Noel Malcolm, senior research fellow at All Souls College Oxford, is a polyglot and polymath. Skillful with sources in Albanian, Romanian, Serbian, modern Turkish, Italian, and other languages, he is probably best known for books produced during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, Bosnia: A Short History (1994) and Kosovo: A Short History (1999). He has published definitive editions of the writings of Thomas Hobbes and was knighted in 2014.
His latest—Agents of Empire—a highly engaging (if complex) work began in obscure circumstances and deals with arcane matters. Still, Malcolm is gifted in moving from the microcosm to the macrocosm, and his survey of competing European and Eurasian dominions more than four centuries agoRead more
It seems time is running out for the main protagonist in a quarter-century-long saga involving radical Islam and hyper-humanitarianism, extending from Iraqi Kurdistan to Norway. A U.S.-designated terrorist group, Ansar al-Islam (Volunteers of Islam) is prominent in the Syria and Iraq fighting, reportedly with Saudi backing, as an opponent of both the Bashar al-Assad regime and the so-called “Islamic State" (ISIS). Ansar al-Islam has been led by a figure notorious in Iraqi Kurdistan, Mullah Krekar, whose real name seems to be Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad, and whose current age is 59.
An exponent of extreme Wahhabism, Mullah Krekar appeared in Iraqi Kurdistan in the late 1980s, before the autonomous zone was under WesternRead more
Nigeria, once known only as Africa's most populous country, now mainly makes headlines for the eruption in its northeast of the brutal jihadist force, Boko Haram ("Western education is prohibited"). Boko Haram has occupied parts of Nigeria and invaded neighbors, including Niger, Cameroon, and Chad. It declares itself a West African province of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).
The four countries attacked by Boko Haram and another Muslim-majority state, Benin, have formed a coalition against it, with support from the United Nations, the United States, Britain, and France. But resistance to the jihadis has been weak.Read more
On Saturday, December 12, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia held local elections. Polling covered 343 constituencies, according to the Jidda-based Arab News. It was the third recent Saudi municipal balloting, following votes in 2005 and 2011. The 2005 election was the first since 1965, after 40 years.
The process this year was notable mainly in its inclusion, for the first time, of women as candidates and voters. According to BBC News, some 6,000 male candidates and almost 1,000 women competed for 2,100 seats. The Saudi ministry of municipal and rural affairs will appoint 1,050 more councilors, a third of the total. The ministry announced that voting had been supervised by 35,000 workers at 1,296 polling places. The age ofRead more
On October 11, the London Independent newspaper revived charges first made last year, by United Nations officials in Iraq, that the Islamic State (ISIS) has called for female genital mutilation (FGM) to be forced on women and girls living in the city of Mosul. ISIS seized Mosul in June 2014 and, almost immediately, reports were heard that the atrocious practice was being imposed.
ISIS itself and various experts dismissed the reports as fabricated, but they were countered by local people in Mosul and Kurdish advocates, who insist the demand is a genuine product of the fanatical "caliphate."
In the Independent's column, Dr.Read more
The Dayton accords, formally signed in December 1995, have reached their twentieth anniversary. Dayton is commonly portrayed as a “peace agreement” for war-torn Bosnia-Herzegovina and an outstanding achievement of Bill Clinton’s administration. The accords were an achievement; the war ended. Yet close scrutiny reveals a shabby aftermath.Read more
The Spanish Civil War is among the 20th-century military conflicts about which the most continues to be published, and in many languages. Often, new volumes on the three-year (1936-39) bloodbath recapitulate old themes: the ideological drama of fascist militarism versus a leftist republic; subversion of the republic by its alleged allies in Moscow; and heart-rending details of cruelty, on both sides of the trenches.Read more
On Sunday, October 4, the Central Asian former-Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan held national elections to its 120-member parliament. The main incumbent party, the reforming Social Democrats (SDPK) were returned to power, and the ruling president, Almazbek Atambayev, who is their leader, gained a second term. But the previous administration was replaced, and the polling was certified and praised enthusiastically by international observers.Read more
The photo of 3-year old Aylan Kurdi, drowned on a Turkish beach, elicited declarations of concern from media around the world. Aylan’s brother Galip, 5, and their mother Rehanna died in the same incident. After four years of civil war in Syria, we were told, the horrific photograph would awaken the world’s powers to the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Syria and Iraq.Read more
Daša Drndić, a Croatian, has gained respect in her country as a novelist, literary critic, and playwright. After teaching in Canada and completing a master’s degree in communications in the United States, thanks to a Fulbright grant, she now teaches philosophy at the University of Rijeka.Read more
Twenty years have now passed since the brutal subjugation of the besieged town of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina, after which 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were slaughtered by Serbs commanded by ex-Yugoslav army general Ratko Mladic.Read more
In Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell described, on his return to Barcelona after serving in the front lines of the Spanish Civil War, “an unmistakable and horrible feeling of political rivalry and hatred” in the Catalan capital. During a late-May visit to Skopje, capital of the independent Republic of Macedonia, something similar was in the air.
“Islamophobia,” which carries with it implications of viciousness, pain, and disease, is not considered a neutral term, either by Muslims who accuse others of it (including some moderate believers in Islam), or by those who supposedly spread it.Read more
Last month the Kosovar Center for Security Studies (KCSS), a think-tank in the Balkan republic, published a “Report Inquiring Into the Causes and Consequences of Kosovo Citizens’ Involvement as Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq.” The survey was financed by the U.S.Read more
Kosovo Albanians, overwhelmingly Muslim, love America—which rescued them from Serbian aggression in 1999—and desire diplomatic relations with Israel. Kosovo does not recognize the Palestinian Authority and does not belong to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).Read more
Muslim political and religious leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is partitioned between a “Republic of Serbs” and a “Muslim-Croat Federation,” have taken firm measures to stop agitation and recruitment for ISIS.Read more
The Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) is a federal program that, since its establishment by Congress in 2001, has granted millions of dollars—$47,750,971 through 2013—to about 800 projects of foreign governments seeking to preserve historic structures and institutions. Administered by the Cultural Heritage Center at the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, AFCP is little known to the American public. Grants are made on the basis of recommendations by U.S.Read more
The hideous practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) is neither an exclusively Muslim nor a principally Middle Eastern phenomenon. It exists among non-Muslims through wide areas of Africa.Read more
Barack Obama’s accommodation with Castroite Cuba is a low point in the history of American international relations. Benjamin Franklin affirmed, “Where liberty dwells, there is my country.” The Obama administration, in its attitudes on Iran, Syria, and Ukraine as well as on Cuba, appears to prefer the principle, “Where tyranny dwells, there is my country.”Read more
German chancellor Angela Merkel has cautioned that the adventurism of Russian president Vladimir Putin would not remain limited to Ukraine, or even to other countries bordering on Russia. Since Russia seized Crimea in February-March 2014, Putin’s provocative campaign has included imposition of phantom “governments” in two areas of eastern Ukraine, Luhansk and Donetsk, and , Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which are members of NATO.Read more
As Saudi Arabia undergoes its slow process of change, the matter of women and motor vehicles remains crucial. On October 24, Saudi women were summoned by a social media campaign to take to the roads in cars they own, typically, but do not drive.Read more
Recently, some media commentators have argued that, rather than the product of a simple confrontation between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Syria and Iraq, the rise of the so-called “Islamic State” should be perceived as an eruption into those countries of Wahhabism, the only interpretation of Islam recognized as official in Saudi Arabia.Read more
Since Islam emerged more than 14 centuries ago, Mecca, near the western coast of the Arabian peninsula, has drawn the interest of the world. For Muslim believers, the city and its sacred mosque—which encompasses a high, cubical structure, the Kaaba—are the focus of spiritual devotion as the qibla, or direction of prayer, and a destination for pilgrimages. For non-Muslims, Mecca has long been enigmatic, as it has been closed to them since early in Islamic history.Read more
The Islamic Republic of Iran remains the worst global example of capricious interference by Muslim theocrats in the personal and spiritual lives of its citizens. On September 9, as reported by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), seven young Iranians went on trial. Their supposed crime? Producing a dance video of the Pharrell Williams’s pop hit “Happy” and uploading it to YouTube.Read more
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