Wednesday, September 03, 2014

"Enemy Nations" Calls for Submission!

Enemy Nations

My friend Carter Kaplan has asked me to announce that "Enemy Nations" has called for submission!

Well, I - for one - intend never to submit to "Enemy Nations"! I call on all of us to stand firm against "Enemy Nations," and . . . Eh? What's that? Emanations? Oh. The anthology. Okay, that's all right, then.

My friend Carter Kaplan has asked me to announce that Emanations has called for submissions!
Emanations is an anthology series featuring fiction, poetry, essays, manifestos and reviews. The emphasis is on alternative narrative structures, new epistemologies, peculiar settings, esoteric themes, sharp breaks from reality, ecstatic revelations, and vivid and abundant hallucinations.

The editors are interested in recognizable genres - science fiction, fantasy, horror, political dystopia, satire, mystery, local color, romance, realism, surrealism, postmodernism - but the idea is to make something new, and along these lines the illusion of something new can be just as important. If a story or poem makes someone say, "Yes, but what is it?" then it's right for Emanations. Essays should be exuberant, daring, and free of pedantry. Length is a consideration in making publication decisions, but in keeping with the spirit of the project contributors should consider length to be "open."
The deadline is February 15, 2015, and submissions should be sent to Carter Kaplan at this email address:
For more details, see this site.

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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Too much of nothing . . .

Professor Leon Horsten
(You were expecting somebody?)

With a hat-tip to my friend Bill Vallicella, I read Leon Horsten's article on "Angst and the Empty Set: We can experience nothingness, but does it actually exist?" (Nautilus, Issue 16, August 28, 2014), which opens with an experience we've all had and that has long puzzled me:
Suppose you open your handbag one day expecting to find your wallet there, but don't. Do you literally see the absence of your wallet in your handbag? If you do, it means something important: Absences have a positive presence in your perception that you can grasp, independently from all ordinary things.
Think about the experience and the questions it raises, then read the article. Afterwards, check out Dylan's lyrics. And here's the song sung. Eh, you were expecting somebody else?

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Monday, September 01, 2014

Brother Anthony: Ready to ruffle feathers with remarks about Korean fiction?

Brother Anthony
Korea Herald

I've known Brother Anthony for more than ten years, though I can't say I know him well. He's an old-timer, an expat from Cornwall, UK, who's been here since 1980 and taught English literature for many years until his retirement in 2007. He has also worked as a translator, specializing in Korean poetry, Kim Hoo-ran tells us in "This is where my life is" (Korea Herald, August 29, 2014):
Brother Anthony, who has published 30 books of English translations of Korean poetry and fiction, embarked on translating Korean poetry in 1988. When he told a colleague that he would like to translate Korean poetry, he was introduced to the poet Ku Sang, whose works he has extensively translated. Brother Anthony is also well known for translating poems by Seo Jeong-ju and Ko Un, the perennial Korean favorite for a Nobel literature prize.
Brother Anthony therefore can speak with some familiarity concerning Korean literature, and about works of Korean fiction, he says:
They are not interesting.
Prodded by Kim Hoo-ran:
He offers a broad critique of Korean fiction writers today. "The way Korean fiction writers write does not conform to the world trend," he says. One reason for this may be that very few works of literature in foreign languages are available in Korean translations, he observes.

"In the outside world, fictions are entertaining," he continues. "They engage the reader with multiple points of view, ambiguity." On the other hand, "Korean readers are not accustomed to anything more than what you get on television soaps," he says.
I think Brother Anthony is being provocative, pushing a bit, maybe to rile writers into writing more interesting stories. He knows more than I do, but I can't agree with him entirely, for I read a very interesting book by Park Won-suh, Who Ate Up All The Singa, among other interesting books by other Korean writers. But, as I said, he knows more than I do, so his observation has more credibility than mine.

I'll be interested to see the reaction to his remarks.

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Yazidi women held in Islamic State prison . . . as sex slaves

Flag of The Islamic State

According to Chris Pleasance, "Hundreds of Yazidi women [are being] held in Islamic State prison . . . as sex slaves or sold off as jihadi brides" (Daily Mail Online, 28 August 2014; updated 29 August 2014):
Hundreds of Yazidi women being held prisoner [in Badush Prison] by Islamic State fighters in Iraq are being sold off as brides for as little as $25 or repeatedly raped if they refuse, it has been claimed. Survivors have told how beauticians were brought in to put makeup on the women before they were attacked, and said some victims were forced to call their families after to explain what had happened. According to those who escaped Badush Prison, in Mosul, northern Iraq, the number of women held there could be in the thousands and include Christians and Turkomens - a largely Muslim group closely related to the Turks . . . . According to Pakhshan Zangana, an official in The Kurdish Regional Government, women arriving at the jail are given two choices: convert to Islam and be sold off for between $25 and $150, or refuse and be subjected to rape and slow death. She [said] . . . that one girl called her mother from inside the jail and described being raped by dozens of men in the space of just a few hours . . . . 'It's complete psychological warfare. These families are already destroyed by the loss of their loved ones, and now ISIS has them calling to tell them of the atrocities they have suffered.'
I've previously noted the fact that Islamists defend their 'right' to use women taken prisoner as sex slaves. For instance, I blogged on Salwa al-Mutairi's desire to introduce sex slaves to Kuwait (MEMRI, Special Dispatch No. 3924, June 19, 2011):
"I asked [a Saudi mufti]: What is the law with regard to slave girls? The mufti told me that the law requires there to be a Muslim country raiding a Christian country -- sorry, a non-Muslim country -- and taking POWs. I asked him whether it was forbidden [to turn them into slaves], and he said that Islam does not prohibit keeping slave girls -- on the contrary . . . . Here in Kuwait too, I asked religious scholars and experts about this, and they said that for the average, good religious man, the only way to avoid forbidden relations with women is to purchase slave girls."
Apparently, Ms. al-Mutairi thought that this would be an excellent way to prevent fornication among Muslims. One Muslim whom I blogged on who would agree with her is the Egyptian Salafi Shaykh Abu-Ishaq Al-Huwaini, who tells us:
When a slave market is erected, which is a market in which are sold slaves and sex-slaves, which are called in the Qur'an by the name milk al-yamin, "that which your right hands possess" [Qur'an 4:24]. This is a verse from the Qur'an which is still in force, and has not been abrogated. The milk al-yamin are the sex-slaves. You go to the market, look at the sex-slave, and buy her. She becomes like your wife, (but) she doesn't need a (marriage) contract or a divorce like a free woman, nor does she need a wali. All scholars agree on this point -- there is no disagreement from any of them.
The Islamists seem to agree that sex slaves are legitimate according to Shariah, so the Islamic State (IS) of course practices sexual slavery. Indeed, the IS publicizes it, just as the IS publicizes all its atrocities. My only way to understand their openness about their atrocities is that they intend to strike terror into the hearts of infidels everywhere.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Stephen Vincent Benét: On the End of a World

Valeria Victrix
Badge and Standard of Legion XX
Moulded Antefix Roof Tile
Holt, Clwyd, Wales

In Stephen Vincent Benét's short story "The Last of the Legions," the first-person narrator, a centurion of high intelligence, speaks with his Greek friend Agathocles, who keeps accounts for the legion, about the growing darkness as Rome begins to pull back from its borders, in the legion's case, from the northwest of Britain, and he asks why order ends:
"But tell me," I said, "why does it end?"

He shook his head. "I do not know," he said. "Men build and they go on building. And then the dream is shaken - it is shaken to bits by the storm. Afterwards, there follow darkness and the howling peoples. I think that will be for a long time. I meant to be a historian, when I first joined the eagles. I meant to write of the later wars of Rome as Thucydides wrote of the Greek wars. But now my ink is dry and I have nothing to say."

"But," I said, "it is there - it is solid - it will last," for I thought of the country we had marched through, and the boy, unafraid, on his pony.

"Oh," said Agathocles, "it takes time for the night to fall - that is what people forget. Yes, even the master of your villa may die in peace. But there are still the two spirits in man - the spirit of building and the spirit of destruction. And when the second drives the faster horse, then the night comes on."

"You said you had a state and a law," I said. "Could you not have kept them?"

"Why, we could," said Agathocles, "but we did not. We had Pericles, but we shamed him. And now you and I - both Romans" - and he laughed and coughed - "we follow a hairy general to an unknown battle. And, beyond that, there is nothing."
And I wonder, as I look on the state of our world today, how dark is the future we face in the face of our storm.

Read the story.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

David Mitchell's Insight: "Wrong versions become the scaffolding that you use to build the novel."

What did the writer David Mitchell mean in stating, "Wrong versions become the scaffolding that you use to build the novel"? He explains in an NYT interview, "A Master of Many Universes" (August 24, 2014), written up by Alessandra Stanley, who gets Mitchell to talking about his most recent novel, The Bone Clocks, apparently an intricately structured work about the life of the main character, Holly Sykes:
When he began writing the novel four years ago, Mr. Mitchell envisioned an even more intricate structure. He tried to write it as 70 short stories that each took place in a single year of Holly's life, from 1969 to 2039. After writing 13 of the stories, he got stuck.

"It's one of those ideas that sounds good, but when you start writing it, you hit the problem: 'Ah, that's why no one has done this before,'" Mr. Mitchell said. But when he started over, he had much of the novel mapped out.
Mitchell then concludes:
"Wrong versions become the scaffolding that you use to build the novel."
An insight for writers to remember. And the book sounds good, too, if you like what you read in the following plot-spoiling paragraph:
"The Bone Clocks" opens in 1984 England, where a rebellious teenager, Holly Sykes, runs away from home and unwittingly gets caught up in an occult war that has been raging for centuries. In classic Mitchell fashion, the narrative transgresses time, space and genre, jumping from 1980s England to contemporary Iraq, the medieval Swiss Alps, the 19th-century Australian outback, a Manhattan townhouse that serves as a metaphysical portal, and finally to an Irish village in 2043, where an elderly Holly struggles to protect her grandchildren after an environmental catastrophe. As the story progresses, Holly learns that she has been a pawn in a battle between two rival camps of immortals, the Horologists, who reincarnate by taking on new bodies, and the Anchorites, who stay eternally young by preying on the living.
Not everybody's cup of tea, I reckon, but it sounds good for me, and I'd bet that starting in 1984 is some sort of fictional nod to Orwell.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Islamist Cleric Hussein bin Mahmoud: "Islam Is A Religion Of Beheading"

Beheading of James Foley

According to Memri's Special Dispatch No. 5826 (August 25, 2014), a "Jihadi Cleric Justifies IS [Islamic State] Beheadings: 'Islam Is A Religion Of Beheading.'" The jihadi cleric, Hussein bin Mahmoud, argued on the Shumoukh Al-Islam forum (August 21, 2014) that Islam not only allows but even encourages such acts as beheading because Islam is a warrior religion:
[P]eople are weeping over a Christian American harbi infidel who entered the Islamic State, knowing full well what the Islamic State is, and without a pact [of protection] . . . . All scholars, without exception, agree on the permissibility of killing a harbi infidel, and agree that his blood and property are fair game . . . . Many Muslims are influenced by the West's false views and its repulsive ideas, which are exported to the Islamic nation in order to weaken it and change the perception of its youth so that [the youth] become cowardly and subdued and abandon the means of power and terror, and thus create a generation that does not know fighting or the cutting of necks. Recently we saw some who are considered scholars mixing things up and deceiving the nation, changing the concepts of Islamic law to fit the plans of the enemies. We don't know if they did this out of ignorance about some of the tenets of Islamic law, or were [simply] lying . . . . Chopping off the heads of infidels is an act whose permissibility the [Muslim] ummah agrees on. Beheading a harbi infidel is a blessed act for which a Muslim is rewarded . . . . As for beheading infidel Jews, Christians and 'Alawites, as well as apostate Shi'ites, who commit crimes against the Muslims, they must be terrorized, filled with fear and beheaded without any respect. Cutting off heads is part of the tradition of the [Prophet's] Companions. In the Koran Allah ordered to smite the infidels' necks and encouraged the Muslims to do this. He said [in Koran 47:4], "When you meet those who disbelieve on the battlefield, smite at their necks until you have killed and wounded many of them" . . . . How many hadiths [relayed by] the Prophet's Companions have we read in which they demanded . . . the striking of necks . . . . Striking necks was a well-known matter that did not elicit any condemnation in the eras of the Prophet, the rightly-guided caliphs and their successors, right until the time of the Christian occupation of the Muslims' lands in the [20th] century. Those crusaders fought the Islamic legal concepts, distorted the religion, and convinced the Muslims that their religion is a religion of peace, doves, love and harmony, and that there is no blood in it, no killing and no fighting. The Muslims remained in this state until Allah revived the tradition of beheading by means of the mujahid and slaughterer Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, may Allah have mercy upon him and accept him as a martyr . . . . The truth is that what distorts the image of Islam is not the beheading and terrorizing of infidels, but rather those who want [Islam to follow the path of] Mandela or Ghandi, with no killing, fighting, brutality, bloodshed or the striking of heads or necks. That is not the religion of [the Prophet] Muhammad son of 'Abdallah who was sent [to fight] with the sword [until] Judgment Day. The only Koranic surah that is named after him, Surah Muhammad, is [also] called "The Surah of Fighting" . . . . Islam is a religion of power, fighting, jihad, beheading and bloodshed, not a religion of turning the left cheek to whoever slapped you on the right cheek. On the contrary, it is a religion of breaking the hand that is stretched out to humiliate the Muslim. [Any Muslim] who fights for his property, blood or honor is a martyr . . . . There is no true life for its believers except through jihad, [and] the goal of its fighters is to die for the sake of their religion.
This is certainly Islamism. Hussein bin Mahmoud, the jihadi cleric, says that it's true Islam. Is he right? He doesn't offer a careful argument, but he does cite a few sources from the Qur'an and the Hadith.

My impression is that he's not so much trying to convince the ignorant as trying to remind the knowledgeable, as though every Muslim ought to know these things already.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ronald J. Granieri contra Geert Wilders on Islam

Ronald J. Granieri

I receive regular E-Notes from the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), and since I am interested in Islam and Islamism, I was glad to receive an article by Ronald J. Granieri, "More Faith, Less Fear: Islam, Islamism, and the Future of the West" (August 2014), for based on a couple of previous articles I've blogged on, I expected a careful analysis on why the Dutch politician Geert Wilders is wrong about Islam, but I found Granieri's argument rather less than careful, as the following shows:
First and most obviously [concerning Geert Wilders' errors] is his characterization of Islam, which he claims is not a religion but a "political ideology," which he compares to Nazism and Communism. "Therefore, there is no such a thing as moderate Islam," he declares. "Sure, there are a lot of moderate Muslims. But a moderate Islam is non-existent." This simplistic assumption is flat out wrong. The vast majority of Muslims in Europe, just as the vast majority of Muslims in the world, are not intolerant Islamist radicals. Most of them are hard-working people with families who are simply trying to make their way in the world. That Wilders feels it necessary to characterize a religious community that has existed for 1500 years and that includes hundreds of millions of peaceful people who have never threatened anybody (Indonesia, for example, is the world's largest Muslim country, and currently threatens no one) as a relentless enemy of humanity, and that he wants to dismiss it as merely an ideology is the most stereotypical form of cultural arrogance and short-sightedness. Wilders even gets the basic definition of Islam wrong. He correctly identifies it as "submission" but the context he makes it seem as though that submission is of a political form, when actually what Islam is about is submission to God and God's laws. I know of no monotheistic religion that does not basically expect the same thing of its believers. It's also false to assume that there is no disagreement among Muslims about the practice of the faith, considering that most of ISIS's victims are fellow Muslims who do not happen to measure up to ISIS's particularly stringent dogma.
Whether Wilders is right or wrong - and I disagree with Wilders' claim that Islam is not a religion - Granieri's argument above is so fundamentally flawed that any reader should be able to spot it immediately. Granieri quotes Wilders as saying that "Sure, there are a lot of moderate Muslims. But a moderate Islam is non-existent." Granieri says that this is "flat out wrong" and adds, "The vast majority of Muslims . . . are not intolerant Islamist radicals." But this misses Wilders' distinction between "moderate Muslims" and immoderate Islam.

What Granieri needs to demonstrate is that Islam is not immoderate. I think that Granieri intends to make this point by his remark that every monotheistic religion expects "submission to God and God's laws," but what he ignores is that submission to God differs in the various monotheisms, and he neglects to tell us what Islam considers God's laws to be. In Islam, God's laws are codified as sharia, and when I look closely at Islam's system of laws - including the rules governing warfare - I find much that is hardly moderate.

I thus found Granieri's article less than satisfying.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Nahi Mahdi: A Good Man

Nahi Mahdi
Google Images

A sense of humanity can overcome divisions, as we see in this video clip of television host Nahi Mahdi breaking down in tears over the plight of Christians recently driven from their homes by the Islamic State, which has taken control of much of eastern Syria and western Iraq:
Guest: "[It is terrible] when people come and force you to leave your home. This is what happened to the Christians today."

Nahi Mahdi: "Yes, the Christians. Today... I cried, at home."

Mahdi breaks down in tears

Guest: "This is one genuine Iraqi we have here."

Nahi Mahdi: "I went to the Al-Marbad market, near the city of Al-Zubeir. There is an area there which is predominantly Christian. I swear, they never made us feel [unwelcome] . . . They are our own flesh and blood. Some of them have left for Sweden or Germany . . . Who does [ISIS] think it is to drive out our fellow countrymen?! I want to take the people of Mosul and the government to task. They must take immediate measures to help these people. Our country is like a rose, and its petals are the Christians, the Arabs, the Kurds, the Sabians, the Shabak people . . . These are all our countrymen. I don't know what to say about this [ISIS]." (Memri Video Clip Nr. 4428, "Iraqi TV Host Breaks Down in Tears at Plight of Christians" Asia TV (Iraq), July 20, 2014)
I know nothing else about Mr. Nahi Mahdi, but I see that on this issue, his heart is in the right place . . .

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Still Pertinent Words in Stephen Vincent Benét's "Nightmare at Noon"

Stephen Vincent Benét

In 1940, over a year before America entered WWII, Stephen Vincent Benét published a warning about fascism to his fellow Americans in the poem "Nightmare at Noon" (New York Times Magazine, June 1940). Some of the words are pertinent today:
Liberty, equality, fraternity.
To none will we sell, refuse or deny, right or justice.
We hold these truths to be self-evident.
But what if . . .
I am merely saying - what if these words pass?
What if they pass and are gone and are no more,
Eviscerated, blotted out of the world?
What if, instead:
Strength is all, worship strength!
Worship, bow down or die!
Sound familiar? Remind you of anything? We'll need more wisdom with the power we do have, or we'll bow to a brutal power that accepts only submission. Just look back at yesterday's blog entry . . .