Month: June 2017 (Page 2 of 3)

Finsbury Park Mosque attack sign of a society coming apart

On the morning of Monday, June 19, at 00:21 am, a white van ploughed into a crowd of worshippers who had exited the Finsbury Park Mosque. 10 people were injured, eight are in hospital with several whose conditions have been described as very serious. One person was killed.

The far-right terrorist, for that, is what we must call him, was held down by members of the congregation while the police were called. The imam protected him from the anger of the crowd so that the police could do their job properly when they arrived. The man reportedly said that he’d done his job, and apparently shouted that he wanted to kill all Muslims.

This attack came just over a year after the murder of the MP Jo Cox by another far-right terrorist. Anniversaries are important for terrorists.

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Yes, Reagan Republicans, neoconservatives and #NeverTrump-ers are conservative

Is Donald Trump a conservative? Are neoconservatives conservatives? Was Ronald Reagan a conservative? This argument has been dividing the Republican Party for years. When Trump entered the primary for the Republican nomination in 2015, it was pointed out that he had a track record of supporting Democratic/liberal policies like abortion rights and healthcare for all. Even while he flip-flopped on many of those issues, he continued to push an economic and social worldview that was out of line with some of the leading players in the Republican Party–a kind of “economic nationalism,” as Steve Bannon described it.

Among the #NeverTrump coalition, Reaganite neoconservatives have strongly represented, including Bret Stevens and Noah Rothman, who come under critique in Ben Sixsmith’s first piece for Bombs + Dollars. For him the question becomes, “Are “Never-Trumpers” still conservative?” I’ll take this to mean, Are small government, pro-free trade, conservatives who support an strong role for America in the world still conservative?, because those are the specific positions under critique. In short, are Reaganesque neoconservatives conservative?

My answer is yes, and here’s why:

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How left-wing smears about racism come back to bite them

One of the most often heard complaints about politically correct liberals is that they try to smear everyone with whom they disagree as bigots. “Racist,” “sexist,” “transphobe,” “transmisogynistic”… The terms are thrown around so often that many people stop listening.

Often people disagree about what constitutes bigotry. But just as often people disagree about the context and what was actually said. While I was listening to the podcast Undisclosed, I was treated to an example of how casually self-righteous liberals can fabricate racially-charged accusations, perhaps without even being conscious of it.

Undisclosed operates in seasons that usually take on cases of someone whom the team of three lawyers, Rabia Chaudry, Colin Miller, and Susan Simpson, thinks was wrongly convicted of a crime. They present the story and the evidence, as they see it, and argue why the convict wasn’t guilty. For the past few months, however, the story they are presenting is different: They are arguing why they think the Baltimore police officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray are guilty.

It’s a bit of an interesting turn for the attorneys, who usually argue someone’s innocence, to take a hard stance against people who were charged with crimes on shaky grounds. Maybe it shows the group is focused on the politics of identity–race and power structures–rather than defending the civil rights of anyone accused of a crime. Or maybe they are just continuing their mission of defending the public against heavy-handed tactics of the corrupt police and justice system that, in their view, mistreated and killed an innocent man. Either way, they ought not make up lies about subjects involved.

On episode 14, when talking about the protests that turned into riots, the host stated, “The nation saw the mayor unable to communicate to her own city, awkwardly trying to say that she respects civil liberties but then referring to protesters as ‘thugs’.”

“Referring to protesters as ‘thugs’…” Does anyone remember when Baltimore Mayor Stefanie Rawlings-Blake, a liberal Democrat and an African-American woman, said that? I seem to recall exactly the quote they were thinking of, and she didn’t at all refer to “protesters” as “thugs.”

Just to make sure I was remembering right, I looked it up:

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Are “Never-Trumpers” still conservative?

It is and always has been patently obvious that Donald J. Trump is not a conservative. He is no more a man of ideas than he is a man of manners, and his instincts tend towards decadence, impulsivity and egoism instead of restraint, prudence and selflessness.

Nonetheless, people who emphasise that Trump is no conservative often remind me of Christ’s warning about motes and beams. There is no one set of ideas and attitudes that could call “conservative”. It is obvious that conservatism comes in different forms, not least as different people have different institutions to conserve. But anti-Trump conservatives are often hard to place in the traditions of American or European conservatism. Indeed, it can be difficult to know what such commentators are trying to conserve.

Take Noah Rothman of Commentary magazine. Mr Rothman argues that President Trump ignores “some of the most fundamental ideas of conservatism”. Such as?

…the benefits of free-market health care, skepticism toward centrally planned infrastructure projects, the moral imperative of the preventive use of American military force, the centrality of strong family and community bonds, the necessity of failure, the importance of immigrants to the American project, and an incremental approach to political change.

We shall generously assume that Mr Rothman means American conservatism, for Edmund Burke, arguably the father of modern conservatism as a coherent phenomenon, could hardly have believed in the “moral imperative of the preventive use of American military force” when America barely existed.

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Q+A with Malhar Mali, Founder and Editor of Areo Magazine

Malhar Mali is the founder and editor of Areo Magazine, an outlet that supports free debate on political, social, and academic issues. B+D editors Mitchell Blatt and Sumantra Maitra have each contributed to Areo.

This is the first in our series of B+D’s Q+A’s with writers, editors, pundits, and other figures in society and politics we will be publishing. Follow them all here in the category Q+A.

1. When did you start Areo Magazine, and what was your goal with it?

I launched Areo on November 22nd, 2016 because I was extremely frustrated by what I was reading in American media in general. I think I mentioned Huffington Post and Brietbart as the two opposing poles that I would have liked to avoid when I first “announced” this venture.

What you read and the media you consume is so important because it literally shapes the worldview of what you believe and how you see life and everyday occurrences. I say this because most people generally believe what they read without hesitation and rarely search for the rhetorical moves that writers might be making to hide information, influence opinion, and so on. We are rarely critical.

In this regard I think we are failing ourselves. Of course it’s easy for me to say that and I make no claim of being a paragon of rationality and self challenge — It’s tough to do that consistently. Realistically people will read what suits their ideological viewpoint. It’s extremely difficult to challenge yourself consistently enough where you’re actively seeking information that refutes your worldview. But it’s worth endeavoring to do so.

2. Do you feel the traditional left-right divide is sufficient to explain politics today? If not, what are some of the factors that are more important?

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Modi’s newfound pragmatism towards China

A month back, Indian hyper sensationalized news media was jingoistically pointing out how much Indian government is correct in not taking part in the OBOR initiative, while every serious political commentator with half a brain was saying, how terrible a mistake that was. From boycotting a summit on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in May, to being hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation’s (SCO) summit it looks like a total 180 turn for Indian foreign policy.

This is not baffling. Here’s what is happening.

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Upon a Windswept Shore: The Falklands War 35 Years On

It was 35 years ago. Margaret Thatcher was in power, but only precariously so. The country was fractious, and the economy was still struggling to emerge from the subterranean depths it had plunged to in the 1970’s. A war on the far side of the world was fought and won, against all the odds, and showed the world that Britain would not sit idly by as its sovereign territory was invaded by a belligerent dictatorship.

The first signs of trouble came on March 31, 1982, when news came of Argentinian naval vessels fast approaching the few rocky and windblown islands at the bottom of the world, 8,000 miles away from the UK. The islands were home at the time to around 1,500 people who considered themselves British.

This move by the Argentines came at a bad time. Britain was still weak after the disaster of the 1970’s when even the USSR didn’t want to buy our goods because they were so poorly made. As a result of this, the armed forces, and particularly the navy, had faced budget cuts and were untested since the 1950’s. A victory was not inevitable or even looked possible. The task before Thatcher’s government and the armed forces, in purely logistical terms, let alone in military capability, was immense.

Thatcher had to wage a two-front campaign, both within her own cabinet in order to determine Britain’s response, and also against America, whose interests in the region ran counter to Britain’s. If she had made a mess of either situation, the consequences would have been extremely severe. However, the way Thatcher managed the crisis mirrors the performance of the soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought; they rose to the task, drew a line in the sand and refused to accede to the thuggish behaviour of a dictatorial totalitarian regime.

The cabinet and members of the Foreign Office were already resigned to defeat, showing the prevailing idea from the 70’s of Britain being a nation in decline and that they were just there to manage it. Admiral and First Sea Lord Henry Leach forced his way into the meeting in the House of Commons in full uniform, showing that at times like this symbols of authority such as this are needed to galvanise people into action. He was emphatic: “I can put together a task force of destroyers, landing craft, support vessels… It can be ready to leave in 48 hours.”

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Climate leadership passes to China?

Questions about the rift between liberal institutionalism and sovereignty became deeper with US President Donald Trump unilaterally announcing withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Climate agreement. Trump’s argument is that the deal wasn’t fair, and disadvantages US businesses and workers. Trump also mentioned that this deal throws a spanner in American oil and coal industries, even when the world is cutting down on coal. The opposition to this move has been global so far. The Paris agreement commits US and other countries to keep global temperature rising to pre industrial level. While there are valid questions about the implementation of the deal, it is widely accepted as a necessity for the planet by every country and every major powers of the globe. US now stands essentially against the entire world when it comes to climate change.

Trump stated that his goal was to renegotiate the treaty. It is understood that’s an impossible task, to have 193 different bilateral treaties and then ass them with Senate. Already, Italy, Germany, and France, the big three have jointly stated that this decision was regrettable. “We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris agreement cannot be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies,” Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni stated in a joint statement. Japan hasn’t signed the statement, but has echoed similar sentiment, while May of UK said that while it is regrettable it’s a decision by Washington and not London. Canada’s Trudeau has also regretted the decision. “The US decision can’t and won’t stop all those of us who feel obliged to protect the planet” the chancellor added. Her counterpart, Macron of France, went on even further, stating there’s no Plan B, as there’s no Planet B. And invited US businesses to France, potentially starting a small scale trade war initiation.

According to Daily Mail reports, a planned U.S. pullout from the Paris climate deal would be a further 0.3-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures by 2100. However, Deon Terblanche maintained that due to other factors, that might not happen. However, hidden in all the outrage, a simple thing is lost. This is not about climate. Trump’s withdrawal was purely geopolitics. 

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Hirsi Ali’s and Nomani’s testimony before Congress

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Asra Nomani, and John Lenczowski testified before Congress yesterday in a hearing that The New Republic‘s Sarah Jones opposed.

Hirsi Ali testified about her view that Islamists are using “dawa” to try to advance fundamentalist Islam, or “political Islam” as she defines it, through political means. In part:

The biggest challenge the United States faces in combating political Islam, however, is the extent to which agents of dawa can exploit the constitutional and legal protections that guarantee American citizens freedom of religion and freedom of speech—freedoms that would of course be swept away if the Islamists achieved their goals.

She mentioned the case of Imam Suleiman Bengharsa, who has expressed support of ISIS on Facebook and shared ISIS propaganda videos. The New York Times has reported about him: “The case poses in a striking way the dilemma for the F.B.I. in deciding when constitutionally protected speech crosses into inciting violence or conspiring to commit a terrorist act.”

Nomani testified in part:

It is because terrorism is fueled by Islamism, an ideology of political Islam, and we have wasted millions of dollars to design counternarratives without dealing with a very simple and fundamental truth. We must destroy and eliminate the narrative of Islamism. As author Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a target of wrath among Islamists, has put it: the ideology is put forward by dawah, or an “invitation” to its extremist form of Islam. Islamic extremism is not compatible with the 21st century. But it is a critical component of terrorism.

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Don’t let Muslim women testify to Senate!, New Republic warns

Two “nasty” women are scheduled to appear in front of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security this morning, June 14, 2017, to share what they know from research and personal experience on Islamic extremism: Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Asra Nomani.

Their appearance has sent at least one New Republic blogger into a fury. Sarah Jones wrote, “The Senate is about to hear from two of the worst possible “experts” on Islam.” Interesting to note that of the four witnesses speaking at the hearing, two are men and two are women–Jones only pointed out the women for attack.

Jones’ reasons? Hirsi Ali, who has been oppressed by the fundamentalism of Islamic governments and societies as a youth and continues to be threatened with death threats, has made controversial statements about Islam. She also has worked with conservative groups that Jones doesn’t support.

Jones even cited Max Blumenthal as a source. Blumenthal is not without controversy himself, to put it lightly. He has made a career, if you can call it that, out of appearing on conspiracy shows like The Next News Network and Iran’s Press TV to talk about “Israel Cover Up[s]”, bemoaning “the Zionist gag rule,” and comparing Israel to ISIS. In the hours after Elie Wiesel died he said Wiesel “should not be honored” and called him a “supporter” of “war crimes.” No surprise Jones doesn’t seem to have much sympathy for victims of theocratic oppression if she cites Blumenthal.

As for Nomani, she’s even worse: she supported Donald Trump! “Asra Nomani is an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump,” Jones wrote. One need not search long to find that I was quite opposed to Trump during his campaign and continue to oppose most of his actions as president. But does my disagreeing with her about Trump mean that she doesn’t have anything valuable to say about Islam and extremism?

As a Muslim who has desegregated sex-segregated mosques–and also received threats for doing so–and who has written about issues related to Islam for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, and elsewhere, it appears to me she should know a little more about the topic than Sarah Jones.

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