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Recent Publications from New English Review Press
Out Into The Beautiful World
by Theodore Dalrymple
Unreading Shakespeare
by David P. Gontar
Islam Through the Looking Glass: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J. B. Kelly, Vol. 3
edited by S. B. Kelly
The Real Nature of Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
As Far As The Eye Can See
by Moshe Dann
Threats of Pain and Ruin
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum






















Wednesday, 2 September 2015
Tallinn - protest critical of President Putin of Russia
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In Tallinn, capital city of Estonia this afternoon. I don't speak either Estonian or Russian to understand the speeches or to find out who the group were. But they were against any war in Ukraine or the imprisonment of political prisoners and they had a low opinion of Vladimir Putin.

The cafe they were outside is a rather beautiful Art Nouveau establishment which was noted as a meeting place  in Tallinn for discussion and debate for decades under several repressive regimes.

 

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Posted on 09/02/2015 8:12 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Wednesday, 2 September 2015
A Solution to the Migration Crisis
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The stories and photographs of migrants attempting to enter Europe is a human tragedy, heartbreaking as people die trying to cross the Mediterranean. On August 27, 2015, over 50 migrants were found dead inside an abandoned truck, a Hungarian registered vehicle, abandoned on a highway in Austria, near the Hungarian border. In April, more than 400 died in a shipwreck in the Mediterranean. In August, several hundred people were on board a boat that sank off the coast of Libya. So far, more than 2,300 have died while crossing the sea.

European countries are groping for solutions to the large numbers of immigrants that is linked to other issues such as border controls and criminal networks. Reasonable estimates suggest that about 200,000 arrived in Greece this year, about 100,000 entered Italy, and 3,000 a day are migrating through the Balkans. More than 100,000 boat people entered the European Union in July 2015.

Europe has no consensus on the problem. Germany in particular, expecting to get 800,000 migrants, 40 per cent of them asylum seekers, proposes an immigration law that would allow for legalization of migrants from non-EU countries. Chancellor Angela Merkel holds that immigration is more beneficial than not. Some individual Germans provide hospitality. Others do not, and more than 200 assaults on shelters for asylum seekers have occurred.

Britain has tried by various means to reduce the flow of migrants that has risen to 330,000 this year. Among them are plans to make it more difficult for British businesses to recruit skilled workers from outside the European Union, to reduce work benefits, to limit access to welfare for the unemployed, and to allow only migrants with a job already promised to enter the U.K.

At least four problems arise from the increasing migration crisis: the reality and possibility of terrorism; political friction within the European countries; the increased support of right-wing extremist organizations; and the larger proportion of Muslims in the European nations.

Two recent incidents indicate the possibility and danger of cross-border terrorism. One was the attempted attack on August 21, 2015 on the high speed train between Amsterdam and Paris by a 26-year-old Moroccan who had connections to radical mosques on Spain, and is said to be linked to a cell of French ISIS militants in Turkey. This jihadist, Ayoub el Khazzani, lived in at least five European countries, able to cross borders without difficulty.

This is due to the Schengen arrangement that allows free travel movement between most of the EU countries. Apart from providing the right of free travel to citizens, this was originally intended, among other things such as lessen the possibility of organized crime and terrorist threats, to allow freedom to move to a job already offered. It is now the opportunity to allow people in EU without jobs to move in search of work and benefits, putting pressure on public services. But it also allows terrorists to move freely without restrictions or checks.

The second incident was the arrest in Italy of a 22-year-old Moroccan who had been involved in an attack on an art museum in Tunisia, and who had entered Italy together with 90 other migrants in the Sicilian port of Porto Empedocle.

A possible danger is that Iran or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or terrorist groups elsewhere could foster militants coming into EU disguised as migrants. On May 18, 2015, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke of this possibility of foreign fighters, terrorists trying to hide and blend with migrants. It may be the case that the EU already has several thousands of its citizens who have fought for jihadists in Iraq and Syria, and may become “lone wolf” militants.

NATO is supposed to be working on the “root causes” of the large numbers seeking migration by working with partners in the Middle East and North Africa to help them stabilize their own countries. It is trying to help those countries take more responsibility for their own security. Thus, Jordan is being assisted in defense capacities, in training, and advising. Western countries are trying to assist in achieving a cease-fire and reaching a peaceful negotiated solution for the conflict in Libya.

It is crucial to find and to dismantle the criminal networks responsible for smuggling, or pretending to smuggle, people across the Mediterranean. These criminals force large numbers on to boats that take on water after leaving the Libyan coast because of the extra weight. European naval forces have limited their activities, and should do more to stop and search boats on the sea.

Despite the NATO search for reasons, the real “root cause”, the elephant in the room, for migration to Europe is ignored. It is the unwillingness of Arab and Muslim states to help and to accommodate the migrants coming from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, and other Muslim countries. One might reasonably expect the migrants, escaping their suffering from war, oppression and poverty, to be offered shelter in the wealthier countries such as Saudi Arabia, the Gulf countries, the United Arab Emirates including Qatar and Dubai.

The refusal of these countries to aid fellow Muslims is inexcusable. The UAE, the federation of seven states founded in 1971, is enormously wealthy, with 10 per cent of the world’s supply of crude oil reserves, and oil exports that account for 30 per cent of its GDP. Dubai is economically successful with its heavy investments in real estate, airlines, ports, the drug trade, and human trafficking. It displays its wealth by its rain forest in the desert, large shopping malls, and the world’s tallest twin towers. Dubai is already preparing for the World Expo to be held there in 2020.

Qatar, with the highest per capita income in the world, has become influential politically and economically, punching, as the British say, above its weight. Politically, it has been involved in assisting Libyan rebels, those opposing the Assad regime in Syria, and aiding the ruling party in Tunisia. It owns, in whole or in part, the Al Jazeera Media Network, property in London including the Shard, Canary Wharf, Barclays Bank, Harrods Store, No. 1 Hyde Park, the world’s most expensive block of apartments, British horse racing, Sainsbury’s Stores, and the London Stock Exchange, and the football club Paris St. Germain in France. Qatar is spending lavishly on preparing to host the football FIFA World Cup competition in 2022.

One can understand that the favorite charity of these wealthy Arab nations is themselves, but it is not unreasonable for the “international community” to demand that they share some of their wealth and take responsibility for helping Muslims caught the violence, the horrors and the oppression of other Muslim states. Now is the time for the world community to discuss, the problem and to ask, in the words of Socrates, do you know by what means the wealthy Arab nations might be persuaded to change their behavior and do the right thing.

First published in the American Thinker.

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Posted on 09/02/2015 7:39 AM by Michael Curtis
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Wednesday, 2 September 2015
Rich Man, Poor Man: No Insults Allowed
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A well-known religious figure is reported to have said: “For ye have the poor with you always.” This is even more the case if economic inequality persists (as the history of the world suggests it might) and poverty is defined in relative terms. The same well-known figure added, however, that “whensoever ye will, ye may do them good.”

The question, of course, becomes what constitutes good in this context.

A new way of doing the poor good has been proposed in France: namely, a legal prohibition of pejorative remarks about them. It’s an idea that a British journalist, writing in the Guardian, found worthy of adoption in her own country. We may not be able to reduce poverty (howsoever defined), but at least we can boost the self-esteem of the poor and stop them feeling bad about themselves. Such, at any rate, is the theory.

Poverty, said Doctor Johnson, is an insufficiency of necessities, but this definition is far less categorical than might at first appear since what is considered a necessity tends to expand with general wealth and technical advance. I suspect that, given the choice between wholesome food and a mobile telephone, many people in the modern world would choose the telephone. No matter how much infant mortality declines or life expectancy increases, no matter what the rising tide of consumption, then, the poor we shall continue to have with us.

In a world that is supposedly meritocratic, in which the possibility of social mobility is believed to be the norm, morally if not empirically, the poor—the relatively poor, that is—have two choices, neither of them very attractive: to consider themselves failures or, as a way of avoiding doing so, to resent the difference between the world as it is supposed to be and the world as (they believe) it is. And since belief is often a determining feature of reality, the world does indeed come to resemble the one of their imagining. Even where there is opportunity, or at least no formal obstacle to advancement, they do not register this, for the manacles forged by their minds are gratifying. By which I mean being a victim of injustice has more appeal than being a failure.

No one, as far as I know, has yet advanced the idea that the rich should be protected from derogation. The same newspaper whose columnist thought it would be a good idea to censor unpleasant or insulting comments about the poor regularly publishes cartoons that, with all the subtlety of Der Stürmer, use iconography little changed from that of a century ago. Vilifying the rich is taken by the newspaper as the sign of a generous heart, and furthermore, one which costs nothing.

The rich are, of course, a small minority. We are constantly reminded of the division of the population into the 99 percent and the 1 per cent—references to which always leave me worrying neurotically about which category I belong in, my desire to be among the economically successful conflicting with a desire to be inconspicuous and ordinary. In any case it is always carelessly supposed that the members of this small group can look after themselves and require no anti-discriminatory assistance from lawmakers. The feelings of the rich do not have to be spared because 1) they have other compensations and 2) they can defend themselves.

Let us disregard the economic status of the rich and just consider the indisputable history of the 20th century. If communism counts as a form of economic egalitarianism and therefore as a movement to destroy or abolish the rich as a class, ideological antagonism toward the rich may be said to have been responsible for scores of millions of deaths. This is not altogether surprising, for if poverty is relative, so is wealth: As countries decline in wealth, so a poorer and poorer man will come to be regarded as wealthy. In Russia a kulak was often defined as a man who owned a horse, cow, or pig, and was therefore considered as an exploiter—of his fellow man, not of the horse, cow, or pig—and rightly to be eliminated. But no matter how much elimination you go in for, ye have the rich with you always.

Few emotions are as easy to stir but as difficult to control as envy and hatred of the rich. What Freud called the narcissism of small differences means that increased equality does not necessarily assuage or lessen such hatred, for there is no end to the pettiness of humankind. How much envy and jealousy are provoked by trifling differences in status?

If it were right, then, to censor the expression of dangerous or unpleasant sentiments, it would be right above all to censor expressions of economic egalitarianism, a doctrine that proved so dangerously inflammatory only a few decades ago and that we have no reason to believe could not have the same terrible effects again. Under such a law, anyone who argued that the rich ipso facto exploited the poor would be subject to prosecution for a form of so-called hate speech that has abundantly demonstrated its potential for provoking violence.

This proposal, incidentally, could be justified irrespective of the actual conduct of the rich. Personally I have not found the rich to be much better (or worse) than the poor, though it is surely easy enough to understand that if poverty is often an extenuation of bad behavior, wealth is sometimes an aggravating circumstance. But what we are concerned with here is not the actual conduct of the rich, but the effects—and they have been historically disastrous—of provoking hatred of them.

I hope it is needless to say that I do not really think people who shout “Rich bastard!” (odd how the connotation of the word bastard has survived social acceptance of bastardy itself), or even Nobel prize-winning economists such as Paul Krugman, should be hauled away and prosecuted. For the term hate speech is itself hateful—a provocation of the very emotion that those who make use of it claim to hate.

Preserving them from insult will do them no more good, at least in a secularized world, than telling them they are the beloved of God.

First published in the Library of Law and Liberty.

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Posted on 09/02/2015 6:05 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
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Wednesday, 2 September 2015
Where's Hugh?
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Many of you have written asking about Hugh Fitzgerald.

Hugh is battling depression and has been hospitalized. I spoke to him yesterday and he is very concerned about the side effects from the medication he is receiving. As is often the case, the cure seems to be worse than the disease.

Please keep him in your prayers. He is certainly one of the most brilliant writers and political commentators working today and NER is much poorer without him. We hope to have him back soon.

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Posted on 09/02/2015 5:47 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Tuesday, 1 September 2015
We Have a Winner!
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Keith Simmonds has won the crossword competition for August (again). He will receive a copy of Theodore Dalrymple's Out Into The Beautiful World. Congratulations Keith! And to everyone who came close, try try again.
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Posted on 09/01/2015 11:42 AM by NER
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Tuesday, 1 September 2015
Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei In Mid-August 2015
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From MEMRI:

On August 17, 2015, just over a month after the announcement of the JCPOA in Vienna, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said in a speech at a conference held by the Iranian Shi'ite Ahl Al-Bayt organization that the U.S. is the embodiment of the enemy of the Islamic peoples and of Iran. It must be fought with military, cultural, economic, and political jihad, he said, adding that Islamic Iran is not interested in reconciling with it. He further claimed that the U.S. is attempting to divide the Islamic world into Shi'ite and Sunni camps that will wage a religious war against each other, and in this way gain it will be able to gain control over the peoples of the region.

Iran, he stressed, stands behind the resistance axis, opposes the division of Syria and Iraq, and will continue to support anyone who fights Israel.

Following are excerpts from a report on the speech that was posted on Khamenei's website (Leader.ir):

"[Khamenei said:] 'We must combat the plans of the arrogance [i.e. the West, led by the U.S.] with jihad for the sake of Allah.' The Leader pointed to 'America's efforts to exploit the results of the nuclear talks and exert economic, political, and cultural influence in Iran' and to the plots of the power-hungry order aimed at sowing conflict and gaining influence in the region. The Leader called for 'adopting the correct plans in order to wisely and consistently fight this plot, in an offense against it and a defense against it.'

"[Khamenei said:] 'Jihad for the sake of God does not only mean military conflict, but also means cultural, economic, and political struggle. The clearest essence of jihad for the sake of God today is to identify the plots of the arrogance in the Islamic region, especially the sensitive and strategic West Asian region. The planning for the struggle against them should include both defense and offense.

"[He continued:] 'The plots of the arrogance in the region have continued for a century, but [its] pressure and plotting increased after Iran's Islamic Revolution [1979], in order to prevent [this Revolution] from spreading to other countries. For 35 years, the regime in Iran has been subjected to threats, sanctions, security pressure, and various political plots. The Iranian nation has grown accustomed to this pressure. After the Islamic awakening movement blossomed in recent years in North Africa [i.e. the Arab Spring], the enemy greatly stepped up its plots in the West Asian region because of its panic.

"'The enemies thought that they could suppress the Islamic awakening movement, but it cannot be suppressed. It continues, and sooner or later it will prove itself as reality.

"'The power-hungry order led by the United States of America is the perfectly clear embodiment of "the concept of the enemy." America has no human morality. It carries out evil crimes under the guise of flowery statements and smiles. The enemy's plot is two pronged: creating conflict and [exerting] influence. [The enemy sows conflict] among governments, and, worse, among the nations. At this stage, they are using the Shi'a and the Sunna to create conflict among the nations. Britain is an expert in sowing conflict; the Americans are its apprentices.

"'Establishing violent despicable criminal takfiri circles, which the Americans have acknowledged establishing, is the main means of sowing conflict, ostensibly religious conflict, among [the Muslim] nations. Sadly, some innocent and ignorant Muslims have been fooled by this plot, and have been tricked by the enemy and fallen into its trap. Syria is an obvious example of this. When Tunisia and Egypt, with Islamic slogans, ousted their infidel governments, the Americans and Zionists decided to use this formula to eliminate the countries of the resistance, turning their attention to Syria. After the events in Syria began, some ignorant Muslims were tricked by the enemy and dragged Syria to its current situation. What is happening today in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and other countries, which some people insist on calling "a religious war," is in no way a war of religion [i.e. Sunni vs. Shi'ite], but a political war. The most important duty today is to remove these conflicts.

"'I have explicitly stated that Iran reaches out in friendship to all the Islamic governments in the region, and that we have no problem with Muslim governments. Iran has friendly relations with most of its neighbors. Some still have conflicts with us; they are stubborn, and carry out nefarious acts, but Iran aspires to good relations with its neighbors and with the Islamic governments, especially with the governments in the region. The basis for Iran's conduct comprises the principles laid out by Imam Khomeini, which he used to bring about victory for the Islamic Revolution, and he led it to a phase of stability.

"'One of the principles of the [Islamic] regime [in Iran] is to be "forceful against the disbelievers, merciful amongst themselves [Koran 48:29]." On the basis of Imam Khomeini's lesson, we do not wish to reconcile with the arrogance, but we aspire to friendship with our Muslim brothers. When we support [any of] the oppressed, we ignore the religious element; we provide the same aid to our Shi'ite brothers in Lebanon and to our Sunni brothers in Gaza. We see the Palestinian issue as the chief issue of the Islamic world."

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Posted on 09/01/2015 10:04 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Tuesday, 1 September 2015
France Is Aware of Real Fascist Evil
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On May 8, 2015, French president François Hollande spoke at the Elysée Palace at a ceremony at which prizes were awarded to middle and high school students for the best essays in memory of the Resistance and Deportation.  It was exactly seventy years since Charles de Gaulle on May 8, 1945 broadcast the official end of World War II: "We have won the war. Victory is ours. It is the victory of the United Nations and the victory of France."

Twenty years later, de Gaulle, aware of the divisions in France, said, or is reputed to have said, "How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese?"  By coincidence, in the same month of May as the 70th anniversary of the end of the war for France, there were three reminders in Paris of the relevance of de Gaulle's jibe.

One was an exhibition marking the centenary of the birth of Edith Piaf, "the little sparrow."  A second was the bitter feud between the extremist Holocaust denier Jean-Marie Le Pen, opposed to immigration and defender of the wartime Vichy regime, and his less extreme daughter Marine, who had him expelled from the Front National (FN) party he founded in 1972.

The third was the opening of an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, dedicated on the 50th anniversary of his death to the work of the modernist architect Le Corbusier, born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris in Switzerland in 1887 and who became a French citizen in 1930.  The exhibition, "The Measures of Man," a collection of 300 of his paintings, sculptures, architectural and other drawings, photographs, and films, aimed to illustrate his humanism.

No one can be seriously troubled by the wartime activities of Piaf, who has been accused of giving recitals during the Nazi occupation and of sleeping with the enemy.  The sexual peccadilloes of this national icon who "regretted nothing" are of little concern except to the two or three people involved.

Many more are concerned about the behavior of the right-wing FN, its present political strength and success in local and regional elections, its attacks on the French political class, and the presidential ambitions of Marine Le Pen.  The theory of quantum mechanics suggests that information can never be lost, even when it falls into a black hole.  Though the FN under her leadership is trying to appeal to mainstream voters, its past opposition to the democratic French republic and its continuing approval of the anti-Semitic Vichy regime cannot be forgotten – nor can the significance of the party logo, a tricolor flame, with neo-Fascist implications.

French artists and writers have long been involved in political partisanship, whether communist, Maoist, monarchist, fascist, or anti-Semitic.  The best-known incident illustrating this interest in affairs of state was during the Dreyfus Affair, when strong divisions developed, with Camille Pissarro and Claude Monet affirming and Degas and Cézanne denying the innocence of Dreyfus.  In the twentieth century, French avant-garde modernist artists took part in or were attracted to fascist movements and fascist mythmaking.  Among them were the symbolist Maurice Denis, the Fauve Maurice Vlaminck, the sculptors Charles Despiau and Aristide Maillol, and the architect Le Corbusier.

The work of Le Corbusier has long been admired but has also been the center of controversy.  Many other architects have been influenced by his works, the most famous of which are the La Cité Radieuse in Marseille, which is under consideration as a World Heritage site by UNESCO; the Corbusierhaus in Berlin; the High Court building in Chandigarh; the Unite d'Habitation; Villa Savoye; and the Catholic chapel Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp.

Once praised for his modern architecture, such as innovative pairing of functional apartment blocks with parks, Le Corbusier became increasingly criticized for being obsessed with mass regimentation and order, and for creating ghettoes.  He was held responsible for destroying historic city centers; for formulating the concept of segregated suburban communities, such as the banlieues, with the alienation and violence they generated; and for erecting buildings that were not well-suited to everyday life.  Paris was fortunate that his 1925 plan to raze the center of the city and replace it with high-rise blocks and motorways was rejected.

His creation in 1943 of The Modular, a system of measurement based on the height of an average man, to be applied to architecture, was criticized as a fascist aesthetic for its mechanistic approach.  Le Corbusier was accused of dehumanizing the individual by proposing a universal module for domestic structures, constructing machine houses for machine bodies.  The human animal would then become like a bee, living in geometric cells.

Le Corbusier's political ideas and his architecture were part of a pattern.  His fascist politics and political urbanism go hand in hand – fascism in concrete.  By imposing a uniform configuration of straight geometric regularity and standardization on the urban environment, he felt he could banish the chaos of a diverse society and create a milieu that would encapsulate a concept of purity and order, virile and hygienic.  

Now, as the result of two books about him, he has, posthumously, become a controversial political figure.  His relationship with the Vichy regime, where he kept an office for 18 months, has long been known.  What is new are revelations about the extent of his fascist-related activity over a 20-year period, starting in the 1920s, when he was a close friend of Pierre Winter, a doctor who was the head of the Revolutionary Fascist Party.  He also endorsed the Faisceau movement of Georges Valois, a Fascist leader in the 1920s.  He also approved the ideas of regional syndicalism, opposing capitalism and calling for direct action, and of Hubert Lagardelle, who became the minister of labor in the Vichy regime.

He was involved in Plans, an urban planning journal, writing some anti-Semitic articles.  He attended Fascist rallies in Paris, had connections with Italian fascists, and was hostile to parliamentary democracy.  His references to "social hygiene" indicate his belief that modern society was unhealthy and in need of transformation.

The two books, Un Corbusier by François Chaslin and particularly Le Courbusier: A French Fascism by Xavier de Jarcy, make clear that this important artist was an outright fascist.

Le Corbusier was a member of a militant fascist group and approved of the demonstration in Paris on February 6, 1934 to overthrow the democratic regime he detested.  He was the author of some 20 articles arguing in favor of a corporatist state on the model of Mussolini's ideas in Italy.  He welcomed the Vichy regime, which he thought would deal with Jews and freemasons,  "who would feel just law."  The regime would build a new France.  He had an office at the Carlton Hotel in Vichy as an adviser on urbanism until his city plans for Algiers were rejected in June 1942.

It is pleasing to know that contemporary France understands that the unwelcome expressions and actions of the past must not be repeated. The recent speeches of President Holland and Prime Minister Manuel Valls are reminders that France today is and must be vigilant against the resurgence of anti-Semitism and racism.  Imaginary evil, as distinguished from real evil, according to the French philosopher Simone Weil, is often seen as romantic and varied.  France, like all democratic countries, must be on guard against real evil and disagreeable realities. 

First published in the American Thinker.

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Posted on 09/01/2015 8:06 AM by Michael Curtis
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Tuesday, 1 September 2015
Fragments of world's oldest Koran may predate Muhammad, scholars say
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Fox News:

British scholars have suggested that fragments of the world's oldest known Koran, which were discovered last month, may predate the accepted founding date of Islam by the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

The Times of London reported that radiocarbon dating carried out by experts at the University of Oxford says the fragments were produced between the years 568 A.D. and 645 A.D. Muhammad is generally believed to have lived between 570 A.D. and 632 A.D. The man known to Muslims as The Prophet is thought to have founded Islam sometime after 610 A.D., with the first Muslim community established at Medina, in present-day Saudi Arabia, in 622 A.D.

"This gives more ground to what have been peripheral views of the Koran's genesis, like that Muhammad and his early followers used a text that was already in existence and shaped it to fit their own political and theological agenda, rather than Muhammad receiving a revelation from heaven," Keith Small of Oxford's Bodleian Library told the Times. 

The two sheets of Islam's holy book were discovered in a library at the University of Birmingham in England, where they had been mistakenly bound in a Koran dating to the seventh century. They were part of a collection of 3,000 Middle Eastern texts gathered in Iraq in the 1920s.

Muslims scholars have disputed the idea that the Birmingham Koran predates Muhammad, with Mustafa Shah of the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies telling the Times: "If anything, the manuscript has consolidated traditional accounts of the Koran's origins."

The first known formal text of the Koran was not assembled until 653 A.D. on the orders of Uthman, the third caliph, or leader of the Muslim community after Muhammad's death. Before that, however, fragments of the work had circulated through oral tradition, though parts of the work had also been written down on stones, leaves, parchment and bones. The fragments of the Birmingham Koran were written on either sheepskin or goatskin.

Small cautioned that the carbon dating was only done on the parchment in the fragments, and not the actual ink, but added "If the dates apply to the parchment and the ink, and the dates across the entire range apply, then the Koran — or at least portions of it — predates Mohammed, and moves back the years that an Arabic literary culture is in place well into the 500s."

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Posted on 09/01/2015 5:07 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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