“This is not a university with a one-track mind, it is one that says all opinions are valid and all should be discussed …”

That’s a significant part of the problem right there, isn’t it? If the question is How does a university suddenly break into the global limelight for having graduated Jihadi John and sponsored Haitham al-Haddad? part of the answer lies in the fact that the Westminster University student I quote in my headline believes he’s saying something good about his school when he tells us it’s a place that believes all opinions are valid. He’s boasting.

Presumably not everyone at Westminster University thinks it’s valid to opine that homosexuals should be slaughtered like pigs, or that women whose clitorises are still attached to them are apostates. Probably some people at Westminster can think of yet other invalid opinions, opinions that reflective institutions like universities shouldn’t spend time discussing. The Holocaust never happened. The Earth is flat. The Bush administration planned and carried out 9/11. All non-Islamic artifacts must be destroyed.

To be sure, reflective people should be interested in the phenomenon of large numbers of people believing things like this. The more we know about cruelty, fanaticism, conspiratorial thinking, and the failure of any element of the empirical tradition of thought to take hold, the better off we are.

A university graduating people unable to make basic distinctions between valid and invalid beliefs creates a safe space for fanatics. This is what Westminster University appears to have accomplished.


Joseph Weissman:

… Emwazi studied in an environment where his sympathies for jihadi terror were considered “the norm”, and therefore unremarkable; praiseworthy, even. Here, his perverse ideas could be nurtured by his surroundings, rather than flagged up as a concern…

In 2006 at the University of Westminster, the ISOC Annual Dinner from that year featured the Al Qaeda recruiter, Anwar Al Awlaki. It also featured hate preachers Murtaza Khan and Haitham Al Haddad – both of whom support Islamic terrorists killing those deemed “apostates”.

… [Jihadi John] walked into a university which had welcomed hate preachers dreaming of an Islamic State.

… [T]here will be a brief flurry of media interest in how Emwazi attended a university which hosted a leading Al Qaeda recruiter just before he joined, and in university extremism in general. When that dies down, [Haitham] Haddad’s invitation to the University of Westminster may well be restored, and we will all go back to ignoring Islamist extremism on-campus, because it takes too much effort to solve, and it’s too awkward to talk about in polite company.


Avinash Tharoor:

I recall a seminar discussion about Immanuel Kant’s “democratic peace theory,” in which a student wearing a niqab opposed the idea on the grounds that “as a Muslim, I don’t believe in democracy.” Our instructor seemed astonished but did not question the basis of her argument; he simply moved on. I was perplexed, though. Why attend university if you have such a strict belief system that you are unwilling to consider new ideas? And why hadn’t the instructor challenged her? At the time, I dismissed her statement as one person’s outlandish opinion. Later, I realized that her extreme religious views were considerably more prevalent within the institution.

The only thing shocking here is the instructor’s failure to challenge the student. Totally irresponsible; and, for students like the Westminster graduate writing this opinion piece, totally demoralizing.

I don’t think the university itself is advocating extremism, but by failing to prevent the advocacy of such ideas, the institution is attracting students who are sympathetic to them. Students who do not identify with extreme Islamist ideology are being put at risk of discrimination, intimidation and potentially radicalization by the university’s failure to properly handle the situation.

Matt Taibbi on Rudy Giuliani.

I feel sorry for Rudy that he can’t love this country the way it is. I love America even with assholes like him living in it. In fact, I’m immensely proud of our assholes; I think America has the best assholes in the world. I defy the Belgians or the Japanese to produce something like a Donald Trump. If that makes me an exceptionalist, I plead guilty.

On Belgium: I can only think of Johnny Hallyday and Paul de Man. Neither begins to measure up.


Update: UD thanks Alan, a reader, for reminding her that Leopold II trumps Trump.

That whole “wipe your ass” thing is also very annoying.

America’s own mani pulite moment.


[D]espite the egregiousness of these charges, there’s something simultaneously repulsive and endearing about Sheldon Silver. He represents a bygone time of New York City politics — men in fedoras, backroom deal-making, using taxpayer-funded perks to reward loyalty. Call it sleazy, call it charmingly authentic. You decide.

The only democracy in the Middle East is looking a bit peakéd.

Rabbi Mordechai Bloi, a prominent [United Torah Judaism party] activist, made a series of implied threats against women who would involve themselves in [non-great-rabbi-guided] parties…

Any woman who comes close to a party which is not under the guidance of the great rabbis will leave [her marriage] without her ketubah [without the money owing to her in case of divorce], and it will be forbidden to learn in her educational institutions, or to purchase any product from her, and it will be a religious obligation to remove all her children from all institutions,” Bloi said.

In addition, he was quoted as saying that any haredi woman who would run for election in a non-haredi party “will be dealt with accordingly and will pay dearly for it.”

Daddy is really pissed.

“American universities, he says, have become playpens for empty legacies of the rich; there is no recognition that the historical trend has run in the opposite direction.”

Well, hold on there.

In a wonderful account of Michel Houellebecq’s now-notorious novel, Submission, Adam Gopnik talks also about Éric Zemmour, author of Le Suicide Français, the much-read attack on the contemporary liberal democratic state (“The tenets of [Zemmour’s] faith,” writes Gopnik, “are simple: liberalism, cosmopolitanism, and international finance are the source of all evil. Liberal capitalism is a conspiracy against folk authenticity on behalf of the ‘internationalists,’ the rootless cosmopolitans. The nation is everything, and internationalism is its nemesis. The bankers cosset us with narcotics of their civilization even as they strip us of our culture.”). One of Zemmour’s claims is up there in this post’s headline: Our universities are playpens for the rich.

UD would like to suggest that Gopnik is broadly correct about the historical trend: Our large and often impressive public universities (the University of California system, the University of Texas, the University of Maryland, and others) continue to be powerful engines of social mobility. But many of our best private universities remain to a notable extent wealthy enclaves (so much so in some cases that national attention has been drawn to them), and many of our worst universities are middle class and poor enclaves.

You don’t help the working poor by spawning hundreds of trashy online for-profit schools; you don’t boost the middle class by shunting them into pointless party schools.

At the other end, the weird vacant surfer guy some newspapers have dubbed “the Princeton killer” “went to Buckley School in New York, then moved on to Deerfield Academy and then [one presumes as a legacy admit] Princeton in 2003. But it took Mr. Gilbert two extra years to graduate from college. And since 2009, his friends said, he led a fairly aimless life that involved surfing, yoga, many hours spent at the gym and parties.”

Read all about it.

It now looks as though…

… the Charlie Hebdo killers are dead.

The sickening terrorist operation in France grinds on, but…

… may soon be over.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told reporters on Friday morning that SWAT teams had the men cornered in a factory in Dammartin-en-Goèle, a small town northeast of Paris near the city’s main airport, and that crack forces were on site, ready to move in.

The men reportedly have at least one hostage.

Moment by moment updates at France 24.

George Packer, The New Yorker.

‘… Islam today includes a substantial minority of believers who countenance, if they don’t actually carry out, a degree of violence in the application of their convictions that is currently unique. Charlie Hebdo had been nondenominational in its satire, sticking its finger into the sensitivities of Jews and Christians, too—but only Muslims responded with threats and acts of terrorism. For some believers, the violence serves a will to absolute power in the name of God, which is a form of totalitarianism called Islamism—politics as religion, religion as politics. “Allahu Akbar!” the killers shouted in the street outside Charlie Hebdo. They, at any rate, know what they’re about.

… [T]he murders in Paris were so specific and so brazen as to make their meaning quite clear. The cartoonists died for an idea. The killers are soldiers in a war against freedom of thought and speech, against tolerance, pluralism, and the right to offend — against everything decent in a democratic society.’


‘[The attack seems] to have been motivated more by a hatred of deeply held Western beliefs, rather than by specific actions of Western governments.’

Jeffrey Goldberg, The Atlantic

Reports are now coming in that one suspect in the Paris terror attack…

… has been killed, and the other two captured.


Later reports say one attacker has surrendered, with the other two still being hunted.

Tonight, in Paris


Kirby …


Go there…


Terror Attack on Freedom of Expression in France: At Least Eleven Killed.

Center of Paris, midday. The satirical paper, Charlie Hebdo, “has been attacked in the past for satirizing Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.”


How the mightily corrupt are fallen.

The Guv’s sentence (for, among other things, trying to fuck with the integrity of his state’s universities) will be announced in a few moments…

Bet you five bucks it’s five years.


Fine. Two years.

The Rule of Law at the Opera

In a year-end review of the condition of Muslim women, a columnist for The Telegraph writes:

In October in Paris, at La Traviata opera, the cast stopped mid performance when they saw a woman in a full-face veil. She happened to be a tourist from the Gulf on a visit to take in some French culture. They refused to carry on until she was removed from the theatre. [Here was a Muslim woman] acting contrary to stereotype – … enjoying Western high culture. However, [her] choices were reduced by others to nothing more than what [she wore].

As we leave 2014, let’s give a cheer for the rule of law, something this writer has overlooked.

Any account of the Opéra Bastille incident needs to feature the fact that wearing a burqa in public (the woman sat in the front row directly behind the conductor, which is way public) is illegal in France. Close to eighty percent of the French population (including many Muslims, some quite prominent) supports the ban.

2014 saw not only the Opéra Bastille incident; it saw the European Court of Human Rights uphold the French burqa ban. This ban is not some sort of rogue state operation; it has the backing of the ECHR.

So this incident wasn’t a group of bigots showing insufficient enthusiasm for intercultural communication (“enjoying Western high culture”) by “reducing” a human being to “nothing more than what she wore.” This incident was a group of people aware of the laws of their country and behaving according to them.

Nor does it seem to UD that this was a reductive act; rather, it was an expansive one. The reductive act issued from whatever outer and inner forces fashioned a human being who in order to enter the public sphere annihilates her identity.

The burqa ban is a significant expression of precisely the French culture this visitor from the Gulf wanted, as the Telegraph writer puts it, “to take in.” If a Western woman who visits the Gulf to take in some Saudi culture fails to cover herself (and fails to find a male minder to take charge of her wherever she goes), she may well be threatened with expulsion as soon as she deplanes.

Gotta respect the law.

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