Archive for the ‘Egypt’ Category

Karen Davies on Feminist Article Debunking Claims that Africans and Other Non-White Peoples Didn’t Know about Biological Sex before European Colonisation

June 14, 2022

I felt I had to put this up, because the fact that activists and feminist scholars like Karen Davies and Jennifer Seiland, the author of magazine article Davies discusses, have to refute this nonsense show how far the ideological fantasies of Queer Theory have poisoned genuine political, feminist and ethnological discourse. Davies is a Black American lady, who’s a sharp, trenchant critic of the transgender ideology and its supporters. She’s a musician, schoolteacher teaching young children, and has also worked in the care sector with the mentally ill. She has very strong, uncompromising views on both the transgender ideology and transwomen which has led to disputes with other gender critical campaigners, like Graham Linehan. However, her views and criticisms are informed by medical scholarship, and she cites the appropriate medical and psychiatric literature to support her case.

In this video she approvingly discusses a piece in the feminist magazine Reduxx by Jennifer Seiland ‘Black Women Are Women. Men Are Not’, concentrating particularly on Seiland’s attack on a frankly weird and bonkers idea going around Trans supporters and ideologues. This is that Africans did not understand biological sex and the gender binary before it was imposed on them by White, Christian Europeans. Davies herself makes good, and sometimes glaringly obvious points against this nonsense. Like Africans obviously knew about the gender binary and the biological differences between the sexes, like everyone else. It would have partly been a survival issue. You wouldn’t let heavily pregnant women go hunting where they were particularly vulnerable to animal attack. Rather, you’d give them other, lighter work to do and leave them with other people in attendance to help them when the baby arrived. She points to great African civilisations like ancient Egypt and asks how anybody could build such a great culture and its monuments, if they were too thick to know the difference between men and women. She also raises the point that people in the ancient world travelled widely long before European colonisation, and that the Vikings probably got to Africa. She also makes the feminist point that not only were Black women frequently denied their humanity, but so were women generally. She compares the attitude that African’s didn’t understand the difference between men and women to nonsense she was taught at Roman Catholic school that Africans didn’t have language until the Europeans arrived.

This all seems to be a development of one of the arguments used by the supporters of the transgender ideology that non-western cultures have a third gender, and that White westerners, as racist colonialists, have imposed their narrow view that there are only two sexes on them. Now some cultures do have a third gender category for people, usually gay men, who are seen as somehow neither male nor female. A few years ago the Indian hijras – eunuchs – were campaigning for official recognition as a third gender. One book I read years ago about Polynesian society described the gay men in those societies, who grew their hair long, dressed as women and took up feminine occupations like laundry. Going further back, Herodotus in his Histories describes how the men of the Scythian aristocracy often dressed as women and did feminine tasks.

Not all cultures outside Europe have such ideas, however, and in many African cultures the sex roles can be very marked. For example, among the Dowayo of Cameroon the smiths are men but their wives are potters. Basket-weaving is also feminine occupation,. The British anthropologist, Dr. Nigel Barley, in his book The Innocent Anthropologist, describes the general hilarity he caused among his hosts when he tried his hand at basked making. To me the statement that Africans didn’t know about biological sex seems to be a new mutation of the old, and thoroughly discredited anthropological belief that primitive peoples, like those of Papua New Guinea, didn’t understand the father’s role in conception. They believed instead that a god or spirit had entered the woman’s womb. In fact later research showed that primitive peoples know very well that you need a biological man as well as a women to make the next generation.

I also wonder how anyone can make such a ludicrous statement that it needs to be refuted by a feminist scholar like Seiland, when there’s a wealth of popular literature about Africa and its peoples that would easily show otherwise. All you have to do is look for the books on Africa in the local library or good bookstore. And there’s some excellent LGBTQ+ literature which discusses homosexuality and related issues around the world. One of these is A Gay History of the World. This describes the case of an African queen, who overthrew her husband, took on male dress and ruled as king. She also had a harem of male wives, who wore women’s clothes. It’s definitely queer, but it seems to me to be a result of very strong traditional ideas about the sex roles. Only men can rule as kings. Therefore, any woman that tries to rule, has to make herself culturally a man, which means dressing in masculine clothes and having a harem of wives. Though as it seems the queen was heterosexual, these were men rather than women.

As for what Davies was taught in Catholic school about Africans not possessing language until it was brought to them by Whites, I honestly have no idea where that notion came from. It’s the kind of rubbish Fascist groups like the National Front used to say. But European explorers and linguists from the 19th century, and no doubt well before, knew that Africans had their own tongues. The Victorian explorer Richard Burton gives a complete description of the language of the east African city of Harar with grammar and extensive vocabulary in his account of his journeys in that part of the continent. In Wanderings in West Africa he talks approvingly of the Mandinko people and the language of the Kru, asking why Brits dealing with them can’t use their own, perfectly good indigenous names rather than give them nicknames like ‘Three-Fingered Jack’. I’m not saying such attitudes towards African languages is common in the church. I know it isn’t. One of the other voluntary workers at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum told me once how he’d heard mass in Swahili when in Africa. It seems pretty clear that this bizarre idea that African’s didn’t have their own languages isn’t general to Roman Catholics, but just held by those particular teachers in Davies’ old school.

I do wonder at the intellectual damage assertions like the idea that Africans had no notion of biological sex are doing. At the moment they’re held by a small, highly ideologically driven elite, but it seems to be an attempt to deny biological reality for ideological reasons. And I fear that it will be enforced by the same people that protest against and sack academics like Kathleen Stock, who simply assert that sex and gender are based in biological reality, rather than mental or cultural constructs.

A History of Racism in the Islamic Middle East

May 27, 2022

Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry (Oxford: OUP 1990).

Bernard Lewis is a veteran scholar of Islam, and this book is an examination of the emergence and development of predominantly Muslim Arab racism in the Middle East. The book is a reworking of two previous studies from the 1970s, one of which was first published in French. It started off as part of an academic examination of intolerance, concentrating on religious bigotry. Lewis, however, believed that issue had been solved and so moved on to racial intolerance. Unfortunately, as the past fifty years have unfortunately shown, religious hatred and bigotry has certainly not died out, as shown here in Britain with the sectarian violence in Ulster.

Arab Ethnic Identity Before Colour Prejudice

Islam is viewed as an anti-racist religion, and the Qur’an states categorically that Blacks and Whites are both equal and should be treated as such. This admirable attitude was maintained by its theologians and jurists. However, with the emergence and expansion of the Islamic empires this began to change and prejudice and racism, based initially in ethnic differences and then on skin colour, emerged. The book argues that the pre-Islamic and early Islamic Arabs, like the other nations around them, had a strong sense of their own superiority against those of the surrounding peoples. This was based on ethnicity, not colour. A variety of colours were used to describe the variations in human complexion, and were used in relative rather than absolute terms. Thus the Arabs saw themselves as black compared to the ‘red’ Persians, but white compared to the Black peoples of Africa. As the new Arab ruling class intermarried with the peoples they had conquered, so there developed an attitude which saw Arabs of mixed descent as inferior, leading to dynastic conflicts between those of pure and mixed race. Muslim Arabs also saw themselves as superior to converts to Islam from the indigenous peoples of the Islamic empire, and a set of rules developed to enforce the converts’ inferior social status. At the same time, the Arabs formed various explanations based on the environment for the ethnic differences they observed among different peoples. An Iraqi writer believed that Whites had been undercooked in the womb due to the coldness of the environment they occupied. Blacks, on the other hand, were overcooked. The Iraqi people, however, were brown and mentally and physically superior to the other two races.

Development of Anti-Black Prejudice

As Islam expanded into sub-Saharan Africa anti-Black racism developed. This did not initially exist, not least because Ethiopia had been one of the major superpowers in the Arabian peninsula with a superior culture. Muslims also respected the Abyssinians for giving sanctuary to many of Mohammed’s followers during their persecution by the Meccan pagans. Over time, however, an attitude of contempt and racial superiority emerged towards Blacks. This racism even extended towards highly regarded Black Arabic poets and the governors of provinces, who were reproached and vilified for their colour by their enemies. Here Arab racist views of Blacks is nearly identical to those of White European racists. They were seen as lazy, ugly, stupid and lustful. The prurient view of Black women as boiling with sexual desire mirrors the racist attitude towards Jewish women amongst western anti-Semites. On the other hand, Blacks were also seen as strong, loyal, generous and merry. They also had excellent rhythm. Although both Whites and Blacks were enslaved, White slaves had a higher status and different terms were used to describe them. White slaves were mawlana, literally, ‘owned’. Only Black slaves were described as slaves, abid, a term that is still used to mean Black people in parts of the Arab world today.

The expansion of the European states and empires effectively cut off or severely diminished the supply of White slaves, and as a consequence the value of Black slaves began to rise. Unable to afford White slaves and concubines from Europe and the Caucasus, the peoples of the Middle East turned instead to Abyssinians and the Zanj, Black Africans from further south. Abyssinians in particular were prized for their beauty and other qualities, and its from this period that the Arab taste for the beauty of Black Africans rather than Whites developed. And as anti-Black racism developed, so Muslims scholars and authors wrote pieces defending Blacks from racism, not least because many of Mohammed’s Companions had been Black and the emergence of powerful Muslim kingdoms in Africa.

Islamic Slavery and Slave Armies

Islamic slavery was comparatively milder and more enlightened than western slavery. Although technically slaves could not own property and were disbarred from giving evidence in court, there was limitations on the punishments that could be inflicted on them. Muslims were urged to treat their slaves humanely and manumission was praised as a noble act. It was particularly recommended for the expiation of particular sins. At the same time Islam permitted contracts to be made between master and slave allowing the slave to save enough money to purchase his freedom at an agreed date. There were stories of particular Muslims who freed their slaves even in circumstances where punishment would have been expected. One master freed a female slave after she asked him why he was still alive, as she had been trying to poison him for a year. Slaves could rise to high office. The viziers and other chief dignitaries of the Ottoman empire were slaves. Slaves were used to staff Muslim armies, and there were separate regiments for White and Blacks slaves. Sometimes this resulted in battles between the two, as during the dynastic battles where one side used Black soldiers and the other White. The mamlukes, the Egyptian warriors who ruled Egypt and who expelled the Crusaders and stopped the Mongols conquering the Middle East, were White slaves. They were freed after completing their military training and their leaders preferred to purchase other slaves for training as their successors rather than pass on their position to their own children.

Islam’s acceptance and regulation of slavery, like Judaism, Christianity and other religions, as well as the views of ancient philosophers like Aristotle, also meant that there was opposition to its abolition. Muslim defenders of slavery produced the same arguments as their Christian counterparts, including the argument that Blacks and other infidels were better off enslaved as it introduced them to a superior civilisation. When a 19th century British consul inquired of the king of Morocco what steps he was taking regarding slavery and the slave trade, he was politely informed that all the legislation was based on the Qur’an and sharia and that there was no intention of banning slavery as it was permitted by Islam. Indeed, the Ottoman province of the Hijaz, the area around the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, was exempt from the Ottoman ban on slavery and the slave trade after the ulema and nobles declared it to be an attack on Islam, along with legislation allowing women to go in public without the veil. The Turks were declared to be apostates, who could be killed and their children enslaved. Many of the pilgrims to Mecca came with a number of slaves, who acted as living sources of funding. When the pilgrim needed more money, he sold one or two of them.

The Myth of Muslim Non-Racism

In the last two chapters, Lewis discusses the emergence of the view of Islam as completely non-racist and that its slavery was benign. He argues that this was largely the creation of western scholars reacting to the horrors of New World slavery during the American Civil War. Christian missionaries also contributed to this myth. They attempted to explain their failure to make converts by arguing that it was due to Black African revulsion against harsh western slavery. In fact it was due to differences of colour. Islam spread because it was promoted by Black African preachers, rather than White westerners. Particularly influential in the creation of this myth was Edward Blydon, a Black West Indian who was educated in Liberia by the missionaries. He became convinced that Islam was more suited to the needs of Black people, and his books also stressed White guilt, contrasting it with Muslim tolerance. Lewis also believes that the myth is also due to a widespread feeling of guilt among western Whites, which he sees as the modern counterpart to Kipling’s White man’s burden.

Along with the text of the book itself are extensive notes and a documentary appendix containing texts including a Muslim discussion on national character, the rights of slaves and diplomatic correspondence and observations on the 19th century slave trade.

Race and Slavery Compared with Brown’s Slavery & Islam

This book should ideally be read alongside Jonathan A.C. Brown’s Slavery & Islam, as the two present contrasting views of slavery and racism in Islam. Brown is a White, American academic and convert to Islam. While he condemns slavery totally, his book presents a much more positive view of Islamic slavery compared with western servitude and even the conditions endured by 19th century free European workers. He also extensively discusses Islamic abolition and the voices for it, while Lewis lays more stress on Muslim opposition. Brown recognises the existence of racism in the Islamic world, but also emphasises Muslim anti-racist texts like The Excellence of the Negroes. But as Lewis points out, these texts also show the opposite, that there was racism and bigotry in the Muslim world.

Lewis also recognises that Muslim slaves generally enjoyed good conditions and were treated well. However, the real brutality was inflicted on them during the journey from their place of capture to the Islamic heartlands. He also suggests that this relatively benign image may be due to bias in the information available. Most Muslim slaves were domestic servants, unlike the mass of slave labouring on the plantations in America. There were gangs of slaves working cotton plantations and employed in mining and public works, and these laboured in appalling conditions. It may also be that there were more slaves working in agriculture than recognised, because the majority of the information available comes from the towns, and so ignore what may have been the harsher treatment in the countryside.

He also discusses the absence of descendants of the Black slaves, except for a few pockets, in the modern Middle East. David Starkey in an interview for GB News claimed it was because the Muslim slave masters killed any babies born by their slaves. I don’t know where he got this idea. Lewis doesn’t mention such atrocities. He instead suggests that it may have been due to the castration of large numbers of boys to serve as eunuchs in the harems. The other slaves were forbidden to marry and have sex, except for female slaves purchased for that purpose. Slaves were also particularly vulnerable to disease, and so an epidemic lasting five years could carry off an entire generation.

Importance of the Book for an Examination of Contemporary Racial Politics

I was interested in reading this book because of the comparative lack of information on slavery and racism in Islam, despite the existence of books like Islam’s Black Slaves. Lewis in his introduction states that researching the issue may be difficult and dangerous, as it can be interpreted as hostility rather than a genuinely disinterested investigation. I think there needs to be more awareness of the history of Muslim slavery and Islam. For one reason, it explains the emergence of the slave markets in that part of Libya now occupied by the Islamists. It also needs to be more widely known because, I believe, the emphasis on western historic slavery and racism can present a distorted image in which the west is held to be uniquely responsible for these evils.

New Politics’ Review of Frank Wolff’s History of the Russian/Polish Jewish Bund

May 11, 2022

I went on Google the other night to see if there were any books available on the history of the Bund, the majority Jewish socialist party of the former Russian empire and later Poland. I doubt very many people know about it apart from historians of the Jewish communities in those countries. I was therefore surprised to find that there are quite a few, in both English and Yiddish. However, one of the most informative and concise summaries of the Bund’s history is in Marvin S. Zuckerman’s review, ‘The Soul of the Bund’, of Frank Wolff’s Yiddish Revolutionaries in Migration: The Transnational History of the Jewish Labour Bund  translated by Loren Balhorn and Jan-Peter Herrmann, Haymarket Books, Chicago, 2022, paperback, 532 pp in New Politics, a magazine for the democratic Left. The review begins with a quote from Wolff’s book from Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who describes how the discovered the history of the Bund through a book about Marek Edelman, a member of the Bund and hero of the Warsaw uprising. In the book, Edelman talks about the Bund, and Cohn-Bendit states that both the Stalinists and Zionists have tried to erase it from memory. Then the review continues thus:

‘Books and monographs have been published about the Bund, in Yiddish and English, German and Polish, and in other languages. Nevertheless, Cohn-Bendit’s remarks remain relevant. To fill the still-existing broad gap in  knowledge of the Bund, before describing Frank Wolff’s book about the Bund, here are some facts that will give some notion of the “forgotten history” of the Bund.

The Bund was the first modern Jewish political party in the Russian Empire, as well as the largest social democratic movement in the entire empire. On the eve of the Second World War, it was also the strongest Jewish party in Poland.

In its early years (it was founded in 1897) the Bund achieved considerable success, attracting 40,000 supporters by 1906, making it the largest socialist group in the Russian Empire. From mid-1903 to mid-1904 the Bund held 429 political meetings, 45 demonstrations, and 41 political strikes; it issued 305 pamphlets, of which 23 dealt with the pogroms and self-defense. In 1904 the number of Bundist political prisoners reached 4,500.

In the 1930s, one hundred thousand Jewish workers belonged to Bundist unions, meaning that one-quarter of all unionized workers in Poland were led by the Bund, giving them enormous power. The Bund held the overwhelming majority in the national council of Jewish Trade Unions, which, at the end of 1921, comprised seven unions with 205 branches, and 46,000 members, and, in 1939, 14 unions with 498 branches and approximately 99,000 members.

Together with the left Labor Zionists, the Bund administered a network of secular Yiddish schools. At its peak, in the late 1920s, its TSYSHO (Tsentrale Yidishe Shul Organizatsye or Central Yiddish School Organization) maintained 219 institutions with 24,000 students, spread across 100 locations, including 467 kindergartens, 114 elementary schools, 6 high schools, 52 evening schools, and a pedagogical institute in Vilnius.

The Bund also maintained a youth organization, Tsukunft, which numbered 15,000 members on the eve of WW II, and a children’s organization, SKIF, blending scout activities, sports events, and politics; a women’s organization, YAF; and a sports organization, Morgnshtern, the largest such organization in all of Poland, Jewish or Polish.

In 1938, in the municipal elections in 89 Polish cities and towns, the Bund won 55% of the votes cast, more than all the other Jewish parties put together. The Bund thus became communal spokesmen and aggressive advocates of financial aid to all Jewish institutions, including yeshivas and religious institutions.

Most importantly, and as it relates to Frank Wolff’s book, being a member of the Bund meant you lived your life through the Bund—it was your union, your education, your church.’

The review then goes on to describe how the Bund was at the forefront of resistance to the Holocaust, and as Social Democrats, who believed in establishing socialism democratically, they were firmly opposed to the Communists. It also describes their attitude and struggle with the Zionists:

‘The Bund struggled with the Zionist movement for the hearts and minds of the Polish Jews. Looking back, one wonders how the Bund could have maintained that “There where we live (and have lived for hundreds of years), that is our country.” One forgets how chimerical the Zionist dream of a Jewish state in Palestine was. Herzl’s dictum that Palestine was “A land without people for a people without a land” was simply not true. Palestine was peopled by over 1 million Palestinians. In 1914, for example, Palestine’s non-Jews outnumbered Jews by 8 to 1.

The Bund argued that 3.2 million Polish Jews, and the other millions in Eastern Europe, would not pull up and move to Palestine. In any case, the Turks, and later the British, were not permitting Jews to enter. The practical and immediate thing to do was for the Jews in their millions to fight for their civil rights and for social democracy in the lands in which they were living, not dream of emigrating to Palestine.

It is tragically true that annihilation was the fate that befell the Polish and other East European Jews, but that same fate would have befallen the Jews of Palestine if the British army had not stopped the advance eastward of the German army with the British victory at El Alamein, Egypt. The Yishuv in Palestine would have been exterminated and with it would have perished the dream of a Jewish state in Palestine.’

The review describes the book as a social and cultural history, describing the Bund’s tactics in reaching the Jewish masses on one hand and fighting for their civil rights, against their exploitation and attacks on them by real anti-Semites. After the party’s suppression in Poland, the book follows its members as they emigrated abroad to New York and Buenos Aires.

But the Bund, although now long gone as an organisation, still exerts a powerful influence. There’s a quote from the book about Daniel Katz’s analysis of Bernie Sanders first run for the Democratic presidential nomination. Katz believed that Bernie was motivated not just by socialism – he was a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, but specifically Yiddish socialism and its tradition of fighting oppression, and especially Bund’s transnational appeal. It was this tradition that was able to enthuse and inspire millions of young Americans. The quote concludes

‘The history of the Bund as a party may have come to an end, but the effects of it cultural and political work and their unifying humanitarian yet activist spirit described here continue to matter today.’

The full review can be read at: https://newpol.org/review_of_yiddish_revolutionaries_in_migration/?msclkid=37292abbd14d11ecacf172187342a816

Bernie would have been an awesome president, and broken the mould of American politics. He genuinely seemed to understand and care about the real problems of American working people. During one of his campaign rallies in a southern community, he was approached by a woman in tears wondering how she was going to support her family. Bernie comforted her as she poured our her concerns. One supportive commenter pointed out how amazing it was that a secular Jew from the north could reach out and appeal to a southern Christian. But that’s because he genuinely championed them against the corporatist political establishment.

It’s a massive shame that Bernie didn’t win, just like Jeremy Corbyn lost over here. Because the two of them in power together would have transformed British and American politics for the better.

A Black Woman Visits Qatar’s Museum of Slavery

April 3, 2022

Very interesting video posted by Angela B. on her channel on YouTube. It was posted five years ago for Black history month. The hostess is an English-speaking Black woman, who lives in the Middle East. One of her parents is African, while the other comes from the Virgin Islands, which gives her a personal connection to the history of slavery. The video is her visit to a museum of slave trade in Qatar. This covers the history of slavery from ancient Greece and the use of enslaved Ethiopians in the bath houses, which understandably chills Angela B on what they saw and what they were used for – through the Atlantic slave trade and then the Arabic slave trade. It has animated displays and the voices of the enslaved describing their capture, the forced march through the desert during which many were left to die where they fell before arriving in Zanzibar, Kilwa and other east African islands under Arab suzerainty. The museum describes the enslavement of boys as pearl fishers and the abolition of slavery in Qatar in 1951. It also goes on to discuss the persistence of slavery in the modern world. Angela B is personally chilled, as someone with ancestors from the Virgin Islands, by the sight of the slave manacles in the museum. Interestingly, the explanatory panels in the museum also talk about serfdom in medieval Europe, which she doesn’t comment on. Serfdom is one of the numerous forms of unfree labour that is now considered a form of slavery by the international authorities. It’s interesting to see it referenced in an Arabic museum to slavery, when it is largely excluded from the debate over slavery in the West, which largely centres around the transatlantic slave trade. The recorded speech and voiceovers in the Museum are in Arabic, but the written texts are bilingual in Arabic and English.

The video’s also interesting in what the museum and Angela B include and comment on, and what they omit. There’s a bias towards Black slavery, though how much of this is the museum and how much Angela B obviously attracted to the part of the slave trade that affected people of her own race is debatable. Slavery was widespread as an unremarkable part of life in the Ancient Near East long before ancient Greece. There exist the lists of slaves working on the great estates from ancient Egypt, some of whom had definite Jewish names like Menachem. Slavery also existed among the Hittites in what is now Turkey, Babylonia and Assyria, but this isn’t mentioned in the video. If the museum doesn’t mention this, it might be from diplomatic reasons to avoid upsetting other, neighbouring middle eastern states. Or it could be for religious reasons. Islam regards the period before Mohammed as the ‘Jaihiliyya’, or ‘Age of Darkness’, and discourages interest in it. This is perhaps why it was significant a few years ago that the Saudi monarchy permitted the exhibition in the country’s museums of ancient Arabian pre-Islamic gods, except for those idols which were depicted nude. If the museum did include that era, then Angela B may have skipped over it because her video is concentrating and Black slaves. At the same time, the video doesn’t show the enslavement of White Europeans by the Barbary pirates and other Muslims. This may also be due to the same reason. The ancient Greeks used slaves in a variety of roles, including as craftsmen and agricultural labourers. Some of the pottery shows female sex slaves being used in orgies. There’s also a piece of pottery in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford in the shape of a sleeping Ethiopian boy curled up around a wine pot. I wonder if the piece about enslaved Ethiopians serving as bath attendants was selected for inclusion in the museum because it was similar to forms of slavery they would have been familiar with.

The video’s fascinating because it, like another video about the Arab slave trade I posted and commented on a few days ago, it shows how the issue of slavery and Black civil rights has penetrated the Arab world. The other video included not only discussion of Libya’s wretched slave markets, but also covered modern Afro-Iraqis and their demand for civil rights and political representation. These are issues we really don’t hear about in the west, unless you’re an academic at one of the universities or watch al-Jazeera. But there’s also an issue with the museum. While it naturally condemns historic slavery, Qatar and the other Gulf Arab states effectively enslave and exploit the foreign migrant workers that come to the country. This has provoked protests and criticism at the country hosting the World Cup and one of the Grand Prix’.

Video on Black American Jewry and Its History

April 1, 2022

Unpacked are a YouTube channel that specialises in short documentaries on the Jews and their history. This fascinating video below explores the history of Black American Jews, presented by a Jewish lady of colour. The video begins by explaining that while the stereotypical image of a Jew is a White person, the Jewish community has always been diverse and included people of many different races. there were Black Jewish communities, like the Bet Israel in Ethiopia, in Africa and that some of the enslaved Africans taken to America may have come from these communities. There are very few records, but some of the enslaved Africans had Jewish names and so were probably enslaved Jews. As slavery expanded, slaves took over their masters’ religion. This was largely Christianity, but it also included Judaism where the masters’ were Jewish. She also talks about how many Blacks after emancipation moved closer to Judaism after being inspired by the line in the Psalms that speaks about a people coming from Egypt, and Ethiopia lifting its arms to the Almighty. These founded Black Jewish sects, but many of their members then made the passage to traditional Judaism. She also talks about how many Blacks in the 20th century converted to Judaism because they were struck by the parallels between the Black and Jewish experiences. One of these converts was the Hollywood film star Sammy Davis Junior, whose parents were Baptist and Roman Catholic. He was led to convert to Judaism through his friend, the comedian Eddie Cantor.

However, not all Black Jews are converts by any means. Many are the children of marriages between White Jews and people of colour. About 20 per cent of the present Jewish American population is non-White, comprising a number of ethnicities including Latino. She lists the various organisations that have been founded to defend and advance the rights of Black Jews in America. And while many Black Jews supported Black Lives Matters, she regrets that the organisation is critical of Israel and Zionism, which has led to a conflict in the identity of many Black Jewish Americans. She also discusses a number of prominent Black Jewish entertainers, including Drake and Lenny Kravitz. She ends by celebrating Jewish racial diversity and the efforts to bring peoples of all races together.

I was particularly interested in this because one of the insults hurled at Jackie Walker after she was expelled from Labour for ‘anti-Semitism’ is that, as a woman of colour, she couldn’t possibly be Jewish. This video puts the lie to that. Walker herself is the product of a mixed marriage – her mother was a Black civil rights worker from Georgia, her father a Russian Jew. They met during a Communist party event. Jews were particularly sympathetic and involved with Blacks during the civil rights campaign. Many of the teachers in Black schools, as well as social workers and other professionals working in Black communities were Jewish, and so shared the concerns of the people they were working with. Regarding Blacks finding commonalities between their experience and those of Jews, the Black British writer Caryl Philips said in the pages of one of the British literary magazines back in the ’90s or so that he was impressed by these similarities to the extent that he sometimes thought he was Jewish. He was criticised for this by Hilary Mantel, the author of the prize-winning Wolf Hall, who said that the Jewish experience was unique. That’s true, but both Jews and Blacks have a shared history of exile and persecution, and I think this is what has drawn some Blacks and Jews together. As for Latin American Jews, there was a book a few years ago tracing the history of the Pereira family, Sephardic Jews from Spain who settled in Latin America. After the expulsion of the Jews from the Iberian peninsula, many of them settled in north Africa while others emigrated to the Spanish and Brazilian colonies in Latin America. Black Lives Matter does present a problem for Black Jews wishing to support both their own racial liberation and Israel and Zionism. But there is a genuine problem in that Israel is a White settler colony, that is subjecting the indigenous, Palestinian population to apartheid and expulsion. It was the awareness of this that prompted Jackie Walker to protest against Israel as well as apartheid South Africa, and which today is causing an increasing number of western, including American Jews, to turn away from Zionism. This is shown very much in the demographics of the people expelled by Labour’s witch hunters for alleged anti-Semitism. Four-fifths of them are Jewish, which shows that this is all about enforcing support for Israel and absolutely nothing to do with genuine Jew hatred.

This is an excellent little history of this part of the Jewish diaspora, clearly demonstrating that people can indeed be Black and Jewish against the sneers and abuse of bigots.

Capitalism and Property Rights in the West and Islam

March 25, 2022

Private property is very much at the heart of modern Conservatism. Conservative intellectuals, politicians and activists maintain that private industry is more efficient and effective, and has raised more people out of poverty than alternative economic systems. It’s also a fundamental right, a mainstay of western democracy that has prevented Europeans and Americans from tyrannical government, whether absolute monarchies or soviet-style communist dictatorships. It’s also supposedly the reason why Britain and the West currently dominate the rest of the world. The Times journo Niall Ferguson wrote a book about this a few years ago, which accompanied a TV series. In his analysis, Britain was able to out-compete Spain as a colonial power because British democracy gave people a stake in their society, while the only stakeholder in Spain was the king.

This can be challenged from a number of directions. Firstly, early modern Britain wasn’t democratic. The vote was restricted to a small class of gentlemen, meaning people who were lower than the aristocracy, but nevertheless were still able and expected to live off their rents. At the same time, although the power of the monarchy was restricted by the constitution and parliament, it still possessed vast power. Kings could go for years without calling one. As for Drake and the Armada, we were also saved by the weather. There was a ‘Protestant wind’ which blew apart and disrupted the Spanish fleet. As for capitalism, more recent books like The Renaissance Bazaar have shown that the new capitalist institutions that were introduced in Italy and thence to the rest of Europe during the renaissance were based on those further east in the Islamic world. And far from western global domination being inevitable, in the 15th century Christian Europeans feared that they would be conquered by Islam. The Turks had blazed through the Balkans and took 2/3 of Hungary. One fifteenth century German soldier and writer, de Busbecq, feared that the Ottomans would conquer Christendom because of the meritocracy and professionalism of their armies. The Ottomans, along with other Muslim states, recruited their armies through enslavement. It’s the origin of the Mamlukes in Egypt and the slave dynasties in Delhi. But these slaves were given an intensive military training, as well as education in Islam and the Turkish language, and promoted on their merits. Jonathan A.C. Brown in his book, slavery & Islam, how further back in Islamic history Black African slaves had been appointed the governors of parts of Iraq. The result was that while the European armies were feudal, led by aristocrats who had been born to their position and held it despite their ability or lack thereof, the Ottoman’s were manned and led by well-trained soldiers who held their commands by merit. We had better armour than the Ottomans, but they were able to defeat us because they were simply better soldiers.

Property rights have been a fundamental part of western political theory for a very long time. The social contract theory of government held that the primordial human community had elected kings to protect their lives and property. But Islam also maintained that property was a fundamental human right. According to Jonathan A.C. Brown’s Islam & Slavery, from the 700s AD Muslim jurists discussed the issue of human rights – huquq al-‘Ibad, or the rights of (God’s) slaves, i.e. humans, or huquq al-Adamiyya, or Adamic rights, or human rights. These were held to be the rights possessed by all humans, whether Muslim or not. Under the great Islamic theologian al-Ghazzali, these were expanded into five universals: protection for the integrity of life, reason, religion, lineage and paternity and property. He concludes that ‘The Islamic rights of physical inviolability and property can be seen as counterparts or perhaps forerunners of these aims.’ (pp. 299-300). I’ll admit this came as something of a surprise to me, because unless you study Islam at a higher level, you don’t hear about it. And you definitely don’t hear about it from the conservative right, who seem to believe that property rights and virtuous capitalism are something that only the Anglo-Saxon peoples invented. Remember George W. Bush’s famous, ludicrous sneer at the French that they had ‘no word for entrepreneurship’. Well,, they have, as attested by the word ‘entrepreneur’.

And property rights are not automatically intrinsic to modern concepts of freedom and democracy. They arose long before the expansion of the franchi8se in the 19th century and the emergence of universal adult suffrage in the early 20th century. Over much of western history, property rights meant the rights of the property owning upper classes against the working masses. And slaves could not own property, as legally, following the precedent of Roman law, they were property. Anything they had automatically belonged to their masters. Property rights were also regularly invoked to defend slavery. That’s very apparent when you read the protests against the British government’s attempts to regulate and then finally abolish slavery in the 19th century. The slaveowners were incensed by what they viewed as a tyrannical governmental interference in their property rights.

Now I agree people do have a right to private property, though private enterprise in many spheres is certainly not adequate to provide decent services. These are the utilities, education and healthcare. I also believe that, following Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, the west was able to gain ascendancy through technological and scientific advances, particularly military. I think the development of western capitalism also played a part in creating a mass, industrial society that was more efficient and advanced than the craft economies of the Islamic world. But this does not mean capitalism, or at least its antecedents, were absent from Islam or that Islam had no conception of property rights.

Perhaps, before we go to war with these countries to liberate them for multinational corporations, we should stop listening to Conservatives and listen more to those academics and experts, who actually know something about Islam.

Novo Lectio on the Real Reasons behind the Overthrow of Gaddafi

March 17, 2022

This is a very informative video I found on YouTube laying bare what was really behind the revolution in Libya against Colonel Gaddafi. And as we’ve seen with the Iraq invasion, this had absolutely nothing to do with liberating the country’s people from an evil tyrant. The real causes were Islamic politics in the Arab world on the one hand, and the desire of the French under Sarkozy to get their hands on Libyan oil. The video states that the uprising against Gaddafi was part of the Arab Spring series of revolutions and protests throughout the Arab world such as that against the military dictatorship in Egypt. These were hailed by the west as protests against tyranny. The rebellion against Gaddafi, however, was by moderate Islamic organisations and groups similar to the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood. They were backed by Qatar as a way of increasing its power in the region and counterbalancing the extreme Islamists like ISIS backed by Saudi Arabia.

The presenter states that Gaddafi was a dictator, but under his rule the country kept control of its own oil and its people enjoyed a reasonable standard of living. The rebellion broke out in the east of the country, along the traditional fault lines between Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and a third region. Gaddafi’s forces were able to crush it in the most of the country, and were about to move on its centre when the Muslim rebels appealed to Sarko and the West for help. According to emails received by Hillary Clinton’s office, the rebels offered the French 35 per cent of the country’s oil if it would help to overthrow this Mad Dog of the Middle East. So Sarko and Blair sent in the planes to bomb the country, and Gaddafi was overthrown. He was kneecapped and sodomised with a stick before being shot.

Another reason Sarko wanted him gone was because Gaddafi was planning on ditching the North African Franc in favour of an African currency. If that had gone ahead, it would have meant France losing economic domination of the region.

The result of the revolution has been to split Libya in two, with one half backed by France, Syria and Russia and another backed by the West and the EU. Supplies of oil from Libya have collapsed.

In other words, it’s another revolution that was all about western imperialism and Islamic geopolitics than promoting liberty or democracy.

The presenter sounds Arab and the accompanying text contains the sources for the video, so it seems solidly based in fact, narrated by a person indigenous to the region.

Lobster on the Guardian’s Pro-War and Establishment Propaganda

February 24, 2022

Robin Ramsay, the head honcho of conspiracy magazine Lobster, has added a few more pieces in his ‘View from the Bridge’ column in its most recent issue, 83. Among the interesting snippets is a piece about a talk by Mark Curtis, the editor of Declassified UK about the propaganda and pro-establishment stance of the Groaniad. The piece points out that the newspaper supported Britain’s imperialistic wars in the middle east and elsewhere, ran puff-pieces in support of GCHQ and MI5 and along with the Absurder promoted the anti-Semitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn. Not least because Corbyn posed a serious threat to stopping conflicts like the Saudi war in Yemen. The article runs

Mark Curtis on the Guardian

The historian Mark Curtis is editor of Declassified UK. He spoke at a conference on the Guardian newspaper. Curtis has not posted his talk but here is an account of it:

‘According to Curtis, the Guardian plays a key role in misinforming the British public about foreign affairs and upholding the establishment. It promotes a benign myth of Britain as “the good guys” championing a
rules-based international order, while failing to really cover Britain’s role in World affairs. Indeed, it had been co-opting liberal-minded people into thinking they are being told the truth.
With its wars in Iraq, Libya etc. and its role in supporting countries with bad human-rights records such as Israel and Egypt, Britain had been failing to uphold the rulings and values of the UN and could be reasonably considered “a rogue state”. Curtis also found that the Guardian had unreasonably exempted Britain from responsibility for events in Syria, failing to investigate covert support for jihadist groups in the early part of its civil war. While agreeing with the Guardian’s denunciation of the Trump period and acknowledging the hostile actions of countries like Russia, he thought that the Guardian had been excessively enthusiastic about Anglo-American cooperation under Obama and Biden presidencies.
While the Guardian sometimes exposes how the establishment behaves, it largely acts in support of it, and in recent years it has shredded its capacity to do more independent reporting. Much of this can be explained by what happened since the Snowden revelations, i.e. Britain’s security state took a proactive posture so as to neutralise the independence of the Guardian’s coverage of foreign affairs . . . . It was now running “puffpieces” on the security services, notably GCHQ and MI6, and was often acting as an amplifier and conduit for the state’s media operations of unsubstantiated claims by British intelligence agencies about threats faced by foreign powers.
When in 2015, Britain gained a political leader who might have transformed Britain’s policy towards Saudi Arabia, the Yemen War and elsewhere, the Guardian and the Observer dedicated a huge effort to
undermining the prospect of a Corbyn-led Government. The Guardian’s posture was overtly hostile and it all but accused him of being antisemitic, while demonising the Labour leadership for failing to address antisemitism in the Party. In the four years up to the General Election of 2019, it had published about 1,380 articles on antisemitism and the Labour Party or Jeremy Corbyn.’

https://www.lobster-magazine.co.uk/free/lobster83/lob83-view-from-the-bridge.pdf?cache=3

None of this remotely surprises. The accepted view is that the Groan is a Labour party and far-left, but it actually isn’t. There have been numerous times since the 70s where it’s urged its reader to go out and vote Liberal or Lib Dem. In the 1980s one of its journos was promoting the SDP as ‘the sensible party’, as opposed to Labour ‘the loony party’ and the Tories, ‘the patriotic party’. It looks more left-wing than it actually is because of the strong feminist and anti-racist, pro-minority content. And I think Lobster at the time commented on how one of the Groan’s journos backed the Iraq invasion using pretty much the same arguments as the Neo-Cons.

We really don’t have a left-wing press in this country. The Mirror is Blairite, the I is non-aligned, but was very strongly against Corbyn and again, did its level best to push the anti-Semitism smears. The only left-wing newspaper is the Communist Morning Star. Hence the very narrow range of permitted political discussion in this country, in which anything that might smack of renationalising the utilities and the NHS and ditching four decades of Thatcherism is definitely proscribed.

Macron to Regulate French Islam in Campaign against Islamism

February 15, 2022

The ex-Muslim atheist Harris Sultan discussed the plans of French president Emmanuel Macron to tackle radical Islamic preaching in the country’s mosques in video with his co-host Nuriyeh Khan on their channel a few days ago. France, like Britain, has suffered a series of Islamist terror attacks, one of the worst being the Charlie Hebdo massacre. Macron has therefore decided to start clamping down on preaching in the mosques. He intends to set up a board that will monitor and censor the imams’ sermons. At the same time the importation of imams from abroad will be restricted and an emphasis placed instead on creating and promoting home-grown Muslim clergy. Sultan approves of these measures. He states that they were doubtless going to be greeted with shouts of ‘islamophobia’, but thinks that’s just BS. He also approved of the fact that Macron wasn’t trying to outlaw the wearing of the hijab. This became a major cause of Muslim outrage in France a few years ago when the government tried to ban it in schools because it was against the French state’s official policy of laicism, secularism. Out of a Muslim population of five million, only a few thousand women wear the headscarf and any ban on it would have the danger of pushing Muslims into the hands of the Islamists, not away from them. As for the proposed board, Harris states that French Muslims can’t really complain as such a board exists in Saudi Arabia, where every sermon has to be passed by the state censors. In his own country of origin, Pakistan, no such board exists and as a result the country has become increasingly radicalised.

Sultan is particularly appalled at religious intolerance and violence, not just in Islam, but also in Hinduism and other religions. He’s posted very many videos about blasphemy cases and lynching in Pakistan. The laws against blasphemy were first enacted by the British as a way of preventing inter-religious violence as they applied to all religions. However, General Zia imposed the death penalty for it and made them really apply only to Islam during his dictatorship in the 1970s. As a result there are 200 or so people on death row because of the law. It’s used against Christians, Hindus and other religious minorities, but also against other Muslims of different sects. Sometimes the accusation is levelled as a cynical means of getting rid of the opposition in a dispute over property. People have also been murdered and mass lynchings carried out of others, who’ve been accused of blasphemy. Hence Sultan’s desire to see the bitterly intolerant, fanatical preaching that fuels such hatred and violence curtailed.

I’ve also seen the other two proposals put forward nearly a quarter of a century ago in the ’90s by a liberal British imam in the pages of the Financial Times. He was felt it was also necessary to restrict the importation of foreign imams. At the time, and it may well still be the case now, there was a shortage of imams for British mosques. As a result foreign imams from countries like Pakistan were given greater preference when immigrating to Britain. And many of them shared the vicious intolerance present in their home countries. He wanted to see the education and promotion of imams from the already settled Muslim community, who shared the British values of pluralism, multiculturalism and tolerance.

I have mixed feelings about the idea of a board of censorship. It looks like another infringement of the right to free speech, one of the very cornerstones of western liberal democracy. But unfortunately I can also see that it may well be necessary, not just in France but also over here. Way back in 2007 Channel 4 caused a storm of controversy with an edition of its Despatches documentary, ‘Undercover Mosque’. The producers had secretly sent in their journalists to film the preaching in a hundred or so British mosques. In doing so they recorded the imams preaching violent hatred against Christians, Jews and gays. However, instead of outrage at the intolerance of the preachers, there was a storm of protest against the programme itself. It was accused of being islamophobic and one police force considered and finally decided against prosecuting the producers. I am very, very much aware that not all Muslims by any means hold these views, and it may be the case that rather than be influenced by them, their congregations listen politely before going back to work and forgetting all about it. But I do believe that such violently intolerant preaching is far more common than is realised. And while there’s a tendency to think that such a measure is only needed in France, I can also see it being demanded over here.

However the creation of a board to censor sermons may not work. In Egypt, Islamism has emerged in opposition to official, state-regulated Islam. Official Egyptian Islam has been more or less liberal since the early 19th century., when the Muslim clergy realised how far behind the west their country was in science and learning. They thus went on trips to Europe to research European advances in order to introduce them and their benefits back home. I have a feeling that the Egyptian state also closely monitors what is taught in the mosques. But the radical groups demanding the return of sharia law and the creation of a Muslim state, and which have carried out terrorist attacks on foreigners, has emerged outside and in opposition to mainstream Egyptian Islam. There’s a danger that this could also occur in France, and that the fanatics and terrorists will set up their own, underground, parallel set of mosques.

There’s also the problem that many of the terrorists are self-radicalised. They often don’t go to the local mosque, and the congregation there haven’t seen them in years. Instead of getting their weird, vile ideas from the local imam, they’ve got them instead from the net. Macron’s proposals aren’t going to help tackle this type of fanaticism, though the creation and expansion of a domestic French Muslim clergy may change the culture to such an extent that such lone wolf terrorists really are seen by everyone as total outsiders, whose views and actions violate a native French Islam.

The article from which Harris gets the report also states that Macron may well be putting these proposals forward in order to take votes away from the extreme right and boost his centrist party. He approves of this, stating that the centre and the left should be tackling this problem rather than the far right. And he’s correct. The far right uses such issues to create further hatred and division in order to legitimise the further persecution of ethnic minorities. You can see that with Tommy Robinson and his exploitation of the outrage over the Muslim grooming gangs. But unfortunately the left tends to be silent when it comes to anti-White racism. Some of this comes from a desire not to be accused of racism, some of it to avoid making a common cause with the right and people who really are racist, but also partly because they find anti-White racism literally unthinkable. This is shown in the attempts by Critical Race Theorists to redefine racism as abuse plus institutional power. This clearly criminalises White racism, but exempts it from marginalised Black and ethnic minority groups.

Macron’s proposals show that French politicians are taking an increasingly firm line over Islamic preaching, and it’s better that democrats like Macron do it than the country suffers a military coup. Which is what a group of ex- and serving army officers and men threatened a year or so ago.

Book on Christians Enslaved by Muslim in the Early Modern Mediterranean

February 5, 2022

Robert C. Davis, Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, The Barbary Coast and Italy, 1500-1800 (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan 2003).

This is another book I order for me reading about non-European forms of slavery, and particularly the enslavement of Europeans. I feel this is unjustly neglected and that the understandable concentration of the transatlantic slave trade has distorted the public understand of history as global phenomenon. One of the arguments the abolitionists had to face from the pro-slavery camp was that slavery was universal and had been a part of nearly every culture since ancient Egypt. It has also, in my view, created a distorted view in which Black enslavement by Whites is somehow seen as unique, and that the White European invasion and conquest of much of the rest of the world is somehow seen as inevitable. White are somehow seen as uniquely racist, imperialist and evil, as expressed in ideologies like Afrocentrism and Critical Race Theory. But this was not the case. Whites also suffered enslavement, and Europe was for centuries under threat from a militant and expansionist Islam, which also enslaved Black Africans and had its own ideology of racism.

The book’s blurb runs:

“In this book Robert C. Davis uses many new historical sources to re-examine one of the least understood forms of human bondage in modern times … the systematic enslavement of white, Christian Europeans by the Muslims of North Africa’s Barbary Coast. Far from the minor phenomenon that many have assumed it to be, white slavery in the Maghreb turns out, in Davis’ account, to have had enormous consequences, ensnaring as many as a million victims from France and Italy to Spain, Holland, Great Britain, the Americas and even Iceland in the centuries when it flourished between 1500 and 1800. Whether dealing with the methods used by slavers, the experience of slavery or its destructive impact on the slaves themselves, Davis demonstrates the many, often surprising, similarities between this ‘other’ slavery and the much better known human bondage suffered at the very same time by Black Africans in the Americas.”

The book is divided into three parts. Part II has chapters on the number of people enslaved and slave taking and slave breaking. Part II is on the Barbary states, and slave labour and slave life, Part III is on Italy, described as the home front. The final chapter is ‘celebrating slavery’. This appears to be about how the slaves themselves tried to reconcile their condition theologically by seeing it as a punishment from God.

As with the other books I’ve done no more than glance at it so far, but I was struck by this remark from an old Sicilian lady in the 20th century that shows the memory of raiding and enslavement still persisted into her lifetime:

“The oldest [still] tell of a time in which the Turks arrived in Sicily every day. They came down in the thousands from their galleys and you can imagine what happened! They seized unmarried girls and children, grabbed things and money and in an instant they were [back] aboard their galleys, set sail and disappeared… The next day it was the same thing, and there was always the bitter song, as you could not hear other than the lamentations and invocations of the mothers and the tears that ran like rivers through all the houses.” (174).

I’ve thought for a very long time that so many of the racism and Islamophobia in Europe is just a simple case of White racism against Blacks and Brown people, developed from imperialism and the slave trade, but also due to the memory of a real threat from Turkish and Muslim imperialism and slaving. And I do think that the attitudes that promoted the Islamic enslavement of White Christians still persist in that section of the Muslim community, chiefly Pakistani, that raped and abused White girls in grooming gangs.