Monday, February 02, 2004

Just some short comments on articles in this morning's International Herald Tribune, then I am off to the library of the Alliance Israélite Universelle. Four articles caught my attention. One on North Korea, one on France and its Muslim population, one about the stampede during the Hajj in Saudi Arabia, and one about 'female circumcision'. A BBC documentary talks about people being killed in experimental gas chambers and through other cruel methods in North Korea. But hey, why would we believe the BBC? WHen Bush included North Korea in his famous axis of evil, he must have been basing his policy on the same opportunism and false information that led the US to the war against Iraq. Amnesty International has been unable to confirm the reports on experiments on human beings in North Korea. Let's hope that someone will make a serious effort to either confirm the reports ( and finally press for tough actions against the Pyongyang regime ) or find proof that contradicts them. I was familiar with the pebble-throwing ceremony at mount Arafat during the Hajj, and aware of its pagan origins. What I did not know was that people also shouted insults and hurled shoes at the pillars that symbolize the devil. I wonder how many of the faithful who express insults during that ritual use some part of their anti-Jewish vocabulary. Of course, Islam as such is not primitive or backward, but some of the customs related to it certainly give us an impression that it is not a religion that can be easily integrated into Western societies. One of these customs - which is uttely un-Islamic, even though it is practised by millions of Muslims in Africa - is the so-called 'female circumcision'. The proposal by Dr Abdulcadir in Italy to basically perform some sort of the mutulation under medical supervision is outrageous. The democracies in the West have to star seriously thinking what the limits of socio-religious freedom should be. There is no place in modern societies in the West for primitivity that preaches intolerance and/or causes victims, even if this primitivity is justified via claims on the right to freedom of expression. In an interesting article, John Vinocur points at some of the things that go through the minds of French politicians when discussing the hottest issue in the country today, the proposed ban on head-scarfs and other religious symbols in state schools.

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