Monday, October 04, 2010

Books read in October 2010

1. The World Turned Upside Down by Melanie Phillips

The author describes herself as an agnostic Jew. But her thesis is that Western culture is the product of Judaeo-Christian belief which gave rise to its richness, rationality and science. Now our culture has lost its moorings and is departing into the irrational. She questions the science behind environmentalism and shows how dissent from global warming orthodoxy is not tolerated. She sees irrationality in the scientific triumphalism of Dawkins et al whose views are the philosophy of materialism and naturalism not science, Depart from Darwinian orthodoxy and support intelligent design and you are ostracised. Enlightenment rationality unravelled via romanticism into the irrationality and nihilism of post-modernism. She sees a secularised culture has rejected its Christian foundations and the Protestant church has become compromised with this spirit. So a culture has lost its way in a multicultural morass and opened the door to Islam's assault on our freedoms.
She is concerned that there is widespread hatred of Israel and increasing anti-Semitism. She sees the Left and Islam as haters of the Jews and Israel. Hers is an uncompromisng Zionism with no place for any Arab Palestine.

2, The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and other Conflicts I Have Known by Craig Murray

Reading Craig Murray’s book one is transported to the world of expatriate first class, the diplomat. It is a fascinating story from of a British diplomat who worked in Nigeria from 1986 for four years. Then in 1998 he became Deputy Head of Africa Department, (Equatorial) for the British Foreign and Commonwealth office when Robin Cook was Foreign Secretary. His story starts with his part in the Arms to Africa affair, a major incident in the Blair government as they sought to stop civil was in Sierra Leone. He exposed the unethical nature of the British supposed ethical foreign policy. The word of a former Guards officer engaged in private security was preferred to his by a parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee enquiry. The government refused to prosecute a mercenary and a diplomat for breaking an arms embargo though they had all the necessary evidence. The author was transferred to become Deputy British High Commissioner in Ghana.

Murray’s father had been in business in Ghana and Murray shows a real love for the country. He was instrumental in ensuring that Rawlings agreed to stand down when constitutionally obliged to and that elections were free and fair. He exposed the corruption of Rawling’s regime and his wife’s profiting from fraudulent business deals at the expense of British taxpayer. Negotiating a peace deal for Sierra Leone from a hotel in Togo he describes a meeting with rebel leaders where he realises he was the only person present who had not murdered anyone. He also had encounters with lethal green mambas.

There is an amusing account of the Queen’s state visit to Ghana and the discomfort of the High Commissioner when he did not receive the customary knighthood. Murray always turned down offered honours. We also get insight into the character of Robin Cook and he does not emerge smelling of roses. Murray is very critical of the Blair and Bush administrations. He was subsequently removed form his post as ambassador to Uzbekistan and left the diplomatic service. He is a maverick but a good writer, full of humour. No other sort of author would choose such an non-commercial and eccentric book title. He does explain it. He comes across as a man of professional integrity and ability, honest about his own failings, especially in marital infidelity. Read and enjoy an expose of the misdeeds of New Labour and of African regimes

3. Remaking a Broken World by Christopher Ash

This is an excellent survey of redemption history suitable for Christians young and old. Scattering and gathering are the themes but what makes it refreshingly unusual is the church centered perspective so needed in an individualistic age. Ash is easy to read with a gift for good illustrations. Highly recommended.

4. Nomad: A Personal Journey Through the Clash of Civilizations by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Her Infidel was a cry and laugh sort of a book from Somalia, Saudi, Ethiopia, Kenya and The Netherlands. Now she is in America telling us of her dysfunctional family and love for freedom. The family chapters are very moving showing family love can transcend physical and religious separation. There is the pain of separation caused by her apostasy but also the struggle that Somalis have to adapt to another culture. She has some interesting insights as to why they fail. The failure to handle finances is a tragedy told with humour.

The necessity of immigrants to change and adapt is a core theme. She is an erudite critic of multiculturalism unafraid to say that cultures are not all equal. The West is superior for it is free and is not a culture of violence and oppression like the Somali one she has rejected. She sees Islam which demands submission to an unbending law as a closing of the mind. She believes an Enlightenment education can open Muslim minds as it did hers but she also realises more is needed. For an atheist applauded by the unholy trinity of Dawkins, Hitches and Harris, she makes an astonishing call for Christians to engage in mission to Muslims, believing the Christian ethic of loving service can be an agent of change. She must be unique. an atheist who wants Christians to be missionaries to Muslims.

A moving an though provoking book. At last someone who has not only gives a diagnosis of the problems Islam brings to the West but also some prescriptions to be utilised.

5.We Are a Muslim, Please by Zaiba Malik

The author is a journalist born in Leeds in 1969. She was she says,' born with British citizenship, Pakistani values and a Muslim soul'. She was brought up in Bradford, now as she says, Bradistan. But the book opens with her imprisoned in Bangladesh accused of filming illegally, suspected of being a spy for India. She fearfully but bravely protest that she is not a spy but a Muslim woman and that her torturer interrogators are not good Muslims. Being a good Muslim is really the theme of her book for it ends with a letter to one of the dead 7/7 London bombers, also Yorkshire born, who had a similar upbringing to hers. She protests to him that he will be burning in hell for his evil deed. Islam means peace and suicide is a sin.

I found this book such total contrast to Ayaan Hirsi Ali's books. The Somali author portrays a religion not of peace but of inherent violence and abuse of women. Malik has no such views. Ali is an apostate. Malik appears not to be the pious Muslim her parents were. She does not seem to be an observant practicing believer but she has no criticism of Islam, only of the Islamist whose creed is violent. Hers is not critique of Islam per se bit of jihadist Islamism with its disregard for life in the pursuit of a restored caliphate. I believe hers is the majority view of British Muslims but the frightening thing in the book is the way she shows that those closest to a suicide bomber had no idea he was so radicalised.

One thing she shares with Ali is a passionate love for her family. She describes the tension of being a good Muslim girl, obedient to parents while entering secondary education, where she being the only Pakistani, wanted to fit in. She gives an entertaining portrayal of the family she loved but felt the need to explore the majority culture.

6. Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick

The most closed and repressive country is distinguished for uniquely having no Internet access and showing up as a dark patch on night satellite pictures. The electricity is more off than on. This is not a third world country. Is is much worse. Where else does a government so brainwash from birth in an emperor cult crossed with Marxism? They sing they have nothing to envy not merely from indoctrination but because they have no news of the outside world. American and South Koreans are murdering aggressors as the history of the Korean war is rewritten to obliterate their own initial aggression. Here is a country with more informants than the old East Germany. You conform or die of starvation in a prison camp. Here is no egalitarianism. If you blood is tainted with the non-conformity of past generations you will not advance in society. If you are disabled you will not live in the show piece capital, the only place foreigners can visit. This is the society of the big lie, and never bigger than denying its people were starving to death in the nineties; millions of them.

The story starts with the stories of ordinary people in the total big brother society. It is depressing. But then it gets worse with famine and death. Workers are not paid. There is no work anyway. They forage for food. When later someone escapes to China they find that dogs there get rice, the staple diet not seen for years in North Korea. But in the midst of darkness the light of the human spirit can shine unquenchable.

The book follows the lives of ordinary people from conformity to starvation then hidden dissent and defection. The author has visited this hell hole country but the book is pieced together from defectors' testimonies. Any day you feel sorry for yourself, read this book and count your blessings.

Most defectors are women. They are welcomed in China as illegal brides for Chinese males who thanks to the one child policy, outnumber local females. If they can get to S Korea they are after interrogation, welcomed as citizens and give settlement money beyond the dreams of anyone in the North where incomes may be as little as a fiftieth of the South. I was interested to see the major helpers of defectors in China are Korean Christians. The author tells us how her defectors fared in the free South.

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