Are you an Assadist?

Hunkering down: a poster of Syria's president at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus, Jan. 14 2012. (E. Arrott/VOA)

Some people whose interest in the Middle East is recent think that Assad is a uniquely Syrian phenomenon. I think the excessively harsh despotism and the equally excessive ability to cruelly exterminate your own population while believing yourself to be setting your nation on the road to modernity are quite unique in terms of their degree and intensity, but Assadism is nonetheless a more widespread political disposition in the Arab world. It can even be described as a mode of being. How do you recognise an Assadist? Here are some helpful suggestions for the newcomers: • An Assadist is anyone who … Continue reading

Reframing the Present: Secularisation and the Rule of Law

Francisco_de_Goya_-_Escena_de_Inquisición_-_Google_Art_Project

“God is himself law; therefore law is dear to him” Sachsenspiegel (Saxon Law) of Eike von Repgau, Early 13th Century Of all the grand narratives supposedly put to the sword during the era of post-modernity secularisation seems peculiarly resistant. While we are familiar with critiques of Western progress, cultural superiority and ethics, the narrative that would have us believe we in the West live in predominantly irreligious societies, and thus have passed through some process by the name of secularisation remains common wisdom. This idea is implicit in the way we see ourselves and how we frame our dealings with … Continue reading

Bigotry Unconcealed: The Islamic Veil Again

“A king, a vainglorious Senate, a Caesar, a Cromwell must above all veil their plans in a religious shroud, compromise with all the vices, flatter all the parties, crush that of upright men and oppress or deceive the people, to reach the goal of their perfidious ambition”. (Robespierre – 5 February 1794, Speech to the National Convention in the name of the Committee of Public Safety)   The Liberal Defence of Unfreedom So once again we find ourselves discussing the merits of defending freedom by enforcing unfreedom. In this instance it’s a familiar target and familiar debate; the Islamic veil, … Continue reading