The Final Form of Islam?

The New Oxonian

The days of explaining away religious violence in Islam as the inevitable result of Western actions and attitudes towards Islam are over.

For two decades—ever since the two fatwas issued by Osama bin Laden against America in 1996 and 1998–there has been a populist movement within Islam, mainly (but not only) young, highly ideological, widespread beyond the Arab world, and fed by social media. September 11, 2001, was the first salvo and first success of this movement.

It was, as they say, a paradigmatic moment which radicals ignorantly believed did irreparable damage to the Western psyche. Radicalized Muslims now crave a second moment and will do nearly anything to make it happen. Like their predecessors who engineered the use of passenger jets as bombs, they believe in their own martyrdom and subscribe to a peculiar (but by no means insignificant) strain of Islamic thought that regards the taking…

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Leave Her

Leave her to Africa.
Leave her to the unblue water
and the unwhite flowing water
and the brown dust and the ragged men
on carts delivering milk.

She must remain a stranger
to the tide, to the swell and spray,
the glide of slim kayaks poised to overturn.
She needs the hot brown dust
under her dark feet in summer
and the mud that sinks buses
when the rains soak the market
and the stands. You are not the dust
and you are not the drowning rains.
She needs chaotic children after school
and not the ordered rhythm of tea and discussion.

She needs the veil
you trembled to unpin, and other hands
and other tongues on her sweet back and thigh.
She does not like your jokes: she smiles
because she understands what you are doing
and what you are trying to be.
She knows you are a trespasser, a thief
of smiles, a connoisseur of hearts,
African hearts that burn with a gold
you will never possess or choke with a ring.

Coffee without Scipio

The New Oxonian

Women’s Studies

Scipio has been nursing a cold for a week and I have been sitting by myself at Mathilde’s. I tried to persuade him to come out today and have some tea, but he says the tea they serve in the shop is actually produced by slave labour in Burma and every-time you drink it you dig another grave. I don’t want that on my conscience, so I stick to espresso.

3 o’clock just isn’t the same without him. The new barista, Erin, is the third in four months and Scipio hasn’t met her. She’s a Women’s Studies and Postmodern Culture major at the college, with a minor in Independent Studies.


We were talking about that this afternoon.

“How do you minor in independent studies,” I asked cautiously. But she felt the challenge.

“What do you mean by that,” she said, turning that into Th-a-t.

“I mean…

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Proving What?

The New Oxonian

The Revd Thomas Bayes The Revd Thomas Bayes, 1701-1761

The current discussion among Jesus-deniers and mythicists over whether probability in the form of Bayes’s Rule can be used in historical research is more than a little amusing.

The current fad is largely the work of atheist blogger and debater Richard Carrier who despite having a PhD in ancient history likes to tout himself as a kind of natural science cum mathematics cum whachagot expert.

Carrier’s ingenuity is on full display in a recent book published by Prometheus (Buffalo, NY) in which he makes the claim that Bayes Theorem–a formula sometimes used by statisticians  when dealing with conditional probabilities– can be used to establish probability for events in the past.  That would make it useful for answering questions about whether x happened or did not happen, and for Carrier’s fans, the biggest x they would like to see answered (he claims ) is Did Jesus exist or…

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