THOMAS PIKETTY’S ERRORS REGARDING INEQUALITY BADLY NEED CORRECTION IN THE ERA OF TRUMP

By | Critical Essays, Islam, Middle East | No Comments

  The Trump victory in the United States was a reaction, at root, to the real and perceived costs of globalization: inequality and immigration flows. Now that he is in office, there are serious possibilities of disruptive changes to the global trading system, as we saw with his instant dismissal of the Trans Pacific Partnership. For Xi Jinping, head of state of the world’s most mercantilist country, to stand up at Davos and extol free trade, while Donald Trump, head of the supposedly most ideologically free trade state on the planet vowing to set up tariff barriers has been a…

Read More

MOCKERY OF ISLAM CANNOT BE FORBIDDEN

By | Islam, Opinion pieces for the press, Religion | No Comments

  Last Monday, British journalist and broadcaster Douglas Murray, author of the satirical pamphlet Islamophilia, blogged that far from being something that should be frowned upon, mockery of Islam is a much needed antidote to its excessive severity and overweening claims to be taken seriously. He has a point that merits, dare I say it, serious thought. His remark was all the more notable because it was made in response to the assertion by Mohammed Shafiq that ‘our faith is not to be mocked’. Shafiq heads a body called the Ramadhan Foundation, in Manchester, has spoken out against extremism and…

Read More

ISIS AND THE PATHOLOGY OF ISLAM

By | Book reviews for the press, Islam | No Comments

  Robert Manne The Mind of the Islamic State (Redback, 2016) and other recent writings on Islam, jihad and the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan The literature on the chaos in the Middle East, on Islam, jihad and terrorism is vast. The recrimination, conspiracy theory and angry rhetoric that swirl around it threaten to spiral out of control. It is vital, therefore, that we find a way through without losing our bearings. Robert Manne has just produced a beautifully crafted and lucid book on this problem. It deserves a very wide readership. I read The Mind of the…

Read More

WE MUST CHAMPION APOSTASY FROM ISLAM

By | Islam, Opinion pieces for the press, Religion, Terrorism | No Comments

  About six weeks ago, in a televised address during Ramadan, the leading Muslim cleric in Egypt, Ahmed al-Tayeb, Grand Imam of al-Azhar University in Cairo, who is hailed as one of the leading ‘moderate’ teachers in the Islamic world, denounced apostasy from Islam as ‘grand treason’. He stated categorically: ‘Those learned in Islam and the imams of the four schools of jurisprudence consider apostasy a crime and agree that the apostate must either renounce his apostasy or else be killed.’ This prominent cleric has been a critic of ISIS, of Salafist radicals and of the Muslim Brotherhood. He was…

Read More

TURKEY’S PURGES: REICHSTAG FIRE PRETEXT OR DEFENCE OF DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS?

By | Critical Essays, Geopolitics, Islam | No Comments

  On the night of 15-16 July, there was what appeared to be an unexpected and badly bungled attempted coup d’état in Turkey. Over 200 people lost their lives in the violence. The Erdogan government swiftly exerted complete control and began arresting or standing down an astounding number of military officers, policemen, judges, civil servants and, most mysteriously of all, school teachers and academics. Some 2,000 of those arrested were accused only of having ‘insulted’ Erdogan. Almost none of this makes sense. There was no build-up of tensions suggesting a possible coup. Allegations by the Erdogan government that it had…

Read More

VOLTAIRE WOULD HAVE BEEN HOUNDED FOR HIS MAHOMET

By | Islam, Opinion pieces for the press, Religion, Terrorism | No Comments

On 23 July, Waleed Aly will be presented with the Voltaire Award for free speech from Liberty Victoria. It would be rather charming were he to give a speech on that occasion reflecting on Voltaire’s play Mahomet, which depicted Islam as based on false miracles, personal ambition and ruthless fanaticism. Aly has for some time been the go to person for commentary on Islam and avoiding what is widely dubbed ‘Islamophobia’. It is safe to say he does not share Voltaire’s assessment of Islam. Yet Voltaire remains a figure for our time and free speech on the subject of Islam…

Read More

THE MYTH OF A COSMOPOLITAN ANDALUSIA

By | Book reviews for the press, History, Islam | No Comments

There is a widely held belief that in Spain, during the European Middle Ages, Islam, Christianity and Judaism co-existed peacefully and fruitfully under a tolerant and enlightened Islamic hegemony. Dario Fernandez-Morera, associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Northwestern University, with a PhD from Harvard, has written a stunning book which upends this myth. It is comforting and even inspiring story that has been drawn upon to underpin the so-called ‘Toledo Principles’ regarding religious toleration in our time – an important point of reference. It has been used to suggest that Islam was a higher civilization than that of medieval…

Read More

 IRANIAN AMBITIONS IN ARABIA PRE-DATE MOHAMMED

By | History, Islam, Middle East, Opinion pieces for the press | No Comments

  The growing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia – already at war by proxy in Syria and Yemen – need to be better understood by those making Western security policy. We are too easily distracted by the obvious and too little inclined to think deeper and longer about what is going on. The struggle between Persians and Arabs dates back a very long way and it has had outcomes in the past that may offer clues about what might unfold in the Middle East in the years ahead. Certainly, this is a clash between a Sunni Arab power and…

Read More

LET’S INDEED HAVE A CONVERSATION ABOUT ISLAM

By | History, Islam, Opinion pieces for the press | No Comments

  Last Friday in these pages, Waleed Aly excoriated both Tony Abbott and that embarrassing buffoon running rogue in the US Republican primaries, Donald Trump. He deplored their ignorance about Islam and the muddle entailed in the conservative Catholic Tony Abbott calling for a Reformation and revolution within Islam. But then he added that ‘this isn’t really a conversation about Islam’; it’s about a dubious brand of ‘arch conservative’ populist politics. Very well, then. Let’s actually have the conversation about Islam that we have to have. Let’s begin with Waleed’s striking observation that ‘Islam’s own version of the Reformation already…

Read More

 DUNCAN’S DILEMMAS HIGHLIGHT THE REAL PROBLEM

By | Intelligence, Islam, Opinion pieces for the press, Terrorism | No Comments

Perhaps the story of the past week has been controversy over the Director General of ASIO, Duncan Lewis, publicly rebuking a number of politicians and urging that they curb their outspokenness regarding Islam. Lewis had made two crucial points: that intemperate criticism of Islam risked inflaming Muslim opinion, making ASIO’s job harder; and that it was ‘blasphemous, to the extent that I can comment on someone else’s religion’ to suggest that Islamist terrorism springs from Islam itself. It is, surely, rather unusual for the head of the security service to rebuke senior politicians for their remarks; but that a man…

Read More