Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110824

»The Hideous MLK Memorial
Europe and the EU
»Researcher: Finns Now More Critical of Islam
»Scotland: ‘I’ve Fought Racism All My Life’: Desperate Plea of St Andrews Student Who Defiled Israeli Flag
»UK: London Can’t Afford the EDL March
»UK: Martin Sewell: This is Polly Toynbee’s Generation
»UK: Pulp Orientalism
»UK: Take to the Streets to Stop Racist EDL
North Africa
»Democracy in Libya? Don’t Hold Your Breath
»Australia: Refugee Family’s Security Bill Nears $1m
»UK: £10bn Legacy of Shambles Over Asylum: ‘Labour Failings Have Left 250,000 Illegals’
»UK: 266,000 Asylum Seekers Stay in Britain Illegally
»UK: Ayslum Seekers Cost £2m a Day
»UK: Asylum System Cost ‘Reaches £10bn’
»UK: Labour’s Shambolic Management of Asylum System Cost Taxpayer £10 Billion


The Hideous MLK Memorial

Opened to the public on August 19, a statue of Dr. King stands thirty feet tall and in an irony that boggles the mind, was carved in China, the work of a Chinese sculptor, working in an Orwellian, totalitarian society.

It is also one of the most hideous works of “art” imaginable for anyone who recalls the times and the character of a man who said, “I am not interested in power for power’s sake, but I am interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good.”

The statue depicts a scowling figure, his face fixed with the look of every despot whose statue is intended to instill fear or awe in those who gaze upon it. His arms are crossed over his chest as if protecting himself or preparing to pass a harsh judgment.

It is hideous because it completely obliterates the gentleness of Dr. King, the heart that strove against injustice. The awfulness of the statue reminded me of another of his quotes, “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Researcher: Finns Now More Critical of Islam

Finns hold largely negative views on Islam, according to a study on attitudes to various religions. Christianity enjoys the best standing among Finns, but the majority would be ready to welcome representatives of other religions into their families.

Based on their survey responses, Finns were best disposed towards Christianity, had mostly positive impressions of Buddhism and Hinduism, and felt most critical towards Islam.

Only six percent of the survey respondents thought of Islam in positive terms, with the vast majority clearly holding negative impressions—which, says researcher Kimmo Ketola from the Church Research Institute, is mostly down to the media.

“There are very few Muslim immigrants in Finland compared to many other European countries. The media can convey an exceedingly harsh and negative picture of Islam,” Ketola says.

More acceptance

The researcher notes that Finns’ feelings about foreign religions have changed for the better over the past couple of decades, but attitudes towards Islam have hardened in the 2000s.

However, Ketola says, prejudice is not so all-encompassing.

“When Finns were asked whether they’d be ready to accept people of other religions into their family or as representatives of their parties, in this regard Finns were among the least prejudiced of nations,” Ketola says.

Only four percent of Finnish residents adamantly opposed the idea of their relative marrying someone of a different religion.

Relationship with religion

Four of five Finns considered people with strong religious beliefs to be intolerant. Three out of five thought that religions bring more conflicts than peace.

Ketola says that Finns differentiate between piousness and religious extremism.

The majority of the Finnish population belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The study shows that only eight percent of Finns consider themselves quite religious, but every fifth Finn believes in god without any doubts. Ten percent said they do not believe in god.

These findings emerged from an international study from the Finnish Social Science Data Archive, carried out by researchers from the Church Research Institute. They are based on the 1998 Religion: II survey of International Social Survey Programme (ISSP), which had over 50,000 respondents from 34 countries.’

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Scotland: ‘I’ve Fought Racism All My Life’: Desperate Plea of St Andrews Student Who Defiled Israeli Flag

A judge has ruled that a St Andrews University student who defiled an Israeli flag in a supposed political protest was acting in a racially aggravated manner.

Paul Donnachie, 19, put his hands down his trousers and touched the flag belonging to Jewish exchange student Chanan Reitblat in what he claimed was a ‘political statement’.

Donnachie’s co-accused Samuel Colchester, 20, was found not proven by Sheriff Charles Macnair following a two-day trial at Cupar Sheriff Court.

Donnachie, who will lose his place at St Andrews with immediate effect, said he was ‘devastated’ by the decision.

He said he would appeal the conviction and added: ‘I’m depressed. I have fought racism all my life.’

During his evidence, Donnachie had insisted that he had not meant to cause offence and said he found racism ‘abhorrent’.

And he strongly denied calling Mr Reitblat a terrorist.

But the sheriff, who was booed loudly by pro-Palestine supporters, upheld the complaints, telling Donnachie: ‘I consider this to have been an act of malice against Mr Reitblat for his membership of Israel.’

The judge had earlier refused defence solicitor Patrick Campbell to allow evidence from academic experts on whether the actions of Donnachie constituted an attack on the Israeli state as opposed to racism.

Due to be called was Jewish politics lecturer Sarah Glynn who was close to tears as she left court and told Reitblat’s family their actions were ‘scandalous.’

She said: ‘As Jews you should be ashamed. This is devastating.’

In earlier evidence, Mr Reitblat told how he felt he had no option bit to ‘get out of St Andrews’ following the alleged incident.

Under examination from fiscal depute Brian Robertson, he spoke of how he felt ‘violated’ by the actions of his peers.

He added that Facebook comments made by Donnachie in the wake of the disturbance prompted him to flee to Glasgow as they made reference to Palestinian organisations linked to terrorist atrocities.

He said: ‘I did not know who Paul’s friends were, or who they knew.’

Today’s verdict comes after an Edinburgh sheriff ruled criticism of Israel was not racist after members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign disrupted a performance of the Jerusalem String Quartet in the capital.

Sheriff James Scott threw out charges which suggested the conduct was racially aggravated, saying that a conviction would render human rights legislation worthless.

Mick Napier, one of the accused in that case and chair of the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, said yesterday’s decision was ‘scandalous.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: London Can’t Afford the EDL March

As violence and disorder escalated a fortnight ago, councils swiftly deployed youth workers, clean-up teams and support for the families and businesses affected (Report, 23 August). Rebuilding homes and livelihoods, not to mention a sense of public safety, will be a much longer job and councils will be paying for this for some time to come. The huge additional cost to the Metropolitan police of putting 16,000 officers on London streets for a week will have an even greater impact, severely limiting the force’s ability to deploy additional resources to respond to the day-to-day crime and anti-social behaviour that will arise during the rest of the year.

That is why we — representing communities across London — are calling on the acting commissioner of the Met to recognise that the planned march of the English Defence League in Tower Hamlets on 3 September is a drain on resources that London cannot now afford. While we have no doubt that the Met could contain this demonstration, the cost of policing it (up to £500,000 for previous EDL marches) would simply be too great. That’s even before the cost of policing the heightened community tension that the EDL aims to leave in its wake.

As we continue the clean-up, let’s make sure that the long-term impact on London isn’t unnecessarily compounded.The Met should request that the EDL march in Tower Hamlets on 3 September be banned and the home secretary should agree.

  • Rushanara Ali MP Lab, Bethnal Green and Bow
  • Jim Fitzpatrick MP Lab, Poplar and Limehouse
  • John Biggs AM Lab, City and East London
  • Cllr Joshua Peck Labour group leader, London Borough of Tower Hamlets
  • Jules Pipe Mayor of Hackney
  • Sir Robin Wales Mayor of Newham
  • Cllr Nasim Ali Leader, London Borough of Camden
  • Cllr Chris Roberts Leader, London Borough of Greenwich
  • Cllr Bill Stephenson Leader, London Borough of Harrow
  • Cllr Jagdish Sharma Leader, London Borough of Hounslow
  • Sir Steve Bullock Mayor of Lewisham
  • Cllr Stephen Alambritis Leader, London Borough of Merton
  • Cllr Peter John Leader, London Borough of Southwark
  • Cllr Catherine West Leader, London Borough of Islington
  • Cllr Doug Taylor Leader, London Borough of Enfield
  • Cllr Julian Bell Leader, London Borough of Ealing
  • Cllr Jackie Meldrum Deputy leader, London Borough of Lambeth

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Martin Sewell: This is Polly Toynbee’s Generation

Martin Sewell is a family Solicitor from Kent. He is also an Anglican Reader.

Liberal Britain remains stunned and shamed by what it saw on the streets of Britain. It says that it recognises the need for a bold response, but do not believe for a moment that this heralds a willingness to row back far from the policies, doctrines and values that have shaped the generation which was capable of such a sustained attack on civilised values.

As the Government begins to attune to the current public mood, there will be others desperately working to diffuse it. They will be defending the value system of social, economic, family, penal, media/entertainment, and education policy espoused by the liberal establishment for the past forty years. That value system is entrenched; there are powerful sectional interests involved, and nobody likes to admit they were wrong.

Not least, the greatest cultural influence in the country — The BBC — can be relied upon to defend the status quo and we shall under- estimate its ability to shape the debate against change at our peril. It therefore becomes all the more important that those of us wishing to seriously do something about the situation be very clear and focussed about what we are up against. The problem is not fundamentally about resources, or policies, but about core values, and anyone seriously mounting a response and offering solutions, needs to understand that we are entering a phase of Counter Reformation against Generation Toynbee, a term I coin to encapsulate the cohort of young people brought up according to the values and priorities constantly promoted by that leading commentator of liberal doctrines.

Generation Toynbee is…

  • Rights aware
  • Entitlement demanding
  • State dependent
  • Contribution-lite
  • Authority averse
  • Responsibility poor
  • Hedonistic
  • Historically uninformed and un-curious
  • Undervaluing families/fathers
  • Culturally narrow and modernistic
  • Demanding (often unearned) “respect”
  • Generationally isolated
  • Materialistic
  • Intellectually un-aspirational
  • Drug tolerant
  • Morally relativist
  • Unchallenged by mainstream society
  • Indulged materially and behaviourally
  • Suspicious of wealth generators

We need to fix in the public mind the correlation between these values and the problems we have seen on our streets, and to establish a clear divide between those who broadly support such a mindset and those wishing to change it. The riots are but the most graphic illustration of the malign consequences of Generation Toynbee, but there are many other symptoms testifying to the betrayal of the young by such attitudes; whether you visit the public spaces after dark, or the STD clinics, the evidence is widespread.

Some have called the riots David Cameron’s “9/11” or “Katrina” Moment. If he has the will, he can catch the sympathy of the public to respond to the riots in both the short and medium term. Policy will be important, but unless there is a Counter Reformation against the values of Generation Toynbee the response will be shallow, short lived, and ineffective . He needs a wider vision and a greater ambition. The public mood however will be with him. After the last week, I imagine that David Cameron must be feeling like a member of the audience of the late, great, Nina Simone, who used to begin her concerts with the line — “Have you ever been to a revivalist meeting — well, you’re in one now!” The Counter Reformation led to the Jesuits identifying the key importance of values. “ Give me a child of seven and I will give you the man” We have been given proof of the nature of Generation Toynbee, In whose hands will Generation Cameron be?

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Pulp Orientalism

by Robert Irwin

Thrillers and their crude caricatures of villainous Arabs, apocalyptic plots and even jihads inspired by Fu Manchu

Out of the East the cry rose like a curse. In the dark lairs where the Faithful waited, the whisper went round: ‘The Golden Prophet’ has returned to rule the world!’.” So ran the blurb for Sax Rohmer’s The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932), a novel in which the Chinese master villain sought to raise the Muslim world in a jihad against the British Empire by excavating the golden mask and sword of El Mokanna, the Veiled Prophet of Khorasan. Fu Manchu’s antagonist, Nayland Smith, has this to say about the credulity of the Muslim masses: “You ought to know as well as I do . . . that superstition is never very far below the surface in even the most cultured Oriental. And these waves of fanaticism are really incalculable. It’s a kind of mass hypnotism, and we know the creative power of thought”.

Modern thrillers set in the Middle East are heirs to medieval Christian treatises on Islam, holy wars and the Apocalypse. Reeva Spector Simon’s Spies and Holy Wars is a sequel to her more wide-ranging The Middle East in Crime Fiction: Mysteries, spy novels, and thrillers from 1916 to the 1980s (1989). Though she does not explore the medieval Christian sources of modern paranoid thrillers, she does devote quite a lot of space in her short survey to the Evangelical Christian thriller. (This, like the Sheikh romance, is a genre of which some TLS readers may have been hitherto unaware.) While some contemporary thriller writers present the Armageddon and the Apocalypse as undesirable events that their dauntless heroes, after many ordeals, will succeed in averting, others piously look forward to the End of All Things with considerable enthusiasm.

From 1995 onwards Tim La Haye and Jerry B. Jenkins have produced the Left Behind series of blockbuster novels which are based on the imminence of the “Rapture”. Simon refers to this phenomenon without troubling to explain it. But according to I Thessalonians 4:16—17: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord”. So it will be at the end of time that those who are saved shall be abruptly removed from the face of the earth, leaving power stations, planes and cars to crash and the damned to cope with the End of the World as best they can.

As Simon suggests, from the 1990s onwards right-wing Christians in America ceased to think of Russia as the sole “Empire of Evil” and turned their hostile attention towards Islam. At around the same time some became possessed with the notion that the much-wished-for End of the World could not happen until the Jews had returned to the Holy Land and been converted to Christianity. Joel C. Rosenberg’s novel, the bestselling The Ezekiel Option (2005), may serve as an example of the Evangelical thriller. (By the way, thriller writers have a bizarre penchant — inherited from Robert Ludlum? — for dreary and portentously vague titles based on the coupling of nouns. Among those featured in Simon’s survey are The Gaza Intercept, The Scorpion Sanction, The Kermanshah Transfer, The Gulf Scenario and The Jericho Sanction.) The story of The Ezekiel Option is set in 2014 when Russia and Iran, having formed a satanic alliance against Israel, drop a nuclear bomb on it. Israel, however, does not retaliate in kind and it swiftly becomes apparent that it does not need to do so, for the Russians and the Muslims have been identified with the hordes of Gog in the Bible.. Even as it is written in Ezekiel 38:22, “I will rain upon him, and upon his bands and upon the many people that are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire and brimstone”. Not only do fireballs destroy much of Moscow, but the heavenly bombardment falls on other choice targets in Russia, Iran and Libya, as well as destroying the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Thus the leading protagonist in The Ezekiel Option turns out to be its deus ex machina.

That the Apocalypse should feature so prominently in right-wing Christian thrillers is not surprising, but even in secular thrillers what is at stake is rarely a local issue with limited consequences for the rest of the world. Thus in W. E. Johns’s juvenile thriller Another Job for Biggles (1951), the villainous Nicolo Ambrimos plans to distribute a highly addictive Arab drug called Gurra in order to bring down the British Empire. “After that, Europe will fall, and Asia, mighty Asia, will rise again”. In Thomas Harris’s Black Sunday (1975), a Vietnam vet plots with Palestinian terrorists to kill the American President and 80,000 people at a Super Bowl game. Paul E. Erdman’s The Crash of ‘79 (1977) ends with the collapse of the global banking system and much of Iran turned into a heap of radioactive rubble. On the final page of Daniel Easterman’s The Last Assassin (2004), the appointed Mahdi escapes from his Western pursuers: “this time he would fill the earth and the heavens and all that lay between them with fire and blood. And there would be no end to his dominion”. In Easterman’s The Sword (2007), the future of Western civilization is in peril until the hero, an academic Arabist, prevents Islamist fanatics from getting hold of the Prophet Muhammad’s sword and using it as the vital prop in a jihad to destroy Western civilization. But in real life Muslim fanatics and terrorists usually turn out to have less grandiose objectives, such as the liberation of a handful of Palestinian leaders from Israeli jails or an attack on a restaurant frequented by Western diplomats. Moreover, in recent decades those jihadists who have nourished grander ambitions can be seen to have been remarkably unsuccessful in even beginning to stir up mass revolts in favour of the re-establishment of the caliphate or welcoming the Mahdi.

The Indian Mutiny of 1857 gave an edge to the centuries-old Christian fear of Muslim holy war. Reports of the Mutiny gave Thomas De Quincey nightmares in which he saw “children, most of them infants, but not all, the first rank being girls of five or six years old, who were standing in the air outside, but so as to touch the window; and I heard, or perhaps fancied that I heard, always the same dreadful word, Delhi”. He soon came to envisage the rebel Muslim and Hindu sepoys as the “childish” tools of an elaborate conspiracy mounted by “Indian princes and rajahs, standing in the background”. In a lecture delivered in 1858 John Ruskin hyperbolically described the Mutiny in the following terms: “Since the race of man began its course of sin on this earth, nothing has ever been done by it so significative of all bestial, and lower than bestial degradation, as the act \[of\] the Indian race in the year that has just passed by”.

In the decades that followed, fantasies of a militantly anti-British mass movement focused more narrowly on Muslims. A. E. W. Mason’s The Four Feathers (1902), an adventure yarn set mostly in Egypt and Sudan, described the Mahdist preaching:

“Mohammed Ahmed marched, preaching with the fire of a Wesley the coming of the Saviour. The passionate victims of the Turkish tax gatherer had listened, had heard the promise repeated in the whispers of the wind in the withered grass, had found the holy names imprinted even upon the eggs they gathered up.” The Mahdist fantasy surfaced again in John Buchan’s Greenmantle (1916), in which German agents in Turkey, including the perverted Colonel von Stumm and the beautiful Hilda von Einem, are trying to stir up a jihad against the British, using the Seer Zimrud (codename Greenmantle) to preach war against the Allies. Talbot Mundy’s King of the Khyber Rifles came out in the same year and evoked a German-sponsored jihad that aimed to drive the British out of India.

The excitability and malleability of the Muslim masses is a stock feature in Greenmantle, The Mask of Fu Manchu, Richard Bulliet’s The Tomb of the Twelfth Imam (1979), A. J. Quinnell’s The Mahdi (1982), Daniel Easterman’s The Sword (2007) and quite a few other thrillers. Quinnell’s novel, in which the British and American secret services plot to fake a miracle and install a Mahdi in order to control the Muslim world, is prefaced by a patronizing dedication: “For all the believers of Islam: that simplicity and totality of their faith not blind them to the dangers”.

It was a chance journalistic assignment that took Rohmer to Limehouse and Whitechapel and led him to produce The Mystery of Dr Fu-Manchu (serialized 1912—13), a novel about the Yellow Peril, after which Rohmer found himself reluctantly tied to his fictional creation, in much the same way as Conan Doyle was not allowed by his readership to kill off Sherlock Holmes. Yet Rohmer’s first enthusiasm had been for the Arab world and more specifically for Cairo, where he spent his honeymoon in 1913. Besides setting The Mask of Fu Manchu in the Middle East, he also produced a string of detective stories under the title Tales of Secret Egypt. (Though Simon claims that the mysterious and resourceful Arab detective, Abu Tabah, who features in several of these stories, is a Sufi, I found no direct evidence of this.) Rohmer’s Chinese master villain was memorably evoked in The Insidious Dr Fu Manchu:

“a person, tall, lean and feline, high shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green. Invest him with all the cruel cunning of an entire Eastern race, accumulated in one giant intellect, with all of the resources, if you will, of a wealthy government — which, however, has denied all knowledge of his existence. Imagine that awful being, and you have a mental picture of Dr Fu-Manchu, the yellow peril incarnate in one man.”

Yet despite the negative hyperbole, Fu Manchu was not all bad, for he was a man of honour who invariably kept his word and moreover he “aimed to raise China from the mire into which China had fallen. He was, according to his lights, a great patriot”. Towards the end of his career he was even recruited to fight the Communists. Given the legion of Assassins, dacoits, thugees and zombies at his command, it is hard to see how he could have failed. The heyday of Yellow Peril fiction extended from the 1890s on into the early decades of the twentieth century. Apart from the Fu Manchu novels, representative examples included M. P. Shiel’s The Yellow Danger (1897), C. W. Doyle’s The Shadow of Quong Lung (1900) and Jack London’s story “The Unparalleled Invasion” (1914). Later thriller writers had recourse to grandiose Nazi conspiracies, but in recent decades the Nazis, who were getting long in the tooth, have been replaced as hand-me-down villains by Arab demagogues, fanatics and terrorists, although for a while Nazi and Arab villains coexisted in a few books, such as Ken Follett’s The Key to Rebecca (1980). The Palestinian villain in Thomas Harris’s Black Sunday has none of Fu Manchu’s redeeming qualities:

“He had a certain amount of surface passion and a range of visible emotion that was wide and not deep. But he was deep, all right, and cold, and those cold depths held sightless, savage things that brushed and hit one another in the dark . . . . He had no fear and no mercy, but he did have malice. Fusil was living proof that physiognomy is a false science. He was slim and fairly good-looking. He was a monster.”

T. E. Lawrence’s enthusiasm for Arabs of the desert did not extend to those who lived in cities, and in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom he wrote of “the miser, the worshipper of Adonis, and the lecher in the stews of Damascus”, and described Beirut as “a Levantine screen through which shop-soiled foreign influences flowed in”. As Simon points out, thriller writers, who tend to be right-wing, have similarly expressed a strong distaste for Levantines as well as the pejorative category of “westernised oriental gentlemen”. In Greenmantle, the Germans were assisted by Rasta Bey, “an infernal little haberdasher . . . a bandbox bravo”, and the effete “jackal” Enver Pasha. (The characterization of Enver Pasha was quite false to the historical figure.) In Dennis Wheatley’s The Eunuch of Stamboul (1935), the gallant Swithin Destime despises Kazdim, the eunuch, but his real revulsion is reserved for Prince Ali, for “the Prince was so much more a Western type that Swithin felt almost as if he was up against an exceptionally depraved and brutal specimen of his own kind”. Wheatley’s portrait of Kemal Atatürk was hardly more favourable. Atatürk apart, Simon discusses novels in which the Shah of Iran, Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi have featured as villains.

Spy thrillers are pointlessly didactic. They teach one how to do things that one is never going to do in real life, such as disassemble an automatic rifle with one hand, fly a helicopter at street level, or launder money. As John Updike observed of Cold War thrillers, “I got a suffocating grey impression of armaments catalogues and code nerds and excessively factual dialogue disclosing how every double-cross has another behind it and all roads lead to a vast distrust”. The didacticism extends beyond merely giving lessons about how to be a man of action, for as we have seen, the authors of Middle Eastern thrillers like to instruct their readership about the future of the region and the threats to Western civilization that will emanate from it. They want the readers to be excited, but also fearful about what is to come.

With a few exceptions, including the Levantine thrillers of Eric Ambler (who was also exceptional in being left-wing), these books are not well written, they lack subtle subtexts and they are rarely found on the shelves of university libraries. Thus they have been neglected by academics in literature and cultural studies departments who have preferred to seek out the sources of Orientalism through strained readings of Flaubert, George Eliot and E. M. Forster. But if one wants to understand how and why the West misrepresents the East, it is much more useful to turn to work that is free of literary obscurantism, such as Simon’s books on crime fiction and thrillers or Jack G. Shaheen’s methodologically naive, yet valuable Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood vilifies a people (2001).

The pursuit of phantoms in the canon of high literature has been a time-wasting will-o’-the-wisp. The over-interpretation of selected works from that canon went nowhere in particular. Our attention has been misdirected. Who doubts that there is such a thing as Orientalism in the pejorative sense — a presentation of the Orient, or more specifically of Arab Muslims, as corrupt, lazy, decadent and so forth? One would have to be insane to deny such a thing. There was and is plenty of racism with respect to Arabs and Muslims in Western culture, but the best places to go looking for it are in army barracks, police stations, Hollywood film studios, and the offices of trashy newspapers. Orientalism in a pejorative sense comes bubbling up from below — pulp novels, music hall songs, cartoons, the violent rhetoric of street gangs, fights on the football pitch, and films about fanatical yet corrupt terrorists. It is a foolish piece of academic snobbery to go hunting for faint hints of Orientalism in the classics of English and French literature, while neglecting the immensely popular novels of Sax Rohmer, Dennis Wheatley and Daniel Easterman.

Both the index and the bibliography of Spies and Holy Wars are lacunary. The book is great fun to read, but it is repetitive and based on too narrow a range of examples. (A wider range of novels has been cited in this review.) Simon’s book is also padded out with too much of the real history of the modern Middle East. The fictional counterpart to that history is interesting enough. It seems likely that in the decades to come, Chinese will slowly replace Arabs as stock figures of evil. “The world has not heard the last of Fu Manchu!”

Reeva Spector Simon


The Middle East in twentieth-century crime fiction

216pp. University of Texas Press. $55; distributed in the UK by Combined Academic Publishers. £37.

978 0 292 72300 9

Robert Irwin‘s Memoir of a Dervish: Sufis, mystics and the Sixties and Visions of the Jinn: Illustrators of “The Arabian Nights” were published earlier this year. He is the editor of the fourth volume of The New Cambridge History of Islam, 2010, and the Middle East editor of the TLS.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Take to the Streets to Stop Racist EDL

Preparations are under way to bring the biggest possible turnout onto the streets to stop a march by the racist English Defend League (EDL) next Saturday. The thugs want to parade through Tower Hamlets in east London—but will face united resistance. “A lot of people are ready to come out to defend their community,” said Ali, a restaurant worker on Brick Lane.

He marched with thousands of others last year after a similar threat from the EDL to spread their hate in Tower Hamlets. “Last year the EDL didn’t turn up, but lots of local people came out anyway,” said Ali. “This time we’re going to have more numbers. We’re a peaceful community. We don’t want them to come here and cause problems.”

Close to 40 coaches have been booked to bring anti-racists to London for the counter-demonstration, called by Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and the United East End coalition of community groups. Richard Rose from Cambridge UAF told Socialist Worker, “We’ll have at least one coach going to London. “We’ve had a good reception, and expect more people to book up.


“We’ve built for the protest through stalls in town and at the mosque, and used contact lists from last month’s 2,000-strong march against the EDL in Cambridge. “House-to-house leafleting has also got results.” In east London there is a growing mood of resistance. Tower Hamlets is one of the most multicultural areas of the country. Throughout its history it has been the scene of many decisive battles against the far right. Around 60 UAF campaigners handed out thousands of leaflets on Brick Lane last Sunday. They got a great reception, and the vast majority of shops and stalls on the road took posters to advertise the anti-fascist demonstration. One young Muslim who took a handful of leaflets and posters told Socialist Worker, “If the EDL come here, they’re going to get their arses kicked. Everyone will come out to stop them.” Glyn Robbins, chair of United East End, said at a press conference at Tower Hamlets council last week, “We have no choice but to take to the streets to demonstrate our unity. “We won’t allow the EDL to spread their poisonous message.”


The press conference was called by the mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, who spoke in support of the counter-protest. “If we stay at home we’re leaving young people on the streets by themselves,” said Lutfur. “It’s important we argue for something positive.” The EDL want to march down Whitechapel Road past the East London Mosque. Previous EDL marches have brought racist attacks on mosques and Asian shops. This has led many local people to call for the EDL march to be banned. But even if a ban were enforced, this would not prevent the EDL from holding a static protest. And the danger is it may also lead to the anti-EDL march being banned. Some have gone further, and told local people to stay at home when the EDL come to town. But this would be a disaster. It would prevent people from taking an active part in defending their community. Instead of showing the strength of a united response to the EDL, people would be expected to be prisoners in their own homes. Weyman Bennett, UAF joint chair, told Socialist Worker, “It’s vital we march in our thousands against the fascist EDL. “We stand in the tradition of the anti-fascists of Cable Street in 1936. This is the only way to keep fascism off our streets and to break their racist agenda.”

Demonstrate Saturday 3 September. Assemble 11am, Weavers Fields, Bethnal Green, London E2 6HW. For details of transport and publicity go to

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Democracy in Libya? Don’t Hold Your Breath

by Richard Landes

Fouad Ajami, with characteristic disdain for political correctness, once described the Arab world as “caught between prison and anarchy”. But the vast majority of post-Saïdian anti-Orientalists, in characteristic submission to political correctness, have been telling us all for decades that in the vibrant civil society of the Arab world, democracy is around the corner, especially in Palestine. Indeed, and ironically, George Bush’s neocon inspired invasion of Iraq was based on the notion that, the dictator toppled and democracy introduced, democracy would spread like dominoes across the region. Despite the consistently repeated failure of these expectations, nothing seems to dent the near-religious belief in democracy’s spread to the Arab world among Western liberals who insist on projecting their own mentality on others (see Martin Kramer, Ivory Towers on Sand, chap. 4). Thus when protests spread through the Arab world last December, journalists were quick to dub it the “Arab Spring,” a harbinger, they enthused, of democracy spreading through the Middle East.

Those of us who have studied not just the institutions of democracy — constitutions, judiciaries based on equality before the law, elections, legislation — but the culture underlying it, are not so jejeune and optimistic. Social contracts demand mutual trust and an expansion of the field of the “us” to include more than one’s clan or tribe; a free press demands exceptionally high capacity for hearing public criticism; meritocracy demands that merit trump old-boy networks; successful law courts demand the renunciation of private justice/vengeance; productive societies demand respect for manual labour and an adoption of the principle for wealth accumulation of “make not take”; sustained positive-sum relations demand a restraint of envy at the success of others, and a renunciation of Schadenfreude — joy at another’s failure (see my book Heaven on Earth, chap. 8). Unlike the way many Westerners think of it, democracy is not a computer program that you can download into any society and have it work. It’s not that everyone has to adopt these traits, just a critical mass of mutually enforcing players. On the contrary, democracy is an astonishingly difficult accomplishment, in the worlds of one of its most perceptive students, Eli Sagan, a miracle.

So what can we anticipate coming out of the removal of the Libyan dictator Gaddafi: will it bring, as Ajami’s formula would lead us to believe, a shift from prison to anarchy? Or, as so many of us would like to believe, a shift from authoritarian to more democratic society? Given the stakes (oil wealth) and some of the players (tribal and Islamist), it’s hard, but not impossible, to imagine a vibrant democracy emerging. When the rebels cheer Western airstirkes on Gaddafi’s positions with “Allahu Akhbar,” as Barry Rubin points out, it means that they attribute success not to Western assistance, but Allah’s. Indeed, the greatest tension looks like it will be between loyalty to tribe and the accumulation of wealth and power on the one hand, or loyalty to Ummah, and the accumulation of theocratic power on the other. And, of course, this doesn’t even address the problem of the “brotherhood against democracy” that, for its own reasons opposed Gaddafi, but also for its own reasons will hardly encourage real democracy. For the “modern,” technologically savvy, “pluralist,” players in whom the media invests so much of their time and their hope, to come out on top of such a struggle seems improbable. And the systematic mismanagement of these trends by Western policy-makers certainly does not help the prognosis.

As an exercise in thought experiment that might help us understand how alien democratic thought is even among the allegedly “modern” players in the “Arab Spring,” imagine a Libyan group saying (without being assaulted by raving demonstrators), “if we want democracy, then we should be establishing close relations with the only operative democracy in the region, Israel, and abandoning the conspiratorial scapegoating nonsense that Arab oppressors have been feeding us for decades about how they are our enemy”. There are exceptions to this mindset. And their proliferation would offer strong evidence that some have managed to rise above the kind of face-saving, vengeance-taking mentality that makes democracy so hard to sustain. Just don’t hold your breath.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]


Australia: Refugee Family’s Security Bill Nears $1m

THE Federal Government has paid almost $1 million to guard a refugee family that ASIO deems a security threat, after they were brought to Sydney so the mother could give birth.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen had said they would be returned to Christmas Island once the baby was born last November.

But the Immigration Department now has no intention of sending them back.

The family has been assessed as genuine refugees, so they can’t be sent home.

But they can’t settle here, because of the ASIO assessment.

So the Government faces having to continue to house the family under surveillance — at a cost of up to $5000 a day.

The family fled the Sri Lankan civil war aboard the ill-fated Oceanic Viking.

Their lawyer, Stephen Blanks, said yesterday the ASIO assessment was unwarranted, as the family had no links to the Tamil Tigers.

Immigration Department documents released yesterday revealed the bill for 24-hour security and surveillance for three months to April this year was $387,481.

In the three months before, the bill was $428,861.

Security around their house on the perimeter of the Villawood Detention Centre was downgraded in April, but security is still being provided for outings and taking two elder children to school.

Mr Bowen says the Government will continue to try to resettle the family to a third country.

“There is no intention to return the family to Christmas Island,” the department said.

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]

UK: £10bn Legacy of Shambles Over Asylum: ‘Labour Failings Have Left 250,000 Illegals’

Labour spent £2million every day on a shambolic asylum system which failed to remove hundreds of thousands of bogus claimants, reveals a blistering study.

An audit of the last government’s record reveals how officials spent as much as £10billion processing applications as they struggled to cope with a surge in numbers.

But only one in four of the 660,000 decisions made on asylum claims between 1997 and 2010 led to the applicant being removed.

Even where the claim was considered to be unfounded, the majority of failed asylum-seekers were not sent home. They are now living here illegally.

Last night, immigration minister Damian Green said it was a symptom of the ‘hopeless chaos’ which Labour inflicted on the UK’s border controls.

The study by the MigrationWatch think-tank found that 660,000 asylum cases were decided from 1997 to 2010.

Some form of humanitarian protection, including asylum, was granted in 243,000 cases.

This left 417,000 claimants who were rejected and should have left the UK.

But only 151,540 — or 36 per cent — of those denied asylum were removed.

Another 8,615 were found to have left without telling the authorities.

This means more than 250,000 have neither left nor been removed and are therefore presumed to remain in the UK illegally, MigrationWatch said.

Its report also found that between 2008 and 2010, 59 per cent of claims were lodged only after the person had been detected by the authorities.

Asylum-seekers with genuine claims are supposed to claim at the first possible opportunity — not after they have been caught working illegally or sneaking into the country.

Britain was also found to approve more claims than France, through which many claimants pass to reach the allegedly ‘soft touch’ UK.

In 2009, Britain granted permission to stay in 28 per cent of cases, compared with 19 per cent in France.

Under Labour, the annual number of asylum cases increased hugely from 32,500 in 1997 to a peak of 85,000 in 2002.

MigrationWatch chairman Sir Andrew Green said: ‘The asylum system has proved to be a £10billion shambles. Those who, like ourselves, are serious about protecting genuine refugees should be no less serious about removing bogus claimants.

‘The system needs to be much faster. Delays leave the door open for appeals based on the right to family life.

‘It also needed to be much tougher on the bogus. It is absurd that we allow people who have been in Britain illegally for years to claim asylum to delay or prevent their removal; this applies to almost 60 per cent of claimants.’

The study estimated the cost of asylum since 1999 at close to £10billion, including legal aid and court costs.

This includes £2.8billion for temporary accommodation, £927million on payments to support those awaiting a ruling and almost £500million for failed claimants who cannot return home or are taking steps to leave the UK.

The report, based on research published by the Home Office, warns it is difficult to know exactly what happened in every case because of the chaos and confusion of recent years.

Five years ago, ministers identified more than 400,000 ‘legacy cases’ which officials had never resolved. Some have since been granted settlement or removed.

Mr Green, the immigration minister, said: ‘The system we inherited was hopelessly chaotic and did not provide the taxpayer with value for money.

‘Last year, we reduced the bill for asylum support by over £100million and it is falling further this year.

‘We have nearly doubled the proportion of asylum-seekers removed within a year of their application and around 60 per cent of applicants receive a decision within a month.’

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: 266,000 Asylum Seekers Stay in Britain Illegally

A quarter of a million failed asylum seekers who arrived under Labour are still here thanks to a “shambolic” system that costs the taxpayer almost £2  million a day, a study has found.

The full scale of the last government’s handling of the asylum system is laid bare today in a detailed review by the campaign group Migration Watch UK. It suggests that about 266,000 cases could have ignore the rulings and stayed here unlawfully. The survey found that, of the 660,000 asylum cases dealt with between 1997 and 2010, just 40 per cent — or 243,000 — resulted in some form of shelter being granted. However, of the 417,000 decisions to be refused protection, only 151,540 — or 36 per cent — ended in someone leaving or being removed from the country, with the rest either fighting removal or staying illegally. It means that just one in four asylum decisions made under the last government resulted in a removal. Only a third of the 417,000 cases refused were removed or left voluntarily, meaning about 266,000 are likely to still be here unlawfully.

The study, based on Home Office statistics, concluded that between 1999 and 2010, the asylum system in general cost tax payers at least £8.5 billion. However, the bill could be nearer £10 billion once the extra years and estimates of legal costs are included. Sir Andrew Green, the chairman of the campaign group, said: “The asylum system is a £10 billion shambles. “Those who are serious about protecting genuine refugees should be serious about removing bogus claimants.”

Asylum claims rose sharply during the 13 years, hitting a peak in 2002 with almost 85,000 applications. They dropped last year to fewer than 20,000. The survey found that Britain granted asylum at the first decision stage in 27 per cent of cases compared with France, which granted 14 per cent last year. Damian Green, the immigration minister, said: “The asylum system we inherited was chaotic. Last year we reduced the bill for asylum support by over £100 million and it is falling further this year. We have nearly doubled the proportion of asylum seekers removed within one year of their application.”

Demand for migrant workers has reached a record high, in stark contrast to the recruitment of school-leavers, a new report claims today. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development said a survey of 1,000 employers showed one in four planned to hire migrant staff in the coming months, while only 12 per cent were taking on 16 year olds. The number of firms intending to recruit 17 and 18 year-olds fell from almost a third last year to 25 per cent.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Ayslum Seekers Cost £2m a Day

BRITAIN’S chaotic asylum system has cost taxpayers £2.3million a day in the last decade.

Around 77 per cent who claimed asylum between 1997 and 2010 are still here. Hundreds of thousands have been allowed to stay even though their claims have been rejected, a damning new report shows. Costs including housing, cash support and legal fees added up to £10billion — or £2.3million a day, Migration Watch found. Decisions have been reached on a total of 660,000 asylum cases between 1997-2010. Of these, 26 per cent were granted asylum and 14 per cent got some other form of protection or leave to remain. It means 60 per cent of cases — around 417,000 — should have been sent home. But only a third of them — around 119,000 — went. Homing in on one five-year period between 2004 and 2009, a similar picture emerged. Sixty-two per cent of asylum applications were rejected, but just over a third of these were booted out. And officials are still clearing a backlog of 400,000 cases found in a warehouse in 2006.

Migration Watch chairman Sir Andrew Green said: “The asylum system has proved to be a £10billion shambles.” Immigration Minister Damian Green said: “The asylum system we inherited was hopelessly chaotic. Last year we reduced the total bill for asylum support by over £100million and it is falling further. “We have nearly doubled the proportion of asylum seekers removed within one year of their application and 60 per cent of applicants now receive a decision in a month.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Asylum System Cost ‘Reaches £10bn’

Three out of four asylum seekers remain in Britain, Migration Watch UK said

Migration Watch UK said one in four of the 660,000 decisions made on asylum claims between 1997 and 2010 led to the applicant being removed.

The cost of the asylum system, including legal aid and court costs, has reached almost £10 billion — or £2 million a day — since 1999, the campaign group said.

In a study published ahead of the release of official statistics on Thursday, Migration Watch UK found that of the 660,000 cases decided in the 13-year period, 509,000 applicants remain in the UK, 243,000 legally and 266,000 illegally.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the campaign group, said: “The asylum system has proved to be a £10 billion shambles. Those who, like ourselves, are serious about protecting genuine refugees should be no less serious about removing bogus claimants and, better still, deterring them in the first place.”

He continued: “The system needs to be much faster. Delays in the system leave the door open for appeals based on the right to family life without any consideration for the rights of society in general.”

The analysis showed that some form of protection was granted in 243,000 cases, leaving 417,000 which were refused and should have left or been removed from the UK. But 36% (151,540) of those denied asylum were removed and a further 8,615 were later established to have left the country without notifying the authorities.

Some 266,000 have neither left nor been removed and are therefore presumed to remain in the UK illegally, Migration Watch UK said. It added that it was possible that some of these may have been granted indefinite leave to remain if they were included in the backlog of more than 400,000 so-called legacy cases.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said: “The asylum system we inherited was hopelessly chaotic and did not provide the taxpayer with value for money. Last year we reduced the total bill for asylum support by over £100 million and it is falling further this year.

“Since taking office, we have nearly doubled the proportion of asylum seekers removed within one year of their application and around 60% of applicants now receive a decision within one month.”

           — Hat tip: Steen[Return to headlines]

UK: Labour’s Shambolic Management of Asylum System Cost Taxpayer £10 Billion

A report from MigrationWatch reveals the enormous failure of the asylum system during the Labour years, 1997 until 2010:

  • Asylum seekers — whether genuine or not — had a 77% chance of staying in Britain;
  • Only a third of those refused asylum were ever removed from Britain;
  • Towards the end of the Labour years 59% of asylum claims were only made after a person had been detected as an illegal immigrant;
  • The cost to the taxpayer was an average £2.3 million per day or £10 billion in total.

Sir Andrew Green of MigrationWatch said:

“The asylum system has proved to be a £10 billion shambles. Those who, like ourselves, are serious about protecting genuine refugees should be no less serious about removing bogus claimants and, better still, deterring them in the first place… It also needed to be much tougher on the bogus. It is absurd, for example, that we should allow people who have been in Britain illegally for years to claim asylum so as to delay or prevent their removal; this now applies to almost 60% of claimants.”

Responding to the report, Damian Green, Immigration Minister, told the Daily Mail:

“The system we inherited was hopelessly chaotic and did not provide the taxpayer with value for money. Last year, we reduced the bill for asylum support by over £100million and it is falling further this year. We have nearly doubled the proportion of asylum-seekers removed within a year of their application and around 60 per cent of applicants receive a decision within a month.”

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]