Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Stir-fried nonsense is just scare-mongering

My letter to SCMP, today:
Another day another health scare.
You give front page coverage to Emily Tsang's piece on the alleged dangers of acrylamide ("Stir fried greens raise cancer risk", 30 July).  I confess to never having heard of acrylamide before your front-page story.   But your headline rang a bell for me: of the innumerable scare-mongering reports we have had over the years on all manner of food products and drinks. So I thought I'd look into the claim that stir-fried greens are a cancer risk.
 Ms Tsang quotes figures for the amount of acrylamide in stir-fried vegetables, but gives no context.  Specifically: what is a considered a safe amount for humans?  She quotes Dr Phillip Ho: "... the amount of acrylamide required to be a risk to health had not been established internationally....".
 However, cursory research shows that we do indeed know something of what the risk amount might be, even if it has not been specifically "established".
According to reports by the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and studies by Sweden and France, humans would need to consume the following multiples of current average daily intake of acrylamide to have possible effects on health: to observe neuropathy, 500 times; for effects on fertility, 2,000 times; for cancer effects, 900 times.  In other words, we would have to consume vastly larger -- impossibly larger -- amounts of acrylamide for there to be even a theoretical risk.  Other Swedish, French and Swiss studies have established no links between acrylamide and cancer in humans.
 Ms Tsang might have quoted these reports and studies had she carried out proper due diligence.  But then, I guess, there would be no story.
 What's needed is more honest and balanced reporting on food risks, not more stir-fried scare-mongering.
Peter F

Monday, 29 July 2013

Tough choices or tough times ahead for China

The sound and reliable Tom Holland, writing in the South China Morning Post's Monitor column picks apart the challenges facing China's new leaders.  This is important, not only to us here in Hong Kong, the little pimple on the broad back of the Motherland, but also to the world, as its second-largest economy and increasingly engaged and entwined with the global economy....
.... In short, with consumption suppressed, the mainland has developed a dangerous addiction to investment, requiring ever-bigger injections of cheap capital to drive diminishing rates of growth.
If the mainland continues on this trajectory, at some point growth will fall below the minimum level needed to service outstanding debts, and a financial crisis will force an abrupt and extremely painful adjustment.
The article is here (behind registration wall) or here in pdf.

"Learning from History"

Interesting snippet -- from yesterday's South China Morning Post Magazine -- given the oft-repeated claim that the Islamic world preserved Hellenic learning through Europe's Dark Ages.  Meantime, in the East, "Muslim Invaders" snuffed out the light of learning, and sacked the world's first university....

At a time when Europe was mired in the Dark Ages, one lamp of learning shone brightly in the East, illuminating generations upon generations of minds. Nalanda University, an ancient seat of Buddhist learning and one of India's lost glories, was founded in the fifth century and earned a reputation for intellectual excellence long before Oxford or Cambridge universities were built.
In the 12th century, that light went out. Muslim invaders rampaged through Bihar, in the northeast of India, sacking Nalanda. Legend has it that the multi-storey library and its great towers, bejewelled and gilded to reflect the rays of the sun, was so vast it took weeks to burn. Persian historian Minhaj-i-Siraj narrated how "smoke from the burning manuscripts hung for days like a dark pall over the low hills".
The marauders destroyed what many say was the world's first university. Its name and reputation were known across Asia, even as far away as Greece. For 800 years, it was a centre of knowledge not only for Buddhist studies but for philosophy, medicine, astronomy and mathematics. Nalanda ceased to exist just when other universities were opening in Bologna, Italy, Paris, France, and Oxford, England.
Read the rest...

Sunday, 28 July 2013

"Breaking Bread and Islam Myths"

Every now and then, a paper of the Left will publish an article of such banal leftish stupidity that even its readers revolt.  Even in the case of Islam, with which the Left is in thrall. An example is the article by Islam apologist Karen Armstrong in the Guardian, a while back.  The backlash from readers' comments was something to see.
Now we have one such in the Independent.  An article by Baroness Warsi, Minister of Faith (get that!), in the UK.
The comments are wonderful. They tear her apart.  Rightly too, one might say....

Debates: That Islam is a Religion of Peace

This morning here in Hong Kong, Bloomberg TV replayed the 2010 Intelligence Squared Debate on Islam: the motion being that "Islam is a Religion of Peace".
The debate was won by those opposing the motion: Ayyan Hirsi Ali and Douglas Murray. They won handily. (Their opponents: Zeba Kahn and Maajid Nawaz).
The full YouTube video of the debate is above, or click here.
About the time of this debate, the King's School in Canterbury -- my son tells me --  had the same debate. That was also won by the opposition, namely winning the proposition that Islam is NOT a religion of peace.
Recently another debate on the proposition, at the Oxford Union.  This one was won by the supporters of the proposition that Islam is a Religion of Peace.
The case for the anti proposition -- that Islam is NOT a religion of peace -- is so strong in my view and on the reading of the evidence -- The Islamic Trinity, and the actions of Muslims themselves -- that it hardly seems credible that one could take the opposing side.  And indeed, it seems that whenever the debate is held, even in nice liberal places like New York, the conclusion is the obvious one: Islam is NOT a religion of peace.
Yet the fine folk at the Oxford Union managed to find that it was....
As Robert Fulford says:
At the recent Oxford Union debate, the resolution “This House Believes Islam Is a Religion of Peace” won the day by 286 to 168 votes. That seems an odd conclusion to embrace in 2013.
As Fulford says, perhaps the Oxford Union was sub-consciously thinking "This House wants to believe ...".  Douglas Murray makes a similar point in the earlier Intelligence Squared debate -- that if the proposition were "Islam may one day become a religion of peace".  In that case, perhaps the house (or at least he) could agree with the proposition....

Saturday, 27 July 2013

If you eat Halal food, are you a terrorist?

A curious little Aussie story came my way, courtesy the Google Alert system on Islam.
"Islam sticker terrorism claims 'grotesque', says Minister".
The simple story is this:
An Australian political party is selling stickers that say "Beware! Halal food funds terrorists".
Queensland's Multicultural Affairs Minister, Glen Elmes, says that this sticker is "offensive, grotesque and designed to inflame hatred".  He says that "these sorts of outrageous politics... are offensive to the vast majority of Australians."
The comments on the article are split pretty evenly between Islam apologists and critics of Islam (in my view, the latter being more cogent; but make your own assessment...).
What none of them does is investigate the claim in the stickers: That buying Halal food funds terrorists.
So I thought I'd look at that.
First, though, to be clear on the promoter of the Islam sticker: it's the One Nation party, which was born as and lives as a racist party.  It is profoundly anti Asian and profoundly racist. I have no time for it and most Australians don't either.
Still, let's look at what they're saying about this Halal food-terrorism link.
It doesn't take long to find the link. Take the US, as an example.  To produce Halal food in the US you need certification; to get certification, you need to go to an Islamic group such as the Islamic Society of North America; ISNA in turn gives part of its revenue -- by its own acknowledgement -- to Zakat, or Islamic charity; of this money, 12.5%, subject to Islamic Jurisprudence (the Umdat Al-Salik), must be devoted to Jihad; "jihad" is defined as "warfare against the unbelievers".
Certify Halal >> Pay ISNA >> ISNA gives some revenue to Zakat >> Zakat apportions 12.5% to "jihad" >> Umdat al Salik defines "jihad" as warfare against unbelievers.
The UK is the same. And France.
In short, the connection between eating Halal and funding terrorism is clear and direct, in the cases of the US, the UK and France.
Can one assume that it's different in Australia?  I doubt it.
Thus, the sticker promoted by One Nation of Australia, is arguably correct.  At the very least it is not "offensive" -- except in the sense that it's pointing out the offensiveness of halal food profits being used to fund terrorism, which is pretty "offensive" -- and it is not "grotesque", since it's true. Nor is it designed "to inflame hatred"; it is designed rather to highlight the ongoing efforts by certain Muslims in Australia to bring Sharia to our country.  Halal is part of Sharia.
Eating, after all, is vital.  If you can conquer that, the rest of the project -- to instil Sharia -- is that much easier.
If there is anything "grotesque" in this kerfuffle it's not the sticker of the racists in the One Nation party (let's not fall into the trap of thinking that racists can never say anything true). It's in the statement of our Minister Elmes, who reflexively finds for Islamist Sharia, and in his haste to kowtow to his perception of the Muslim lobby, slaps down a very valid criticism of creeping sharia on our country.

"A Universe full of Planets"

As I've said before, we live in exciting times. For science, at least.  From astrobiologist Caleb Scharf writing in the New York Times, yesterday:
The phrase “scientific revolution” tends to get overused. But there is one happening right now that could arguably alter the entire trajectory of human existence by profoundly realigning what we know of the complex, undulating road that has taken us from atoms adrift in the void to living, thinking beings in merely four billion years.
Finding life on another planet, within our boomer lifetime -- now a real possibility....

The rest is here.

"Septuagenarian Strut"

From a boomer to boomers...

Too many boomers, the polls show, have grown stale, darkly cynical, disgusted by their jobs. A little risk, as McCartney took by joining instruments and voices with Nirvana, can lead to renewal.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The weakness of political Islam

Hard to argue that Bibi's wrong, in this simple analysis....
"I believe that over the long haul these radical Islamic regimes are going to fail because they don't offer the adequate enfranchisement that you need to develop a country economically, politically and culturally," Netanyahu told the German weekly Welt am Sonntag.
He said he thought radical Islamism was wholly unsuited to dealing with a global economic and information revolution, and "goes right back to medievalism against the whole thrust of modernity, so over time it's bound to fail".
Well, Amen to that....  Read more

Friday, 12 July 2013

NYT finds out that Muslims are attacking Christians in Egypt...

.... only about three or four years after the bloggosphere has been reporting it, especially in the shape of the reliable Raymond Ibrahim.
A priest has been shot dead in the street, Islamists have painted black X’s on Christian shops to mark them for arson and mobs have attacked churches and besieged Christians in their homes. Four Christians were reported killed with knives and machetes in one village last week.
Read it all here.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

"Fleecing BP in Louisiana"

Good point, from the reliable Joe Nocera....
The next time a big company has an industrial accident, its board of directors is likely to question whether it really makes sense to “do the right thing” the way BP has tried to. Any board comparing BP’s response to the gulf oil spill with Exxon-Mobil’s response to the Exxon-Valdez spill is going to come to the obvious conclusion: Exxon-Mobil’s litigation-to-the-death strategy — which ultimately cost it $4 billion rather than the potential $40 billion liability BP is now facing — was the right one. Is that really what we want as a country?
Disclosure: we own BP shares... Still, it's a good point. As is the one immediately after the para above: comparisons with Russia's kleptocracy.  Do go and read it all.  It's in the New York Times.
LATER: Joe Nocera on the warpath again, of the lawyers' litigation lurk.... ""Lawyers' business model" (NYT, 31 July)

Muslim chutzpah

From James Zumwald at UPI (who I don't know, but writes well and clearly):
While almost every religion has had violent episodes, Islam is the only one with a continuous history of violence, mandated repeatedly throughout its holy book, in God's name.
Reading through the Koran allows one better to understand Prophet Muhammad was driven, not by a loving God speaking to him through the Angel Gabriel, but by a warrior's mentality aimed at spurring followers on to fight for him to the death.
What better way to get followers to do his violent bidding than with promises of looting in this life and virgins in the next? What better way to get them to build up hatred and intolerance toward non-Muslims than by proclaiming more than 500 times in the Koran Allah's hatred and intolerance for them? (Even Muhammad's dying words allegedly were to place a curse upon Jews and Christians forever.)
The whole article is here.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

"The jihad that Ramadan brings"

Letter to New York Times [The Herald Tribune is the NYT overseas]:

There are two problems with Hesham Hassaballa's "The jihad that Ramadan brings". (International Herald Tribune, 9 July 2013)
First, Hassaballa says jihad is  "... the struggle to do good in one's life".  True enough, but only a minor part of the story.  Jihad's primary meaning is "to war against non-Muslims", as set out in the Manual of Islamic Jurisprudence, certified by Al-Azhar University.  The references to  jihad as "warfare" are 88% of all references in the Koran and Hadith.
Second, Hassaballa says "extremists... have a twisted view of Islam ...".  This is a common bromide which is never explained: how are the extremists "twisting" Islam?  In fact "extremists" are clearly motivated by Islamic jihadi doctrine to "fight in the way of Allah" [K 4.74].  
It does no-one  any favours to gloss over these facts. Hassaballa should have tackled them head on and suggested how they might be challenged.  That would indeed be a "struggle to do good" .
Yours, etc,
PF, HK...

Five books to read on Islam

Thanks to Robert Spencer suggestions.  I have my list in the Library, but rather more than five. (I also have some in the column at left, a couple also on Spencer's list).
In my series on "Sharia: what does it say about....", I quote mainly the Classic Manual of Islamic Jurisprudence, "The Reliance of the Traveller". [Link at left]
Spencer notes two quotes from the New York Times and Barack Obama about the Al-Azhar University which has certified the "Reliance":

This is a manual of Islamic law endorsed as “conforming to the practice and faith of the orthodox Sunni community” by the most prestigious institution in Sunni Islam, Al-Azhar University in Cairo.... 
In October 2001, right after 9/11, the New York Times called al-Azhar “the revered mosque, the distinguished university, the leading voice of the Sunni Muslim establishment.” It quoted a Muslim cleric: “Al Azhar is the only institution in the world that has learned the moderate Islam and taught it in a moderate way without fanaticism, and without abiding by the teachings of a school that promotes rigidity or violence.”
In June 2009 at al-Azhar, Barack Obama said: “For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt’s advancement.”
In short, it would be hard to find a more authoritative source of jurisprudence than a book authorised by such an august academy.

Monday, 8 July 2013

A chat with the Devil's Advocate...

Showing yet again, that Left and Right are coming together on at least one issue: leave out of Syria....
A rather fun, and rather spot-on piece from H.D.S. Greenway...
COULD smell the sulfur and brimstone the moment I opened the door. It was late at night, and there, sitting in my favorite chair, was my old nemesis, the Devil’s Advocate. “What, you again?” I said. “Are you trying to peddle those nagging doubts again? And I don’t like people smoking cigarettes in my house.”
Read on...

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Egypt risks the fire of radicalism: Ed Husain's monster understatement....

Granted, Morsi has not been as successful as hoped. His presidency has seen the rise of Salafist radicalism, attacks on religious minorities, power grabs in the absence of parliamentary scrutiny, fuel shortages, breakdown in law and order, flight of capital and investment, sharp declines in tourism and ongoing mass protests. He is surrounded by arrogant advisers who see governing Egypt as their entitlement, their reward for having been imprisoned by Hosni Mubarak.”
Other than that, not too bad, though?

Friday, 5 July 2013

One Law for All: help for Apostates

A new letter from Council of Ex-Muslims in Europe (part of the One Law for All organisation):
Dear friend

For the past six years, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB) has been a “beacon of hope” for many.
As the first organisation of its kind, the CEMB has been established to break the taboo that comes with leaving Islam; highlight the problems ex-Muslims face; provide a network for support; raise awareness; and campaign for freedom of belief and expression, atheism and secularism and against apostasy and Sharia laws. According to Elle Quebec magazine, the launch of the ex-Muslim movement was ‘a real revolution.’

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Churchill on Islam

My comment on this article in the New York Times was published, after moderation, and attracted a comment which was from the editor of the Column ("The Lede") Robert Mackay.
He said:
That passage is not found in the version of Churchill's "River War" available online, although it is fair to describe it as a deeply racist text that might find favor with ultra-nationalist EDL members.
I replied:

@ Robert Mackay,
The quote above [by Churchill] was in the Unabridged 1899 two-volume edition of “The River War”. 
The quote is racist to our 21st century eyes. It maybe also have been to 19th C eyes (it was removed for the 2nd edition).

I'll agree it's racist.

Still, Churchill was clear-eyed about many things and in the quote above there’s much that stands the test of time. EG: 

  • “The curses... on its votaries”: True, specially if you’re a woman or gay or would-be apostate.
  • "... fatalistic apathy...".  Insha'Allah....
“Fanatical frenzy”: is with us still.

  • "Every woman must belong to a man..." : still the case.

  • “… the influence of the religion [Islam] paralyses the social development of those who follow it…”.   Plenty of evidence for this too: Eg, Iran, Saudi and Pakistan. See also UN’s Arab Human Development Report

EDL's Tommy Robinson is neither racist nor xenophobic. The EDL’s Mission Statement is not racist. EDL has its faults, but their actions are clearly aimed at violent Islamism. Why do you confine your criticism to "ultra-nationalist" EDL and not also to the violent Islamists in the UK?


BTW: Churchill was equally excoriating in his criticism of the UK government’s attitude to the enemy in times of war, denouncing its tendency to portray them as “utterly and hopelessly vile”. 

Memo to MyPeace Muslims: try these 5 points to combat "Islamophobia"

Since I started reading about Islam some years ago now, one of the oddest things I've come accross is that Muslims will say Islam is "misunderstood" and that to understand it is really a "religion of peace", we non-Muslims should learn more about it.
Whereas the truth is the opposite.  Many people already believe that Islam is a "Religion of Peace", simply from what what they read and see in the mainstream media.  Duncan Murray chronicles this in "Islamophilia".  
It's only when one reads in detail about Islam, reads the Islamic Trinity that is, that one finds -- if one is a sentient being -- that it is in fact not a "religion of peace".  That it is, in short, the following: violently supremacist, sectarian, misogynist, homophobic, cruel, vengeful and profoundly against the ideas of the west's Enlightenment.
And yet, Muslims time and again go on with saying that there are "misunderstandings" that need to be addressed by non-Muslims finding out more about Islam.  (I guess this reflects the delusion of those who try to importune us like this).
The latest delusional effort to try to "educate" we infidels is going on in Australia:
"Muslim activists will launch the first TV commercial in Australia about the Prophet Mohammed in a bid to improve the religion's battered image".
I have a better idea for these guys to reduce the "Islamophobia" that they perceive in Australia.  It will save them the cost of all these 30 second TV ads...:
1. Focus indignation on Muslims committing violent acts in the name of Islam, not on non-Muslims reporting on those acts.
2. Renounce definitively not just "terrorism," but any intention to replace the secular constitution with Islamic Sharia law. 
3. Teach your co-religionists to coexist peacefully as equals with non-Muslims.
4. Promote programs in mosques all over the world to teach against the ideas of violent jihad and Islamic supremacism.
5. Work with Western law enforcement to identify and arrest jihadists within Western Muslim communities.  Source.
Do these things, and presto! "battered image" improved.