Round-up: Austria, Hassan Butt, Julian Baggini in Rotherham, life in Yemen

Before the week begins in earnest, I thought I might offer a round-up of stories which caught my eye the past week:

Stuart Jeffries in the Guardian on the stupid, racist gibberish which has followed the discovery of the woman and her children in the cellar in Austria. Some nonsense has been printed about how there must be something rotten in the Austrian psyche or something like that, probably derived from its wartime record, and the perpetrator himself tried to blame his “sickness” on growing up under Hitler. In fact, Austria was ruled by the Nazis for only seven years, compared to Germany’s twelve, so you would expect a plethora of such cases to have appeared in Germany, but no. There have been just two cases, involving about a handful of perpetrators out of several million. What does such a thing about any population?

Hassan Butt has been busted. At last, also, the Observer acknowledges that there are critics of Hassan Butt who are not fanatics issuing threats to his life. They print that some people think Butt is a fantasist or was an MI5 informer; my theory is that he turned tail when times got tough for an extremist.

Yet another alleged adviser to the Quilliam Foundation, Shaikh Babikr Ahmad (the imam at Islamia school), turns out to have nothing to do with them.

I’ve just finished reading Julian Baggini’s book Welcome to Everytown. It is about the six months he spent living in Rotherham, the most average town in the UK. It’s in some ways an amusing and in some ways depressing book. Perhaps I’ll review it soon, insha Allah. By the way, if you’re in London, Borders is selling Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine in paperback for £4.50 (half price).

The BBC broadcast Women in Black, about women’s lives in Yemen - in this case, Aden. It was presented by a British-Yemeni woman who dresses western in London and puts on an abaya when she goes back to Aden. I found her delivery irritating, and some of the lines don’t quite ring true - for example, asking the women if they feel comfortable without the men around, when in fact that is the norm for them - it is not a “girls’ night in” as girls have in the west, because they simply do not socialise with men. Still, it is a useful window into local life. Available for 3 more days; the next installment (about Dubai) is on Thursday. (More: Outlines.)

Rachel Cooke, in the Observer, goes to the rural parts of Yemen, including Hadramaut, and finds that it might be the worst place to be a woman, with much the same restrictions as in Saudi Arabia combined with poverty and illiteracy. Perhaps they should be taking some lady doctors out there, given that parts of the Muslim community here have strong links with Hadramaut. One point of contention: Hadramaut may be “extremely inaccessible” but it is one of the more accessible parts of the country in political terms, as there are no security issues like rebellious tribes or military sites.

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