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Category Archives: Middle east

Sharia against success

When the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer, part of his call is “come to success” (Hayya ʿala ‘l-falāḥ, literally “hasten to success”). The idea is that Islam leads to success in this world and the next. For the key problem in Islam is ignorance, and the answer to ignorance is guidance; specifically, the instructions given to […]

Constrained by God: an epistemic event horizon

Reading about inadvertent patterns created by Islam brings to mind how adaptability is an advantage in a civilisation. While it is true that religious belief can be something of a moveable feast, it is nevertheless true that religious doctrine–particularly text-based religious doctrine within monotheism–can be a powerful and continuing constraint. This is particularly obvious in Islam. In the […]

The world has changed

A strain of thought I have noticed over the years with reference to international relations is “the world has changed” line: that circumstances have become so different that past fears or concerns are no longer germane to present realities. So much so, that such fears and concerns themselves have become the “real” problem. Two cases […]

Enlightenment foreclosed?

Uttering the cliche that “what Islam needs is a Reformation” merely shows that the speaker understands neither Islam nor the Reformation. The Protestant Reformation was the rejection of traditional accretions in favour of the authority of scripture; an attempt to return to “original” Christianity. Islam has experienced waves of such reformism throughout its history, also […]

Righteous Rage

In September, there were two horrific jihadi attacks in Africa against “soft targets”–the 21 September attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya and the 29 September massacre of students in the male dormitory of the College of Agriculture in Gujba, Yobe State, Nigeria.  The first attack killed at least 61 civilians (plus 6 […]

The struggle for the means of reproduction

Recently read the sort of work of history I particularly enjoy–one that gets into how past societies and states actually worked. Edited by historians Walter Scheidel and Ian Morris, The Dynamics of Ancient Empires: State Power from Assyria to Byzantium has essays on the Neo-Assyrian, Achaemenid Persian, Athenian, Roman and Eastern Roman (“Byzantine”) empires (the last […]

The misogyny of Sharia on display

The story of the Norwegian Qatar resident Marte Dalelv who brought a charge of rape against a co-worker, was convicted by a Dubai court of perjury, drinking alcohol and extra-marital sex and sentenced to 16 months imprisonment has had a “happy” ending; she has been pardoned by the Emir of Dubai. Dubai is part of […]

Of copper, tin and iron

The Silk Age of Eurasian trade  may have begun around 220 BC, with the unification of China under imperial rule and the shift to cavalry driving up demand for horses, but trade over long distances began millennia before that. Copper arrives While there is evidence of long-distance trade even among foraging societies–ochre, for example, travelled thousands […]

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold … A post somewhat about China

Historically, taxing land (rents) and trade have been the dominant income sources of rulerships not reliant on labour service (not to be confused with taxes on labour income, which have a different dynamic).* Trade was a particularly attractive source of income because it often involved taxing outsiders. But trade was also mobile–too much tax for […]

Coke and Carob

JULIA Gillard has denounced the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement ahead of anti-Israeli protest action planned at the University of NSW today. BDS action at UNSW has turned ugly, with anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying material appearing on a Facebook page opposing the opening of a Max Brenner chocolate shop on campus. Postings on a Facebook page […]