Daniel Pipes on Tariq Ramadan: Why French literacy still matters

Readers of my previous comment on Tariq Ramadan will no doubt have come away with the impression that I don’t much like Daniel Pipes. This is not an entirely accurate assessment of my opinon of him. I think Pipes is an unreconstructed bigot and xenophobic fanatic whose academic work fails to meet even the lowest standards of scholarship, whose career has been built on politically driven attacks, and who has set up with his “Campus Watch” as a terrorist front designed to intimidate academics and ensure that there is as little debate, discussion or rational thought on Israel, US foreign policy or Islam as possible. His reseach and scholarship are not intended to better inform action but to support specific agendas, usually revolving around hating some foreign force or people. Instead of fostering debate, his work is intended to intimidate. Pipes advocates religiously targetted surveillance, he supports making federal university funding conditional on ideology, and he has helped to terrorise professors who are named on his website. In short, I think Pipes is swine.

He is a second generation right-wing tool, the son of one of the men most responsible for America’s “Team B”, which grossly overblew the Soviet menace in the 70s and 80s – causing massive US defense spending and resulting deficits – and complained that anyone with a better sense of reality was soft on communism. Normally, Pipes’ parentage would constitute poor grounds for condeming him as having a pathological relationship to facts. But keep this in mind, since it constitutes one of his arguments against Ramadan.

All you need is Google to find out why I think these things about Daniel Pipes. It’s not a lot of work. His own website provides ample examples.

But, today, I will be targeting something a little more specific. Pipes has put up on his website his comment on Tariq Ramadan’s visa denial, originally published in the New York Post on Friday. In it, he makes specific points against Tariq Ramadan, linking, in some cases, to articles on the web in support. These articles are primarily in French. As a service to our non-francophone readers, we will be translating the relevant sections, since they lead one to the conclusion that Pipes assumes his readers will just take his word on their contents.

We report, you decide.
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Redefining “ostenibles” – the headscarf in Réunion

Despite the recent hostage taking of French journalists in Iraq and the demand that the ban on the hijab be lifted as the price of their return, the French government is unsurprisingly still planning on implementing the law when school reopens this week. Killing French journalists in order to attack a French law – even a bad one – only makes it harder to repeal. By attacking it in this fashion, this silly law will become even more entrenched.

This story is currently the lead article in all the major French dailies. The government is trying to negociate the release of these two journalists – Christian Chesnot of Radio France International and Georges Malbrunot of the daily Le Figaro. It is presumably also considering more direct action to free them. The French Foreign Minister has personally gone to Baghdad today. He is – I presume – talking to American and Iraqi authorities.

I should note that this hostage-taking has been roundly condemned, not only by Islamic authorities in France but by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, an organisation that has clearly taken a stand against banning the hijab, by the Secretary-General of the Arab League, by the Council of Arab Ambassadors in Paris and by Tariq Ramadan.

La rentrée – the beginning of the French school year – starts a little earlier in some parts of France than it does in the Metropole. It started two weeks ago in Réunion – an area with a disproportionately larger and better entrenched Muslim population than France. National Assembly deputies from Réunion demanded – but did not get – a special provision in the law recognising their unusual circumstances. And, how has the new code forbidding conspicuous religous symbols fared there? There were no serious incidents reported. Of course, school authorities in Réunion redefined the kind of headscarf most commonly worn in Réunion to be something other than “conspicuous.”
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Hogy vagy?

Hungary’s former sports minister is now prime minister. Should this sort of thing worry anyone?

Three Hungarians have forfeited medals in Athens because of doping – [hammer throw champion Adrian] Annus, discus gold medalist Robert Fazekas and weightlifter Ferenc Gyurkovics, who won a silver.

Also, Hungarian weightlifter Zoltan Kovacs finished last in the 105-kilogram class and was banished from the games for failing to provide a urine sample.

Just wondering.

Why Worry About Japan?

Well I can think of several reasons, and none of them particularly related to the lamentable lack of security at nuclear power stations that was recently revealed there.

One good reason to worry might be the use and abuse of economic statistics that goes on in the Japanese context. I don’t know whether it is the fact that the Japanese economy is a topic which the majority of English language readers know so little about that means that normal caution is thrown to the winds, or whether Japanese obscurantism with the numbers themselves is the real culprit.

A classic case in point came in the middle of this week with my beloved FT declaring in a headline “Japan?s trade surplus widens as exports rise”, whilst Bloomberg reports exactly the same story in the following terms:“Japanese Exports Fell For A second Month in July”. Now which was it?
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UK Housing Market Cools

Just going back briefly to my Anyone Feel Like Hiking post – where I was speculating that the UK housing bubble might already have been effectively ‘burst’ by earlier interest rate rises which had still to work their way through the system – figures published yesterday by the British Bankers’ Association seem to suggest that the UK housing market is slowing down. In fact the number of mortgages approved last month fell by an impressive 20 per cent compared with the same period last year.

Despite news in today that UK GDP growth accelerated to an annual rate of 3.7% in the second quarter, there are other signs that the UK economy may well have been slowing since June, among them this low consumer confidence reading.

According to Bloomberg most of the economists they survey are apparently still forecasting a continuing series of rate rises. I am not so sure, and neither is BoE Chief Economist Charles Bean:

“It was clear that 3.5 per cent was clearly quite low and we are now back in the sort of territory that you might think of as a more normal level,” Mr Bean said in an interview with the Irish News yesterday. “It (the natural rate) might be a bit higher than we are. It will be a case of seeing what comes out of the data as they come in.”

I think Mr Bean’s reticence (mind the pun!) and pragmatism is worthy of note. No one really knows what will be the impact of the housing slowdown, and it would be better to keep your options open downwards as well as upwards while you wait and see how the situation evolves. But lets stick my neck out a little: it wouldn’t surprise me if we see no more rate rises this year, and possibly even a first reduction in rates as we get into the later months. My feeling has been all along that Mervyn King’s strategy in stealthily raising the rates in the first place was in order to be in a position to drop them again rapidly should conditions demand this.

Speaking of Medal Counts

Applying Tobias’ methodology and the standings published today in a German newspaper, whose web site really could be better organized, we get the following line for the medal count:

USSR – Gold 28 – Silver 35 – Bronze 41

Not quite the dominance of the bad old days, but enough for second behind the equally imaginary EU team, and a touch ahead of their noted rivals from the western shores of the Atlantic.

Spime Wranglers & Ruling Blobjects

If Bruce Sterling hasn’t spun your head yet with the Viridian Design Movement, you’re coming up on half a decade behind the curve. But don’t worry, we won’t tell.

And he’s cranked up the conceptual overdrive for this address to SIGGRAPH, the annual convention of computer graphics and design people.

Having conquered the world made of bits, you need to reform the world made of atoms. Not the simulated image on the screen, but corporeal, physical reality. Not meshes and splines, but big hefty skull-crackingly solid things that you can pick up and throw. That’s the world that needs conquering. Because that world can’t manage on its own. It is not sustainable, it has no future, and it needs one.

It is going to get one from you.

Now let me briefly tell you how I think this process will play out.

Listen to this: ProE, FormZ, Catia, Rhino, Solidworks. Wifi, bluetooth, WiMax. Radio frequency ID chips. Global and local positioning systems. Digital inventory systems. Cradle-to-cradle production methods. Design for disassembly. Social software, customer relations management. Open source manufacturing.

These jigsaw pieces are snapping together. They create a picture, the picture of a new and different kind of physicality. It’s a new relationship between humans and objects.

If you can bear with me a while today, and kind of oil and loosen the joints of your incredulity, I’m gonna suspend some disbelief for you here.

You see, the future is already here, it’s just not well distributed yet.

Heady stuff, but worth wrapping your mind around because Sterling’s got a good track record for picking up big trends seven or eight years ahead of almost anyone else.

The full address is here.

Swiss Muslim scholar unwelcome in US

According to Abu Aardvark, Tariq Ramadan – a francophone Swiss Muslim who is usually cited as a particularly modernist and moderate European Muslim scholar – has been denied a visa to enter the US to take up a teaching posiiton at Notre Dame University. As I understand it, the visa had earlier been issued, but has now been revoked under the portions of the Immigration and Nationality Act that were modified by the PATRIOT Act two years ago.

Further Associated Press coverage at the Boston Globe – and probably other newspapers – as well as at Swissinfo.
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