Weekend Reading

FASCISM: Reactionary Islamist goons attacked Irshad Manji—a young reformist Muslim woman from Vancouver, British Columbia—with sticks and iron bars while she was promoting her new book in Indonesia. She’s okay, sort of, but her assistant was rushed to the hospital and two others are injured.

Here is Paul Berman’s take in The New Republic.

It is fashionable among the Western apologists for the Islamist movement to insist that genuine reformists and liberals have no audience in the Muslim world. The claim is false. Manji’s earlier book, The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim's Call for Reform in Her Faith, has been published, according to the EFD, in more than 30 countries. Manji runs a website, irshadmanji.com, offering translations in Arabic, Urdu and Farsi, which are said to have been downloaded more than 2 million times. But then it shouldn’t be necessary to cite numbers to demonstrate the ability of the genuinely independent thinkers to make themselves heard. Why else are they attacked, after all? Nor do these attacks occur only in Muslim-majority countries. Manji has lately had trouble in Amsterdam, too—where, as everyone will remember, she is hardly the first person to come under attack.

Who will defend these people, these truest heroes of modern freedom? That is the only question.

LIBYA, FAILING MILITIA STATE: “With the lid of the old regime blown away, a plethora of simmering ethnic and racial tensions suppressed by Gaddafi's policy of Arabization have burst into the open. In southern towns, long-standing tensions between Arab tribes and Black Toubou tribes over control of the smuggling routes into the Sahel degenerated into street fighting at a cost of hundreds of lives. Amazigh, or Berber, revivalists based in the coastal town of Zwara fought Arabs in neighboring Reqdaline for control of the Tunisian border. Graffiti promoting ethnic cleansing scars town walls. The goodwill that sustains support for the NTC in Tripoli has largely evaporated in Benghazi, which has precious little to show for engineering the revolt in February 2011, particularly since the leadership moved to Tripoli and is feeding separatist or anarchic tendencies.”

TYPICAL: The Arab world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism accuses the United States of being a state sponsor of terrorism.

THE MIDDLE EAST’S PROBLEM FROM HELL: The longer the war lasts in Syria, the worse the end result is going to be. I’m primarily concerned about the country imploding like a neutron star and sucking in most of the neighbors, but Adam Garfinkle at The American Interest makes the case that it could explode like a supernova.

I would be worried right now if I were a Lebanese. It is impossible to say if the Assad regime can hold out against a radicalized Syrian opposition, with volunteer support pouring in from neighboring countries. Most likely, in my view, it cannot. But it could take many months, even a year or two, for this bloody drama to play out. In the meantime, the conflict will pour across borders, including the Lebanese border, as it has already begin to do. If, in the fullness of time, a jihadi-led or strongly influenced state arises in Syria, or parts of it, then it is virtually inevitable that the Shi’a-tilted status quo in Lebanon will be upset. Sunni radicals in Damascus will not get along with Hizballah, and there are homegrown Sunni radicals in Lebanon that “friends” in Damascus would encourage and support on their behalf. The likely result? A new civil war, with a beginning epicenter most like in and around Tripoli.

HAMAS: Fine, bomb Iran.

IN THE MAIL: Chasing Demons - My Hunt for War Criminals in Bosnia by former military intelligence officer Rick Francona. He spent most of his career in the Middle East and knows far more than he’s allowed to talk about publicly, but he gave me a great interview anyway last year.

OMRI CEREN: “No one expects the anti-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community to make good arguments.”

THE GOOD NEWS is that schools in Timbuktu have re-opened after being conquered by reactionary Islamists. The bad news—and I probably don’t need to tell you what it is—is that boys and girls are now segregated and the teaching of philosophy and evolution is banned. Oh, and alcohol is banned, too, as are uncovered women. And most of the Christians have fled.

WHAT CENTURY IS THIS AGAIN? Thousands of North Korean women sold as slaves in China.

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