Thursday, March 17, 2016

Muslims and Terror: The Real Story

January’s murderous attacks in Paris on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket Hyper Cacher evoked not only fear, indignation, and defiance from Western leaders and publics, but also a second stream of reactions: anxious assertions that the killings bore no relation to Islam and expressions of worry that the Muslim identity of the killers would stoke the flames of “Islamophobia.”
French President Fran├žois Hollande declared that “these terrorists, these fanatics have nothing to do with the Islamic religion.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed him, saying that the perpetrators “have nothing to do with Islam.” Secretary of State John Kerry opined that “the biggest mistake we could make would be to blame Muslims for crimes…that their faith utterly rejects.” President Obama’s spokesman, Josh Earnest, evinced reluctance to conclude that the Paris gunmen even believed they were acting for Islam. On the evening of the first attack, he declared that despite the perpetrators’ widely reported cries of “Allahu Akbar” and “we have avenged the Prophet,” the White House “was still trying to figure out exactly…what their motivations were.” And at a subsequent briefing he would go only so far as to acknowledge that having committed an act of terrorism, “they later tried to justify that act of terrorism by invoking the religion of Islam,” as if they might have contrived the invocation merely as a post-hoc rationalization.
A week after the attacks, Hollande declared an “implacable struggle against racism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia.” This, according to French news reports, was the first time he had used the latter term, which is more freighted in French discourse. He repeated it more than once over the next days, whereas previously he had used only the more anodyne expression, “anti-Muslim.” In the British press, according to a roundup by Brendon O’Neill, the Guardian warned against “Islamophobes seizing this atrocity to advance their hatred,” while the Financial Times saw a threat to Europe in the form of “Islamophobic extremists.” There was more along these lines.
In the United States, New York Times editorials reverted to this subject again and again. “This is…no time for peddlers of xenophobia to try to smear all Muslims with a terrorist brush,” it declaimed immediately after the first attack. Four days later, with four Jewish victims at the kosher market having been added to the original death toll at Charlie, the Times opined, “Perhaps the greatest danger in the wake of the massacres is that more Europeans will come to the conclusion that all Muslim immigrants on the Continent are carriers of a great and mortal threat.” Two days after that, the sole editorial during this period to lament anti-Semitism contained the reminder that “there have been more than 50 anti-Muslim episodes across France…French Muslims, too, are afraid.” A few days later, the editorialists returned to this theme:
French Muslims, who are as scared of terrorists as everybody else, also have to fear anti-Islam prejudice and attacks. There were 60 recorded threats and attacks against Muslims during the six days following the Jan. 7 attack onCharlie Hebdo. There is a real danger the right-wing National Front will seek political advantage by fueling anti-Muslim hysteria.
Is it true that the Paris attacks have nothing to do with Islam and that “the greatest danger” embedded in them is the dread specter of Islamophobia? It is easy to understand why Western leaders propound the former thesis. In Obama’s case, it might be attributed to his solicitousness toward Islam. (“The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” he solemnized before the United Nations in 2012.) But in fact, his predecessor, George W. Bush, made similar statements after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Islam’s “teachings are good and peaceful,” he said. “The terrorists are traitors to their own faith.”

Contentions Mosul and Obama’s Phony War on ISIS

During the two days of the White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism there was little evidence to prove that the administration is serious about defeating the ISIS terrorists. Not only is President Obama unwilling to call Islamist terrorists what they are and admit the religious roots of this conflict (hence the euphemism about generic violent extremism), his speeches seemed to give the impression that he thinks jobs programs and better community relations can defeat the group. And while the press briefing conducted at the end of the event by the person described by the press as “an official from the United States Central Command” finally did address what is primarily a military problem, the announcement that there would be an offensive aimed at retaking the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS didn’t lend much credibility to the counter-terrorism theme of the conference. The telegraphing of what might otherwise be considered a military secret only confirmed the impression that the U.S. is fighting a phony war against ISIS.

Let’s concede that the fact that the coalition of Iraqi, Kurdish, and pro-Iranian forces fighting ISIS were going to try to retake Mosul sometime this year is about as much of a secret as the Allied plans to invade France were in 1944. But there is a difference between what is inevitable and a press conference bragging about an event that hasn’t happened yet and whose success is by no means assured.
The official said that the offensive against ISIS in Mosul would begin in April and May and would require somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000 troops from the various forces aligned against the Islamist terrorists. As the New York Times reported:
It is unusual for American officials to discuss the details and timing of a military operation before it occurs. But the official said his intent was to describe the Iraqis’ “level of commitment” in regaining control of Mosul, which he said was held by as many as 2,000 fighters from the Islamic State.
“There are a lot of pieces that have to come together, and we want to make sure the conditions are right,” the official said. “But this is their plan. They are bought into it. They are moving forward.”
The Times is right about this being unusual. In war, broadcasting even the most obvious moves is generally considered dumb, if not a breach of security, especially in an administration that has conducted more prosecutions of leaks of secret information than any of its predecessors. But the official from the Central Command need not fear that he will suffer the fate of others who have fed information to the press. He was there at the direction of the White House specifically to provide some proof that, despite all the pointless politically correct rhetoric spouted by the president, the war against ISIS was not merely a theoretical exercise.

Restaurant Review: Shelter in the Woods

As its name suggests, Shelter in the Woods is something of a foodie's outpost in the heart of Greenwood (off Bukit Timah). Previously a tavern that specialised in bespoke rums, the restaurant has kept some of the rum-infused favourites but has since switched its focus to moreish French plates.

A stag trophy hangs on the wall, and a faux fireplace in the centre of the restaurant is decorated with rustic knick-knacks, the kind you find in a French cottage. The casual set-up makes you feel like you're dining in the home of an old friend.

The menu encourages the concept if sharing and the food mimics the rustic surroundings, often served on wooden boards or in pots. Served in a wholesome crockpot is the very tasty seafood casserole ($39), a soupier variant of the classic bouillabaisse.

We've heard praises sung about the restaurant's charcuterie and rottiserie selections prior to visiting and set out to understand why. The charcuterie board ($34) presents foie gras in a variety of classical French styles, including the terrine and en croute (wrapped in pastry). The rottiserie menu is equally extensive, offering everything from a roasted spring chicken ($21.50) to black Angus prime ribs ($148 for sharing between two to three). The highlight is the suckling pig ($35), which was roasted to a golden crackling and succulent perfection. Diets be damned.

Owner Renny Heng, who also runs local-born Wine Culture, doubles up as a sommelier. Diners can expect a sophisticated wine list that is predominantly Old World.