Current affairs, politics and society in Europe and East Asia.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tariq Ramadan comments on Swiss election

Tariq Ramadan writes in the Guardian about the referendum in which the people of Switzerland voted to ban the building of minarets in their country:

At the very moment Europeans find themselves asking, in a globalising, migratory world, "What are our roots?", "Who are we?", "What will our future look like?", they see around them new citizens, new skin colours, new symbols to which they are unaccustomed.

Over the last two decades Islam has become connected to so many controversial debates – violence, extremism, freedom of speech, gender discrimination, forced marriage, to name a few – it is difficult for ordinary citizens to embrace this new Muslim presence as a positive factor.

I agree that some people in Europe are finally asking themselves what values they stand for and what they can accept in their countries from immigrants. Furthermore, I agree that this introspection is fuelled by the kind of controversies that have come with the introduction of large numbers of Muslims into Europe: violence, discrimination, honor killings, forced marriages, opposition to freedom of speech, etc.
Now I don't know if Tariq Ramadan has a sense of humor but I find it to be the understatement of the century to say that the reaction is merely one of confusion or 'being unaccustomed'. It is not. It is a question of outright opposition.
I have been repeating for years to Muslim people that they have to be positively visible, active and proactive within their respective western societies. (...)
They (Muslims and political parties, in Europe as in Switzerland) fail to assert that Islam is by now a Swiss and a European religion and that Muslim citizens are largely "integrated". (...)
We cannot blame the populists alone – it is a wider failure, a lack of courage, a terrible and narrow-minded lack of trust in their new Muslim citizens.
So basically he is asking Europe to just bite it. He knows full well that Islam is seen in terms of human rights abuses and violence, but does not deny it or try to explain it. He is simply stating a fact and offers no positive alternative spin. He only asks that everyone else accepts it as it is. We are here - violence, bigotry and all - we are not going away - so deal with it. He even has the gall to ask for trust.
He doesn't even frame the violence, forced marriages, opposition to freedom of speech, etc. as something negative in itself. Rather, he focuses on the fact that Europeans have this impression as that which is unfortunate - not the acts themselves. No denial, excuse or anything like that. No, no. The real problem is in those people not willing to cede Europe to Islam.

His only call for action or concrete advice is this:
Across Europe, we must stand up to the flame-fanning populists
What about the actual flames from Jihadi attacks, embassy burnings, suicide bombings? That is what the people of Switzerland stood up against- and I applaud them.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Multiculturalist mechanics

Robert Spencer speaks about the power to define terms such as Islamism or Jihad. And what the consequences are to free societies when they lose that power. Check it out by clicking the link.

Below Pat Condell covers a lot of ground in explaining how it is possible to oppose an ideology and yet not be a racist at the same time. Who would have thunk it?

Salman Rushdie basically speaks about the same as Pat Condell above but does it in a lower tone of voice. Same amount of sarcasm, however. Fast forward to 2:50 into the file to get to the important parts about multiculturalism:

You can find the entire interview with Salman Rushdie and Irshad Manji here. Exciting and important stuff.

This past Thursday at least 12.000 Danes went on the streets of Copenhagen to protest the denial of asylum to some 200 asylum seekers who were unable to explain why they should have asylum here, other than living in their own country of Iraq was not as pleasant as living in Denmark.
Of course that is just my version of the story. One of the organizers (whose name I forget) of the Copenhagen protests said to TV2 NEWS that "they don't stand a chance" (if they are sent).
Well, currently almost 30 million other Iraqis are living just fine in Iraq. Furthermore, each week hundreds of Iraqis living in Denmark go back there on vacation. Once they secure legal stay here, going back isn't all of a sudden so dangerous after all.
If some parts of Iraq are safe and some are unsafe, what is then wrong with going back to live in the safe parts? These people are obviously willing to live far from "home". Why is a different province of their home country so utterly wrong when a different part of the world, such as Denmark, is so right? I don't think anyone is telling them to go live on top of a bomb factory. Not to their faces anyway.
The Iraqis in question had occupied a Danish church, Brorsons Kirke, for several months, possibly thinking that normal laws don't apply there. For the record: they do. When the police came and talked them into leaving the church a couple of hundred activists showed up and tried to block the police cars from leaving - mostly by sitting down in front of it but the bus did also leave with a broken front window. When the police used force to remove them they appeared to be shocked and appalled and now complaints over the police are flying like cobble stones in the air.
The same day police was chased out of the notorius Muslim ghetto of Vollsmose by automatic weapons' fire.
Yes, let's add another 200 immigrants to these ghettos... That'll help :-P

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

It's not about the tools

I like taking pictures. But just like everyone is a f*cking comedian when you don’t need it so, it seems, everyone is a professional photographer-wannabe these days. With quality digital cameras having come within the price range of normal people now, more and more go out and buy decent equipment. Good for them.

What annoys me, however, is the prevailing notion that the more expensive equipment you have, the better photographer you are. Good equipment gives the photographer more options and usually the chance of taking a decent shot in poor lighting conditions where cheap equipment would give up. What makes a good photograph depends, however, not on the number of extra features switched to ON but rather the sensibility, vision, technique of the photographer and of course to chance. Don't underestimate chance and don't rely on your equipment to produce art.

Of course it bothers me that photos I took with my old 2 mega pixel FujiFilm camera are too shitty to blow up on a wall. Better and more expensive equipment would have made a definitive difference there but I dare say that better equipment alone would not have produced those photos. Machinery needs someone to operate it and those photos are a product of me - not FujiFilm Corp..

I couldn’t be bothered registering to leave a comment but I quite agree with this blog post .

Obviously he is trying to come to grips with his gadget craving withdrawal symptoms but he is on to the right thing:

I am not going to pretend that having good equipment doesn't matter in photography, much as I often wish otherwise; to compete commercially at the very top ranks of game one will need to be able to stand up to the best in every technical aspect, and that means spending eye-watering sums of money. Having said that much, however, the top photographers did not get to where they are by spending small fortunes at the beginning of their careers, but by working their way up the food chain, and the most important ingredient in doing this is to have a clear, unique aesthetic vision of what one wishes to accomplish: with this in place, even a tiny, highly-compressed image can grasp a viewer's attention

A second point I want to make about photography is the Japanese obsession with taking pictures of sakura flowers. I just don’t think it is healthy or normal for a guy to spend that much money, time and effort on taking pictures of small pink flowers. It’s not like it’s a novel subject either. Every year sites like Flickr is flooded with pictures of the damned things.

When I constantly have to listen to speeches of how weak, childish or feminine I am for eating the occasional Danish pastry I just can’t help but finding it ironic and ridiculous the amount of energy being put into immortalizing the same pink flowers by Japanese men year after year. With all that equipment you would think that people would come up with other subjects to focus on as well. But the sakura season is the only time a year I see Japanese come out in full force like this:

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Thursday, July 16, 2009


Ok so I finally got around to updating my links. With an average life-span of a year and a half for most blogs it's no wonder that many of them had been dead for a while.

R.I.P. expecially to North Korea Zone, which was always a joy to read.
Respect especially to EastWestSouthNorth. I have no idea how he keeps up the pace and quality. His site may not be visually pretty but content-wise it is out of this world.

I put in a few "new" ones that appear to be as solid as most commercial sites are.
I also tried to put in Gates of Vienna and Centre for Social Cohesion but for some reason they just won't pop up.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Turkey Has No Place in EU

As part of his campaign leading up to the EU Parliament elections June 7th the former vice prime minister and frontrunner for the conservatives Bendt Bendtsen (cons.) told media that he did not think that Turkey should ever achieve full membership of EU. Instead he would offer Turkey a privileged partnership. He is cited in the media mostly as referring to the German CDU for justification. Himself neither very brave nor a great thinker it may actually be true that he has to hide behind the Germans instead of just sticking to his guns.

CDU’s point is something along the lines that since Turkey is Muslim they have different values than Christian Europe. A point also commonly cited in France for opposing Turkish membership.

This blogger seems to know that Bendtsen is actually thinking about Turkey’s actions under the Mohammad cartoon crisis; general problems with freedom of speech and Turkey’s vehement resistance to Anders Fogh Rasmussen becoming the next secretary general of NATO.

A common reaction among commentators here in Denmark has been that Bendt Bendtsen’s statement was a cheap populist shot aimed only at creating publicity. The chance that he actually holds the opinion that Turkey does not belong in EU is brushed off as ridiculous. Especially since the official opinion of the government that he was a member of not so long ago was that EU should work towards full membership for Turkey.

Lord knows I am not a big fan of mr. Bendtsen but his remarks did spark a discussion here which I think is important. Several other members of the governing parties have come out in full support of this opinion. Others express understanding. Front runner for the Liberals Jens Rohde says he understands the opposition to Turkish membership: “everyone in the world – except perhaps Obama – can see that the Turkey of today does not have a chance in hell of gaining membership. (...) I too am sceptical of their style of government when for instance a writer is put on trial for writing a book critical of Islam. In that sense they are moving further and further away from membership”. He continues, however, that he is confident that Turkey will not become a member until they live up to the formal criteria.

This too is a common way to try and silence critique: "They won't join until they live up to the criteria, which by the way wont be until far into the future."

The problems as I see them are two: Experience shows that in EU 1) popular opinion does not carry any value; 2) neither do formal accession criteria.

What matters is expansion.

70 percent of both Europeans and of the Turkish population oppose Turkish membership. Shouldn’t that mean something? When a popularly held opinion is voiced against the grand plans that EU has scheming it is brushed off as irrelevant and the train just keeps on steaming ahead.

We saw this particularly bad tendency at the Dutch, French and finally Irish no-votes to the paper called the EU Constitution, when it was still called that, and then again when it had changed name to the Lisbon treaty. All that EU politicians did the first time around was to fake concern and then just change the name. When it was rejected again they told Ireland to take their time and come back when they had changed their mind. The lack of respect that EU politicians have for public opinion is deeply concerning to me. You may even say that I am personally offended.

Just like Turkey today, Bulgaria and Rumania were also nowhere near compliance with accession criteria when they were acceded to EU. But we were told that EU had already “promised” that the two countries would become members at a certain date and so the criteria were all of a sudden not so important after all.

So, what happens in 20 years when Turkey is still a fucked up country and no where near living up to the criteria? Are we going to hear the same drill: "Well, we promised them membership so they are just going to have to catch up later"?

My main concerns as regards Turkey in EU are mostly immaterial such as the political and religious culture and ethics of Turkey and the fact that Turkey willingly acts as messenger for OIC in their efforts to curb human rights and freedoms. Concerns that are easy to ignore if expansion is all you care about.

Turkey has signed the Cairo Declaration, which states such ridiculous things as: “(art. 2,a) it is prohibited to take away life except for a Shari’ah-prescribed reason”; “(art. 2,d) Safety from bodily harm is a guaranteed right … and it is prohibited to breach it without a Shari’ah-prescribed reason.” “(art. 9,a) The State shall ensure the availability of ways and means to … be acquainted with the religion of Islam”; (art. 10) “Islam is the religion of unspoiled nature. It is prohibited to exercise any form of compulsion on man or to exploit his poverty or ignorance in order to convert him to another religion or to atheism”; “(art. 12) The country of refuge shall ensure his (the refugee’s) protection until he reaches safety, unless asylum is motivated by an act which Shari’ah regards as a crime.” (such as homosexuality or religious conversion); “(art. 19,d) There shall be no crime or punishment except as provided for in the Shari’ah”; “(art. 24) All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari'ah.”; and “(art. 25) The Islamic Shari'ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification to any of the articles of this Declaration”.

Any country, which is signatory to the Cairo Declaration is, in my opinion, unfit to become a member of EU.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Durban Review Conference still a sham

So Denmark participates in the Durban Review Conference set to last April 20-24th 2009. Yesterday the Foreign Ministry announced that Denmark would go along with the majority of nations in EU and apparently that means we are going. Not a very principled stance if you ask me.

Whereas EU unity on any kind of foreign policy issue would be preferable, weighing that illusion over the very real prospect of giving in to various oppressive regimes’ idea of human rights is very worrying indeed.

This sheepish notion that it is more important to stick together than the contents of the issue being discussed is unfortunately a common one. We see it not only in comments deploring the inability of EU to make up its mind but also in the voting patterns of 3rd world countries in the UN: "there is a solidarity that people will maintain, even in the face of that which is manifestly not in their interest or even manifestly wrong. The larger value, for a lot of countries, is to stick together because they feel weak and powerless. They largely are, but… they seem to feel that if they can stick together, they at least have some kind of clout vis-à-vis the United States and the other powerful countries".

Leader of Centre for European Politics at the University of Copenhagen Marlene Wind in one sense has the right idea when she says: “EU not attending and leaving it all to more or less fundamentalist regimes is undermining the entire UN system and the credibility of UN”.

Yes… but you say it like it’s a bad thing??!?!? Her next comment reveals her misunderstanding: “This is a UN conference and if countries that think like the free western world no longer dominate those values and norms then the long prospect is very unpleasant indeed.

What she apparently doesn’t know is that the cards in the UN Human Rights Council are already stacked in favour of countries that want to attack the West. As I wrote about here, studies by both the Canadian government and the European Council on Foreign Relations are clear in their analysis:

The Committee is concerned that, faced with these bloc politics, there is little that human rights defenders such as Canada can currently do on the Human Rights Council. The Western Europe and other states group of members is effectively outnumbered.

The trend away from the Europeans is markedly worse on the new Human Rights Council (HRC) where EU positions have been defeated in over half the votes.

In other words EU boycotting the UN is not a question of handing anything over to dictatorships and thus unfortunately undermining the UN. It is a question of undermining the UN because you accept the fact that various oppressive regimes and enemies of the West already control the UN Human Rights Council and have made it into a vehicle for attacks on the West. And yes that is very unpleasant indeed.

In a perfect world EU would agree on how to oppose limitations on our hard-won freedoms and present a united front till the very end. Unfortunately that is far from realistic. Germany’s withdrawal yesterday is in clear acknowledgement that amendments to the final documents at UN conferences may occur up to the very last moment leaving no time for EU to discuss that and achieve a common stance (as if that ever happens anyway). Looking at the people involved and the draft declaration as it was presented one day before the conference Germany therefore wisely opted not to grace this mockery of a human rights conference with her presence.

Among other nations the US has also wisely backed out of Durban II. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has this comment: "Some media have interpreted the US withdrawal as based on the continued retention of language on defamation of religion and anti-semitism in the outcome document, when in fact no such language exists in the text adopted last week," Pillay noted. "In addition, the draft outcome document clearly states that ‘the Holocaust must never be forgotten’ and deplores all forms of racism including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism."

This is exactly the problem: the draft outcome document clearly (…) ‘deplores all forms of racism including Islamophobia.

First of all I object to the word Islamophobia. As if it is a disease to disagree with stoning as a reasonable reaction to homosexuality. It is not. Secondly disagreeing with Islam is not racism. Islam is an ideology, a set of ideas - not a race.

This part of the document is fully sufficient to warrant a boycott of Durban II. If criticizing a set of ideas amounts to racism then we might as well dismantle democracy altogether right away. Or we might acknowledge that people disagree with each other and learn to live with it.

Apart from India, bringing western ideas of right and wrong to the colonies did not create a whole lot of good things. Rather, the project ended in a large number of wars and hatred towards the West. For the OIC to try and bring their ideas of right and wrong into the West now is bound to not create a whole lot of good things either.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

End the Obama Hysteria

Ok, so there is a new American president and no one may be worse off for that. Hoorah, congratulations and so on. What I don’t understand, however, is the level of hysteria accompanying his candidacy and inauguration. Please stop it.

A few examples:

CNN reports:

"My fervent prayer is that there will be peace on Earth in all nations, and let all countries unite together to make this dream come true," said iReporter Shari Atukorala of Kandy, Sri Lanka. "To the President-elect Barack Obama: Sir, you can do this for all of us."

In Chicago

"at least five people were arrested across the city after Barack Obama's rally in Grant Park, including a woman who slapped a Chicago police officer, saying police couldn't arrest her anymore, prosecutors said today.
Most of the others celebrated the historic occasion with gunfire.
Celita Hart, 19, stood silently in court today when she appeared for a bond hearing.
Prosecutors said Hart, who is black, yelled " 'White , McCain--you white police can't do nothing anymore.'" With that, she reached through the window of a squad car and slapped a white male officer in the face, according to Assistant State's Atty. Lorraine Scaduto."

Click the above link. The title of the story is “Some mayhem, arrests after Obama rally”. I love that. Some mayhem … that’s grand.

Danish media and the public have been not been exemplary either. During the campaign Obama was portrayed as a kind of social democratic black Jesus-figure who would magically transform the state of the world into peace and happiness. Danish social democrats have hardly been able to contain themselves with joy.

And the wishful thinking continues. On a Danish web-site for communication professionals professor Christian Kock wrote this “analysis” of Obama’s inaugural address (my translation):

“it was surprising that following only a recognition of George Bush and his “service to the nation” Obama was extremely concise about all the political subjects where his administration would do something completely different than the predecessor and make right the mistakes of the past: “we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics” ... ” the time has come to set aside childish things” ... ”stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply”.”

End paragraph.

Christian Kock is a professor at the University of Copenhagen. More so than in other countries, achieving the title of full professor in Denmark is extremely difficult. It’s expensive for the universities and they tend to prefer associate professors instead. The job they do is more or less the same anyway. The fact that Christian Kock is a full professor shows that he is extremely qualified within an area the university finds important. In this case, Christian Kock names his main research areas, interests and competencies as: theory of rhetoric, history of rhetoric, reception aesthetics, argumentation, political debate, theory of presentation, written presentation and pedagogy.

All those qualification and yet he finds that “an end to petty grievances”, “false promises”, “worn out dogmas”, “childish things” and “stale political arguments” accurately describe Obama’s political focal points. Those terms can mean absolutely anything you want them to mean. Tellingly professor Kock is unable to describe exactly what it is Obama wants to do other than: “do something completely different”. Great!

This is embarrassing.

Foreign policy is driven by events. I predict that some serious event will come along and test Obama’s resolve and backbone. Having to deal with the threat of being portrayed as weak by his critics in the US he will opt for a tough military response. This will strengthen him internally but the enemies of the West will be confirmed that nothing has changed.

Besides, who in their right mind actually believes that just because Obama is president, Iran will not continue developing nuclear arms? That North Korea will end its blackmailing of the world with nukes and long-range missiles? That China will halt the build-up of force projection capabilities, threatening Taiwan and expanding its sphere of influence into South Asia and the Indian Ocean? That Hamas and Hezbollah will stop hating and launching attacks against Israel? That the genocide in Sudan will stop? That African leaders will pull themselves together and finally deal with Mugabe? That Hugo Chavez will suddenly come to his senses and give up his dream of becoming a dictator for life?

Pull yourselves together people.

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