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Entries in Islam (19)


Living under military occupation

Four months ago, Paris was hit. Two weeks ago, we were hit in Brussels. It was a senseless tragedy, violence destroying lives. Does that make anything and everything a government does in the name of security allowable?

In most countries, being the target of an attack brings out the patriotism, with the city targetted becoming a symbol of the country. In Belgium, just an association with Paris attacks was enough to have leading politicans come out against Brussels, slandering the city every which way. It is hard to blame the international media for buying up gullible stories of Brussels being jihad-central, when those same stories are peddled for political purposes by certain Belgian politicians. Still, it is tough to bear the self-satisfied smugness of American media claiming that Europe is much worse than America in integrating Muslims. Clearly they are clueless about Muslims in Belgium, and just as clearly they are drinking the kool-aid of patriotism when they ignore the racial, religious and social fragmentation of America (especially when the US primaries brings it up for such clear display). 

So we had our idiotic lock-down after the Paris attacks. And it turns out, putting military boys with big guns on every street corner does not actually stop explosions. Huh. Maybe the Belgian security apparatus would have been better served by concentrating on intelligence rather than repressive symbolism. You know, the opposite of capturing Salah Ab Salah Abdeslam, issuing a press release that he is going to help the police, and then taking a long weekend rather than actually asking him about any plans for an attack. 

Now what?

I want my city to heal. In the short-term, we need to make a conscious effort to bring normality back to our lives. We need to walk through the city, have a beer, eat chocolate at a cafe, smile at strangers. In the long-term, we need to fix the economic situation of immigrants, and we need to tear down the barriers that hinder integration. We need to make sure immigrants can buy houses and get jobs, becoming invested in the community. We need to hire immigrants for our police forces and put them in parliament and on TV as role-models. We need to make sure that children going to the poorest schools have the brightest opportunities. Yes, we are far ahead of America and even much of Europe on most of these fronts, but there is hard work to be done. We need to start today.

That is my vision for the future. What about the vision of the Belgian politicians who toy with Brussels for political gain? They advocate the opposite. In the short-term, they want Brussels to cower in fear, to be... terrorised. The arteries of the city, the metro, is either erratic or shut-down (with mysterious inconviences that seem to actually decrease safety, such as shutting down almost all the exits). We are told to not come out in public. In fact we were actually admonished for coming out to demonstrate for peace and healing of our city, to which I, for one, said "tough luck":

As for the long-term... well, there is no long-term plan. One suspects that the planning ends at the next election (although how they plan to campaign mystifies me: "vote for N-VA/MR, we took away civil liberties, destroyed tourism and didn't keep you safe!"). There is good work being done at the local level, but at the Federal level, there is no interest in helping Brussels. No, check-that, there is an actual interest in holding Brussels up as a threat or a warning, in painting Brussels as a hell-hole to gain votes in the rest of the country.

Today the American embassy sent our a warning to all American citizens living in Belgium:

The U.S. Embassy strongly urges U.S. citizens to continue to maintain a heightened sense of awareness, and to continue to avoid large crowds or areas that might attract a substantial gathering of people. 

Additionally, several other simple security processes can also help mitigate risk as you go about your day.

When possible, vary your route to work or school or to shopping. Rather than taking the same route each day, you should have two or three deviations you can randomly choose from. The entire route need not be different, but even minor deviations can be beneficial. Also, leave from work or school at different times.

Searching your automobile each morning, especially if you park outside, is also an important safety step. Start with a 360 degree sweep, looking around and under the vehicle. Be alert for anything suspicious, such as wire, tape or string. Be systematic -- start and finish your search at a predetermined point. Look for any out-of-place packages or items in, on, attached or under the vehicle, and/or tool marks on the vehicle or other indications of forced entry.

I mean, come on! Brussels is not Baghdad. It is a thriving, cosmopolitan and international European capital, which just happened to get hit by a couple of criminals. The life you advocate is... not living. I can deal with a remote possibility of a freak death. Plane crashes, factory explosions, terrorist attacks - they happen. Not often, but they happen. It doesn't keep me awake at night, and I'm not going to be unhappy today about what probably won't happen tomorrow. What I can't deal with is the daily repression we are currently dealing with. For four months Brussels has been under military occupation. I hate seeing camouflaged boys with machine guns on every corner. I hate being worried that some freaked-out over-trained kid will panic when they see someone running for a train, and respond with a shower of bullets. I moved out of America because I don't want to be surrounded by guns. I don't want Hayden to grow up thinking it is normal to see machine guns and tanks outside our house. Knowing that their presence is the equivalent of Trump protesting he has large hands just makes it all worse. 

I love Brussels and I love Belgium. I want to be part of the movement to make our city better than it ever has been. But I can't live under military occupation indefinitely. 


The Brussels lock-down: how not to respond to terrorism

Two weeks ago we had the horrific attacks in Paris, with 130 innocent people killed. Senseless violence, breeding a senseless response. It is hard to fathom why an attack in France, committed by French nationals, had to result in bombing in Syria, anti-refugee sentiment directed at those fleeing similar terrorism, and the lock-down of Brussels. The lock-down of Brussels was the least of all these events, but it is the one I lived through.

Armoured personnel carrier on the streets of Brussels. And a waffle wagon - it is still Belgium afterall

A week after the Paris attacks, the international media was slamming Belgium to an absurd degree. The US media called Belgium a "failed state", something so patently absurd for the 14th safest country in the world that the ex-US ambassador called them out on it. And as for the Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek, well, in the words of the Australian media:

Molenbeek is a bleak hellhole that is exporting bigotry and hatred beyond Belgium’s borders. The area has become notorious as a breeding ground for jihadis and was home to several of the terrorists responsible for the latest attacks on Paris

Patently absurd. Yes, Molenbeek is one of the poorer and rougher neighbourhoods of Brussels, which would make it... safer than the safest part of New York? Our babysitter lives there, and our son sometimes goes over her house to play with her rabbit. Think we would allow that if Molenbeek was a bleak hellhole?

There are problems in Belgium. As in the rest of the world, Belgian immigrants are shut out of the economy in hundreds of subtle (and some not so subtle) ways, leading to poverty. In Belgium, for historical reasons most of our immigrants are Muslim, and most live in the poorest neighbourhoods of Brussels, so these economic problems are concentrated in places like Molenbeek. Show me any neighbourhood in the world with a young population and high youth unemployment and I'll show you young men getting into trouble. Belgian Muslims are generally less religious than Belgian Catholics, but out of a lot of angry young men with no jobs and little prospect, yeah, you'll get some radicalisation. 

Want to hear my one-step solution to Molenbeek? Jobs. Make jobs for all the youths. Young men with too much time and nothing to do? Give them jobs. Young men start spending all day at work and all night spending the money. Trash-talk on the streets is much less fun then drinking or taking your girlfriend out for dinner. Young women with jobs are now financially independent and harder to impress. The actual jobs don't matter, but why not have them improving the place? People are much less likely to destroy things they built. Or employ them to give Arabic lessons to public servants such as police? So many advantages - upskilling employees, building relationships, just conversations leading to people recognising each other as people. Sure, it would be expensive, but cheaper than what we actually did, and more effective.

Which brings me to the government's response to the Paris attacks. The Belgian government is currently led by the anti-immigrant xenophobic side of politics, and don't miss many chances to slam immigrants. I mean, seriously, we had to pass regressive new legislation to make sure an estimated five Belgian women don't wear face-coverings. These are people who shut down a Syrian refugee camp calling it "almost a music festival". So rather than try to inject some sensible calmness into the conversation after Paris, we had the Belgian PM say "Now we’ll have to get repressive". There were serious proposals to shut down mosques and put electronic tags on young Muslim men. A week later, Brussels went into lock-down.

#catphotos #notusinghashtagscorrectly

Repression. Let's talk about that word for a minute. Repression means that what is going to come next is going to be excessively harsh, because part of the point is to inflict pain on you, to crush you, to beat you down. Repression is invariably the response of tyrants to any dissent, and in turn repression acts as the pressure cooker that extremism is forged in. I challenge anyone to give me an example, one single example, where repression has solved extremism. Why not ask Assad how repression has worked for him? He certainly inflicted a degree of repression on Syria that would be unthinkable in Belgium, and it just bred ISIS. Gaddafi? The Saudis? You don't think all of them tried brutal repression to stamp out Islamism? Each generation they stamped out just bred bigger resentments and more radical extremism. Repression is not only immoral, it is stupid

After annoucing the government was trying for repression, Brussels was put into lock-down. Military flooded the streets, the metro and schools were shut-down, tanks were driven into the city. Completely unprecedented. Why did this happen? The stated reason was that one of the French attackers, Salah Abdeslam, was thought to be in the city. Certainly there was a security situation, but we would be naive to assume that the international media frenzy and the domestic agenda weren't also at play. Governments love to look "strong" after a terrorist attack (think: George W. Bush getting 90% approval ratings after 9/11), and this government had already announced its plan to get repressive. The timing at least was unusual, starting a week after the Paris attacks, and ending four days later without Abdeslam being found. The response was also patchy - the metro was shut down, but train stations and parliament were not, despite this being the highest possible threat level Belgium has. Now level 4 is gone, but the military remains. Until when?

The scene outside our house during lock-down

We have to ask, was the massive response proportional and was it wise?

Proportionality. The simple fact is that the Brussels response to the Parisan attacks was bigger than the Parisan response. It was bigger than London or Madrid after their major terrorism attacks. Scratch that, it was more extreme than New York City's response after 9/11. Was the risk in Brussels really the biggest risk that any western city has been exposed to since WWII? Most likely, the government over-reacted. Deliberately or in a panic, we'll never know. Governments never like to admit when they are wrong, and with security issue they never have to - they can just claim to have prevented attacks and say the records are sealed for security reasons. The Bush administration still won't admit that invading Iraq and torturing innocent prisoners was a mistake, so don't hold your breathe waiting for the Belgian government to fess up. I hate this idea of giving the government the benefit of the doubt. It is something we only do in the realm of security, even after we see incompetence or mean-heartedness in the less shadowly aspects of their job. I mean, this is Belgium - even loyal Belgians would be forced to admit that we probably did better when we didn't have a government for a few years, so let's not pretend sinners turn into saints behind closed doors.

Wisdom. What did ISIS want from the Paris attacks? Quite simply, they want to radicalise the Islamic population of Europe. They want European governments and the general public to turn against the local Muslim communities. They want harsh repression to foster resentment. They want the next generation of Muslim youths to feel like every non-Muslim hand is against them, to see an Islamic state as their only saviour. Unfortunately, the right-wing pant-wetters always respond exactly as terrorists want them to after each attack.

Let me tell you about my experiences during the lock-down. I love being able to walk through Brussels. We resettled here from America to get away from guns. The day of the lock-down I walked outside to find a military camp, complete with armoured cars and machine guns. I then waded through security theatre at the train station, everything slowing down to a crawl as armed police checked train tickets but not bags. When my little boy was finally allowed back to school I was blocked at the gates by an armed guard. My son is used to me taking him to his class and giving him a hug and a kiss; he started crying when led off instead by a guy dressed in black carrying a gun, and who can blame him? I walked through the city to find no-one, my vibrant home turned into a scared wasteland. Today on the train I saw a teenage boy led off the train by armed police - it was probably just due to not having a ticket, but the boy was almost wetting himself, like he expected to be executed on the platform. This is not my city. I feel anger, resentment, confusion. Now multiply that by a 100 and imagine how young testosterone-filled Muslim men are feeling right now in Brussels. This was not a wise move to make. 

Opening evening of the Brussels Winter Markets

The lock-down is over, but Brussels still doesn't feel the same. The city lost €200 million due to the shutdown, and the long-term economic effects have just begun - tourists are cancelling trips to Belgium in droves, we even had guest professers cancel on giving university seminars because of the perception of threat. People feel isolated, they look over their shoulders. When the metro broke down today you could see the nervous glances people were making. ISIS was responsible for the Paris attacks, but the Belgian government was responsible for the impact it is having on our society. Sadly, I don't see this government making any effort to repair the damage it caused. 


Am I Charlie?

6 weeks ago the horrifying murders at Charlie Hebdo took place, a mass murder on a continent synonymous with civilisation and peace. The largest solidarity marches in history swept across Europe, with 3.7 million marching in France alone, many holding up signs "Je Suis Charlie" ("I am Charlie").

I am still not sure whether or not I would say "I am Charlie", though. The murder was horrific, 11 people killed for exercising their freedom of speech. There was, and could be, no justification for those murders. I remember back when the Danish cartoons were published, I had a long discussion with my brother Russell about whether they should have been allowed - I took the hard line that there should never be any bans on offending people. 

In America there is a robust voice that Charlie Hebdo crossed a line. This voice contains some from the right, who believe that religion has a special status and should be protected from insult, and some from the left, who claim that the Charlie Hebdo cartoons were racist or that Islam should be respected. I disagree that Charlie Hebdo crossed a line, indeed, I disagree that a line even exists. Religion gets no exemption from mockery; indeed, as a source of the ludicrous it should attract more. I am strongly against the "blasphemy laws" (eg, the 2009 Irish law) that rear their ugly head when religious people want to protect themselves from criticism. I'm also not convinced that the cartoons are racist, I have seen a few examples that at face value look racist, but context is missing and satirical humour is very hard to translate across cultural boundaries. I personally don't find the cartoons funny, but then I don't even find American political cartoons funny, despite loving Australian political cartoons and being intimately familiar with the American context. And insulting someone's religion is very difficult from insulting a person, even if it may feel the same to the recipient. No, in every way, shape and form, I have no reservation in affirming the right of Charlie Hebdo in drawing the cartoons, and, indeed, even commend them for tackling a taboo subject.

So why, then, do I hesitate in tacking up the banner "Je Suis Charlie"? One problem is that I am not Charlie. I'm not a political cartoonist, I didn't read Charlie Hebdo, I wasn't killed for my beliefs. The millions who did say "Je Suis Charlie" also don't fit these criteria, so what exactly do they mean when they say "I am Charlie"? I'm not sure, which is my second problem with tacking up the banner. Some (hopefully most) simply mean "I believe in freedom of speech and secular values". Almost certainly, though, others are standing for something that combines this solidarity with an anti-Islam agenda. My thoughts on Islam are rather complex. Yes, it is a religion, and in dogma and in practice it stifles scientific and progressive thoughts. On the other hand, in this it is not notably different from Christianity or Judaism, so I strongly disagree when Islam (rather than religion more generally) is targeted for reproach. Most of the anti-Islamic movements in the western world reek of bigotry, lack a sophisticated understanding of Islam or the intersection of religion and culture, and push regressive, rather than progressive, positions. In short, while being anti-religion, I tend to find myself defending Islam more often than not, as it gets attacked disproportionately and often from the wrong angles.

The leader of Pegida strongly denies any racist undertonesOne question that keeps on rolling around my head is why there were no international marches saying "I am the Norwegian left". The Kouachi brothers killed 11 left-wing journalists, justifying the murders as an extreme right-wing defence of Islam. Breivik killed 77 left-wing politicians, justifying the murders as an extreme right-wing defence of Christianity. I understand both Paris and Oslo having enormous marches (1.6 million and 200,000 is roughly proportional to population size), but the Oslo killings didn't spark the personal intensity of international solidarity of the Paris killings, or even check the growth of the far-right politics that spawned it. Is part of the "Je Suis Charlie" call co-opted by the likes of Pegida, the anti-Islam movement in Germany?

Perhaps, rather than embrace a slogan that I am not quite sure I want to be associated with, I'll just express my anger at the murders in my own words. I embrace free speech. I encourage blasphemy and despise violence. The victims of violence have my sympathy, as do those brainwashed into committing it. Long may France, and Europe, practice what others only preach - an assertive secularism and a refusal to cower in the face of aggression. We won't sacrifice our lifestyle in a misguided attempt to find security under the blanket of cowardice. We grieve, but we also understand that life cannot be ruled by fear.


Islam in central Asia

Both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have overwhelming Muslim majorities - around 90% of the population in each country. Just like Azerbaijan, however, they are no more "Muslim countries" than American is a "Christian country". We visited the most holy shrines, mosques and mausoleums in both countries, and most were empty apart from a couple of pilgrams sitting outside with palms upraised or a few groups of women walking around. Certainly there were no scenes of lines of Muslims praying on prayer carpets, and in the few places where a call to prayer was sounded it was ignored by every person in sight. 

Most of the strictures of Islam are ignored with a bit of slight-of-hand. In Turkmenistan it is illegal to eat camels or horses (camels because they were holy under Zoroasterism and horses because the Turkmen idolise their Akhal-Teke horses). Pig is okay though, and widely eaten, although it is polite to refer to it as "white lamb" to Muslims so they can at least pretend to be obeying the injuction against pork. In Uzbekistan our guide described his religion by saying "my family are Muslim Tartars, but it isn't a big part of our life. We've never read the Koran and don't go and pray, but if there is a birth or death we ask an Imam to come out and give an Islamic ceremony". Sounds pretty much like Catholics in Western Europe.

I wish the Islamophobes would visit countries like Albania, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan before assuming that all Muslims are like the Taliban. It is just like assuming all Christians are like the LRA. It is only when the religious really get a chance to turn the youth into radicals that you get nutjobs like the Taliban or LRA. Otherwise, once religion is pushed out to be merely an option, most people absorb a few harmful habits but manage to shrug off the most insane aspects - whether of Christianity, Judiasm or Islam. Interestingly, the ex-Communist countries seem to have done particularly well in this regard, the generation of a secular state seems to have broken the default acceptance of religion, so people feel free to pick up as much or as little religion now as they want. It would be very difficult to argue that America did the right thing in promoting an Islamic uprising in Afghanistan to force the USSR out. An independent Afghanistan that had gone through the Soviet religious circuitbreaker would almost certainly be a much saner place than it is today.

Asghabat, Turkmenistan. The cult of Turkmenbashi tried to coopt Islam. The central mosque is covered in scripture from both the Koran and the Ruhnama, painting the two books as equals. Walking inside it was empty apart from guards and sweepers, and our guide saw nothing wrong with standing in the centre and proclaiming in a loud voice that echoed throughout the building "Turkmenistan isn't an Islamic Republic, we don't really care about that type of thing". 

Anau, Turkmenistan. The social agreement between men and women is one of the major drivers of pilgrimages. Like many conservative societies, women are expected to stay home and look after men their whole lives. For many, the only socially acceptible escape is for religious purposes, so typically women form a friendship group and go on pilgrimage together to a couple of different sites, which can take up to two weeks to visit all the sites in Turkmenistan. From what we saw, very little praying goes on, with large gaggles of women and children sitting under a nearby tree, cooking, eating and laughing. The holiday aspect is no secret, but the men are party to the deal, taking the chance to have "men's nights out" while the women are gone.

Hayden quite likes mosques. Unlike Christian churches, with the hard stone floors, mosques give him all this lovely carpet to crawl around. He also delights in the acoustics, finding a spot with the best echoes and then loudly grunting. Sure, he manages to break nearly all the rules on this list, but everyone else ignores them too.


Registan Madrassa, Tashkent. The founder of this madrassa saw no problem with picturing animals on the main portal, usually a big no-no in Islam. The Nodir Divanbegi madrassa in Bukhara even more strikingly pictured animals that were either pigs or dogs on their main portal, showing a dedication to art above the Islamic injunction of "unclean" animals.


In shaa'Allah

So I was having beer and pizza with a friend and we go up to pay. The guy who works there (a Muslim immigrant to Belgium who speaks better Dutch than English) says "that was two pizzas and two beers, right?". I reply, "no, seven beers".

"Seven beers!" he exclaims with a smile. "Wow". *

"Next time we'll make it ten", I reply.

"Ten beers! In shaa'Allah!".


So, I repeat this exchange for two reasons:

1) I find it amusing that he thinks James and I need the aid of a sky god to finish ten beers together.

2) It is a nice example of how religion has been moderated in secular countries. In countries where religion still has real power, whether it is Islam, Christianity or Judaism, they ram their "morals' down the throats of everyone else. In countries where they have been pushed out of power, many religious people punish themselves with silly rules, but if you want to drink ten beers - In shaa'Allah. **

As far as I am concerned, the religious can do whatever they want to themselves, no harm to me. *** We just need to remember what they do when they are in power, and be careful to keep the law absolutely secular with religion a free choice for only those who want it.



* I don't see how this earned a wow, they were just small cans of the weak stuff by Belgian standards

** If Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali was dead he would have rolled over in his grave

*** Unfortunately there appears to be a direct relationship between how religious a person is, and how much they need other people to obey their religion.


Letting fools make anti-terrorism policy

If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy
- US President James Madison

For some unknown reason, much of the world has given utter fools a near monolopy in making anti-terrorism policy. Terrorism is hardly new and we have known how to deal with terrorists for hundreds of years. In Malaysia young men used to "run amok" - they would go psycotic, grab a knife and run around stabbing as many people as they could until they were killed. The solution found by the British colonists was remarkably simple - stop treating the suicide attacks as some type of special class of person, an existential threat that needs to be taken down, and instead disarm them, put them on trial and give them life in prison. After this policy was put in place the number of men "running amok" dropped rapidly. 

The modern equivalent to this solution is also relatively simple:

1. Stop treating terrorists like they are super villians and start treating them like you would any other common murderer. No more of this "oh no, we can't let terrorists be kept in prison on American soil because they will burst out of prison and kill everyone". It is bollocks and it just feeds into their own delusions of grandeur.

2. Actively engage at the political level. Why do issues like Palestine create violent protest? Because non-violent protests are not seen to get anywhere. As long as you use terrorism as an excuse not to engage politically it makes terrorism the only way to protest. As soon as you allow political engagement people rapidly see that political change is more effective and violent protest dies away - just as in Northern Ireland.

3. Do not legitimise hate speech. The dangerous people are the ones who stir up hatred - they are untouchable if the stop slightly short of directing violence, yet they spawn terrorists among those who feed off their words. Whether the spokesman of hate is an extremist Islamic iman or a far-right European politician, we have to reduce the power of their words by condemning their hate. At both the political and public level we can't let them have oxygen, just shut them out of the debate and only deal with moderates.

Instead of this, what do we have? Useless policies at airports, ostracising bans on religious headwear, hate speech directed at moderates, the generation of new terrorist causes through invasion and calls to stop domestic terrorism by increasing spending on tanks. These people are idiots, and yet for some reason we listen to them. If an attack happens on their watch they use it as an excuse to double down on their idiocy, if they go a year without attacks they use it as validation of their policies. These people have their priorities so screwed up that they used a vaccination campaign as cover for their search for Bin Laden. 150 000 children die every year in Pakistan alone from vaccine-preventable diseases, and yet the CIA thought it would be smart to use a fake vaccination program to take DNA samples in a search for Bin Laden. Bravo cold war warriors, you just took away the political neutrality of a program that saves millions of lives a year in a fruitless effort to find a doddering criminal.


Today a new violation of civil liberties begins - in France

As of today, wearing the burqa on the streets of France will land you a fine of €150 and "re-education classes" or a jail term.

Sarkozy has played the race baiting for purely political ends. It is clear that there is no gain to security (there are exceptions for every single face covering that is not Islamic) and that it is a farce to pass this off as feminist. I wonder how the people of France will respond to this disgraceful law when they start seeing French women being dragged into prison for their choice of clothing?


Double-down on that racism

The Dutch department store that fired a shop assistent from its Belgian store because she wore a headscarf has decided to double-down on its racist behaviour. The woman was hired wearing a headscarf and worked in the store for months wearing a headscarf until some racist patrons complained. The company caved and fired her, now under pressure from protestors and the Belgian anti-racism centre they have offered to re-hire. Have they learnt the error of their ways? No, they specified that they wanted to rehire her in a position where she would not be visible to customers. The racist bastards.

Want to understand why the Muslim population of Belgium has vastly higher unemployment and poverty rates? You can't look past the vicious cycle of racism. For every case like this with Hema, thousands of companies simply don't hire Islamic women so they won't have to deal with racist customers complaining. And the government, rather than focusing on rectifying this massive injustice affecting thousands of Belgian women, focuses on penalising the half-dozen women in Belgium who wear a burqa. The thing that makes me angriest is that the bastards who push these women into a ghetto are the same ones who attack them for "not integrating".


Burqa ban a reflection of simple racism

I have previously spent a lot of time writing about the attack on women's rights, where progressive language is used to conceal deeply conservative motivations. All the arguments put forward against the burqa, as tenuous as they are, completely fall flat against a headscarf - and yet the same people frequently object against both. Here is a clear example of a woman being fired from her job for wearing a headscarf due to complaints from customers.

I just wish people would be honest about their motivations, so that people could see through the coded and pseudo-reasonable language to the irrational xenophobia that is often the true motivation. Like when people rant and rave against Islam, the Roma and homosexuality - when the same person espouts violent opinions on three such different groups the motivation is almost certainly pure and unadulterated xenophobia. A lot fewer people would listen to the main anti-Muslim demagogues if they also knew the position of the speaker on other (less politically correct) targets.


A new plan for the French Far Right?

Here is an interesting article about Jean-Marie Le Pen trying to pass leadership of the French far right party, the National Front, to his daughter, Marine Le Pen. It is quite an insight to read about the young Le Pen "reforming" the far right - stop talking about holocaust denial and anti-semitism, reduce campaigning against women's rights and homosexuality - and instead campaign against Muslims and immigration. Marine Le Pen sees this as the electable face of the far right in Europe, and I am afraid that I rather think she is right.