Archive for the ‘Terrorism’ category

A Beauty Queen’s Martyr Complex

September 1, 2006

Thank God for Hammasa Kohistani. For starters, she is fun to look at. Last year, Kohistani won the honor of being named Miss England and representing the UK in the Miss World Pageant. This well-groomed triumph was accorded larger significance because Kohistani is the first Muslim to be so crowned and feted.

And Kohistani is no vapid beauty queen. She has been using her time in the limelight to build bridges between her beleaguered Muslim brethren and the rest of British society. Commendable, no doubt. But now her carefully constructed bridges are beginning to crumble. Kohistani took to the press last week to draw attention to how Muslims are being unfairly branded as terrorists, which, if I understand her logic here, is turning them into terrorists. “Even moderate Muslims are turning to terrorism to prove themselves. They think they might as well support it because they are stereotyped anyway.” (If only Blair kept his big-mouth shut!)

Now that I’m-A-Dinner-Jacket has told the world to “suck on his centrifuge,” we need Kohistani more than ever. Luckily, she is game for the cause. “Now the Iran situation is brought up and another Islamic country is under scrutiny – and the recent Heathrow scare. I guess I am needed even more now than last year to an extent because of what has happened.” A real martyr for the greater good.

So what will she be doing besides flashing her pretty little mug around? How will she continue to foster accommodation and reconciliation in British society? “It is not for me to answer how to get people to turn away from terrorism. The politicians don’t know what to do and I am just a 19-year-old.”

Oh well, she’s still fun to look at.


Stop Making Sense

August 30, 2006

I count myself as a fan and admirer of Salman Rushdie‘s novelistic work. And in recent years I have been deeply impressed with some of his polemical efforts. He has been a steady voice of reason on the left, a voice which has exhibited – pardon the overused and much-abused phrase – moral clarity. And so I eagerly sat down to read a wide-ranging interview he recently gave to the terrific German magazine Der Spiegel. In which I came across the following exchange:

So are Bush and Blair going too far?

Rushdie: This is the problem with politicians who by nature tend towards being authoritarian: When they are given the chance, they go too far. We have to watch out there. I find it deeply depressing that the Anglo-American politics and Arab politics are currently corroborating each other — that is: their worst prejudices. Take a look at Iraq, at Lebanon. There is no just side in either conflict. But at the same time we need moral clarity, something I have often missed recently in many liberally minded people — and I myself am liberal. We need clarity about what is right and wrong, the willingness to defend our values with clear words and to actually call the guilty persons guilty.

Leaving aside whether Bush or Blair have authoritarian personalities, I am left scratching my head wondering what in the hell Rushdie is struggling to say. Obviously, he is trying to balance his criticism of Bush and Blair with his detestation of those who accord themselves divine sanction to slaughter and terrorize. But instead, he uttered an inane and flatulent sentence, and from what I know of Rushdie, I do not think it intentional. For it is almost comical to read him saying that in Iraq and Lebanon there is “no just side in either conflict.” Excuse me?

As I have previously written, when it comes to the unfortunate war in Lebanon and northern Israel, decent minds cannot be neutral in a battle between irredentist religious fanatics who fight as a proxy force for an expansionist theocratic regime in Tehran and a liberal democracy defending itself. To write this is not to support every specific action Israel (or the United States) takes in an effort to defend herself, but it is to take a stand. Thoughtful people can differ on the best strategy Israel (and the United States) should undertake in her own defense. But let us at least be clear about who is struggling for a tyrannical future and who is struggling for something far more honorable.

What is most irksome about the Rushdie statement is that he jumps directly from making an equivalency between warring parties in Iraq and Lebanon directly to a call for “moral clarity” – (“We need clarity about what is right and wrong, the willingness to defend our values with clear words and to actually call the guilty persons guilty.”) The juxtaposition here is jarring and unfortunate. Rushdie is better than that.

“Violence in Search of a Cause”

August 29, 2006

I don’t usually link to opinion or news analysis columns, both because it strikes me as a little cannibalistic and because my esteemed blogging partner is better at it than me. But this column from Times writer, “decent” leftist and bete noire of common-or-garden lefties David Aaronovitch is so arresting and insightful (at least to me) that I felt compelled to share his thoughts. Essentially, Aaronovitch points out what perhaps should be obvious: terrorists, or at least the current generation of Islamist ones, are not misguided champions of the wretched of the Earth or desperate purveyors of Stygian rage provoked by the West’s injustice (see anything by Noam Chomsky or Arundhati Roy) but simply psychopaths: self-pitying, with an epic sense of aggrieved entitlement, a fantasy of lost or plundered grandeur and an almost total lack of sympathy, let alone empathy, for their victims.


August 16, 2006

For this I get my crotch wanded? Airport security so air-tight that a 12-year-old boy can board an international flight at Gatwick without a passport or boarding pass only days after a terrorist bomb scare supposedly puts everyone on high alert. This kid ran away from a foster home and sauntered onto a plane bound for Portugal, passing through the full security screening without anyone noticing he didn’t have any travel documents. Presumably he followed up this feat by impregnating a flight attendant without her knowledge.

Imagine That

August 10, 2006


The current threat level is assessed as CRITICAL
(as of 10th August 2006).

This means that an attack is expected imminently and indicates an extremely high level of threat to the UK.

– From British intelligence service MI5’s website.

Note the typical British understatement regarding an apparent terrorist plot to “commit mass murder on an unimaginable scale.” I’d like to think that when the current horrifying headlines fade away this will turn out to have been amateur time – a bunch of Al Qaeda wanna-be’s fantasizing about blowing multiple planes out of the air over the Atlantic with liquid explosives. But Scotland Yard generally doesn’t cry terrorist wolf. Plus, if you regularly fly back and forth across the Atlantic and have a brother who may well have been blown to pieces last July had he taken a different subway route to work that day, it’s hard not to take these things at least somewhat seriously. The police and intelligence services believe the attack was going to happen today, 21 British citizens of Pakistani descent have been arrested, Al Qaeda is suspected.

For me, the dominant emotion isn’t fear so much as rage. I’m so tired of these self-aggrandizing psychopaths and their ideology of infinite umbrage. For the record – and it should go without saying but so often it doesn’t – there is and can be no justification, no rationalization and precious little understanding of this will to murder. I have no interest in searching my soul or picking up the flagellum. I only know that this is the world in which we now live. A certain resignation is required to understand this threat as something other than an aberration, as something that must be fought but cannot be extirpated and that falls well within the bounds of imagination.