal law, because it often seems to be a way to let revenge in by the back door.

    And, on a final note, I was told so many sob stories about racist violence and persecution while I was at the Home Office that were independently discovered (ie, not by me but by investigators) to be false that my default position is to no longer believe them.

  41. Posted August 18, 2011 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    Uh Mel, in a riot situation where the police FINALLY went in after standing off and watching the fun for hours, I think they have a ‘bird in the hand’ policy. They would have grabbed the first person they saw, regardless of ethnicity.

    Policing was done differently in the North of England – from the start the police used snatch squads to remove individuals committing criminal acts and chase off the mobs, plus the local communities came out to protect their own shops (which was why three men were driven down and killed in Birmingham).

  42. Posted August 18, 2011 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Also, there has been a great deal of pseudoscience getting around on the reporting of the England riots; the worst has been the ‘poverty=anger & therefore rioting’, but the ‘blame cuts’ or ‘blame welfare’ are almost as bad. One of the leading researchers into crowd psychology is a Scot, and he spoke to Scientific American about the bunk flying around in the press:

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2011/08/16/pseudoscience-and-the-london-riots-folk-psychology-run-amok/

    The take-home finding?

    It’s always been an instant response to riots to say that they are the marginal in society, they are people who are already violent in society,” said Reicher. “Those studies that have been done – and the biggest study was the Kerner Commission after the American riots of the 60s – which showed that the average ghetto rioter was not marginal. The average ghetto rioter was on the whole more educated than the norm, at least in the communities that participated.

    In other words, education and genuine privilege are not the prophylactics against violence that one assumes.

  43. Posted August 18, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Also, there has been a great deal of pseudoscience getting around on the reporting of the England riots; the worst has been the ‘poverty=anger & therefore rioting’, but the ‘blame cuts’ or ‘blame welfare’ are almost as bad. One of the leading researchers into crowd psychology is a Scot, and he spoke to Scientific American about the bunk flying around in the press:

    Like so many social phenomena arising from so many variables we will never know the real causes. We will be able to explain the behaviors of specific individuals in such circumstances, though even that can be highly problematic, but to try and account for the rioting with some over arching explanation for the riots is to seriously under-estimate the intellectual challenge involved. Human behavior in its totality is one of the most complex things in the known universe. We can explain specific behaviors, up to a point, we cannot explain all the behaviors of a single individual with some comprehensive theory. It may even be a fundamental error to attempt to create a comprehensive theory of human behavior. At present I think that is the case.

  44. Posted August 18, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    I just read the dog attack story. Wish I hadn’t. I hope the bloody irresponsible dog owners got the book thrown at them.

  45. Posted August 18, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    Not a Doctor Who fan then, LE? Sontarans are an alien race of cloned warriors. You might remember John Pertwee fighting a stranded Commander Lynx when he took Sarah Jane back to the Medieval period in ‘The Time Warrior’. A very good comic in the back of the Doctor Who magazine had Earther grunts in combat with the soldiers they called ‘frogs in foil’. Think Jabba the Hutt when he was young and athletic. ;-)

    Eric Pickles is the government’s axeman at the local council level, slashing their funding. The first services to go have been things like youth clubs and respite care/drop-in centres for people with disabilities or mental health issues. He’s got the kind of build you’re probably more used to seeing on a trade union organiser than a Conservative which adds to the confusion.

  46. Posted August 18, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    No, I didn’t need to look it up. Yes, I AM a nerd.

  47. kvd
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    LE maybe the guy has been landed with a tough job, and knows he will attract criticism whatever he does – so allowing quirky humour to stand on his wiki page is possibly one way to get on with life?

    Or it could be all totally, like, true.

  48. kvd
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    I mean, that Liberal polly who was described as the lovechild of Peter Reith and Bronwyn Bishop never actually denied it, did he? So…

  49. Mel
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    SL:

    ” I think all postmodernism is junk; pseudoscience of a sort that needs to be pilloried mercilessly. Its social constructivism is contradicted by biology and genetics, its identity politics by the most basic knowledge of statistics, and its appalling writing by the accumulated body of Western (and Eastern) literature and philosophy”

    I love it when you talk like that. We really do need sharp minds such as yours to puncture the bullshit that comes out of the academy. More posts on this subject matter pretty please with sugar on top :)

  50. Posted August 19, 2011 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    D@32 and DD@36 There weren’t a lot of Carmelites killing Jews at Auschwitz either. Symbolism is not about specific people, its about historical associations of ideas and symbols.

    And anyway most such groups in the West are just trying to set up Islamic banking and contract arbitration – in exactly the same way rabbinical courts operate in the very same city. They’re not challenging secular law at all and would (rightly) be squashed by the secular courts if they did.

    Unfortunately, it does not stop at that. The big difference between rabbinical courts and Sharia courts is that Sharia is an inherently imperial legal system in the way Jewish law simply is not. Jewish law is only for the Chosen People and completely accepts the legitimacy of obeying the wider law of the polity one is resident in.

    Sharia is quite different: it claims to be the law all should follow, without exception. To promise never to try and extend it is to, in fact, contravene Sharia itself. Not only does it claim all should follow it, it incorporates an entire structure of subordination for non-believers: something Jewish law does not do.

    Furthermore, rabbinical law has incorporated all sorts of mechanisms for softening various provisions (all those death penalties; for example). While medieval Islam did develop some such, it never went as far because it was the dominant legal dispensation and there is a distinct tendency in more recent times to abandon such “accretions”. Granting status to Sharia is not the end of the matter, it is a temporary arrangement prior to further claims. This without the pressure and intimidation that can accompany Sharia within Muslim communities.

    I completely agree with M@60. (Pauses, waits for sky to fall.)

  51. Mel
    Posted August 19, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    L@61:

    Actually Jews aren’t supposed to dob in other Jews to non-Jewish secular authorities, hence the current scandals about pedophile teachers in Jewish schools.

    “Sharia is quite different: it claims to be the law all should follow, without exception. To promise never to try and extend it is to, in fact, contravene Sharia itself. Not only does it claim all should follow it, it incorporates an entire structure of subordination for non-believers: something Jewish law does not do.”

    Christianity has come a long way since the days of the Inquisition and I think Islam will too. Your mistake is to think theological doctrine is somehow rational. It isn’t. As an example, Jesus never spoke out against slavery yet the Bible treats it as a given in literally hundreds of verses. Jesus also said:

    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17-20

    Accordingly the theological claim that we don’t have to worry about slavery and all the other nasty stuff in the Old Testament because Jesus changed everything is irrational, nonetheless very few Christian theologians today, even those who preach a supposed literal interpretation of the Bible, haven’t come up with a twisted and convoluted argument to rule out slavery.

    The same thing will happen in Islam. Even now there are tiny liberal theological movements in Islam that have managed to reinterpret Sharia as a shiney happy place to be.

    Accordingly Lorenzo’s essentialist argument fails. On the other hand it will probably take another century or two before the Islamic liberals eclipse the fundies :)

  52. Posted August 20, 2011 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    M@63 Yes, up to a point. Two problems.

    First, the structure of Sharia authority is quite different from law in Christianity. All strands of Christianity accepted early on that law was human–including Church law. Yes. it was attempting to conform to God’s will, but law was human. Which made one able to change it.

    So, for example, the verse cited by Mel was taken to mean complete-by-transforming in a new covenant. Aided by Christ denouncing the Jewish religious taboos over form and process in Mark 7:1-23 and Matthew 15:1-20, plus the vision of Peter (Acts 10:9-23) and as well as various passages in Paul.

    Thus, the Church could decide to just change its rules on consanguinity in Canon 50 of the Fourth Lateran Council. The rhetoric is a bit laboured, but they do it.

    Sharia is God’s law. It is not human, it is divine. You cannot change Sharia: the best you can do is reinterpret it. This gives Islam a much bigger problem than Christianity in this regard: a problem that goes a long way back. One of the advantages medieval Europe had over Islam is that Latin Christendom could run “experiments” in law that Islam simply couldn’t. So one is not comparing apples and apples in a quite fundamental sense.

    Secondly, for such re-interpretation to happen there has to be powerful incentive(s) to do so. Such can be managed. The Ismailis, for example, have turned Sharia into community law in much the same way the rabbinical courts did.

    But they did that because, like the Jews, they were always going to be a minority group. They had to adapt to accept minority status.

    My concern is that the incentives for mainstream Islam to re-interpret are not nearly so strong, and much of the “role for Sharia” multiculturalism actually undermines rather than encourages such incentives.

    So, the Christian analogy does not work nearly as well as is pretended and the Jewish analogy not only has problems in that Jewish law never pretended to be universal, but they have 2500+ years of accepting minority status (given the role of the Babylonian community in developing rabbinical law).

    Conversely, it is still an open question in Sharia jurisprudence whether living permanently in a non-Muslim land is legitimate. (It is OK as long as you strive to turn it into a Muslim land is a favoured answer.)

    One needs to look at the full history, not just the bits that are reassuring.

  53. Mel
    Posted August 20, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Stop babbling, Lorenzo. Nothing Jesus or any of his boyfriends/disciples said changes the pro-slavery nature of the Bible.

    Liberal Muslims can and do use the same arguments as liberal Christians, such the idea that one’s relationship with God is personal and that it doesn’t really matter what some fuddy duddy with a beard thinks.

    I found this on wiki:

    ” Certain sects, such as the Haruriyyah branch of the Kharijites movement in the 7th century, considered it acceptable for a woman to be imam. Certain medieval scholars—including Al-Tabari (838–932), Abu Thawr (764–854), Al-Muzani (791–878), and Ibn Arabi (1165–1240)—considered the practice permissible at least for optional (Nafl salat) prayers[1]; however, their views are not accepted by any major surviving group … ”

    Fancy that, women as imams.

    Examples such as these and various others that I’ve read mean that liberal Muslims have some nice little historical seeds on which to build.

  54. Chris Bond
    Posted August 20, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    M@63, 65:
    You appear to be arguing (as so many have in the past decade or two) that Islam is misunderstood / is not as bad as it’s portrayed. And this from the relatively-secure distance of the continent of Oz. Ah, but we just need to remain patient: “it will probably take another century or two before the Islamic liberals eclipse the fundies”…
    Meantime, how many atrocities by ‘fundies’ against mixed groups of men, women and children inside European countries where we are dealing with the realities of islamists and their urges, for example:
    – 22 December 2001 – ‘shoe bomber’ Richard Reid – a Briton coverted to Islam.
    – 11 March 2004 – Madrid train bombings – killed 191 people and wounded 1,841
    – April 2004 – fertiliser bomb plot (London, UK) – smashed three weeks after the 2004 Madrid bombings – the group bought 600kg of ammonium nitrate, which was stored at a self-storage unit in Hanwell, west London – staff at the depot became suspicious and alerted the police…
    – 7 July 2005 – the ’7/7′ London bombings (tube and bus) – killing 52 people and injuring more than 770
    – 21 July 2005 – attempted London bombings – the intention was to cause large-scale loss of life, but only the detonators of the bombs exploded, probably causing the popping sounds reported by witnesses, and only one minor injury was reported.
    – 2006 – ‘liquid bomb plot’ against planes – see the video and report on http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8242479.stm for impressive video of the effects of one of those bombs on a plane fueslage.
    – and gods know how many more have been detected by the security services… and what cost all that surveillance?

    I fully acknowledge that there are millions of moderate muslims around the world who just want to get on with their lives in peace, and do not want to interfere with others, let alone wage jihad against them.
    BUT. I think we have a fundamental problem if we do not freely discuss the issues of Islam and its fundamentalists. See for example http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/richardlandes/100101297/liberal-intellectuals-are-frightened-of-confronting-islams-honour-shame-culture/
    Discussion of any of this was utterly taboo in the UK under the “shout they’re racists if they dare mention it” Blair/Brown government in the UK… that is, until Brown had his “Gillian Duffy” moment.

  55. Posted August 20, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    BUT. I think we have a fundamental problem if we do not freely discuss the issues of Islam and its fundamentalists. See for example

    We must confront it. In particular we must urge moderate Muslims to take the lead in this regard.

  56. Posted August 20, 2011 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    Nothing Jesus or any of his boyfriends/disciples said changes the pro-slavery nature of the Bible.

    This is a fair point. The abolitionists lost the theological argument on slavery, but won the historical argument, and won it with great skill.

    Quaker abolitionists were the ones who went back and read early Christian letters and writings that showed the early church’s discomfort with slavery, and its attempts to ameliorate it (very obvious in Justinian’s additions to Roman law, but not necessarily attributable to him; this was an accretion that had been built up since Constantine). They even noticed that the improving position of slaves seemed to come at the expense of women; since the Quakers were both abolitionists and feminists, they were willing to point out the awful contradiction and then just let it sit on the table.

    They were the first to situate the Christian toleration of slavery in its historical context, pointing out that even antiquity’s genuine abolitionists (the Stoics) gave up their abolitionism once they were in positions of power in the Roman Empire. Quakers did the research showing that Stoic attempts to undermine slavery — by going to the slave-market and buying large numbers of slaves, giving them a small income (peculium) and then freeing them — was statutorily abrogated by no less an Emperor than Augustus, who enforced it by imposing a 4% sales tax on sales and manumissions of slaves and limiting the number that could be freed at any one time, even on death. As the Romans viewed testamentary freedom as a sacred birthright, this was a large impost, and even worse, could not be evaded by means of a testamentary trust, but only by means of a secret trust (which would not be enforced by the courts if litigated). Contrast the treatment of slaves with Augustus’ marriage and (other) inheritance laws, all of which were routinely contracted around by married couples or evaded (by everyone) by means of testamentary trusts.

    Then there was the Roman view of rebelling slaves. Every Roman schoolchild knew the story of Spartacus, and not as a hero, but as a villain and rebel against ‘law and order’. He was their Guy Fawkes. The Roman authorities would destroy any organisation opposed to slavery, particularly a new organisation led by people who were were not considered cultured, educated or successful in trade and commerce. Stoics were persons of education and culture, and had a tremendous reputation in business (Seneca was a very successful banker, for example). They could be abolitionists in their quiet way, but a Christian who did the same thing ‘from below’ would have been killed without pity or compunction.

    It was the Quakers who realised that if the early Christians had opposed slavery openly, they would have gone the way of the Druids and the religions of Carthage. If the Romans wanted to wipe a religion off the face of the earth, they were perfectly capable of doing so. Quakers had no doctrine of ‘manifest destiny’; they understood — for perhaps the first time in human history — that the rise of any religion (even one they considered true) was nonetheless historically contingent.

    It is this that walls off the history of slavery in Christianity from that in Islam. Both religions have the ‘you should treat slaves well’ rule; only the Christians (twice) had an immense, ugly, prolonged and bitter argument about it.

  57. Mel
    Posted August 20, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    CB @66:

    “You appear to be arguing (as so many have in the past decade or two) that Islam is misunderstood / is not as bad as it’s portrayed”

    No I’m not. I’m saying at the moment Islam is mostly crap and it’ll take centuries rather than decades before it gets to where Christianity is today. How is that being an apologist?

  58. Chris Bond
    Posted August 20, 2011 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    M@70:
    I used the words “… appear to be … ” (but certainly not the word “apologist”), because I was unsure exactly what the aim of your comments were… thank you for the unambiguous “at the moment Islam is mostly crap”.

  59. Posted August 21, 2011 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    M@65 And the pro-slavery bits of the Bible matter why? Re-interpreting the Bible is a much less fraught exercise when it is not regarded as laying down binding laws in the first place.

    Cherry-picking long-failed strands in Muslim history while dismissing what is overwhelmingly mainstream Islamic jurisprudence is beyond pathetic. No doubt liberal Muslims can point to those long ago failures: why this exercise is at all likely to be successful or persuasive within Islam is the real question.

    In his What Went Wrong Bernard Lewis recounts the response of the first known Muslim visitor to the House of Commons (in the late C18th) who:

    expresses his astonishment at the fate of a people who, unlike the Muslims, did not have divine revealed law, and were therefore reduced to the pitiable expedient of enacting their own laws (p.127).

    In Islam there was literally no social space for the development of anything like common law, law merchant, etc.

    Now, obviously, Islam has “caught up”: but mainly due to the pressure of the West. And there remain plenty of Muslims who are happy to die and kill to reverse what they see (quite correctly) as a foreign intrusion into Islam.

    Indeed, a major reason why Islam is a religiously-defined civilisation (and still sees itself as such) while the West has long since stopped thinking of itself as ‘Christendom’ is precisely the all-embracing nature of Islam itself.

    My point is not that it is impossible for Islam to evolve, my point is that there are huge barriers: much larger than the ones Christendom-cum-Western civilisation faced and look how much effort that took. Indeed, we are still arguing over some of the detritus of religious restriction and taboos in our laws.

    Also ‘essentialist’ is a piece of pc/PoMo jargon designed not to promote understanding but to block thought (and particularly dissent). Whether or not something is ‘essentialist’ is irrelevant: the question is, what are the facts of the matter?

  60. Posted August 21, 2011 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    M@70 You manage to echo Daniel Pipes, who also argues that Islam is going through a particularly low period in our time.

  61. Mel
    Posted August 21, 2011 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Lorenzo, when the ME oil runs out Islam will change one way or another. Hopefully this will happen in 50 or so years.

  62. Posted August 21, 2011 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    M@74 Well, oil does make matters worse. Indeed, it has much the same effect on the Middle East that silver had on Spain and Portugal. But the effects of silver took quite a long time to work through in Iberia even after it stopped flowing. (Pause here for Franco era joke: the Pyrenees are the highest mountains on the Continent–they separate Spain from Europe.)

    I get frustrated with both people who assume Islam is a monolithic, unchanging, entity fixed in form forever and those who blithely assume that it is infinitely malleable without powerful tendencies. Islam is a different civilisation, it needs to be analysed according the dynamics operating for it, not according to some Western-civilisation-as-template-that-all-will-come-to-conform-to model.

    At least we are both within the “history does happen” framing: puts us ahead of lots of folk.

  63. Mel
    Posted August 21, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    L@75:

    “Islam is a different civilisation, it needs to be analysed according the dynamics operating for it, not according to some Western-civilisation-as-template-that-all-will-come-to-conform-to model.”

    You are babbling again, Lorenzo. If you were in Spain at the time the Church was murdering Jews and burning synagogues and forcing non-believers to convert or leave and people were being tortured left right and centre there may well have been some nostalgia for past periods of relative tranquility under Muslim ruled Spain (yes, I’m aware Muslim ruled Spain wasn’t always nice either).

    But really, Lorenzo, your problem is that most of your “disinterested and scholarly analysis” does not extend much beyond confirmation bias. This leads into all kinds of stoopid, for example you arrived at the idiotic and easily refuted conclusion that James Hansen once believed in global cooling based on the mad rantings of Jo Nova. It would’ve taken you five minutes to research the topic properly and work out this was a lie but you didn’t do it because you are only interested in buttressing your cooky cutter libertarian prejudices.

    But don’t worry, Lorenzo, Mel is patient and will lead you onto the path of righteous intellectual inquiry (or is it enquiry, I always get those two confused) ;)

  64. Posted August 21, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Mel and Lorenzo, may I suggest that the two of you are engaging in the ‘narcissism of small differences?’

    I’m struggling to see much of a distinction between your respective positions.

    Oh, and no AGW please; it gives perfectly sane and reasonable people rampaging SIWOTI syndrome.

  65. Posted August 21, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    Oh, and no AGW please; it gives perfectly sane and reasonable people rampaging SIWOTI syndrome.

    Oh yes, I have long held the policy of no AGW debate. The only exception is on Science 2.0 and even there I rarely participate. The debate in general is poisoned. On my blog I simply post Patrick Lockerby’s Arctic ice updates.

  66. Posted August 22, 2011 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    M@76 What SL@77 said. Your paragraph commenting on my cited quote is actually agreeing with it: nothing I said implied that things were always better in Christendom, merely that there was much larger social space for non-religious rules–not the same claim at all.

    Factual correction: it was never Church practice to kill Jews, however much its rhetoric may have incited mobs who did such. (Handing apostates over to the secular power for execution was done, but executing apostates did not differentiate it from Islam.)

    SL: I have just noticed an error in your post: Ronald Coase is still alive, though he turns 101 in December.

  67. Patrick
    Posted August 22, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    But the effects of silver took quite a long time to work through in Iberia even after it stopped flowing

    In the past tense?

  68. Posted August 23, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    P@81 You’re a bad man, but I like you :)

  69. Posted August 23, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Mel – Lorenzo is right. Islam is a soldier’s religion and it mandates conquest and the imposition of theocracy everywhere it succeeds.

    Its progress was halted at the Gates of Vienna.

  70. Mel
    Posted August 23, 2011 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Lorenzo:

    “Factual correction: it was never Church practice to kill Jews … ”

    Well most of the killing was outsourced to private contractors, I’ll grant you that.

    Lorenzo:

    “Also ‘essentialist’ is a piece of pc/PoMo jargon designed not to promote understanding but to block thought (and particularly dissent). Whether or not something is ‘essentialist’ is irrelevant: the question is, what are the facts of the matter?”

    Fair enough. I was attempting a discursive discourse on essentialist otherings as a critique of the gendered binaries that refract the white male imaginary while smoking a bong. It shall not happen again.

  71. Posted August 23, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Fair enough. I was attempting a discursive discourse on essentialist otherings as a critique of the gendered binaries that refract the white male imaginary while smoking a bong. It shall not happen again.

    Mel wins teh internetz for today.

    Just on killing apostates: all the monotheisms once did it, including the Jews. The Romans stopped the Jews from doing it at the same time as stopping the Jews from killing adulterous women (at most, adultery in the Roman world was disposed of by way of a fine, and only if litigated and not contracted around). They also used Lord Napier’s methods: as in, it may be your custom to do this, but every time you do it, we will build a gallows beside your synagogue and hang by the neck until dead any man giving sanction to either practice. This was a rescript of the Emperor Augustus, repeated by Tiberius, Claudius and Vespasian. Hadrian added a ban on male circumcision to the imperial order, but then Hadrian (who was as queer as a three pound note, a Hellenophile who maintained — along with the Empress Sabina — a very odd household, and who had to deal with the Bar Kochba revolt to cap it all off) was not fond of Jews.

  72. Posted August 23, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Mel – Lorenzo is right. Islam is a soldier’s religion and it mandates conquest and the imposition of theocracy everywhere it succeeds.

    Its progress was halted at the Gates of Vienna.

    That’s my understanding too. It was beholden upon a new leader to demonstrate his worth by conquering some new land. Vienna failed.

    Christianity was smarter, they captured the government. :)

  73. Posted August 23, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    A@83 Like all major religions, ‘Islam’ is a varied beast. It has some strong tendencies, I grant: not quite the same thing as saying “Islam is …”.

    SL@85 Monotheisms are definitely into apostate killing big time. The ur-text of this seems to be Deuteronomy 13 which requires prophets of other gods who appear among the Israelites to be put to death, any Israelite (even their own brother or sister) who turns to other gods be publicly stoned to death—with their sibling leading the stoning—and any city of Israel which turns to other gods be destroyed utterly.

    Monotheism has some clear patterns (such as on sex and gender) which recur in the Abrahamic monotheisms and Zoroastrianism. (Of all the major monotheist scriptures, the most odd ones out are the Gospels, but St Paul and the Church fathers kept pulling Christianity back to standard monotheist patterns).

    I made comment earlier about the controversy in mainstream Islamic jurisprudence about whether it was legitimate for a Muslim to live in a non-Muslim society, a question Judaism resolved 2500 years ago and which never arose in mainstream Christianity. (Islam, however, takes its universalism from Christianity but most of its other features from Judaism; hence the bitterness with which Jews are attacked in the Qur’an. A major exception is dhimmitude, which Islam got from the Christian Roman empire–St Augustine is the premier theorist of dhimmitude, with his notion that the Jews under the rule of the True People of God should ‘survive but not thrive’.)

    I also noted that a popular answer was that living in a non-Muslim land was fine, as long as the Muslim migrants strove to turn their new home into a Muslim society. (I.e. one that submits to Sharia.) Some folk take that very seriously, with increasing concern about “no go” areas.

  74. Posted August 23, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    JH@86 In classical Islam, Islam is the government. Law is an entirely religious matter, for example. The Caliph’s title of “Commander of the Faithful” was supposed to be literal: ibn Khaldun explains that Islam’s duty to wage war to defend and spread submission to Allah makes the title necessary. In his words:

    In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the univesalism of the Muslim mission and (the obligation to) convert everyone to Islam either by persuasion or force. Therefore, caliphate and royal authority are united in Islam, so that the person in charge can devote the available strength to both of them at the same time (Muqaddimah 3:31).

    By ibn Khaldun’s time, that role was notional but still the declared ideal (sadly undergoing a period of temporary departure from the proper state of affairs). Though the Ottomans (who saw themselves as both Caliphs–so successors to Muhammad–and as inheritors of the Roman Emperors) certainly did their best to revive it–they got a long way into central Europe, operating a fairly relentless program of expansion based very clearly on refinements of standard patterns of Islamic imperialism. Indeed, the Venetians and the Habsburgs were forced to develop Christian versions of the ghazis, in the form of Grenzer militia soldier-peasants to block what had been centuries of advance.

    BTW I recommend reading ibn Khaldun, who is a perceptive and fascinating thinker. The first, and arguably still the greatest, historical sociologist. He noted what we now call “the Laffer curve” (to his credit Arthur Laffer cheerfully acknowledges this) while some of his writings definitely prefigure Adam Smith. So much so, I wonder if Smith had read him.

  75. Posted August 24, 2011 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Of all the major monotheist scriptures, the most odd ones out are the Gospels, but St Paul and the Church fathers kept pulling Christianity back to standard monotheist patterns

    Good thing too. Jesus H Christ was a fucking hippie! It’s always good to see a Church founded on the basis of the delusion rantings of an impotent, bitter and twisted old fart like Paul. He took the Golden Rule and changed it to I can’t have any fun so why should you!

    St Augustine is the premier theorist of dhimmitude, with his notion that the Jews under the rule of the True People of God should ‘survive but not thrive’.)

    Well he got that right. :)

  76. Posted August 24, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    He took the Golden Rule and changed it to I can’t have any fun so why should you!

    So what you’re saying is that Paul was a masochist?

  77. Posted August 24, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    So what you’re saying is that Paul was a masochist?

    Gimme back the Berlin Wall
    Gimme Stalin and Saint Paul
    Gimme Christ or gimme Hiroshima.

    With all due respect to the second people of the book it is my belief that Saul of Tarsus was a class ‘a’ arsehole. There are some, I seem to recall, atheist or anti-theist polemic that theorised that he was actually impotent. Its evidence was scriptural interpretation. I like to repeat it.

    Whatever revelation obtains, religions soon become organizations of power. I believe that there’s perhaps always one person on the fringes of the original experience who sees a way of organizing this frenzy into a force either in aid of self-aggrandizement, the accomplishment of a specific social objective, the acquisition of wealth or all three.

    Perhaps Paul saw strength in the death of Stephen that inspired him. Yes! This is the next wave. From my distant recollection of his work he’s well educated and completely joyless. His distaste for sex is radical. This stands in blunt contrast to Jesus whose sexuality seems to me mostly erased by the Gospels.

    The Jesus Myth tells the story of God personified as a human male. That is the creator, overlord and entire body of the cosmos manifests as a mortal creature. Given the predestinate suffering perchance he’d had some fun as well?

    I can infer from Gospels that he liked a drink. I reckon if I was God come down and living life on Earth I’d be into a righteous bonk or a hundred too. And founding faith circles are famous for their incestuous shenanigans.

  78. Posted August 24, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    Adrien@91: You are forgetting a couple of things about Jesus:

    In theological terms – a mule. The god/human cross thing. And like a mule, hung.

    In biological terms – a product of mammalian parthenogenesis , therefore female, and if bearded, a female with something like an adrenal tumor, wearing men’s clothes … transvestite.

    Not exactly Saul/Paul’s cup of tea. But Paul was an absolute heel.

    btw: the depiction of paul/saul in “Live from Golgotha” …. you’d probably love it.

  79. Movius
    Posted August 25, 2011 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    As if I, Paul, was any more or less real than Jesus. You can tell this is really me by the way I am signing this post in capital letters.

    PAUL

  80. Patrick
    Posted August 25, 2011 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Adrien @91 great introductory citation, love that song.

    Not sure I remember the rest of the comment :(

  81. Mel
    Posted August 26, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    L@87:

    Actually that Mark Durie is scary. Does it mean Breivik was right in thought if not in deed?

  82. Mel
    Posted August 26, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Oops that should read –

    Actually that Mark Durie POST is scary.

  83. Posted August 26, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    M@96 I have met Mark Durie on a couple of occasions: he is tall but not scary ;)

    M@97 I would put it in the “a problem, but let’s not panic” category. We first have to admit that there is a problem, but realise that the solution is a firm decency.

    To treat the jihadis & salafis as representative is a betrayal of many Muslims (particularly Muslim women). To treat them as if they have no purchase on Islamic tradition is dangerous stupidity.

    So, insist on a common citizenship, a common rule of law — even if it means sticking police stations right in the middle of such “zones” — but make sure it is genuinely common both in the sense of not treating people as if they were Muslims first and citizens second but also making it clear that we are secular societies with secular laws and are going to remain so.

  84. Mel
    Posted August 26, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    “To treat the jihadis & salafis as representative is a betrayal of many Muslims …”

    I strongly agree and have always said such a conflation is like treating sushi and wasabi as representative of all Japanese cuisine.

  85. Posted August 27, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    And on a slightly lighter note … from Melbourne (where else)

    http://www.theage.com.au/afl/afl-news/calls-for-the-afl-to-fix-the-fixture-20110826-1jem2.html

    Anger over the draw, which has simmered for years, is reaching a tipping point, with Dr Matthew Klugman, lecturer in football studies at Victoria University, warning it was sapping hope from many AFL supporters.

  86. Posted August 27, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    ‘Football Studies’? At last the PhD course for me.

  87. Nana
    Posted July 25, 2013 at 4:10 am | Permalink

    All charges against Fahim Alam were dropped. Hate is the new love.

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