The Week

(Darren Gygi)


Call it multilateral mission creep. Mere weeks after it succeeded in getting a no-fly zone established under U.N. auspices to protect rebels in Benghazi, the Arab League has made a similar plea to the Security Council vis-à-vis Gaza. What events have transpired in that prison strip to justify a similar “humanitarian intervention”? Israeli aircraft have targeted the agents of Hamas and the tunnels through which they smuggle Qassam rockets. Recently, more than 100 of these rockets were launched into southern Israel, and one of them struck a school bus. If a truly humanitarian intervention were launched in Gaza, we doubt it would be to the Arab League’s liking.

The Chinese Communists are cracking down more intensely than they have for many years. The Middle East unrest has spooked them, because it has inspired restless Chinese: Maybe they, too, can once more challenge their rulers? Ai Weiwei is one of the people who have been cracked down on. He is not yet another anonymous dissenter. He is one of the country’s most famous artists, the designer of the “Bird’s Nest” Olympic stadium, for example. In recent years, he has been detained and beaten, beaten so badly that his brain has hemorrhaged. As of this writing, he has been “disappeared.” He was in Beijing Airport, about to fly to Hong Kong, when he was dragged off. He has not been heard from since. The Chinese government is awfully bold, to “disappear” such a well-known personage. Then again, they have the current Nobel peace laureate in prison.

The ever-enthusiastic Pres. Nicolas Sarkozy has promoted a new law in France regulating the niqab, the veil that covers a woman’s face except the eyes. He thinks the veil makes them “prisoners.” It’s to be allowed at home, in hotel rooms, and in cars, but not in any “public space,” though freedom of worship might permit wearing it near a mosque. A policeman, or better a policewoman, may invite a veiled woman to show her face for purposes of identification but it is forbidden to pull the veil off in any circumstances. And much more small print besides. The ministry of the interior judges that a mere 2,000 women are affected, and most commentators think the law is only a gesture on the part of a state proud to be secular. A handful of Muslim women hurried to be the first to be arrested, and the fact that the police did almost nothing suggests that the law starts out as a dead letter. Someone of Algerian origin, Abderrahmane Dahmane, gloried in the title of Sarkozy’s diversity adviser until he was fired. The current niqab to-do coincided with a government-inspired debate on the role of Islam in France. A vengeful Dahmane condemned Sarkozy and his party as the “plague of Muslims.” He calls on Muslims to wear a green star, a reference to the yellow star the Nazis forced Jews to wear. Whether this should be sewn on the niqab he does not say.

Dalil Boubakeur, France’s most prominent Muslim leader and head of the Grand Mosque in Paris, wants the taxpayer to fund a major mosque-building program. Sixteen other Muslim notables have a simpler proposal: They have signed a joint petition asking for empty Catholic churches to be made over to them. As things stand, every Friday thousands of Muslims take over streets to hold their prayers in the open. They close local businesses, block traffic, and intimidate residents, trapping them in their homes. Marine Le Pen, the new head of the far-right National Front party, compares Muslims praying in the streets to the wartime Nazi occupation “without tanks or soldiers.” A shocked public seems to believe that churches converted into mosques would never be allowed to revert to Christianity, while in a Muslim country Christians could never hope to convert a mosque into a church. Marine Le Pen is expecting that same public to vote for her in the next presidential election — and they well might.

May 2, 2011    |     Volume LXIII, No. 8

Books, Arts & Manners
  • Andrew Roberts reviews Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II, by Michael Burleigh.
  • John Derbyshire reviews The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance, by Jim al-Khalili.
  • Thomas Donnelly reviews U.S. Civil-Military Relations After 9/11: Renegotiating the Civil-Military Bargain, by Mackubin Thomas Owens.
  • Anthony Paletta reviews An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War, by J. Hoberman.
  • Richard Brookhiser muses over graveyards.
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
The Bent Pin  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .