Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’

Black and Muslim YouTubers Discuss Slavery and Racism in Islam

March 30, 2022

I found this fascinating video on Sa Ra Garvey’s YouTube channel. I don’t know anything about Garvey, except that he’s probably a proud man of colour concerned with his people’s improvement and liberation. His name appears to be a reference to the Black activist and Jazz muso Sun Ra and the great Jamaican Black activist Marcus Garvey. Since the issue of slavery and reparations emerged once again in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, many, largely conservative commenters, have also been raising the issue of slavery in Islam. Slavery did not, after all, begin with Europe and the transatlantic slave trade. It has existed in various forms around the world since antiquity, and before White Europeans turned to enslaving Black Africans for the plantations in the New World, Islam had also done so. The first Black slaves imported into Europe were slaves brought into Islamic, Moorish Spain. Stephen Howe in his book Afrocentrism, states that the Arabs enslaved 5 million Black Africans, comparable to the 12 million taken by White Europeans.

In the video Black and Muslim speakers discuss the Islamic enslavement of Black Africans and the resulting legacy of racism in the Arab, Middle Eastern and south Asian worlds. One of the terms used in Arabic for Blacks is ‘abid’, which means ‘slaves’. The video also contains footage from documentaries filming the slave markets that have opened in Libya, selling Black migrants hoping to reach Europe. It also contains comments from enslaved Africans and free Blacks further south in Africa justifiably furious at the enslavement of their fellows. There are also clips from an al-Jazeera documentary on Black Iraqis. They are the descendants of enslaved Africans, and complain about the racism and marginalisation they suffer from and their political aspirations to gain power and improve their lot. One Black American contrasts the attitude of White westerners with that of the Saudis. He states that if you ask a western White about slavery, they’ll respond with remorse. The Saudis never do.

I have a few caveats about the video. Some of the material comes from Memri TV, and the video’s edited by Taqiyya Watch. These are both anti-Islam channels. ‘Taqiyya’ is an Islamic term for lying to defend Islam. It started out, I believe, as a Shi’a strategy to avoid persecution. It initially meant that a Muslim could deny he was a member of the faith in order to avoid being killed. Since then it has been expanded to the production of falsehoods to protect the faith itself. Memri TV seem to be an Israeli outfit specialising in translating material from the Islamic world which Muslims would like to hide. This is often when Middle Eastern politicians present a moderate face to the West, but present themselves as much more hard line to domestic Muslim audiences. However, the important point is that these organisations also have their overt biases against the Islamic world.

Regarding racism, Jonathan A.C. Brown discusses this in his book Slavery & Islam. He notes that the Qur’an actually condemns racism, and during the Middle Ages a series of Muslim scholars wrote books defending Blacks with titles such as The Excellence of the Negroes. He also describes the shock of one 19th century Arab visitor to France, who was shocked at how the standard of beauty was confined to White complexions, excluding the darker skin colours the Arabs preferred. The anti-Black racism is therefore against the letter and spirit of Islam, but persists nonetheless.

I am not trying to be deliberately controversial by posting this video. I find it interesting because it shows that Blacks in America and Africa are concerned about the Arab/Muslim slave trade, its legacy and resurgence. I find it particularly interesting that Afro-Iraqis are challenging racism in their country. That’s something I doubt very many people have heard about, unless they’re studying Islam or Middle Eastern politics at a post-graduate level in academia. The two speakers at the start of the video, a Black man and an Asian Muslim woman, describe how Blacks and Arabs are both minorities and so have allied with each other. But they feel that in this alliance, Blacks are very much the junior partner. They are the minorities’ minority. This is a comment on the politics of intersectional leftism, which seeks to unite a range of disparate groups, such as Blacks and ethnic minorities, gays and feminists in order to challenge conventional society. It shows that, despite right-wing attempts to present such alliances as a monolithic block, there are strains and criticisms within them. As for the re-opening of the slave markets in Libya, this is deeply offensive and troubling to the majority of severely normal Muslims around the world. In 1856, for example, the Muslim ruler of Tunis banned slavery completely within his dominions. That was 164 years ago. It is deeply repulsive and shocking that after all that time, real slavery is returning to the world.

Do Immigrants Come Here to Sponge Off the Welfare State? Or Simply Looking for Work and Opportunities?

March 22, 2022

This is a response to a video posted up today on YouTube by Simon Webb of History Debunked. I’ve posted up a number of his videos because I think he does have a point when it comes to some of the bad history, if not plain myths and fabrications that are being retailed as sound, authoritative Black History. I’ve been criticised for some of this by some of great commenters on this channel, who take issue with some of his views and believe he had an agenda. And they’re right. Webb is a right-wing, Telegraph-reading Tory, some of whose views are deeply suspect if not actually abhorrent. He believes in the ‘Bell Curve’ nonsense that says that Blacks are intellectually inferior to Whites, who are in turn inferior to Asians. Interestingly, the American Conservative Thomas Sowell, who is no supporter of affirmative action programmes, consigns that one to the bin in a video about the myths surround Black education. This states that the fall in Black scholastic achievement has been so sudden that even the writer of the Bell Curve said it could not be explained by genetic factors. He also put up a video stating he didn’t want a wave of eastern European refugees coming to this country, and has posted pieces about the deportation of immigrants and defending Enoch Powell. Today he posted a video discussing Milton Friedman’s pronouncement that you couldn’t have unlimited immigration and a welfare state.

Yeah, that Milton Friedman. The Chicago economist who believed in absolute free markets and wanted to privatise everything and end the welfare state. The man who supported General Pinochet, the former dictator of Chile, because the Fascist butcher was a follower of his wretched economic doctrines. The man who supported Fascist coups, because the masses were so much in favour of the welfare state that they would never vote into power politicians who would destroy them. The Milton Friedman who cursed the world with Monetarism before that spectacularly showed itself to be a colossal failure in the late 1980s-early ’90s. I see absolutely no reason why any sensible or decent person should take Friedman and his views at all seriously.

Webb seems to believe that the welfare state is under pressure because of continued mass immigration. This brings to this country waves of the global poor, who must be fed, clothed and housed with the resources of the welfare state. But people cannot afford to pay the additional taxes required to fund this, hence the welfare state and the NHS are under considerable pressure and near collapse.

Now he’s right in that very many immigrants to this country are extremely poor, especially those from outside Europe. Hence the demands for specific policies and welfare expenditure for Blacks and ethnic minorities. But his video seems to assume that extra-European immigrants really come here to sponge off the welfare state. That’s certainly the impression you get from the Tory propaganda regurgitated by the right-wing press. But is it true?

I honestly don’t think so. In fact the reality may be the complete opposite. I don’t believe that all of the immigrants arriving here are simply refugees seeking asylum. But I don’t think they’re here to sponge off the welfare state either. I think many come here seeking better opportunities and jobs. Years ago I tried doing a postgraduate degree on Islam in Britain. I had to give it up, but not before I’d done some reading about Islam, history and immigration. One of the books I bought was a series of potted biographies of people from the Middle East from the early 19th century to the present day, their lives illustrating the wider history, conflicts and issues affecting the region and its peoples. One of these was of a Moroccan immigrant to the Netherlands. This man had immigrated to Europe simply looking for work. There wasn’t any available in his native country. The immensely profitable fig groves were all owned by wealthy and powerful landowners, who kept outsiders out. There were also little jobs in manufacturing, as Moroccans preferred to buy foreign goods from countries like Italy. And so it was left to him and others like him to come to Europe searching work. He was scathing about European attempts to limit immigration, as when he had first arrived in the 1970s employers, such as the one he worked for in Germany, were so desperate for labour that they gave out the necessary forms there and then.

I’ve also read that it’s immigrant labour which also contributes disproportionately to the tax burden. They tend to work in poorly paid jobs that we wouldn’t normally take, and don’t take as much time off or rely so much on the welfare state, contrary to what the Tories allege. But claiming that they do serves the purpose of whipping up hatred against them and allowing the Tories a pretext for cutting welfare benefits. Because you don’t want all that money spent on foreign scroungers. But as Tony Benn said, how the government treats immigrants shows how it would also like to treat native Brits. And this has been born out by the expansion of food banks. These were set up after Tony Blair stopped illegal immigrants from being eligible for state benefits. Then the Tories under Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith decided that they would be whizzo for keeping native Brits from starvation – just – if they took their benefits away through sanctions and increased legislation designed to restrict eligibility. Because the poor are also scroungers, at least to the editors of papers like the Meil, Depress and Torygraph.

As for problems funding the NHS and the welfare state, these exist not because of asylum seekers, but because the Tories have massively cut expenditure in order to give massive tax cuts to the rich. While shifting the tax burden to the poor. And in the case of the NHS, it’s also being done to prepare for its privatisation. It has zip to do with the burden of caring for extra people through immigration.

I think there are problems with mass immigration, not least that of separate, parallel communities. But I don’t believe that people are coming to this country because of the welfare state.

If they are not coming here seeking refuge and sanctuary from persecution, it seems to me that they are coming here to work. Anything else is just right-wing propaganda.

Novo Lectio on the Real Reasons behind the Overthrow of Gaddafi

March 17, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neil Coyle and Adolf Hitler on Democracy and Jewish Marxism

February 11, 2022

According to today Torygraph, far-right Labour MP Neil Coyle has had the party whip withdrawn because of racist comments about the Chinese he made to a journalist at Stranger’s Bar in parliament. This left the press gentleman, who presumably is of Chinese descent, feeling unsafe. Well it’s all coming out now. Coyle, as Mike has reported, made disgusting remarks about Jewish Voice for Labour, tweeting that their members were communists with their own party they could ruin. This resulted in a complaint to Starmer from three very distinguished Jewish gents – Geoffrey Bindman, a Queen’s Counsel, Avi Shlaim, professor of Middle Eastern history at Oxford and a Mr Harold Immanuel. I’ve said in a previous post that Coyle’s disgusting comment was almost straight out of Hitler’s vile rantings. The Nazis attacked the SPD, the German socialist party, as Marxist, and with a disproportionately high Jewish members. The Jews in it were all conspiring to throw gentiles out and place it under Jewish dominance as part of their subversion of parliamentary democracy and their plot to take over Germany. I’ve been trying to find the exact quote to show how similar this accusation is Coyle’s. I haven’t been able to find it, unfortunately, but I have found others that are broadly similar. For example, in one of his speeches Hitler ranted

‘that wherever one looks one sees Jews. The whole of Germany is governed by Jews. It is a sandal that the German workers, whether with head or hand, let themselves be so harassed by the Jews. Of course, because the Jew has the money in his hands. The Jew sits in government and swindles and smuggles. When he has his pockets full again he drives the workers into confusion, so that again and again he finds himself at the helm, and we poor Germans put up with all that. He also spoke about Russia and who did all that? Only the Jews. Therefore, Germans, be united and fight against the Jews. Because they will gobble up our last crumbs. The lecturer’s concluding words: We shall carry on the struggle until the Jew has been removed from the Reich even if it seems like an insurrection or even to revolution.’

Joachim C. Fest, The Face of the Third Reich (London: Penguin 1970) 41.

Mike has also pointed out how the Nazis identified the Jews with Marxism. This is absolutely correct, as another quote from the wretched man shows

‘Fate answered the question for me inasmuch as it led me to make a detached and exhaustive inquiry into Marxist teaching and the activities of the Jewish people in connection with it. The Jewish doctrine of Marxism repudiates the aristocratic principles of Nature and replaces the eternal privilege of vigour and strength by numerical mass and its dead weight.’

Fest, Face of the Third Reich, 55.

And then there’s this quote from a 1933 speech by General Reichenau to a council of commanding officers baldly stating the party’s role in stamping out ‘Marxism’:

‘We must understand that we are in the midst of a revolution. What is rotten in the state must fall and it can only be brought down by terror. The party will proceed ruthlessly against Marxism. The army’s task is to order arms. No succour if any of the persecuted seek refuge with the troops.’

Fest, op. cit., 360.

Okay, let’s not exaggerate – Starmer and Coyle aren’t shooting Jews and Marxists or putting them in concentration camps. But he is smearing decent people, who are Jews and leftists, as anti-Semites and ‘Communists’ in order to purge them from the party and make it safe for nice, Zionist neoliberals. Who are the only people, including the only Jews, that are welcome in the party as they wish to mould it. And the rhetoric they are using is exactly that of Hitler and the Nazis. They are real anti-Semitic tropes.

But left-wing Jews don’t count. Certainly not, it appears, to comedian, writer and broadcaster David Baddiel, who has written a book, Jews Don’t Count, about the revival of anti-Semitism. This presumably includes Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters as members and adherents of left-wing anti-Semitism. Because criticism of Israel for its barbarous treatment of the Palestinians is anti-Semitic, and not merely anti-Zionist. Looking through YouTube yesterday, I found that Baddiel had turned up on Spectator TV to talk about his book. Yeah, the Speccie, whose columnist ‘Taki’ has been described as an anti-Semite, and who wrote a piece in his column in the wretched magazine praising the Greek Chryse Aurea, ‘Golden Dawn’, bunch of Nazis. The group that beats up immigrants and asylum seekers, whose leader has, I believe, been banged up for the murder of a left-wing journo.

In fact the Spectator has been running stories about Socialist and Muslim anti-Semitism for some years now. Way back in 2004 there was a review by Frederick Raphael of a book, set in France in this decade, in which the remains of the French socialists has joined force with the Muslims to seize power. Together the two have launched a new Holocaust against the Jews. Yes, I know the left isn’t free of anti-Semitism, and it’s present in the Islamic community, but this is just anti-socialist, Islamophobic smears and propaganda. But one of the complaints by Jewish right-winger around that time was that the left was more concerned about racism towards Muslims than anti-Semitism. It seems Baddiel may also share this attitude. Well, as the Independent pointed out in its analysis of French racism at the same time, the French were more concerned about Islamophobia because it was far more prevalent than anti-Semitism. Something like 30 per cent of French people polled believed that Muslims weren’t really French, as compared with only five per cent who thought the same about Jews. And I dare say much the same is true over here as well.

David Baddiel is highly intelligent and a genuinely witty, funny bloke. He has a double first and a doctorate from Oxford. I can remember laughing fit to burst along with the rest of his audience when I heard him read from his book, Time For Bed, nearly two decades ago at the Cheltenham Literary Festival. But now it seems he’s another one who’s checked his brains at the door when it comes to anti-Semitism in Labour.

He made some excellent observations about Whoopi Goldberg’s ignorant remark that the Holocaust wasn’t about race. Unfortunately, his views about Corbyn and his supporters are also ignorant and prejudiced. Don’t bother with them.

Labour Refuses to Investigate Neil Coyle for Nazi Tweet

February 11, 2022

A few days ago Mike reported that the Labour party had declined to investigate right-wing Labour MP Neil Coyle for an anti-Semitic tweet he’d made about Jewish Voice for Labour. This was despite complaints from Sir Geoffrey Bindman, QC; Avi Shlaim, a very respected professor of Middle Eastern history at Oxford; and Harold Immanuel, all three of whom are Jewish, to Starmer. Coyle had tweeted that JVL’s members were “outright Communists who have their own political party/ies they can ruin”. Mike has pointed out that it fits the genuine Nazi anti-Semitic trope of identifying Jews with Communism. Hitler ranted about ‘Judaeo-Bolshevism’. One of the accusations the Nazis hurled at the SPD, the rough German equivalent of the Labour party, was that it had been infiltrated by Jews, who were expelling its gentile members as part of a plot to take over the German parliament. And at the very least it demonstrates a clear anti-Semitism in the sense of a hatred of Jews as Jews, regardless of ideological, political and religious reasons.

However, the only response from the Labour party was two auto-acknowledgements, the first to the initial complaint, the second to the trio’s request for a meeting.

This shows the utter partisanship and ideological motivation of the anti-Semitism witch hunt. It was never about anti-Semitism – it was merely a useful pretext for the right to purge the party of socialists and critics of Israel, very many of whom are Jewish. As a result members of the JVL were 224 times more likely than gentiles to be accused and purged. But this has now increased to 300 times.

Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters were never anti-Semites. But it seems that Starmer’s supporters may be, despite their leader’s declaration that he is ‘100 per cent Zionist’.

But they’re good right-wing neoliberals, so they get away with it.

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.

Arise Festival Online Events against Blair and NHS Privatisation

February 4, 2022

I got an email today from the Arise Festival of Labour Left Ideas about a number of forthcoming online events. Two were about Latin America and Cuba, but the two that really interested me were against Blair’s knighthood and NHS Privatisation.

The brief notices about these events ran:

“1) FORUM: No to Blair’s Knighthood – No Return to Blairism

Thursday 10 February, 18:30. Register here // Share & invite here // Retweet here to spread the word.

With: Steve Howell (Deputy Director, Strategy & Communications for Jeremy Corbyn in 2017) , Rachel Garnham (Campaign for Labour Party Democracy) & Sami Ramidani (Iraqi anti-war campaigner.)

Tony Blair’s knighthood has provoked a massive backlash – come & find out more about Blairism – & what it represents & means today. With plenty of time for questions & discussion.

Hosted by Labour Outlook. Kindly streamed by Arise – A Festival of Left Ideas.

2) DIARY DATE: Ending NHS Privatisation – For a National Care Service.

Monday, 21 February 2022, 7pm  Register here 

The Second of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs online policy seminars being organised throughout 2022 – in partnership with the Labour Assembly Against Austerity and Momentum – looking at the key policies we need to be raising and how we build the movements to win these policies.”

I haven’t registered for them yet, but I think I probably will as I strongly support both these causes. Blair took us to war against Iraq on a lie, a lie intended to justify the plundering of Iraq’s oil and state industries for the benefit of the American and Saudi oil conglomerates and American multinationals. There’s footage of Gorgeous George Galloway angrily telling one of the New Labour women who cheered and organised the Labour benches for this war that she’s responsible for the deaths of a million people in Iraq. I’ve got mixed feeling about the Glesgae bruiser. Sometimes he says things that are absolutely brilliant, at other times he acts like a self-centred publicity seeker. This time I think he was spot-on. Innocent people died, including our best and bravest in the armed forces, not to defend our great nation from a real threat to be get the already bloated rich even richer and more bloated. It destroyed what was, by middle eastern standards at least, a relatively secular welfare state. A society where women could safely pursue careers outside the home. It created a monstrous society instead where Sunni and Shia Muslims had to be separated in Baghdad by peace walls, as in Northern Ireland. There were sectarian deaths squads running amok with the connivance of the American proconsuls running country, and the mercenaries brought in as peacekeepers ran drugs and prostitution rings. Oh yes,, and they killed ordinary Iraqis for sport. The situation was so dire that one American diplomat went home and gave public interviews denouncing the occupation.

A million or two severely normal Brits marched against the invasion. I think it was the biggest mass protest ever. One of those was one of my parish priests at the time. The satirists Bremner, Bird and Fortune attacked the warmongering prior to the invasion. The Tories opposed it, which was a first. I suspect this was simple opportunism, but in some cases it was genuine. The right-wing journalist, Peter Hitchens, continued to attack Blair for wasting the lives of British servicemen and women. A friend of mine even read the Spectator for a time because of its anti-invasion stance.

And Blair ignored it all. The result was a wrecked country, which allowed the expansion of Iranian influence there and, with the rest of the Neo-Con policy in the Middle East, created the conditions for the emergence and expansion of Daesh and their campaign against civilisation.

Millions of people have either died or been forced to flee their homes, contributing to the migrant crisis. The economy was destroyed, people thrown out of work, women forced back into their traditional role and businesses destroyed. But Starmer wants to bring Blairism back, telling everyone that it’s going to be a vote winner.

It ain’t. Blair’s popularity at the time declined and its suffered even worse in the intervening years as more people have woken up to how harmful so many of his policies were. Not just in Iraq, but on the economy, industry and the NHS. Because Blair shared the Tory desire to privatise the health service.

If this country is ever to have a government that genuinely respects and cares for ordinary people, and which pursues a sane, just, humane policy in the Middle East, it’s only going to be through genuine socialist values and the vision of Jeremy Corbyn.

The Tories must go, and Blairism must be consigned to the dustbin.

A Thorough Critique of Afrocentric Pseudo-History, Psychology, and Science

January 27, 2022

Stephen Howe, Afrocentrism: Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes (London: Verso 1998)

This is another excellent book I’ve been reading lately. I first came across in it an excellent review by the Black British writer, Caryl Phillips in the Financial Times at the time it was published, though it’s only now I’ve actually got round to ordering a copy and reading it. Afrocentrism is a set of inter-related, pseudo-academic disciplines based on the claim that the ancient Egyptians were Black and are the unacknowledged source of White western culture, which was stolen from them. Not only were the Egyptians themselves Black, but they may also have derived their culture and achievements in turn from the peoples further to the south, the Nubians and Ethiopians. Some Afrocentrists claim that Greece, Rome and Carthage were originally Black ancient Egyptian colonies and that the original peoples of the British isles were also Black. Some push this claim of Black African primacy even further, claiming that ancient Egyptians travelled to the Americas before Columbus, where they founded the Olmec culture. The ancient peoples of Asia too, the Indians, Thais, Chinese and Japanese were also Black. At the same time ancient Egypt expanded to colonise Africa, where it was also responsible for the major cultural, artistic and architectural achievements. Where these coexisted with alleged brutality and barbarism, as in West Africa, which had a highly sophisticated art alongside human sacrifice, this was due to biological degeneration from the original Egyptian herrenvolk.

Black Americans are held to be part of a single Black race and culture with Black Africans, and Afrocentric scholars are active trying to trace authentic African survivals in the speech, culture and psychology of Black America. There is supposed to be a single Black character and psychology and a distinct Black philosophy. At the same time, ,Afrocentric scholars believe that the Egyptians were masters of political theory and science, which can similarly be grotesquely exaggerated. Some of them claim that the ancient Egyptians knew about quantum physics and gravity and that the Tanzanians had semi-conductors. At the same time they are active researching and promoting various Blacks figures they believe were great scientists. Again, these figures, who could, like Benjamin Banneker, be genuinely impressive in their real lives, and their achievements are often wildly exaggerated.

Unsurprisingly there’s much racism mixed up with this. There’s a bitter hatred of Whites, as well as, Jews and Arabs. One Afrocentric writers claims the latter has been attempting to destroy African civilisation and enslave its peoples for 5,000 years. Which is quite incredible, considering that I think the Muslim Arabs only conquered north Africa in the 7th/8th century AD. There’s also a bitter hatred of homosexuality and strong rejection of feminism. In the early 1960s one Afrocentric group insisted that female members should show their submissiveness by crossing their arms and lowering their heads when one of the men passed them. There’s also an insistence on traditional family structures. At the same time, some believe that Blacks are intellectually and emotionally superior to Whites because of the greater amount of the melanin pigment in their brains.

At their heart, this is an attempt to compensate for the massive racial oppression and disparagement Blacks and their civilisations have suffered over the centuries, far more than any other ethnic group. Yet much Afrocentric scholarship is based on the severely dated writings of 19th and early 20th century European colonial officials and anthropologists, as well as other White writers, who definitely believed that Blacks were inferior. For example, Afrocentric scholars assert that, while Whites and Europeans are logical and rational, Blacks are emotional and intuitive. Which is very much like the old imperialist claim that Blacks were inferior because they weren’t rational and logical. The claim that ancient Egyptians were responsible for the colonisation of Africa and every advance made by the peoples of the continent also derives from 19th and early 20th century White sources. The only difference is that those writers believed that the Egyptians were part of a superior, ‘Hamitic’, White civilisation. And also mixed up with it are various occult, Masonic and New Age ideas. Some of these derive from Albert Churchward, a freemason, who believed that there was a war going on between freemasonry and socialism, and only the former could defend civilisation from the Red Menace. Other figures in the New Age part of the Afrocentric movement include Credo Mutwa, a genuine Zulu shaman, honest guv, and apologist for the South African apartheid state.

Howe’s book traces the history of these ideas, some of which have been around for longer than I thought. I was aware that the claim that the ancient Egyptians were Black and therefore equal to or superior to White civilisation began in the 19th century. I was surprised, however, to find that Black Americans, largely clergymen, were making the claims as early as the 1820s. He carefully distinguishes between those writers, like the Senegalese mathematician and nuclear physicist Cheikh Anta Diop, who, while wrong, nevertheless were diligent researchers and produced significant insights, and others who were far less impressive. Some of the latter can only be described as cranks, like the female Afrocentrist who claims that nearly everything, including Christmas trees, are representations of the Black male genitals. Some of the most virulently anti-White racist material comes from White writers, such as the assertion that Whites are inferior because we’re all descended from the Neanderthals, who are given a whole series of unpleasant traits. Some Afrocentrists seem to have set up their own Stalinist ‘cult of personality’. Molefi Asante, for example, has his own academic department and institute, who members and scholars always pay generous tribute to him for guiding them on their intellectual quest, and largely don’t say anything that wasn’t already said by the master. Quite a number give themselves impressive African names, meaning things like ‘Bearer of Enlightenment’, and a number have also claimed to have been African princes or holy men. Their real identities and backgrounds, however, tend to be much more prosaic. He also notes the connection and major differences with other major figures in Black scholarship and anti-racist campaigning, like Franz Fanon and W.E.B. DuBois, and the French Caribbean Negritude movement.

There are some significant difference between the scholars discussed here. Cheikh Anta Diop believed that ancient Egypt was the source of western culture and I think he wanted Greek and Latin replaced as languages by ancient Egyptian. But while his thinking was highly racialised, he wasn’t a racist. He wanted Blacks to join the global community of peoples as equals. He also believed that civilisation was cyclical, and that as Europeans supposedly took their ideas from Africa, so Africans should now learn from Europeans. Others were definitely racist, such as the speaker at the first Black History Month in 1986 who seemed to advocate shooting Whites, although he couldn’t tell his audience when, where and whom. In the case of Marcus Garvey’s son, this went into pure Black Nazism. When Jamaica celebrated Garvey’s birth in the 1970s, his son called for Garvey’s movement to become a Black National Socialism, because Africa also needs its lebensraum.

Among the researchers and writers examined and critiqued is Martin Bernal, the White author of Black Athena. This caused a major stir when it was published in the 1980s, possibly because, as Bernal himself suggested, he was White. Bernal was able to assemble a massive amount of information and was extensively criticised at the time. But he was also controversial because he believed that ancient Greece was also strongly influenced by the Semitic peoples, specifically the Phoenicians and the Jews. This was in fact based on contemporary Israeli scholarship, and was itself highly controversial. As a result, some of the criticisms of him and his work have a very nasty element of anti-Semitism.

The book is a thorough examination and demolition of Afrocentric scholarship with considerable sympathy for the genuine achievements of Black scholars, some of whom have made very trenchant criticisms. One Ghanaian or Nigerian philosopher lampooned the claim that there is a single, African philosophy based around a transcendent life force. In a spoof article he argued that the English, and therefore all westerners, venerated the mystic force ING, because English verbs often ended in ‘ing’, like ‘doing’ or ‘being’. In fact the claim that there is a single African philosophy comes from Tempels, a Belgian Roman Catholic priest, who only researched a single Bantu tribe, and the anthropologist Griaule and his Dogon informant, Ogotommeli. The latter two have become notorious because of their books’ claim that the Dogon had an advanced knowledge of astronomy. They knew that the planets circled the Sun in ellipses, and that Sirius had an invisible companion star. For R.K.G. Temple in the 1970s, it was because they’d been visited by aliens. For the Melanists, it was because they had intuitive knowledge of it through their pineal gland. Howe suggests that Ogotommeli probably knew about it from visiting colonial officials with an interest in the subject, and made the claim that all this was known to the Dogon as a way of pulling this arrogant colonial anthropologist’s leg.

The book also argues that Afrocentric views of Africa are themselves also damaging. They present the continent as a static, unfied culture, which has never suffered war and conflict between its peoples before the advent of Europeans. In fact it’s a continent of many different peoples and cultures. There’s no evidence that it was ever colonised by the ancient Egyptians. Only six ancient Egyptian artefacts have been found outside Egypt and Nubia. And rather than the ancient Egyptians introducing agriculture to the rest of Africa, there is evidence that it was independently discovered in six different places on the continent. As for the assertion that ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs are the source for various African writing systems, such as the Vai of Liberia, some of these are known to have been invented by specific individuals in the 18th and 19th centuries. Some African peoples are happy to promote the idea that they are descendants of the ancient Egyptians, while others very definitely are not. The problem here is that Afrocentrist claims of Egyptian primacy are obscuring the real achievements of Africa and its peoples.

As for the question of the racial origins of the ancient Egyptians, the book notes that this is a subject of near to Zero interest to professional, mainstream Egyptologists. A number of academics books and journals he surveys make no mention of it. When one does, it is simply to say that it is a distraction from the real issues Egyptologists want to examine. Genetic and craniological examination, however, suggest that the ancient Egyptians were racially identical to other peoples in that part of Africa. They show genetic links to the peoples of Neolithic Europe, the Middle East and India, and lesser genetic connections to the peoples further south. The Egyptian scholars themselves, however, see themselves as racially mixed and there was an argument at a conference in Cairo when the Black Americans insisted that they were Black. I also find some of the Afro-centrists’ concern to establish the racial identity of the Nubians rather odd. One Afrocentric writer hoped that one day science would be able to reconstruct the features of the Nubian pharaoh Taharqa from its skull fragments, and that these would show he was Black. I found this quite puzzling, as I’ve always assumed that the Nubians were Black. In fact I’ve never seen anything said to the contrary. When TV documentaries refer to Egypt’s Black pharaohs, they usually refer to the period when the country was conquered and ruled by Nubian kings. I honestly don’t know who these people are that assert that the Nubians were White, unless it’s some of the White writers the Afro-centrists have discovered in their search for suitable sources.

This pseudo-scholarship is spreading massively. The book notes the large number of university departments teaching it, as well as college and private schools and the torrent of books published, some of them also aimed at schools. It’s alarming that such pseudo-scholarship has become so widespread. And rather than liberating, as Afrocentric scholars believe, he makes the point that the subject is deeply racist, drawing on the same sources as White racists.

But rather than be angered by it, he finds it immensely sad.

The Experiences of Enslaved Africans in the Past and Today

January 24, 2022

One of the extremely positive features of Sean Stillwell’s Slavery and Slaving in African History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2014) is that includes short descriptions and quotations from slaves, slavers and slave masters in Africa describing their careers and situation. There was a striking variety of slave systems in Africa. In some societies, slaves were acquired for use and soldiers and could rise to high social rank through their connections to powerful chiefs., One of these was the Sokoto royal slave Dan Rimi Nuhu. The book states

‘At the end of the nineteenth century, during a civil was in Kano (located in what is now northern Nigeria) Emirate of the Sokoto Caliphate, Dan Rimi Nuhu, a powerful royal slave official, soldier, and titleholder, crowned the rebel pretender, Yusufu, as emir. Nuhu had long supported Yusufu’s cause and claim. Nuhu was a well-known and powerful slave i8n the palace, but he had joined the war camp of Yusufu early on in the struggle. When Nuhu arrived on horseback, Yusufu said, “Our trip is successful, our trip is successful since Nuhu has joined us, he has joined our camp!” Thereafter, Nuhu transformed Yusufu’s military camp into the proper seat of a rival emir. He gave Yusufu the royal regalia and insisted that he follow Kano court protocol. With Nuhu’s support the rebels later took the Kano throne. Afterward, the royal slaves and their families who supported the new emir gained a substantial amount of power.’ ( pp.89-90).

Others were not so well treated.

‘Msatulwa Mwachitete grew up in Chitete, located in central East Africa, to the west of Lake Malawai, in the house of his father, who had twelve wives. Their home was attacked numerous times by Mkomas of the Inamwanga, who regularly carried off women and children into slavery after setting fire to surrounding villages. During one such attack, Msatulwa was captured, along with his mother and brother. He was taken some distance from his home and given as a slave to Mitano. Msatulwa was forced to grind corn, cut firewood, cook, hoe fields, and fetch water, but was eventually given to another person, who treated him better. In the end Msatulwa found his way home after running away.’

Horrifically, slavery isn’t a thing of the past. The Islamists that have seized power in one part of Libya after the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafy have reopened the slave markets, selling the Black migrants who have travelled north in the hope of reaching Europe. Slave markets have also reopened in Uganda. The book also gives the testimony of Ahok Ahok, an enslaved Dinka woman, given to Anti-Slavery International. She was captured and forced into slavery during the Sudanese civil war in the ’90s.

‘Our family was captured about six years ago [i.e., about 1994] when we were already fleeing north and had crossed into the North into Kordofan. I was captured with my son, Akai, and my two daughters, this one called Abuk … who was about eight at the time, and a younger one, about two. We were taken by a tribe called Humr [i.e. Misseriya Humr], who split the three of us up. The man who took me subsequently sold me on to some other nomads to look after cattle, for about 130 Sudanese Pounds. I had to look after their cows and spent about six years with them before I managed to escape to Makaringa village…. Meanwhile my three children had been taken by others. For six years, until I reached Makaringa village, I had no news of them. When I reached the village, my son Akai heard where I was and joined me there. He is with us at this CEAWC centre. We then contacted the Dinka Committee and they were able to find my daughter Abuk, who had been renamed Khadija. She had initially been put to work looking after livestock, but had got into trouble when some animals had escaped – she was too little to look after them. After that she was employed as a domestic servant. She hardly speaks any Dinka language now, only Arabic… I still have no news of my youngest daughter and am still hoping to find her.’ (211-2).

The book also gives the names of some of the African organisations set up to help slaves. These include Timidria in Niger, the Dinka Committee in Sudan; El Hor (Free Man), set up in the 1970s by former slaves in Mauretania; and SOS-Esclaves, set up in 1995. These organisations face continuing difficulties to fight slavery and improve conditions for former slaves, as shown by an additional piece of testimony:

‘It is uphill work…. Some of their members have been imprisoned. Seeking help through the courts is usually useless. Sharia courts maintain that slavery is legal. Since no laws have been passed, laying down penalties for enslavement or detailing the rights of slaves, other courts and local officials maintain that they have jurisdiction if slaves bring cases for custody of their children or try to establish their right to remain on the land they farm. Former owners may claim the property even of freed slaves when they die.’ (213).

These slaves are not going to get any help from the western advocates of Postcolonial and Critical Race Theory, because these disciplines are exclusively focused on White racism and the horrors of White colonialism. I’ve mentioned that feminists in India and the Middle East have been bitterly critical about the refusal of the activists and scholars supporting these forms of Critical Theory to criticise the treatment of women and LGBTQ folk in these countries. Indeed, Indian progressives have attacked these postmodern ideologies for giving support to the most reactionary elements of these societies on the grounds that, as they are part of these societies’ traditional structures and not the product of western colonialism, they are exempt from criticism. And you could see the attitude in a speech given by Barbara Barnaby, the head of the British branch of Black Lives Matter to a fringe meeting of the Labour party last summer. She criticised the resurgence of slavery in Libya, because this was a product of Blair’s colonialism. But she didn’t condemn it elsewhere in Africa, where it is the product of indigenous forces. Her demand that Britain and the other European countries was based on the abuse of the peoples of the global south during colonialism, but made no mention or criticism of the tyranny, corruption and poverty of African rulers and regimes that is behind much of the migration to Europe.

This isn’t, as Kate Maltby tried to claim in the I a few years ago, an attempt to avoid being diverted from the campaign for equality and social justice in the west into criticism and activism against non-European slavery. It is the product of a profoundly racist ideology that sees slavery and other human rights abuses as only worth fighting if they are committed by Whites.

Barnaby, Black Lives Matter and similar organisations may have the best intentions, but their exclusive focus of White racism is actively hindering real anti-racism and campaigns to eradicate modern slavery.

A Thorough Demolition of Postmodern Anti-Liberal Social Justice Theories

January 21, 2022

One of the other books I’ve ordered from Amazon, and which I’m reading at the moment, is Helen Pluckrose’s and James Lindsay’s Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender and Identity – and Why This Harms Everybody (Swift Press 2020). Pluckrose and Lindsay are two thirds of the group, with Peter Boghossian, of academics that are actively seeking to lampoon and refute the various pseudo-academic disciplines that have emerged from Postmodernism and Critical Theory. These theories, Critical Race Theory, Postcolonial Theory, Queer Theory, Disability and Fat Studies, promise to help make society fairer, but instead are doing immense damage, including to the very groups they profess to want to help. They consciously reject the Enlightenment ideas of reason, evidence, science and the individual and universal. This is particularly clear in Critical Race Theory, which denounces as a failure the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s, with materialist Critical Race Theorists arguing instead for segregation. CRT, Postcolonial Theory and Intersectional Feminism also reject ideas of evidence and reasoned argument on the grounds that this is a discourse created by White men to keep everyone else down. Instead they promote myth, story and lived experience as authentic, non-White ways of knowing that should takes its place. Those advocating this nonsense include Novara Media’s Dalia Gebreal, who was one of the editors of Decolonising the University a few years ago. In the case of the Postcolonialists, their view of an irrational east is exactly the same as the western Orientalists they decry following Edward Said’s Orientalism. And the real social activists in India and elsewhere in the Developing World are very much aware of it. I’ve only read a few chapters so far, but from what I’ve seen, Lindsay and Pluckrose show again and again that these Theories are only making matters worse. Real progress for Blacks, gays and other marginalised groups has come from evidence, reasoned argument and universalism – the idea that there are universal human rights, which should apply to everyone regardless of race, creed, gender or sexuality/ gender identity.

In fact some of these ideologies are actively malign and reactionary. Postcolonialist activists, for example, do not lend their voice to activists in Saudi Arabia or India protesting the oppression of women and LGBTQ people in those countries and the Middle East. It’s because the ideology itself actively defends and promotes indigenous, non-Western cultures and their worldviews, which may vehemently reject modern ideas of feminism and sexual tolerance. They’re only interested in oppression in the non-Western world when this is due, or can be blamed on, colonialism. This is explains why Barbara Barnaby, the British head of Black Lives Matter, in her speech to a fringe Labour party meeting a few years ago, condemned the toppling of Colonel Gaddafy and the consequent enslavement of Black Africans, but had nothing to say about the revival of indigenous slavery further south, such as Uganda. Nor did she mention oppression by Black African and other non-Western regimes. Instead she demanded that refugees automatically be allowed into ‘Fortress Europe’ because ‘You oppressed us under colonialism’. But overt colonial rule in many countries ended sixty or so years ago, in the 1950s and 1960s. These nations achieved their independence, and the poverty, corruption and oppression these nations have experienced since then have been at the hands of indigenous rulers. A far better argument, for me, would be to say that, as former imperial subjects, refugees from these nations deserve to be given sanctuary in Britain, and some activists have used this argument. But Barnaby’s silence about oppression and violence by indigenous non-Western regimes is part of the general refusal of Postcolonial Theory to confront this brutal reality.

The book’s blurb runs

Cynical Theories argues that struggles for social justice are strongest when they are founded on respect for evidence, reason and free and open debate. It deplores the harm that closed-minded Social Justice ideologues, cancel cultures and social media pile-ons are doing to the cause of social justice and liberal democracy itself.

Pluckrose and Lindsay demonstrate that only through proper understanding of the evolution of these ideas can we challenge this harmful orthodox, and offer practical strategies to combat it.’

After the Introduction, it has the following chapters

  1. Postmodernism ‘A Revolution in Knowledge and Powers’
  2. Postmodernism’s Applied Turn ‘Making Oppression Real’
  3. Postcolonial Theory ‘Deconstructing the West to Save the Other’
  4. Queer Theory ‘Freedom from the Normal’
  5. Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality ‘Ending Racism by Seeing It Everywhere’
  6. Feminisms and Gender Studies ‘Simplification as Sophistication’
  7. Disability and Fat Studies ‘Support-Group Identity Theory’
  8. Social Justice Scholarship and Thought ‘The Truth According to Social Justice’
  9. Social Justice in Action ‘Theory Always Looks Good on Paper’
  10. An Alternative to the Ideology of Social Justice ‘Liberalism without Identity Politics’.

This book supplies a much-need critique of these thoroughly pernicious theories, which regrettably have gained considerable ground on the Left and in academia. Instead of bringing people together and actually helping those they purport to want to help, they are actually creating more division and hatred. James Lindsay, one of the book’s authors, recently described his experience of appearing on Dr. Phil, an American talk show, to confront various Critical Race Theorists on Benjamin Boyce’s YouTube channel. When they asked him what he would recommend instead to tackle racism, he replied that it should be colour-blindness, where people are rewarded on ability. He said they looked at him as if they’d sh*t themselves.

If we are to progress as a people and species, it can only come through reason, logical argument and a concern for objective truth, as well as genuine liberal universalism, which sees everyone as equally deserving of human rights.

And that means dumping these destructive and pernicious pseudo-ideologies.