Normal service will be resumed on Monday.
Thursday 19th October, 2006
Bahaa el-Din Ahmed Hussein el-Akkad
I have read with concern at the website http://www.persecution.org/ that Mr el-Akkad has been held as a prisoner in an Egyptian prison for eighteen months, according to his lawyer “only because he has chosen a different belief, to be a Christian.”
People in the U.K. think of Egypt as a beautiful and historic nation with strong ties of friendship to ourselves.Your importance in the Arab and Muslim world is well known. It would come as a considerable and gravely worrying surprise to the British public if a man really could be imprisoned in your country simply for following his beliefs and his conscience.
I publish a blog in the U.K. and am involved with a new media organisation that is about to launch. I intend to write at length about Mr el-Akkad’s situation and to bring it to the attention of the public and media more generally. But I hope that the report quoted above is in fact mistaken and would like to give you this opportunity to let me know the full story of this man, and indeed to deny the report if it is untrue.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Ask the Imam is a site you can always go to if you want to find something to make fun of. Tim Blair picked on a question about… well, evolution and hair gel. Since Tim didn’t give the question in full, here it is:
Do we believe in the evolution of animals such as birds etc. How old is the earth and for how long has there been life on earth according to Islam. What is the ruling on hair gel.
I am asked about evolution and i do not know what muslims believe so I cannot answer them. Please can you give me the correct islamic perspective on these issues.
The answer is as follows:
It is our belief that Allah is the creator of the universe and all its contents. The concept of evolution is un Islamic. The animals, humans, etc all were created by the command of Allah and will be created by His command. The ever changing conclusions of the scientists is sufficient of their false research.
It is permissible to use hair gel.
I’ve a feeling that this is wrong on both counts.
But what struck me most was the question, which paraphrases as “Please tell me what I think about this issue”. I’ve heard that sort of thing before, I thought… and then I remembered. A girl I used to vaguely know, an acquaintance of an acquaintance, as it were. She was the niece of a Conservative Cabinet Minister and a member of the Socialist Workers Party (passing with flying colours the membership requirement of all parties with the word “worker” in their name, that she did not know which end of a hammer was the handle).
Discussing politics with her was odd. Someone would make a point and then she would strain, not to think, but to remember. What is the party line on this one? What have I been told I should think about this issue?
Maybe the alliance between the SWP and the Islamofascists isn’t so strange after all.
The Adam Smith Institute reports the death of Lord Harris of High Cross:
We are sorry to report that Ralph Harris (Lord Harris of High Cross) died of a suspected heart attack at 8am this morning.
Together with Arthur Seldon and John Wood, Ralph Harris built the Institute of Economic Affairs into a power-house of free-market and classical liberal ideas, and for many years Ralph was the IEA’s public face. This work was marked by the peerage which came soon after Mrs Thatcher’s election in 1979. True to his principles, however, he allied himself with no political party, and sat on the cross benches in the House of Lords.
Ralph was a leading figure in the Mont Pelerin Society, the international body of pro-freedom scholars set up by F A Hayek in 1947, and became its President 1982-84.
His outgoing, optimistic personality, won him many friends – even among those politicians he chided for doing the wrong thing. It enabled him to bring many people into the free-market movement, and those of us who created the Adam Smith Institute were among those who benefited from his early support and encouragement.
I can vouch for the latter. In October 1983, I opened a shop selling reading glasses without prescription, and Harris attended the opening party to offer his support. He was exceedingly kind to my exhausted 23 year old self (we had still been painting the shop interior at 4:00am that morning, sustained only by the 24 hour sandwich shop in Upper Street).
He was animated, fiercely intelligent and always willing to engage in a quick exchange of correspondence. I have a card from him on my mantlepiece at home at the moment, a cartoon of Harris as St George fighting off the dragon of European bureaucracy on the front, on the rear a reply to a question I raised over a point made in his book Murder A Cigarette.
His willingness to engage so widely even in what must sometimes have been irksome dialogue undoubtedly helped spread the awareness of the merits of free markets and liberty. We could use a few more like Lord Harris.
via Guido Fawkes
A Muslim sheikh jailed in Egypt for 18 months has declared from his prison cell that he is under arrest for “insulting Islam” by becoming a Christian.
Egypt’s secret police transferred Bahaa el-Din Ahmed Hussein el-Akkad, 57, to the Wadi el-Natroun Prison last month. He was told he would remain there indefinitely unless he agreed to work as a government informer against other converts to Christianity.
According to the prisoner’s Cairo attorney, Athanasius William, his client remains incarcerated in this desert prison “only because he has chosen a different belief, to be a Christian.”
El-Akkad was imprisoned without charges for more than a year after officials of the State Security Investigation (SSI) arrested him in Cairo on April 6, 2005.
Although subjected to repeated interrogations, the former Muslim was never told the specific accusations against him. But several of his cellmates spread rumors that he was converting and baptizing people into Christianity, sparking verbal abuse and at least one severe beating from a fellow prisoner.
via The Sandmonkey
Most mornings, I have to turn off Radio 4′s Today programme from time to time, out of annoyance at some particularly distorted or agenda-laden piece. This morning, I just can’t face it at all. So I’m starting the day with the Iraqi blogosphere.
There’s a controversy raging over an angry post from one of the most pro-American blogs, Iraq The Model, that responded to the recent study of Iraqi mortality rates that was published in the Lancet. Here is a taste of their anger:
Among the things I cannot accept is exploiting the suffering of people to make gains that are not the least related to easing the suffering of those people. I’m talking here about those researchers who used the transparency and open doors of the new Iraq to come and count the drops of blood we shed.
Human flesh is abundant and all they have to do is call this hospital or that office to get the count of casualties, even more they can knock on doors and ask us one by one and we would answer because we’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.
We believe in what we’re struggling for and we are proud of our sacrifices.
Iraqi Konfused Kid took exception to this post and an e-mail and blog post debate then followed, which included some of the most prominent citizen commentators in Iraq. Konfused Kid summarises the debate here.
Salam Adil (not his real name), a London-based Iraqi provides another interesting commentary on this controversy while Treasure of Baghdad surveys the opinions of some Iraqi bloggers, many of them involved in the Iraq The Model debate.
As a pro-war, pro-intervention, pro-regime change advocate, I have a duty to read and understand these conflicting opinions from Iraq, and to use them to question my own opinions. So I did.
Treasure of Baghdad’s questions included:
Compared to the current situation in Iraq, how different was it before the war?
Do you think the war was worth it or not? Why?
Answers to the latter question ranged from:
Yes. The war was totally worth it.
Not worth it. All the deaths, the injured & handicapped people & all those who had forced to leave their homes are big price for what we got today.
Most of the replies were more nuanced, with one (from a blogger called Zeyyad) being:
I’m afraid to answer that question.
It’s clear from the replies that while that particular jury is out right now, a year ago they would have been overwhelmingly of the opinion that the invasion had been worth it. The problem has not so much been the war, as the “peace” that has followed. And with peace like this, who needs wars?
So what’s happening in the West right now? The British army is openly, on websites and in newspapers, arguing for withdrawal. Public opinion follows. The U.S. seems to be on the brink of an anti-war swing. Australia stands firm, naturally.
I still stand by my support for the invasion, though my reasons were not those given by the UK and US governments. I have been, therefore, a fellow traveller rather than a supporter of Bush and Blair. There’s no doubt that the aftermath has been an almighty cock-up, though. But we are where we are.
So what would happen if there was an abrupt withdrawal of western armies from Iraq? The least plausible answer is the most commonly given, that a new strongman would emerge and unify the country. Sunni, Shia and Kurd elements are too strong for any to be overcome completely in their areas of control.
Most likely, there’d be a Balkans style break up complete with ethnic cleansing, something that is happening already. If anything, there is good evidence that the presence of western troops is acting as a brake on the rate of murder, unlike the failure of UN missions in the former Yugoslavia, but that’s too complicated to get sidetracked into here so I’ll post about it later.
If true, this means that the people urging a withdrawal of troops now because there has been a high level of mortality so far are in fact urging that the mortality rate should be left to climb, unencumbered, to even higher levels.
And what of the Lancet survey? It’s hard to say. Stop-the-War folk have embraced it and pro-war types argued against it. That’s predictable enough. There are clearly problems with these sorts of statistical approaches, and the same team had to discard some of their own data during the 2004 study, that showed a population of Fallujah of perhaps 60,000 people (the rest had fled the “Second Battle of Fallujah”) sustained casualties of 200,000 dead. (A pro-Lancet argument why this doesn’t matter is made here).
All very interesting, when it comes to future decisions. For now, we are bound to stay and help make Iraq become peaceful, remain democratic, and gain the full and unencumbered independence of the West and its neighbours that it deserves.
Second day of student protests continued today in Tehran over the illegal detention of student leaders and regime’s interference in the internal election of student committees. The reason to interfere in these election is because regime doesn’t want vocal and freedom loving students to lead these committees at all.
Blogged in solidarity with Iranian democrats everywhere.
The Iraqi blogger Iraq The Model reports:
Nothing changed in my life as a Baghdadi since my city was announced a part of the Islamic State of al-Qaeda.
Of course I did not expect an improvement in electricity, security or other services but I was at least expecting a change in life style under the leadership of the new caliph Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (Abu who??).
So what has changed then since the declaration?
Really, what was the cost or the effect on the ground other than the ink they used to print their announcement or the pennies they paid al-Jazeera to spread the news?!
To me it looks like the position of al-Qaeda has gotten so bad after the heavy blows it received at the hands of our liberators in the MNF and our brave brothers in our army and the patriots who rejected al-Qaeda and its agenda.
I think this was what forced those losers to make this meaningless announcement of a fake state. It reflects the undeniable desperation and the abandoning of their original ambitions, from a victory that drives away the Americans and the Iraqis who believed in the change to a pathetic maneuver such as this one.
But we are still here, at least the majority of us are,
Our liberators and allies are still here,
The voters are still here and the elected are still here.
The al-Qaeda is left with nothing but to fantasize about creating a caliph state as long as they still have a foothold in the country and hope that some locals would change their mind and side with them.
“Our liberators and allies are still here”.
Let’s keep it like that as long as they need us.
Over at Spiked, Dolan Cummings, co-convenor of the Battle of Ideas, makes his (excellent) case for freedom of speech.
…to argue for free speech is to make the case for free-thinking, reasoned debate and genuine tolerance. It is also to put forward a particular understanding of how society functions and the role of individual and collective agency, which is very different from the fearful and conservative worldview that gives birth to censorship and taboos. Instead, it is a worldview that allows for the possibility that things could be very different, and that human beings could be the authors of our own destinies. Rather than seeing change as a threat and seeking to contain discord, we can talk openly about the future, exchange ideas and argue over them rather than trying to suppress those that make us uncomfortable.
Freedom of speech is not merely a means to an end, then, or a rhetorical trick. It is an invitation to live a free life.