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  • Are you Charlie?

    o-OVERWHELMED-570

    I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever read Charlie Hebdo. I always bought a few bandes dessinee magazines, but I had a preference for lushly rendered ligne claire tales full of hard SF and occasional naked people.

    Since the magazine’s offices were attacked, there has been an amount of self important commentary suggesting the cartoonists brought the violence upon themselves. It’s not just been from the sort of right wingers who would like to have the power to threaten and censor for themselves, either. People who would normally, and rightly, rail against victim blaming, have been saying, “Well, if they would go out in those covers, they were asking to be shot.”

    They’re wrong, of course, and many people have explained why, so I’ll not go into that. But what’s bothered me is their inability to read a cartoon, or do some basic maths. Everyone’s been concentrating on the covers depicting Mohammed and the blame brigade are pointing at them and implying that the magazine was a non-stop anti Islam hate fest. There’s a pool of a dozen or so cover images from the period since 2006 (date of the image above), that are being concentrated on. But Charlie Hebdo was weekly. There were 52 issues a year (maybe 50 if they took a break for Christmas and New Year), which kind of makes the charge of concentrated Islamaphobia a little weaker. Of course, I can’t speak for the content of CH, and just how nasty it was to whom and in what ratio, but none of the magazine’s sudden critics can either, judging by their concentration on the most repeated cover images.

    The left-leaning victim blamers are all determined to see racism aimed at France’s muslim population, and have decided that cartoons about the prophet are an example of that. A favourite argument has been that, with drawings of Mohammed, Charlie was “punching down when it should have been punching up”. But they’ve only come to that conclusion because they can’t do something as simple as decode a cartoon. They see that the image is supposed to depict the prophet and decide that it’s nothing more than a simplistic attack on Islam and, by extension, an attempt to demean muslims. There’s a snobbery in their refusal to actually look at the cartoons and work out what they’re really saying. Cartoons are a juvenile art form, they’ve decided, crude scribbles meant for the young and the simple-minded, so they can’t possibly be loaded with nuance.

    Let’s look at that cartoon up above again. I’ve seen a few, slightly different, translations of the caption and speech bubble, but the gist of it is- ‘Mohammed despairs of the extremists, “It’s hard to be loved by arseholes!”‘ Ignore the edict against depictions of the prophet and this is a very sympathetic depiction of him. Here’s an entity with the empathy to be apalled by the actions some are claiming to do in his name. The only people who should be offended by this cartoon are the very arseholes whose behaviour has driven the one they claim to revere to tears. Similarly, another image, of a returned Mohammed about to be beheaded by a masked ISIS type, is showing, in a suitably brutal way, how the terrorists have diverged so far from the religion they claim to represent that they wouldn’t recognise it’s creator.

    In those two cartoons, CH attacked the people who would go on to attack them. They also stood with the thousands of muslims who have been killed in Syria and Iraq by arseholes who think praying in a slightly different way merits the death sentence. But some people are too busy trying to read shallow intentions into the images to look deep enough to see that.

    I’m not in possession of large reserves of physical or moral courage, I leave that sort of thing to my protagonists. Only once has anyone demanded that I shelve something I was planning to write. But he was an obnoxious, bullying little shit, so I carried on with it, only putting it aside when it became obvious that my drawing skills weren’t good enough to produce the sort of art it deserved. I have written, and will write in the future, stuff that offends people, but I couldn’t say that I’d carry on with it when faced with constant death threats. It’s galling to think that, if I were attacked, there’d be some self-righteous pricks who’d turn around and say, “Yes, but just look at the tacky genres he was writing in, and such short books, lacking any pretentious prose. It’s not like he was creating worthy, literary novels, is it.”

    Fuck those idiots.

    Je suis Charlie.


  • Your foreskin belongs to God!

    The Cologne district court has ruled that non-medical circumcision is a “serious and irreversible interference in the integrity of the human body”. Thus religious circumcision is illegal and German Jews and Muslims are up in arms about it.

    Well done to Germany, and the Cologne court in particular, for making a decision based upon child welfare despite the inevitable chorus of claims that it’s anti-semitic. Commenters were straight in with the other obvious non-argument- bringing abortion into the mix despite the two issues being unrelated. British blogger Cranmer waffled around the subject but basically said that laws made up in the desert thousands of years ago should be more important than the ones passed in a modern courtroom, and suggested some sort of circumcision tourism.

    Let’s leave decisions about the integrity of the prepuce to its owner and let them choose at the age of eighteen plus whether it stays or goes.


  • Satan Meat!

    There are a number of good reasons why this country should no longer allow halal and kosher butchery of animals. Johann Hari wrote a detailed piece on them recently.

    However, this is not a valid reason

    Halal meat is meat from animals which have been slaughtered and ritually sacrificed to Satan* in accordance with islamic practice.

    I don’t do Satan meat!

    [* The god of the followers of Mohammed as presented in the Koran and known as ‘Allah’ is not the one true God YHWH but is actually Satan.]

    Yes, it’s Richard Carvath, Salford funny mentalist, being an uninformed bigot again.

    I’d sign a petition calling for the stunning of all animals before they’re slaughtered- effectively banning the objectionable part of halal and kosher butchery, but not their right to pray to their chosen version of God over the dead animal- but it seems that everyone who puts one up forgets about the Jewish practice and is concentrating on being anti-Islam not pro-animal rights.


  • Still saying nothing with numbers

    Not satisfied with simply being homophobic and mysoginist, would be holy warrior Richard Carvath is branching out into racism*. He’s terrified that Mohammed was the 16th most popular name for baby boys in 2009. 16th! All the good white Christian folk are going to be ground under the heels of the Allah chanting brown hordes!

    Except that there were 15 more popular names (here’s the top 100). Oliver was most popular- we’re in danger of being overrun by urchins! Harry was third- prepare for the speccy wizard apocalypse! Alfie was fourth- fear the coming wave of cockney lotharios! Etc.**

    I know what Carvath thinks he’s saying- the muslim community is growing fast enough for one of their most popular boy’s names to slot into the list amongst all the properly Christian christian names. Something should be done! Because we all know that every single muslim is only one halal burger away from exploding and killing himself and everyone around him.

    This fear of a brown neighbour is really weak and quite cowardly. People like Carvath who talk tough about fighting the “evil Mohammedan cult” reveal a lack of faith in the strength of their own beliefs. If they were so sure they were right they’d just go out there and sell their own religion. The only long term solution to religious extremism is secularism and humanism. Politicians need to stop pandering to those who whine loudest about the rights they demand because of their imaginary friend.

    *I know that prejudice against Islam isn’t strictly racist, but it’s a fair bet that when Carvath says “Muslim” he’s thinking of brown men with beards, often wearing non Western styles of clothing.

    **Jack was second. I can’t think of a cliche associated with Jack. Sorry.


  • Strange conversion

    It was the sight of peach juice dripping from the chin of a teenage French female nudist that led a Cambridgeshire public schoolboy to convert to Islam.

    Really? That’s the sort of thing that would have made me want to convert to being French. But I never went to a public school, who knows how that could upend your priorities.

    The moment is given a little more context later in the article

    “In my teens I was sent off by my parents to a cottage in Corsica on an exchange with a very vigorous French Jewish family with four daughters,” Winter recalls. “They turned out to be enthusiastic nudists.

    “I remember being on the beach and seeing conjured up before my adolescent eyes every 15-year-old boy’s most fervent fantasy. There was a moment when I saw peach juice running off the chin of one of these bathing beauties and I had a moment of realisation: the world is not just the consequence of material forces. Beauty is not something that can be explained away just as an aspect of brain function.”

    It had quite an effect on him: “That was the first time I became remotely interested in anything beyond the material world. It was an unpromising beginning, you might say.

    “In a Christian context, sexuality is traditionally seen as a consequence of the Fall, but for Muslims, it is an anticipation of paradise. So I can say, I think, that I was validly converted to Islam by a teenage French Jewish nudist.”

    Nope. I’d still rather be French than religious. (And that’s not being snide. I’m fond of our Gallic neighbours. If I ever manage to finish a comic project it will be more suited to the French than US market. They make some very good films. Their pop music is awful, but their hip-hop is quite interesting. They also do interesting tax breaks for artists. Admittedly the Belgians make better beer, but nowhere’s perfect.)


  • Calling a terrorist a terrorist

    A booklet has been released with guidelines that suggest stopping using phrases such as “Islamic terrorist”. Cue frothing “it’s political correctness gone mad!” commentary in the Daily Mail-iverse. My response-

    Call them what they are- terrorists, murderers, criminals. Don’t play into their hands. This is actually a sensible suggestion. The phrase “Islamist terrorist” gives them something to use. It lets them make claims of islamaphobia (merited in some cases given the pathetic bigotry of the sort of person who wants to use such stupid words as Islamofascist) and try to get sympathy from other muslims who wouldn’t normally pay attention to such criminals.

    We should use language to marginalise terrorists and other criminals who hide behind religious or political causes. Make them sound stupid and pathetic and they’ll have a harder time drumming up support amongst the group they claim to be a part of. It won’t stop them all by itself, but it’s a start.


  • Five Minds for the future

    Five Minds for the Future sounds like a fascinating book. Author Howard Gardner believes that we will need five distinct ways of thinking to cope with the ever more complex world.

    He identifies this priceless pentad as: the disciplined mind, schooled in basic subjects such as history, science and art but, crucially, a master of one profession, vocation or craft; the synthesising mind, which can make sense of disparate pieces of information (Gardner identifies this as a key trait of good managers and highlights its importance in the age of the internet); the creating mind, capable of asking new questions and finding imaginative answers; the respectful mind, which shows an appreciation of different cultures; and the ethical mind, which enables one to behave responsibly as a worker and citizen.

    There is an interesting bit toward the end of the article where he suggests that freedom of speech should be curtailed a bit to cope with the needs of the Respectful mind. He cites the Mohammed cartoons furore as an example. They should not have been published out of respect for the religion of Islam and its restrictions on the depiction of the Prophet. Which is fair as far as it goes, but he misses the logical counterpoint- those demonstrating against the cartoons should have had some respect for the Western ideal of free speech and not gone around threatening death and mayhem over the whole affair.


  • Under the veil

    Erotic Islamic Calendar Girls by Max Emadi. I did a quick search this morning, and was quite surprised that this was the only example I could find, especially as the West has been eroticising (or worse) Allah’s ladies for years (haven’t read the whole article yet).

    I also found a piece on the Dance of the Seven Veils and the true story of Salome.

    This post has been of no use as far as the whole veil issue goes, unless I can defuse it by linking to pictures of nearly naked chicks.

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  • Don't let Britain devolve

    Anti-science is invading the British education system. A growing number of science students at universities and sixth forms believe in Creationism. The good news is that many are failing exams because they quote the Bible or Qu’ran as scientific fact. In response to calls for creationism/ intelligent design to be taught as science the Royal Society will hold a talk in April entitled Why Creationism is Wrong. The award-winning geneticist and author Steve Jones will deliver the lecture and challenge creationists, Christian and Islamic, to argue their case rationally at the event.

    For some schools it’s too late.

    Very few people seem to be coming back with the logical response to this trend- teach creationism where it belongs, in religious studies along with all the other creation myths.

    via Gooseania, where Craig reported on his visit to a creationist’s talk at Manchester University.

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  • No Title

    Koranic duels ease terror

    By James Brandon | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

    SANAA, YEMEN � When Judge Hamoud al-Hitar announced that he and four other Islamic scholars would challenge Yemen’s Al Qaeda prisoners to a theological contest, Western antiterrorism experts warned that this high-stakes gamble would end in disaster.

    Nervous as he faced five captured, yet defiant, Al Qaeda members in a Sanaa prison, Judge Hitar was inclined to agree. But banishing his doubts, the youthful cleric threw down the gauntlet, in the hope of bringing peace to his troubled homeland.

    “If you can convince us that your ideas are justified by the Koran, then we will join you in your struggle,” Hitar told the militants. “But if we succeed in convincing you of our ideas, then you must agree to renounce violence.”

    The prisoners eagerly agreed.

    Now, two years later, not only have those prisoners been released, but a relative peace reigns in Yemen. And the same Western experts who doubted this experiment are courting Hitar, eager to hear how his “theological dialogues” with captured Islamic militants have helped pacify this wild and mountainous country, previously seen by the US as a failed state, like Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Rest of the article here. Link supplied by the lovely Hadiya.

    Technorati tag:


  • Witterings

    I guess I’m a bit of a fair weather patriot when it comes to sporting events. I actually watched (well, sort of, I was playing Gran turismo at the same time) the Rugby final, and have to admit, it was a nail biter. Yay for our boys!

    Though I wouldn’t be even this interested if it had been football. The sports minister was on telly last week saying that we had lots of world class athletes, just not in sports the public is interested in. I take issue with this. I’d like to see more mountain biking, a sport we have a couple of world class downhillers in. Instead of Ski Sunday (or whatever it is nowadays) during the winter months we could have Downhill Sunday almost every week. Duals and BikerCross would make for good short attention span telly. It might have something to do with sponsorship. At the moment, the main people funding fun sports are Red Bull. Perhaps they’re not big or swish enough to get attention often.

    Not so extreme, more of a long slog. I rode the Northern loop of the Bogle route yesterday. I felt better at the end of the 27 miles than I did after the first 2. Only got one picture, of the war memorial at Clifton, because I didn’t want to risk my muscles siezing up by stopping too often.

    At least I’m not the only one confused by the start and end of Ramadan. It seems Eid starts today not, as I had thought, on Thursday (though I may still stay off the beer until Saturday). And yesterday I was told that the Sunni and Shia ramadans are different lengths. All too confusing, but at least I also found I wasn’t the only one off alcohol for the duration.


  • FW:

    Johnny mailed to me, and I tried to publish by e-mail-

    Tim Blair has found what one reader calls a gold mine the ummah’s answer to Ann Landers, Ask the Imam. If you go by this site, the Muslim world seems to be geared towards the sort of person who has to count all the table and chair legs in the room before leaving, and who sorts her used twisties by color and length. Sample question

    :Is the embroidery stitching technique called “cross-stitch” forbidden in Islam ?

    I am a muslim women who likes to do embroidery at home. One of those embroidery is called “cross-stitching” which consist to do “X” stitching on a cloth in order to have as a finished product a geometric pattern or floral pattern on many parts of the cloth (like a tablecloth for example). You have to criss-cross strands of cotton in order to make a pattern. The reason i am asking this question is that a sister came forward and told me that it was forbidden because the stitching technique looks like crosses (actually it’s little X’s that you make wich doesn’t appear much because of the tickness of the strands).The patterns that i do are not of human or animal kinds. Only geometric and floral. Allah knows best.

    Answer:

    It is permissible to do the ‘cross stitch’ technique in embroidery.

    And Allah Ta’ala Knows Best

    Mufti Ebrahim Desai

    FATWA DEPT.

    Kind Regards,

    John O

    but I didn’t like the formatting and the links didn’t show up, so I ripped it up and started again.


  • This week I are bin mostly….

    Reading
    Against All Enemies by Richard Herman This conforms to quite a few of the Rules of the Technothriller; Muslims are a bad lot (unless they’re Nation of Islam, because that’s Americanised Islam) as Sudanese radicals shoot down a B2 after a leak and the obvious suspect is the one and only Muslim at the airbase it launched from; women should stay at home- there are five speaking female characters and by the end of the book two of them are dead and three are safely married off; the military is always right- because bombing stuff solves everything.
    Why Do People Hate America by Ziauddin Sardar and Merryl Wynn- Davies One of the reasons is because the whole country so fervently believes in problem solving by violence as evinced in the previous book. This isn’t as polemically funny as Stupid White Men as the authors try to approach the subject dispassionately. Which is a shame, because the book is certainly supposed to be a wake up call to Americans about the insularity of their country and the danger it presents at home and abroad. I can’t help thinking a Moore style slap would have been a better way to do it than this gentle prod.
    Watching
    2 Fast 2 Furious. Just the sort of vacuous junk food film that gets America hated, though the cultural imperialism takes a beating when all but two of the cars are Japanese. Where the first film was Point Break with cars and fewer brain cells, this one is a Miami Vice episode with Nitrous Oxide and no Phil Collins on the soundtrack. And I think Devon Aoki as Suki could become my crush for the next couple of weeks.
    The One Good Jet Li versus bad Jet Li without the old cheesey fall back of them being twins. A treatment of parallel universes that isn’t too goofy and has good enough fight sequences to keep you from caring.
    Listening To
    My MP3 collection on major randomise. About halfway through, 1521 left as I type.


  • The world according to Tom Clancy

    I first became addicted to techno-thrillers when I was unemployed. Needing something to keep me in the house without resorting to daytime TV, I scoured charity shops and second hand bookshops for anything to read. The only things which were less than a decade old were the free romance booklets given away with copies of More and the works of Clancy, Brown and their imitators.
    I didn’t expect to like the politics and wasn’t surprised by the flat characterisation. But I was hooked and have now waded through a dozen or so of these bricks. It has become obvious to me that the genre adheres to a few simple formulae, as follows-

    1. The military is always right.
    Politicians have rarely been able to make sensible military decisions- influenced as they are by paranoia about backstabbing or spin- and there seems no reason why soldiers should be any better at making decisions about the economy. However, in the techno-thriller, the only people whose decisions are for the good of the country come from one of the armed services.

    1a. Some parts of the military are more right than others.
    Depending upon the favoured service of the author, their branch of the services gets more of the action. Stephen Coonts’ guys are usually naval fliers, Dale Brown favours the boys and girls of the bomber wings and Area 51’s toys. Clancy himself, who didn’t serve, is most balanced, even bringing in the Feebs and Spooks. Write about what you know, and all that, but sometimes there’s a bit of childish name calling.

    2. America, America Uber Alles.
    Even the rare Brit writing techno-thrillers centres upon the US of A. Other countries are only good for occasional specialists, who are still in awe of the Yanks’ military system.

    3. Muslims are a bad lot.
    With the Soviets no longer a plausible threat, most plots now revolve around the towelheads running rampant. (Though Clancy did take a little time out to show those uppity Nipponese who was still boss. [Debt of Honour]) Occasionally someone will comment that most Muslims are honourable people before proceeding to send hordes of them to meet Allah, but usually the only followers of Islam encountered are about to be used as target practice by the Marines. [Executive Orders, Shadows of Steel]

    3a. China’s a bit dodgy too.
    Pre September 11th, ragging on the ragheads had worn thin with everyone, and they turned their attentions to Mao’s boys [Hong Kong, Fatal Terrain, Sky Masters, The Bear and The Dragon] (though Clancy took time out again to slap ecologist about and defend GM and Ford’s right to build cars that need their own oilwells [Rainbow Six]). I guess that’ll be over with now.

    4. Women must always be protected.
    And wait at home and worry. And be prepared to give up their career to go where their husband’s job takes them.

    4a. Jack Ryan is the most fertile man in the world.
    In all of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels that I have read, the character has only had sex with his wife twice. And she got pregnant each time. This reminds me more of The Meaning of Life than a mature relationship.

    5. ‘It was the sort of thing that only happened in bad movies/ novels/ TV programmes.’
    An observation made by characters each time some horrendously contrived plot twist, suitable only for a bad movie, novel or TV programme, happens. As characters turn into franchises the twists are getting ever more convoluted.

    And, finally, the award for being most out of touch with reality. In Task Force 61, the task force has landed, ready to kill a few Arabs. The commander is strolling along the beach. He marvels at how all his troops- black, white, hispanic- have rallied together to listen to the hard, raw, gritty music of the streets. The song- ‘You can’t touch this’ by MC Hammer.

    Break out the baggy trousers men, we’re going to war!


  • No Title



    As I’ve just spent the last three days buried in Fatal Terrain and with the film version of The Sum Of All Fears coming out here this week, I was reminded of a little something I wrote a while ago. I’ve added a couple of extra comments, in bold, and links to some of the books on amazon (because no matter how much I mock them, they are addictive).-

    The World According To Clancy

    I first became addicted to techno-thrillers when I was unemployed. Needing something to keep me in the house without resorting to daytime TV I scoured charity shops and second hand bookshops for anything to read. The only things which were less than a decade old were the free romance booklets given away with copies of More and the works of Clancy, Brown and their imitators.

    I didn’t expect to like the politics and wasn’t surprised by the flat characterisation. But I was hooked and have now waded through a dozen or so of these bricks. It has become obvious to me that the genre adheres to a few simple formulae, as follows-

    1. The military is always right.

    Politicians have rarely been able to make sensible military decisions- influenced as they are by paranoia about backstabbing or spin- and there seems no reason why soldiers should be any better at making decisions about the economy. However, in the techno-thriller, the only people whose decisions are for the good of the country come from one of the armed services.

    1a. Some parts of the military are more right than others

    Depending upon the favoured service of the author, their branch of the services gets more of the action. Stephen Coonts’ guys are usually naval fliers, Dale Brown favours the boys and girls of the bomber wings and Area 51’s toys. Clancy himself, who didn’t serve, is most balanced, even bringing in the Feebs and Spooks. Write about what you know, and all that, but sometimes there’s a bit of childish name calling.

    2. America, America Uber Alles.

    Even the rare Brit writing techno-thrillers centres upon the US of A. Other countries are only good for occasional specialists, who are still in awe of the Yanks’ military system.

    3. Muslims are a bad lot.

    With the Soviets no longer a plausible threat, most plots now revolve around the towelheads running rampant. (Though Clancy did take a little time out to show those uppity Nipponese who was still boss. [Debt of Honour]) Occasionally someone will comment that most Muslims are honourable people before proceeding to send hordes of them to meet Allah, but usually the only followers of Islam encountered are about to be used as target practice by the Marines. [Executive Orders, Shadows of Steel]

    3a. China’s a bit dodgy too.

    Pre September 11th, ragging on the ragheads had worn thin with everyone, and they turned their attentions to Mao’s boys [Hong Kong, Fatal Terrain, Sky Masters, The Bear and The Dragon] (though Clancy took time out again to slap ecologist about and defend GM and Ford’s right to build cars that need their own oilwells [Rainbow Six]). I guess that’ll be over with now.

    4. Women must always be protected.

    And wait at home and worry. And be prepared to give up their career to go where their husband’s job takes them.

    Vaguely related-

    4a. Jack Ryan is the most fertile man in the world.

    In all of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels that I have read, the character has only had sex with his wife twice. And she got pregnant each time. This reminds me more of The Meaning of Life than a mature relationship.

    5. ‘It was the sort of thing that only happened in bad movies/ novels/ TV programmes.’

    An observation made by characters each time some horrendously contrived plot twist, suitable only for a bad movie, novel or TV programme, happens. As characters turn into franchises the twists are getting ever more convoluted.

    And, finally, the award for being most out of touch with reality. In Task Force 61, the task force has landed, ready to kill a few Arabs. The commander is strolling along the beach. He marvels at how all his troops, black, white, hispanic, have rallied together to listen to the hard, raw, gritty music of the streets. The song- ‘You can’t touch this’ by MC Hammer.

    Break out the baggy trousers men, we’re going to war!

    I still have a hankering to do a satirical/ spoof techno thriller, but have a feeling too many people would take it seriously………….

    Platters that matter- Good Morning Vietnam (5 disc compilation, not the movie soundtrack.)