Can Islam ever accept higher criticism?

Last night’s Islam: The Untold Story will have made uncomfortable viewing for some people. It certainly seemed to be for one of the featured experts, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, an Iranian Islamic philosopher who had the look of a man whose faith is facing the rising tide of scepticism and godlessness. It is one Christians from the past century and a half, from the early days of higher criticism to the recent plummet in religious attendance, will recognise well.

In this atmospheric and intelligent documentary Tom Holland, whose recently published In The Shadow of the Sword took the burgeoning study of early Islam to a popular audience, looked at the early history of the religion and sought to explain what evidence we have for the traditional history, as viewed by the faithful.

“The evidence is almost nonexistent,” he says. “When you start looking, everything is up for grabs.”

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Does Nick Clegg know what he’s talking about (literally) when he demands a wealth tax?

Could Nick Clegg really mean what he is saying about a new wealth tax (details yet to be announced)? Or, more to the point, does he understand what he is saying? The key quote from his interview with the Guardian – and presumably aimed very precisely at its readership – follows, with my notations:

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Ed Balls and Ed Miliband aren’t friends. But that doesn’t matter in politics: winning does

Ed Miliband and Ed Balls don’t like each other. It happens in life. It happens in politics too.

A lot of effort has been spent over the past 48 hours analysing a sudden flurry of hostile briefing between the two men and their camps. Ed Miliband is said to be frustrated at Balls’s proprietorial management of Labour’s economic brief. Ed Balls is said to have a low regard for his leader, and believes he is not doing nearly as well as he should be given the Government’s problems.

And it’s true. Miliband thinks Balls is a control freak, while Balls thinks Miliband is a political lightweight. But they’re hardly alone in that view. Many senior members of the shadow cabinet remain concerned at the inflexibility of Balls’s “too far, too fast” mantra, and feel he is not being forensic enough in explaining how Labour will turn round the Coalition’s mess when there’s no money to spend.

Similarly, those same cabinet members remain pretty unimpressed by Ed Miliband’s stewardship. They recognise there has been a shift in Labour’s fortunes, and most would now acknowledge they can see a scenario by which Labour is the single largest party after 2015.

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Statins fear is ‘putting patients health at risk’, researchers say

Sir Rory Collins, of Oxford University, said taking cholesterol-lowering statins before warning signs start to appear could provide much more protection from heart attacks or stroke.

He accused medical regulators of overstating the possible sideeffects of statins, the majority of which have not been borne out in clinical trials, because it could encourage them to stop taking the medication and put their health at risk.

He disputed claims that statins can cause sleep disturbances, memory loss, sexual dysfunction, depression, lung disease, cataracts, diabetes, memory loss and confusion.

The only sideeffect proven by experiments is a very low risk of myopathy – a condition which causes muscles to weaken – which is easily outweiged by the benefit to the heart of taking the drugs, Sir Rory said.

Sir Rory said current guidelines on statin use should be scrapped and patients encouraged to begin using the medication earlier. He was speaking after his keynote lecture at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual congress in Munich yesterday.

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Emergency tax on rich could drive away wealth creators, warns George Osborne

George Osborne effectively ruled out Nick Clegg’s plans for an emergency tax on the rich claiming the government should be wary of driving away the wealth creators.

Nick Clegg has called for a new “wealth tax” on richer Britons during the downturn to help the economic crisis.

But the Chancellor said the wealthy already paid enough tax.

During a visit to Sunderland, where he announced an extension to the North East Enterprise Zone, he said: “I am clear that the wealthy should pay more which is why in the recent budget I increased the tax on very expensive property transactions.

“But we also have to be careful as a country we don’t drive away the wealth creators and the businesses that are going to lead our economic recovery.”

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China News

The current increase in anti-Japanese fervour in China is a worrying trend. Neither Japan nor China is free and clear in the escalation of tensions, with hawks from both sides seeking to take advantage of the situation for their own political needs. With the attack on the Japanese Ambassadors official vehicle yesterday, the tone of the protests has clearly darkened. The Chinese government, especially the faction inside the Communist Party pushing these demonstrations, needs to be very wary of how far they are willing to let these violent protests grow.

Recent protests about purely domestic issues of land usage and pollution have shown the growing willingness of the Chinese people to risk injury, death, and imprisonment to stand up for their rights. A large portion of the Chinese population is not willing to risk their personal safety and well-being to protest the Japanese or disobey police commands…

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