Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

As we conclude what has been a rather eventful 2006, I just wanted to thank my readers and wish all of you a very Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Islamists and Double Standards

According to the Arab News, an English language publication based in Saudi Arabia, a Saudi-based Islamic organization wants to use lawsuits and other legal methods to censor those who criticize Islam and the Prophet Mohammed (link courtesy of Jihad Watch):

A two-day conference organized by the Makkah-based Muslim World League yesterday called for a consultative commission in order to take legal action against those who abuse Islam and its Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Islamic sanctities, at local and international courts of justice, the Saudi Press Agency said.

The conference titled “In Defense of the Prophet” called upon Islamic countries and governments to stand united to defend the Islamic faith and its Prophet. It denounced the smear campaigns to tarnish the image of the Prophet and urged Muslims to make all-out efforts to project the true picture of Islam and the great divine teachings of the Prophet.

The article goes on to explain the plans of the MWL in greater detail:

MWL Secretary-General Abdullah Al-Turki said the attack on the Prophet was an expression of enmity toward Islam.

“The whole Muslim Ummah, including its leadership, scholars and ordinary people was outraged by such attacks and this again shows the lofty position the Prophet has in their hearts,” he said in reference to the Muslim response to cartoons depicting the Prophet.

MWL plans to launch an international program to introduce the Prophet and the conference called for setting up a fund to support the program. “The anti-Islam campaign also intends to trigger a cultural conflict between the Islamic world and the West and create a situation of clash and conflict in place of dialogue and peaceful coexistence,” the MWL chief said.

Well, "dialogue and peaceful coexistence" certainly sound good. However, as in the case of Iran's regime, we should probably compare MWL's words with its actions.

The MWL was founded in 1962, and is funded by the Saudi government in order to spread its preferred form of radical Islamism, known as Wahhabism. Yes, the same Saudi government that sponsors "defamation" and outright hatred of Christians, Jews, and other "infidels". In fact, according to the U.S. State Department, "(f)reedom of religion does not exist" in Saudi Arabia.

As for the MWL, it has played an integral role in the worldwide growth of Islamist extremism, and has been linked to funding of jihadist terrorism.

Somehow, I suspect the efforts of the MWL to censor critics of Islam are motivated by anything but a desire for "dialogue and peaceful coexistence".

Bollywood Comes to Kabul

Indian "Bollywood" movies have traditionally been very popular in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, like so many other forms of free expression, they were banned by the Taliban. So it is fitting that not only are Bollywood films again being shown in Afghanistan, but that one has actually been filmed there. According to a December 18th piece in the Guardian:

Bollywood broke new ground this weekend with the release of the first international movie filmed in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Kabul Express, a tale of two Indian journalists out of their depth on the trail of Taliban, is set among the country's spectacularly scarred landscape of gutted buildings and pitted flatlands.

Starring two of Bollywood's most marketable men, model-turned-screen star John Abraham and comedian Arshad Warsi, as well as American, Afghan and Pakistani actors, with a million-pound production budget, Kabul Express has been screened at high-profile film festivals in Toronto and Dubai.

Shot over 45 days in and around Kabul, the Bombay film crew arrived in September last year during the resurgence of Taliban violence that saw three suicide bombings and the beheading of an Indian construction engineer.

Although Hindi movies are very popular in Afghanistan, Bollywood's joie de vivre did not appeal to the Taliban's austere moral code and the Islamic government banned the films.

The article notes that the Taliban used death threats to try and prevent the filming of Kabul Express. Fortunately, they were unsuccessful:

The film's director and writer, Kabir Khan says that it took just two weeks before the Taliban sent death threats to the movie set.

"I was told by the Indian ambassador in Kabul that there was a five-man death squad sent by the Taliban. Everybody was pretty nervous. The Taliban wanted to send a message that you cannot have a normal life here. But the Afghan government really helped. They gave us 60 armed commandos and we used to roll around in 35 SUVs. In fact we looked like a militia."

The climate for intellectual freedom in Afghanistan is anything but perfect. Still, the current situation is far superior to the radical Islamist dark age imposed by the Taliban.

Unfree Airwaves in Venezuela

Hugo Chavez, beloved by a number of radical librarians, plans to show his commitment to intellectual freedom by shutting down an opposition television station. The BBC has the details:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has said he will not renew the licence for the country's second largest TV channel which he says expires in March 2007.

In an address to troops, Mr Chavez said he would not tolerate media outlets working towards a coup against him.

Radio Caracas Television, which is aligned with the opposition, supported a strike against Mr Chavez in 2003.

But the TV's head said there must be some mistake as its licence was not up for renewal in the near future.

Marcel Granier also vowed to fight against the president's plans in Venezuela's courts and on the international stage.

The BBC's Greg Morsbach in Caracas says Mr Chavez has repeatedly threatened to take the TV off the air but has never given a date.

The move could help silence some of his critics in the media who have been a thorn in his side for several years, he says.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Iranian Web Editors Arrested

Here's the latest news concerning Iran's crackdown on the web, as reported by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

The manager and political editor of the Iranian news site have been arrested.

A member of the website staff who did not want to be named told RFE/RL that the two, Meysam Zamanabadi and Mohammad Zomorodian, were detained late on December 28 in connection with the release of video footage that shows Iranian Vice President Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaee taking part in a ceremony in Turkey where unveiled women were dancing.

Under Iran's Islamic laws men are not allowed to watch women dance and sing.

The member of staff said the video footage of Mashaee, who is the head of Iran's Tourism and Cultural Heritage Organization, had been posted on the website.

Friday, December 29, 2006

The End of Saddam

Saddam Hussein has officially been executed. Post-Saddam Iraq is beset with problems, most especially the brutal war waged by radical Islamists both Sunni and Shia to fracture the country along sectarian lines and prevent democracy and pluralism from taking root. In the short term, the death of Saddam will do little if anything to alleviate this crisis. So, does Saddam's death matter? Absolutely.

For one of the few times in history, a genocidal, totalitarian tyrant has been held to account by his own people. Whatever the flaws of the process, and these flaws have been greatly exaggerated, the Iraqi people have finally obtained justice for the up to 1 million of their fellow citizens slaughtered by Saddam's regime.

At long last, the Arab world's answer to Hitler and Stalin has met his fate, and at the hands of his former victims. As long as America does not disgracefully abandon Iraq's fledgling democracy as we did South Vietnam, the long term impact of Saddam's demise could help to transform the political culture of the Middle East.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Islamist Gains in Malaysia

A disturbing article from The Australian on a case of religious intolerance in Malaysia:

LAWYER Malik Imtiaz Sawar seems a most unlikely person to attract death threats. A small, softly spoken, friendly man, the impression he gives is above all one of consideration.

What has earned him the death threats is his appearance in court on behalf of Lina Joy, a case that has become a battleground of Malaysian political and cultural identity, and of freedom of religion.


Lina Joy was once a Muslim but has converted to Christianity. She didn't do so to make any broad point or to lead any social movement. It was entirely a private decision. But in Malaysia the state takes official notice of your race and religion.

Lina Joy tried to get herself deregistered as a Muslim and reregistered as a Christian. As a Muslim she is not allowed to marry a Christian man and any children she has must be brought up as Muslims.

When the state authorities refused to accept her conversion she appealed to the courts on the basis of Article 11 of the Malaysian constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion.

Unfortunately, as the article points out, this is just one example of how Malaysia's traditionally tolerant form of Islam is being subverted by the spread of Islamist radicalism:

But the Lina Joy case, and a raft of others involving similar issues, have touched off a wave of Islamist activism in Malaysia. There has been a rash of anti-apostasy campaigns. Islamic defenders' groups, mirroring those in Indonesia but without the violence, have been set up.

A crazy text message spread to the effect that there was to be a mass baptism of Islamic converts in northern Malaysia. It led to much hysteria but was baseless.

Then came the death threats to Imtiaz, a Muslim, with posters branding him an enemy of Islam and urging his murder.

It is important not to exaggerate Malaysia's problems. Malaysia remains a mostly peaceful, prosperous and law-abiding society in which the different races and religions mostly rub along OK. But there is a good deal of evidence that popular Malay Muslim attitudes are hardening, are being at least somewhat Arabised.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Over the course of the last several decades, radical Islamism has become a globalized phenomenon, threatening free expression worldwide. It cannot be ignored or wished away.

Ahmadinejad's War on the Internet

Nir Boms describes the Iranian regime's intensifying campaign to censor the Internet, and free expression in general:

As the West prepares for engagement, Iran has issued yet another broad offensive against what their authorities consider immoral Western culture. Consistent with its policy of censorship, Iran now targets the New York Times, the online encyclopedia, the online book store and online movie portals and Iran's Internet service providers (ISPs) were recently ordered to reduce the speed of private Internet access to a maximum of 128 kilobits per second (KBps), a speed reminiscent of the now obsolete dialup modems that disappeared from the developed world over a decade ago. The slower speed will prevent the use of Internet applications such as VOIP communication that would permit phone conversations outside the tightly controlled Iranian phone system. The new regulations will further hinder the work of researchers who already have limited access to the government-censored Internet. And if that is not enough, the head of the Agency for the Development of Information Technology in Iran, Vafa Ghafaryan, told the official news agency ISNA that the government will increase surveillance over "harmful" text messages as well.

These latest decrees are a component of an escalating clampdown on the media following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rise to power. Recent victims of the campaign have been Shargh, a reformist newspaper, and Nameh, a political journal. Their crimes? Shargh published a cartoon that seemed to lampoon Iranian nuclear negotiations. Nameh was forcibly closed for the publication of a poem by dissident female poet Simin Behbahani. And we also have people like Arash Sigarchi, who began blogging on a collective site called "The Man from Gilan," and later on his personal site, called "The Window of Hope." Twenty eight-year-old Mr. Sigarchi was arrested in early 2005 and sentenced to 14 years in prison for "propaganda against the regime," according to Reporters Without Borders.

This early December article from the Wall Street Journal offers additional details on Ahmadinejad's campaign against intellectual freedom online (Thanks to Jack Stephens for letting me know about it):

The Internet crackdown in Iran reflects efforts by the Islamist government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to cleanse Iran of what its leaders deem decadent Western culture, including music and movies. Government authorities in recent days have broached several new measures, such as requiring bloggers and operators of Web sites to register with an official body, strengthening the government's ability to police what it views as objectionable content.

The government began tightening its grip on the Internet two years ago, when it arrested a handful of bloggers and others whose writings were deemed offensive, according to Reporters Without Borders. One blogger, Mojtaba Saminejad, faced the death penalty for "insulting the prophets," but was found guilty of a lesser charge.

Last month, the government blocked two Web sites, and The first contained criticism of the government and its spiritual leadership, and the second published articles calling for an end to the stoning of women, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Of course, like most of what Ahmadinejad has done, the increased censorship of the Internet is simply an intensified version of a preexisting policy, not a radical departure. After all, as ABC News points out, Iran has "the dubious distinction of being the first ever country to jail a blogger. In 2003, the Iranian dissident Sina Motallebi was imprisoned for apparently insulting Iran's supreme leader in his blog." In 2003 the "moderate" Mohammad Khatami was still Iran's president, not Ahmadinejad.

Fortunately, as the same article notes, Iranians are figuring out how to defeat the regime's efforts at online censorship:

Internet users in Iran are so used to being greeted with messages saying "this site is forbidden" or "this page has been filtered" that they are finding ways to circumvent the government's restrictions.

"We're all becoming hackers, finding ways to get round this" says Afshin Abtahi, ABC News' fixer in Tehran.

"You call your friend and they'll give you an IP address to get round the filters. People are basically trading in IP addresses."

Software and technology such as those discussed on and are enabling people to disguise their computers' IP addresses and access sites as if they are not in Iran.

From censoring the Internet, to banning books, to issuing fatwas calling for the murder of writers who "insult Islam", Iran's Islamist autocracy has essentially declared war on free expression. It is a sign of both the regime's radicalism and its desperation.

The Ahmadinejad-Khamenei regime is engaged in a desperate gamble to develop nuclear weapons and ensure that its brand of radical Islamism, not the Sunni Salafist version represented by al Qaeda, dominates the Middle East. It does this in order to fulfill its own ideological imperatives, and to keep from being undone by its own domestic crises and contradictions. After all, a regime dependent on oil revenues that is rapidly losing the ability to export oil does not have much of a future. Crushing dissent at home is a way to buy time and keep the lid on until its expansionist efforts can succeed.

Why They Hate Us, Revisited

Dean Godson, in a terrific op-ed in yesterday's Times of London, takes apart the ridiculously simplistic argument that Islamist rage against the West is primarily a product of the Iraq war:

Chatham House has other recent “form”. Last year, it produced a report blaming Iraq for giving al-Qaeda a boost. No doubt Iraq has boosted al-Qaeda recruitment. But Iraq is a very long way from being the only source of radicalisation. One of the most interesting stories of the year that received scant attention in the British press was last week’s remarks by Jean-Louis Bruguière, the chief French investigating magistrate for terrorism. He revealed that France had averted three significant Islamist plots over the past 18 months, including attacks on the Paris Métro and Orly. Algerian Islamists were teaming up with veterans of Iraq. So would opting out of Iraq, as President Chirac did so dramatically in 2003, really have reduced our vulnerability?

Elements of the Muslim population are in so febrile a state that almost anything can send them into a tailspin. This year a minority of British Muslims has been offended by many things — from cartoons in obscure Danish newspapers to McDonald’s logos.

One of the biggest losses of 2006 was Colin Cramphorn, the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, who died tragically young. After 7/7 Cramphorn did as much as anyone to bring the communities together. He told me with dismay that an appreciable number of radicalised young Muslim men in Leeds believed that the London bombings were invented by the Jewish-dominated media. Why? Because they did not see any bodies being pulled up from the Underground!

Too little of this complexity — and even medieval dottiness — comes across loudly enough in the media. The parochial media classes reflexively prefer to blame Mr Blair. No wonder the Prime Minister, writing in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, expressed such frustration with the willingness of much of the Fourth Estate to indulge the propaganda of the extremists.

The anti-Western attitudes of Islamists and many other Muslims are not based on rational analysis of our actions: Rather, they are the product of an intellectual culture and worldview that is awash in xenophobia and conspiracy theories.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Intimidation Continues in Azerbaijan

The status of free expression in Azerbaijan is bad enough without the interference of fatwa-issuing Iranian clerics. This report from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty provides the latest example:

An Azerbaijani opposition journalist has been hospitalized after being attacked in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku.

Ali Rza, deputy editor of the "Azadliq" (Freedom) opposition newspaper, says Nicat Huseynov was assaulted on December 25 by four men who beat him and tried to stab him.

He said Huseynov is being treated for internal injuries. Two reporters for the same newspaper were attacked earlier this year. One of them was killed.

The Committee to Protect Journalists offers some additional details on the attack, and puts it into the context of a broader government campaign against the newspaper:

Azadlyg and its journalists have been targets of violence and repression during the past year. Azadlyg reporter Fikret Huseinli was abducted and beaten last March after writing articles that accused senior government officials of taking bribes. In June, police arrested Azadlyg satirist Sakit Zakhidov on drug charges that local press freedom activists and independent journalists say were fabricated. And, in October, a state property regulator was granted court permission to evict Azadlyg from its offices.

Morocco Bans a Magazine

On December 21, the MEMRI Blog reported that:

The Moroccan government has decided to ban the weekly magazine Nichane and is accusing it of "infringement on religion and Moroccans' feelings" because it published "jokes" about the Prophet Muhammad and King Al-Hasan Al-Thani, and on sex.

Reporters Sans Frontieres has issued a press release about this incident with additional details and context:

The prosecutor’s office decided to take legal proceedings against editor Driss Ksikes and journalist Sanaa Al Aji for “damaging the Islamic religion” and “publication and distribution of articles contrary to morality”.

“In taking this double step, the Moroccan authorities remind anyone who might have forgotten that the judicial arsenal is always available to curb the free expression of Moroccan journalists,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

Despite promises and undertakings made by Rabat in recent months, the “red lines” are still clearly there to constrain all journalist work, it said. Forbidden items include the sacred status of the king, Islam as state religion, Western Sahara, the army or morals. These bans are found as often in the 2002 press code as in the anti-terror law or the draft law on opinion polls. And always in terms vague enough to allow the widest interpretation. The same bans also appear in an ethical charter recently adopted by the Federation of press editors.

The RSF press release makes one very important point: it notes that the ban on Nichane is intended, at least in part, to appease Moroccan Islamists. Unfortunately, it is likely only to incite them:

Reporters Without Borders said it believed the steps taken were based on an electoral calculation in the run-up to polling which could be marked by a strong showing on the part of the Islamist movement. The organisation said it feared that, far from calming the extremists, these measures could dangerously expose journalists on Nichane.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Again, as with the Rafiq Tagi affair, we see the symbiotic, mutually reinforcing relationship in the Muslim world between government censorship and Islamist censorship. When regimes in Islamic countries seek to ban expression critical of Islam, it simply encourages Islamists to intensify their own efforts at censoring opposing viewpoints.

RIP Gerald Ford

The former president has passed away at age 93.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my readers, and thank you again for your readership. Posting will resume in a couple days.

"Recommended" Holiday Viewing

Before I sign off for Christmas, I offer, for your viewing pleasure, a link to the online version of the most famous banned film of the last three decades. The one, the only:

The Star Wars Holiday Special

Some of you may have vague memories of that magical night in November 1978, as you watched Luke Skywalker and Han Solo interact with the likes of Bea Arthur and Art Carney. Others may only have heard rumors of the Holiday Special, and wondered if it was truly real. Well, it's real alright. It's real and it's terrifying.

In the words of Allahpundit, the Holiday Special is "(w)idely regarded as two of the worst hours of television ever aired in the United States". Justifiably so, I might add. You thought the prequel trilogy was bad? The Holiday Special makes The Phantom Menace look like Citizen Kane.

For almost 30 years, George Lucas has prevented the Holiday Special from being shown. According to Wikipedia, he even expressed his desire to personally destroy every bootleg copy in existence. However, the iron fist of Lucasian censorship has proved to be no match for the liberating power of information technology. I'd like to say that the world is a better place because of it. Unfortunately, this is one instance where we probably would have been better off had the censors prevailed.

Watch it at your own risk.

(All links courtesy of Allahpundit at Hot Air)

2006: The Year in Islamist Censorship

Michelle Malkin provides an excellent overview of the year that was in Islamist censorship:

It began with the Danish cartoons. It ended with the flying imams. 2006 was a banner year for the Religion of Perpetual Outrage. Twelve turbulent months of fist-waving, embassy-burning, fatwa-issuing mayhem, intimidation, and murder resounded with the ululations of the aggrieved. All this in the name of defending Islam from “insult.” Let’s review.

2006: The year of perpetual outrage

A Book Banned in Pakistan

Human Events, via FrontPage Magazine, reports that Robert Spencer's latest work has been banned in Pakistan:

The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion, published by Regnery (a HUMAN EVENTS sister company), was pulled off shelves after it was found to contain "objectionable material" about Islam's founder, according to a notification obtained by the Kuwait National News Agency.

The Pakistani government has confiscated all copies and translations of the book.

I wonder how many librarians will add The Truth About Muhammed to their Banned Books Week displays next year? I suspect not many.

Iran, Azerbaijan and the Tagi Affair

Today's New York Times has a very good article discussing the Rafiq Tagi affair. In early November, Tagi wrote a newspaper article in his native Azerbaijan, arguing that Islam has hindered his country's development. The Times summarizes the ensuing controversy as follows:

The furor after its publication echoes the case of the Danish cartoons published in 2005 that were seen as mocking Islam, generating protests from Gaza to Pakistan. An Iranian cleric demanded the death of the two authors, and denunciations from village imams and other religious conservatives in Azerbaijan have sent tremors through the Azeri government and the secular elite of this Shiite nation.

“I am for freedom of speech but not the freedom to insult,” said Hajji Ilgar, an imam at Baku’s Jama Old City mosque who is often critical of the government of Azerbaijan’s secular president, Ilham Aliyev. “The only solution is to take this to the courts.”

The article puts the Tagi affair into its broader context by discussing how Iran has actively incited the controversy in order to foster the spread of radical Islamism in Azerbaijan, and the efforts of Azeri intellectuals to defend free expression in response:

A group of 40 leading public intellectuals has released an open letter calling for Iran to stop encouraging religious extremists in Azerbaijan and for the Iranian cleric, Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani, to rescind his fatwa, or religious decree, against the authors.

Sadly, the ability of Iranian and Azeri Islamists to create a controversy over Tagi's article shows the extent to which their efforts are succeeding:

Elchin Shikhlinsky, the editor of Zerkalo, or The Mirror, one of the largest Baku dailies, said that the furor over the recent article was “crazy, and if such an article had been published a couple of years ago there would have been no reaction to it.”

“But,” he said, “step by step, day by day, people are becoming more religious. Iran is spending a lot of money along the border to produce these kinds of fanatics.”

Intellectual freedom in Azerbaijan is already under threat from that country's current regime. Iran's campaign to spread radical Islamism and impose censorship by death threat imperils it even further.

A "Human Library"

Courtesy of the Jewish Standard, an amazing passage from Argentinian writer Alberto Manguel, in which he discusses how one of his boyhood tutors had him memorize German poetry. Manguel explains why in the following paragraph:

"I enjoyed learning the poems, but I didn’t understand of what use they might possibly be. ‘They’ll keep you company on the day you have no books to read,’ my teacher said. Then he told me that his father, murdered in Sachsenhausen, had been a famous scholar who knew many of the classics by heart and who, during his time in the concentration camp, had offered himself as a library to be read to his fellow inmates. I imagined the old man in that murky, relentless, hopeless place, approached with a request for Virgil or Euripides, opening himself up to a given page and reciting the ancient words for his bookless readers."

Saturday, December 23, 2006

An Iranian Answers Ahmadinejad

Recently, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote an open letter to the American people. After reading Ahmadinejad's missive, Iranian satirist Ebrahim Nabavi decided to write a response, which was posted to an Iranian newspaper web site. MEMRI provides a lengthy excerpt from Mr. Nabavi's essay:

"In your letter to the American people, you wrote, 'Both our nations are God-fearing, truth-loving and justice-seeking, and both seek dignity, respect and perfection. Both greatly value and readily embrace the promotion of human ideals such as compassion, empathy, respect for the rights of human beings, securing justice and equity, and defending the innocent and the weak against oppressors and bullies.'

"Mr. Ahmadinejad! A great number of the words you used are empty and meaningless…. The Iranian people are not God-fearing, truth-loving and justice-seeking, because if they were, you would not have been their president.

"Are you serious? Or you are playing with us? You support human ideals? Do people like journalists even have any human rights in Iran? How can you call yourself a defender of human ideals when your political faction shut down 150 publications in the past four years? How dare you speak of defending human ideals in a country where the rights of women, ethnic groups, religious minorities and the general public are constantly under attack, and where women do not even have the right to gather in defense of their rights?"

(Emphasis added-DD)

As I've written about previously, any claims by Ahmadinejad and other Iranian officials to support human rights are belied by their lengthy record of brutal repression. The Iranian regime's actions speak far more clearly than do its words.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Fear Wins out in Norway

Gates of Vienna brings word of an incident of fear-induced censorship in Norway; a small but emblematic symbol of how concern over Islamist violence has affected intellectual freedom in Europe. According to a Norwegian newspaper article translated by one of Gates' contributors:

Editor Vebjørn Selbekk of the small Norwegian Christian newspaper Magazinet was scheduled to sign books at a bookshop in Oslo this Saturday. Now the book signing has been cancelled because the bookshop fears terror attacks.

Selbekk is topical with his book Truet av islamister (Threatened by Islamists) about the conflict that followed after the newspaper Magazinet reprinted Jyllands-Posten’s cartoons of Muhammad. But now there won’t be any book signing event, for security reasons. “I’m disappointed. This is prostration in front of forces we should not give in to,” Selbekk says.

Svein Andersen, the head of his publishing company Genesis, has during his 23 years in the trade never experienced anything like this. “The head of the bookshop said she was worried about the security of the employees and the customers, and that she unfortunately had to cancel the event. This is outrageous and frightening,” Andersen says, who thinks this is a blow to freedom of speech. “If Islamists are allowed to decide which books should be published in Norway, cookbooks with recipes for fillet of pork will be banned,” he says.

This kind of capitulation to fear is exactly what the Islamists are counting on to win their war against intellectual freedom.

The Mugabe "Miracle"

According to CNN, Zimbabwe was "once dubbed southern Africa's bread basket". Now, thanks to the barbarous misrule of Robert Mugabe, things are so bad that some of its people are forced to eat rats to survive:

Twelve-year-old Beatrice returns from the fields with small animals she's caught for dinner.

Her mother, Elizabeth, prepares the meat and cooks it on a grill made of three stones supporting a wood fire. It's just enough food, she says, to feed her starving family of six.

Tonight, they dine on rats.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Web Censorship Update: 12-20-06

Here are a couple recent news items about web censorship that caught my attention:

-The BBC analyses the role of corporations such as Google and Yahoo in facilitating China's censorship of the Internet:

In 2003 the Chinese police who had been monitoring message boards, blogs and personal emails, asked for the sign up account details of two anonymous bloggers.

These were handed over by Yahoo China to the Chinese Government.

More than 57 Chinese people have been arrested as result of discussing democracy on the internet, say Amnesty International.

Human Rights Watch, a New York based campaign group, says a line has been crossed.

"Google, Yahoo and Microsoft no longer carry out the censorship for the Chinese government," says Asia Director, Brad Adams, "they are the censor."

-The MEMRI Blog brings word that Turkey plans to establish a mechanism to deal with "inappropriate Internet activity":

"Turkish Telecommunication Agency will set up an Internet Monitor Center to detect Internet abuses. Once the system is set up, both service providers and users will face heavy penalties if found guilty for inappropriate Internet activity.

Officials will hold daily meetings to detect and fight against Internet misuses. A public prosecutor will probably head the Internet Monitor Center. However, IT circles claim the project could violate privacy.

A bill has been drafted foreseeing imprisonment and heavy penalties for Internet misuse. Overseas connections of such services will be monitored to prevent publishing via overseas service providers. The center is concerned about low-price web sites published overseas. The Internet Monitor Center will monitor such web sites to apply penalties in cooperation with foreign authorities."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"Tolerance of the Intolerable"

Courtesy of Martin Kramer, a discouraging article from the Toronto Globe and Mail on the tribulations of a Muslim critic of Islamism living in Germany:

Bassam Tibi is an unabashed alarmist. He is among Germany's foremost political scientists, and an expert on political Islam. And he says that even now -- after 9/11, after Madrid, after 7/7, and all the rest of it -- the European elites don't have a clue what they are up against.

"Europeans don't know what Islamism is," he argues. "We are talking about a new totalitarianism. And Islamists are establishing themselves in Europe with great success." They thrive, thanks to Europe's tolerance of the intolerable.

Dr. Tibi, a Muslim born in Syria, is persona non grata there.

He's not too popular in Germany either, where he has been accused of inciting Islamophobia. "It is most disturbing to see how writers who try to warn about the totalitarian character of Islamism are defamed as racists," he says. "This wrong-headed political correctness prevents any honest discussion about the subject."

(Emphasis added-DD)

The situation is so bad that Dr. Tibi is leaving the country:

There's a twist to this story, and it, too, is not a happy one. Dr. Tibi is getting out, moving to the U.S., where he has been a visiting professor at Harvard and Cornell -- not only because his views are more respected there, but because, after 44 years, he still feels like an outsider here. "I love Germany," he says. "I love the German language, and there are many decent Germans.

"But I believe Germany is an ethnically exclusive country. Bassam is not a German name. A Muslim is not a German. And there is no space for me in an ethnically exclusive country."

If Germany can't make a truly moderate Muslim like Dr. Tibi feel welcome, then they are in serious trouble.

A Human Face on Zimbabwe's Suffering

In a brilliant piece for the Weekly Standard, James Kirchik puts a human face on the suffering of Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe by profiling three of the regime's victims:

Many wonder why Zimbabwe has not experienced an armed revolt under Mugabe. One hears the complaint, especially among blacks in the region, that Zimbabwean blacks are too docile, too kind, too respectful of authority for their own good. "The people are resigned," a Zimbabwean journalist told me. But there are other reasons a coup--at least a coup emanating from the military or security forces--is unlikely. One is the lingering awe for Mugabe as liberation leader that some still no doubt feel. The most acute reason, however, is that any dissent within the security forces, even from low-ranking officers, is met with a strong show of force.

Meet Mugabe's Victims

Monday, December 18, 2006

Illiberal Librarians

Annoyed Librarian has written a must-read piece on the fundamentally illiberal nature of the PLG/SRRT radical left. Here's just a sample, be sure to read it all:

I've been thinking a bit about the political labels thrown around by my critics, and some of my supporters for that matter. Liberal this, and conservative that. I should point out that there's nothing particularly "liberal" about the radical left. But libraries are liberal institutions when they provide the means for education and self-improvement and then let people take advantage of them, or not. That's standard liberalism, even in its modern variety. The state helps give opportunities, and then lets people make their own choices. Making the choice for them isn't liberal, or conservative for that matter. It's often totalitarian. Seeing people as helpless victims isn't liberal, because it doesn't respect their right to and capacity for individual choice and their duty of personal responsibility.

This is a problem with the SRRT, though. It's certainly not liberal, and the folks inside it know this, even if they use the language of liberalism to get their way. A library association that promoted liberalism would promote intellectual freedom and access to information. Okay so far with the ALA, except for the bizarre belief they have that some pervert massaging his membrum virile while viewing Internet porn in the library is doing something "intellectual." Outside of a commitment to liberal democracy in general--which, by the way, is the only regime that supports the intellectual freedom of writers, artists, historians, philosophers, etc.-- liberal institutions should take no substantive political position. A liberal library association would support intellectual freedom, access to information, and liberal democratic political institutions, but wouldn't go on to make political statements irrelevant to libraries. Passing a resolution on Bush or the Iraq War isn't liberal. It doesn't provide information for people to make choices. It tries to make a choice for them. That's typical of the radical left among others, but it's not very liberal.

The SRRT has always been illiberal. They've always taken a stance against one of the central tenets of liberalism: political neutrality. The SRRT was born so that a lot of illiberals could get the ALA to take political stands on issues rather than a neutral stance. Illiberals don't like political neutrality, because they believe not only that they are absolutely right but that they're entitled to foist their political opinions on everyone else in the form of laws and resolutions. Illiberals don't like liberal neutrality because they're more interested in political victory than in providing neutral procedures for all people to make their own decisions. It's this liberal neutrality and the liberal desire to provide means for people to choose their own ends and not choose the ends that critics of liberalism always attack, whether they are radicals, conservatives, communitarians, civic republicans, socialists, communists, fascists, whatever.

This is the point I tried to make last year in the Chronicle, though Annoyed Librarian expresses it much more eloquently than I could. Librarianship is about empowerment, not indoctrination. To do otherwise makes a mockery of our profession.


Stephen Denney has resumed blogging after losing his father to illness. I offer Stephen my full condolences, and encourage all of you to check out his blog.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Earning My Pay

It's time to earn my pay as a member of the neocon Zionist cabal by blogging about Israel:

-At Harry's Place, David T. calls for the destruction of the "Zionist Entity" to be followed up by the demise of the "Hellenist Entity". Yes, it's satire, and it shows the absurdity of singling out Israel for its real or alleged abuses.

-At National Review Online, Dr. Victor Davis Hanson explores the real reason for the Arab world's obsession with Israel. Considering that regimes such as Saddam Hussein's Iraq and Sudan's Islamist dictatorship have committed far worse crimes against Arabs and Muslims than anything Israel has done, it's not about human rights:

The surprise is no longer that the cretin Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls for the destruction of Israel, but only that his serial threats have still not become banal. In any language, there can be only so many synonyms and idioms for “wipe-out” and “vanish,” yet Ahmadinejad always finds some fresh way to express his fundamental desire.

In Washington, realists are back, and they have a point: Israel really does remain at the heart of the furor of the Middle East — just not in the way they suppose.

It is not “stolen” land, or “Zionist” killings, or Jewish “aggression” that gnaws at the Arab Street. And the solution is therefore not to be found in short-term Israeli land-concessions, but only in the now caricatured and apparently waning policy of supporting democratic reform inside the Middle East.


Click here for the answer.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Despotism Extended

Bad news for the people of Zimbabwe, as Robert Mugabe's ruinous, despotic rule will almost certainly be extended for at least two more years. This isn't really a surprise, as it was virtually a foregone conclusion. Still, the impact on Zimbabwe and its people won't be any less disastrous.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Little Red Reference

An interesting New York Sun piece on an exhibit of Chinese books caught my attention with this reference. My handful of long-time readers will note the irony:

"My generation has a very awkward relationship with words and books," one of the best-known contemporary Chinese artists, Xu Bing, said in a recent interview. His parents worked at Beijing University, and he spent considerable time in the library: Before he could read, he was already very familiar with books as desirable objects. "By the time of the Cultural Revolution, I could read, but there weren't any books available. The entire country read only one book: Mao's ‘Little Red Book.' We read and memorized that book all day. At the end of the Cultural Revolution, I returned from the countryside to Beijing to study. Because I was starving for culture and was in the midst of a general cultural fever at the time, I read many different types of books."

(Emphasis added-DD)

Conservative Intellectuals and Academia

The December 15th issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education has a lengthy, thoughtful essay from Mark Bauerlein on the lack of a conservative intellectual presence in academia. Here's a sample:

Notwithstanding the outcome of the recent election, in one respect, the last few decades mark a breakthrough era for conservative intellectuals. Their visibility has soared. Thirty years ago, the only place to find conservatives on television was Firing Line, William F. Buckley's urbane talk show. Today they appear on Meet the Press and 60 Minutes. Conservatives reign on talk radio, and the political-blog universe tends to the right, too, especially to the libertarian view. As for book publishing, conservative tomes used to be a marginal genre published by Regnery Publishing and a few others. Now conservative authors make the best-seller lists, and small conservative presses like Encounter Books thrive while major houses like Penguin have started conservative imprints. By 2003 Brian C. Anderson, an editor of City Journal, could declare, "The Left's near monopoly over the institutions of opinion and information — which long allowed liberal opinion makers to sweep aside ideas and beliefs they disagreed with, as if they were beneath argument — is skidding to a startlingly swift halt."

The gains in public life are real. But it's a mistake to take the media status of conservatives too far. For in another respect, little has changed. When we assess intellectuals, we enter a rarified habitat of books and ideas, and the prime setting for appreciating those is the college campus. There, conservative intellectuals remain stymied. Their relationship to the universities in which they found their calling and to the curriculum and scholarship they studied — that remains tenuous.

As Bauerlein makes clear, the neglect of conservative ideas in academia has a negative impact on both conservatives and universities. Please give the full essay a read:

How Academe Shortchanges Conservative Thinking

(Link courtesy of Michelle Malkin)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Holding Companies Accountable

The New York Sun reports that the NYC Comptroller plans to take action against companies that abet China's censorship of the Internet:

The city's comptroller, William Thompson Jr., is using the muscle of the city's pension fund to take on the Internet powerhouses Google and Yahoo.

Mr. Thompson, a likely 2009 mayoral candidate, has filed shareholder resolutions calling on the two search engines to create practices for dealing with censorship issues in communist countries like China, North Korea, and Cuba, as well as other "authoritarian" regimes including Iran, Syria, Burma, and Egypt.

The resolutions, which were filed last week, call on Google and Yahoo to resist demands for censorship and to ensure that they do not engage in any "proactive censorship."

"Technology companies in the United States have failed to develop adequate standards by which they can conduct business with authoritarian governments while protecting human rights, including freedom of speech and freedom of expression," Mr. Thompson said in a statement.

The article goes on to give a nice overview of the issues involved, and is definitely worth reading. While there's certainly some grandstanding here, I think Mr. Thompson is doing the right thing. There is no reason why NYC's pension fund should subsidize Google and Yahoo while they kowtow to Chinese censors.

"Words are treated as a crime today."

Courtesy once again of MEMRI, some thought-provoking comments from the Syrian poet Adonis about the lack of freedom in the Muslim Middle East. Here's a brief excerpt:

Adonis: "Words are treated as a crime today. Throughout history, there has never been anything similar to what's happening today in our Arab society - when you say a word, it is like committing a crime."

Interviewer: "True."

Adonis: "Words and opinions are treated as a crime. This is inconceivable."

Interviewer: "You can be arrested for writing an article."

Adonis: "That's one example."


"In the Koran itself, it says that Allah listened to his first enemy, Satan, and Satan refused to obey him. I believe that Allah was capable of wiping out Satan, yet He listened to Satan's refusal to obey Him.

"At the very least, we demand that Muslims today listen to people with different opinions."

(Emphasis added-DD)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Positive Development

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reports that the previously banned Azeri television station ANS is back on the air.

Happy Birthday, Guard

Today marks the 370th birthday of the National Guard. America's oldest fighting force, the Guard traces its origins to the 1636 foundation of the Massachusetts Bay Colony militia. As America finds itself in the early stages of a decades long war with radical Islamism, the National Guard is more important to our nation than ever.

Soy: The New Fluoride?

Courtesy of PajamasMedia, here's a piece that I find absolutely and utterly mind-boggling. I vaguely remember some people having bizarre theories about Fluoride in drinking water, ala Dr. Strangelove. But this?

There's a slow poison out there that's severely damaging our children and threatening to tear apart our culture. The ironic part is, it's a "health food," one of our most popular.

Now, I'm a health-food guy, a fanatic who seldom allows anything into his kitchen unless it's organic. I state my bias here just so you'll know I'm not anti-health food.

The dangerous food I'm speaking of is soy. Soybean products are feminizing, and they're all over the place. You can hardly escape them anymore.

Someone please tell me this is a joke...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Censorship in the Islamic World: A List

The invaluable MEMRI has a must-read translation from a French-Tunisian magazine on the pervasiness of censorship in the Islamic world. The author, Tunisian Zyed Krichen, discusses a lengthy list of Muslim authors and intellectuals who were censored, or even murdered, bacause of their writings or beliefs. Here is an excerpt:

"In the West, the advent of printing meant enormous progress in terms of freedom of thought. Printing made possible the gradual spread of knowledge and the questioning of the established order. Technology and freedom seem to have marched hand in hand.

"But in our [Muslim] societies, the opposite seems to have happened. The advent of printing [in the Muslim world] in the mid-19th century and the spread of written materials in the 20th century have [only served to] undermine freedom of thought.

"The numerous examples of 'censorship in the name of Islam' from 1925 to date makes one wonder. From philosophy to cinema, literature, and art - no field has been spared, and no [act of] violence has been avoided. From the [mere] banning of the work to a death sentence for [the writer] - every kind of obscurantist horror has taken place in the lands of Islam. Given that we are one of the Civilizations of the Book, [2] this is a complete paradox.

Please read the rest:

Censorship and Persecution in the Name of Islam: A Tunisian Weekly Counts the Ways

Sectarian Cyberjihad

Evan Kohlmann reports on the Counterterrorism Blog that radical Sunni Islamists plan to launch cyber-attacks against Shia-run web sites that "they have accused of besmirching the honor of the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi". I suppose this Internet variant of sectarian cleansing is a step up from committing mass murder via suicide bombs. Still, it's also yet another tiny pebble on the mountain of evidence showing radical Islamists' pathological hatred of free expression.

I would add that Zarqawi should have his "honor" besmirched, except that the genocidal, mass murdering piece of garbage was utterly devoid of anything approaching honor. The day we sent him to hell was quite a happy one.

A Reading Revival

One of the big fears surrounding the Internet was that it would doom printed books and reading. Fortunately, according to the Penguin Blog, it appears that such concerns are unfounded:

At a time when publishers are anxiously examining their crystal balls to assess what impact digital texts and distribution will have on their industry and livelihoods, it is encouraging to see that one of the world's leading business magazines, Forbes magazine has devoted a whole issue to old-fashioned books.

The great fear is that online video games, movies, TV and music on demand and user-generated content will sweep aside 'text based entertainment', and that the market for books will shrink in the face of a multimedia assault. But Forbes suprisingly say that we Eeyore-ish publishers shouldn't be too gloomy, for people are reading more than ever: 'The Internet is fueling literacy. Giving books away online increases off-line readership. New forms of expression - wikis, networked books - are blossoming in a digital hothouse.'

(Emphasis added-DD. Penguin link courtesy of Norm Geras)

The Forbes articles referenced above were recently linked by LISNews.

Monday, December 11, 2006

"Celebrating" Human Rights in Cuba

The Associated Press reports on how Cuba celebrated International Human Rights Day:

Dozens of government supporters broke up a silent march by a small group of dissidents marking International Human Rights Day yesterday, roughing up participants and calling them "mercenaries" and "worms."

It was not immediately known if there were any injuries that required medical attention.

Organized by dissident physician Darcy Ferrer, the demonstration involving less than a dozen government opponents in a public park in Havana's Vedado neighborhood was interrupted as soon as it began by burly men who surrounded and shoved the marchers.

We have a dictatorship so paranoid that it can't tolerate a demonstration by a dozen people, yet there are still librarians who believe that the Castro regime doesn't repress intellectual freedom.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Globalization of Islamist Censorship

A French journalist named Patrick Sabatier has written a good, balanced overview of Islamist censorship in Europe for Yale Global Online. In his analysis, Sabatier stresses the impact of globalization and new media in enabling extremists to dominate the headlines and generate controversy:

These “clashes” are to some extent a toxic byproduct of a globalized media system. Instant information and misinformation, through satellite TV and the internet, tend to obscure complex issues, feed on widespread ignorance on both sides and pour oil on long-simmering fires of historical resentment, economic frustration and political conflict. The large and fast dissemination of extremist minority views on isolated events whip up collective passions, making a dialogue based on tolerance and rational criticism more difficult. To that extent, it might be argued that globalization plays in the hands of Islamists who preach “jihad,” or holy war, against the West, and those who dream of Europe walling itself against Islam.

Sabatier also correctly notes how the unwillingness of moderate Muslims to condemn the Islamists feeds into this process of polarization:

The absence of clear denunciations by moderate Islamic theologians, preachers and representatives to calls of violence and censorship is perceived as a sign of Islamists’ growing clout. It also feeds suspicions that silencing criticism of religion is, like female oppression, part and parcel of Islam. The threats against France, recently reiterated by Al Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, for the 2004 law prohibiting the Islamic veil in schools and public-service jobs have reinforced the feeling that Islam is trying to force its prejudices on secular European societies.

Sabatier makes some good points in his conclusion, along with several I take issue with:

On the one hand, then, Muslims react more violently and internationally to criticisms they deem “blasphemous” and “Islamophobic.” On the other, books and essays denouncing Islam as “the new totalitarianism,” in the line of fascism and communism, have been popular since the 2002 anti-Muslim bestseller by Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, “The Rage and The Pride.” European fear of a “green peril” is a mirror image of Muslim phantasms of a Western conspiracy against Islam,” an inexorable spiral of false perceptions fueled by the media cauldron of instant TV images and internet pronouncements by radicals.

All this obscures the fact that Muslim furor, as shown during the caricature controversy, is often staged for media consumption by small groups of extremists while the vast majority of Muslims remain indifferent. Over 70 percent of Muslims living in Europe, according to a 2005 European-wide study, describe themselves as hostile to Islamists. Most practice a peaceful and tolerant brand of Islam, and many wish for the emergence of a European form of Islam, through reforms that adapt the faith to the modern world.

One point that concerns me is Sabatier's implied moral equivalence between Islamists and critics of Islam. Yes, some of the latter are xenophobic and irrational. However, concerns about the growth of Islamist sentiments among Muslims, and the ability of Muslims to culturally integrate, have arisen across the European political spectrum.

To tar all condemnations of Islamism, or even Islam itself, as "Islamophobic" extremism, is utterly simplistic and wrong headed. For one thing, it draws an absurd moral equivalence between totalitarian extremists and those who would stand up to them. Secondly, if mainstream Europeans don't confront Islamism, then it will be left up to the actual bigots and Islamophobes to do so, thus helping to bring about the very polarization Sabatier rightly fears. Finally, Sabatier's implied condemnation of anti-Islamists contradicts his accurate diagnosis of the need for moderate European Muslims to combat extremism. How can the former be expected to stand up to the Islamists if non-Muslim Europeans won't?

My other disagreement is that, in my view, Sabatier underplays the threat posed by radical Islamists in Europe. On the one hand, he is right that they are a minority of a minority. Yet, as he admits, Islamists have gained a disproportionate influence through their use of violence and propaganda. Plus, thanks to the globalized media environment Sabatier outlines, radical Islamists in Europe are anything but a few isolated fanatics: they are the manifestation of a global totalitarian movement. As long as moderate Muslims refrain from speaking out against them, European Islamists will continue to grow in both numbers and influence, and threaten the intellectual freedom of both Muslim and non-Muslim Europeans.

Practicing Intellectual Diversity

Courtesy of Austin Bay, some interesting thoughts from Roger Kimball on the question of intellectual diversity:

"Diversity" is a quality much celebrated by the Left, or at least by the politically correct. But I have long suspected that it is a habit more actively practiced among conservatives. I thought of this the other night when my wife and I went to a small dinner party to celebrate a friend's 50th birthday. All seven of us were conservative. And though we ranged along that spectrum from Roman Catholic to Libertarian, we enjoyed a gratifying unanimity on certain topics--the folly of affirmative action for example. But on other important issues we were a veritable rainbow coalition of opinion.

Take religion. Conservatives, of course, are supposed to be "pro religion." And some of us were. But also among our number was a prominent conservative commentator who has made it her mission (one of them, anyway) to preach the gospel of radical secularism. Never one for half measures, she rejects agnosticism as a timid evasion. Like an anti-clerical Enlightenment firebrand, she advocates full-throated atheism, with the emphasis on the alpha privative: "against theism."

Certainly, there are open minded liberals and closed minded conservatives. I've encountered plenty of both. Overall, though, my experience accords with that of Mr. Kimball. For many on the Left, diversity is to be preached, not practiced.

Terrorism and Intellectual Freedom

Daniel Pipes provides an excellent brief explanation of the intellectual roots of Islamist terrorism:

Alas, this view ignored a third totalitarianism, growing since the 1920s, that of Islamism, most briefly defined as the belief that whatever the question, from child-rearing to war-making, "Islam is the solution." As the result of several factors – an historic rivalry with Jews and Christians, a boisterous birth rate, the capture of the Iranian state in 1979, support from oil-rich states – Islamists have come to dominate the ideological discourse of Muslims interested in their Islamic identity or faith.

Islamic law, in retreat over the previous two centuries, came roaring back, and with it jihad, or sacred war. The caliphate, defunct in real terms for over a millennium, became a vibrant dream. Ideas proffered by such thinkers and organizers as Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, Shah Waliullah, Sayyid Abu'l-A'la al-Mawdudi, Hasan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, and Rouhollah Khomeini aggressed successfully against traditional, modernist, and centrist approaches to Islam. To advance the poisoned vision of these utopians, their followers adopted violent means, including terrorism.

To win the struggle with radical Islamism, Pipes notes that it is necessary to enable moderate and reformist Muslims to offer an alternative to the totalitarian vision of the Islamists:

The most effective form of counterterrorism fights not the terrorists but the ideas that motivate them. This strategy involves two main steps. First, defeat the Islamist movement just as the fascist and communist movements were defeated – on every level and in every way, making use of every institution, public and private. This task falls mainly on non-Muslims, Muslim communities being generally incapable or unwilling to purge their own.

In contrast, only Muslims can undertake the second step, the formulation and spread of an Islam that is modern, moderate, democratic, liberal, good-neighborly, humane, and respectful of women. Here, non-Muslims can help by distancing themselves from Islamists and supporting moderate Muslims.

This is exactly what needs to be done. The problem, unfortunately, lies in how the Islamists have used violence and intimidation to suppress reformist voices within Islam. Mr. Pipes has ably documented this in his own research. This is why fostering intellectual freedom in the Islamic world is both difficult and essential. We in the West must do everything possible to prevent Islamists from censoring moderate Muslims if we are to defeat Jihadist terrorism and the ideas that sustain it.

A Study in Megalomania

Christina Lamb provides a chilling look at the despotic misrule of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe in today's Sunday Times.

ZIMBABWE has the highest inflation and lowest life expectancy in the world, not to mention the highest percentage of orphans. So desperate is the shortage of food that President Robert Mugabe’s own guards have been spotted shooting squirrels in Harare’s Botanical Gardens.

However, Mugabe, 82, may be rewarded by being made president for life at his party’s annual conference this week.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Ms. Lamb describes what happens to those who object to this state of affairs:

Anyone who dares to complain about the situation risks being beaten or arrested. The government is also attempting to block access to outside media by confiscating shortwave radios in rural areas in a crackdown that started this month. Wind-up and solar-powered radios were distributed by non- governmental organisations to give people access to broadcasters such as the BBC.

According to Nelson Chamisa, spokesman for one faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, its offices have been inundated with complaints from people who have had their radios seized.

Members of so-called listening clubs, which meet to listen to news on shared radios, have been threatened and told they are “selling out the country” by listening to “foreign” broadcasts.

Words vs. Actions

To be fair, I should note that not every individual who tries to speak at Columbia University is harassed by radical leftists. One speaker who was spared such disruptions is Iran's UN ambassador, Javad Zarif. However, when asked some tough questions by his audience this past Wednesday night, Mr. Zarif responded angrily. Fox News quotes the ambassador as follows:

"Do I have a right to freedom of expression?" Zarif challenged. "I'm answering. If you want to stifle the right of people to freedom of expression, that's your problem, not mine."

I'm pleased to see that Mr. Zarif is such a champion of freedom of expression. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, adopted a similar position in his recent letter to the American people:

We all deplore injustice, the trampling of peoples' rights and the intimidation and humiliation of human beings.

We all detest darkness, deceit, lies and distortion, and seek and admire salvation, enlightenment, sincerity and honesty.

In light of the comments of Ambassador Zarif and President Ahmadinejad, I thought it might be worthwhile to look at the Iranian regime's actual record on free expression. In a December 6th analysis, MEMRI summarized this record as follows:

On September 5, 2006, during a meeting with students on the Iranian National Youth Day, Ahmadinejad called to purge the Iranian universities of reformist and secular lecturers, saying: "Today, students have every right to criticize their president for the presence of liberal and secular lecturers at [the Iranian] universities... The task of replacing the secular lecturers has already begun... but bringing this change is very difficult... Our education system has been influenced by 150 years of secular thought... Changing the system is not easy, and we must accomplish it together." [1]

This statement followed a purge of the Iranian universities in May-June 2006. During this time, the regime forced dozens of lecturers whose views did not align with its policies to retire. University and faculty heads were replaced by associates of President Ahmadinejad, many of them lacking experience in academic administration. These moves evoked widespread protest on the part of university students and faculty, which have been brutally suppressed by the regime. [2] Today, a second wave of dismissals appears to be underway at the Iranian universities. [3]

In the past months, the regime has also targeted numerous websites and online papers affiliated with intellectuals and reformist dissidents. For example, the online dailies Sharq and Rouzegar and the monthly Nameh have been closed down, while the website Entekhab and the women's monthly Meidan-e Zanan have been blocked to readers inside Iran.

On December 4th, the Guardian reported that:

Iran yesterday shut down access to some of the world's most popular websites. Users were unable to open popular sites including and YouTube following instructions to service providers to filter them.

Similar edicts have been issued against Wikipedia, the internet encyclopaedia,, an online film database, and the New York Times site. Attempts to open the sites are met with a page reading: "The requested page is forbidden."

The clampdown was ordered by senior judiciary officials in the latest phase of a campaign that has seen high-speed broadband facilities banned in an attempt to impede "corrupting" foreign films and music. It is in line with a campaign by Iran's Islamist president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to purge the country of western cultural influences.

(According to Reporters Sans Frontieres, the New York Times site has since been unblocked.)

In a related development, Reporters Sans Frontieres revealed on November 27th "that all websites dealing with Iran will have to register with the culture ministry in the next two months."

The Iranian regime's obsession with censoring the Internet is easily explained by the spread of blogs and other web sites. It is estimated that there are anywhere from 70,000-100,000 Iranian blogs, many of which express dissenting viewpoints. In the words of John Naughton of the Observer, blogging has become "the only channel for free expression in Iran."

Still, the Ahmadinejad regime has not neglected more old fashioned forms of censorship, such as book banning:

Newly banned books include Farsi translations of Tracy Chevalier's best-seller Girl With a Pearl Earring and Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, the latter for upsetting clerics within Iran's tiny Christian community. Chevalier's novel has completed six print runs in Iran and earned hefty profits for its local publisher, Cheshme.

Another publishing house has been banned from selling a successful series of books featuring lyrics by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Doors, Black Sabbath, Queen and Guns n' Roses. Stores were told to remove the books or face closure. Permission was subsequently denied for the publisher to reprint.

The crackdown also covers classics, such as William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, and scores of works by Iranian authors.

I should note that there are some forms of free expression that are encouraged in Iran, such as anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Overall, though, Iran's Islamist regime has gone to great and brutal lengths to deny its citizens the rights of free speech and expression that we take for granted. While Ambassador Zarif undoubtedly knows a great deal about how to "stifle the right of people to freedom of expression", his own claims of victimization in this regard are nauseating and dishonest.

Denying Free Speech to Those who Defend it

I have been remiss in not linking to this New York Post op-ed by Matt Sanchez. As a Marine reservist and student at Columbia University, Sanchez has been subjected to the same climate of left-wing intolerance manifested during the October 4th speech by Minutemen founder Jim Gilchrist. In fact, the individual who has taken the lead in harassing Mr. Sanchez, one Monique Dols, was also involved in the Minutemen incident. Here is how Sanchez describes his encounters with Ms. Dols:

Back on Activities Day, Dols didn't just lecture me on my stupidity in serving our nation; she also yelled that I was a baby killer. For a Marine, being called a killer is almost flattering - but for months Dols and her friends had been disrupting pretty much every event I attended.

Most famously, her crowd rushed the stage at another group's event, preventing the guest (from the border-enforcement advocates, the Minutemen) from delivering his remarks, and nearly causing a riot.

That day, Dols claimed to be protesting for the recognition of the humanity of illegal Hispanic immigrants. Yet somehow her concern doesn't apply to a citizen Hispanics proud to serve this country and eager to go to college.

And the Columbia administration seems to agree. Despite bringing national embarrassment to the university with her actions, she's gone completely unpunished.

The university has chalked it up to free speech. All points of view are welcome at Columbia, from Venezuelan presidents to voices from vaginas.

Unless you're in the military.

There is nothing more disgraceful than denying free expression to those who risk their lives to defend it.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Why Azerbaijan Matters

The nation of Azerbaijan, located in the Caucasus Mountains between Russia and Iran, is a case study on the perilous state of free expression in many Muslim nations. On the one hand, a corrupt, dictatorial regime seeks to censor anti-government sentiments. At the same time, the country's Islamists, inspired by neighboring Iran, threaten violence against anyone who criticizes their totalitarian vision of Islam. The Rafik Tagi situation, which I've written about previously, shows how both of these phenomena have come together to threaten intellectual freedom in Azerbaijan.

Earlier this week, Reporters Sans Frontieres spoke out against the growing wave of censorship undertaken by the Azeri regime. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) provides the details:

In an open letter to President Ilham Aliyev, the Paris-based media rights group criticized the evictions last month of three media outlets -- the independent Turan news agency, and the opposition "Azadliq" and "Bizim Yol" newspapers -- from their Baku offices.

The group also criticized the authorities' October decision to revoke the license of the independent television station ANS, which was retransmitting BBC, RFE/RL, and Voice of America broadcasts.

The letter says such acts show that Azerbaijani "authorities are taking a harder line on free expression and press freedom." It also said that the "independent, opposition and, foreign media are being systematically targeted."

It calls on Aliyev to "intervene to ensure that press freedom is respected in Azerbaijan," and warns that any restrictions could affect the 2008 presidential election.

The full text of the letter is available at the RSF web site. This article from the IWPR offers more information on the closure of the ANS television station.

Why does the situation in Azerbaijan matter? It matters because the violent censorship of the Islamists feeds off of the climate of censorship created by the Azeri regime. The willingness of the state to crackdown on dissenting opinions only encourages the Islamists to expand their efforts to do the same. It also creates a cycle of censorship where, as with Rafik Tagi, the regime itself acts against those who offend the Islamists in order to placate the latter. This leads to a situation where liberal or reformist voices have a hard time being heard, and the Islamists become by default the only viable alternative to the status quo. This has been the pattern in much of the Muslim world.

Defending Free Expression in Turkey

Earlier this week, the International Herald Tribune published a must read essay from Turkish professor Atilla Yayla. Professor Yayla had the temerity to criticize the founder of the Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, during a recent panel session. In his article, he discusses the consequences of his remarks:

What is the defining line between a civilized and uncivilized country? In my own experience in Turkey since Nov. 19, it is freedom of expression: I have been accused of treason in the press and suspended from my university for defending the common values of civilization and re-evaluating Turkey's history.

Please read the read:

Freedom of Expression in Turkey

"The guilty verdict in this case is what harms the image of Islam."

Courtesy of Michelle Malkin, the BBC reports that another Yemeni newspaper editor has been convicted for republishing the Danish Mohammed cartoons:

A Yemeni editor has been fined for reprinting controversial cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad from a Danish newspaper earlier this year.

Muhammad Assadi of the Yemen Observer daily was found guilty of denigrating Islam and fined 0.5m riyals (£1,280).

The cartoons caused Muslim anger around the world. Mr Assadi said he wanted to show Yemenis how insulting they were.

Last month a Yemeni editor was jailed for a year for reprinting the images. Another still faces similar charges.

The following quote from Mr. Assadi's lawyer describes matters far more eloquently than I could:

"The guilty verdict in this case is what harms the image of Islam."

(Emphasis added-DD)

Friday, December 08, 2006

"This blasphemy ought to be punished."

I have written previously about the case of Rafiq Tagi, an Azeri journalist sentenced to death by several Iranian clerics. This November 30th article from IWPR describes how protests by Azeri Islamists instigated the controversy:

Nardaran, a village with strong Islamic traditions, has been leading the protests. On November 17, Haji Ali, one of the leaders of the local religious community, summoned crowds by striking a stone against a pillar in Imam Husein square in the centre of the village. Teenagers, who had climbed on a wall, joined him, banging iron rods against a gas pipe. This noisy call to action
reverberated through the village.

By three o’clock, the square was teeming with devout believers, who form an overwhelming majority in the village. “Last week we, the residents of Nardaran, condemned Rafik Taghi and the editor-in-chief of the newspaper”, said Haji Ali, beginning his speech. “Our religion knows only one punishment for such people, which is execution. This is not our decision, this is what our holy book prescribes. The authorities sentenced the journalists to two weeks in custody. But that is not enough!


The latest row began at the beginning of this month, when Senet (Trade), a Baku-based bimonthly with a circulation of 2000 copies, published an article by Taghi entitled “Europe and us”. The author criticised Azerbaijanis’ lifestyle and made some remarks about the Prophet Mohammed, which many of the country’s Muslims interpreted as insulting. Whether Nardaran’s residents had heard about Senet before, the controversy around the article found its way into the village, causing a storm of outrage that believers from surrounding villages were quick to support.

Protesters carried banners with religious inscriptions and placards saying “Death to Israel!” All speeches were met with a loud “Allahu Akbar!” Guests from other villages spoke out to express their support for Nardaran. American and Israel flags were brought to the square just to be tramped on and burnt.

(Emphasis added-DD)

The following quotes from one Nardaran leader amply display the xenophobia and intolerance that make Islamism such a threat to intellectual freedom:

Hajiaga Nuriev, one of the village’s elders and chairman of Azerbaijan’s Islamic Party, suggested Taghi was part of a wider conspiracy. “Both domestic and foreign forces have an interest in this,” he said. “We think that people such as Rafik Taghi are acting on behalf of international Zionism and Armenia, and they have deliberately damaged Azerbaijan’s credibility with its brothers-in-faith.

“In this situation, the residents of Nardaran could not have acted otherwise…to the enemies of Islam… who discredited Azerbaijan in the eyes of the world. This blasphemy ought to be punished.”

The article states that "Taghi and his editor Samir Sadagatoglu were arrested in mid-November and sentenced to two months in jail for kindling religious intolerance." I think it's abundantly clear that Taghi and Sadagatoglu aren't the ones "kindling religious intolerance", but have been victimized by it instead.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Pray or Else

The Associated Press reports yet another sign that Somalia is headed for despotism under the rule of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU):

Residents of a southern Somalia town who do not pray five times a day will be beheaded, an official said Wednesday, adding the edict will be implemented in three days.

Shops, tea houses and other public places in Bulo Burto, about 124 miles northeast of the capital, Mogadishu, should be closed during prayer time and no one should be on the streets, said Sheik Hussein Barre Rage, the chairman of the town's Islamic court. His court is part of a network backed by armed militiamen that has taken control of much of southern Somalia in recent months, bringing a strict interpretation of Islam that is alien to many Somalis.

Those who do not follow the prayer edict after three days have elapsed, "will definitely be beheaded according to Islamic law," Rage told The Associated Press by phone. "As Muslims we should practice Islam fully, not in part, and that is what our religion enjoins us to do."

He said the edict, which covered only Bulo Burto, was being announced over loudspeakers throughout the town.

(Emphasis added-DD)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Answering Some Questions

I've debated for a while now whether or not to answer this rather bizarre inquiry I've received repeatedly over the past week. I'm not really sure it's worth dignifying with a response, but here goes. My questioner asks the following:

Dave, can I have your assistance in some research I am conducting for a term paper? The hypothesis I am examining is that the Internet sites promoting fear and/or hatred of Arabs and Islam in the majority of cases are Jewish-run.

What makes the question particularly interesting (at least to me) is that the results seem to bridge the liberal/conservative divide. The "Islamo-fascist" theme that I am investigating is being promoted by spokesmen across the political spectrum -- from Bernard Lewis and Thomas Friedman on the left to Daniel Pipes and Charles Krauthammer on the right. All that these individuals have in common is their allegiance to Zionism.

Where do I begin? If by "promoting fear and/or hatred of Arabs and Islam" you mean I oppose a totalitarian political movement that has murdered hundred of thousands of Muslims, prevents many Muslims from practicing their faith, and censors those Muslims who oppose it through intimidation and murder, then I plead guilty. Of course, your interpretation of my views is nonsense. If this was 1936, no doubt you would be accusing me of spreading "fear and/or hatred of Germans and Germany" for speaking out against the threat posed by Nazism.

I have rarely if ever used the term "Islamo-fascism". I prefer Islamism or radical Islamism, as does the aforementioned Daniel Pipes. I would point out that even scholars who reject the idea of Islamism as a form of fascism, such as Walter Laqueur and Michael Burleigh, note that there are numerous similarities between the two phenomena.

As for the Jewish web conspiracy you posit, I'll address that after quoting your next paragraph:

Of course the name Durant seems to contradict the thesis. But on the other hand I also find what seems to be confirming evidence: virtually every post on your site seems to concern either Islam or Israel.

Let me see if I understand your thesis: In your view, only Jews put up web sites that discuss the threat of radical Islamism. Therefore, since I focus on the threat to intellectual freedom posed by that ideology, I must be Jewish. I'm thinking someone flunked logic class, and it's not me.

Actually, I am a proud supporter of the state of Israel. However, I don't actually post very much about that country. Unfortunately, I'm simply not giving my Zionist paymasters their money's worth in that regard.

The next paragraph, though, is even better:

So if you do not consider it too personal, I wonder if you would tell me whether you identify yourself as Jewish? This would enable me accurately tally this site in my study. I would be happy to share my statistical findings to date, if you are interested. Once I have gathered the data, in the next stage I hope to begin exploring the question of motivation.

I have a question of my own: Would you like me to state my answer directly, or should I just put a yellow star on my blog?

Anyway, I'm flattered that you think I'm Jewish, but I'm afraid I'm merely a token Goy. Now, let me tell you what I really think of your thesis: It is infantile at best, blatantly anti-Semitic at worst. There are numerous anti-Islamist web sites. The idea that all or most of them are run by Jews is idiotic. LGF, Watch, and Jihad Watch are just three examples of sites run by my fellow Goyim. Are most anti-Islamist sites pro-Israel? Of course. Just as I'm sure many sites devoted to exposing "Islamophobia" and/or appeasing the Islamists are run by people who hate Israel.

As for "exploring the question of motivation", let me save you some steps. Just over five years ago, there was this little incident involving aircraft and buildings and thousands of people dying. You may have heard of it. Anyway, you might be surprised to learn that this wasn't actually a series of accidents. Rather, the planes were hijacked and crashed on purpose, by members of an Islamist terror organization that had openly declared war on the US, and has since vowed to kill 4 million Americans. You might have been willing to write all this off as a really bad day, but some of us were affected a bit more deeply.

At least you thought to include one caveat:

(If you are a Rapturist, I apologize. I recognize that this is a possibility, but I have found that this group, while much discussed, has actually a very tiny presence on the Internet, particularly when compared to the Jewish Zionists.)

Rapturist?? Rapturist??? You've got to be freaking kidding me.

In conclusion, I hope that you've come away from this having learned that there are indeed people who are neither Jewish nor "Rapturists" who are concerned about the threat of radical Islamism and support Israel. Trying to teach you much more than that would require an investment of time and energy that I'm simply not willing to spend.