Author of Adam and Steve, a novel about reexamining your prejudices

Posts tagged ‘Middle East’

Convert or Face Death!

A modern-day exodus is occurring for the Christians of the Northern Iraqi towns of Mosul and Bakhdida.  “Convert to Islam, leave the city or face death” is the threat reportedly given Christians by Islamic State militants, a faction of Sunni Muslims practicing an extremist and intolerant version of fundamentalist Islam.  Christians are fleeing for their lives, leaving their ancestral homes to seek asylum in Irbil, the capital of the Iraqi region of Kurdistan, and in countries throughout the world.  It is said that the Iraqi Christian population once having reached 1 million, may now be no greater than half that size.* After centuries of wreckage caused by hatred and intolerance born from religious fervor occurring in all corners of our globe, we still bear witness to that hatred and intolerance.  We are now no closer to a world safe for people of all religions and faiths than we were in the unenlightened Middle Ages.

What is happening to the Christian population of Iraq is but the more recent horrendous face of religious intolerance.  We need not go far into history to realize that the Crusades and Pogroms of the past are alive and well in the modern era and that religious freedom is still way beyond our grasp.  We have seen:

  • the Muslim slaughter of Hindus  in India and Pakistan;
  • the German slaughter of the Jews based, in part, on the anti-Semitic teachings of Martin Luther;
  • the massacre of Sikhs as a response to Indira Gandhi’s assassination;
  • the Muslim against Muslim human carnage resulting from the Shi’ite-Sunni conflicts;
  •  the Bosnian massacre of Bosnia Muslims in the ethnic cleansing campaign carried out by Bosnian Serbs;
  • the carnage in Sudan between Christian and Animist forces in the south and the Muslim forces in the north, followed by the genocide of black Sudanese Muslims of Darfur inflicted by the Arab Muslims of the north;
  • the Sabra and Shatila slaughter of mostly Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites by Lebanese Christians; and
  • the current Islamic State displacement of the Yazidis,

to name just a few.  We have become so immune to the oh so common onslaught of violent religious intolerance that we take in the news and  go about our business believing that violent religious intolerance is someone else’s problem.  Today it is the problem of Iraqi Christians and Yazidis.  As history has proved, no person and no religion are immune.

It is time we honored and respected God’s diverse and wondrous creation. It is time we recognize that God would never require the religious to be violently intolerant of the differences existing in God’s own creation. What will it take to eradicate religious intolerance? God only knows.

*See, http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-iraq-christians-20140721-story.html., http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/06/17/whats-happening-to-iraqs-christians-as-islamists-tear-across-the-country/, and http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/in-northern-iraq-gains-by-islamic-state-threaten-centuries-old-christian-town/2014/07/19/7088f3b6-0f53-11e4-8c9a-923ecc0c7d23_story.html.

Christians in Qaraqosh, Iraq

Photo courtesy of : http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-iraq-christians-20140721-story.html

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A Mullah’s Dishonor, A Parent’s Shame

RAPE-master675 Photo courtesy of:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/20/world/asia/struggling-to-keep-afghan-girl-safe-after-a-mullah-is-accused-of-rape.html.

Four days ago, the New York Times reported that on May 1, 2014, in a mosque after Quran recitation classes mullah Mohammad Amin raped a ten-year old girl. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/20/world/asia/struggling-to-keep-afghan-girl-safe-after-a-mullah-is-accused-of-rape.html?_r=0. This was an abhorrent crime, the type of which we have heard about all to often – the religious violating the innocent.  However, this particular crime perpetrated by this particular rapist on this particular child took on horrific proportions, because it was committed in Afghanistan where many believe the child has dishonored her family simply by being raped. The young victim now fears for her life at the hands of her own male family members. An honor killing of this unimaginable sort is so steeped in the fabric of Afghani society and culture that even the young victim’s mother sees the cemetery as her daughter’s safe-haven.

And what of the mullah who confessed to having had sex with the 10-year old? He has none of the fears that now plague the child. In fact, other mullahs have come to his defense. They, together with militia members, the Taliban and government and religious officials have supported the rapist, with some going so far as to threaten those individuals attempting to keep the victim from harm.

But why does the mullah need a defense at all, if his actions are truly  punishable by killing the victim?  Why did he magnanimously offer to marry the 10-year old? Why would he claim that the child looked older than her 10 years, when she was clearly pre-pubescent, weighing 40 pounds? Why would he claim she consented when the rape was so violent that it broke the wall between her vagina and her rectum, causing the child to lose copious amounts of blood?  One answer comes to mind – both the rapist and the society in which he committed the rape know, in their hearts, that rape is wrong and that the rape of a child in a sacred place by someone who should be her protector is not merely criminal, but despicable and dishonorable.

So, what can we say about a society that would blame the powerless for the crimes of the powerful or the father that would rather kill his child than the person who violently harmed her.  One word comes to mind – cowardly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haven’t the Jews been hated enough?

 

Martin Luther, who spent a lifetime reforming the Roman Catholic Church from what he perceived as its “false doctrines” and “ecclesiastic malpractice”, is the same man who said that “so thoroughly hopeless, mean, poisonous, and bedeviled a thing are the Jews that for 1400 years they have been, and continue to be, our plague, pestilence, and all that is our misfortune.” Luther’s words, though uttered in 16th century Germany, could have been expressed by Anti-Semites, both before and after him, around the world and throughout the millennia.

Jewish hatred and scapegoating, like blaming the Jews for the Black Death’s devastation of Europe in the mid-14th century, has led many societies to attempt to eradicate the Jewish people from their populations. There was the:

  • violence against the Jews of Ancient Greece and expulsion of the Jews from Ancient Rome;
  • 11th century Muslim pogroms against the Jews on the Iberian Peninsula;
  • Crusades starting in 1096 and continuing for centuries;
  • expulsion of Jews from England in 1290;
  • Spanish Inquisition;
  • massacres of Ukrainian Jews and the Russian pogroms;
  • Holocaust; and
  • exodus of the Jews from Muslim countries,

to name but a few examples.

See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism and http://www.amazon.com/Anti-Judaism-Western-Tradition-David-Nirenberg/dp/0393058247.

Some thought that the Nazi’s extinction of nearly entire Jewish populations was so repugnant that it would end Anti-Semitism once and for all. They were wrong. Twenty-first century Anti-Semitism is alive, well and occurring throughout the world, including in some of the least likeliest of places, such as: Malmo, Sweden; Toulouse, Paris and Marseilles France; Brussels, Belgium; Auckland, New Zealand; and Montreal, Canada. See, http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/23446/Default.aspx.

Notwithstanding their small numbers, the reality is that the Jews are and have been the likely targets to shoulder blame. The poor hate the Jews for being wealthy capitalists, and the rich hate the Jews for being communists. The Jews who maintain their own culture are hated for insulting the culture of the country in which they live, and the Jews who assimilate are hated for appropriating that culture. A Jew who is attacked and turns the other cheek is a coward, and a Jew who fights back is overreacting. See, Little Nemo, http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=404068.

The scapegoating of Jews has been particularly devastating to the Muslim population of the Middle East. Israel, accounting for one-sixth of one percent of the Middle East land with its 6 million Jews, is routinely blamed for the problems, both political and social, of the 300 million Muslims living there.   Http://www.masada2000.org/geography.html. Until recently, blaming the Jews was the easy answer that hid the root causes for many of the Muslim population’s significant problems, making it impossible to find meaningful solutions.

Today’s Anti-Semitism also includes the intellectually specious Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that attempt either to minimize the horrendous effects of the Holocaust on the Jewish population or to exclude Anti-Semitism as a causal factor in the Holocaust. Some, like Greta Berlin, the American director of the Free Gaza Movement, blame the genocide squarely on the Zionists who “operated the [Nazi] concentration camps” Others, like Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, charge that the Jews willingly murdered millions of their own to win world sympathy for the establishment of Israel. At the extreme, some will deny the very happening of the Holocaust itself. Http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/23446/Default.aspx.

Though satire, the Tom Lehrer song “National Brotherhood Week”, is disturbingly on point.

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Muslims,
And everybody hates the Jews.

The song would be laughable, if it wasn’t so true. See, http://www.amazon.com/Anti-Judaism-Western-Tradition-David-Nirenberg/dp/0393058247.

Yellow badge Star of David called "Judens...

Yellow badge Star of David called “Judenstern”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Religious Intolerance – Deja Vous Again and Again

Intolerance in the name of God has been around for centuries. For example, between 1095 and 1291 and then to a lesser extent for the next three centuries, intensely pious and fanatical Roman Catholics, led by their Popes and with the cross as their standard, fought “Just” and “Holy” wars throughout Europe and the Middle East.  While forcefully converting whole nations to the Roman Catholic church, they killed, looted, tortured and raped Muslims, Jews, believers in the Eastern Orthodox religions and other “heretics” and pagans (believers in pre-Christian religions), throwing a significant portion of the world into the Dark Ages.  Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crusades and http://wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Christian_thought_on_persecution_and_tolerance.

Today, from West Africa and the Middle East to South Asia and Oceania, Muslim fanatics emulate their crusading forebears. Ayaan Hirsi Ali has described their murder and torture as a “bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other.” Http://thebea.st/11KT9YQ. We see the violence born of intolerance  in the vigilantism of radical Muslims attempting to establish Sharia in Nigeria. As a result, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has warned that “some of the greatest dangers to [Nigeria’s] democracy and freedom are shrouded in the perils of ethnicity and religious intolerance.” http://bit.ly/17VgzkK.  We see the violence born of intolerance in the Sunni Muslim government’s decades-long persecution of Sudanese Christians, culminating in the genocide at Darfur.

Although violent religious intolerance occurs for a variety of historical, political and cultural reasons, monotheistic teachings seem to play a role. The concept of the all-powerful, omniscient and omnipresent One True God means, for the fundamentalists, that all gods other than their god are false, that all holy books other than their holy book are bogus, and that all believers in religions other than their religion are damned for eternity. For the fanatical fundamentalists, it is one short step to the principle that only they, who follow the One True God, are moral, good, righteous and holy enough to inflict His vengeance on all believers in the “other”.  Seehttp://bit.ly/17KsGOw,   http://www.humanreligions.info/fundamentalism.html and http://www.humanreligions.info/violence_and_crime.html.

It is impossible to know with any certainty what Allah would think about the death and mayhem being committed in His name. From just two of the lessons of Muhammad, we can, however, make an educated guess. He taught that “the greatest crimes are to … murder your own species” and  “if people do you good, you will do good to them; and if they oppress you, you will not oppress them.” Fanatical believers have yet to learn some of the most basic lessons of the Prophet.

crusadesmainpic

Photo Courtesy of: http://www.mitchellteachers.org/WorldHistory/RiseofIslam/Crusades.html

Israel and Palestine -a conflict both simple and complex

Map of Israel, the Palestinian territories (We...

Some say God promised the land to both the Palestinians and the Israelis. Some say it was the British. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British-Mandate-for-Palestine-(legal-instrument). No matter the provenance, it appears that the promised land indeed overlapped – with Palestine having had claim to all of the land that is Israel and Jordan, and Israel having had claim to all of the land designated as Palestine. http://www.eretzyisroel.org/~jkatz/jordan.html Given the circumstances, Bill Clinton stated the obvious, “there is no choice but … to divide this land into two states for two people” – (the Arab State of Palestine and the Jewish State of Israel). Unfortunately, intolerance perpetuated by distrust makes this logical outcome near impossible.

Over 60 years of endless fighting created generations that have only known the other nation as the “enemy”, a brutal people who cannot be trusted. Without rehashing all the reasons for this distrust, two bear mentioning.

Immediately upon the creation of Israel, the Palestinians with the aid of Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries invaded Israel in the hopes of claiming the land that is Israel for Palestine. They lost, the “Cataclysm” – the exile of the Palestinians began, and the Palestinians became a people without a country as Egypt annexed the Gaza Strip and Jordan annexed the West Bank, both land masses designated as part of Palestine. From that point forward, the Palestinians with their “friends” fought the common enemy, Israel, by many means, including military attacks (both airborne and ground) across the Israeli borders. With each incursion, Israel’s distrust of the Arab world continues to grow.

In June 1967, Israel, acting on its distrust, initiated a military campaign in which Israel (a) destroyed the air forces of Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, (b) beat the Egyptian army in the Sinai Desert, (c) cleared the West Bank of Jordanian forces, and (d) captured the Golan Heights from Syria. After signing a peace treaty with Egypt, Israel returned Sinai to Egypt.  See, www.historylearningsite.co.uk/six_day_war_1967.htm.   Hoping to augment the security of its borders, Israel annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Arab world as well as some in the international community consider these actions violations of the Oslo Accords and the Fourth Geneva Convention. For the most part, the Israeli occupation continues with the establishment and expansion of settlements on Palestine designated land. Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_settlement. With each expansion and creation of settlements, the Palestinians’ distrust of Israel continues to grow.

Israel requires safe borders, and Palestine requires the curtailment and dismantling of settlements – a simple enough agenda for peace. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Seehttp://nyti.ms/101c1Dn. Peace is only possible if the two-nation solution is a viable option, and the two-nation solution is only a viable option if each nation can tolerate the other’s existence. When Hamas screams, “One State, No Jews”, http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2012/12/10/hamas-doubles-down-on-its-one-state-no-jews-peace-plan/, and the Arab world constantly blames Israel for every evil, it’s hard to envision a Palestine that is willing to live side by side with Israel. When allegations of Israeli racism against its Arab citizens are deemed proven by, for example, the Israeli government’s introduction of a “Palestinian-only” bus line for workers entering Israel from the West Bank, Israel makes it expotentially more difficult for the Palestinian people to ever accept Israel as a neighbor. See, http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/05/17194265-a-palestinian-rosa-parks-is-needed-israels-segregated-buses-spark-outrage?lite.

Both sides continue to lose when vital resources are diverted from building flourishing societies by the waging of war. As Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, has asked “where does it say that Palestinians should live in squalid conditions?”  It’s time for a free, independent and prosperous Palestine and for Israel, a nation born of survivors, to exist among people who no longer vow its extinction.

Honor Killings – Dishonorable Murders

A 14-year old girl forced to marry a man not of her choosing was allegedly tortured by her in-laws and fled from her husband’s home. Her brother, finding his sister in the home of an old boyfriend, hauled her outside into the daylight. With a butcher knife brought for the occasion, brother decapitated his sister in front of all who happened to be on the street. To explain the horrendous scene the passersby had just witnessed, brother screamed “she had sinned and had to be punished.”  Brother, certain of his righteousness, carried his sister’s head to the police station where he dropped it off with the butcher knife. His parents expressed great pride at their son’s killing of their daughter. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/12/2012121614107670788.html

You might think this story too bazaar and horrific to be true. Unfortunately, it was all too real for 22-year-old Nilofar Bibi who was murdered by her brother in Kolkata, India on December 7, 2012. Sadly, Nilofar’s story is not isolated. One estimate places the figure at over 5,000 females killed in the name of “honor” occurring in the Middle East alone.  http://rt.com/news/honour-killings-middle-east/print/

What could these females have done to bring so much dishonor to their families that their deaths bring joy to their parents? Their acts for the most part are not especially dishonorable. Some females have been raped or have refused to enter into an arranged marriage or, like 17-year old Du’a Khalil Aswad who, on April 7, 2007, was stoned to death by hundreds of men in Northern Iraq, have fallen in love with a Muslim.   http://rt.com/news/honour-killings-middle-east/print/  The reasons mostly involve a female’s decision about her life that’s unacceptable to her family. If, in the eyes of her family, that decision brings dishonor on them, then she runs the risk of punishment by a male vigilante or a posse of them.

“Honor” killings are anything but honorable. They are the work of malicious, vindictive and fanatical men. These men are not avengers, but stone, cold murderers and child killers who should be severely punished. The reality for many women throughout the world is that a murderer who is male is more honored than a female who just wants to be happy. That’s how little her life is worth.

Caste-Council ‘Explains’ Honor Killings, While India Still Reels From Gang-Rape Tragedy

Image courtesy of: http://www.ibtimes.com/caste-council-explains-honor-killings-while-india-still-reels-gang-rape-tragedy-1019686

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