Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Islamic Quiz for Andrew Coyne

     In my mother tongue, there is a word with a revealing etymology. The adjective "pitomý (-á, -é)" translates as "stupid", "obtuse", "insipid".  In the old Slavonic, the word "pitati" meant "to feed", and gave rise to the Czech adjective whose original meaning was "well-fed" or "sated".  From there it migrated to the modern meaning most likely on the observation that people who have no want tend to become dull-witted by the same token. Interesting.  I tend to agree and believe that statistically this would bear out. I observe that if you live in peace and prosperity your hunger for both diminishes as a function of actually living in a peaceful and prosperous society. After a while, it becomes hard to imagine anything but the reality of your comfort.  This intensifies the dullness in the perception of the world that convinces many of the well-fed that there is no immediate danger to us from some people cutting heads of other people in the Middle East and parts of Africa. There is no danger coming from jihadis at all and they will be nice like us, if only we feed them and then leave them alone. There is no danger of their atrocities materializing here (we are all well fed !) so we will not be intimidated into reducing immigration from the head-cutting regions of the globe. Many in the Western intellectual elite live with the I-am-ok-Jack syndrome and not all them are necessarily overweight like Michael Moore.

    An example of classical pitomost (a noun derived from pitomý) comes in Andrew Coyne's last week's column in National Post (The case for watching our words on Islamism, 21/2/2015), in which he muses over the different take on the Islamic terror by Stephen Harper and Barack Obama. Well, muses probably is not the right verb.  Fiddles, would describe it better.  The foolishness of Coyne's rhetorical exercise makes itself felt almost immediately.  Says he: There are, it would seem, three questions to be answered: what is in fact the relationship, if any, between Islam and terrorism; what do authorities believe is the relationship; and what do they say they believe. The peculiar insistence on the right that politicians insert the word “Islamic” before “terrorism” would appear to stem from a belief that anything else is an abdication from the “truth,” that there is “something about Islam” that explains the proliferation of terrorist groups claiming to act in its name. No, actually there is only one question. If the Obama administration does not think there is any link between terrorism and Islam why did it accord the corpse of Osama bin Laden, the mass murderer of Americans, the right to be buried according to the Islamic tradition ?   It would appear to someone not in the habit to twist truth into ideological pretzels there most definitely is a connection between Islam and terrorism, or Islam and a universalist, supremacist ideology.  I wager that nine out of ten Canadians and Americans would agree with that proposition, even though many in the same breath would repeat the established bromide that most Muslims are not terrorists or approve of terrorist methods. But the problem of course is that many Muslims while not approving of terrorism in fact desire a global Islamic society and support political organizations and social networks whose goals are overtly or covertly to establish a world Islamist rule over Non-muslims. The terrorism of such ambition - as I wrote before - is implied.  Not to see this, or pretending that this ideology does not exist is of course willful blindness borne of what I called here pitomost.

 It is in the lack of discernment that would deny the hulking political ideology of Islamism that makes naifs like Andrew Coyne a truly sad sight of our time.  He expounds the silly deconstructionist argument recently used by Ben Affleck (arguing with Bill Maher) that wishes to assert that Islam, as a religion, is so differentiated that one cannot really say anything that would stick as a label for the whole caboodle.  This argument is as pitomý as pitomý could get.  Imagine, if you will, Coyne or Affleck saying that forty years ago about another ideology manifestly hostile to the West - communism. How could one even begin to conflate the Soviets and Maoist China, the Stalinists and the Trockyists, with the anti-Bolshevik followers of Rosa Luxemburg ?  How could one compare the saintly martyrs like Antonio Gramsci and Karl Liebknecht to vicious genocidal animals of Lavrenti Beria's or Pol Pot's ilk ?  Did not Lenin explicitly condemn the violent red anarchism that became the hallmark later of the Red Brigades and the Baader-Meinhof gang ? How could one say anything valid about communism that would apply to all communists ?  And yet somehow the brains in the West were able to distill the essence of that ideology and its practical effects and decide that this is not how we want live (and have our women dress).   How could that be ? With all that variety of the communist belief ? But the West did protect its culture and traditions from the red menace and it slowly died (or morphed into something much more benign, as in China).

                So in truth, there is something like modern political Islamism and it sprang from the head of a single 19th century thinker, and contemporary of Karl Marx.  Andrew Coyne does not know his name and by all appearances he knows nothing about his philosophy and the man's career. Andrew Coyne does not know him because he does not find his name anywhere in the tons of dimwitted columns written by, or recited on TV, by people like himself who are completely ignorant of the matters that come to bear on one of the most serious and also sadly, ridiculous, challenges our civilization faces.  Andrew Coyne does not the name of this luminary (and wily mountebank) even though he was a well-known figure at the courts of Europe, and in Persia, a man that saw the potential of the Islamic world well ahead of his time and who passionately defended it in polemics against one of Europe's leading intellectuals of the day, Ernest Renan. He fought the British on the side of the Sepoy in 1857 Indian uprising, and later advised the shah on dealings with the British. His anti-British attitude recommended him to the Tsar, and he was allowed to proselytize Islam in the Russian Central Asia as a bulwark against the encroaching rival imperialism.  So who was he, Andrew?  More clues:  He acquired a pupil who adored him, but in some ways was smarter and better positioned than his teacher, in a replica of what Friedrich Engels was to Karl Marx. The Islamist "modernizing" philosophy of his pupil, who became the Grand Mufti of Egypt created the corner stone of the political movements of the Muslim brothers in Egypt, and its first leaders Hassan Al Bannah, Sayyid Qutb, and reformers like Muhammad Rashid Rida and Abul A'la Maududi who founded the Jamaat e-Islami party in British India.  The belief of the Mufti was that the old, passive religion of Islam must be converted into a modern political movement, one that can challenge and replace the Western model of government. He called it the "cutting head of religion with the sword of religion".  The teacher and his pupil gave the world the term "salafiyya" which became the central piece of the modernizing Islamist philosophy, much like "the dictatorship of the proletariat" was to Marxism-Leninism.

       So who were the two men ?  Andrew Coyne apparently does not know but he knows it is a mistake for Mr Harper to oppose allowing quasi-religious face covering during Canadian citizenship ceremonies. He writes with a truly foolish abandon: "Merely referring to “Islamic extremism” or “jihadism” would be unobjectionable in itself. But when coupled with recent, needless interventions in such volatile debates as whether the niqab may be worn at citizenship ceremonies, it suggests at best a troubling indifference to the importance of symbols and the need for those in power to go out of their way to reassure those in minority groups that they have not been targeted."  No, Andrew, you have it ass backwards ! The niqab was all but extinct two generations ago in the Islamic world, or at any rate, it would be associated with the most retrograde cultural forms of that religion. No educated, urbane Muslim two generations ago would compel his wife to wear this abominable declaration of social inferiority and denial of public identity. No self-respected Muslima, at any rate one exposed to the 20th century idea of civil society would wear one.  If it made an astonishing comeback, it is because it has been tolerated not just as a statement of protest against Western values and traditions, but as a calculated provocative denying of the jurisdiction a modern secular state over Muslims. So, it goes without saying that Muslims who would deplore or berate the Prime Minister for his stance on the niqab during citizenship ceremonies, are not the kinds of Muslims willing to accept the fundamental principles of a modern multicultural society whose existence presupposes a set of common secular values respected by everyone regardless of religious faith. More to the point that I am trying to make here:`to someone who is not pitomý it would be clear as day that people who are hostile to the secular order will not be satisfied by the next concession they claw from spineles politicos via the multitude of media mudheads. To someone who is not pitomý, insisting that our cultural values be observed, including the equal status of women, will not make the Muslim community as a whole more hostile to Canada and deliver more of the peaceful Muslim flock to the terrorist wolf-packs.  Bien au contraire !  Muslims not overtly or secretly favouring the caliphate would support the requirement of ladies showing their faces in public.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Careful With That Axe, Eugene

        No, this is not a blog entry featuring a Roger Waters (Pink Floyd ) nostalgia but a digest (sort of) of recent round tables on the future of Ottawa hockey at one of the local Tim Horton's by the city's greatest hockey experts.  Yeah, the consensus is : future is bleak for Ottawa NHL franchise.  Not only the Sens do not have a lot of talent on the team right now and nothing much at its farm club in Binghampton, but the club's marketing insists the team is a playoff contender which it clearly is not, and was not past the first dozen or so games in the season where it looked like maybe a contender for another early playoff knockout.  And we have a consensus around the table also on the nature of the problem : it is the success of the club's owner Eugene Melnyk of making more money of a below-average hockey team in the city than off a real contender.  Sad but true, this is the reality of the Ottawa hockey franchise to many frustrated fans of the club, some of whom "returned" their earlier loyalties to the Habs (and until recently the Leafs), and prefer a handful of trips out of town to get the kick out of watching a team competing with a passion for the hockey's greatest trophy. It's not as much the hockey that stinks, but the way the Sens owner uses the holy Canadian national obsession for making more money that he should off a team no-one with a brain in their head believes is as good as it could be.  On this we are agreed.

        It seems clear as day to all Ottawans, not feeding off  the tripes of the Sun columnists Bruce Garrioch and Don Brennan, that the club has dug itself a deep hole and that there is no easy way out. Not as long as the club's owner believes what he does is not just smart business but smart hockey business.  Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a sports writer in the city right now ready to take on the Sens owner to task. Last time I remember reading something vaguely critical of Melnyk was Wayne Scanlan's (Ottawa Citizen) jeering in 2010 accusing the managagement of trying to sell Ottawa fans the 2007 edition of the team - then long gone. And of course, it has been all downhill from the club's only appearance in the Stanley Cup final. The bright spots are few, in fact only one marquee player , Eric Karlsson, appeared in the last half a dozen year but even he has never quite regained the shine after his 2012 injury.  Only two exceptional coaches, Cory Clouston (2009-2011) and Paul MacLean (2012-2014) made the club perform well, certainly well over its talent content.  Clouston, of whom it was said, that he was the only guy in the organization who truly hated losing , got the team into playoffs through dogged determination.  Bryan Murray, the Sens GM, made another great catch in luring Maclean, an assistant to Mike Babcock in Detroit. The man with the walrus moustache made an instant impression in taking the team to the second round of the Cup in 2013 and winning the NHL coach of the year award.  But after the club's loss of its two star forwards, one of them a shameful cold shoulder to the soul of the franchise, the beloved 'Alfie', he seems to have caught onto Eugene's way with the axe (neither Alfie nor Spezza were in any way replaced - Ryan certainly has not replaced the former captain as a leader) and the widening gulf  between the Sens marketing propaganda and reality, saying he was going into games 'scared' in turn of the other teams' talent and the lack thereof on the team he coached. He was promptly axed.  Like in the Spezza exchange, the replacement is without distinction. The club is predicatbly going nowhere, even though Bruce Garrioch will be quick to cheer you up by telling that Karlsson plus/minus has much improved under the new coach (who has no prior NHL experience).  

       So, we are a couple of weeks from a trade deadline and the word on the NHL street is that Ottawa Senators are "sellers". Again, not a word of protest against Melnyk hacking away this year.  Only a year ago, when the Sens owner landed a lucrative deal with Rogers, hopes were kindled that this will lead to the replenishment of the thinning ranks of impact players. No way, Jose ! The owner is not going to raise quality of his hockey product, until (he says) the team proves it can compete (with a bunch of young guys, journeymen and minor leaguers). Hmmm.....Instead, the money would be used for a more urgent purpose: the relocation of the club closer to downtown in a grand scheme to get it closer to a casino a project which preoccupies him.  It is unclear how Melnyk imagines this will enhance the revenues to offset the capital outlays, or if he is back in the fantasy land where he chases Matt Cooke through courts for hison-ice injury to Eric Karlsson.  In reality terms, it only makes a good bet that the Ottawa team would get lousier and move closer in ranking to the league's payroll where Ottawa Senators already sit dead last. So obviously it is not love of hockey as a competitive game that is attracting Eugene Melnyk to his business schemes around the Canadian winter rapture. So the way it is going Eugene may well get his wish of a second NHL hockey arena in the city, but it may come with either a pathetic excuse for an NHL team or no NHL team at all.  So, careful with that axe, Eugene !  Remember the Yogi Berra's great teaching (in paraphrase) :  "If people want to stay away from a lousy hockey club, who can stop them ?"