It's amazing what brilliant religious scholars our leaders are. A few years back Tony Blair was bemoaning the fact that Al Quaeda and the tube bombers didn't really have an understanding of true Islam, now Jacqui Smith
As so many Muslims in the UK and across the world have pointed out there is nothing Islamic about the wish to terrorise, nothing Islamic about plotting murder, pain and grief. Indeed, if anything, these actions are 'anti Islamic'."
If only she had as deep a knowledge of subjects with which she could properly claim a less amateur acquaintance.
I'm not sure what to make of the harassment
of British Council apparatchik Stephen Kinnock for refusing to take a breath test, claiming diplomatic immunity, and the ongoing campaign against British Council staff.
David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, described Russia’s behaviour as reprehensible.
He told how the Russian security services had summoned 20 local members of the council staff and asked them about a range of matters, including the health of family pets.
“The whole House will share the Government’s anger and dismay at the actions of the Russian Government. We saw similar actions during the Cold War but thought they had been put behind us,” he said. He added that the staff had been subject to “blatant intimidation” and said Russia’s action raised “serious questions about her observance of international law”.
The long-term cost to Russia was its “standing in the world as a responsible international player”.
While the decline of Britain over the last sixty years is a tragedy, it has its small compensations - Mr Miliband's current role being one of them. Call me naive, but I imagine Mr Putin is concerned about his standing in the world militarily, about his intimately entwined foreign and energy policy, about the tragic demography of his people. I doubt he worries about being thought of as 'a responsible international player'. If he thought about it, he might ask "How many divisions has David Miliband ?
Can't make up my mind about the British Council. In one sense it seems to be a standard leftwing arts organisation, encouraging British interests abroad by touring photographic exhibitions about the oppression of British Muslims or the glories of the Republican struggle in Andersonstown. On the other hand it seems to be generally assumed that its operatives are spies. Certainly it's good cover - no one could possible suggest the average toiler in the arts to be remotely patriotic.
So the harrasment of Lord Kinnock's son is a problem. Have the Russians got it all base over apex ? Or is it possible that a member of the Kinnock family is actually working for the interests of the UK ?
This seems so unlikely that a third hypothesis is necessary. Putin needs to keep patriotic fervour high - but he's had/got enough wars to be going on with. Perhaps the thing to do is to pick a fight with a big-name hitter who's seen better days and is now pretty much incapable of doing anything but blather and bluster.
Britain - and Mr Miliband - seem to fit the bill pretty well.
UPDATE - Britain's decision to change UK law
to allow a Russian art exhibition to go ahead probably confirmed the Russian view of Britannia as a toothless old lush. LONDON (AFP) — Britain on Sunday said it had passed an order to prevent the seizure of paintings from Russia due in London for an exhibition by people claiming they were looted from their families in the 1917 revolution.
Culture Secretary James Purnell said the order would come into effect Monday and stop exhibits in the Royal Academy's "From Russia" show being claimed by people who say the works belonged to their families.
You couldn't imagine a law change designed to stop Jewish families retrieving stuff pinched by the Nazis - yet Russian families can whistle for their Gauguins. We should have told them to stuff their daubs where the sun don't shine - behind one of those big folds of cloud beloved of JMW Turner
It's not quite the legalities that bother me - if we took this principle back a bit we'd pretty much have to empty our museums while the French handed back all the stuff Napoleon nicked - it's the fact that we're doing it to placate the Russians.
Who respond with another couple of kicks. This foreign policy strategy - alternate grovelling and whingeing - hasn't worked yet as a behaviour modifier in any mode of human existence.
But it does have one great advantage - Britain in 2008 is ideally equipped to carry it out.