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review SPOILER ALERT! 2017-02-02 22:38
Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue - Maajid Nawaz,Sam Harris

'Liberals imagine that jihadists and islamists are acting as anyone else would given a similar history of unhappy encounters with the West. And they totally discount the role that religious beliefs play in inspiring a group like the Islamic State - to the point where it would be impossible for a jihadist to prove he was doing anything for religious reasons. Apparently it's not enough for an educated person with economic opportunities to devote himself to the most extreme and austere version of Islam, to articulate his religious reasons for doing so ad nauseam, and even to go as far as to confess his certainty about martyrdom on video before blowing himself up in a crowd. Such demonstrations of religious fanaticism are somehow considered rhetorically insufficient to prove that he really believed what he said he believed.' - Sam Harris page 47-48


I think that one paragraph sums up my frustrations with the debate on Islamic terrorism. Imagine if you went back in time to see the Knights Templar not give an inch in battle, driven by their religiously inspired, fervent belief in martyrdom. The conclusion you draw from this is that this was at root a frustration garnered from hundreds of years of eastern foreign policy in the form of Jihad and the knights' reaction has nothing to do with religion. Surely you'd have to be at least dishonest in that scenario to discount the role of religious conviction? And yet as Harris demonstrates, this has almost become a mainstream political opinion amongst so called liberals. Harris continues -


'The belief that a life of eternal pleasure awaits martyrs after death explains why certain people can honestly chant "we love death more than the infidels love life." They truly believe in martyrdom - as evidenced by the fact that they regularly sacrifice their lives, or watch their children do so, without a qualm. As we have been having this conversation there was an especially horrific attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, where members of the Taliban murdered 145 people, 132 of them children. Here's an except from an online conversation with a Taliban supporter in the aftermath of the massacre - Human life only has value among you worldly materialist thinkers. Death is not the end of life. It is the beginning of existence in a world much more beautiful than this. Paradise is for those pure of hearts. All children have pure hearts. They have not sinned yet... They have not been corrupted by their kafir parents. We did not end their lives. We gave them new ones in paradise, where they will be loved more than you can imagine. They will be rewarded for their martyrdom."


I think that speaks for itself. You would have to make the claim that the Taliban supporter is lying, in order to undermine the idea that extreme religious conviction plays some part in the terror debate and I personally think the weight of evidence rests against you if you do.


But anyway that's not even the debate that people should be having, the debate should be how do you deal with the tide of Islamist and jihadi groups around the globe? Maajid Nawaz argues that Islamism, the political belief of fundamentalism and the spreading of Islamic law and customs across all nations, must be defeated at grass roots levels within the Muslim community. They estimate that Islamist groups make up between 15 and 25% of the world's 1.6 billion strong Muslim population. He sees The Obama administrations refusal to name Islamism as being at the root of groups like IS as a failure. He believes that naming the problem instead of avoiding it, gives Muslims a choice to either 'reclaim our religion and its narrative, or allow thugs and demagogues to speak in its name and impose it on others. Calling it extremism is too relative and vague and sidesteps the responsibility to counter its scriptural justification.' He means scriptural justification here in the sense that one may interpret many things from the Qu'ran and ahadith and one of those readings is the skewed beliefs of Islamic State. He also mentions however that another essential thing that needs to happen is for there to be an acknowledgement that there are many different interpretations possible, each to the person who reads the scripture. Essentially if the Muslim community can get to the stage where the interpretations are personal to the person and there is no right answer, this is the first step on the way to pluralism and secularism. 


I've done rather a hatchet job here of what is a short, at 128 pages, yet valuable conversation in which the intricacies and problems of the debate are analysed in such greater depth. Despite its small length, it is definitely a worthy addition to the field and a good discussion between two respectful men, one a liberal Muslim, the other a liberal atheist. The more this is talked about and the less it is approached with apprehension and shame the better for our society. 

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text 2015-10-01 17:46
September wrap up
Dark Hollow - John Connolly
Empire of Fear: Inside the Islamic State - Andrew Hosken
The Lesser People - Lee Thompson
The Venus Complex - Barbie Wilde
I Tell You It's Love - Daniele Serra,Joe R. Lansdale
Gator Bait - Adam Howe
Leave the Living - Joe Hart
Tainted Demons: An Erotic Horror Novel - Eden Redd

Not a good month, been busy at work and I've started walking on Saturdays in the Peak District so that's what's been keeping the books out of my sweaty palms.



  1. John Connolly – Dark Hollow (4.5*)
  2. Andrew Hosken - Empire of fear (4*)
  3. Preacher 2 (4*)
  4. The Boys 1(3.5*)
  5. Lee Thompson - The Lesser People (4*)
  6. James Herbert – Lair (rats 2) (3.5*)
  7. Matt Shaw – Ted (3*)
  8. Eden Redd – Sin Sally (3.5*)
  9. Barbie Wilde – The Venus Complex (4.5*)
  10. Eden Redd - Tainted Demons (3.5*)
  11. Joe Hart - Leave the Living(3.5*)
  12. Joe R. Lansdale & Daniele Serra - I Tell You It's Love (4.5*)
  13. Tom Piccirilli & Greg Chapman - Bullet Ballerina (3.5*)
  14. Adam Howe – Gator Bait (4*)


Well certainly some cracking reads, Barbie Wilde's The Venus Complex was easily my favourite followed by the graphic novel - I Tell You It's Love by Lansdale & Daniele Serra. I've done quite a few graphic novels to keep my figures decent but really I've only read 4 novels + 2 on audio.

And I'm slipping behind on reviews, need more time can we have a few extra days at the end of the month where the world stops and relaxes - how cool would that be.

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review 2015-09-13 19:28
Empire of Fear by Andrew Hosken
Empire of Fear: Inside the Islamic State - Andrew Hosken

This is the hardest book I've ever read, nothing comes close and I spent a great amount of time with a look of sheer horror on my face. In fact my face was fixed in a wincing expression all through the last section of the book, the last couple of years in this telling of IS are absolutely harrowing.


The story of ISIS, Islamic State, is a story that has been a frequent runner in the news for many years and for good reason. It's a real life horror story of the worst kind, filled with death on the scale of genocide and it shows no signs of abating.


I wanted to understand why, what's the motives of these terrorists, what do they want, what's the end game and how close are we to it. Well Empire of Fear gives you all that, from the history of its first incarnation, from Al-Qaeda to the present day situation and a trail of murder on such a scale that it's impossible to digest. Something that's moving rapidly forward from country to country and getting ever closer to Europe.


And the worrying fact that amidst the masses of Syrians desperate to get asylum in Europe and there's a lot of them. Amongst the deaths of children and families seeking passage across the sea, there's people getting rich from providing transport fraught with danger. Countries are clamouring to assist, helping the refugees is now a necessity but how many terrorists are amongst the millions of refugees, how long before the war comes to our shores. This is my big worry with the immigration tsunami that is heading our way.


Now Islamic state has a plan, it's documented and well known, just search for the seven steps of Islamic State on the interweb.


The First Phase Known as "the awakening" -- this has already been carried out and was supposed to have lasted from 2000 to 2003, or more precisely from the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York and Washington to the fall of Baghdad in 2003. The aim of the attacks of 9/11 was to provoke the US into declaring war on the Islamic world and thereby "awakening" Muslims.


Worryingly and for the most part, only two phases remain.


Phase Six begins in 2016 and it will be a period of “total confrontation.” The caliphate will be declared and the “Islamic army” will go to war with non-believers.


In the Seventh Phase, “definitive victory” is accomplished because a war-weary world will succumb to the sheer magnitude of “one-and-a-half-billion Muslims.”  All to be accomplished by 2020.


According to a map, said to be issued by the Islamic State, it plans to take control of the Middle East, North Africa, most of the Indian subcontinent and parts of Europe, within the next five years, to complete its caliphate.


ISIS have up to 50,000 members and cash and assets of nearly 2 billion pounds, partly due to their control of oil and gas fields in Iraq and Syria, no surprise that Iraq is one of the most corrupt nations on the planet. They are run like a business and they produce a yearly report, only this report details death, the bombs they've set off, the casualties amassed. Sickening stuff it has to be said.


The updates to this read inspired discussion of terrorist funding, immigration issues throughout Europe and their integration into society, radical preachers that stir up hatred and the Syrian refugee crisis. Each topic forces a hell of a lot feeling to come out and it’s all from amongst your average members of society, the story tells of things that are slowly becoming inevitable and indescribably horrific.


This book contains an in-depth look at Islamic State, it's terrifying, to be honest you just wouldn't go anywhere near where all this is happening and it seems just a matter of time before things escalate even further. It needs stopping and its infuriating when government leaders have to explain why they've sanctioned killing terrorists, was it necessary? It seems there's always people willing to question these difficult decisions. Everyone has rights even terrorists who kill innocents, behead hostages, not in my book they don't. The only way this can be stopped is with force, anybody who thinks differently is living under an umbrella of righteousness and they need to step out and feel the rain. The only way, is for everyone and I mean everyone including Russia, to band together and do what needs to be done.


The things that shocked me the most (absolutely everything but there's an order to this because events are common place), the things that leave a lasting impression burnt into your mind, is IS using children and people with Down syndrome as suicide bombers. In Syria, IS has an army of kids trained to fight, called the 'lion cubs of Khalifa'. There's video footage of these dead eyed youngsters committing atrocities you just can't believe, murdering hostages, head shots etc, it's shocking and sickening. And the treatment of women, a commodity to be used, rape is common place, they have numerous wives and it’s a reward for fighting. The list is simply never ending and it’s so horrific that everything begins to bleed into one another, not specific events but a catalogue of horror that leaves you dumbstruck, stunned and speechless.


Empire of Fear was a buddy read with Tanja and Troy, and I think it's an incredibly taxing subject, mentally draining and not one to be dealt with every day (hopefully, next up is happy days in happyvalley with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll). It’s absolutely harrowing, soul destroying levels of violence and it’s happening every day, we just don’t get to hear about it unless you purposefully search for the news reports and information.
Empire of Fear is informative without a shadow of doubt, presented in a manner that leaves nothing to the imagination and it’s something that needs to be understood and eradicated, completely. Syria is a nation of people desperate to leave the country they were born in but where do they go and how, the answer is to treat the cause and not the effect (justification isn't needed). Only then will these people feel safe in their own country.


'How we've dealt with Islamic State has been a failure of the collective imagination, the failure to predict what might happen if too little was done to bring security, justice, human dignity and peace to a deeply troubled region.'


Islamic State have fondly portrayed the caliphate as the land of plenty, happy scenes all-around but it couldn't be further from the truth and there are still converted radicals flocking to the area to take part in the fight.


If you want the full story of what's going on in the Middle East and Islamic State then this book tells it all, it is however completely oppressive and overwhelming, you can't help but take a break from reading it because you just feel it could swallow you whole and spit you out a shell of the person you were. It is intensely distressing but I had to read it and I'm glad I now have the knowledge concerning the troubles of the Middle East. And my apologies for the longish review.

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text 2015-09-05 11:15
Reading progress update: I've read 76%.
Empire of Fear: Inside the Islamic State - Andrew Hosken

There may be spoilers ahead.

But while there's music and moonlight (you know the score)


ISIS much like a company release an annual report (how fucked is this) called the Al-Naba. This basically details kills, bombings carried out etc.


In 2013 ISIS carried out 615 vehicle bombings, including 78 suicide missions. Now the cost of this alone based on lower end calculations (C4 plastic explosives at $2,000 per kilo etc) would be $61.5 million (for real and that's just a starter).


Add into that the further 6,639 bombings the group laid claim to (improvised bombings, motorcycle devices you name it) and you have to think 


How is this possible, where are the funds coming from.


 Now the book states that ISIS make money from oil but it's also obvious that they are being funded and in a big way from other means but they are also incredibly resourceful and in a country riddled with corruption where they talk about millions of dollars as if its nothing, then its hardly surprising.


It was estimated 10 years ago that between 10 & 30% of the countries oil imports were being smuggled back out of the country and that's a 4 billion dollar top end. At that time they estimated half of that was going into the terrorists pockets.


Terrorism finance is a murky business, in June 2014 the CIA gained an incredible insight with the capture of information from an ISIS senior commander, detailing assets of around $875 million (Jesus wept is all I can say to that) and even worse this was before the capture of major city Mosul where it was reported they stole $429 million from the central bank. Pushing their net value to over 1.3 billion.


Now they are worth 2 Billion easily the wealthiest terror organisation in the world, second comes Hamas with half those assets.


When you think of whats available to them its absolutely frightening.


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text 2015-09-03 19:35
Reading progress update: I've read 55%.
Empire of Fear: Inside the Islamic State - Andrew Hosken

 There may be spoilers ahead.

But while there's music and moonlight (I've finally fucking flipped)


Ok roughly 55% in, the literature is only around 260 pages, the remaining 60 are reference notes that the text refers to.


Iraqi is one of the most corrupt nations on the planet, only 5 countries apparently suffer more from the scourge of bribery, fraud and wholesale plundering of the public sector. Most dangerously into the army and police, leaving it horribly vulnerable to Baghdadi and his jihads.


The best and probably most amazing example is the bomb detectors or ADE detectors bought from British conman James McCormick, this man sold 6 thousand of these useless gadgets for up to $40,000 each, $85 million in total. McCormick had since been imprisoned for 10 years and also the Iraqi official who sanctioned the move.


The idea was based on a golf ball finder, but contained nothing more than a cheap anti theft tag.


This is by no means the only example, embezzlement of 1 billion dollars by government officials including 1 million paid for military uniforms that had been a gift from a donor country.  


Staggering information corruption is everywhere, it's no wonder that the terrorists are so successful in their mission of violence, anything it seems can be bought.



And more problems across Europe with refugees from Syria being detained in Hungary and the death of young children, a family drowned while attempting to gain a better life and salvation. In Britain there's a petition doing the rounds where 100,000 people have implored our prime minister to bring in more immigrants, help them all out seems.

All well and good but can we really sustain this, it all looks ready to implode at the moment.

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