April 30, 2009

Moving house

The Monk, Mausi and the Postulant have moved house to a new spot at The Gray Monk's Scriptorium. Do pay us a visit.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 21, 2008

Book launched

The sequel to Out of Time, The enemy is within, has finally been published. You can find it here, at Hallmark Press International's online shop and you can find it on Amazon.co.uk but not, at present on Amazon DOT com. Why the difference - its because Amazon has an exclusion policy on any book published by a Publisher who uses "Print on Demand" unless it is through their own "Booksurge" POD printers. To add insult to injury, my publisher tells me that Amazon also take a 60% cut of any book price - the norm in a bookshop is 35%! That, in turn, eats dramatically into the royalty paid to the author, so where the book is bought in a bookshop and the author gets £2 a book, from Amazon he or she gets an average of £0.15p! OK, so Amazon sell a hell of a lot of books - but an author would have to be a topseller to make anything out of the sale of their work through that little deal.

Front Cover Qtr size.jpg

While I'm pretty sure this is "anti-trust" old fashioned "monopolistic behaviour and an effort to drive all other POD printers off the market, it is a problem for the publishers themselves rather than for the authors - except, of course, that it hits the authros rather hard if people can't buy their books.

I suggest that those who find they can't get it from Amazon should try ABE Books or your local bookstore, both will welcome your custom and both will order it if they haven't got it in stock. Neither will do an Amazon and refuse to order what they are obliged to list with a blatant lie beneath it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 12, 2008

The cover art for The enemy is within!

The cover art for my book "The enemy is within!" is finally ready. It has been created by the Cape Town based artist, Derek Snell, who does a great deal of commercial artwork for a living. I think you will agree that he has managed to create something intriguing and special in this cover, capturing the characters and elements of the story very graphically.

Book Cover reduced.jpg
The artwork for the cover of "The enemy is within!"

Marketing for the book will begin soon and the final proofs should be with the printers within the week. Then its full steam ahead to publication in early November. Watch this space!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:51 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 11, 2008

Agents website

I now have a website advertising my next book - try the WL Writers Agency page.

And lets hope I get a publisher soon!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:51 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 25, 2008

An outlet for my Short Stories

I have signed up to a site called FanStory. A number of my short stories can now be read FREE at this site. Some are linked to my books and others are on a different theme. The collection will grow.

Go ahead, try it, you may find other authors you like while you're there. In fact, for starters, try Peter@Poole - he has some very good writing on this site.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:07 PM | TrackBack

May 29, 2008

A new venture for the Monk ....

Believe it or not, I have an A-store on Amazon. What's an A-Store? Well, it's a website hosted by Amazon on which I list books I like and wish to see read.... At least that's the theory. Naturally my own is right up there as well.

Try The Gray Monk's Library. You never know, you may just find something you like!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:27 PM | TrackBack

February 08, 2008

New Short Story ...


Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 18, 2008

Another Short Story on the Amazon Stories e-store

A story I wrote some time ago in an effort to fill in a "history" for Harry and Ferghal has now been bought in on Amazon.com and can be accessed under the title "Almighty Father ...", taken from the Seafarer's hymn

"Almighty father strong to save, whose arm doth bind the restless wave, O hear us when we cry to thee, For those in peril on the sea."

That should give a small clue as to what the thrust of the story is. Amazon have a great programme called "Amazon Shorts" and if you have a book listed on their store, you are eligible to sell them a short story which may, or may not, be related to the book or books. I now have five shorts up - all providing a "back history" to the main characters of "Out of Time" and the sequel - still being revised and taking shape slowly - "The enemy is within!" Unfortunately, Amazon still have barriers between the various divisions, so if you do not have a US address - these "Shorts" cannot be bought. That said, I hope that my US based readers will do me the honour of at least having a look and perhaps, if they do buy it, passing it on to their friends outside the US who might like to, but cannot.

The publication of two Harry and Ferghal stories by Residential Aliens E-zine in their paperback anthology (Out as Residential Aliens Anthology: Volume 1) has kept me sufficiently encouraged to keep plugging away. It can be frustrating at times, because it does take a lot of effort and time, and the constant barrage of rejections does get to you. But, as I am constantly reminded, a certain billionaire author spent eight years trying to get her first book published.

Encouraging too is the news from the Agency who have taken on The enemy is within! is that there are several people interested and things may move sooner rather than later. Another UK based publisher, an independent, has also accepted the MS to evaluate it, so, who knows, it may find more than one interested party rather suddenly.

As they say, watch this space!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:11 AM | TrackBack

November 30, 2007

Fuel My Blog

Fuel my blog is an interesting group where you can vote for Blogs you like. Vote for me!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:15 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 07, 2007

New Book

I am delighted to announce that I have had two short stories published in an anthology brought together by the E-zine Residential Aliens. It has been published on Lulu and is available at a very good price - and, besides my own contribution there are some excellent stories by some very talented story tellers in it as well. The new book can be bought direct from Lulu or from Residential Aliens directly.


Lyn Perry, the editor of Residential Aliens has done a great job putting this anthology together and I am hoping I will be invited to contribute to further anthologies when he gets this going. In the meantime Issue 5 of the E-zine is out. Do visit Residential Aliens, the E-zine!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 16, 2007

New short story released

Residential Aliens, the online magazine for Scifi short stories with a spiritual twist, has published another of my stories. This one entitled "In the absence of gravity". It is billed as another "Harry and Ferghal" story and is a bit of fun. Do visit the site - it's free - and enjoy the stories in the latest mag.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 02:14 PM | TrackBack

August 29, 2007

Comment forum on Short Stories ....

I'm delighted to be able to report that my Short Story, "A ship of Heaven" has been e-published at Residential Aliens, an e-zine that publishes short stories and other work which has a "spiritual" or "biblical" twist to it. I can say that I am very flattered to be appearing alongside some of the other authors featured here. But now it's your trun to tell me what you think of my story - visit the Alien's Pub and leave a comment on your take on the story.

Go on, be a devil - it's free!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:58 AM | TrackBack

August 15, 2007

Short Story publication

My latest Short Story has been "e-published" at Residential Aliens, the new e-magazine. The story is entitled "Ship of heaven?" and I had a lot of fun writing it. I hope that you will enjoy reading it.

These stories have been an exercise in trying to "get into the mind" of my characters, something that is quite important when you are trying to write believable fiction and create believable characters. That is the secret of Pratchett's characters, you know them, you even recognise them when you bump into them in a shop or in the street.

In writing the short stories about them though, there is a small danger that you become so familiar with them, and the characters become so much a part of you, that you fail to carry this over into the stories themselves. I hope that this one will wet appetites for more. Four others are available on Amazon.com and I have several more either finished and waiting to find a publisher or in draft and waiting on my attention. They are intended to be fun and I hope that they give as much pleasure to the reader as I got out of writing them.

Terry Pratchett once remarked that writing was the most fun you can have on your own. I agree with him, it's unbeatable.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:02 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 11, 2007

New story outlet .....

I was flattered to be approached for permission to republish one of my short stories recently. It will appear soon in the online magazine Residential Aliens specialising in sci-fi stories with a Christian or spiritual twist. The story I have sent them at this stage is entitled "A ship of heaven?" and is a "Ferghal's eye view" of his arrival on a Star Ship four hundred years into his future in my book "Out of Time".

It was great fun trying to put myself in his position and gauge his likely reactions to the situation he finds himself having to cope with so unexpectedly. After all, he and his companions were about to engage an enemy with their cannon. Is he alive? Is he dead? Is this heaven or hell?

I hope that you will try the magazine and read the story.....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 14, 2007

Alternative blogging

Yup, there is - it's called a Plog on Amazon.com, and its where I post new updates on my currently battling writing career. Speaking of which, my latest Short Story, "Let him in Constancy" can also be found there, although, for some strange reason, it seems to refuse to be sold outside of the US.

The story is Ferghal's tale of following Harry to sea. I hope at least some of you will be able to access it and enjoy it - at $0.49c each a bargain!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:11 AM | TrackBack

March 31, 2007

Nothing like a little advertising ...

I have had an interesting conversation with Amazon.com on the subject of getting my literary attempts noticed and I have to say that they have been exceptionally helpful. Now all I have to do is figure out how to make use of this information. Step one is - how do I get a permanent link and advert for my books and short stories built into this template? Once I can do that I think I know how to set up the ads!

Patrick_G._Cox_sm.jpg Click on the picture to find the Short Story on Amazon

The story, Facing the Banshee, explores the responses of two small boys growing up in the tense atmosphere of an Ireland riven by civil war and religious and poiltical divisions. The story revolves around the summer of 1797 and the harvest time - a time when all the children were required to help gather and garner. But, as Autumn draws to a close and the nights begin to draw in this magical and ancient landscape has a few surprises for the children ....

Click on the picture to find the short story

The summer of 1798 in Ireland was an uneasy time - rebellion was yet again stalking the land, but, as the summer draws to a close, the rebellion has been bloodily suppressed, the French Army has surrendered and Wolfe Tone is in prison. All that remains are the few rebels still on the loose - but some may even threaten a famillies security by their very association ....

OK, so this is an experiment - one I will monitor until I can get into the template and post it in the side strap where it belongs!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:01 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 11, 2007

Short Story release

As part of my effort to become a recognised writer of fiction - some might say an ambition difficult to fulfill at my age - I recently submitted a couple of short stories to Amazon as part of their "Amazon Shorts" programme. These sell for a grand sum of $0.49c each and are supposed to help raise an authors profile. Well, my first two such stories have now appeared and are entitled "Facing the Banshee" and "Troubled summer". They can be found at present on Amazon.com and search for the book or my author name. Alternatively, click the links above!

The stories are both based in fact - the "troubles" in Ireland really do go back that far and further! The first story is also built around a tale from my grandfather's childhood and the second touches on how families are divided by poiltics, religion and blood. I hope that those who read this will feel an urge to spend the 0.49c (about 30p in English money and 40c in Euros!) and learn a bit more about Harry and his friends and the age they come from.

Do let me know if you have enjoyed them - there are several more on the way!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:45 PM | TrackBack

December 22, 2006

Books and pricing

The search for a mainstream publisher goes on - at least I have a smaller publishing house nibbling at present, but not yet biting. I have now done another market survey and the one major obstacle I keep running up against is the price of the book. A lot of people would like to buy, but gibe at the price. And I have to admit that, having at last persuaded a smaller bookstore to stock (on sale or return!) it sits alongside "Best Sellers" selling for anything from £3 to £7 and is priced at £10 .... which would you buy? The Unknown author or the one you know?

Well, I have done a bit of checking and I have to say that the price varies enormously across the Amazon sites - from E13 in Germanny to £14.49 in the UK - and one enterprising seller at a whopping E36! In the Us the Dollar price is roughly £9 in equivalent money to the UK, so very much of a muchness with the price on the AuthorHouse site.

So, if you are looking for a late Christmas prezzie and want the best possible price - go to AuthorHouse UK or AuthorHouse US - even with postage it is still the best price going and much closer to the price of the mainstream paperback available in Smits or Waterstones. Pass the word!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:48 AM | TrackBack

December 15, 2006

Book Review

I'm really flattered to find that my book has had what I would rate as an excellent review on the Blog Critics website. In fact I am over the moon - now all I need is for a few more people who read this item to buy the book - and hopefully for some agent type person out there to want to take the author on board!

This really does seem to be the key to getting into the mainstream publishers, you need to be able to sell yourself and your product, and I am a creative person not a salesman! Even more importantly, you have to be able to sell your whole book in one page because that is all the prospective agents and publishers read of any manuscript sent to them. To become a best selling author is a lottery as I have remarked before this, to become even an author that makes an average living out of it requires an enormous volume of work. I am reliably informed that even the top selling authors seldom make enough from their mainstream books to be able to cease writing short stories, articles and other items for magazoines, newspapers or flyers. And some even have to keep a "day job" going to pay the mortgage. Certainly Isaac Asimov, Robert Henlein and Arthur C Clarke in their early careers worked by day and wrote by night. Many others have not really turned to writing fulltime until they were able to take a pension and devote themselves to fulltime writing.

Its a tricky conundrum, because I certainly find that having to keep a fulltime job going (retirement on a small pension isn't the 'jolly' it's cracked up to be!) leaves very little time for writing. That said I am managing to get quite a bit done, so there is hope for the sequel and my other magnum opus - "The rough guide to Fire Investigation".

Watch this space!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 12:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 12, 2006

Customer Service

Early in 2005 I purchased a very expensive Hewlett Packard iPAQ as part of a package which included a GPS Navigation system and all the software to enable me to drive anywhere in Europe. The iPAQ provided me with a diary to keep me on the straight and narrow (paperbased diaries don't work for me - I forget to turn the pages regularly!) and to help me find places when I drive alone. I don't believe in clipping the map book to the steering wheel and reading it while I'm driving. Into the iPAQ I placed all my address book, all of my contacts and, of course, the full system for the GPS. I even bought a 1Gb memory card to facilitate that.

Then the little plug in the base of the thing stopped making proper contact and so first the GPS would lose its signal and "freeze" - irritating to say the least. Then it would not "talk" to my desktop so the diary information could not be updated. Finally, having tried all the local repair facilities, I managed to contact Hewlett-Packard.

Now I have a number of their products in use and generally I have found these products to be pretty reliable and useful. The iPAQ has become an essential tool in fact. So I expected to get a reasonable level of service from them. I should have known better. Read the fine print comes to mind. First, their "Customer Service Centre" has just relocated. I don't know where to, but they were obviously still relocating when I phoned, because for one whole day only their answering service worked - I left more than one message on it. Next day I got through, case number issued, credit card walloped, collection address arranged. Initially I was told it would be the same day! But, no, I should have known better, optimism triumphed over experience. It wasn't collected, not that day, not the next. On the third day I rang again. After some difficulty I got through, only to be told - "sorry we couldn't process your credit card." Right, so we fix that one. When will they collect? Today or tomorrow! When did they collect? Ah, well you see you didn't give us the Post Code. So we fix that one. Do they collect? No, so we arrange another collection - and bingo, this time the man from UPS turns up and collects it.

Two days later I get a phone call from the people who I'd arranged to leave it with originally, to say it's been returned to them. Apart from the fact it's now in the wrong place, I think, great, I wasn't expecting it back for several more days, they must have fixed it. Things are looking up.

Now I have my iPAQ back except - everything in it has been erased. Everything. Diary, address book, notes for things I am working on, navigator system, maps, everything. Gone.

The repair sheet tells me they have "Reflashed the image ROM". Why? It was the bl**dy PC connector jack which was faulty. Do they offer any apology? Of course not - it's in the fine print of the warranty that it is the customer's responsibility to ensure their information on the thing is "backed up". Now mine would have been, except for one small and possibly significant point which they seem to have missed - the thing went in for repair because it wasn't possible to connect it to the Desktop to do just that! The simple conclusion is that customer care is not a major concern to them. Oh, and the warranty is worthless.

OK, so the Navigator can be reloaded, but it's a long and tiresome job and takes several hours to load all the maps and the operating system. Then I will have the irritation of sitting in my car while it tells me to "go online and get a validation code" from the software supplier, which will mean going indoors, logging in, finding their site and applying for a new code. Then back out to the car to insert code and try to get the damned thing to function again.

Am I a happy camper? No way. Do I think I have had reasonably good service from this supplier? Not from where I'm sitting! Will I recommend their services or their equipment to anyone else? Very, very unlikely!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:25 AM | TrackBack

September 22, 2005

Kyoto comments

The Kyoto Protocol is once again in the news down under (or Up Over if you're from Down Under! - No; let's not go any further with that analogy!)and G'day Mate has posted a wonderful rant from one of his regular reads on it. Under the title of Kyoto Protocol (Revisited)Ozguru points up that most of the supposed "alternatives" are unreliable and even worse, would do some major environmental damage. Oz is in fact quoting from Dave's Halfarsed Blog and the full rant can be read there under the title "It ain't bad, it just ain't that good".. It is well worth visiting.

In fact, I followed up some of the ideas that Dave mentions and I wonder if the Green Airheads who have proposed this have even given any thought to the long term effects of having every roof covered in radiant panels? Consider for a moment the implications of two important things about these - first the absorb a lot of heat in the process of operation, but secondly, the also are reflective. Focus the reflected heat and light and you can send some serious radiant heat straight up into the air - possibly creating some serious convective updrafts. Over the surface of a major city, this could create something not unlike a major atmospheric depression. Just looking at the convected air currents rising above several of these panels fitted on local roof surfaces, makes me wonder what 250,000 square kilometres worth would do to atmospheric air currents!

Another little point, since we now think we know that ice ages are effectively caused by the creation of atmospheric changes which result in cloud cover reflecting sunlight away from the surface and thus prolonging winter in either hemisphere, if we created a massive surface which reflects heat back into space in the way these huge arrays would appear to do, would we not be in danger of plunging ourselves back into a massive ice age?

As to wind farms, as both Dave and Oz point out, they only work when there is wind and require backing up for peak demands - usually at night or when there is no wind. Ergo, we need something like a whole lot of gas-turbine generation plants all on stand-by for the demand - and starting these up and running them causes atmospheric pollution.

Kyoto is, at best, a "political" solution. The science behind it is questionable and unreliable. The Protocol itself addresses only the "developed" nations and allows the "developing" nations to pollute to their hearts content. Another aspect that is not being considered in this is that as factories move to "developing" nations, so do the jobs. The "Developed" nations can only afford the expensive social packages they offer their citizens as long as they are able to generate wealth through commerce and industry - and the taxes that flow from these. Equally, they can only afford these expensive and often "experimental" "Green" solutions because they have both the wealth and technology to do it.

It is ironic that Australia, Europe, and the US are often pilloried by the Green lobby as "polluters" when, in fact, they pollute proportionately less than undeveloped nations - the difference is that because the undeveloped nations populations tend to be very large, the pollution per head tends to appear to be smaller than that for - say - Australia.

This is a serious debate, one that has become far to polarised and far too dependent on very questionable science. The last people who shopuld be determining what and how we resolve these issues are the half baked and frankly hysterical members of Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the politicians. Ozguru and Dave are right, there is a clean and very green alternative to coal, to wind farms and to solar panels. Its called nuclear fusion and nuclear fission and the sooner we recognise that it is a safe and seriously reliable alternative the better.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:16 AM | TrackBack

September 11, 2005

In memoriam

We should not forget those who were killed in the World Trade Centre on this day four years ago. Their unnecessary and brutal slaughter by Al Qaeda fanatics should stand as a sharp reminder to us all of the dangerous age in which we live, an age made more dangerous than ever by the fanatical beliefs, so ably promoted by power hungry "religious" leaders in the Middle East, of a disaffected and militant youth who have grown up in the West.

As we remember the fallen, it behoves us to be vigilant, but it also behoves us to seek to find ways to address the issues which give rise to this ready supply of psychopathic fanatics and to create a world in which they are marginalised and eradicated.

Si vis pacem; para bellum.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 10, 2005

Is Islam due for Reformation? Is Islam able to reform?

A recent leader article in one of the national dailies postulated that Islam is overdue for a Martin Luther style "Reformation". I rather doubt that such a thing could happen within Islam. I take this stand for several reasons, the main one being that, unlike the Western Christian Church in 1500, Islam has no central leadership. Each Imam is more or less independent, in much the same way that their Jewish counterparts, the Rabbis, are. While they all subscribe to a general central understanding of doctrine and interpretation, they are all essentially independent and answerable only to the local mosque committee.

Luther's famous "Articles" were aimed at a centrally controlled and extremely doctrinaire heirarchy in the Catholic Church. Ironically, his counterparts in the "Protestant" movement of the time, Calvin, Knox, and others of the extreme and fundamentalist view of religion, could, in many ways, be likened to the Ayatollahs of today's Islam. Certainly their espousing of extreme positions and their outright condemnation - and often violent outbursts - against Catholicism and anything and anyone who remained loyal to the Catholic teaching, is not unlike the attitude of the extreme Muslim vision, today, of anyone who tries to moderate their world view.

This brings me to my second reason for doubting whether a "Luther style" reformation could take place within Islam. Firstly, it is a religion based entirely on a single tract. The Quoran, and here I risk incurring a Fatwa, is a reworking, for the most part, of extracts from a large range of "extra-canonical" Jewish and Christian writings owing more to the Docetist and Gnostic heresies of Christianity and some of the more extreme sects of Judaism from the 1st to the 7th Centuries than to anything else. It has been "prettied up" and made more poetical, but its origins are still visible if you know the source materials. It is also fundamentally and very clearly opposed to any compromise at any level - even the stricture which forbids its interpretation and insists that only the pure Arabic text is "authoritive" restricts access and debate. Although Islam's Prophet declared that Muslims must acknowledge the "People of the Book" as following a debased and, in his view, invalid, form of the "true" religion, he does encourage his followers to use every means to convert them to his version of the truth. Thus, there can never be a compromise and there can never be a peaceful co-existence. The myth that such a state existed in Spain in the AD 1000 - AD 1400 is just that, a myth. Christians were tolerated but barred from any position of authority, Christian children were routinely seized as slaves and forcibly converted to Islam and any Christian merchant could expect to pay more "tribute" than any Muslim in the same trade.

As John Quincy Adams put it rather succinctly:

"The precept of the Koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force."

Now this is interesting, and I am sure that there will be those reading this, who will declare that Christianity has itself followed this course, and yes, it did, for a brief and disasterous period in the Middle Ages and again under the Imperial banner in the late 18th and 19th Centuries. The major difference is that it is not a tenet of the Christian Faith to convert by force, deceit, or treachery and never has been supported by the scripture on which that faith is based. Islam, by contrast, sees no problem with dishonesty and violence if that will achieve a conversion. Nor does it have a problem, as the Christian reformers of the 19th and 20th Centuries did, with slavery. In many Islamic countries slavery is still practiced; it may be hidden, and it may be very covert, but it is still practiced and allowable under the tenets of the Qoran.

So, could Islam be "overdue" for a "Luther Style" reformation? If it is, it is in the middle of one at present. There is a war going on for its heart and soul - and the forces of violence are winning. Those who pontificate on the needs of Muslims and the disadvantages that Muslims face in the UK, are generally totally ignorant of the fact that Islam is almost as deeply divided between some factions as Christianity. While most people recognise the terms Sunni and Shi'a, few would realise that "Assassin" is actually derived from the name for a small Muslim Sect from Northern Iran and Afghanistan. Nor would many understand the terms Wahabi or Sufi and these are just the most well-known of the various sects vying for superiority within Islam.

Given, then, that Islam considers that deceit and violence are legitimate tools for the conversion of the "heathen" - everyone who does not subscribe to their view of God - I seriously doubt that any meaningful dialogue can be held between this faith and any other. Equally, I seriously doubt that it is "overdue" for Luther-style reformation - because it is already undergoing the much more fundamentalist Calvin style form of reformation. That should worry everyone, including "moderate" Muslims (and that is an oxymoron if ever there was one since, by Islam's own definitions, you cannot be "moderate" and Muslim!) as, given the precept that world conquest is to be achieved by any means available, if it undergoes a Fundamentalist Reformation, which it appears to be doing, a major conflict will shortly ensue.

And no-one can ever win in that one.

To make matters considerably worse, agnostic and secularist politicians in Western Governments are now rushing to put in place legislation which will stifle and prohibit any debate between people who do not accept the Islamist view of religion. Legislation in Australia is already being used to prosecute Christian preachers who dare to express a tenet of their faith - that Salvation is through Jesus Christ and not through any "prophet" before or after him. In the UK we face a similar law coming into force under Blair (who for all his famous declaration of his "Christian" faith and principles behaves in a remarkably Secularist manner!) which will soon see Christian preachers here being prosecuted for expressing views that a Muslim promoter might find "offensive" or "stirring up religious hatred".

Unless the West wakes up to its danger soon, and puts a stop to the active aid it is giving to those who are spreading the reformation of violence and deceit, the future is likely to be violent and very, very dangerous.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:07 AM | Comments (2)

July 29, 2005

One Party State in Britain?

The news this week that Blair and his minions have managed to embed their Commissars, as Peter Hitchins calls them, in positions of power over the civil service without Parliamentary scrutiny is really bad news for democracy and for this nation. This is unconstitutional, but then this government loathes the constitution anyway, and they have used a device originally from the days of the Sovereign acting "in Council", to implant their "Special Advisers" without reference to Parliament.

They have used the mechanism of "Orders in Council" to implant their "enforcers" with powers to overrule the Civil Servants who are supposed to "manage" Departments, and impose the will (one could say whim!) of the Minister or the Party. These people have no allegiance to the Crown or to the electorate; they are purely and simply Party Aparatchiks there to create a one Party State with the Labour Party as the only embedded Party. These Orders are a device intended to be used to allow a Minister of State to bring in a Regulation to address a specific problem - usually by amending existing legislation or regulations to encompass something new which poses a danger to the public. This time the device has been used to embed Party Enforcers in the Civil Service and thus to make the Civil Service an instrument of the Labour Party. No matter that a new government might want to dismiss them - they would need to bring in new legislation to do so, - but these Aparatchiks are now in a position to dictate who holds what post and where. The perfect setup to ensure that only Labour sympathisers hold all senior posts in the Civil Service in future.

Can anyone tell me what the difference is between this tactic and the Communist Party of the former Soviet Union? Or between this and Mugabe's corrupt regime? Or between this and Hitler's Nazi administration of the 1930's? All of these had or have "placed" their enforcers within the organs of government so that no matter what the truth the only thing the public are ever allowed to know is the Party Line. Even if it were possible to change the government, and Blair has made sure through changing boundaries and manipulating the electoral constituencies that we can't, these people are now embedded and will ensure that the Civil Service is now an exctension of the Labour Party. In short, the Conservatives, the LibDems, and everyone else is now irrelevant.

Our ancient Constitution is now in ruins - and Parliament is irrelevant.

Anyone out there still believe we have a Democracy?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:47 AM | Comments (2)

July 28, 2005

At last - a voice of reason from within Islam!

A recent edition of "The Times" carried a no holds barred leader comment [full text in the extended entry] by a gentleman named Amir Taheri. I have heard of this gentleman before, and I have also heard that he is considered, by those in a position to know at first hand, to be a forthright man and a very intelligent one with his feet firmly on the ground, to boot. I am equally sure that what he has said in his lead article will not sit well with the many in his community who will find his views uncomfortable reading!

First of all, he points out that the people of Egypt staged an altogether unprecedented demonstration against the extremists in their midst. Even more importantly they prayed for and made no distinctions between those of the Muslim faith who died and those of any other in their public prayers and mourning for the dead and injured. That must have sent a shockwave of fear through the extremist clerics who hide behind the ignorant and ill-educated many who take for granted their Imam's right to lead and to interpret the Koran.

Next he lambasts the many, including the leading Muslim clerics in this country, who have issued "fatwas" against the bombings in Sharm el Sheikh, while "deploring" the bombings in London or attempting to link those and 9/11 to the usual catalogue of real and imagined Muslim grievances. As he says, they do themselves and their faith no favours by playing semantics when what is needed is a clear and distinct distancing themselves and all true Muslims from the acts of a few who follow a perverted and frankly unacceptable version of the faith.

Most interestingly he attacks the wearing of the hijab and of the khaksari dress worn by the men who think it is a sign of piety. As he points out the hijab is not a sign of Islamic faith, it is not required dress in the Koran nor is the wearing of great bushy beards by the men. The hijab is worn by women in the Arabian deserts to protect their faces and skin from the harsh desert sun and wind and was adopted and "re-invented" in the 1970's as a symbol of the militant women joining the terrorist cells then growing in the Near East. The men's garb is even worse, it has nothing to do with being a pious Muslim and everything to do with showing support for the militant ideas of the founder of modern Islamic terror, one Abu Ala al-Maudoodi. So too with the beards, an Afghani fashion adopted by the Taleban and al-Qaeda followers of the Salafi ideology, thus all those wearing the hijab, the khaksari (literally "Down to earth) and the bushy beards are in effect declaring their support for the Salafi ideologues and the al-Qaeda and taleban perversions of Islam.

As he points out, the Prophet himself never wore a bushy beard - his style was a neat Van Dyke, nicely trimmed and combed and almost all paintings of his immediate successors and followers show similar neatly trimmed beards and moustachios.

Tellingly he finishes his article by stating:

"Islam must decide whether it wants to be a faith or a political movement. It cannot be both without being highjacked by the Salafis or the Khomeinists who have transformed it into a breeding ground for terror"

Therein lies the problem, the radicalisation of the Islamic faith does not go back to the Crusades or the Western expansion, it goes back to the radicalisation of the 1970's and the Cold War powers who exploited the tensions within Islam between Salafi-ism and Wahabi-ism on the one hand and moderates of all Sects on the other. Thanks to the power politics played out between the West and the Communists, the radicals won and have re-invented the grievances of history to support their campaigns of hate and blood with only one ambition. Power.

I am heartened by the likes of Amir Taheri, but I am also saddened by the complete lack of understanding of the realities of the tensions within Islam and between radical Islam and the West that lies at the heart of the present governments inept and frankly misguided attempts to "integrate" Islam into British society. Much of what they are doing will fuel the problem instead of disarming it precisely because they are creating new divisions instead of creating new bridges.

Let us hope that the likes of Mr Taheri can help overcome the entrenched ideologies and begin to restore common sense and reason - before the world goes up in real flames over these issues!

Copyright 2005 Times Newspapers Ltd.

July 27, 2005

Beards and scarves aren't Muslim. They're simply adverts for al-Qaeda

Amir Taheri

LAST SUNDAY, hours after the terrorist attacks in Sharm el-Sheikh, a few dozen men and women gathered in front of the local town hall to vent their anger against those who had transformed the resort into a scene of death and desolation.

With cries of “No to murderers”, they invited others to join. At first many hesitated — after all, Egypt has sweated under a state of emergency for 25 years. And the ordinary citizen has little incentive to provoke either the Government or the terrorists. Nevertheless, in almost all parts of Egypt people followed the example of Sharm el-Sheikh with symbolic funerals for the 90 or so victims of the tragedy.

Remarkably, in almost all demonstrations the participants also remembered and prayed for the victims of the suicide attacks in London. For the first time crowds of Muslims were condemning terrorism without making a distinction between the victims on the basis of their faith. So, is this the beginning of the long-awaited Muslim awakening to a dark force that threatens civilised world everywhere in the name of Islam?

Sadly, the answer cannot be better than: perhaps, perhaps not. The 7/7 attacks in London inspired some sympathetic comment throughout the Muslim countries. But even then many commentators could not resist taking a swipe at Britain for having “hosted Islamist terrorists” for years. A number of self-styled clerics, including 58 Pakistanis, have issued fatwas (opinions) that, on the surface, look like a rejection of terrorism. A closer look, however, shows that they still have a long way to go before they could be taken seriously.

Some self-styled clerics, including many in the British Muslim community, have used semantic trickery to hedge their bets. They condemn the attacks in Sharm el-Sheikh but when it comes to the attacks in London, all they are prepared to say is that they “do not condone” them. More disturbingly, their statements include the usual litany of Muslim woes about Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, and the assertion that “our youths” are right to be angry. The more they speak the more unspeakable they become.

In some cases sophistry is at play. For example, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian televangelist based in Qatar, has issued a fatwa pronouncing as “illicit” the murder of people who have “temporary or permanent accords” with an individual Muslim or an Islamic state; such as foreigners invited to work in a Muslim country. As for Muhammad Khatami, Iran’s outgoing President, it is “illicit” to murder “innocents”. The trouble, however, is that he does not define who is innocent and who is not.

Such people use ambiguities because a blanket condemnation of terrorism would extend to attacks on Israelis and Americans, whom they do not regard as “innocent civilians”.

But Muslims everywhere need to get to grips with a phenomenon that threatens all Muslim countries and Islamic communities in the West. This requires Muslim opinion-makers to take a number of steps.

The first is to discard the notion that anyone who is not a Muslim is an “infidel” and thus not a proper human being. Next, it is important to reject the belief that, since the goal of converting mankind to Islam is a noble one, any means to do so are justified. Muslims should accept diversity and compete in the global market place of faiths through normal channels, rather than ghazvas (raids) against “infidel” centres.

Since there is no power of excommunication in Islam the terrorists cannot be formally banned from the community. But the community can distance itself from them in accordance with the Islamic principle of al-bara’a (self-exoneration). This means that a Muslim must publicly dissociate himself from acts committed by other Muslims that he regards as sinful.

One way of doing this would be to organise a day of bara’a in all British mosques — and hopefully in mosques throughout the world — to declare that terrorism has no place in Islam.

Muslims could also help by stopping the use of their bodies as advertising space for al-Qaeda. Muslim women should cast aside the so-called hijab, which has nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with tribal wear on the Arabian peninsula. The hijab was reinvented in the 1970s as a symbol of militancy, and is now a visual prop of terrorism. If some women have been hoodwinked into believing that they cannot be Muslims without covering their hair, they could at least use headgears other than black (the colour of al-Qaeda) or white (the colour of the Taleban). Green headgear would be less offensive, if only because green is the colour of the House of Hashem, the family of the Prophet.

Muslim men should consider doing away with Taleban and al-Qaeda-style beards. Growing a beard has nothing to do with Islam; the Prophet himself never sported anything more than a vandyke. The bushy beards you see on Oxford Street are symbols of the Salafi ideology that has produced al-Qaeda and the Taleban.

Some Muslims also use al-Qaeda and Taleban-style clothing to advertise their Salafi sentiments. For men this consists of a long shirt and baggy trousers, known as the khaksari (down-to-earth) style and first popularised by Abu Ala al-Maudoodi, the ideological godfather of Islamist terrorism. Muslims who wear such clothes in the belief that it shows their piety, in most cases, are unwittingly giving succour to a brand of Islamist extremism.

It would also be useful if Muslim preachers paid a bit more attention to God, which means doing some theology, rather than making speeches about Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq which are, after all, political, and not religious issues. The excessive politicisation of Islam has created a situation in which the best-known Muslim today is Osama bin Laden.

Islam must decide whether it wants to be a faith or a political movement. It cannot be both without being hijacked by Salafis or Khomeinists who have transformed it into a breeding ground for terror.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:07 AM