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In a Time of Monsters

In a Time of Monsters

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Metadata

  • Author: Emma Sky
  • Full Title: In a Time of Monsters
  • Category: #books

Highlights

  • As a civilian returning from war, there was no parade or band – or even a debriefing. (Location 173)
  • Its most famous graduate was Ibn Khaldun, who was one of the greatest philosophers of the Middle Ages – and a great traveller. Born in Tunis in 1332, he wrote the Muqaddimah, one of the first works to deal with social sciences and the philosophy of history. His central concept was asabiyyah, or tribalism, the bond of cohesion and solidarity that could bring a certain group to power. He observed that a group generally ruled for three generations before becoming so corrupt that it lost support and was replaced by another. (Location 673)
  • We discussed relations between the West and the Muslim world. ‘When people in the West think of Muslims they think of bin Laden,’ the Syrian lamented, shaking his head sadly. ‘But this is wrong. Muslims are peaceful people. Bin Laden and George W. Bush are two sides of the same coin. We should not judge Muslims and Christians by them.’ (Location 1111)
  • As a Brit, I had been accused many times of causing all the problems in the Middle East. (Location 1134)
  • Before my eyes, I could see the shattering of the beautiful mosaic of Syria’s different communities. Descending on this land was a horror that few seemed willing to recognize, let alone try to forestall. I had witnessed civil war before. In (Location 1182)
  • Many Western officials and commentators attribute the violence in the Middle East to ‘ancient hatreds’ between Sunni and Shia. This is a simplistic explanation which assumes that the conflicts are ‘in the blood’ or primordial, and hence beyond political solutions – it also conveniently excuses Western powers of any responsibility in creating the conflict or in helping to resolve it. (Location 1450)
  • ‘It’s so bizarre,’ I noted. ‘The US is partnered with Iraq, which is supported by Iran, which is propping up the Assad regime, which the US is trying to topple.’ (Location 1587)
  • I woke up at noon the next day with a shocking hangover, gasping for water. I recalled that at some stage during our drinking session we had solved all the problems of the Middle East. But I could not remember what our proposed solutions were. My head was throbbing. (Location 1601)
  • She asked me whether I thought a country that is rich in oil could ever move towards democracy. I was impressed by her question. It was something I had been reflecting on a lot myself. An oil-rich country did not support itself from the taxes raised from its citizens. Instead, it lived off oil ‘rents’ paid by foreigners. Hence, it was independent from society and unaccountable. Democracy requires the possibility of the transfer of power, belief in the fairness of the system and the opportunity for different groups to win elections. As far as I could make out, the legitimacy of the Saudi monarchy came from the family’s history of conquest, its deal with the Wahhabis – and the fear of the alternative. The regime had been able to maintain itself through oil-based patronage and a strong internal intelligence system that monitored opposition. For its external defence, Saudi was dependent on the US. (Location 1789)
  • ‘Better sixty years of tyranny than one night of anarchy’ is the oft-quoted Arabic adage, attributed to the medieval writer Ibn Taymiyyah. (Location 1823)
  • was sad that my time in Oman was coming to an end. It was quite the most beautiful country that I had ever visited in the Middle East. It was clean, there was no hassle, it was safe. It respected women’s rights. And it had frankincense. (Location 2055)
  • As we were ushered to our seats, I told Greta about the retired British officer. ‘Could you imagine anyone who served in Iraq retiring there?’ I asked her. (Location 2073)
  • During the age of the Samanid Empire, in the ninth and tenth centuries, Bukhara had become the intellectual centre of the Islamic world, second only to Baghdad. It was here that Rudaki and Firdausi wrote poems – the former heralded as the father of Persian poetry, the latter famed for Shahnameh (‘Book of Kings’), the national epic of Iran. And it was here, in the eleventh century, that Ibn Sina, known in the West as Avicenna, philosophized. He was perhaps the most influential thinker of the Islamic Golden Age, writing on logic, ethics and metaphysics. His Canon of Medicine, a five-volume encyclopaedia, was the authoritative medical textbook in the Muslim world and Europe for centuries. (Location 2537)
  • Somehow, we landed safely in Tashkent. I vowed never to fly Uzbekistan Airways again. And I submitted my manuscript. (Location 2610)
  • Arab civilization never recovered from the Mongol invasions. It lost its libraries, its universities, its scholars, its artists, its doctors, its astronomers. Centuries of learning were erased. But, in truth, it had already begun to decline before the Mongols invaded. During the first four centuries of Islam, there had been vigorous debate over laws. However, leading Sunni jurists then declared that the essential legal questions had been answered and that there was no longer any need for ijtihad (independent reasoning). Although the gates of ijtihad never totally shut, philosophers were disparaged and translations of works from other languages trailed off. The decline of Arab civilization set in when it became less open to the rest of the world. (Location 2672)
  • ‘Are you married?’ the taxi driver asked. How many hundreds of times had I been asked this question by complete strangers in the Middle East. I had given different responses over the years. When I replied no, I received a look of sadness: poor woman, on the shelf, no life. Sometimes I lied and claimed to be married, and would then be pushed into giving details about my imaginary family and explaining why they were not with me. ‘No,’ I responded this time. I debated whether to argue that there were worse things in life than being single – or whether to confide in him that I had fallen in love with the wrong men. In the end, I decided to go on the attack in the hope that it would close down the conversation. ‘Men are no use,’ I said. (Location 2865)
  • ‘Iraq is finished,’ he lamented. ‘There is no state left. It is a state of militias.’ I told Jaber that terrorists could not erase Iraq’s past. ‘Iraq’s history survives in archives, in exhibits in the British Museum, on the walls of art galleries in Amman, in poems recited around the world. Iraq is the land where humans first experimented with settled agriculture, where King Hammurabi enacted the first written laws, where Jews wrote the Talmud.’ Jaber, I saw, had tears in his eyes. ‘Nothing can take this away, Jaber,’ I told him. ‘Nothing. Not these terrible terrorists, not these militias, not these awful politicians. A new generation will come one day that can build on this. The hope is the youth who just want to live their lives.’ (Location 2917)
  • The words of the British-Somali poet Warsan Shire reverberated in my head: ... no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land. The trip was perilous, with thousands drowning. But still they came. (Location 3112)
  • We followed the refugees out of the tent and back into the bitter cold, where they stood in line. Each refugee was handed a plastic bag containing food and a bottle of water before they boarded the train bound for Slovenia. The railway tracks conjured up such terrible images of Nazi Germany and the deportation of Jews to the death camps. Yet, this time, it was Germany that was taking in refugees, accepting a million in 2015 – half of whom were Syrian. (Location 3119)
  • I did not believe that the majority of Brits would fall for what I regarded as racist fearmongering. After all, in May 2016, London had elected Sadiq Khan to be mayor. (Location 3145)
  • Khan summed up his identity in multiple ways: ‘I’m a Londoner, I’m European, I’m British, I’m English, I’m of Islamic faith, of Asian origin, of Pakistani heritage, a dad, a husband.’ (Location 3150)
  • I reflected on how out of the Second World War had come the European Union, an ambitious peace agreement that had stopped countries warring, created the largest economy in history and enabled us to study, travel and work in each other’s countries; and Pax Americana, which had maintained world order for the last seventy years. But despite our generation trying so hard in our post 9/11 wars, we had not brought about a better peace nor inspired a better order. The Middle East was unravelling and Europe melting down. And America was withdrawing from its leadership role in the world. It had all gone so wrong. The whole concept of an international community was fading. What were we bequeathing the next generation? (Location 3220)
  • The choices were not simply invasion or inaction, he stressed. Each case was different. Intervention had saved many lives in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1991, in Kosovo in 1999 and in Sierra Leone in 2000. Non-intervention had led to genocide in Rwanda. The failure of the international community to respond to the civil war in Syria would be a blot on our collective conscience. Furthermore, for years to come, we would be plagued with the fallout of refugees, terrorism, militias and regional instability. (Location 3292)
  • Four days after the Brexit vote, England suffered a humiliating defeat at football to Iceland, a country with a population so small – 300,000 – that they needed an app to prevent accidental incest. (Location 3397)
  • ‘What do you think our purpose in life is, Carl?’ I asked him. ‘To have fun,’ he replied without hesitation. Then, after a moment, he added, perhaps for my sake: ‘And if you can help some people along the way then that’s good.’ (Location 3444)
  • the Ottoman Empire a century ago, some states still struggle for legitimacy. In the face of demographic pressures, climate change and globalization, regimes are no longer capable of providing security, employment or basic services. The social contract between rulers and ruled has frayed. (Location 3548)
  • The Middle East persists in a paradoxical relationship with the West, humiliated by its power yet seeking its assistance. Refugees and terrorists are not contained in the region. What happens there affects us. (Location 3553)
  • So we should engage – but to do so with greater understanding of the root causes of instability in the region, respect for the cultures and empathy for the people. We need to be willing to learn from the past, have the humility to listen and the patience to build trust. (Location 3554)
  • In the absence of leadership, parties and policies to pursue communal good, identity politics is polarizing people and driving us further from each other. (Location 3605)
  • My students make me optimistic about the future. They are locally active and internationally concerned; of different traditions but of a common future; citizens of somewhere as well as citizens of the world. (Location 3628)
  • This is not a time for cynicism or despair. Out of a crisis will come opportunity. The future is not preordained. There is much work to be done to make it less violent and more just. A new world is struggling to be born. (Location 3633)

public: true

title: In a Time of Monsters longtitle: In a Time of Monsters author: Emma Sky url: , source: kindle last_highlight: 2019-05-14 type: books tags:

In a Time of Monsters

rw-book-cover

Metadata

  • Author: Emma Sky
  • Full Title: In a Time of Monsters
  • Category: #books

Highlights

  • As a civilian returning from war, there was no parade or band – or even a debriefing. (Location 173)
  • Its most famous graduate was Ibn Khaldun, who was one of the greatest philosophers of the Middle Ages – and a great traveller. Born in Tunis in 1332, he wrote the Muqaddimah, one of the first works to deal with social sciences and the philosophy of history. His central concept was asabiyyah, or tribalism, the bond of cohesion and solidarity that could bring a certain group to power. He observed that a group generally ruled for three generations before becoming so corrupt that it lost support and was replaced by another. (Location 673)
  • We discussed relations between the West and the Muslim world. ‘When people in the West think of Muslims they think of bin Laden,’ the Syrian lamented, shaking his head sadly. ‘But this is wrong. Muslims are peaceful people. Bin Laden and George W. Bush are two sides of the same coin. We should not judge Muslims and Christians by them.’ (Location 1111)
  • As a Brit, I had been accused many times of causing all the problems in the Middle East. (Location 1134)
  • Before my eyes, I could see the shattering of the beautiful mosaic of Syria’s different communities. Descending on this land was a horror that few seemed willing to recognize, let alone try to forestall. I had witnessed civil war before. In (Location 1182)
  • Many Western officials and commentators attribute the violence in the Middle East to ‘ancient hatreds’ between Sunni and Shia. This is a simplistic explanation which assumes that the conflicts are ‘in the blood’ or primordial, and hence beyond political solutions – it also conveniently excuses Western powers of any responsibility in creating the conflict or in helping to resolve it. (Location 1450)
  • ‘It’s so bizarre,’ I noted. ‘The US is partnered with Iraq, which is supported by Iran, which is propping up the Assad regime, which the US is trying to topple.’ (Location 1587)
  • I woke up at noon the next day with a shocking hangover, gasping for water. I recalled that at some stage during our drinking session we had solved all the problems of the Middle East. But I could not remember what our proposed solutions were. My head was throbbing. (Location 1601)
  • She asked me whether I thought a country that is rich in oil could ever move towards democracy. I was impressed by her question. It was something I had been reflecting on a lot myself. An oil-rich country did not support itself from the taxes raised from its citizens. Instead, it lived off oil ‘rents’ paid by foreigners. Hence, it was independent from society and unaccountable. Democracy requires the possibility of the transfer of power, belief in the fairness of the system and the opportunity for different groups to win elections. As far as I could make out, the legitimacy of the Saudi monarchy came from the family’s history of conquest, its deal with the Wahhabis – and the fear of the alternative. The regime had been able to maintain itself through oil-based patronage and a strong internal intelligence system that monitored opposition. For its external defence, Saudi was dependent on the US. (Location 1789)
  • ‘Better sixty years of tyranny than one night of anarchy’ is the oft-quoted Arabic adage, attributed to the medieval writer Ibn Taymiyyah. (Location 1823)
  • was sad that my time in Oman was coming to an end. It was quite the most beautiful country that I had ever visited in the Middle East. It was clean, there was no hassle, it was safe. It respected women’s rights. And it had frankincense. (Location 2055)
  • As we were ushered to our seats, I told Greta about the retired British officer. ‘Could you imagine anyone who served in Iraq retiring there?’ I asked her. (Location 2073)
  • During the age of the Samanid Empire, in the ninth and tenth centuries, Bukhara had become the intellectual centre of the Islamic world, second only to Baghdad. It was here that Rudaki and Firdausi wrote poems – the former heralded as the father of Persian poetry, the latter famed for Shahnameh (‘Book of Kings’), the national epic of Iran. And it was here, in the eleventh century, that Ibn Sina, known in the West as Avicenna, philosophized. He was perhaps the most influential thinker of the Islamic Golden Age, writing on logic, ethics and metaphysics. His Canon of Medicine, a five-volume encyclopaedia, was the authoritative medical textbook in the Muslim world and Europe for centuries. (Location 2537)
  • Somehow, we landed safely in Tashkent. I vowed never to fly Uzbekistan Airways again. And I submitted my manuscript. (Location 2610)
  • Arab civilization never recovered from the Mongol invasions. It lost its libraries, its universities, its scholars, its artists, its doctors, its astronomers. Centuries of learning were erased. But, in truth, it had already begun to decline before the Mongols invaded. During the first four centuries of Islam, there had been vigorous debate over laws. However, leading Sunni jurists then declared that the essential legal questions had been answered and that there was no longer any need for ijtihad (independent reasoning). Although the gates of ijtihad never totally shut, philosophers were disparaged and translations of works from other languages trailed off. The decline of Arab civilization set in when it became less open to the rest of the world. (Location 2672)
  • ‘Are you married?’ the taxi driver asked. How many hundreds of times had I been asked this question by complete strangers in the Middle East. I had given different responses over the years. When I replied no, I received a look of sadness: poor woman, on the shelf, no life. Sometimes I lied and claimed to be married, and would then be pushed into giving details about my imaginary family and explaining why they were not with me. ‘No,’ I responded this time. I debated whether to argue that there were worse things in life than being single – or whether to confide in him that I had fallen in love with the wrong men. In the end, I decided to go on the attack in the hope that it would close down the conversation. ‘Men are no use,’ I said. (Location 2865)
  • ‘Iraq is finished,’ he lamented. ‘There is no state left. It is a state of militias.’ I told Jaber that terrorists could not erase Iraq’s past. ‘Iraq’s history survives in archives, in exhibits in the British Museum, on the walls of art galleries in Amman, in poems recited around the world. Iraq is the land where humans first experimented with settled agriculture, where King Hammurabi enacted the first written laws, where Jews wrote the Talmud.’ Jaber, I saw, had tears in his eyes. ‘Nothing can take this away, Jaber,’ I told him. ‘Nothing. Not these terrible terrorists, not these militias, not these awful politicians. A new generation will come one day that can build on this. The hope is the youth who just want to live their lives.’ (Location 2917)
  • The words of the British-Somali poet Warsan Shire reverberated in my head: ... no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land. The trip was perilous, with thousands drowning. But still they came. (Location 3112)
  • We followed the refugees out of the tent and back into the bitter cold, where they stood in line. Each refugee was handed a plastic bag containing food and a bottle of water before they boarded the train bound for Slovenia. The railway tracks conjured up such terrible images of Nazi Germany and the deportation of Jews to the death camps. Yet, this time, it was Germany that was taking in refugees, accepting a million in 2015 – half of whom were Syrian. (Location 3119)
  • I did not believe that the majority of Brits would fall for what I regarded as racist fearmongering. After all, in May 2016, London had elected Sadiq Khan to be mayor. (Location 3145)
  • Khan summed up his identity in multiple ways: ‘I’m a Londoner, I’m European, I’m British, I’m English, I’m of Islamic faith, of Asian origin, of Pakistani heritage, a dad, a husband.’ (Location 3150)
  • I reflected on how out of the Second World War had come the European Union, an ambitious peace agreement that had stopped countries warring, created the largest economy in history and enabled us to study, travel and work in each other’s countries; and Pax Americana, which had maintained world order for the last seventy years. But despite our generation trying so hard in our post 9/11 wars, we had not brought about a better peace nor inspired a better order. The Middle East was unravelling and Europe melting down. And America was withdrawing from its leadership role in the world. It had all gone so wrong. The whole concept of an international community was fading. What were we bequeathing the next generation? (Location 3220)
  • The choices were not simply invasion or inaction, he stressed. Each case was different. Intervention had saved many lives in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1991, in Kosovo in 1999 and in Sierra Leone in 2000. Non-intervention had led to genocide in Rwanda. The failure of the international community to respond to the civil war in Syria would be a blot on our collective conscience. Furthermore, for years to come, we would be plagued with the fallout of refugees, terrorism, militias and regional instability. (Location 3292)
  • Four days after the Brexit vote, England suffered a humiliating defeat at football to Iceland, a country with a population so small – 300,000 – that they needed an app to prevent accidental incest. (Location 3397)
  • ‘What do you think our purpose in life is, Carl?’ I asked him. ‘To have fun,’ he replied without hesitation. Then, after a moment, he added, perhaps for my sake: ‘And if you can help some people along the way then that’s good.’ (Location 3444)
  • the Ottoman Empire a century ago, some states still struggle for legitimacy. In the face of demographic pressures, climate change and globalization, regimes are no longer capable of providing security, employment or basic services. The social contract between rulers and ruled has frayed. (Location 3548)
  • The Middle East persists in a paradoxical relationship with the West, humiliated by its power yet seeking its assistance. Refugees and terrorists are not contained in the region. What happens there affects us. (Location 3553)
  • So we should engage – but to do so with greater understanding of the root causes of instability in the region, respect for the cultures and empathy for the people. We need to be willing to learn from the past, have the humility to listen and the patience to build trust. (Location 3554)
  • In the absence of leadership, parties and policies to pursue communal good, identity politics is polarizing people and driving us further from each other. (Location 3605)
  • My students make me optimistic about the future. They are locally active and internationally concerned; of different traditions but of a common future; citizens of somewhere as well as citizens of the world. (Location 3628)
  • This is not a time for cynicism or despair. Out of a crisis will come opportunity. The future is not preordained. There is much work to be done to make it less violent and more just. A new world is struggling to be born. (Location 3633)