Archive for the ‘Iran’ Category

Video on Black Iranians, their Origins and Subculture

October 3, 2022

I found this video, ‘Iran’s Forgotten People: Afro Iranians’ on Beyond Your Borders’ channel on YouTube. Although short, it provides an informative outline of the history and culture of Iran’s Black minority. Iran is a patchwork of different peoples, and Farsi speakers only make up 60 per cent of the population. Afro-Iranians are one of these minorities. These are mostly concentrated in three of the country’s southern provinces, where they constituted 10-12 per cent of the population. They were mostly slaves taken from the Zanj, the east coast of Africa and shipped across to Iran as part of the Indian Ocean slave trade that went to Arabia, Iran, India and beyond to southeast Asia. The video notes that not all of them were slaves – some immigrated as free people in search of work. They’re mostly employed as fishermen and agricultural workers, which explains why they’re mostly concentrated on the south coast. Many of them were also servants and soldiers. Male slaves were often castrated for use as eunuchs, but many weren’t and had children. The women were often bought as concubines. Today Iran’s historic slaves are referred to as servants as it is felt they were not treated with the harshness accompanying slavery. Many Black Iranians have surnames reflecting their former homelands. Those, who came originally from Zanzibar, for example, have the surname ‘Zanzibari’. Not all Iranians slaves were Black. Some were White, such as the Circassians. However, the supply of Whites slaves dried up following conflict during Iran and Russia, so that country under the Qajar shahs turned to Africa for its slaves. There are three castes, which do not intermarry. The highest are supposed to be the descendants of free Black Africans, while the lowest are supposedly the descendants of slaves. Afro-Iranians vary in their assimilation to mainstream Iranian culture. Some are very acculturated, speaking fluent Farsi and the local language, while others are less. They have also been very influential in popular Zendari music of the Iranian south. Many intermarry with White Iranians and consider themselves Iranians. They would regard calling them ‘Afro-Iranians’ as a challenge to their Iranian identity. The speaker suggests that while it is important than they shouldn’t be forgotten, they shouldn’t be separated either from the rest of Iran.

A Slavery Document from Nuzi of the Ancient Near East

September 23, 2022

I’ve got the impression that many of the people talking about the various issues connected with the British enslavement of Africans and its continuing legacy don’t actually realise that slavery existed long before the rise of Black transatlantic slavery in the European conquest and colonisation of the Americas. But the supporters of slavery were very much aware of it and used it as part of their polemic against the abolitionists. Slavery had existed in the ancient world, not just in ancient Rome, but also in Egypt, Persia and the other ancient civilisations. It also formed part of the social systems of present-day non-Western societies like the Ottoman Empire. This formed part of their argument that slavery was somehow natural, and that it was unfair for Britain to ban it when other nations and peoples all over the world still kept people in bondage.

As an example of just how ancient slavery was, there’s this document from ancient Nuzi, one of the city states of ancient Iraq. Twenty thousand clay tablets illustrating everyday life in the city c. 1500 BC were excavated by the University of Pennsylvania, the American Schools of Oriental Research, the Harvard Semitic Museum and the Iraq Museum from 1925-1931. This was when Nuzi was under the control of the Hurrians. The tablets themselves were written in Akkadian, the language of the Assyrian empire.

Tablet JEN 845 documents the sale of a female slave by Ziliya, Sukriya, Tehip-sarri, and Silahi, the sons of Silwa-Tesup to Hut-arraphe son of Tisam-musini in return for movable goods that they’ve received.

See Ernest R. Lachman and Maynard P. Maidman, Studies on the Civilization and Culture of Nuzi adn the Hurrians, vol *: Join Expedition with the Iraqi Museum of Nuzi VII, Miscellaneous Texts (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns 1989) 40, 268. This needs to be taken into account in any discussion of western slavery to counter the tendency to present it as something that only Whites did to Blacks. It also needs to be included in order to gain a proper appreciation of the difficulties the abolitionists had combating a system that was both global and ancient.

Peru Using Incan Engineering to Solve Water Crisis

August 16, 2022

I found this little snippet in today’s Independent fascinating. I’m a fan, sort-of, of Frank Herbert’s classic SF epic, Dune. This is set on Arrakis, a desert planet, whose sandworms are the only known source of the drug Spice, whose mind-expanding effects allow the mutated human navigators to guide their spacecraft across the galaxy without the use of computers. The planet’s original settlers, the Fremen, use stillsuits, technological body suits that harvest water from their sweat and body fluids to produce drinkable water, enabling them to survive for weeks even in the deep desert. And the Fremen have also established a network of cisterns to gather water as part of a project to turn their arid world green.

That type of technology and engineering, used to reclaim and channel water in desert areas, fascinates me. There are ingenious machines now that collect water from the humidity in the atmosphere, to produce drinking water. Nearly 2,000 years ago, a Greek engineer created a huge moisture-gatherer in one of the ancient Greek colonies on the Black Sea to provide the town with water despite the absence of rain or rivers. Now, according to the Independent, Peruvian engineers are renovating the ancient system of canals the Incas used to irrigate their land. The article by Samuel Webb, ‘Ancient Incan technology being used to harvest water to combat Peru’s crisis’, begins

Techniques used by servants of the Inca empire to build canals 500 years ago are being resurrected in Peru to funnel much-needed water to remote mountain communities and the city of Lima below.

Gregorio Rios, 74, oversaw the renovation of the vast network of canals above San Pedro de Casta, a town 3,000 metres above sea level in the South American country’s Huarochiri district.

The canals were built centuries ago by the Yapani ethnic group, using clay and rocks ingeniously compressed over a long period of time.

The local municipality previously used concrete to build new modern canals, but it stifled plant growth, affecting the local ecosystem, and crumbled after just 10 years.

The Yapani canals, by contrast, are more than 500 years old. New canals built with the ancient techniques could last for more than 100 years if built correctly. They are also permeable, so the water is filtered and plant roots help anchor the structure in place.

Mr Rios, whose work is supported by Warwickshire-based charity Practical Action, said: “Our ancestors built the canals with rock and clay. That knowledge is being lost and it’s in our interest to recover it.

“We have got to take control of the management of water for the crops. This is all being done thanks to the knowledge of our ancestors.”

See: https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/world/ancient-incan-technology-being-used-to-harvest-water-to-combat-peru-s-crisis/ar-AA10DXaP?ocid=msedgdhp&pc=U531&cvid=17e09ff4479f425caad8d64f8d71ad6d

In Chile, farmers use networks of string placed across their fields to collect moisture from the sea mists for their crops despite the lack of rainfall in that part of the country.

And over in Iran and Afghanistan, there’s an ancient system of subterranean canals, the qanats, irrigating those countries deserts and arid regions.

I find it absolutely fascinating that such ancient methods and modern technology are together being used to combat the desert and the contemporary water shortage caused by climate change.

Brexiteer Michael Heaver Reveals Reclaim Party’s Exciting Warmed-Up Tory Leftovers Policies

July 26, 2022

Michael Heaver’s another right-wing, Brexiteer YouTuber. Most of his content seems to be about how wonderful Brexit it, or would be, if it wasn’t for those evil whining remoaners and the European Union trying to sabotage it all the time. He seems to have gone from the Tories to backing the Reclaim party, as well as wanting the return of Johnson. Today he put up a piece revealing Reclaim’s new, (ahem, cough, cough) policies. Laurence Fox’s party will be fielding 600 candidates, which, if true, is definitely a challenge to the Tories and the other established parties. Their policies are:

Do Brexit properly.

Net Zero immigration.

Cut taxes.

I think there’s also something about getting rid of the Green agenda. And I also think they want to support Johnson’s return to power, because the other Tory leadership candidates are so terrible and will hand the government over to Starmer. Or such is the fear amongst some Tories.

This is hogwash. Let’s go through them.

Do Brexit properly: Can’t be done. Uh-huh, no way. It’s simply impossible, like squaring the circle or redefining PI as equalling four, which is what the Nebraska legislature did way back in the 19th century. If this had gone ahead, it would have meant that clocks would have gained fifteen minutes everyone hour. But like ‘Get Brexit done’ it makes a good slogan. You can’t enact Brexit without reneging on one of the key policies of the Good Friday Agreement, which was an open border with the Republic. It’s either that, or the Irish backstop in the middle of the sea, thus alienating the Loyalists. Johnson got into power claiming that he’d ‘get Brexit done’. Well, he did, and it’s been chaos. Britain’s trade with the EU has taken a massive hit, there are real threats to British industry and agriculture, the financial sector the Tories and Blairites have been so keen to protect and establish London as a international hub has also been threatened. By Brexiteer Tories, like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who moved his investment business across the briny to Dublin. All while he was telling the rest of us that Brexit would be A Very Good Thing Indeed. There were delays at Dover months or even years ago because of the additional red tape added to hauliers and other travellers going to the continent now that we were no longer part of the EU. That red tape is also damaging our music industry, as it’s made it extremely difficult for British musicians and performers to travel over there to perform.

We were told that the Tories had an ‘oven ready deal’ with Europe for Brexit.

We were told that the millions saved on our EU contributions would be spent on the NHS.

We were lied to.

And this, as the late, great Max Headroom used to say, is simply ‘more of the same’. Except that he was talking about epic, rocking 80s pop music and videos.

Net zero immigration. More red meat for the Tory faithful, and other sections of the population worried about immigration. Mostly non-White immigration. And there are real moral and practical problems with that. Firstly, there’s the moral question of denying asylum to people, who may very well be in real danger of persecution in their countries of origin. I think many of the prospective migrants properly are coming here for economic reasons. One former channel migrant was interviewed on GB News or Talk TV, and he said that most of the other immigrants he was with were trying to dodge military service in their home countries and hoped to settle so that they could bring their families over. I can’t say I entirely blame them for wanting to do so, especially when these countries are dirt-poor, corrupt dictatorships like Eritrea. But nevertheless, I think there are people trying to get here because they face real threats to their lives for their views or simply because of their ethnicity or religion. Gay people around the world face persecution, particularly in Africa. Go back a few years, and there were the Yezidis, whose women were raped and enslaved for sex by ISIS. Last year there were Afghans desperate to escape the Taliban takeover. And in the past few months Britain and other European nations have taken in refugees from Ukraine, escaping Putin’s genocidal onslaught. I don’t see how you can morally turn at least some of these away.

Then there’s the economic aspect. As Buddyhell over on Guy Debord’s Cat, and just about everyone else on the web has point out, Britain needs immigrant doctors, nurses and other workers for the NHS. Yes, we should be training our own. But we haven’t been doing so ever since one of the Tory ministers – I think it may even have been Enoch Powell – decided in the 1960s to solve the shortage of NHS doctors by encouraging them to come from Pakistan and India. I can’t see the Tories wanting to spend the money to pay for the proper training for doctors and other medical professionals. Not when they seem content to drive them away by not paying them what they deserve and overburdening them with work and paperwork.

People also immigrate to Britain and settle down and raise families as part of their work. I know a number of people, who came to this country to work, and particularly on ground-breaking scientific or engineering projects. This country is short of scientists, engineers and skilled technicians. These are precisely the type of people we should be encouraging to come here, if only so that they can pass these skills on to Brits.

Education is a major part of this. There’s a movement of academics, both teaching staff and students, between countries and across continents. Most university’s, I’d say, have international students, some of whom are going to try to settle down here. Academics also take up posts at universities and colleges right across the world. When I was studying archaeology at Bristol, several of the department staff were foreign. One was Portuguese while another was German, for example. At the same time, archaeological work takes people right across the globe. At the time I was there, there was great excitement about Neolithic discoveries in Ukraine. One of the lecturers had also helped carry out excavations of archaic homo sapiens remains in Romania. Another leading member of the department had also been excavating in Iran. Some of these academics will no doubt wish to settle down and make their home here. Either way, I can see Brexit and a zero-net immigration policy causing real problems with universities obtaining needed foreign academic staff.

And it’s going to be hypocritical. The Tories have, in my recollection, shown themselves perfectly willing to grant British citizenship to anyone rich enough. Just as Rishi Sunak got his green card to work in America by paying a million dollars. I strongly suspect that if Reclaim got in, we’d have more of the same. It would be easy immigration for the global super-rich, and keep out for everyone else.

Cutting taxes: More of the twaddle you’ve been hearing from the Tory leadership candidates. What this means is cutting taxes for the rich while passing the burden on to ordinary people at the bottom. This is supposed to encourage more investment, and hence more jobs. Balderdash. The money saved simply rests in the elite’s bank accounts. Meanwhile, because there’s less money going into the exchequer, the Tories and Reclaim after them will tell us all that cuts need to be made, more pushing of the mythical NHS waste, profligate spending on the welfare state, too many civil servants and so on. The result, more punitive cuts to the NHS, more destruction of the welfare state, more people struggling to survive on food banks, more starvation, malnutrition and grinding poverty.

Attacking the Green Agenda: The scientific consensus supports climate change, and the Green New Deal promises more jobs as well as combating threats to the environment. But the right don’t believe in climate change, and, with money coming in from Big Oil, they really don’t want to end our dependence on fossil fuels any time soon. All last week while the rest of us sweltered they told us that the rising heat was nothing to worry about, was not cause by global warming, and we were all wimps and weaklings for thinking otherwise. I wonder if Reclaim and its bosses also have their places booked for the biodomes the rich will no doubt retreat into as the deserts march on London, Birmingham and anywhere else.

Bring back Johnson: Really? There are people who really won’t be told. There’s a petition up for his return. Just like there are Americans who want the return of Trump. That’s incredible. Aside from the party politics, Trump was a disastrous president. A friend lent me a book on his presidency, and what came across most strongly was how incompetent he was. He quarraled with his leading generals, one of whom actually swore at him while telling him precisely what he was in the White House. He made up policies on the spur of the moment and then changed his mind just as suddenly. Appointments were made with important visitors, but not kept. Or he didn’t tell his staff about them, just forgot them. He deliberately undermined leading White House staff, replacing them and then doing the same to the new replacements, all of whom were determined to undermine their predecessors and competitors. And rather than draining the swamp, Trump was massively corrupt giving government contracts to friends and anybody else, including the Russians, who were prepared to stump up cash. Government monies that were intended to protect workers on bread and butter issues like pensions vanished in various politicos pockets, where they gave it to their favourite businessmen.

Johnson has been similarly incompetent. He was grotesquely tactless and incompetent as foreign secretary. Once he got his behind in No. 10 he showed himself unwilling to knuckle down and do some actual work. It seemed that every few weeks he was heading off to Chequers for a holiday. He caught Covid because he personally broke lockdown rules. And he gave valuable PPE contracts to his friends and other Tory donors. The result was problems with supply. But no worries, eh? His mates were all right. The parties were just a symptom of a man, who doesn’t like to work, loves the power and the popularity that comes with it, at least in his own imagination, and really, really, has zero sympathy with ordinary working people and their problems.

And he’s still clinging on to power, just like Gordon Brown tried to do with a deal with the Lib Dems after he lost the election to Cameron. Ian Hislop got very excited about this on Have I Got News For You, calling him ‘Mr Barnacle’. Well, Johnson is behaving exactly like the marine mollusc, and the same should apply: ‘get ye gone!’ It says something about the effectiveness of establishment propaganda that someone really thinks he’s done such a good job they want to keep him in power.

But back to the Reclaim party, there’s nothing new here. It’s just the same old Brexiteer Tory policies, promoted by a few new faces. And I honestly can’t see many of them getting a seat. Some might, but I foresee a lot of lost deposits, compounded with them splitting the Tory vote in certain quarters so that a Lib Dem or possibly Labour candidate get in.

I have a feeling they’ll go the way of UKIP and the Brexit party as another right-wing group trying to ‘break the mould of British politics’.

Niall Ferguson and the Right-wing Historians Are Wrong: Property Rights in Islam Existed Before British Empire

June 29, 2022

Okay, this is another post in which I’m going to break my own feeble attempts not to write anything about Ed Hussein’s book, Among the Mosques, until I finish it, when I will write a proper review. But there’s a piece in the book where Hussein makes a point that is very much relevant to the debate about the compatibility between Islam and modern British society and its constitutional underpinnings. And it contradicts part of the propaganda for the British empire spouted by Niall Ferguson and Andrew Roberts. Both these historians have argued that the British empire was a Good Thing because it gave the world democracy, capitalism and property rights. But one of the imams Hussein talks to, Mufti Jalal, the deputy imam of an Islamic seminary in Luton. Jalal praises the British constitutions and its freedoms because, in his view, these preserve the fundamental higher objective – maqasid – of the Islamic law, as identified by the 11th century imam, al-Juwaini. Hussain writes

“Our sharia is the British constitution.’ he says. ‘The Maqasid of the sharia are best preserved in Britain. I came back here after Egypt, Turkey and Yemen with a deeper recognition of the historical freedoms of England, but too many Muslims don’t understand that turning against this country is turning against our own selves.

‘At one point I studied under Haitham al-Haddad, who thinks we need to implement Islamic law against the “liberalism” of the West. I didn’t agree with this, so I left, but his influence is on the rise.’

The Maqasid, or Higher Objectives, are aspects of the sharia that were enshrined in Islamic law by jurists as early as the eleventh century, particularly by Imam al-Juwaini (d. 1085) in his Ghiyath al-Umaan (The Salvage of the Nations) and his students over the centuries. There are five aspects to the Maqasid as laid out by al-Juwaini: the preservation of family, life, faith, intellect and property; these are intended to form the basis on which the sharia has followed. The British legal system, with its fundamental values of individual liberty and freedom of expression, is a perfect working model of the main aspects of the sharia, applied to the context of modern life.’ (p. 236).

John Locke,, one of the founders of the British liberal tradition, believed that people had the inalienable right to life, liberty and property. This influenced the American Founding Fathers, but they changed it to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’, although they also strongly supported property rights. But as Hussein’s conversation with Mufti Jalal shows, property rights were most definitely recognised in Islam, and not an import from the West. As for the compatibility of Islam and western democracy, I found a review of Hussein’s book from the Financial Times in 2021, written by Tanjil Rashid. It criticises Hussein’s book for focusing on the highly reactionary mullahs and their rejection of democracy and western values. Rashid argues that the clergy are unrepresentative and out of touch. He points instead to an Ipsos Mori poll that found that 88 per cent of British Muslims strongly feel British, 7 in 10 believe Islam is compatible with western liberal society, and only 1 per cent want separate, autonomous Muslim communities. The early Persian activists campaigning against the despotism of the Qajar shahs also admired Britain and its traditional liberties. An early revolutionary book, written in Turkish, called for the introduction of civil rights and praised British law, which the writer believed were based on the sharia. They weren’t, obviously, but clearly at that time social opinions in western society were sufficiently similar to those of progressive Muslims that they were considered to be identical.

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.

Mad Right-Wing YouTuber Alex Belfield Banned by YouTube for Two Weeks

February 13, 2022

A day or two ago Alex Jones, the right-wing host of the Voice of Reason channel on YouTube, was handed a temporary ban for two weeks. At first it was thought that he’d been banned for three months, but Andy the Gabby Cabby, another YouTuber sympathetic to Belfield, has cleared that up. He’s been in communication with him, and apparently he’s only been suspended for a fortnight, but it was because he had already had two strikes against him within a three month period before suffering the third complaint resulting in his suspension. The Blackbelt Barrister, a YouTube legal expert, has also weighed in on the case. Citing expert legal opinion on the 2003 Information Act, the Barrister states that, in the opinion of the judicial authorities, the Act should only be used against communications that physically threaten a person’s safety or which stir up racial hatred. They should not be used to chill personal opinion or censor offensive views, even if those views make someone feel uncomfortable.

This is fine, but I don’t think Belfield has actually been charged with anything under the Act. Belfield has been banned from YouTube because it’s a private company, as are the other internet platforms. As private companies they are quite within their rights to set their own terms and conditions and restrict what may be said on them. The right got very upset about all this a few years ago when they started being censored for issues like misogyny, homophobia, racism, transphobia and so on. Left-wingers, however, pointed out that this was simply private industry acting as a private company and not in the public interest. They also pointed out how ironic it was this had happened to the right, who are staunch supporters of private companies against state-owned industries. There were even demands from some that the government should set up a nationalised internet platform to allow a proper exchange of views without censorship. Which would be really ironic considering that the right is worried about government censorship and attacks on free speech rather than that by powerful corporations.

So what brought about Belfield’s ban? Well, it seems from another post by the Gabby Cabby that it was a complaint against Belfield by Carol Vorderman because of his comments about her ‘assets’. The Cabby stated it was unclear whether this was about her property, or something rather more personal. Quite.

Belfield has regularly criticised the former Countdown star along with a number of other celebrities including Katie Price and Philip Schofield. This includes comments on her home or homes as well as more personal remarks about how she has apparently enhanced her bosom to retain the attention of the jaded public. He’s satirised her as a character ‘Carol Vordernorks’ in drag with fake breasts and a thick Brummie accent. I’ve never found this to be funny and it’s really just personal abuse. My sympathies in this instance are very firmly with Vorderman. I don’t know her, but she’s always come across as perfectly genial and polite on TV, and is herself an extremely intelligent woman. Not only does she have a degree in engineering from Oxford, but she’s also a pilot and a patron of the air cadets. She’s also active trying to get more people, especially girls, into science and flight, and has done her bit supporting the RAF. I really don’t know what Belfield has against her, as it doesn’t seem like there’s the same kind of personal feud he apparently has with the BBC and its producers, and the presenter Jeremy Vine, which have seen him involved in a legal battle over the past few years.

Belfield himself has thanked YouTube for paying for his house and giving him a livelihood, and claims his shows about the country are now sold out. He states that he will come back, but is going to launch a ‘secret VOR channel’ on the 28th of this month. This seems to confirm rumours that he’s about to vanish behind a paywall.

Belfield has some very right-wing views, some of which I regard as particularly dangerous. Like his demands that the NHS should be privatised, although in a video he made shortly before he was banned he urged people not to give to the NHS, because this would tell Johnson that we can be charged, ‘and then we’re all f***ed’. I wonder what he thinks will happen if he gets his way and the NHS is privatised. I am well aware that there are members of this blog who heartily despise Belfield. I watch some of his videos because he says openly what the rest of the right doesn’t, but who share his attitudes. And I do share his opposition to the transgender craze, but not trans people, which is causing real suffering to mentally and emotionally vulnerable young people. I firmly believe that some youngster are being misdiagnosed and put on a long course of medical treatment and physical transformation predominantly for ideological reasons and against their best interests. Some of the children now identified as transgender seem to be gay and come from extremely homophobic backgrounds, so it looks like a form of gay conversion therapy. This can be compared to the situation in Iran, where gays are given the choice of transitioning to the opposite sex or execution. I realise that such gender critical views are controversial, but the science behind them, to this layman’s eyes, seems solid. There is considerable censorship of such views, including threats and personal violence. Therefore, on this score, I support Belfield for posting against the transgender craze even if I find some of his other views mistaken, offensive and dangerous.

And rather than seeing anyone banned, I would prefer that people instead showed their opposition by blogging against them and winning arguments. I would rather have this done to make their views unpopular rather than censorship.

Because there are too many attempts already to censor what we can say with the Tories doing their best to outlaw public demonstrations against their monstrous policies.

Book on the Gypsies and Their History

February 9, 2022

Angus Fraser, The Gypsies (Oxford: Blackwell 1992).

I’ve been meaning to blog about this book, off and on, for a little while now. This is largely in response to the right-wing, Tory and Blairite Labour racists, who screamed blue murder at any chance they could get to smear Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-Semite, but who had absolutely no qualms about whipping up hatred against Roma, Sinti and other Travellers for their own political benefit. Anti-Gypsy hatred has become topical once again thanks to Jimmy Carr’s wretched joke about their genocide in the Nazi Holocaust somehow being a ‘positive’. Mike’s written extensively about that tasteless joke, as have very many others. He’s pointed out that it came just when Boris Johnson was passing legislation very similar to that of the Nazis, which would allow the cops to close down Gypsy encampments, move them on and impound their vehicles simply for suspecting they might be about to do something illegal. And when you get to eastern Europe, the prejudice against them is even more extreme and really does approach the genocidal hatred of the Nazis. A decade or so ago doctors in Czechoslovakia were caught operating a programme of involuntary sterilisation of Gypsy women very much like the Nazis’ eugenics programme against those of mixed race and the biologically unfit. Czech politicians were also very keen to have the Gypsies emigrate to Canada after a documentary was shown on television about a Czech Gypsy family finding a welcome in the land of the maple leaf and beaver. This was, like anti-Semitic and Nazi plans to force the Jews to move to Palestine, simply a way of forcing the Gypsies out of Czechoslovakia. One female Czech MP made this very clear when she screamed ‘They will go to Canada or the gas chambers!’ Such naked, genocidal bigotry means that Carr’s joke really, really isn’t funny. Respect, then, to the Auschwitz museum for taking the moment to offer him some of its courses on the murder of 27,000 Gypsies so that he could learn about the horrific reality.

The book’s blurb runs

‘Since their unexplained appearance in Europe over nine centuries ago, the Gypsies have refused to fall in with conventional settled life. They remain a people whose culture and customs are beset with misunderstandings, and who cling to their distinct identity in the teeth of persistent rejection and pressure to conform. The book describes their history.

The book opens with an investigation of Gypsy origins in India. The author then traces the Gypsy migration from the early Middle Ages to the present, through the Middle East, Europe and the world. Through their known history they have been recognised for their music, metal working, fortune telling, healing and horse-dealing, but from the outset they outraged the prejudices of the populations they encountered; they were enslaved, harassed, outlawed and hunted. Yet against all the odds the Gypsies have survived, preserving a distinctive heritage and culture that transcends national boundaries. How they did so is the compelling them of this book.

This new paperback edition has been revised to take account of recent research and of the political changes in Eastern Europe, which have sadly been followed by a resurgence of Gypsy persecution in a number of countries.’

The book has chapters on their origins, then subsequently traces their migration through Persia and Armenia, Greece and the Byzantine Empire, Serbia, Bulgaria, Wallachia and Moldavia, the provinces that are now part of modern Romania; Germany, Austria and Switzerland, France, Spain and Portugal, the Low Countries, Italy, Hungary and Transylvania, now also part of Romania, Scotland and England and Scandinavia. It also discusses images and stereotypes, the pressures placed on them to assimilate, and persecution, including expulsion, transportation and extermination, both in Europe and the Ottoman Empire, as well as their survival. It also discusses changes in Gypsy society and culture, including their music, and their genocide under the Nazis – ‘The Forgotten Holocaust’. The final section discusses modern Gypsy society and culture.

It should be clear from this that the Gypsy Holocaust is, like that of the Jews, absolutely no joke. Carr has been defended by various members of the media set, including Victoria Coren. They’ve defended him as being good and kind. I don’t doubt he is. The problem is that there are some subjects that are too terrible to be the subject of jokes, as well as moral consistency. Carr clearly balked at telling jokes about the Jewish Holocaust, as he should. But if the Jewish Holocaust is unfit as a subject of humour, so should the Nazi murder of other racial groups, especially those still experiencing persecution.

The Lotus Eaters have run to Carrs defence, posting up a video of him as a ‘free speech berserker’. Now I don’t believe that Carr should be prosecuted for his joke. It was outrageous, but, in my opinion, not hateful. He wasn’t intending to stir up racial hatred, although I don’t doubt that some others, who would tell the joke would have definite malign intentions. In my view it’s really a case of a moral problem discussed by John Stuart Mill in his classic book On Liberty: just because something’s legal doesn’t mean that it’s moral. He put it in the following terms: just because there’s no law against chasing a Jew up an alley waving a piece of pork doesn’t mean that you should do it. I don’t believe that Carr has broken any law or should be prosecuted. He just shouldn’t have told the joke. The best thing now is for him to apologise and Netflix to cut the joke. Then perhaps we should move on to combatting some real Nazis.

Labour Party Asks Muslims for their Input

January 22, 2022

I don’t know why I got the email, as I’m not a Muslim. A few days ago the Labour party sent out a general email to its Muslim Labour members requesting them for their views and opinions on how the party could help them. This was on behalf of a Muslim Labour party organisation. My guess is that it was a general mail-out, because I have some views on institutional Islam in the UK which definitely do not fit with elements of current anti-racist orthodoxy.

My views on elements of Islam in the UK have been strongly influenced by the Satanic Verses affair and the Islamists goose-stepping around in the first decade of this century proclaiming that Islam would conquer the west and demanding death for blasphemers, including the previous pope. I also found a lot of anti-Christian, frankly racist Muslim polemic when I was studying Islam at college, and a number of texts from British Islamic presses openly demanded the creation of self-governing Muslim ghettoes ruled by shariah law.

There was international outrage in the Muslim community worldwide at the publication of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. In fact the book isn’t blasphemous. It is, however, immensely tedious. It was labelled as such by the Ayatollah Khomeini as part of an attempt by his regime in Iran to gain the moral leadership of the international Islamic community. This is the real reason he seized on the book and placed a fatwa on Rushdie’s head. In Britain the protests were led by Mohammed Akhthar and Kalim Saddiqui, both of whom were hard-liners with bitterly intolerant views. Saddiqui appeared on a Beeb programme, The Trouble with Islam, telling the congregation of his mosque that ‘British society is a monstrous killing machine, and killing Muslims comes very easily to them’. This is pure racism, and if it came from a White, non-Muslim preacher would result in immediate legal action. When asked about his comments by the interviewer, Saddiqui waffled about the Satanic Verses.

Way back in 2007 Channel 4 broadcast a highly controversial issues of Dispatches, entitled ‘Undercover Mosque’. They sent their reporters in disguise to a hundred mosques, and filmed the imams preaching violent hatred against Jews, Christians and homosexuals. This was immediately denounced as racist and islamophobic, but I got the distinct impression that it was a fair picture of much Islamic preaching in Britain today. Way back in the 19th century the British government protested against the demonisation of Christians by Muslim preachers in the Balkans. I think much of this hate comes from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. When I was studying Islam at College in the 1980s we were told that there were some terribly anti-Christian polemical literature published in Pakistan. We were told this not by Islamophobes but by people with a sincere appreciation of the religion. I even remember one of them saying that the Qur’an was his favourite religious text after the Gospel of Luke, and going over to a window to chant it while we were working on some task set for us.

As for the British Muslim establishment, Birmingham Central Mosque, the British Council of Mosques, British Islamic Council or whatever, I am deeply distrustful of them. A few years ago they were caught out giving platforms to the preachers of hate, and every time they excused themselves by saying something like it had been out of their hands and was the responsibility of another organisation to whom they had delegated the function of booking preachers. And there has similarly been considerable deceit by official Islam in the condemnation of Islamism, at least if Ed Hussein’s The Islamist can be believed. Hussein was a member of the militant Islamist organisation, Hizb ut-Tahrir, which would like to set up a caliphate in Pakistan, before seeing reason and getting out. He’s associated with the Quilliam Foundation, I believe, which is another right-wing think tank. Hence to many people on the left, he’s poison. In The Islamist he describes the various leaders of the Muslim community traipsing into 10 Downing Street to reassure Tony Blair that they were solidly against Islamism and backed his campaign to stamp it out. And all of them were hypocrites as they all secretly supported it. I’ve heard from others that some of the Muslim groups they attempted to establish a Christian-Muslim dialogue with were also Islamists.

This is not the kind of thing the left in particular wants to hear, but it is part of the problem. As is the growing Islamophobia within the Labour party itself. Now I’m sure that the majority of Muslims in the UK don’t want to take over the place, and only five percent of them want sharia law despite all the alarmist fear-mongering by rags like the Heil. As for the preachers of hate, I honestly don’t know how seriously their congregations take them. I can see many of them simply getting bored, listening politely while wondering what their having for lunch and tea, or how the local football team is doing. They’ve also been condemned by liberal Muslims, who have organised marches against them. But these marches are rarely covered, and their organisers have said that they haven’t received the support they need from anti-racist organisations and the wider community. This is a pity, because I think it could change opinions of Islam radically. White allies supporting their Muslims friends marching against such hatred and intolerance under the banner of ‘Black and White, Unite and Fight’ would demonstrate graphically that by no means all Muslims are terrorists and jihadi wannabes, and that Muslims genuinely wanted pluralism and tolerance. This also means bringing up and supporting home-grown imams, imbued with proper British values. There have been complaints that the shortage of imams in this country has led to the importation of preachers from Pakistan, who are viciously intolerant and grossly unsuitable to lead a congregation in a genuinely democratic, tolerant society.

But apart from these issues in the wider British society, the Labour party can do much for its Muslim members by cleaning up the real Islamophobia and bullying in its ranks. One third of Muslim members have reported Islamophobic incidents, and there was the bullying of BAME activists and politicos last year by Labour apparatchiks. This went unpunished, undoubtedly because the same people were supporters of Keef Stalin. Now Stalin’s in the shtuck, he’s looking for their support. If he genuinely wishes, he can start by purging the genuine Islamophobes and punishing the apparatchiks responsible.

But I doubt that he will. Starmer’s an inveterate liar, and this looks like more window-dressing and sham.

Starmer and Reeves Walk Up And Down on the Earth Making Promises – But Can You Trust Them?

January 21, 2022

Since the furore broke over Johnson and his flagrant disregard for the rules everyone else has to abide by with his scummy parties, the politicos have on TV to promote themselves. I think the Conservatives were on earlier in the week to try and present themselves as caring, efficient and concerned about the British public, rather than the gang of liars, profiteers and entitled scumbags. Then it was Labour’s turn the other night. I caught it, but fortunately it didn’t last long, and thanks to finding some great stuff on YouTube, I was soon over it. In the Book of Job in the Bible, Satan is described as walking up and down on the Earth, looking for people to torment and tempt. He wasn’t present in the film, at least not physically. Instead we had Rachel Reeves and Stalin walking about Britain, meeting and greeting ordinary people. Yes, those two. It shows what a state the Labour party is now in: Labour’s Thatcherite hard right. They were promising to raise people out of poverty and introduce reforms that would end VAT on electricity bills and so cut it by £200, and there would be help for people unable to pay.

It sounds good, but it’s far less than what Corbyn was offering. He wanted to have the electricity companies nationalised, or part of the industry nationalised, along with water and the railways. Because this is what these utilities need, and the majority of the British public want. It represents a chance to get real investment into them – privatisation hasn’t worked. And it would have allowed the government to cut people’s bills. But that, and Corbyn’s promises to restore the welfare state, union power, give the proles real rights at work and renationalise and properly fund the NHS upset the Blairites. So they went and joined the Israel lobby in smearing this profoundly anti-racist man of principle as an anti-Semite. Just as they did to his supporters, also very largely and vocally anti-racist themselves. And as I keep pointing out again and again, many of them were proud, secular and Torah observant Jews, who had suffered real anti-Semitic abuse and assault.

All Starmer has offered during his leadership of the Labour party is just one lie after another. He promised to keep Labour’s election policies, then ditched them as soon as he could. When the subject of nationalisation came up again, with a kind of endorsement from Ed Miliband, he declared that Labour wouldn’t. And every pledge he made to reform the welfare system so that the disabled, the long-term sick and the unemployed has either been scrapped, watered down or else he’s hummed and hahhed and told everyone they’d review. He has said that he will do anything to get his bum in No. 10. In my opinion, he has no morals, no principles except a powerful sense of his own entitlement. Psychologically, he’s kindred to Johnson and the former orange clown running the US down to the ground, Donald Trump.

In the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, the principle of evil, opposed to the benevolent God Ahura Mazda, is Ahriman. One of Ahriman’s demons is Druj, which means ‘Lie’, In the Persian medieval classic, the Shah Nameh, the world’s corruption begins when Druj, disguising himself, begins to corrupt one of the first Persian emperors, worming his way into his confidence as an advisor. This culminates in him kissing the emperor on his shoulders. Two serpents spring up where he kissed him, which then demand to be fed on human brains. Nothing so dramatic has happened to Boris or Keef, but I see no reason to trust anything whatsoever either Keef or Rachel Reeves say. Like Johnson, he lies through his teeth. This country will only ever have a real future for ordinary people when we get rid of him and the Tories.

And unfortunately, after the purges, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.