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Theodore Dalrymple
The Vandals in Retreat « Back to Story

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Syria and the whole Middle East should be ruled by the international executive based in the most developed parts of the world. The most developed nations must unite on the basis of Christian ethics, mercy and forgiveness. The leaders might be Her Majesty Elizabeth II and Billy Graham. The goal is to ensure order and to save as much life, wealth and human rights as possible. The birth rate must be efficiently restricted:
Ukraine: unconstructive policy

The policy of developed nations with regard to Ukraine is unconstructive and against the principles of democracy. Ukraine in today’s borders was created thanks to Bolshevist voluntarism disregarding ethnic and linguistic realities. A majority in the southern and eastern parts of the country is Russian-speaking, ethnic Russian and prefers to be Russian citizens. The whole foreign help will flow into the corruption channels with the help of Russia-sympathizers. This is the mechanism of the current separation of Dnepropetrovsk/Ekaterinoslav from Ukraine. The best solution would be a division of the territory between the European Union and Russia according to referendums performed in each province. The names Ukraine or Galicia would be used for those provinces, where the citizens want it. Previously we have suggested a temporary Anglo-American administration for the Crimea, but it would be probably unnecessarily complicated.
The Koran and Terrorism
This text has been written after three-month volunteering in Iraq (May-July 2003) on the basis of English translation of the Koran (1). Analysis of the Koran in relation to the issue of penal legislation is essential because controversies between legal and religious requirements may force a Muslim to make a dangerous choice. Disrespect of human Law is strengthened by modern Islamic literature (2).
The Koran is provided by numerous commentaries that often are allegorical and euphemistic. However, direct meaning of the words is the most obvious, the more so as it is stressed in modern literature that the Koran can be comprehended according to its clear and apparent meaning (2). It is the direct sense of the Koran that again and again is used by Islamic extremists to justify their terrorist attacks. Adherents of Wahhabism insist on a strictly literal interpretation. Immediately upon the Koran are based the ideas of pan-Islamism aimed at the establishing of the global Islamic State where Moslems would be privileged.
The Koran contains instructions pertaining to the Law, morality, and behavior. Those who disobey these commands are condemned to undergo everlasting torments in the hell where fire and boiling water are applied, and 'as often as their skins are roasted through' they are replaced by 'fresh skins, that they may taste the penalty' (4:56). Threats of infernal torments are reiterated many times almost in all Surahs (chapters). Therefore, in case of a controversy between the Koran and the Penal Code, a true believer will comply with the former, because a terrestrial punishment is negligible compared to the eternal fire. So it is not astonishing that extremists can find volunteers to commit suicide accomplishing terrorist attacks. The more so, as 'to him who fighteth in the case of Allah, whether he is slain, soon shall we give him a reward of great value' (4:74).
It is essential for our multicultural society, what kind of instructions are given with regard to adherents of other religions or the atheists. The Koran contains great number of damnations and threats to the 'Unbelievers', whereas the curses originate not only from Allah but also 'from all mankind' (2:161). There follow some examples of such instructions. 'O ye who believe! Take not for friends Unbelievers' (4:144). It is not allowed to a Moslem to kill another Moslem (2:84; 4:92), but with regard to the 'Unbelievers' other recommendations are valid, for example, 'fight them on until there prevails faith in Allah altogether and everywhere' (8:39). To clear the matter of responsibility for murder, it is further commented: 'It is not ye who slew them, it was Allah (8:17). Some Surahs contain more detailed instructions such as 'smite at their neck at lengths; when ye have thoroughly subdued them, bind a bond firmly on them' (47:4). Jihad, the Holy War, is considered as an incumbent religious duty for the purpose of advancing Islam (3).
One can hear from Moslems that full-scale Unbelievers are only the atheists and pagans, whereas towards the 'People of the Book', in other words, the Christians and the Jews, they are more tolerant. In fact, however, the Koran repeatedly curses 'those who were given a portion of the Book' (4:51-52), equates them to the Unbelievers, claiming that a 'humiliating punishment' is prepared for them (4:151). Particularly, the Christians are 'estranged with enmity and hatred... and soon will Allah show them what it is they have done' (5:14). According to another instruction, the People of the Book must be fought 'until they pay the Jizyah (regular tribute) with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued' (9:29). In conversations with Moslems one can hear that violence in Islam is accepted only as self-defence; however, all the above quotations contain no idea of self-defence in the context. Moreover, self-defence also must be constrained to the limits defined by Law.
Many other contradictions between the Koran and the modern legislation can be specified, particularly those pertaining to the matter of murder. In such instances 'the law of equality is prescribed: the free for the free, the slave for the slave, the woman for the woman' (2:178). It means in practice that, instead of the murderer, an innocent person from his kinship may be killed, woman for woman etc. That is why in some Islam-dominated areas the custom of blood revenge has been preserved, which is incompatible with modern criminal legislation (23:6).
The topic of inequality of men and women in the Islamic world is well known. A man may have four wives; apart from his wives, the Koran allows men to have sexual relationship with the 'captives' (23:6). On the contrary to a man, a liaison is allowed to a woman only with her husband, and in the case of adultery, she may be stoned. In certain cases corporal punishment of wives is prescribed to their husbands: “spank them” (4:34). Easy procedure of divorce at the husband's behest results in some people 'going through' thirty or more wives during their lifetime (7). Temporary marriage is sometimes used to camouflage an occasional cohabitation, single day marriages are known as well. On the other hand, for a woman a divorce is unattainable or very complicated. Women are also discriminated by the Shariah Law in property matters, such as division of estates, inheritance, etc. Restriction of birth rate would be hardly attainable without revision of the attitude towards women, whose main destination has been raising children and making housework.
What solution of the contradictions between the Koran and the modern Law can be proposed? Some thinkers argue that reformation of Islam has become inevitable. Obviously, the idea must be propagated that a multicultural society can exist peacefully only if we obey terrestrial Law without discarding it on the basis of religious concepts. Considering progressive globalization, this idea should find international implication.
There are many well-intended Muslims guided by the positive contents of the Islamic teaching. On the other hand, the direct sense of the Koran is used to justify aggression and terrorism. The ongoing terrorist attacks have resulted in strong anti-Islamic sensation among Russians and other Europeans, and may once end up in a counterattack on the part of some informal patriotic group. That is what we are trying to avoid. What we are looking for is a concept that would permit a peaceful and friendly coexistence, within our country and on the global scale.
Religious leaders should participate on elaboration of new moral principles that have become crucial in our age of global overpopulation. Growth of political Islam and extremism can be partly explained by population explosion and unemployment among young people (10). The main problem of the modern Islamic world is, now as before, a high birth rate. It is most spectacular in the desert areas of the Middle East, where people live predominantly from oil revenues or foreign aid, importing the major part of food and other products.
Another ethical problem of the modern Orient is the idle way of life of many indigenous inhabitants in the oil-producing countries. In the oil industry and in other services of this region, predominantly immigrants from other Asiatic countries are employed, and experts are predominantly of European and American origin. Labor is often seen as something demeaning and shameful. Obscurantist laws and customs in this region are well known. Public executions, corporal punishments, torture and amputations cannot be tolerated in the modern world (6,7). Therefore, intervention of civilized nations in this region has become imperative. Indeed, to pay enormous amount of money for the oil, discovered and extracted by foreigners using imported equipment, is as reasonable as to pay for oxygen consumption. Coalition Forces, using their success and experience in Mesopotamia, must extend their control into the area of Persian Golf and Arabian Peninsula in order to provide the natural resources of this region for humanitarian purposes of the mankind. The historical mission and moral duty of Russia is to participate in this noble initiative. 02/06/2004
* * *
In private conversations with Islamic clerics it is acknowledged that Koranic injunctions to 'fight the Unbelievers' should not be understood literally. At the same time, propagandistic literature reiterates that the Koran, as 'a source of guidance for all humanity' (11), should be understood 'according to the clear and apparent meaning' (2). For large numbers of young Muslims this kind of propaganda has become a lens, through which they view the world (12). Discrimination of the 'infidels', for example, additional taxation by means of the Jizyah, is justified because 'Moslems have many other obligations'. Genocide of defeated tribes, such as Qurayzah (5), is justified as a punishment for the breach of a treaty. Contemporary terrorism is sometimes explained, and thus partly justified, as acts of desperation or self-defence. Muslim leaders do not deem necessary to restrict the birth rate and migrations and do not regard ethnic shifts in Europe as an unfavorable development. At the same time, positive tendencies in the modern Islamic literature should be noted: at least formal condemnation of terrorism, promotion of business ethics, of good-neighbor relations, disapproval of arrogant attitude towards sinners and 'Unbelievers'.
How shall we conclude? Islamic ethics is partly incompatible with modern morality and law. Contradictory rules cannot be valid simultaneously at the same place. Therefore, Islamic ideology can be theoretically used as justification for segregation. In practice many Muslims are civilized and friendly people not at all inclined to “fight the Unbeliever”. On the other hand, formally aggressive ideas of Islam give these on average underprivileged people a ground for self-contentedness and thus for psychological stability. Islam certainly promotes many universal moral values. Turkish anisette rakI is a great thing. Old architecture is preserved and restored in Turkey increasingly well. The main obstacle on the way to true equality between different confessions remains the difference of birth rate. The topic of religious differences should not be exaggerated.
1. The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an. Amana Publ., Beltsville, 1999
2. Abdul-Khaliq A.-R. The general prescripts of belief in the Qur’an and the Sunnah (A booklet without further bibliographical data. Available in the British Library, London)
3. Hughes T.P. A Dictionary of Islam. Premier Book House, Lahore, 1885
4. Al-Mubarakpuri S.-R. The Sealed Nectar. Biography of the Noble Prophet. Darussalam, Riyadh, 2001
5. Lings M. Muhammad. His life based on the earliest sources. Millat, New Delhi (no date indicated).
6. Crew B. The Beheading and other true stories. London, 2003.
7. Wells C. Understanding Saudi Arabia. New York, 2003.
8. Swallow Ch. The sick man of Europe. London, 1973
9. Al-Imam An-Nawawi. Collection from Riyad-us-Saliheen. Darussalam, Riyadh, 2001
10. Jenkins J. Ethics and religion. Oxford, 1999
11. Muhammad Khan. Meaning and significance of the Qur'an. The Muslim News, Nr. 181 of 28.05.2004
12. Ninchcliff P. Conflicts in the Middle East since 1945. London and New York, 2001

THe medieval city of Den Bosch in the south of Holland has a river the "Dieze" running right through the city, and Den Bosch is "veined" with little canals, sometimes meandering for more than 100 yards under old medieval houses, those waterways were used for transport, often for the little breweries dotting the city.
Then, in the sixties it was decided that everything would be concreted for roads and parking lots.
But the ordinary people revolted and founded a political party called "Knillis", a medieval hero.
THe eds of it was that all those ancient canals are lovingly restored to their old magnificance, and tens of thousands tourists visit the old city of Den Bosch to view those old canals, and those old houses flanking those waterways have become rather priceless.
So yes, determined people can make a difference.
I believe that le Corbusier, and Gropius are architects who belong to the fascist- communist complex of the 20th century.
I attired in b be committed to Verizon's Palm Pre Added to and can't appear to see any flash videos on the browser. I've tried to download adobe jiffy actor but it won't seem to subside me. Anyone comprehend what to do?
It often seems to me that even the ugliest Victorian pile or the least harmonious Georgian building is less stressful to my brain (and spirit) than almost any very modern building. To be imprisoned in a harsh raw concrete building would be, to me, a more miserable punishment than the same term served in a robustly welcoming Victorian public building - one would crush me while the other would give me something to think about besides my own misery. I would prefer to be left with only the Bible and Shakespeare than 500 of the newest avant-garde novels.
Typo in sub-title: discovers

Good read.

Perhaps Mr. Dalrymple and my fellow readers will find some comfort in this delightful bit of trivia:
Apparently Ian Fleming named oo7 lead villain,"Auric Goldfinger" after architect "Ernő Goldfinger".
Apparently Fleming took umbrage at Goldfinger's substantial role in as you say, "mass desecration of Britain’s architectural heritage...".
If Wiki is right, they were also uneasy neighbours - yikes !

God bless Mr. Fleming for the pebble he put in Mr. Goldfinger's shoe and for bringing us that wonderful bit of fiction.
Read all about it by looking up Ernő Goldfinger on Wikipedia. WARNING ! Pictures of his *ahem* "work" are included.
Our friend T.D. on the "triumph" of Gropius 's Modernism in post war Britain. Interesting. Hope you're doing OK this morning!
Is it too much to hope that the hints of sanity appeaering on this front will manifest it in,say, fine arts and elsewhere?

Louis M
I've sent this fantastic article to an appreciative, refined, elegant grandmother now living in a converted 17th century water mill overlooking River Derwent on 3 sides and surrounded by ancient woodlands - 'near the centre of Newcastle'. Lucky grandmom!!!
Sad and exactly true.
It's deeply ironic that British architecture has transformed English city centres into places that very much resemble their German counterparts, given that the latter had to be reconstructed following the destruction wrought by the Royal Air Force.

The intended demolition of Birmingham's Central Library, however, would only continue the denial of heritage which has proven so devastating. It's a prime example of brutalist architecture and should be preserved as such. What's currently being built as its replacement, the Library of Birmingham next to the Rep Theatre, certainly looks bland and commonplace by comparison.
I think the worst development for cities has been the 'urban planner'. Cities such as Sacramento, where I grew up and still live have wonderful neighborhoods where people clamor to live, and have housing prices to match. These are not neighborhoods of modern homes, with their careful urban planning, but neighborhoods from the 1910s and 20s, primarily. The homes are all different; the lots were bought by homeowners or small builders, and California bungalows, Arts and Crafts, and Art Deco homes built. They have steep pitched roofs, classic architecture, and are packed in together on relatively small, city lots.

Sacramento is still under the sway of the central planners. Near one of the classic old neighborhoods of Curtis Park, the old railyards are being developed. A 'corporate design' firm was hired, and a cookie-cutter development with planned attractions is being built.

Why not duplicate the existing neighborhoods, and sell individual lots to prospective homeowners and builders?

I guess it's just foreign to liberals to let individuals decide for themselves what to build.

Thank you for this elegaic but hopeful article. You've reminded me of the horror I felt on a recent visit to the Natural History Museum in London - its beautiful spaces have been chopped up with makeshift walls, rather like an old townhouse subdivided into bedsits. To add insult, there are little windows that let the visitor glimpse some of the architectural details. But eventually all of this shoddy stuff will be removed.
As always, whether writing about politics or culture, Dr. Dalrymple succinctly hits the nail on the head. Gropius, van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, et al ought have been tried for war crimes against the human spirit.

As a child growing up on Long Island, I spent as much time in NYC as possible. Architecture always fascinated and delighted me, and I had a visceral reaction against the Seagram Building, the UN complex, MoMA and other sterile 'masterpieces' of the International Style. At the same time, the early skyscrapers like the Woolworth and Metropolitan-Life buildings made my spirits soar. It wasn't until I read Tom Wolfe's 'From Bauhaus to Our House' in the mid-70's that I fully and intellectually understood why. Ornamentation is and remains the key to beautiful inspiring architecture. Less IS less.

Like political liberalism, modernism in art, music, literature and architecture is an elitist ethos which has undermined Western culture, eroded its soul. It is instructive that the 'unwashed masses' understand this while their intellectual and cultural betters do not.
We can only thank God the Luftwaffe couldn't reach New York or we might now have to deal with the wholesale urban destruction Dr. Dalrymple describes in Britain.
But alas the developing destroyers are still furiously at work. One has but to look at Victoria Street in London between Westminster Abbey and Cathedral.
You should at least tip your hat to Prince Charles, who did a lot to get the ball rolling in the right direction.
to rehabiliate our cityscape there is a strong case for funds not to be spent restoring old buildings, but to demolish the worst of the new.

and yes, for those who sneer at the americans, its worth remembering that the night-time streets of most american cities are paragons of civilised virtue compared to the mongrel rabble of the old country.
Richard Burnett Carter December 24, 2010 at 11:22 AM
I particularly enjoyed this essay. My great grandfather, Charles Emmett Cassell, was a notable Baltimore at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. His work was, alas, eclipsed by the Sullivan school out of Chicago and so is nowhere as well celebrated as it should be.
I was appointed the Archivist-Historian for The Baltimore Chapter of The American Institute of Architects a number of years ago, and while there, I wrote a series of position papers which I think Dr. Dalrymple might find of interest.

Thank you again for the essay.
Prof. Richard Burnett Carter (Ret.)
Another great thinker
Thanks for celebrating even these tentative steps away from ugliness.

Will Fitzhugh
Ah, gaslight. It is making a kind of comeback too, as those bright tungsten filament bulbs are banned by our new government in Brussels and replaced by dim green 'energy' bulbs.
I think Theo that it was a bit more complicated than your version of events (as ever only the loud pedal being used). There was a great deal of change going on in Britain after the war, especially as the sense that we seemed to have lost a great deal, in spite of the victory, began to grow. Planners and local authorities were not immune to the zeitgeist and not all victorian architecture was worth saving, bomb damaged or not - but I agree that some bad mistakes were made in the name of progress. However I don't agree, as you seem to imply, that these were deliberately malevolent acts. You seem to have forgotten that this was still a time when people on the whole trusted authority to act in their best interests amd most councils thought that they were. There was then (still is) a class divide on conservation. In the 50s and 60s I don't think that many working class people were that concerned about saving heritage, they wanted houses (the fact that they were built too cheaply and managed badly does not negate this). In any event the Victorians themselves were enthusiastic modernisers and re-imaginers of history. They were also quite content to demolish the historic if it did not accord with their view of progress.

As for the inevitable rant about alcohol, behaviour and cities. I lived and worked in Birmingham for five years recently and was in the city centre (a retail led regeneration that actually works) frequently at all hours. Yes parts of it are crowded, noisy and, as the evening progresses, increasingly inebriated, but most of it isn't. The centre is also full of decent bars and restaurants, cultural centres like the concert hall and (still) fine victoriana architecture like the Council House and the financial district. Take your American friends there too, Theo.

In any event the reason why so many, primarily northern, cities have strong "party" cultures is because of history, economics and the Thatcher Goverments. By the 1980s most English northern cities were in significant decline. Like the Rust Belt in the USA, the economic activity that had sustained them had largely gone. Tory policy accelerated the decline and it wasn't clear what would replaced heavy engineering, shipbuilding and so on. Cities were turning into doughnuts, decaying centres with increasingly detached suburbs being fed by edge of town retail developments. Around this time the concept of the "evening economy" came along and because there was nothing better on offer, local authorities began to encourage clubs and bars to open up in the centre. Public Health doctors at the time questioned the sense of this, but they didn't have alternatives, no one did. I think now that there is regret that this happened, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. At its worst its piss and vomit and violence and profoundly depressing. Last Halloween I stepped out of the theatre in Newcastle, with three hours of the Royal Shakespeare Company ringing in my ears, into what felt like the biggest street fancy dress party in the world. It isn't always (often isn't) as bad as Theo paints it.
Rome wasn't destroyed in a day either! Great article! I think I'll send it to my Brit ex pat friend, in Tasmania, who's an accomplished astronomer; the fogs were probably just one of many reasons he left Leeds, 40 years ago!
Theodore Dalrymple's writing is amazing, enlightening, even entertaining. What a treasure!