I missed his name, though it might have been this chap, Eugene Rogan, but an Arabist was on the Today programme this morning. Positive stuff: this is the Arab World’s 1989, Egypt is the East Germany of the region, and if it can overcome tyranny, so can all the others, an Arab renaissance could follow. We certainly owe them* a renaissance.

Al Jazeera has come of age, and become the principal source for organised news from Cairo and Alexandria. Their live blog for today can be found here.

It’s interesting how right wing commentators seem most concerned about the possibility that Islamists might fill the void – I don’t think it’s clear there is a void. But I am amused that people who swear blind that Western progress has depended on a Christian foundation  are so clear that religious influence elsewhere will blight progress. They’re right about the latter, wrong about the former: religion had the same effect in Europe, which is why progress was very limited until its power was broken in the Reformation.

Today, though, Egyptians are doing it for themselves. I wish them every success.

UPDATE: Al Jazeera report on their live blog (link above) that the talk on the street as demonstrators assemble, for what they hope will be the largest rally so far, is that they will march on the Presidential Palace tonight.

* This is a link to the worst Wikipedia article I’ve ever read. Europe experienced a sort of renaissance in the twelfth century as a result of coming into regular contact with the Islamic world during the Crusades.

[Photo from this gallery]

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There is no information, at this stage, to suggest that this represents a new level of threat to our community.

From the CST blog. Context:

Court hearings began yesterday, 27 December, of nine men arrested in counter-terror raids in Cardiff, London, Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent on 20 December.

The court heard that two synagogues and their Rabbis were amongst a wider range of potential targets of the accused.

Being actively targeted by terrorists is just business as usual for British Jews today.

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Mick Hartley writes about the murder of Pakistani politician Salman Taseer:

But where do these “extremist mindsets and factors” come from? As a Muslim herself, Saleem can’t admit as much, but of course where they come from is…..Islam. The extremist mindsets aren’t some extraneous add-on, some twisting of the basic peaceful Islamic message. We’ve been round that block so many times now, and this killing is the last, deeply depressing, turn.

The distinction between Islam and Islamism has never been less clear to me.

I have an exclusive preview of the moment, to come, when the jury delivers its verdict on Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman accused of blasphemy:

Then again, we could just pretend it isn’t happening, or it isn’t our problem.

Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.
Time past and time future
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.

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This chap seems to be a bit of a beaut. I quote in full:

A dentist who lost 10,000 confidential patient files has been told he can work freely.

Omer Butt, 33, moved out his filing cabinets and computer during refurbishment work at the Unsworth Smile Clinic in Prestwich.

But a hire van containing the records was stolen from Cheetham Hill, in July 2008.

Last December, a medical watchdog ruled he had shown a ‘complete disregard for patient confidentiality’.

The General Dental Council placed conditions on his practice and ordered him to complete a personal development plan to address information security.

But the watchdog has now ruled he is now fit to practise freely again – even though he has not completed the plan.

Mr Butt was given a warning in 2007 for refusing to treat Muslim women patients who refused to wear a headscarf.

Responding to the recent case, committee chairman Julie Macfarlane told him: “The committee considered that you have learnt a salutary lesson and have shown insight into the seriousness of your impairment.”

Ms Macfarlane noted there had been ‘significant difficulties’ in the completion of the personal development plan, which went ‘above and beyond’ the conditions imposed by the GDC.

Effective action

She said: “Despite these difficulties, this committee has seen evidence of prompt and effective action to address the crucial aspects that gave rise to the conditions being imposed at the original hearing.”

The panel heard that Mr Butt had worked with a security consultancy on risk management and data protection, and was persuaded that ‘there are now sound procedures embedded in the whole practice’.

Ms Macfarlane told the dentist: “Your fitness to practise is no longer impaired and there is no danger to the public in revoking the conditions previously imposed on your registration and concluding the case.”

Mr Butt has previously appeared before the dental watchdog for refusing to treat women unless they wore traditional Islamic dress.

He even turned a whole family away without treatment after a man refused to ask his wife to conform to his demands.

In September 2007 Mr Butt was formally reprimanded by the GDC for similar behaviour and found guilty of serious professional misconduct.

He then appeared before the council in January last year for failing to declare driving convictions to his employer.

Mr Butt, of Sheepfoot Lane, Prestwich, has not worked since February 2008.

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Monday night, I went to a panel discussion held by the Henry Jackson Society on the topic: Squaring the circle: Britain and the de-legitimisation of Israel. Marvin the paranoid android has posted an account with photos here.

I won’t say anything about the speakers in this post, except that Ron Prosser, the Israeli ambassador to the UK, is a deeply impressive man. Something else is nagging at me.

To get in, everyone had to wait to be quizzed by security staff. The people in front were Jewish and being asked about their Synagogue and Rabbi. When my turn came, the young woman asked why I wanted to attend the meeting. I was a bit stumped. Was a correct set of opinions a prerequisite? I mumbled about the recrudescence of anti-Semitism in Europe, feeling rather awkward before her calm, watchful eyes. Only later did it dawn on me what had been happening.

It was the El Al security technique of concentrating on the person. She didn’t care at all what my opinions about Israel were. What she did want to evaluate, though, was my body language.

I assume she was from the CST. That such an organisation is needed at all is a very great scandal. That is, it should be. Of course, it’s barely known outside Jewish circles. There’s a pattern here. The Telegraph today reports that the family of the failed Swedish bomber fear they might have to leave the country to avoid reprisals. That’s terrible. But this has gone generally unreported*:

A US-based Jewish group has issued a travel warning urging Jews to exercise “extreme caution” when traveling in southern Sweden.

“We reluctantly are issuing this advisory because religious Jews and other members of the Jewish community there have been subject to anti-Semitic taunts and harassment,” said Dr. Shimon Samuels, Director of International Relations with the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre, in a statement.

“There have been dozens of incidents reported to the authorities but have not resulted in arrests or convictions for hate crimes.”

Attacks on Jews in Malmö doubled between 2008 and 2009 but the town’s mayor is unconcerned at best:

“There haven’t been any attacks on Jewish people and if Jews from the city want to move to Israel, that is not a matter for Malmö,” he told the newspaper

Several months ago in central London I wandered past a picket outside a shop I’d never heard of, called Avaha. It was a shocking experience, like fading through a time warp into the 1930s, just before the persecution of Jews in Europe geared up fully. This is happening now? Again? Again?

At dinner with a group of people on Tuesday, I happened to mention I’d been to a talk the night before. Someone asked what it was about. My answer met with puzzled glances. Someone asked, “Are you Jewish?”

There’s a saying that Jews are the canary in the coal mine: when attacks on Jews start building up, we know there’s a resurgence of fascist-style politics, however it might be being reincarnated this time. That’s a bit tough on the canary. If attacks against any other part of the community were increasing as they have been against Jews, there’d be outrage, million-man marches and Parliamentary debates. If it’s Jews, nada. Hardly anyone cares. That’s why I was asked whether I was Jewish at that supper. Why else would I be interested?

It feels absurdly melodramatic to say this, but it is happening again. We are seeing a repeat of the 1930s, different in many details but similar in broad strokes. Extreme political ideologies are flourishing, religious and secular utopianism, and these always seem to include attacks against the Jews. I have no idea why this is so, but that doesn’t matter.

What does matter is taking a stand against it.

Oh, and on the subject of the legitimacy of Israel, Hamas have a view.

* via J W Beck

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Snoopy pointed to  a piece of nuttery from Hamas:

A video on official Hamas TV calls for Allah to kill Jews, Christians, Communists and their supporters. The video asks Allah to “count them and kill them to the last one, and don’t leave even one.”

When, in the 1980s, Saudi-funded madrassas started appearing in Pakistan, the first thing the “students” did was attack the then flourishing left wing groups in the area, driving them out (or killing the left-wingers) in just a few years. Attacking socialists and communists is nothing new for Islamists.

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Williams is among a small cadre of scholars from across the world pushing the rather contentious idea that some suicide bombers may in fact be suicidal. At the forefront is the University of Alabama’s Adam Lankford, who recently published an analysis of suicide terrorism in the journal Aggression and Violent Behavior. Lankford cites Israeli scholars who interviewed would-be Palestinian suicide bombers. These scholars found that 40 percent of the terrorists showed suicidal tendencies; 13 percent had made previous suicide attempts, unrelated to terrorism. Lankford finds Palestinian and Chechen terrorists who are financially insolvent, recently divorced, or in debilitating health in the months prior to their attacks. A 9/11 hijacker, in his final note to his wife, describing how ashamed he is to have never lived up to her expectations. Terrorist recruiters admitting they look for the “sad guys” for martyrdom.

Interesting. Via.

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This is a fantastic talk, from TED:

Two comments:

  • India making cheaper cars and prosthetic limbs enriches us all: we can buy their cars and prosthetics*. This isn’t a zero-sum game. The faster poor countries get richer, the faster we get richer.
  • Could you imagine this from Pakistan? It’s not like India isn’t a religious country, but maybe it does matter which religion people follow.

*And that prosthetic leg is amazing at any price.

UPDATE: Also see this post.

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