2007-10-09

Leaderless Jihad

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by Neil Godfrey

Leaderless Jihad

Another MHR (“most highly recommended”) Podcast of a Late Night Live (LNL) program on ABC Radio National (only available online another few weeks).

Dr Marc Sageman, an expert on terrorism and counter-terrorism, uses historical analogies to argue that Islamic jihadism does have a limited shelf life. He believes that the zeal of jihadism is self-terminating and that eventually its followers will reject violence as a means of expressing discontent. Given this scenario, do we have our counter-terrorism strategy right? — blurb on the LNL Leaderless Jihad program website.

Additional links to Marc Sageman’s works: Continue reading “Leaderless Jihad”


2007-10-06

Psychology of people under Burmese dictatorship

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by Neil Godfrey

Yet one more classic on ABC Radio National’s All in the Mind series with Natasha Mitchell:

See Burma: ‘I resist in my Mind only’ — Podcast and live-streaming now available; transcript online soon.

Continue reading “Psychology of people under Burmese dictatorship”


2007-10-02

Death cults and indoctrination

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by Neil Godfrey

Two excellent interviews today on Radio National‘s The Spirit of Things program, one with cult counsellor Steven Hassan discussing the techniques of mind control and recruitment used for certain suicide and Islamic cults, comparing them with more traditional cults such as the Moonies; another with Abdel Bari Atwan, Editor-in-Chief of the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi, who first interviewed Osama bin Laden in 1996, discussing the desperation and indoctrination that leads people to join these groups.

Link to the interviews (podcast, livestreaming … transcript soon) and background details of the interviewees.

Points of interest that struck me with the interviews — Continue reading “Death cults and indoctrination”


The war from one other side: message from an Iraqi resistance

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by Neil Godfrey

Yep, it’s a propaganda video and transcript. But until we begin to listen to all sides are we not doomed to be at war without end / to the end?

A message (in English) from the Iraqi resistance

(How many in the west fed on mainstream media — that for economic and nationalist reasons tend to be megaphones for official government or corporate press releases — even know who their governments are fighting in Iraq?)


2007-09-30

Demonocratic Iran — threat to the Free(-oil) world

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by Neil Godfrey

There’s an excellent radio series now available online (mp3 podcast, live-stream or transcript) that some may find enlightening. At least the first of a two part series is currently available. Continue reading “Demonocratic Iran — threat to the Free(-oil) world”


2007-09-23

When Popeye David beat flabby Goliath and called it a ‘miracle’

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by Neil Godfrey

Since we’re the good guys we’ve done nothing so bad as to deserve all the headaches we have to put up with from Islamic terrorists and the bad guys in the Middle East. When the bad guys wearing the dark skins and having the wrong religion say that the root cause of all the strife in the Middle East – at least till the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 – is “the Palestinian question” and the occupation by Israel of the West Bank and Gaza since 1967, we can be sure that that is just as fatuous as an armed bank robber appealing for sympathy by telling the judge that he needed the money to pay for his gun and getaway car. Continue reading “When Popeye David beat flabby Goliath and called it a ‘miracle’”


2007-09-05

when governments fear the people

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by Neil Godfrey

In France new mothers can request the State public institutions for a free nanny to assist them with all the things that new mothers face — the need for someone to babysit, to do the cooking, buy the groceries, clean the house and do the washing, to give them time for needed breaks from the pressures that inevitably arise in modern environments when extended family assistance is not always easy to come by.

While I was in Singapore I read a horrific tragic news story of a stepfather who was to hang for drowning a baby that drove him mad with its incessant crying.

In France people get out into the streets to demand their rights and force the government to behave in the public interest. It is, after all, a publicly elected public body for the public interest. In Singapore and an many other places it works the other way around — governments keep themselves in power and free to do their own factional will by fanning fear among large sections of their citizenry or inculcating wherever possible a public fear of their governing power itself. And as Michael Moore points out in his new documentary, Sicko, no wonder some of those governments are happy to see a public suspicion of anything French. 🙂


2007-09-04

two fundamentalisms under an authoritarian state

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by Neil Godfrey

Recently remarked on one aspect of Robert Pape’s study that potentially explains why Singapore has not been a target of suicide bomb attacks. But there’s another possible explanation also raised by Pape. And it may relate to the reason Christian fundamentalists have failed to push their Intelligent Design assaults on scientific reasoning in the public education sector in Singapore. Continue reading “two fundamentalisms under an authoritarian state”


2007-08-30

pentecostalism on the rise even in singapore — can web 2.0 be an antidote?

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by Neil Godfrey

Two unexpected sights have hit me since being here for a conference this week: a Gideon’s bible in the hotel room and a huge yellow banner on a gate advertizing a pentecostal church. The Gideons was sitting with another volume on the teachings of Buddha and the pentecostal church looks oddly out of place where I had quite liked the way one historic christian church compound has been converted into a centre for shops, restaurants, bars and clubs.

A few enquiries have led me to understand that it many of the youth from the Chinese population here that are the ones who are converting to this form of christianity. I wonder if that has to do with a price of cosmopolitanism. The Chinese are, I understand, more likely to be Buddhist or Taoist if anything, and it can be argued that these are more philosophical systems than religions. And living in a city that prides itself on its cosmopolitan ambience may not be particularly conducive to a strong sense of close community. Especially in a city-state that is only about 40 years old, with much of the now dominant Chinese population migrating there from as recently as the 60’s.

I have already addressed here the way I see certain forms of  christian religion filling in a family-need gap in people’s lives.

I don’t know of course, but it seems reasonable to think that international flavours are best coupled with strong cultural traditions that are capable of serving one’s need to feel a meaningful part of a community. Much of Europe seems to have both.

On the other hand, many parents in computer-literate countries like ours (and Singapore) probably worry overmuch about the time their youngsters spend now on their computers talking with friends they have never met face to face. But these communications are enabling children (and not just children) to establish meaningful and confidence-building relationships. Sure it is not the environment that any other generation has ever known before. And it is easy to fear or assume the worst too quickly about the unknown, but researchers who have studied this new phenomenon of the “virtual world of friendships”– NOT “the world of virtual friends” – have noticed the confidence and meaningfulness it can bring to many people’s lives. (Links and refs will have to wait till I get back home.)

Wouldn’t it be nice to think that this Web 2.0 world of MySpace and FaceBook etc can fill a need of belonging that arises out of real relationships (mediated in the virtual world — as opposed to being virtual relationships) — can eventually offer something more real in people’s lives than ancient and medieval belief systems.

But back to the hotel room — I am no Buddhist, but I did read the first chapter of the  Buddhist book left beside the  bible in my room. It was so refreshingly light and positive in its inducements for readers to follow the way of eliminating suffering. It began with Buddha (or the one to become Buddha) feeling the pain of seeing a worm being taken by a bird. The appeals from then on are to the better nature in us all. So unlike the Sermon on the Mount that commands people to love one another and never get angy for fear they will be thrown in hell if they don’t.

Such a pity that Pentecostalism is drawing people away from such a gentle philosophy. Wouldn’t it be nice if Web 2.0 can offer more than just a technological change in the future.


2007-08-28

Why no Islamic bombers in Singapore?

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by Neil Godfrey

I’ve heard US, UK and Australian political leaders say ad nauseum that Islamic extremists target our countries because they hate our values and way of life. We were told that’s why they bombed the nightclub in Bali killing many westerners, including over 80 Australians. But why don’t they bomb the nightclubs in Singapore where many westerners also turn up? Couldn’t help asking myself that question last night when I was exploring parts of Singapore and came across one street, surely a mile long or more, where there were Moslem mosque after mosque, the entrance of each one marked by scores or hundreds of sandals left by those who went in to pray — and many in trad dress walking to and from those mosques — yet in the same street or not far were nightclubs and bars and scores and more of prostitutes walking the same streets — all in the midst of people working late at night in their shops or repair shops, hundreds or thousands of others just enjoying each others company in the night air. And westerners too — though not all english speaking.

Not that all of Singapore is like that — this was just one part — but it drove home what has been obvious to anyone stopping to think for half a minute about those vacuous claims by US-UK-Aus leaders who pretend and lie to their populations about the reasons their citizens and embassies have been targeted. If they target a nightclub frequented predominantly by Australians it is not because it is a nightclub that the Aussies are enjoying — it is because they are Australians and what it represents to them to be an Australian — as defined before the world by our heads of state. Sure they hate nightclubs, but the don’t seem interested in attacking the nightclubs of Singapore or any of the other what could best be described as non-Islamic values.


2007-08-26

Following Churchill’s Folly in Iraq

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by Neil Godfrey

An interesting set of historical echoes in a MidWeek article. (Not sure about all of Don Chapman’s analysis, especially on Iraqi attitudes to democracy and their nation — thought some recent evidence would have suggested otherwise — but an interesting recap of some facts nonetheless.)


2007-08-25

Legislating to make us nicer

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by Neil Godfrey

Marion Maddox concludes her God under Howard: how the religious right has hijacked Australian politics with an interesting reminder of the power government legislation to effect social change for the better. “[T]here is good evidence that governments can bring out people’s better side” (p. 317). The example is worth keeping in mind in order to counter the cop-out less progressive governments like to use that politicians cannot make people nicer. Continue reading “Legislating to make us nicer”


2007-08-10

Christian Zionism: assumptions and a humanist’s critique

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by Neil Godfrey

Christian Zionists are Christians who believe that the Bible prophesies and validates the migration of Jews to Palestine as a sign of the imminence of the Second Coming of Christ. They support the establishment of the Jewish state in the Middle East today, and their claim to the whole land of Biblical Israel, and accordingly deny Palestinian rights.

Gary Burge contributed “Theological and Biblical Assumptions of Christian Zionism” (originally as a conference paper) for Challenging Christian Zionism : Theology, Politics and the Israel-Palestine Conflict (2005). He discerns six steps by which Christian Zionist theology is developed (pp.51-53): Continue reading “Christian Zionism: assumptions and a humanist’s critique”


2007-07-27

Violence and (the Muslim) religion — some real data (for humanists) to chew on

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by Neil Godfrey

In 2007 34% of Lebanon’s Muslim respondents to a Pew survey felt suicide bombings could be justifiable.

One in three people sounds horrific, but compare with the survey 5 years earlier.

In 2002 74% of Lebanon’s Muslim respondents to a Pew survey felt suicide bombings could be justified.

The figures are taken from the Pew Global Attitudes report released 24th July 2007. (Interestingly the second largest Muslim population in the world, that of India, is not included in the survey.)

Had Lebanese Muslims become any less devout between 2002 and 2007? That is what some popular literature against religion, and the Moslem religion in particular, would lead us to logically infer.

Rather, as I have attempted to point out in some of these posts, religion is a Protean beast that adapts itself to the social and politico-economic issues of the day. I recently wrote in The Problem with Some Muslims something like:

Christianity has both practiced and condemned slavery and racism, supported and fought against war and oppression of women and children, argued both sides of capitalism and socialism, according to the time and society in which it found itself.

Could it be the same with the Moslem religion? Continue reading “Violence and (the Muslim) religion — some real data (for humanists) to chew on”