An American soldier has gone missing in Iraq.

Perhaps he’ll be dressed badly, given so much food he puts on weight, and will have to endure seeing one of his abductors standing near his Bible, in a way he finds disrespectful.

Or maybe he’ll be tortured with electric drills, dragged behind a truck then decapitated.

I don’t support Guantanamo Bay. It should be closed and the American government should respect and observe the Geneva conventions. But for the first time, this is not in order to ensure that captured US troops will be treated equally fairly. They won’t be. Not under any circumstances, not in Iraq, nor in Afghanistan.

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A campaign by extremist Catholics to out gay clergy has been likened to a Catholic Taliban:

Catholic Truth believe outing gay clergy would be a “great work of charity”. The group has an office in Edinburgh’s Princes Street and claims to have over 1000 people on its mailing list .

McKeever told the Sunday Herald at the time of the anti-gay launch: “The key objective behind naming homosexual priests and bishops is to raise awareness of the problem within the church .”

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I emailed Ismaeel (see earlier posts) privately, but he posted the mail on his blog. Here it is, with his comments:

Peter Risdon has emailed me the following. The interesting thing about this email from the self-styled champion of unfettered free speech is his constant calls for civility. I have placed the appropriate sections in bold italics below. Maybe this dialogue thing is working…..
I had the courtesy to post on both blogs and found your failure to reciprocate irritating, so I deleted your comment. In hindsight I should have left it there, so I’ll post an entry pointing to your site.
But I do find some of your language aggressive (“we won’t take this lying down…”) and patronising (“you should learn…”). Dialogue is a good thing. Constructive criticism is also a good thing – there are worse alternatives as the recent increase of physical attacks on Muslims, a woman having the veil torn from her face, four Muslims attacked last night in a mosque, show.
I would be greatly encouraged if you would accept the hand I have always extended to you, from the invitation for you to provide a speaker for the march rally in Trafalgar Square, through my request that the cartoons not be displayed, to this present response to an aggressive ad hominem attack by you on your blog with an invitation to dialogue.
Every time you have reacted out of hostility and paranoia – as over the debate in Oxford – you have been wrong. That will remain the case. My attitude is completely genuine. I am an atheist, I dislike extreme religion but not the people who practise it. Hate the sin, love the sinner, as the Catholics say.

Actually Peter the attitude of loving the sinner and hating the sin is one shared by a true Islamic perspective and was the first lesson given to me by my Shaykh. I’m glad you are appreciating the importance of civility in dialogue.

The hand is still there, open. I hope that, at some point, in the future, Ismaeel will grasp it.

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Azarmehr reports:

A vicious assault on political prisoners in Gowhardasht took place yesterday. The attack was carried out by ordinary criminals who are kept alongside political prisoners in Gowhardasht. They used knives and cut glass to injure the political prisoners.

Behrouz Javid Tehrani, one of the victims of this attack has had 17 stitches and many of his teeth broken. Despite his injuries he is still kept in the cell, where he fears further attacks.

In a separate incident, two students in Shiraz, Hamid Kargar and Bahador Dareh-Shoori were abducted by plain clothes agents. The two were recently expelled from university for their political activities. Their families are unaware of where they have been taken to.

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There’s a lot of comment on anti-jihadi sites and blogs right now about unrest in French suburbs. Incidents like the torching of a bus are described as an intifada. So far, most of the MSM put more weight on social conditions – poverty, unemployment – that were said to have been behind the riots last year.

The problem is that the attitudes of radical Islam have permeated the identities of Western Muslim underclasses in just the same way as, and alongside, those of Gangsta rap. Thus, the clothing of these people reflect US urban chic, they drink and take drugs, pimp and deal, steal and threaten – all completely un-Islamic – at the same time as professing to be proud of their Islamic identity and basing that identity more on bin Laden than on Omar Khayyam or Andalucian astronomers.

There used to be a similar pattern with Rastafarianism. A real Rasta, and a real devout Muslim, is as puritan and boring as a devout Christian or a Mormon door-knocker. Yet in the 1980s a lot of street criminals grew the locks, listened to reggae and thought of themselves as Rasta.

In some ways, describing the French unrest as an intifada is just buying the learnt rhetoric of a part of society that has long known the benefit of regurgitating any philosophy that might boost their sense of self-righteousness. The language of liberal criminology and sociology – that they are victims of poverty and it is all society’s fault – is also regurgitated. The “policeman’s hat” syndrome is another example, learned from miscarriages of justice: “I might have been caught red-handed in a bank with a striped T shirt, eye mask and bag marked ‘swag’, raping a pensioner, but the policeman who arrested me wasn’t wearing a hat and I happen to know that’s illegal, so while this vicious, corrupt police force continues to victimise me I remain a victim, the [insert town here] one”.

Buying into this, in turn, reinforces the sense of self-justification in the rioters. We’re not just vandals and thugs, we’re an intifada, like the Palestinians, victims of injustice, noble, resisting tyranny.

Yet in a way, they are victims. It is harder for them to get work in France than it need be because of racism and economic and social policy that discourages the hiring of unskilled or young workers. A great deal of the problems of the underclass come from a lack of opportunity and an excess of help, the sort of help that makes the giver look and feel better while actually assisting the recipient not one jot.

The French social model, excessive regulation and excessive employee featherbedding, together with excessive welfarism, wastes people as well as money. And then they riot.

This problem isn’t helped by radical Islam, but it isn’t the consequence of it either.

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What the hell, why not blog about technology too.

I’ve always used emacs/tramp for editing remote files but when it hangs, it’s easy to lose the file itself, which is a major nuisance (the backupfile~ stays there so not all is lost). And boy, does it hang. Every other ssh connection I use – shell, vfs etc – is fine but not tramp.

Today this has been a major strain on my productivity.

But Gnome-vfs handles the remote connection fine. If I switched to KDE, KIO-slaves would do the same job, maybe even better. Shame, I like emacs, but there are a lot of good programming editors there and I can’t afford to lose two hours as I have today every time there’s something flaky about my broadband line.

It’s an emotional moment… I’ve used emacs for years. When I started using tramp, there was no real alternative for remote editing, now you can use pretty much anything. Next you know, I’ll be using a graphical IDE…

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An excellent essay here from Scottish Libertarian David Farrer. Libertarians are often criticized as hypocrites if they want any restraint on immigration. While some might be, in fact the criticisms are generally based on a misunderstanding of libertarianism.

If welfare systems are not identical (or indeed exist at all) then there can be no free market in labour (or the movement of people). Equally, in a society in which everything is privately owned, then nobody would be able to take up residence there without an invitation from a property owner, or the purchase of some of the property.

This is a very quick summary, and the piece is worth a read.

This could be read as a device to avoid any immigration (we do have welfare systems, they are unequal between countries, and we don’t have 100% property ownership so there can be limits on migration and they can be whatever I decide, arbitrarily, to make them). But I don’t think that’s the idea.

The theory of any political idea is not necessarily founded in the world as we find it, but rather an aspiration of the world as we would like it to be. Of course, most libertarians are to at least some degree pragmatists anyway. While they do tend to favour immigration on principle, they also often want to recognise the problems that large scale migration can cause in the world we actually find ourselves in.

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Well, I did warn:

The consequences of giving preferential treatment to extremists like the MCB for a decade, of deferring to the real or imagined sensitivities of a small section of the population, and thereby causing genuine resentment, dislike and even hatred of all Muslims generally within society, then reversing the position and releasing a constant stream of remarks, initiatives and policy changes that feed this cultivated dislike could be horrendous.

And now:

Two men have been arrested on suspicion of racial assault after four men were attacked in a mosque last night.

Muslims are widely perceived as combining aggression with a victim complex born out of paranoia. Pretty much every non-Muslim population in the world feels under assault from radical Islam. It’s a very dangerous situation because if one fifth of the world’s population is Muslim, four fifths are not.

One infrequently commented-on quality of satire, criticism, mockery and abuse is that they act as a safety valve. If people are denied those outlets for their feelings, then the pressure builds until there is an explosion. Recent attacks on free expression have had this effect.

These recent attacks on free expression are as much to blame for assaults on people coming out of mosques as any idiotic special privileges accorded to Muslims by the government and the police. The fatuous habitual cries of “Islamophobic”, used to stifle debate and criticism, have made matters much, much worse.

Dialogue, honest criticism, debate and equal treatment for everybody, regardless of race, sex, gender and religion provide the only way forward.

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Again, in his comment to this post, Ismaeel said:

My objections here on this site are to the rather silly and baseless slander that you have thrown around on your site like your description of the MCB forcing veils on women, encouraging honor killings and forced marriages etc. That kind of “critical analysis” we can do without it to facilitate better understanding. That requires you to be civil. Hopefully one day you will understand that need.
I’m sure you will seek to defend yourself by saying you were being flippant and only seeking to amuse.

I assume this is a reference to an earlier post of mine where I said:

The consequences of giving preferential treatment to extremists like the MCB for a decade, of deferring to the real or imagined sensitivities of a small section of the population, and thereby causing genuine resentment, dislike and even hatred of all Muslims generally within society, then reversing the position and releasing a constant stream of remarks, initiatives and policy changes that feed this cultivated dislike could be horrendous.

Why are Labour doing this? It must be a deliberate policy. I can see no other explanation than that their private polling has revealed a serious threat to their position with the bedrock of their support, the white working class. Having caused the problem, by favouring Muslim extremists to the great personal cost especially of moderate Muslims in the country who have had to endure a surge of religious conservatism, veilings, forced marriage, curtailed female education, lost voting rights for the weakest (especially women) and “honour” violence, they are now reversing the position, also to the potential great cost of moderate Mulsims in this country.

That’s a silly misrepresentation, Ismaeel. I think that the cultivation of the MCB and of the even more extreme MAB and IHRC has created a situation in which yet more extreme organisations have begun to campaign through proxies for veiling, and in which honour killings and forced marriages have become more common.

You yourself told me in Oxford that you consider the first part of this to be true, that the government has favoured extremist groups at the expense of more reasonable ones. We specifically mentioned the MCB in this conversation.

So no, I wasn’t being flippant. And I don’t find it amusing.

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Ismaeel wrote, in the comment cited below:

I do not wrestle with my beliefs, I am very happy and secure in them and the discussion of the MfFE did not cause me any anxt although it may have caused others some.

This encapsulates a profound difference between some religious thinking, and the secular world. Of course, many religious people (including, according to the Bible, Jesus) have wrestled with doubt; this why the word “faith” has such importance and does not, for everybody, just mean blind acceptance.

But for secularists, doubt is everything. Doubt informs us, makes us question, makes us learn. This is why it is good practice in scientific papers for the writer(s) actually to point out real and potential problems in their work. They are seeking the truth, not trying to impose their findings on the world (I repeat, this is good, rather than invariable, practice).

Only by doubting the accepted wisdom do we investigate and learn new things. Without doubt, we would not be able to communicate like this, because computers would not exist.

Some religious people try to capitalise on this, dishonestly. In a previous post, I quoted from the ask the imam website:

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.

Note the last sentence. Their “false research” into this area has sequenced a full human genome. Genetic engineering – the direct manipulation of one part of the mechanism of evolution – holds out the promise of cures for cancers, Altzheimer’s disease and will revolutionise human life this coming century.

We need the contribution of the Islamic world, of the brains, inventiveness and inquiry the world saw in the past. Don’t get left behind.

Ismaeel, you should wrestle with your beliefs. You’d be stronger for it.

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