July 8, 2008
Sameh El-Shahat argues that George W Bush has been the most under-rated president… ever.
So, the hot news now is Barack Obama.
Obama this, Obama that… Naturally, it is very laudable that the United States may have chosen to look beyond the issue of race and opted for a person purely on the merit of his character. But what will they find?
The usual hot air that Washington politicians seem to have made their own. Mr Obama is no different. We’re just too politically correct to say that the only thing refreshing about him is his colour. So we say he’s “bipartisan”, or he’s a “uniter”.
Whatever happened to leadership and honesty as presidential traits? I happen to believe that the only leader in the West to have these two admirable qualities in droves is the leader of the free world: George W Bush.
Yes, we’ve all heard the Bushisms and laughed at them but do you really think somebody supposedly that thick can make it to the top of the most sophisticated political system the world has ever seen?
No, and that is because Mr Bush is far cleverer than most of his predecessors. He may not have been a Rhodes Scholar, but he has the ability to reach out to his people and read them.
Take the Iraq war for example. OK, so he got us into Iraq in the first place. But for Pete’s sake, he’s the leader of the world’s only superpower. He needs to take decisions, even if sometimes they have nasty consequences – which is far better than we do in Europe, where we enjoy dithering not as a means to an end, but as an end in itself.
Something had to be done about Iraq and our government was all for attacking it too. So let’s not blame G.W. for the war.
And when things did go wrong in Iraq, and there were calls to pull out, Mr Bush just followed his own counsel and doubled his bet with the Surge.
And he was right because Iraq is in a relatively better shape today than it ever was and Al Qa’eda is a shadow of its former self in that country.
This is a man who has the courage of his convictions.
Let’s not forget how Europe does wars.
Usually we wait and wait until the enemy starts attacking, then we let them win a bit, then we fight until we are tired, then we just call the US to come over to clean our mess.
That is what happened in WWI, WWII, and the Balkans.
Bush is just showing us what a bunch of dangerous ditherers we are and we hate him for it. Naturally.
And the Olympics. Bush said right from the beginning that he’s going to the opening ceremony because he saw the whole boycott thing as silly and counterproductive.
Compare that with Sarkozy who has changed his mind twice so far and to Gordon Brown who, well… err.
Not much leadership from Europe here, as usual, just doublespeak. Once again, it is to Bush that we look for leadership.
Bush may not have the slickness of his predecessor, but he is a man you can trust and who prefers to tell it like it is.
This is refreshing, and very scary for us who are used to our politicians always talking grandly about principles and hiding behind political mumbo-speak.
The fact is you guys hate Mr Bush because he is not a hypocrite and you are used to hypocrites as your leaders. We hate what we don’t understand.
Yes, yes, all you bleeding heart liberals are cringing out there. I can just hear you. But the fact is, Mr Bush has had to take some very tough decisions and the world needs people who can not only talk but also act tough and admit mistakes.
Of course you think Mr Obama is going to make a difference, but as I write this, he’s already giving all the signs of somebody who will say anything to get into power only to act in exactly the same way as the Washington clique he aims to replace!
Hating George W. Bush is not only dull and unoriginal, but it shows a complete lack of understanding of the world in which we live in.
You want liberty but you don’t want to defend it… right.
And for those of you who still don’t buy into what I’m saying, look at the Middle East. Bush single-handedly managed to unite the Arabs in their hate for him.
Given how difficult uniting the Arabs is, it takes a special man with special skills to achieve this. He is just the kind of man to bring about peace in that region!
July 8, 2008
On a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary tonight the Labour MP Shahid Malik apparently says:
Many British Muslims feel like the Jews of Europe…Shahid Malik, who was appointed as a minister in the Department for International Development (Dfid) by Gordon Brown last summer, said it has become legitimate to target Muslims in the media and society at large in a way that would be unacceptable for any other minority.
Mr Malik made clear that he was not equating the situation with the Holocaust but warned that many British Muslims now felt like ‘aliens in their own country’. He said he himself had been the target of a string of racist incidents, including the firebombing of his family car and an attempt to run him down at a petrol station.
‘I think most people would agree that if you ask Muslims today what do they feel like, they feel like the Jews of Europe,’ he said. ‘I don’t mean to equate that with the Holocaust but in the way that it was legitimate almost – and still is in some parts – to target Jews, many Muslims would say that we feel the exact same way. Somehow there’s a message out there that it’s OK to target people as long as it’s Muslims. And you don’t have to worry about the facts, and people will turn a blind eye.’
These remarks are simply disgraceful and totally unacceptable. To equate the situation of British Muslims today with Jews in Nazi Europe is despicable, and not mitigated one whit by the weaselly caveat. The Jews of Europe were singled out for persecution and annihilation. British Muslims are being singled out for neither. Nor are they being singled out for attack. Yes of course there is prejudice towards them, just as there is prejudice towards all kinds of racial or ethnic minorities. The attacks Malik describes are real enough. But there is remarkably little animosity towards them, considering the fact that, according to the head of MI5, there are currently some 2000 known British Muslim terrorist suspects –and in reality probably twice that number — and that according to opinion polls, hundreds of thousands of British Muslims would support terrorist violence against British institutions.
Yes, we must also be mindful that the majority would not, and for sure we must be careful not to victimise all for the crimes of the minority – not least because secular Muslims are themselves acutely at risk from the Islamists. But that’s a pretty huge minority that presents such an appalling problem – one which Shahid Malik strangely doesn’t mention and which the British Muslim community has ever even unequivocally acknowledged, let alone shown any sign of dealing with it.
Muslims today are not the Jews of Europe. The Jews today are the Jews of Europe. It is not Muslim schools which are routinely forced to put up razor wire; it is not Muslims who are advised not to wear distinctive religious apparel in the street because of the risk of being beaten up; it is not Mosque services or Muslim communal meetings that have to be guarded, every single one of them, against attack. According to the police, attacks on Jews are running at a far higher rate than upon Muslims. It is British Jews who have to be thus protected against the ever-present threat of violence by both Muslims and neo-fascists.
The comparison is both a kind of Holocaust denial and an implicit denial of the current threat facing this country. Malik is not some obscure Labour backbencher. He is a minister in Gordon Brown’s government. The fact that he can say such a thing and remain a minister – indeed, with no apparent public rebuke at all — is itself a telling commentary on our times.
While we’re on the subject of anti-Jew bigotry, people might be entertained by the way Lee Barnes, the legal director of the BNP, has replied to my earlier post pointing out that his anti-Jew ravings about the Jewish control of Hollywood and the ‘Zionist-controlled’ Community Security Trust (which has nothing to do with Israel) rather punctured the BNP’s assiduously created myth that its Jew-hatred is now a thing of the past. So put out is Barnes that anyone might think he is anti-Jew, he now believes that I should be deported to Israel since apparently Britain is not my own country:
The simple solution to this problem of the Islamist Lobby groups and the Zionist lobby groups fighting against each other is simple, why dont both the Zionists and the Islamists both piss off out of our country… When blood is being split on our streets by extremists in the name of their respective alien ideologies, then the time has come for the deportations to begin. The place for your insane racial, political, theological and territorial disputes is in the Middle East, not in Britain. Why dont both the Zionists and Islamists just slither back to their respective deserts and leave us to get on with our lives.
Oh dear. I think this is called ‘when in a hole, don’t just keep digging but drag in a goalpost for good measure and kick the ball into your own net’.
AIX-LES-BAINS, France — Since 1860, when Napoleon III appropriated this ancient Roman spa at the foot of the Alps for his empire, the National Baths of Aix-les-Bains have been a symbol of France’s cushy health-care system.
On a recent morning, Jacqueline Surmont and her husband, Guy, a 77-year-old retired construction worker, headed for their daily mud wrap. The spa’s rheumatism cures, thermal baths and 13-minute deep-tissue massage all are covered by France’s national health-insurance system. Transportation and lodging are, too.
These days, however, Aix-les-Bains is in hot water. Vowing to trim the fat in France’s bloated public sector, President Nicolas Sarkozy has announced 23,000 civil-service job cuts. That includes half the spa’s 165 state-employed physiotherapists.
“Of course we went on strike,” said Martine Claret, a 52-year-old physiotherapist who has worked at the spa since 1979 and doubles as a union representative. She held up a banner used during a recent protest.
“Yesterday: Indispensable; Today: Undesirable.”
Unlike most French leaders, who have cowered before France’s six-million-strong army of state-sector workers, Mr. Sarkozy is taking them on. He says the salaries and pensions of teachers, postal workers, bus drivers, television anchors, tax police and many others weigh like a ton on public finances — even though many of the jobs are obsolete.
France has the same number of passport-control officers it had 15 years ago, even though border controls for travelers within most of the European Union have been abolished, Mr. Sarkozy scoffed in a recent speech. There are 721 French diplomats in the former colony of Senegal, which has a population of about 12.5 million, and only 271 in India. “How is that normal?” the French president asked in another speech.
…The physiotherapists aren’t taking this lying down. A 10-day strike in March left 1,700 patients stranded in their bathrobes. Now, Ms. Claret says she’s trying to get local business leaders to help lobby the government on the need to preserve the state-run spa.
“If it is managed like a private company, the spa risks losing its soul,” says Jean-Pierre Grouzard, chairman of FFCM, France’s federation of spa patients. “It will be a factory.”
July 8, 2008
Barack Obama wants to hold a speech at the Brandenburg Gate when he comes to Berlin later this month. The city’s mayor wants to grant him his wish, but the German chancellor has misgivings.
The warning from the Chancellery was clear: The Brandenburg Gate is the “most famous and history-rich location in Germany,” a Chancellery source said on Monday. In the past, it has only been used on very special occasions for addresses by politicians, and when, then only by elected American presidents. More clearly stated: Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama would be better off looking for another location in the German capital to hold a speech.
But Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit appeared unimpressed by the warning from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office and said during a press conference on Tuesday that he would be pleased if Obama were to address the public at the Brandenburg Gate.
“We are not ruling anything out,” a spokesman for the Berlin city council told SPIEGEL ONLINE. “The Brandenburg Gate would certainly be a nice place.” The local government also pointed out that the decision over where Obama should make his appearance was in the hands of the city council of Berlin and not the chancellor’s office or the federal government.
In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, an Obama adviser confirmed that the Brandenburg Gate would be the Democratic candidate’s top choice for the location of a speech on trans-Atlantic relations. It would be a “simply great” backdrop, the adviser said. After all, the source added, John F. Kennedy’s famous appearance outside the Schöneberg Town Hall in 1963 was still very much alive in people’s memories.
Some suspect Mayor Wowereit’s remarks may be self-serving. Jürgen Trittin, deputy floor leader of The Green Party in the German parliament, predicted that Obama would end up speaking at the Brandenburg Gate. “Do you think that Wowereit would miss the chance to appear alongside Barack Obama,” he asked an interviewer on the German news channel N24. “I believe Wowereit is thinking: ‘He should appear, I will come into the picture and everything will be great’.”
In fact, that doesn’t seem to be too far of the mark. That’s why the Chancellery expressly warned against making one of the country’s main symbols of democracy available to anyone as a backdrop for a foreign election campaign rally.
In the meantime, though, the German government has already come up with a compromise. Obama, government officials have suggested, doesn’t need to hold a talk — he could simply walk through the gate.
“Until now every American guest walked through the Brandenburg Gate,” Karsten Voigt, the government’s coordinator on German-American cooperation said. “Journalists have always been present. And the guest has always had something to say.”
July 8, 2008
From Foreign Affairs, come this exceptional article by Walter Russell Mead.
Summary: The real key to Washington’s pro-Israel policy is long-lasting and broad-based support for the Jewish state among the American public at large.
On May 12, 1948, Clark Clifford, the White House chief counsel, presented the case for U.S. recognition of the state of Israel to the divided cabinet of President Harry Truman. While a glowering George Marshall, the secretary of state, and a skeptical Robert Lovett, Marshall’s undersecretary, looked on, Clifford argued that recognizing the Jewish state would be an act of humanity that comported with traditional American values. To substantiate the Jewish territorial claim, Clifford quoted the Book of Deuteronomy: “Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them.”
Marshall was not convinced and told Truman that he would vote against him in the upcoming election if this was his policy. Eventually, Marshall agreed not to make his opposition public. Two days later, the United States granted the new Jewish state de facto recognition 11 minutes after Israel declared its existence as a state. Many observers, both foreign and domestic, attributed Truman’s decision to the power of the Jewish community in the United States. They saw Jewish votes, media influence, and campaign contributions as crucial in the tight 1948 presidential contest.
Since then, this pattern has often been repeated. Respected U.S. foreign policy experts call for Washington to be cautious in the Middle East and warn presidents that too much support for Israel will carry serious international costs. When presidents overrule their expert advisers and take a pro-Israel position, observers attribute the move to the “Israel lobby” and credit (or blame) it for swaying the chief executive. But there is another factor to consider. As the Truman biographer David McCullough has written, Truman’s support for the Jewish state was “wildly popular” throughout the United States. A Gallup poll in June 1948 showed that almost three times as many Americans “sympathized with the Jews” as “sympathized with the Arabs.” That support was no flash in the pan. Widespread gentile support for Israel is one of the most potent political forces in U.S. foreign policy, and in the last 60 years, there has never been a Gallup poll showing more Americans sympathizing with the Arabs or the Palestinians than with the Israelis.
Over time, moreover, the pro-Israel sentiment in the United States has increased, especially among non-Jews. The years of the George W. Bush administration have seen support for Israel in U.S. public opinion reach the highest level ever, and it has remained there throughout Bush’s two terms. The increase has occurred even as the demographic importance of Jews has diminished. In 1948, Jews constituted an estimated 3.8 percent of the U.S. population. Assuming that almost every American Jew favored a pro-Israel foreign policy that year, a little more than ten percent of U.S. supporters of Israel were of Jewish origin. By 2007, Jews were only 1.8 percent of the population of the United States, accounting at most for three percent of Israel’s supporters in the United States.
These figures, dramatic as they are, also probably underestimate the true level of public support for Israel. When in a poll in 2006 the Pew Research Center asked whether U.S. policy in the Middle East was fair, favored Israel, or favored the Palestinians, 47 percent of the respondents said they thought the policy was fair, six percent said it favored the Palestinians, and only 27 percent thought it favored the Israelis. The poll was conducted during Israel’s attacks against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, when U.S. support for Israel was even more controversial than usual around the world. One must therefore conclude that many of those who tell pollsters that the United States’ policies are fair to both sides actually favor policies that most non-U.S. observers would consider strongly and even irresponsibly pro-Israel. The American public has few foreign policy preferences that are this marked, this deep, this enduring — and this much at odds with public opinion in other countries.
In the United States, a pro-Israel foreign policy does not represent the triumph of a small lobby over the public will. It represents the power of public opinion to shape foreign policy in the face of concerns by foreign policy professionals. Like the war on drugs and the fence along the Mexican border, support for Israel is a U.S. foreign policy that makes some experts and specialists uneasy but commands broad public support. This does not mean that an “Israel lobby” does not exist or does not help shape U.S. policy in the Middle East. Nor does it mean that Americans ought to feel as they do. (It remains my view that everyone, Americans and Israelis included, would benefit if Americans developed a more sympathetic and comprehensive understanding of the wants and needs of the Palestinians.) But it does mean that the ultimate sources of the United States’ Middle East policy lie outside the Beltway and outside the Jewish community. To understand why U.S. policy is pro-Israel rather than neutral or pro-Palestinian, one must study the sources of nonelite, non-Jewish support for the Jewish state.
THE CHILDREN OF DAVID
The story of U.S. support for a Jewish state in the Middle East begins early. John Adams could not have been more explicit. “I really wish the Jews again in Judea an independent nation,” he said, after his presidency. From the early nineteenth century on, gentile Zionists fell into two main camps in the United States. Prophetic Zionists saw the return of the Jews to the Promised Land as the realization of a literal interpretation of biblical prophecy, often connected to the return of Christ and the end of the world. Based on his interpretation of Chapter 18 of the prophecies of Isaiah, for example, the Albany Presbyterian pastor John McDonald predicted in 1814 that Americans would assist the Jews in restoring their ancient state. Mormon voices shared this view; the return of the Jews to the Holy Land was under way, said Elder Orson Hyde in 1841: “The great wheel is unquestionably in motion, and the word of the Almighty has declared that it shall roll.”
Other, less literal and less prophetic Christians developed a progressive Zionism that would resonate down through the decades among both religious and secular gentiles. In the nineteenth century, liberal Christians often believed that God was building a better world through human progress. They saw the democratic and (relatively) egalitarian United States as both an example of the new world God was making and a powerful instrument to further his grand design. Some American Protestants believed that God was moving to restore what they considered the degraded and oppressed Jews of the world to the Promised Land, just as God was uplifting and improving the lives of other ignorant and unbelieving people through the advance of Protestant and liberal principles. They wanted the Jews to establish their own state because they believed that this would both shelter the Jews from persecution and, through the redemptive powers of liberty and honest agricultural labor, uplift and improve what they perceived to be the squalid morals and deplorable hygiene of contemporary Ottoman and eastern European Jews. As Adams put it, “Once restored to an independent government and no longer persecuted they would soon wear away some of the asperities and peculiarities of their character and possibly in time become liberal Unitarian Christians.” For such Christians, American Zionism was part of a broader program of transforming the world by promoting the ideals of the United States.
July 8, 2008
Some commentators say Americans are looking for the candidate with a ‘story’ that captures their vision for their country — but in the end the hero is just a politician.
Today, on their nation’s 232nd birthday, Americans are an anxious lot. Their economy wobbles. Russia and China challenge their superpower status. Distant wars tax the nation’s treasure and citizens’ patriotism. Thus, thoughtful Americans will mark Independence Day asking serious questions about their country’s future.
Perhaps, though, if there is one question that encapsulates all others, it is this: What is the American “story” for the foreseeable future?
I’ve taken this concept of “story” from Walter Fisher, a communications theorist who argues that humans are essentially storytellers, and that all communication — history, art, language, science, etc. — is a form of storytelling. That is to say, the world is a collection of “stories” — or “narrative paradigms,” to use Fisher’s terms — that we constantly examine for coherence and check against our experience as we attempt to create meaningful lives, individually and collectively.
You can readily see how this idea functions at the political level. Obviously, various factors determine political success — everything from the state of the economy to the weather on voting day — but a deeper dynamic is also at play. When you vote, you are not only endorsing a particular politician, but also saying something about yourself, about your ideals and aspirations (or lack thereof, as the case may be). The politician who wins elections is one whose story a majority identifies with.
Paul Waldman, a political analyst for American Prospect, argues that this notion of “story” provides the subtext to the presidential race between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama. The latter is a 46-year-old multicultural Harvard-educated lawyer, the first black presidential candidate, who casts himself as the man who can inspire Americans to transcend their partisan divisions. The former is a 71-year-old Vietnam veteran imprisoned and tortured by the North Vietnamese, who has become a living symbol of duty and heroism. He calls on Americans to remember the traditions of patriotism and service that sustains the country in troubled times.
Which story will Americans make their own? Judging by the polls many Americans have yet to buy into Obama’s narrative of “change we can believe in.” True, he has wide support among blacks, the young and educated urbanites, but he is challenged by his lack of experience, particularly on international geo-politics. McCain, on the other hand, is popular among older white men and women, Latinos and blue-collar workers. Nonetheless, many question whether, despite his military credentials and long political experience, he is simply too old for the job.
These doubts about the candidates not only point up demographic divisions — youth versus age, tradition versus change, etc. — but also suggest that the American “narrative paradigm” is shifting. The issues in this presidential campaign include not only political and economic concerns like Iraq and the mortgage crisis, but cultural questions related to shifting generational values. Obama, who was born in 1961 at the tail end of the post-war baby boom, is the first post-boomer presidential candidate, and those who support him, Waldman notes, “see themselves as avatars of a new age in American life” in which issues of race, sexual identity and cultural differences are no longer relevant.
If Americans are at a generational tipping point, so to speak, the 44th president will likely be the one who best articulates the story Americans imagine for and about themselves. This is how past presidential campaigns have worked, as Waldman points out.
John Kennedy, for example, inspired Americans to think of what they could do for their country. Ronald Reagan offered a story of America riding tall in the saddle, not afraid to challenge the “evil empire.” Sometimes, though, a good story doesn’t result in a good president. In 1976, in the aftermath of Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal, Jimmy Carter presented a story of clean and morally unambiguous politics. His naiveté proved his undoing. Carter’s indecisive responses to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian hostage crisis brought his presidency to its knees.
Bill Clinton, too, told a good story. During the 1992 campaign, Clinton convinced Americans that the incumbent, George H.W. Bush, was out of touch and that only he felt their pain. In the end, after various scandals, Clinton’s story proved to be mostly about his pain.
The current president, George W. Bush, was also a good storyteller. In the wake of Clinton’s impeachment, he cast himself as the man to restore dignity to the presidency, and, hence, to the country. You can argue, as many do, that Bush’s story proved disastrous, but considering the improving situation in Iraq and the latest gesture of nuclear surrender from North Korea, one of the original members of the “axis of evil,” it is premature to judge Bush’s story.
As for the current presidential storytellers, there’s no question that Obama has so far told a better tale. The essential quality of the Obama campaign has been the candidate’s ability to convince many Americans that the story he is telling is about their ideals and aspirations. “America, this is our moment,” he says.
What about McCain’s story? Waldman is dismissive: “The key moment in McCain’s personal story happened 40 years ago. It does not connect to anything the public wants out of their next president.”
I don’t agree that McCain is disconnected from the realistic aspirations of Americans. That’s like saying experience is irrelevant in politics. McCain possesses the charisma of steadfastness, the prudence of a man who knows the world too well to indulge in unrealistic hopes. I’m no doubt betraying my generational bias, but I have more confidence in a tried and tested “man of honour” than in an inexperienced product of Chicago’s notoriously corrupt political machine, no matter how charismatic. Indeed, Obama’s charisma is worrisome because it can so easily become demagoguery.
That said, there’s no denying the younger candidate has captured the zeitgeist, especially the antipathy toward the Bush administration. Obama has defined himself as the “man of destiny,” the candidate who can overcome racial divisions, bring home the troops and persuade terrorists to the ways of peace. This makes Obama’s story one of redemption and salvation. He speaks to a deep-seated desire on the part of Americans for a happier story, a safer place, than the one they have lived with since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in 2001.
The desire for a happy ending is understandable, but unlike Waldman, who hopes Americans are “transported” by Obama’s story, I find such longing problematic. Obama’s narrative reflects a notion that political theorist Michael Oakeshott famously warned against: the idea that politics is about finding a safe harbour.
It is not. There is no such anchorage in this world. Politics is about keeping the ship of state afloat. To regard politics as a means of redemption and politicians as saviours is dangerous. This was the horrific lesson of the 20th century, but even at a less extreme level the notion of salvation through politics is harmful. When the post-election realities of wielding power become evident, as inevitably they must, there is a bitter backlash from those disappointed that the person whose story they made their own has not produced the desired ending. The result is a sense of betrayal that fosters cynicism about politics and politicians, and, ultimately, corrodes support for liberal democracy.
The story to which Americans need to subscribe in this election year is that they cannot assuage their anxieties by indulging in political fantasy.
Thanks to reader VK for this heads up.
From the Centre For Social Cohesion:
Hate On The State: How British libraries encourage Islamic extremism
British libraries are funded by the UK taxpayer to educate and entertain the British public. Their range of books reflects the breadth of interests of the nation. However a number of public libraries in the UK stock substantial quantities of literature preaching violent jihad in the most heavily Muslim areas of the country.
Although this problem exists in numerous public libraries, in Waltham Forest, Birmingham and Blackburn, the following report mainly focuses on one such library service – that of Tower Hamlets in east London which has the largest Muslim population of any London borough. Tower Hamlets’ eight lending libraries contain several hundred books and audiotapes by radical Islamists, stocking the works and words of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami, many senior Wahhabi clerics and even preachers who have been convicted in the UK of incitement to murder.
Many of these books stocked in the Islam section of libraries:
• Glorify acts of terrorism against followers of other religions
• Incite violence against anyone who rejects jihadist ideologies
• Endorse violence and discrimination against women
In a number of cases these books are not only on library shelves but are also given special prominence in displays. Such books abuse traditions of rationalism and tolerance and risk damaging community cohesion. In the worst cases they are the tools of radicalisation and increase the risk of Islamic terrorism. [emp-SC&A]
Two examples are particularly striking:
Abu Hamza al-Masri is currently in prison, serving a seven year sentence for incitement. His sermons in Finsbury Park Mosque influenced, among others, Zacarias Moussaoui, the convicted ‘twentieth hijacker’ of 9/11, and Richard Reid, the ‘shoebomber’. In Tower Hamlets libraries several copies of Abu Hamza’s writings on jihad are freely available and are uncritically presented on open shelves.
Abdullah al-Faisal was jailed for soliciting murder in 2003, having repeatedly called for the murder of all non-Muslims. After serving his sentence he was deported in 2007. One of the 7/7 London bombers, Germaine Lindsay, attended his sermons. Yet in Tower Hamlets libraries several copies of al-Faisal’s books can be read by any member of the public.
The work of such convicted criminals are the tip of the iceberg. The libraries of Tower Hamlets also play host to disproportionate quantities of radical literature by people who could best be described as ‘terrorism enablers’ – people who provide the spiritual and theological justifications for acts of violent jihad. For example, the Tower Hamlets library catalogue contains no fewer than 39 works by Ibn Taymiyya, many of which are held in multiple copies. Ibn Taymiyya was a medieval scholar who is regarded by bin Laden and others as the leading advocate of Islamic ‘total war’. The work of modern pro-jihadist writers – and of conservative Saudi clerics in particular – is also stocked in large numbers. For example, Watney Market library in Tower Hamlets contains a book called Jihad in the Quran and Sunna by Abdullah bin Muhammad bin Humaid, the former chief justice of Saudi Arabia. In the book, bin Hamaid writes that “Jihad is a great deed indeed and there is no deed whose reward or blessing is as that of it, and for this reason, it is the best thing that one can volunteer for.”
The works of Wahhabi clerics, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jamaat-e-Islami who have habitually urged violence against both non-Islamic governments and non- Muslims in general are also prominently stocked in the libraries. For example, Tower Hamlets libraries stock several dozen books that either are written by Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab (the founder of Wahhabism) or are uncritical explanations of his doctrines. In addition the borough’s libraries stock hundreds of volumes of work by writers such as Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb and Abu Ala al-Maududi – all of whom called for violent jihads to be waged against any people who did not follow their interpretation of Islam.
But even among writers whose books do not advocate violence, the libraries’ collections remain heavily skewed in favour of Wahhabi and Salafi texts at the expense of more moderate authors. For example, while Tower Hamlets libraries stock around 80 copies of books and audiotapes by Bilal Philips, a Salafi preacher popular with UK extremists, they stock only two different books by Dr Jamal Badawi, a Canadian author well known for preaching against violence, intolerance and Islamic separatism – even though Badawi has published more than 14 separate works on the subject. In addition the libraries of Tower Hamlets stock numerous books by Hizb ut-Tahrir, a group which although not actively violent, has been banned by many countries, including Germany.
Finally, there is a serious deficit of critical works on Islamist authors and Islamic history. For example, while Tower Hamlets libraries contain dozens of books by Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab and his followers, there are only five books which are devoted critically studying the Wahhabist legacy – and some of these are filed in the history section rather than in the Islam sections of these libraries. This imbalance can also be seen regarding the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al- Banna. While the same libraries contain dozens of al-Banna’s works, for instance 11 copies of his biography of Muhammad alone, only two scholarly books on the Muslim Brotherhood are stocked – both of which are written from a pro-Brotherhood perspective. Similarly the only critical edition of Sayyid Qutb’s work has apparently been withdrawn from circulation, while the libraries stock 11 copies of Qutb’s book Milestones which is widely seen as the handbook of the contemporary jihadist movement. This bias becomes more absurd when the libraries stock a book Image of the Prophet Muhammad in the West which attacks three ‘orientalist’ critics of traditional Islamic history for “lacking objectivity” even though the library does not stock any books by writers mentioned.
This imbalance is a problem for a number of reasons:
• Any member of the public who wanted to learn about Islam and who visited these libraries with no prior knowledge would be led to believe that the most extreme interpretations of the religion, extolling bigotry, separatism and even violence are the most legitimate and commonplace.
• A reader who was already Muslim or who was interested in adopting Islam as a religion – if relying on such books – would also be pushed towards the most radical and political interpretations of Islam.
• Any Muslim citizen who is already inf luenced by radical Islam can “top up” on radical literature in state-owned and state-funded institutions.
In other words, the predominance of such texts risks radicalising Muslims while making non-Muslims more hostile towards the Islamic faith. It is the purpose of this report to bring this misuse of public funds to public notice.
The entire report can be found here.