FIFA corruption, explained by the Islamic father of social science

At the Catholic Herald, on Ibn Khaldun and asabiyyah.

The Islamic father of social science

Today is the birthday of one of the most undervalued thinkers in history, Ibn Khaldun, born this day in 1332. An illustration of how underappreciated he is comes from this article in yesterday’s Guardian, in which a British officer described the Iraqi Army as lacking ‘moral cohesion’ in its fight against ISIS. We all sort of know what he means, but sometimes English really needs a loan word to describe something easier – in this case asabiyyah. It… Read on

The story of France’s first black colonial governor

Since my father passed away last month I started reading his 1972 account of French West Africa, Brazza of the Congo, a part of the world I know almost nothing about. Unlike many of the European figures in the book, the Italian-born Pierre de Brazza was a humintarian who cared both for Africans and the Europeans in his care. The same cannot be said for many of the other characters in the book, especially the monstrous King Leopold and the… Read on

A Boratesque story from ISIS-land: Chechen ISIS fighters being cheated out of paradise by Saudi nepotism

A story from ISIS-land too good not to share. Islamic State fighters claim they are not getting the chance to blow themselves up because they are being bumped down the suicide-bomber waiting list by nepotistic leaders. A Chechen militant has complained that Saudi jihadis are favouring their own friends and family for bombing missions. Kamil Abu Sultan ad-Daghestani said fighters were becoming increasingly angry after being left languishing on the waiting list for months. Religious fanaticism and family-based… Read on

1215 and All That: A very, very short history of Magna Carta and King John

I have a new Amazon Kindle Single just out, on the story of Magna Carta and King John, who is probably my favourite cowardly drunks of medieval history. And it’s available at a special discount price of 98p! (normal price 99p).* Here’s the blurb: On June 15, 1215 England’s drunken, lecherous, cowardly King John was forced by his leading barons into a peace treaty that would have a profound impact on the country and the world. It came about… Read on

Gay cake, equality law bla bla bla

I’ve written two posts on the gay cake case, one at the Catholic Herald and one at the Spectator – not that I’m obsessed or anything. I know ISIS’s potential conquest of Palmyra is probably more important in the scheme of things.

Nigel Farage isn’t the biggest threat to the Eurosceptic cause. Vladimir Putin is

My latest Spectator blog on how Putin has made many Eurosceptics think twice. (Personally, since Germany is a pretty much the world’s most ethical and civilised major power, I’m not at all against a German-led Europe, politically, economically, culturally or even military. As a friend said, ‘I just think they got the tone a bit wrong last time’.)

Some advice to people angered by the election: add some Tories on Facebook

At the Spectator, on the social media-led reaction to the Tory victory last week.  (We never did bother to learn Irish, despite the tempting offer. Which is a shame.)

But none of my Facebook friends voted Tory

At the Catholic Herald I’m writing about shy Conservatives who wont even admit their wicked secret to pollsters.

Unfortunately celebrity endorsements really do matter

At the Spectator, on the importance of celebrity backing for political parties: As Ara Norenzayan points out in Big Gods, his study of the evolution of successful religions, societies tend to follow the faith of high-prestige men and women: ‘People also care deeply about what the prestigious or successful individuals in their local societies believe, and often selectively adopt beliefs or behaviours from these potent cultural models.’ Faiths, therefore, ‘get a big boost in the cultural marketplace if they… Read on