“It’s coming home,” a young man told me as we passed in the street in South London after our 2-0 defeat of Sweden in the quarter-finals of the World Cup on Sunday afternoon. He was heading toward Clapham Junction railway station, where later that day a man jumped off the roof of a double-decker and crashed through the awning of a bus stop—landing unharmed, as it turned out, amid a large crowd of revelers.
In Stratford, East London, some England fans entered a branch of IKEA, that reliable Scandi surrogate, and wreaked good-natured havoc on the home furnishings, sending cushions flying and assistants in hijab scattering for cover, as the fans waved their shirts over their heads and murdered the chorus of “It’s coming home.”… Seguir leyendo »
On June 19, the day after a forty-seven-year-old man from Wales, Darren Osborne, drove a van over a group of Muslims near a mosque in Finsbury Park, north London, leaving one person dead and nine injured, I went for a swim in a municipal pool a few miles from where the attack took place. The pool is a popular amenity in my community, and the diversity of those who frequent it—all races, ages, and backgrounds seem somehow represented—reflects the world city that London has become.
Arriving a few minutes before the doors opened, I fell in with four regulars, all of them non-Muslims, just as the conversation turned to the attack.… Seguir leyendo »
Almost since the beginning of this millennium, Iran has been an island of calm amid instability and violence. Afghanistan, its neighbor to the east, descended into chaos following the American-led invasion of 2001; Iraq, across its western border, suffered the same fate after 2003. Eight years later, in 2011, Syria erupted into civil war.
Although Shiite Iran has been involved in the conflicts that have ensued in all three of those neighbors — sending men, money and arms to advance the fight against Sunni chauvinists and their sponsors in the Gulf — its own territory has remained remarkably untouched.
Iran has been a functioning nation state where the central authorities have enjoyed a monopoly of force and people out of uniform have been overwhelmingly unarmed.… Seguir leyendo »
Iran’s presidential election on May 19 will in all likelihood be won by the incumbent, the moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani. In 2015, two years after he came to power, Rouhani pulled the country back from the brink of confrontation with the West when he guided Iran toward the historic nuclear deal with the Obama administration. For Iran, the agreement—which it reached with the United States, the four other permanent members of the UN Security Council, and Germany—was supposed to bring its economy in from the cold after the bellicose and isolationist presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. According to the terms of the deal, many tough international sanctions on Iran were lifted in exchange for Iran’s mothballing of some of its main nuclear facilities; at last, foreign cash was supposed to flow in and the country’s lucrative oil reserves to flow out.… Seguir leyendo »
On April 16, Turks will vote in a national referendum that will, if successful, give President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan increased powers over parliament, the judiciary, and other parts of the civil bureaucracy. The offices of head of government and head of state will be unified in the person of Erdoğan, and the clock will also restart on his presidential tenure; he could stay in power until 2029. To many Western observers, this will be but the latest step in a return to the kind of authoritarianism that is common to many countries of the Middle East. It also seems to accord with the increasing turn away from democratic practices in many parts of the world, from Putin’s Russia to Trump’s America.… Seguir leyendo »
Since a group of senior military officers, backed by thousands of armed soldiers, came close to toppling him on the night of July 15, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has sought comfort in the bosom of his angry, exhilarated people. The country has spent the past three weeks in a state of collective hyperventilation. The combination of nationalism and religiosity is like nothing I have seen in twenty years of following Turkish politics, and it is supposed to climax in a huge, government-sponsored “democracy vigil” in Istanbul on August 7.
The country’s public spaces have been the scene of countless such vigils, involving hundreds of thousands of Turks waving the star and crescent and vowing to prevent further treachery, while the Turkish media lionizes the heroes of the “resistance” of July 15.… Seguir leyendo »
Among the many questions raised by last week’s terrorist attack in Nice, one of the most crucial is how it might affect the coming presidential election. A chilling, early answer was provided by Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, in a seventeen-minute speech to the media on July 16. Excoriating the French government, which is already using state-of-emergency powers, for inaction, and calling for a sweeping new security apparatus to eradicate “Islamic fundamentalism,” the statement was a sign that French politics has shifted toward militarism, xenophobia, and the all-powerful state—toward fascism.
Of the four national figures who are serious contenders for the presidency when the French go to the polls next April, Le Pen is the only one who cannot be blamed for any administrative shortcomings that may have contributed to the jihadist attacks that have killed some 250 innocents since the beginning of 2015.… Seguir leyendo »
Few of the representations of late-nineteenth-century Iran that are currently on display at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World would win any prizes. Part of an exhibition called “Eye of the Shah: Qajar Court Photography and the Persian Past,” they have for the most part been composed with little wit or imagination and show individuals or small groups in not very inspiring locations. A number of them were shot in portrait studios with backdrops of classical balustrades and rotundas; some of them are badly faded. For harmony, crispness, and grandeur, they suffer in comparison to the commercial work done by Victorian photographers in the Middle East, such as Francis Bedford’s majestic, lonely studies of the Holy Land from 1862.… Seguir leyendo »
In Iran a few weeks ago I travelled with my 11-year-old son from Tehran to the ancient fire temple at Takht-e Soleymān, not far from the Iraqi border. At no time during our journey – part of which was made in a clean, comfortable, Chinese-made train – did we feel anything but safe. Our only exposure to violence was in the provincial town of Zanjan, famous for its knife production, where a salesman dry-shaved his own forearm in demonstration of his wares.
No one in their right mind would undertake a comparable journey nowadays inside the borders of any of Iran’s war-torn neighbours: Iraq, Afghanistan, or, a bit further afield, Syria.… Seguir leyendo »