Posts Tagged ‘Bosnia’

The Origin of the Fear of a Muslim Holocaust in Nazi Propaganda

January 12, 2016

Yesterday I put up a piece about Paul Berman’s book, The Flight of the Intellectuals, which argues that the modern Islamist movements – al-Qaeda, but also Hamas, and the Islamic Republic of the Ayatollah Khomeini, ultimately have their origins in the writings of Hassan al-Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood. The book also describes the role of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj al-Husseini, in translating Nazi anti-Semitic propaganda into the Muslim and Arab worlds. Al-Husseini claimed, despite the evidence of the very limited dimensions of the Jewish state at the time, that the Jews were planning to wipe out Islam and the Arabs, and to turn all the Arab countries in the Middle East into homelands for themselves and Black Americans. He therefore urged, and organised, a genocidal war against Jews, commanding his audience to kill the Jews and their children before the Jews killed them.

It’s vile, poisonous stuff from someone, who played an enthusiastic part in the Holocaust of European Jews, as well as massacres of those in Palestine. His fear-mongering of a Jewish superstate goes far beyond the Nakba, or ‘disaster, catastrophe’, the term Palestinians have given to the eradication of their communities and their displacement at the establishment of Israe. Looking through al-Husseini’s rhetoric also makes sense of the claims of a similar genocide made by one British Muslim firebrand in the 1990s.

This was Kalim Saddiqui, who was one of the Muslim leaders involved in stirring up hatred against Salman Rushdie over the Satanic Verses. In the early 1990s the Beeb screened a documentary on the problems afflicting the Islamic community in Britain. These problems included poor academic performance, unemployment and the consequent feelings of disenfranchisement and alienation. They filmed Siddiqui preaching in his mosque. He told the assembled worshippers that ‘British society is a gigantic killing machine, and killing Muslims comes very easily to them.’ I’m aware of the racism and violence many Muslims have to face, not least from the Stormtroopers of the Far Right, like the BNP, and their successors, the English Defence League. But this went far beyond a complaint about racism to a bigoted, racist statement about non-Muslims Brits.

To their credit, the Beeb tried to tackle Siddiqui about this. His response was that it was part of his defence of Islam against the forces, of which Rushdie’s book was a part. He then claimed that the Satanic Verses was simply part of a ‘Holocaust of Muslims’ that was being prepared. It’s rubbish, of course, but such fears do now unfortunately have a certain verisimilitude now that Trump is demanding a halt to Muslim immigration, and the registration of those already in America. Against this, it needs to be noted that there are other Americans on the streets, including not just Muslim Americans, but also members of the traditional White and Black communities and Jews demonstrating against Trump’s poison. Several Jewish organisations were so horrified by Trump’s plans, which were so close to what they experienced during the Third Reich, that they organised demonstrations against the tousle-haired Nazi in 17 cities across the US. Siddiqui also made the comments at the time of the Bosnian War, when the Serbs were committing massacres against Bosnian Muslims. That might partly explain Siddiqui’s vile rant.

But mostly it seems to me now that Siddiqui had absorbed the conspiracy theories and the rhetoric of genocide against Muslims shoved out by the Grand Mufti as part of his pro-Nazi campaign. In which case, the roots of Islamism and Islamist terrorism in Britain go back at least two decades. Siddiqui and the other preachers of hate prepared a paranoid, intensely hostile mindset within the audiences, which may have made some susceptible to the teachings and propaganda of al-Qaeda and now ISIS later on.

Siddiqui and his fellows, like Anjem Chaudhury, do not represent all Muslims in Britain by any means. They’re extremely controversial, and there have been demonstrations against them as bigots, who pervert the message of Islam, by liberal Muslims. There are a number of books and Muslim organisations, like Imams Online, which exist to tackle the Islamism and hate they promote. If you go over to the anti-racist organisation’s Hope Not Hate site, there are also numerous articles on events that have been organised around the country to bring Muslims and non-Muslims together, with pictures of Muslim imams talking and laughing with Christian vicars, and members of the other faiths. Siddiqui’s rhetoric is part of the Nazi distortion of Islam, and doesn’t represent the whole of the ‘umma or its history.

Advertisements

Berman on the Nazi Origins of Modern Militant Islamism

January 11, 2016

Berman Flight Intellectuals

Yesterday I posted up a very informative piece by Michelle Thomasson, on the origins of modern militant Islam, based on McHugh’s book, A Short History of the Arabs. This sees the origins of modern Islamic militancy in the work of the Muslim reformer, Rashid Rida, and the alliance of Muslim religious and political leaders with the Nazis following the foundation of the state of Israel during the British Mandate in Palestine.

The left-wing American journalist and writer, Paul Berman, says much the same in his book, The Flight of the Intellectuals (New York: Melville House 2010). This is partly an investigation into the career and ideas of the contemporary French Muslim writer and philosopher, Tariq Ramadan. Ramadan’s a highly controversial figure, as while many have found him an admirable spokesman for interfaith dialogue and on social questions like poverty, others consider that far from being a liberal modernist, Ramadan instead preaches a very hard-line, intolerant Islam concealed under a veneer of liberal verbiage. He has, for example, been championed by Ian Buruma of the New York Times, who sees his philosophy, based on traditional, universal Muslim values, as offering an escape from violence. Many of Ramadan’s opponents are liberal Muslims and women, shocked at what they see as his anti-feminism. Another of his opponents is the Lebanese historian, Antoine Sfeir. In addition to stirring up intellectual controversy, Ramadan has also been investigated by the Spanish authorities for possible terrorist connections.

Ramadan’s grandfather, Hassan al-Banna, was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the leading organisations in the modern Islamic revival, and a nationalist campaigner against the French and British occupying powers. The Muslim Brotherhood taught discipline, obedience and adulation of al-Banna as their Supreme Leader. It also aimed at throwing out the British and other European colonialists, and reviving the former Islamic empire and caliphate. this would include all the nations and countries ever conquered and ruled by Islam, including modern peoples, who had also converted. Al-Banna’s ideas spread from his native Egypt to Palestine, Syria, Sudan and North Africa. They were introduced into Iran in Shi’ite form by the Ayatollah Khomeini and Ali Shariati. They were then exported from Iran to the Shi’a in Lebanon, and then into India and Pakistan by Abul Ala Mawdudi. In Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood became Hamas, a political party which has used suicide bombers against the Israelis, although al-Banna’s supporters have always defended him from accusations of terrorism. The Muslim Brotherhood has also produced a number of splinter groups, one of which is al-Qaeda. Ramadan has written books presenting his grandfather as a democrat wanting to create a genuine national assembly free of British influence. However, some of his writings suggest he really wanted to create a theocracy, in which Egypt would be governed by Islamic scholars, though after consulting the general public. Other Muslim scholars also believe that al-Banna wanted the establishment of an authoritarian, anti-democratic state. These include Bassam Tibi, a German-Egyptian liberal Muslim, and the Iranian scholars Ladan and Roya Boroumand. Tibi sees al-Banna as the creator of a modern totalitarianism at variance with the traditional teachings of Islam.

Critical in the creation of modern Islamic anti-Semitism was Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. al-Husseini was at various times the head of the Supreme Muslim Council in Palestine, and chairman of the Arab Higher Committee. He was one of the leading figures in the resistance against the foundation of the nascent Jewish state. In the 1920s, he organised several attacks against both Zionist settlers from the West, and traditional, indigenous Jewish Palestinians, culminating in a pogrom in 1929. He was also partly responsible for Rashid Ali al-Gaylani’s pro-Axis coup in Iraq in 1941, and the launch of a Farhoud, or pogrom, against the Jews in Baghdad. He met with Mussolini and proposed the creation of an Arab Fascist state comprising Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Trans-Jordan.

And in 1941 he met the Nazis, including Ribbentrop, Hitler, Heinrich Himmler and Goebbels. He set up the Handzar, or ‘Sabre’ division of the SS, to fight against the Serbs and the anti-Fascist partisans in the former Yugoslavia, as well as exterminate Bosnian Jews. The Nazis employed al-Husseini and Rashid Ali in their Revolutionierungspolitik, or policy of stirring up internal revolutions in order to bring down their enemies from within. The most famous example was during the First World War when Germany sent Lenin into Russia on the sealed train with large sums of money to spark the Bolshevik revolution. The Mufti was charged with translating the Nazis’ anti-Semitism from Europe to Islam. He therefore combed the Islamic scriptures to present a Muslim version of the stupid and murderous conspiracy theories about the Jews circulating in Europe. He therefore created a vast conspiratorial view of Muslim history, in which the Jews had been trying to destroy Islam and the Arabs from the very beginning of Islam to the 20th century.

The Jewish state was initially extremely small, and Berman argues that there was little support for it in the Jewish populations of the Islamic world, except here and there in small pockets. Nevertheless, in al-Husseini claimed that the Zionists were aiming to create a gigantic Jewish homeland that would stretch from British Palestine to Egypt and the Persian Gulf. He also claimed that this new Jewish state would also include the north African Arab nations of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Or they were going to create two homelands, one of which would be the former north African Arab states. These would be colonised by the Jews. The second Jewish homeland, in north Africa, was to be established through the efforts of America, which was already dominated by the Jews. This homeland was to be colonised by Jews and Blacks from America. Britain was also under Jewish control, and, as with Nazism, the Jews were blamed for the creation of Communism. In their propaganda broadcasts on the radio, the Mufti and his followers urged the Arabs to rise up and kill the Jews and their children. Al-Husseini was personally responsible for sending 20,000 Jews to the gas chambers when Himmler wanted to release them as a publicity stunt. The Nazis were also planning the extermination of Egypt’s Jews if Rommel had won. Mercifully, he didn’t, and Montgomery stopped him.

Berman also states that traditionally, Western Jews regarded Islam as being far more welcoming and much less oppressive than Christianity, and cites Graetz’s history of the Jews of c.1900 of such scholarship. He notes that this view has been challenged more recently by others, who have seen the Islamic world as just as hostile to Jews as the Christian West. Other scholars consider that, while there has been anti-Semitism in traditional Islamic society, it was not as severe as in Christianity. In this case, contemporary Islamism and its poisonous anti-Semitism is essentially the creation of al-Banna, al-Husseini and the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s simply a Muslim version of Nazism, with the irony that the Nazis also regarded the peoples of the Islamic world, the Arabs, Turks and Persians, as racially inferior. Hitler even referred to them in one of his speeches as ‘painted apes who long for the whip.’

If there is ever to be peace, then this poisonous, last reflection of Nazism must also be tackled and destroyed.

What’s the Real Reason We’re Bombing Syria?

December 9, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political reported yesterday that Britain had bombed a Syrian army base, apparently in retaliation for criticism by Assad. See the article at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/08/cameron-orders-attack-on-syrian-army-retaliation-for-assad-statements-veterans-today/. This has provoked a storm of protest. Amongst those criticising the attacks are veteran broadcaster and naturalist, David Attenborough, (See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/09/david-attenborough-laments-dreadful-uk-bombing-campaign/). Most movingly, a group of British veterans have thrown their medals on the ground outside 10 Downing Street as their protest against the bombings. (See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/09/syria-air-strike-protest-ex-soldiers-throw-their-medals-away/). This must surely show how iniquitous many feel the bombs are, when some of Britain’s bravest and most gallant squaddies and ossifers feel that this act has disgraced them, so that they feel they cannot wear the medals they have won with the pride they deserve.

I’m left wondering why we really bombed the Syrian army, and whose side we’re really on. Criticism by the country’s dictator, but not actual military aggression, seems a flimsy excuse to start bombing his country and killing his armed forces. If we did that every time a foreign head of state criticised us, we’d have to start bombing just some of our closest allies and collaborators in the EU, like France, Germany and Spain, long before we got to the really verbally hostile nations, like Iran or North Korea.

So why did we do it?

It could just be that Dave Cameron has decided that he just wants to bomb Assad. He wanted to start bombing him after the Arab Spring broke out, and it looked like democracy was finally going to sweep away all the dictators, absolute monarchs, theocrats and other tyrants throughout the Middle East. That dream, unfortunately, went unrealised. Years later it looks very much like we were better off not toppling Assad, because if he had gone, it’s likely that Syria would be in the hands of ISIS or al-Qaeda by now.

And for all that Assad is a genuinely nasty piece of work, the Syrian Ba’ath regime is like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq – a secular state with some degree of genuine religious pluralism. Christians, for example, could serve in the Syrian government, in sharp distinction to the theocratic autocracy in Saudi Arabia and the other gulf states, which are absolute monarchies. These nations reserve power, and in the case of Saudi Arabia, refuse to tolerate, any other religions, including different Islamic sects. Only Wahhabi Islam is tolerated.

I blogged today about a piece in the New Eastern Outlook that argued that ISIS was really the Saudi army in disguise. Shorn of its religious trappings, ISIS was a tool by which the Saudis hope to annex and control the oil wealth of the other Middle Eastern nations. This seems to me to be exactly right. As I wrote before, Greg Palast points out in his book, Armed Madhouse, that the Saudis wanted Iraq invaded so that they and the Americans, their partners in Amerco, the Saudi oil combine, could seize that country’s vast oil reserves, the second largest in the Middle East after Saudi Arabia itself. And it was one of the reasons why the West invaded Iraq twenty five years ago, after George Bush snr told Saddam Hussein that there would be no opposition to his annexation of Kuwait.

The anti-War protesters shouting ‘Gosh, No! We won’t Go! We won’t die for Texaco!’ were right. Absolutely and unequivocally.

So what’s the reason we’re going into Syria now? Cui bono? Apart from the Saudis.

Years ago I read a book by an other with a very Islamic name, which claimed that the 7/7 bombings were another false flag operation. It claimed that they were set up by Britain’s intelligence forces in order to provide further spurious justification for Britain’s military involvement in the Middle East. This was part of a broader strategy of misinformation and staged enemy actions which included the war in Bosnia in the 1990s and the invasion of Afghanistan. The real reason for all these invasions was to permit NATO to seize control of the vital oil pipelines running from Afghanistan, across the Middle East, and into the Balkans. Interestingly for a book written by some of Islamic heritage, it argued that some of the atrocities committed by the Serbs in Bosnia, such as the mass murder of Bosnian civilians in a concentration camp, did not occur, but were manufactured by the Allies. I am extremely sceptical of this claim, as it sounds too close to Holocaust denial and the type of stories retailed by the anti-Islamic extreme Right.

The book sounds like a British version of the American ‘Troofer’ conspiracy theories, which allege that the American intelligence agencies, or in some of the nasty anti-Semitic versions going the round, Israel’s Mossad, were really responsible for the destruction of the Twin Towers back in 2001. I find that extremely unlikely. It’s part of the American Conspiracist fringe and its Islamic counterparts. Such theorising is very common in parts of the Islamic world. John Timpson in his book on Iran noted how common it was over there. It’s not hard to see why. Conspiracy theories, like those about 9/11, Jewish bankers or secret deals with alien beings, are created by the powerless and disenfranchised to explain bewildering and apparently inexplicable events. They flourish in states where government is closed and autocratic. Like the Middle East and other parts of the developing world, dominated by powerful factions, and where government may be absolute, secretive and extremely repressive.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t a kernel of truth in their somewhere, hidden amongst the paranoia. The invasion of Iraq did have nothing to do with combating al-Qaeda. It was mainly an attempt to seize their oil, as well as prevent Saddam Hussein supplying arms and aid to the Palestinians. As well as a giant experiment in free market economics and massive corporate pilfering by the Neo-Cons. Now it seems that the Saudis are also funding, supplying and controlling ISIS as a way to seize more nation’s oil industries. It looks very much like the War on Terror really is just a War for Oil, just as the Greens was back in the 1990s told us the first Gulf War was when they lambasted it as a ‘resource war.’

So, after bombing Assad’s army, is Cameron going to urge us, perhaps a few weeks, months or a year or so from now, that we now need to put ‘boots on the ground’ to join the 70,000 ‘moderates’ everyone else says isn’t there, in order to save the Syrian people from Islamist tyranny? Unfortunately, I can see that happening, just as I think that if he does, the real reason will be to seize, sorry, protect the Syrian oil wells, refineries and pipelines.

I may well be wrong, but this is the way I can see this war developing. And I’m already sick of it.

ISIS Is the Saudis’ Private Army for Control of the Oil Fields

December 9, 2015

I looked up this article in the New Eastern Outlook thanks to Harry, one of the commenter’s on Mike’s blog. Mike reported that Britain has bombed a Syrian army base, apparently in response to a criticism about us by Assad. See the article ‘Cameron Orders Attack on Syrian Army, Retaliation for Assad Statements | Veterans Today‘ at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/12/08/cameron-orders-attack-on-syrian-army-retaliation-for-assad-statements-veterans-today/.

Harry wrote

On the NEO site (New Eastern Outlook) today is a very good analysis by William Engdahl. He concludes that ISIS, once the “religious cover” is stripped away, functions as the Saudi Army. This is a self evident truth, but there is more. The United States of America has only managed to fund its grotesque list of wars and 700+ bases encircling Russia, China, and Iran by enjoying the privilage of the Petrodollar (that unique arrangement between the USA and KSA). The US’s determination to bring Russia back to heel following the western looting post Yeltsin, has forced Russia to turn to China. Now the BRICS, Eurasion Union, SCO, New silk Road etc are reducing drastically the need to hold dollars for trade by instituting a parallell banking system using Yuan (renminbi) and The Ruble as well as other BRICS currencies. If the Saudis were to be successful in grabbing Iraq and Syrias oil then the new qatari pipeline connecting to the Nabuccoi would isolate Russia and reinforce the Petrodollar and US hegemony. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Which is why WW4 is entirely possible and perhaps likely unless the peoples of the west act to stop this lunacy.

The article is ‘What Stinks in Saudi Ain’t the Camel Dung‘. It’s at http://journal-neo.org/2015/12/08/what-stinks-in-saudi-aint-the-camel-dung/

The article traces the emergence of modern Islamist terrorism, from the CIA’s arrangement for the transferral of the banned Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt to Saudi Arabia, in order to create a powerful right-wing Islamic movement that could be used against Soviet attempts to gain power in the region. It also describes how the current Saudi King, Salman, and the intelligence minister, Prince Turki al-Faisal, as well as the Muslim World League, financed and set up Osama bin Laden and what became al-Qaeda in the 1970s through a network of conservative Islamic charities. The Saudis were also responsible for funding and aiding al-Qaeda fighters in the Bosnian conflict in the 1990s.

The article also alleges that the shooting down of the Russian plane by Erdogan’s regime in Turkey was due to a deal Erdogan had made with the Saudis to allow al-Qaeda/ ISIS training camps in Turkey. The article concludes that ISIS is now effectively a religious disguise for a Saudi military campaign to control the area’s oilfields.

What stinks in Saudi Arabia ain’t the camel dung. It’s the monarchy of King Salman and his hot-headed son, Prince Salman. For decades they have financed terrorism under a fake religious disguise, to advance their private plutocratic agenda. It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with money and oil. A look at the ISIS map from Iraq to Syria shows that they precisely targeted the oil riches of those two sovereign states. Saudi control of that oil wealth via their ISIS agents, along with her clear plan to take out the US shale oil competition, or so Riyadh reckons, would make the Saudi monarchy a vastly richer state, one, perhaps because of that money, finally respected by white western rich men and their society. That is clearly bovine thinking.

Don’t bet on that Salman.

This all sounds exactly right to me. I’ve read papers published from one of the American anti-terrorism think tanks that made it clear that Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi intelligence minister, was indeed behind al-Qaeda operations in Syria and Iraq. Greg Palast in his book, Armed Madhouse, also reveals that one of the reasons for the allied invasion of Iraq was the Saudi desire to get their mitts on the Iraqi oil reserves, which are the largest after those of Saudi Arabia itself. And there’s a very interesting article in Lobster that states that al-Qaeda’s massacre of the Shi’a in Iraq was on behalf of the Saudis. It was not ordered by Osama bin Laden.

This raises some very awkward questions about the type of war Cameron wants to drag us into. We are entering a hall of mirrors here, where the truth is the exact opposite of what we’re being told. Cameron, and before him Bliar and Bush have told us we’re fighting a ‘war on terror’, but so far we seem to be fighting to benefit the chief financiers of that terror, Saudi Arabia. I think this is one area where the Islamaphobes might actually be right. There was a comment by a former serviceman on one of the anti-Islam sites that said that the Saudis boast about having the Americans wrapped round their little finger, and that they’ll go and fight anyone the Saudis send them against. Unfortunately, I can see this as being true. It does not, however, mean that anything else the Islamophobes say is.

In which case, it’s time to break this poisonous relationship. We are not the Saudis’ army, and we will not help them murder the other peoples of the Middle East, Muslim and non-Muslim, for their own profit. The Islamic modernist, Mohammed Abduh, was impressed with what he believed was the democratic nature of early Islam. He lauded the British Empire as the greatest force for Islam, because it was bringing democracy to the world. The Saudis are the complete opposite – a repressive, absolute monarchy. It’s time to revive and stress that democracy against their lies and terror.

Tory Bloodlust, Corbyn, and the Drone Strike against ‘Jihadi John’

November 23, 2015

Okay, this is going to be another article commenting on the current situation in the Middle East. I’m sorry about this, if you’re bored with the subject, guys. Please stay with me. This stuff’s important. But I guess you already know that very well already.

Last week it was reported that the Americans had killed Mohamed Emwazee, aka ‘Jihadi John’, in a drone strike. Emwazee was the British ‘executioner’ with a London accent, shown murdering prisoners in ISIS’ propaganda videos. This was a subject of celebration, with David Cameron appearing on TV to praise the Americans for having done a good job well done, and make various comments about British-American co-operation, intelligence-sharing and so forth.

And then the right-wing press over here decided that they were going to attack Corbyn for not being sufficiently militaristic. The good blogger over at Zelo Street has written a very good piece about this at http://zelo-street.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/jihadi-john-bloodlust-exposed.html. Among the pack baying for Corbyn’s blood was the editor of the Sun, Tom Newton Dunn, Dan Hodges and Toby Young at the Torygraph, Paul Staines of Guido Fawkes and Andrew Neil, known to readers of Private Eye as ‘Brillo Pad’. They attacked Corbyn for saying that it would have been better if Emwazee had been tried in a court of law. This wasn’t enough for the above rightists, despite the fact that Corbyn had prefixed it with a statement that ‘Jihadi John’ had been held to account for his brutal and callous crimes’. Not quite the soft statement the Tories were making it out to be, but still not bloodthirsty enough for them.

The article in Zelo Street makes it clear that capturing ‘Jihadi John’ would have been exactly the right course, given the precedents for it. The Israelis captured and tried Adolf Eichmann, one of the Nazis responsible for the Holocaust. There’s a quote by Eichmann in which he states that he had absolutely no regrets about what he did. I can’t remember the exact wording, but it’s something on the lines that only weaklings regret what they have done. It’s one of those noxious statements that make you think that however the Israelis killed him, whether by firing squad or hanging or whatever, it was too good for the b*stard. The Israelis would have been justified shooting him out of hand. But they didn’t. They put him on trial and had him convicted according to the rule of law. Just as the Europeans and Americans did with Radovan Kardzic, one of the Serb generals responsible for horrendous war crimes in Bosnia. He was captured, and tried at the Hague for his crimes against humanity.

And in fact, there are a number of other, very good reasons why it is better to capture and try individuals like Emwazee, rather than killing them in drone strikes.

Firstly, as a way of gaining hearts and minds, drone strikes are counterproductive. Where they’re being used against Taliban enclaves in Pakistan, they’ve actually managed to increase support for the Islamists. Part of this, supposedly, is that the local people feel it’s a cowardly method of fighting. The drones are remotely operated by someone hundreds or even thousands of miles away from the battle field.

Secondly, as a matter of simple military precision, they aren’t very good. I’ve put up a report about them from The Young Turks, which showed that rather than precisely targeting their victims, they simply home in on their mobile phone signals. The result has been that the wrong people have often been killed, simply because they were holding the intended victim’s phone at the time of the attack. This has included the mother of the Jihadis. Those killed in the strikes have also been bystanders, who may not have had anything to do with the victims except having been standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The third argument against them is perhaps the most serious. Many liberal Americans have opposed drone strikes, such as that which killed Anwar Awlaki, on the grounds that are a form of extra-judicial execution. Or assassination, if you prefer. Anwar Awlaki was the Islamist preacher killed in a drone strike in Yemen. He was a deeply unpleasant piece of work, having preached murderous jihad and planned numerous terrorism offences. He was also an American citizens, and many Americans were upset about the way the president – in this case, Obama, had ordered his death without having him caught and tried.

All of this also applies to the drone strike against ‘Jihadi John’ Emwazee. And you don’t have to have any illusions about how brutal and thuggish Emwazee was to be concerned about the manner of his death, and the implications it has for global justice. Zelo Street states that he was scum. He was. Utterly. The man butchered innocents and boasted about it, with no remorse whatsoever. He pretty much got what he deserved, at least if his own low standards were applied to himself. But justice demanded that he be captured and tried.

As for Dunn, Brillo Pad, Young, Staines and the rest of them, don’t expect them to make reasoned, nuanced criticism of Corbyn. They aren’t. They’re frightened, and they’ve decided that the best way to destroy him is to make him out to be a dangerous subversive, who supports the IRA, ISIS and other terrorist organisations. Even if he doesn’t quite say what they want you to believe he said. That the ‘narrative’ they’re using, and they’re going to stick to it, according to Goebbels’ maxim that if you use a lie big enough for long enough, then it becomes the truth.

Commemorating Christian Martyrdom: The Armenian Genocide

April 24, 2015

Armenian Gospels

Armenian Gospel Book from the Monastery of Gladjor, c. 1321

Today is the centenary of the beginning of the Armenian Genocide. This was a series of massacres carried out by the Ottoman Empire against the Armenian people. The Armenians had risen up, like the other, majority Christians subject nations in the Balkans across the Black Sea to gain their freedom from the decaying Turkish empire. To counter this, the last Turkish sultan, Talat Pasha issued a firman ordering that the Armenians should be rounded up and slaughtered. 1.5 million Armenians, men, women and children were butchered.

The Pope caused controversy earlier this week when he marked the massacres, calling it the first genocide of the 20th century. I’m not sure if this is quite true, as I think about ten years or so previously the German colonial authorities in East Africa had also organised a genocide of the indigenous Herrero people. The occasion has a wider, European significance than just its attempt to exterminate the Armenians. Hitler noted the way the other European powers remained silent and did not act to stop it. This convinced him that they also wouldn’t act to save the Jews when the Nazi state began to persecute and murder them in turn. As he said ‘Who remembers the Armenians?’

Denial of Genocide by Turkish Authorities

Unfortunately, the genocide is still controversial. Robert Fisk in his article in Monday’s Independent discussed the Turkish government’s refusal to recognise the massacres as a genocide. Pope Francis’ comments sparked outrage amongst the Turkish authorities, and the Vatican’s ambassador to Turkey was summoned to meet the prime minister. Fisk himself recalled the abuse he had received from Turks outraged by his discussion of the genocide. He stated he began receiving mail about the issue when he personally dug the bones of some of the Armenians out of the sands of the Syrian desert in 1992. He stated that some of the letters were supportive. Most were, in his words, ‘little short of pernicious’.

In Turkey any discussion or depiction of the Armenian genocide as genocide was brutally suppressed. A few years ago, the Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink, was killed for writing about them. Liberal Turks, who wish their nation face up to this dark episode of their history, have been imprisoned. The great Turkish writer, Orhan Pamuk, was sent to jail a few years ago. His writing on the genocide was judged to be ‘insulting to Turkish nationhood’, a criminal offence.

Fatih Arkin, Turkish Director, on Movie about Genocide

Dink’s assassination has, however, acted to promote a greater discussion and awareness of the genocide, and a large number of both Armenians and Turks are now pressing for the Turkish government to recognise it as such. Indeed, the Turkish-German film director, Fatih Arkin, made a film about the genocide, The Cut which premiered in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, in January.

In the interview below, Mr Arkin talks about he was moved to make the film following Dink’s assassination, and the number of Turks, who also join with the Armenians in demanding their government officially recognise the atrocity. Among those is the grandson of one of the leading perpetrators. What is interesting is that the film received a wide release in Turkey with no opposition or move to ban it.

Fisk on Turks Who Saved Armenians

This seems to show a new openness amongst the Turkish people as a whole about the genocide. And Fisk in his article notes that there many courageous and humane Turks, who refused to comply with Sultan’s orders, and saved Armenians. He stated in his article that these included at least one provincial governor, as well as lesser Turkish soldiers and policemen. Fisk felt that the Armenians should compile a list of these heroes, not least because it would make it harder for politicians like Erdogan, the country’s prime minister, not to sign a book of condolences, which included their names.

And these men were courageous: they risked their lives to save others from the carnage. There is absolutely no reason why they should not also be commemorated. In Judaism, I understand that righteous gentiles, who save Jews from persecution, are commemorated and believed to have a part in the olam ha-ba, the world to come. There is a section of the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem, which displays the names of such righteous gentiles, who saved Jews during the Third Reich.

Syriac Evangelistary

The Miracle at the Pool of Bethesda, from a Syriac Evangelistary

Massacre of Syriac Christians as Part of Wider Pattern of Massacres

The massacre of the Empire’s Christian minorities was not confined to the Armenians, although they are the best known victims. Other Christian peoples, including the Syriac-speaking churches in what is now Iraq and Syria, were also attacked and massacred, in what has become known as ‘the Day of the Sword’. The massacres also spread into Iran, where the Christian communities there also suffered massacres. They too deserve commemoration.

Peaceful Relations between Christians and Muslims Normal in Ottoman Empire

Historians of the Turkish Empire have pointed out that the Armenian genocide, and similar massacres committed by the Ottoman forces in the Balkans during the nationalist wars of the 19th century, were largely the exception. For most of the time Christian and Muslim lived peacefully side by side. Quite often Muslims and Christians shared the same cemeteries. And in one part of Bosnia, at least, the local Roman Catholic church stood bang right next to the local mosque. There were even a small group of worshippers, who seem not to have differentiated between Christianity and Islam.

There’s a story that one orthodox priest, while officiating mass at his church, noticed a group of people at the back wearing Muslim dress. He went and asked them why they were attending a Christian church, if they were Muslims. The people replied that they didn’t really make much difference between the two faiths. On Friday, they prayed at the mosque, and on Sunday they went to church.

Historical Bias and Nationalist Violence by Christians in 19th century Balkans

Historians of the Balkans have also pointed out the dangers of religious bias when discussing the various nationalist wars in the 19th century. In the 1870s the Ottoman Turks committed a series of atrocities suppressing a nationalist uprising in Bulgaria. This outraged public opinion in England, and provoked the Liberal prime minister, Gladstone, to demand that the Turks be ‘thrown out of Europe, bag and baggage’. Other British and American observers noted that atrocities were hardly one sided. Christians also committed them, but these were ignored by the West. One author of a book on the Balkans I read back in the 1990s argued that the various atrocities committed in this period were caused not so much by religious differences, but from nationalism, and so were no different from other atrocities committed by other countries across the world, and in western Europe today as part of ethnic and nationalist conflicts, such as Northern Ireland.

British Empire and Atrocities in Kenya

Other decaying empires have also committed horrific atrocities, and attempted to cover them up. It was only after a very long legal campaign, for example, that the British government admitted the existence and complicity in the regimes of mass murder, torture, mutilation and internment in Kenya to suppress the Mao Mao rebellion. See the book, Africa’s Secret Gulags, for a complete history of this.

ISIS and the Massacre of Christians

The commemoration of the genocide of the Armenians, and by extension the other Christian subject peoples of the Ottoman and Persian Empires at the time, has become pressing relevant because the persecution today of Christians in the region by the resurgent Islamist movements, like ISIS, and Boko Haram in Nigeria. Yet these groups differ in their attitude to the massacre of non-Muslim civilians from that of the Turkish government. The official Turkish attitude has been silence and an attempt to suppress or rebut the genocide’s existence. This points to an attitude of shame towards them. ISIS, which last Monday murdered 30 Ethiopian Coptic Christians, shows absolutely no shame whatsoever. Far from it: they actually boast about their murder and enslavement of innocent civilians.

Conversion of Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians by Force, and Murder of Civilians Contrary to Muslim Law

I was taught at College that their actions contravene sharia law. Islamic law also has a set of regulations for the conduct of warfare, which rule out the conversion of the ‘Peoples of the Book’ – Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians – by force. Nor may women, children and non-combatants be harmed. And this has been invoked by the ulema in the past to protect Christian and other minorities in the Ottoman Empire. In the 17th century one of the Turkish sultans decided he was going to use military force to make the Christians in the Balkans convert to Islam. He sought approval for his course of action from the majlis, the governing assembly of leading Muslim clerics, who issued legal opinions on questions of Muslim law and practice. They refused, on the grounds that it was un-Islamic. The sultan backed down, and his planned campaigns against his Christian subjects were abandoned.

ISIS Also Butcher Muslims and Yezidis

Nor do ISIS, and similar Islamist movements limit themselves to attacking Christians. We’ve also seen them butcher and enslave the Yezidis, as well as other Muslims, simply for being the ‘wrong’ type of Muslim. For ISIS, they, and only they, represent true Islam. The rest are part of the ‘juhailiyya’, the world of darkness and ignorance, who must be fought and conquered.

Need to Commemorate All Victims of Atrocities

The Armenian genocide and its victims should rightly be remembered, as should so many other holocausts since then. Not only is this owed to the victims and history itself, but also to stop similar massacres occurring. And we need to remember that the capacity for such evil is not confined to particular nations, but can be found throughout history and humanity.