Russell Brand’s book Revolution has probably received more criticism from the left than the right, despite being superficially of the left. In this, there’s a reminder of a phenomenon that has been present in all modern political extremism and which also defines the various contemporary Islamist movements: the claim of small utopian movements to be perfected forms of broader demographies.

Racial purity movements, like white supremacism, claim to be perfected, pure forms of patriotism and the broader and more vague patriotism of the majority is seen by supremacists as wishy-washy, lacking the courage of its conviction. In fact, they’re different ways of thinking entirely, one based on race, the other not based on race. Far right movements like the BNP rarely gain much electoral traction and when they do it’s because of conflicts based on alienation resulting from rapid demographic change or competition for, mainly state, resources. It is not because of race; Polish plumbers are as much of an issue as Pakistani villagers for the Labour supporters who drift in and out of BNP voting. So while race-based politics seems like it’s an extension of ordinary patriotism and parochialism, it isn’t.

Islamism claims to be a purer, more correct application of religious teaching. But there isn’t a core of pure religious teaching at all, not in any religion. They’re all agglomerates, and they’re all shaped by humans. There are contradictory verses in all scriptures. Genesis starts with two, different, creation myths. The New Testament flatly contradicts most of the Old. Some Koranic verses recommend violence, some recommend peace; some are intolerant, some are tolerant. Movements of religious ‘enthusiasm’ have been a constant problem for the mainstream religious. Ronald Knox put it like this:

He expects more evident results from the grace of God than we others. He sees what effects religion can have, does sometimes have, in transforming a man’s whole life and outlook; these exceptional cases (so we are content to think them) are for him the average standard of religious achievement. He will have no “almost-Christians,” no weaker brethren who plod and stumble, who (if the truth must be told) would like to have a foot in either world, whose ambition is to qualify, not to excel. He has before his eyes a picture of the early Church, visibly penetrated with supernatural influences; and nothing less will serve him for a model. Extenuate, accommodate, interpret, and he will part company with you.

“Extenuate, accommodate, interpret, and he will try to kill you” is perhaps the current version, but the principle is the same. Yet most religious people do “like to have a foot in either world”, or even both feet in this one. Even when they acknowledge that some of the supernatural claims of their religion are unlikely to be true, they consider themselves to be religious. For them, it’s about rituals that bind villages, cities or nations, it’s about social interaction, festivals and holidays, rites of passage, families and a code of behaviour that includes charity and self-denial for those so inclined. And it’s about identity, of continuing the defining rituals of your predecessors and neighbours. The broad mass of religious behaviour has little to do with the actual belief systems at its core. It’s a social phenomenon. Again, while the very religious might seem to be at an extreme of ordinary religious behaviour, they’re not. They’re something else.

The same is true of the left. Broad left movements are a blend of self-interest and a sense of justice, or injustice. I don’t mean ‘social justice’ as defined by the far left, just ordinary, everyday scales-of-justice justice. The distribution of wealth in all countries includes a fair amount of the legacy of armed robbery. You can argue about how much, and how much this has been over-written by subsequent economic activity, but the wealth of all monarchs comes from this, and so does that of most aristocrats. The sense that it’s unfair, that aside, for one child to be born a pauper and be so poorly fed in infancy that their brain development is affected, while another is born into great surplus, through no individual merit, is both understandable and widespread. This is true, for many people, if the parents’ wealth difference comes about through indolence on one side and enterprise on the other. It doesn’t depend on the merit of the parents.

So redistribution, at least some transfer of wealth, is favoured by the broad left, by most liberals (starting with Adam Smith), and indeed many on the meritocratic right. Others on the broad left see themselves as the recipients of redistribution, and not just the less well-off. The narcissism of much of the middle class left is tautological, considering that they are people born into above average affluence who still feel they should get other people’s money because their art, or environmental campaigning, or political thought – rather than their need for subsistence – merits it.

The popularity of nationalisation and the appeal of trades unions today, decades past their usefulness, are also forms of self-interest, based on a conservative wish to return to a past, no less imaginary than the 1950s of the Daily Express, in which people have jobs for life in large organisation that are immune from the uncertainties and competitors of market environments.

On the face of it, people who want complete redistribution, a complete remaking of society, have just reached the logical conclusion of this form of thought. It’s hard to dismiss out of hand a charge of narcissism against those who would reshape the lives of every other person in the country, or world, but more significantly they want an even fairer society than does the milquetoast democratic left. This makes them purer, better leftists than the rest, according to them.

The problem for people in the broader groups, for the ordinarily patriotic, for the Anglican Christian or Sunni Moslem, for the mainstream Labour voter, is that they often have a suspicion that the Ultras are right – that they are purer forms of their own broad ideals. This is why these movements manage to gain traction in large groups, why they can successfully attach themselves to these groups. When any such movement gains serious traction in a broad demographic, it can start using intimidation and punishment to suppress dissent, and the world faces a serious problem – fascism, communism, theocracy.

This explains why the National Union of Students is continually plagued by extremist politics. The anti-imperialists who think condemning ISIS would be Islamophobic are the successors of the communists who turned out not to be super-liberals, but to be supporters of Honecker and his secret police. Students think these people are even more concerned about justice or racism than they are, instead of the truth, that they’re happy to use either as leverage, but are mainly interested in power over other people.

 

This is where Brand fits in. But there’s an irony. It’s also where some of his critics fit in. Take Chris Dillow’s post, criticising Brand for anti-intellectualism. It’s a fair charge. But then Chris wrote this:

Any serious revolution would, of course, disempower political and business elites and empower people. Which raises many questions: why is there so little popular demand for worker management or even direct democracy? How do we promote anti-managerialism? Could we achieve worker democracy without weakening incentives to innovate? What institutions do we need to create a healthy deliberative democracy rather than debased populism?

Of course, people have been working on questions such as these for years but their efforts have, to put it mildly, not greatly entered the mainstream of the British left.

The efforts he mentions haven’t ‘entered the mainstream of the British left’ because they have nothing to do with the mainstream left. They might be better thought-out, but they’re ideas that are interlopers as much as is Brand (I’m not going to suggest he has any ideas). Like most Muslims, Christians and vaguely patriotic people, most of the left just want to rub along, with reasonable freedom and safety, living their lives as they see fit and raising their kids. They don’t want the dawn of a New Age, be it the revolution, racial purity, the Apocalypse or a Caliphate.

That’s not a failure to be ‘proper’ believers, it’s not being a believer in utopia at all.

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A German job centre has apologised for an ‘oversight’ after ordering a young woman to work in a brothel.

According to a report in the local Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper, Christine Hirmer, 19, received a letter from the German Labour Office in Augsburg suggesting she apply for a position at an establishment called the ‘Colosseum.’

That’s the opening of this Independent piece. What do you think she was being asked to do? Become a prostitute?

Nope. To be a barmaid. Brothels are legal in Germany, as are their bars.

It’s a grossly misleading headline start to the story. Brothels are legal. Brothels should be legal. At stake are the lives of the women who would otherwise be haunting street corners. This story is motivated by puritanism.

 

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Although the day in question was back in April:

The decision by the French government to outlaw all forms of public face-masking, including the burka and niqab, is welcomed by all thinking Muslims around the world.
[…]

Forward-looking and progressive British Muslims who resist the Talibanisation of Islam in the UK should lead a coordinated campaign to rid this country of this alien cultural monstrosity.

Two days before the French law became operative, a group of integrated Muslims in Oxford burned the burka as a mark of our collective disgust and disdain.

What needs to be done now is to introduce a twin track strategy of LMR (lampooning, mocking and ridiculing face-masking) which will be combined with a systematic programme of re-education and information that will empower Muslim women and make them realise that this tribal rag and cultural cloth is not intrinsic but incidental to Islam. It is purely the product of male chauvinism and not religious necessity.

Dr Taj Hargey is Imam of the Oxford Islamic Congregation and Chairman of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford.

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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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